Writing Picture Books


Rules of the contest: write a 100-word Halloween story appropriate for children, using the words skeleton, creep, and mask. Here is my entry:

by Lori Himmel
100-words (exactly!)

Spiders creep as the sky shifts to black.
Ghost hovers over the lawn and calls for Skeleton,
“Rise up bones! Time to rattle and quake!”
“Let’s go, Humerus and Tibia!”

Vertebra stacks bone-to-bone along the grass.

Shoulder Bone squares up below Clavicle.
Pelvis wobbles into place.

Patella clicks.
Tarsal shimmies down to the foot.
“Nice job!” shouts Ghost.

“Almost complete! But where is Skull?”
Ghost looks everywhere!
Finally, Spike sprints to the lawn wearing Skull as a mask.

“You silly dog!”
Spike shakes and Skull rolls into place.

“Oooo! It’s a bone-tastic Halloween!”

Writing Picture Books

RMC-SCBWI Letters & Lines 2020

Covid-19 Pandemic took the world by storm. Every day we watch the news, trying to make sense of the numbers and the lack of federal response across our country (U.S.). Like everyone, our family spent the better part of spring and summer staying safe, wearing masks, staying socially distant from other people, and if we did get together with anyone, staying outside when possible. Trips were cancelled and out-of-state mostly family stayed put. But you know what happened flawlessly?

2020 RMC-SCBWI Letters & Lines conference

The Letters & Lines conference!

A major round of applause go out to the these lovely ladies:

Without their tireless work, the conference would not go on. And another round of applause to the faculty made up of authors, illustrators, agents, and editors!

I’m going to soak in all the great presentations, review my notes, polish more stories, and be on the lookout for links to presentations I missed. Thankfully, we have a month to listen all the presentations, because you can’t be in two places at once, even on Zoom.

I’m grateful to have been in the same Zoom room as author Mitali Perkins, editor Megan Ilnitzki, author Nancy Turner Steveson, author Olivia Chadha, author/illustrator Pat Cummings, agent Aneeka Kaila, author Jean Reidy (winner of the Crystal Kite award 2020), and so many more. And a special congratulation goes out to one of my critique partners, Darcee Freier, who is a Golden Pen finalist! Her resume is growing and I’m so excited for her.

I don’t know if there was talk of a 2021 conference, but I’m sure I stepped away from the Zoom when it was announced. I’ll definitely be looking forward to it again next year. Until then, happy writing!

Writing Picture Books

Rate Your Story

Rate Your Story (RYS) has been a great resource for me as a writer! The service gives writers an opportunity to submit a story where an author (or judge) reviews the story, rates it, and provide valuable feedback to help improve the story.

The rating scale goes from 10 to 1.

10 is: Consider this story as practice and write a new one.

1 is: Great story!  You should consider submitting this.

I have been a member of RYS for a few years now and I value every ounce of feedback I receive. When I first submitted a story to RYS, I received a 7. And subsequently, each story has improved. One story received a 1 and I about fell off my chair. It’s a great gauge on how your story reads and sounds to a professional in the field. I’m so grateful to all the judges at Rate Your Story, and their time and effort to help writers, like me.

Rate Your Story- Rating 1

Writing Picture Books

Mix ‘n Match Mini Writing Challenge

Susanna Leonard Hill always has amazing writing opportunities on her website. If you ever need a boost, hop on over to Susanna Leonard Hill and be amazed at her writing resources, contests, guides for teachers, and more! Every Monday, for seven weeks, Susanna will post a writing prompt. Writers will pick a character, setting, and a feeling in the Mix ‘n Match lists and write a story with 100 words of less. I hope you enter too!

Here is my entry:

Week #1:
I picked camel, school, jubilant. School is used in the story.
Zara means “blooming flower” in Arabic. 99 words

By Lori Himmel

Zara’s smile was bigger than her crayon box in art school.
But now, class was online.
Ms. Barbary organized calls for her students.

But Zara’s hooves fumbled on the keyboard.
Her drool slobbered the computer.
“Why can’t I go to class like before!” she cried.

Everyday she tried to log on.
“Dreaded dromedary!” she yelled.
Then, one day, feeling annoyed, Zara said,
“Computer! Open my class!”

Now Zara could see Ms. Barbary and her friends.
Zara dipped her brush and mixed colors.
Her smile was bigger than her canvas as she admired her
blooming flower painting!

Week #2:

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bear

By Lori Himmel

Little Bear’s (Ursa Minor) POV

142 words

Twinkle, twinkle!

I’m Little Bear, or to be more precise, Ursa Minor.

And some call me the Little Dipper.

I live in the sky next to my mom. She has many names too:

Big Bear, Ursa Major, or the Big Dipper.

She watches over for me.

This winter I was almost hunted by Orion, so we ran to the middle of the sky and hunkered down. Safe and sound.

I love my sky. Star friends twinkle hello everyday.

I can also see the Earth twinkle, twinkle lots of lights. 

Many lights in many places. Mom says those are cities.

I shine as brightly as I can, squeezing the light down for all to see.

But the Great Haze rests above Earth.

I hope people can still see me, twinkling up here.

Twinkle, twinkle Little Bear, my mom always says.

So I do.

contest, writing contest, Writing Picture Books

Honorable Mention – Vivian Kirkfield 2020 #50 Precious Words Contest

I was so excited to be an honorable mention in the adventure category for this fun contest. Thank you Vivian Kirkfield for being so generous with your time on these contests!


#328: Big Ride by Joy Pitcairn
#267: Let’s Take a Walk by Lori Himmel 
#291: Search for Life by Jilanne Hoffmann
#11: Wombat Rescue by Robin Currie
#91: To Catch the Moon by Jenny Buchet

by Lori Himmel

Let’s take a walk
Down the street
around the block
up a trail.

Where paths twist and turn
and rock beds and mud
slop our shoes.
Look under logs
Collect secret treasures
Until pockets are heavy and
legs grow weak.

Let’s take a walk,
little one
Only hand-in-hand
with you.

viviankirkfield said:
I love that you took us along on this walk also, Lori. And I like that you let us feel what they were feeling: until pockets are heavy and legs grow weak. Thanks for sharing your precious words with us.

Really love that their pockets are heavy with “secret treasure.” Nice imagery, Lori.

Nothing like exploring and finding treasures with a kid. Great job putting us in their shoes – slopped with mud – and heavy pockets. Good luck!

Great visuals on this lovely walk. Good luck Lori.

I really enjoyed walking with you Lori – this is lovely to read :o)

Nancy Riley said:

I can se the whole walk. So fun for a little one. Nice job.

jillburns7 said:

Sounds like a lot of fun! Cute story!

Writing Picture Books

Treasured Picture Books

My critique group, appropriately named the PBJs (Picture Book Junkies), talks about, reviews and studies picture books. All. The. Time. Every week we bring books to the table and we learn from and drool over the fact that we are holding years of effort, sweat, and love.

In early December we have our annual Christmas Tea to celebrate our year-end. We laugh at all the fun we’ve had, the minor successes, the heartbreak rejections, the nominations, the mentorships, our writing news. It is a wonderful celebration!

We also have a gift exchange and everyone leaves with full bellies and either a craft book, picture book, MG or YA to enjoy. This year we will also bring a list of our top 15 favorite picture books. This is a challenge for me, but I’ll sort out the ones that have stood out over time or new ones just hitting the charts as best books of the year. Here are some of my most favorite time-treasured picks:

  1. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (will probably remain #1 forever!)
    *the rest are in no particular order*
  2. Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel
  3. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
  4. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
  5. Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems
  6. On the Day You Were Born by Debra Frasier
  7. The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak
  8. Finding Winnie by Lindsay Mattick
  9. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
  10. The Wolf, the Duck and the Mouse by Mac Barnett
  11. The First Dog by Jan Brett
  12. Owen by Kevin Henkes
  13. Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback
  14. Train by Elisha Cooper
  15. Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena

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One day, I hope to add my name to this list or be on someone else’s list of top picks. Until then, I will work diligently at my craft and enjoy the beautiful (and sometimes agonizing) process along the way.

write what you know, Writing Picture Books

A Bedtime Story

On October 15, 2012, I put my middle child, Natalie, to bed in my usual nighttime routine: snuggles, kisses, and blanket tucks. I then gave her hopes for a great sleep, prayers, and more kisses. It was getting late so I didn’t read her a book, but she asked me to talk about my childhood. Being tired, I couldn’t really think of a single story to tell her, at least not a new one.


So I leaned in close and whispered her a story that came pouring out of my mouth—a character was developing, there was a plot, a conflict. As the story progressed, my eyes started to well up. I was amazed at what was transpiring. The story ended and Natalie looked at me with wide eyes.

“Is that a true story?”

“No, I just made it up,” I replied.

“Well, that was the best story I’ve ever heard,” she said sweetly.

It wasn’t until the next morning when I thought this story might have potential. It was a subject I knew something about.  I’ve heard time and time again to write what you know. So I fleshed it out over two years. Since then, I’ve been editing, writing more stories, editing some more, researching, receiving feedback and critiques, attending writing conferences, and working toward publishing my first picture book. This whale might give you a little hint on what one of my stories is abowhaleut. Spending time in Hawaii where these beautiful humpback whales live, inspired me to write an adventurous tale.

There have been many, many drafts of this story. Names, titles, rising action, climax have been altered- all because of the great feedback I’ve received from my critique partners. And more and more stories keep pouring out!

Writing Picture Books

2019 Valentiny Contest

Susanna Leonard Hill, Children’s Author is hosting Oh, Guilty Heart! – The 4th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest!

The rules are: write a 214-word Valentine story appropriate for children in which someone feels guilty. Here is my 212-word entry:


“Leave the cards alone, Charles!” Mimi roared at her brother.

Charles mixed up Mimi’s Valentine’s Day cards on the kitchen table and hid some in his pocket.

“Mine!” laughed Charles.

“Charles, you are T-R-O-U-B-L-E!” huffed Mimi ripping a card out of his hand.

“Mimi is my favorite.”

She kept signing cards not looking up and Charles crumpled more cards.


Her brother poked at everything on the table.

“Mom! Charles won’t stop!”

“Honey, you know Charles just wants to be with you. Be kind.”

Mimi whispered to her mom, “He’s just out-of-control all the time. Annoying, really.”

Mimi gathered all the cards and slammed the door when she left for school.

“What a start to Valentine’s day! Ugh!”


Later that day, Mimi put a card in her classmates’ decorated boxes.

“One for you. And one for you.”

When she looked through all the cards she received, she saw a crooked mixed-up Valentine.

“What’s this?”


The card was crumpled and scribbled in black marker.

“I love Mimi. Love, Charles.”

Mimi’s heart sank low.

“I didn’t make a card for Charles!”

After school, Mimi ran into the house and wrapped her arms around Charles.

“I love you everything about you, little bro. Thanks for the card!”

“Mimi is my favorite Valentine!”

“And you’re mine!”

Writing Picture Books

2018 Halloweensie Contest

Susanna Leonard Hill, Children’s Author is hosting the 8th Annual Halloweensie Contest. The rules are: write a 100-word Halloween story appropriate for children using the words cauldronshiver, and howl. Here is my entry:


Witch tapped her cauldron three times.


“Welcome to the Halloween race!”

Werewolf’s knees knocked as he took his place on the starting line.

“On your marks, get set, GO!”

Ghost zoomed off the line, but then disappeared.

Vampire tumbled over his cape.

Skeleton’s bones clanked, falling apart.

Werewolf stumbled and then found a steady pace.

His fur flew.

Slobber drooled.

Ghost appeared again swooshing in and out of Werewolf’s lane.

“Watch out!” shouted Werewolf.

He darted and shivered right through Ghost as he crossed the finish line.

“AHHHH! What happened?”

“Congratulations, Werewolf! You’re the winner!”