Institute of Children's Literature presents



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Let's get outside!

It's time to take our stories to the great outdoors! We want to see your picture book stories set in the forest, at a park, in the desert, on a beach, or any other nature-related location.

This contest is your chance to write a fiction picture book for kids ages 4-7 years old. It can be quiet or loud, humorous or thoughtful, or anywhere in between. (If it rhymes, the rhyme better be perfect!) It should grab young readers and inspire them to venture out and experience the great outdoors!

Award-winning picture book author and ICL instructor, Lori Mortensen, will be judging. “I love picture books. I’ll be looking for books that are fun, meaningful, memorable, and make great read-a-louds.”

Entries must be no more than 600 words. Submissions must be previously unpublished and not under contract.

DEADLINE: May 31, 2022

What's our judge looking for?

  • An engaging first line that will make me want to read more.
  • An appealing voice.
  • Delightful, yet economical language. Each word needs a reason to be there.
  • Read-aloud-ability. Picture books are meant to be read aloud. The text should read effortlessly.
  • A meaningful underlying theme.
  • A satisfying, yet unexpected ending that makes the reader feel something.
  • Proper spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc.
  • Since this is picture book text, don’t be afraid to break your text into easy-to-read sections to create timing, rhythm, and pacing. Picture books aren’t printed in one gigantic block of text, so don’t submit your story that way.

Why Enter an ICL Writing Contest?

 $1,300 Cash Prizes 

  • 1st prize = $650
  • 2nd prize = $350 
  • 3rd prize = $100
  • 4th prize = $100
  • 5th prize = $100 

Online Workshop

All entrants are invited to a FREE instructional online workshop with our esteemed judge.

Free Critique

Winning entries will be workshopped by our judge to help writers understand what worked and what could be improved to make it submission-ready.

Enter Today!

Here's what you need to know...

  • This contest is for fiction picture books.
  • Entries must be no more than 600 words. (It can be far fewer than 600 words as long as it tells a complete story.)
  • Entries must be a full picture book manuscript with a beginning, middle, and end.
  • Entries must take place outdoors.
  • Entries must be unpublished and not under contract.
  • Do not submit illustrations or photographs with your entry. This contest is for text only. (Art notes are allowed, but we suggest using them sparingly.)
  • The target reader's age range is between 4-7-years-old.
  • Proofread your entry to ensure it matches the industry standard manuscript format (double spacing, clear contact information, no creative use of fonts).
  • Entries must follow manuscript submission guidelines as stated on our Contest Rules page HERE.
  • Entries must be submitted via our online form by midnight Pacific Time on May 31, 2022.
  • There is a $19 reading fee per manuscript to enter the contest.
  • You may enter more than one manuscript but each entry requires a $19 reading fee.
  • Add our email address ( to your list of contacts and/or safe senders so you can receive the email with the free entry information to our online workshop where we announce the winners. (Non-entrants pay $7.)
  • The minimum age to enter the contest is 18 years of age.

Submissions will be judged on clarity, originality, completeness of the story, the illustration potential of the text, audience engagement, potential in the market, and appropriateness for the age range.

The winning entries in The Great Outdoor Picture Book Contest will be announced at a live online workshop within 90 days after the contest closes. All contest entrants will be notified of the event details by email and be invited free of charge. (Non-entrants may attend for a nominal fee of $7.)

This is a great opportunity to build your writing and submitting skills!