Eh, What’s Up Doc? Announcing The Guidelines For The 6th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest!!!

Knock, knock!

Who’s there?

Atlas.

Atlas who?

Atlas, it’s Valentines Day!

Ok, well, it’s not quite Valentines. . .

How about this one?

Knock, knock!

Who’s there?

Iguana.

Iguana who?

Iguana hold your hand!

Ok 😊 I’ll stop 😊 Because what iguana do really is let you know that it’s time to fire up those brain cells and write your entry for. . .

The 6th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest

~ for children’s writers ~

The Contest:  since writing for children is all about “big emotion for little people” (I forget who said that, but someone did so I put it in quotes!) and Valentines Day is all about emotion, write a Valentines story appropriate for children (children here defined as ages 12 and under) maximum 214 words in which someone feels brave!  They can be brave about asking someone to be their Valentine, of course, but they can also do something brave to get a Valentine (the person or the gift), or do something brave to help a friend. They could be brave about giving something up, or brave about asking someone they’re not sure about for some reason to be nice. . . sky’s the limit!  Think beyond the obvious!  Your story can be poetry or prose, sweet, funny, surprising or anything in between, but it will only count for the contest if it includes someone brave (can be the main character but doesn’t have to be) and is 214 words (get it? 2/14 for Valentines Day πŸ™‚  You can go under the word count but not over! (Title is not included in the word count.)  If you are so inclined, you are welcome to enter more than one entry – just remember you’ll be competing against yourself πŸ™‚  No illustration notes please!

Post your story on your blog between 12:00 AM EDT Friday February 12th and Sunday February 14th by 11:59 PM EDT and add your post-specific link to the list that will accompany my February 12th post.  There will be no regularly scheduled posts that week (Tuesday Debut, Would You Read It or PPBF), so the post and the list of links will stay up all week for everyone to enjoy.  If you don’t have a blog and would like to enter, you can simply copy and paste your entry in the comments section of that post once it’s up. (Or, if you have difficulty with the comments, which unfortunately sometimes happens, you may email your entry to me and I’ll post it for you! Although I have a question I’d love addressed in the comments: would it be easier for everyone to post their entry in the comment section of my blog so everything is all together? I know it means no blog-hopping, but do you guys think it would be simpler? Or do you prefer the opportunity to visit new blogs?

The Judging: over the next several days, my lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to 6-10 top choices depending on number and quality of entries (hee hee hee – you know how much trouble I have with the narrowing, so we’ll see) which will be posted here and voted on for a winner on Thursday February 19th (or possibly a day or two later if the judges need extra time.)   The winner will be announced Monday February 22nd depending on judging and voting time needed.  The dates of the judging/voting/winner announcements are subject to finagling depending on how much time the judges actually end up needing!

Judging criteria will include:

  1. Kid-appeal/Kid-friendliness – remember, this is a story for kids!
  2. Creativity in using bravery and success in making us feel the bravery!
  3. Valentine’s Day appropriateness – this is a VALENTINE story!
  4. Quality of story – we will look for basic story elements and a true story arc
  5. Quality of writing – use and flow of language, correctness of mechanics, excellence of rhyme and meter if you use it, PROOFREADING!
  6. Originality – surprise us with something new and different! 😊
  7. How well you followed the Submission Guidelines – agents and editors expect professionalism. This is a chance to practice making sure you read and follow specified guidelines.

The Prizes:  I’m still working on prizes (aren’t I always 😊), but I wanted to get the contest guidelines up so you’d have time to write.  If anyone has anything fabulous to offer, drop me an email 😊  But meanwhile, start writing and watch this space for prizes which I will add as I get them organized!

Hannah VanVels – Agent, Belcastro Agency – PB MS Critique

Hannah will offer one lucky winner a PB MS critique. The winner may submit fiction or nonfiction, rhyme or prose – Hannah is open to anything!

(from Belcastro Agency’s website)

Winner’s choice of Renee LaTulippe‘s Lyrical Language Lab Intensive Rhyme & Meter Self Study Course OR a one-hour ZOOM consultation with Renee to get feedback on a manuscript of your choice, ask questions about writing in rhyme/lyrical prose, or spend however you like!

Renee LaTulippe

Picture Book Manuscript Critique (Rhyme or Prose, Fiction) from Dawn Young, author of THE NIGHT BAAFORE CHRISTMAS (WorthyKids 2019), COUNTING ELEPHANTS (Running Press Kids, March 2020), and THE NIGHT BAAFORE EASTER (WorthyKids January 26, 2021)

Dawn Young

Kirsti Call – Picture Book Manuscript Critique (fiction) from Kirsti Call author of The Raindrop Who Couldn’t Fall (Mazo Publishing, January 2019),  Mootilda’s Bad Mood (Little Bee, September 2020), as well as COW SAYS MEOW (HMH) and COLD TURKEY (Little Brown) which will release in 2021.

Kirsti Call

Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Melissa Stoller, author of SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH (Spork 2018), READY, SET, GORILLA! (Spork 2018), THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION (chapter books) (Spork 2017), and SADIE’S SHABBAT STORIES (Spork, October 2020)

Melissa Stoller

– Picture Book Manuscript Critique (non-rhyming, fiction) from Becky Scharnhorst, author of the forthcoming MY SCHOOL STINKS! (Philomel Books, July 6, 2021)

Becky Scharnhorst

Ellen Leventhal – Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Ellen Leventhal, author of A Flood Of Kindness (WorthyKids April 2021), DON’T EAT THE BLUEBONNETS (Spork 2017), LOLA CAN’T LEAP (Spork 2018), and HAYFEST A HOLIDAY QUEST (ABCs Press 2010)

Ellen Leventhal

– Picture Book Manuscript Critique (non-rhyming, fiction, fewer than 800 words) from Rebecca Kraft Rector, author of SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED (Nancy Paulsen Books, February 16, 2021) (which means it’s coming out in the middle of our contest!😊) and the forthcoming LITTLE RED (Aladdin, Simon & Schuster, Spring 2022) and TRIA AND THE GREAT STAR RESCUE (Delacorte/Random House)

Rebecca Kraft Rector

Picture Book Manuscript Critique (nonfiction PB or rhyming PB) from Julie Abery, author of LITTLE TIGER and LITTLE PANDA (Amicus Ink 2019), YUSRA SWIMS (Creative Editions February 2020), LITTLE MONKEY and LITTLE HIPPO (Amicus Ink February 2020), THE OLD MAN AND THE PENGUIN (Kids Can Press, December 2020), and the forthcoming LITTLE PENGUIN and LITTLE ZEBRA (Amicus Ink, March 2, 2021) and SAKIMOTO’S SWIM CLUB (Kids Can Press, May 4, 2021)

Julie Abery


A Picture Book Manuscript Critique by gifted author and former Holiday Contest prize winner, Jenna Waldman, author of the forthcoming Larry’s Latkes (October 2021) (originally written for the Holiday Contest!) and Shark-bot Shalom (August 2021) She is on twitter at @SarafinaDesign

Author Jenna Waldman

– Either a signed copy of WHEN A TREE GROWS OR a Picture Book Manuscript Critique – winner’s choice! – from Cathy Ballou Mealey, author of WHEN A TREE GROWS (Sterling April 2019) and the forthcoming SLOTH AND SQUIRREL IN A PICKLE (Kids Can Press, May 4, 2021)

Rosie Pova – personalized signed copy of SUNDAY RAIN

– a personalized signed copy of DON’T HUG DOUG: (He Doesn’t Like It) by Carrie Finison PLUS a personalized signed copy of CURIOSITY’S DISCOVERY by Nancy Derey Riley!

Dawn Young – personalized signed copy of The Night Baafore Easter

So you’ve got nearly 3 weeks to write your entry!  Butt in chair! Valentine Chocolate and coffee/tea on your desk!  Brain in gear!  Ready, set, WRITE!  Be Brave! You can do it!!!

I can’t wait to read your stories!!!

65 thoughts on “Eh, What’s Up Doc? Announcing The Guidelines For The 6th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest!!!

  1. Colleen Owen Murphy says:

    Only the sixth annual?? It seems like you have been running this contest FOREVER! Here is to inspiration for everyone!

  2. Michelle S. Kennedy (@MichelleSKenned) says:

    I would LOVE to see ALL of the entries posted just on your blog. Although it’s nice to check out other websites, I find that I have a hard time motivating myself to do so since it takes a lot more time. I mostly just read and comment on the ones that get posted on your blog. Just being honest!

    • Susanna Leonard Hill says:

      Thank you so much for your input, Michelle! It would certainly be easier for me and the other judges to have them all in one place, but I know part of the fun is the community and getting to “meet” other people and see their blogs, and I worry that everyone would get fewer comments… It’s a tough call!

      • colleendougherty says:

        Having entries posted in one place would make it easier to not only judge but also for us to read other entries. I found some links to blogs didn’t work and other links didn’t go directly to the entry so I had to look for it on the blog. In addition to adding our entry to your blog for judging, we can still post our entries on our blogs. Perhaps we could add our blog address under our entry on your blog so folks can visit blogs if they’d like but it wouldn’t be necessary to read our entry. That’s my 2 cents:) Thanks for having these contests for us!

  3. authorlaurablog says:

    My previous Valentiny story was expanded to be a query-ready MS, so thank you for the inspiration. I’m all about being brave and Valentine’s Day at the moment, so I’m excited to come up with something delicious!

  4. Susan Schade says:

    Thanks for keeping the Valentiny contest going! I like the idea of having all the entries in one place. I mostly read the ones on the post because they are quick and easy to get to and I like being able to comment.

  5. Sarah Meade says:

    So looking forward to participating again this year! I vote for whatever is easiest for you and the judges, Susanna. Writers can post in the comments and then still have their own blog posts, which is what I’ve done for other contests that ask for all the stories in the comments. Thanks for hosting Valentiny!

  6. limakat says:

    …then there’s the question that was popular during early Beatles era, “What did the octopus say to his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day? I wanna hold your hand hand hand hand hand hand hand hand!”
    I think it’s great to have everything on your one blog – but, so we can keep exploring and supporting other blogs, perhaps you could ask people to include a link at the end of their post?

  7. Ashley Sierra (@AshleySierra06) says:

    As a reader, I tend to look at the entries in the comments more often than the blogs. I can see where I left off and with limited time it’s easier to scroll, read, then comment. You also list the titles and names, which makes it easier to scroll through too. Like someone suggested, maybe enter through the comments then add their blog link underneath. Thank you Susanna for all the work you put into these contests.

  8. ingridboydston says:

    It’s much easer to read the entries listed in your comments, so personally that’s my preference. But I’m not a blogger. It might be important for them to have visits? I’m really not sure. If it behooves the bloggers I can try to keep up with blog hopping. Otherwise I vote all comments all the time.
    May I add I’m SO excited. It’s been quite a year but I feel like I’m on my way back. I just hope I’m BRAVE enough to plunge back in… πŸ˜‰
    Thank you for all you do ALWAYS!πŸ’•

  9. kskeesling says:

    I’m falling in love with all your contests Susanna! I agree with Sarah Meade-I think one central spot and then additional options to blog jump if people want to would probably be easiest!

  10. Deborah Agranat Sullivan says:

    Thanks for once again orchestrating this super fun contest, Susanna.
    As far as your question goes, I think to facilitate easy access for all, it may make sense to consolidate the entries in the comment section of your blog. Just my two cents….

  11. S. J. Little says:

    I prefer reading entries on people’s blogs. It feels more organized to me to click on each link rather than scrolling through a long list in the comments. In the comments, I sometimes forget how far I’ve read if I want to come back later to continue reading. Also, as someone with my own blog, I enjoy seeing how others have set up their websites.
    Thanks for hosting these contests!

  12. Bonnie Kelso says:

    I enjoy the blog hopping! But if it means too much work for you, I understand. πŸ™‚ I enjoy getting the activity on my poor little lonely blog and I like helping to boost the blogs of others, too. Honestly, it gets hard to read all the comments, because the list is so long, so I usually read the blog list first.

  13. Keely Pitts Leim says:

    YAY! Another Valentiny contest! Thank you, Susanna!

    It would be great to see all the entries in one place. Much easier to leave comments there as well. Thanks for thinking through these dynamics. I do (in theory) love to see other blogs (and traffic on my own), but in truth I wind up never getting around to looking at very many blogs, and ultimately don’t leave as many comments as I want.

    Grateful for your thoughtful organization of this contest and for the ways it keeps so many of us going.

  14. chardixon47 says:

    Thank you Susanna for this 6th Annual Valentiny Contest! I’ll attempt putting on my bravery hat πŸ™‚ I like the idea of all entries in one place.

  15. pbbeckyk says:

    My first writing contest was your Holiday Helpers contest, and now I’m hooked! Thank you for all of the work you put into these awesome opportunities. I also think that reading entries directly from your blog is easiest. Whatever works best for you and your team is great. Thank you again!

  16. Melisa Wrex (@mowrex) says:

    I would have to post on your blog since I don’t have my own. I do think I would like the blog hopping, but having all the stories in one place would probably make it easier. Thank you for doing this, it will be my first year!

    • Susanna Leonard Hill says:

      It’s a hard decision, Melissa… I’ve done it with the blog hopping for so long… but maybe we’ll try something new once and see how it goes 😊 Thrilled that you’ll be joining the Valentiny fun for the first time!

  17. Rebekah Hoeft says:

    Hi, Susanna,
    I prefer reading stories on people’s blogs–mainly because the formatting is better via blogs vs. comment section. But then I rarely read any of your comment section stories. So to be fairsies, I guess I’d put my vote in for trying just comment section entries this year. And then if authors write something that needs proper formatting, maybe they could include a link to a view-only google doc or a blog post, as others have stated.

  18. Jamie Donahoe says:

    All the stories in one place would definitely make it easier to get to them all. I have discovered plenty of new people through the entries posted on your blog. Any entry that piques my interest leads me down the rabbit hole of finding and following the author anyway πŸ™‚

  19. jeanjames926 says:

    So excited for Valentiny! I honestly don’t mind blog hopping, but if you do post them all in one place perhaps the authors with a blog could just provide a link to their blog if they desire. Whatever makes it easy for you!

  20. sherritmercer says:

    I am excited to take part for the first time. I would enjoy reading the post in the comments. Thank you for sponsoring this event!!

  21. Danielle Hammelef says:

    I prefer to have all entries in one place–so much easier to read them all and support the authors will kind comments. I’m drafting my entry now as I promised myself I can once again do this writing thing. 2020 sucked everything out of me. Thank you for doing these contests to get creativity flowing.

  22. Linda Evans Hofke says:

    I prefer to have all the entries in one place. Then I can just keep scrolling down to read more of them instead of always jumping to a new link.
    Of course, people can always include a link to their blogpost in the comments in case people wish to put a comment there.

  23. Carrie Boone (@PageDoor) says:

    I have no blog, so I’m biased on this one. . .but I’d prefer to leave a comment! I’ve got my Valentiny written and ready to go – it’s my first one! Thanks for having this contest and thanks to all the judges for their time. Can’t wait to read all the great entries!

  24. Ciara N M Greenwalt says:

    I’d prefer to post on and link to my blog rather than in the comments. Discovering new corners of the internet is definitely a plus!

  25. Patricia Franz says:

    So I’m curious: is there a final decision re: post to blogs or post to comments? I’m a brand-new blogger/website-r and am happy to post a link to my site, but I don’t want to miss out on gaining comments from others. Would it be okay to post in your comments section and then post the blog link too? Not sure it’ll lead to much traffic once someone’s read the piece, but it’s one thought… Thanks.

    • Susanna Leonard Hill says:

      Yes, Patricia. It will be in the Contest Post tomorrow. I decided to encourage people to post in the comment section but you can still post on your own blog if you want to, or in addition, or add your link to the one posted in the comments.

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