The 2023 Valentiny Contest WINNERS!!!

I want to tell you a story.

Once upon a time, long, long ago in February 2020 when we didn’t even know the pandemic was mere weeks away, a writer entered the 5th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest.

The prompt that year was curiosity.

She wrote a lovely story called The Upside-Down Heart.

It was nicely written, creative, kid-friendly – in short, the judges really liked it!


(you knew there was a but coming, right?)

…alas and alack, she did not make the finals because her story did not feel curious enough, and that was the point the stories were supposed to be getting across.

Now, I know you’re feeling sad for this poor writer who tried so hard and wrote a wonderful story that didn’t make the cut. We all know that heartache too well. But

(I hope you felt that another but was coming because you know I like to tell stories with happy endings 😊)

wipe your tears, my pretties, because this is what became of that story! ❤️😊😊😊😊😊❤️

It is releasing in less than a month – April 4th, 2023 – a beautiful picture book from Gnome Road Publishing with the upside-down heart right there on the cover!

So congratulations, chocolate cake, a confetti parade, and a round of applause from all of us for Mary Munson and her dedication, determination, perseverance, and belief in herself and her work which led to the publication of her picture book, LOVE WILL TURN YOU AROUND. Let this be an inspiration to you should you happen to be one of the vast majority of contest entrants who don’t make the finals.

This is a case in point of what I always say: just because a story doesn’t get chosen as a finalist doesn’t mean it’s not a great story. It just means it might not have fit the contest requirements as well as it needed to to be a contest finalist.

So take heart (😊) and let’s find out who the WINNERS are of . . .

The 8th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest

~ for children’s writers ~

First of all, I want to thank EVERYONE who took the time and care to write an entry for this contest.  You all did a fabulous job and provided great enjoyment for so many! As always, I was thrilled to see so many wonderful stories!  It is amazing and inspiring, not to mention VERY entertaining!  There is just so much talent out there amongst you all!  The other judges and I are blown away anew each time!

Second, I’d also like to thank EVERYONE – writer, reader, or both – who took the time to read as many entries as you could and leave supportive comments.  This means so much to the writers who worked hard on their stories.  It helps them see what they did well, as well as giving them the joy of knowing that their stories were read and enjoyed.  I hope you all got as much delight  and entertainment out of the reading as I did!  Plus, we got to meet quite a few new people which was a wonderful added bonus! 😊

Third, I want to say again how difficult it was too choose!  There were so many amazing entries.  Really.  I could find at least something terrific about every single one.  The sheer volume of entries meant that many good ones had to be cut.   So if yours didn’t make the final cut please don’t feel bad.  You’re in good company! There was a huge amount of competition. And remember that the judging is based on the contest criteria. If you wrote a great story that didn’t showcase skepticism enough or that was too grown-up or not related to Valentine’s Day, you didn’t make the final cut.  But that DOES NOT mean you didn’t write a great story.  (Please see above for proof! 😊) Everyone who plonked their butt in a chair and worked hard to write a story for this contest is a winner!  You showed up.  You did your best work.  You practiced your craft.  You wrote to specifications and a deadline.  You bravely shared your writing with the world.  And you have a brand new story that is now yours to expand beyond 214 words if you like and maybe submit at some point to a magazine or as a PB manuscript.  So bravo to everyone who entered! And remember: you could be like Mary! 😊

Because it was such a hard choice, and there were so many wonderful stories, before we get to the winners, my assistant judges and I would like to award bragging rights, recognition and a small prize to the following authors for the following merits:

1.  For Honorable Mention In The Competition As A Whole: (entries we truly wrestled with not including in the finalists!)

Bridget Magee for Fish Out Of Water

Barbara Kimmel for The Power Of Love

Laura Bower for Love Litter

Marty Bellis for Valentino’s In Love

Ranessa Doucet for The Valentine Box

Marla Yablon for An Eco-Valentine’s Day

Katie Lee Reinert for My Homemade Valentine

Connie Bergstein Dow for The Flavor Of Love

Ryann Jones for The Skeptical Receptacle

Deborah Williams for Untitled

2. Honorable Mention for Heart:

Megan Emmot for There’s Nothing Nice About Zachary

Debbie Meneses for Daddy, Do you Love Me?

Marty Bellis for Gloomy Gus

Tiffany Hanson for A Sister’s Valentine

Kendra Bell for Dad’s Heart

Anne Bromley for The Lonely Heart

Lisa Billa for Lexi’s Plainly Special Valentine

3. Honorable Mention for Cleverly Written:

Angela Calabrese for A Sticky Valentine’s Day Invitation

4. Honorable Mention for Humor:

CJ Penko for The Val-entrails Gift Shop

5. Honorable Mention for Picture Book Worthy:

Jenna Elyse Johnson for Chip, Chip, Hooray! It’s Valentine’s Day! and Ms. Tate’s Tots On The Matter

8. Honorable Mention for Beautiful Writing:

Elizabeth Volkmann for Words Matter

Congratulations to all of you for fantastic elements of your stories!  Please email me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com subject line Prize Winner to collect your award badge (might have to be a little patient on this – I haven’t made them yet, but figured it was best to get the winners posted!) and prize, which is five dollars in a format that can be emailed for you to put toward something you’d like at a large online store (and I’m being cryptic because when I’ve done this for previous contests I got a ton of problematic spam mail because of the way I worded the post, but hopefully you can figure it out.  The store starts with the letter A 😊) I know it’s not much, but hopefully it will come in handy for something!

And now…

…the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

The announcement of the WINNERS OF THE 2023 VALENTINY CONTEST as voted on by you, our devoted readers!!!



In First Place

Winner of the whole shebang…

who gets first choice of all the prizes…

Andi Chitty

Be Mine? – Spider

Congratulations, Andi! Terrific job 😊

In Second Place

Julie Hauswirth
Land Meets Sea

Congratulations, Julie! You get to pick your prize after Andi.

In Third Place

Jesse Anna Bornemann
Matilda’s New Job

Congratulations, Jesse! You get to pick your prize after Andi and Julie.

In Fourth Place

Kelly Clasen
The Word Party

Congratulations, Kelly! You get to pick your prize after Andi, Julie, and Jesse!

In Fifth Place

Anne Lipton
The Princess Is A Scientist

Congratulations, Allison! You get to pick after Andi, Julie, Jesse, and Kelly!

In Sixth Place...

Sharon McCarthy
Mother’s Valentine Message

Congratulations, Sharon! I’m sure you get the idea of how the prize picking goes by now 😊

In Seventh Place…

Bri Lawyer
Pepper’s Perfect Poem

Congratulations, Bri!  You get to pick next 😊

In Eighth Place…

Daniella Kaufman
Convincing Cupid

Congratulations, Daniella! You get to pick after Bri 😊

In Ninth Place…

Laura Wippell
Hand-wrapped Love

Congratulations, Laura!  You get to pick after Daniella! 😊

In Tenth Place…

Chel Owens
Tiny The Turtle

Congratulations, Chel! You get to pick after Laura! 😊

In Eleventh Place…

Colleen Murphy
Trick Or Treat?

Congratulations, Colleen! You get to pick after Chel! 😊

In Twelfth Place…

Sue Lancaster
A Valentine’s Surprise

Congratulations, Sue! You get to pick your prize after Colleen! 😊

In Thirteenth Place…

Susan Gleeson
Doubting Thomas

Congratulations, Susan! You get to pick after Sue!

In Fourteenth Place…

Serena Gingold Allen
Love Takes Root

Congratulations, Serena! You get to pick after Susan!

In Fifteenth Place…

Aly Kenna
Fireworks At Deadman’s Bluff

Congratulations, Aly! You get to pick after Serena!

All the winners should email me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com with the subject heading Prize Winner so we can work out details for you to receive your prizes!  (The sooner the better!)  And for your convenience, the whole prize list is included at the bottom of this post.

Congratulations again to all our winners – it was a stiff competition!! – and congratulations to EVERYONE who wrote and entered a story in the contest.  You all deserve a huge round of applause and a gigantic chocolate heart… or lots of little chocolate hearts… or both… really, you can never have too much chocolate 😊 .

Thank you to everyone who helped make this contest SO MUCH FUN, whether by writing an entry, reading people’s stories, leaving comments for the authors, and/or voting in the finals.  It’s because of all of you that this contest was such a success, so many, many thanks from the bottom of my heart!

Have a marvelous Wednesday, everyone! 😊

The Prizes:  Swoonworthy! As always, we are so fortunate to have an abundance of wonderful prizes donated by our very generous friends in the kidlit community! Just look at all these goodies!

⭐️ Rhyme & Meter Self Study Course – Renee LaTulippe Renée M. LaTulippe is the author of The Crab Ballet (Cameron Kids/Abrams, 2022) and Limelight: Theater Poems to Perform (Charlesbridge, 2024) and has poems published in many anthologies including No World Too BigNight WishesSchool People, National Geographic’s The Poetry of USOne Minute Till BedtimePoems Are TeachersThankU: Poems of Gratitude, and A World Full of Poems.

⭐️ Free Ticket #1 to Writing Picture Books With Heart Webinar – Rosie Pova

This webinar will explore the elements that give stories that edge, and the power to tug at the reader’s heartstrings, so that they stay with the reader long after they’ve closed the book. 

The webinar will offer tips and practical advice on how to write stories with heart as we use mentor texts and pinpoint the right ingredients of a heartfelt story. A handout PDF is included, and it will provide a long list of titles to use as additional mentor texts.

⭐️ Free Ticket #2 to Writing Picture Books With Heart Webinar – Rosie Pova

This webinar will explore the elements that give stories that edge, and the power to tug at the reader’s heartstrings, so that they stay with the reader long after they’ve closed the book. 

The webinar will offer tips and practical advice on how to write stories with heart as we use mentor texts and pinpoint the right ingredients of a heartfelt story. A handout PDF is included, and it will provide a long list of titles to use as additional mentor texts.

Rosie Pova is the author of IF I WEREN’T WITH YOU (Spork, April 2017), SARAH’S SONG (Spork, September 2017), SUNDAY RAIN (Lantana Publishing, March 2021), THE SCHOOL OF FAILURE: A STORY ABOUT SUCCESS (Yehoo Press, May 2022), and for Middle Grade readers, HAILEY QUEEN PRANKING MAKES PERFECT: THE ALIEN ENCOUNTER (Spork, April 2017)

⭐️ 30 Minute Picture Book Zoom Critique Session with Lynne Marie

Lynne Marie is the accomplished author of Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten – art by Anne Kennedy (Scholastic 2011), Hedgehog’s 100th Day of School – art by Lorna Hussey (Scholastic 2017), The Star of the Christmas Play — art by Lorna Hussey (Beaming Books 2018), Moldilocks and the 3 Scares — art by David Rodriguez Lorenzo (Sterling 2019 and Scholastic 2019),  Let’s Eat! Mealtime Around the World — art by Parwinder Singh (Beaming Books 2019) and The Three Little Pigs And The Rocket Project — art by Wendy Fedan (Mac and Cheese Press 2022) and American Pie — art by Dea Lenihan (Dancing Flamingo Press, April 12, 2022)

⭐️ Rate Your Story Speed Pass from Lynne Marie

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Tina Shepardson, author of WALKOUT (Clear Fork Publishing, September 8, 2020)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (Rhyming PB or Children’s Poem) with focus on rhyme and meter from Suzy Levinson, author of ANIMALS IN PANTS (Cameron Kids/Abrams, April 11, 2023) and contributor to many poetry anthologies!

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Katie Munday Williams, author of POET, PILGRIM, REBEL: The Story of Anne Bradstreet, America’s First Published Poet (Beaming Books, August 2021)

⭐️ Winner’s Choice: Picture Book Manuscript Critique (non-rhyming) OR a 30 minute ask me anything from Kari Ann Gonzalez, author of HOW TO HATCH A READER (Gnome Road Publishing, August 15, 2023)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Shelley Kinder, author of NOT SO SCARY JERRY (Spork, September 19, 2017), GOD AND ME AT THE SEA (Kregel Children’s Books, May 17, 2022), and THE MASTERPIECE (Sprok, November 27, 2018)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Jenny Buchet, author of LITTLE MEDUSA’S HAIR DO-LEMMA (Spork, May 11, 2021)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique OR signed book (winner’s choice) from Aimee Isaac, author of THE PLANET WE CALL HOME (Philomel Books, March 21, 2023)

⭐️ A signed Copy of the gorgeous MY GRANDPA, MY TREE, AND ME (Yeehoo Press, March 6, 2023) from author Roxanne Troup

⭐️ 30 Minute Ask Me Anything Zoom Chat (anything relating to writing/publishing) with Penny Parker Klostermann, talented author of THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT (Random House 2015) and A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE (Random House 2017) as well as the forthcoming SPIDER LADY: Nan Songer and Her Arachnid WWII Army (Astra/Calkins Creek 2025) and another as yet unannounced 😊

⭐️ 30 Minute Ask Me Anything Zoom Chat (anything relating to writing/publishing)- Becky Scharnhorst, author of MY SCHOOL STINKS! (Flamingo Books, July 2021) and THIS FIELD TRIP STINKS! (Flamingo Books, August 2022)

⭐️ 30 Minute Ask Me Anything with Rebecca Gardyn Levington, author of BRAINSTORM! (Sleeping Bear Press, 2022), WHATEVER COMES TOMORROW (Barefoot Books, Mar 7, 2023), I WILL ALWAYS BE…(HarperCollins, Spring 2024), and AFIKOMAN, WHERE’D YOU GO? (Penguin/Rocky Pond, Spring 2024)

Please join me in thanking these very generous authors and other writing professionals for contributing their books and writing expertise as prizes by visiting their websites and blogs, considering their books and services for birthday, holiday or other gift purchases, rating and/or reviewing their books on GoodReads, Amazon, B&N, or anywhere else if you like them, recommending them for school and library visits, and supporting them in any other way you can dream up! 😊

18 thoughts on “The 2023 Valentiny Contest WINNERS!!!

  1. says:

    Good Morning, Susanna Even though I did not win even a smidgen of a recognition, THANK YOU for your 2023 Valentiny Contest and your many contests which challenge our creative juices…..if there is such a thing.Thanks again!Isabel———————————-

  2. Elizabeth Volkmann says:

    Hi Susanna!

    Wow! What a contest! Thank you SOOO much for offering this year after year. It is always so much fun – not just to write but to read the amazingly diverse and stellar stories that this writing community conjures up! The top prize winners this year were 100% fantastic. What can be done with 214 words and a prompt is – WOW!

    That being said, you and the judges amazingly put my in the Honorable Mention category this year and i am tickled PINK! 🙂 Thank you, thank you so much. What a delight.

    I am actually (finally) creating a website so I will be able to actually place the badge somewhere other than an email folder! 🙂

    Thank you again, Susanna! Everything you do is so very much appreciated!

    And I’ve loved seeing ALL the amazing authors featured in your celebration posts lately!!! So much talent!

    Have a lovely day!!

    x Beth


  3. Colleen Owen Murphy says:

    Congratulations to all!! And whew! What another great year Susanna! Thank you and the judges for everything.

  4. seschipper says:

    Wow! Great job, everyone! Congratulations to all of the winners, to everyone who wrote a story and read and commented! A special thanks to Susanna and her team for organizing this wonderful opportunity to hone the craft of writing ❣️

  5. CJ Penko says:

    WOO-HOO!!! Congratulations to all the winners and everyone who participated! And what a great surprise to wake up and find an honorable mention in humor for my story! That was an awesome way to start the day. I’m not normally a huge fan of valentines day (hence the Val-entrails Gift Shop entry, lol) but I enjoy it so much more because of this contest. Thank you to everyone who helped make this contest possible. And as always, Susanna- you’re incredible. I have no idea how you do it, but I’m so glad you do. So thank you a million times. ❤️

  6. marty bellis says:

    Susanna, what a grand start to my morning! Thanks so much for putting on this contest year after year. You and your judges give a tremendous amount of time and energy to it, along with all the others you host, and I’m incredibly grateful. You’ve helped me hone my craft with your prompts and word limits – plus, it’s so much fun and something I always look forward to! Reading everyone else’s entries reminds me how unique and individual we all are as writers. A special shout out and huge congrats to Mary Munson on her book! What a fitting tribute to your contests as well as her talents and persistence. And, lastly, congrats to the winners today! Well done.

  7. chardixon47 says:

    CONGRATULATIONS winners and honorable mentions!! Susanna, thank you for sharing Mary and her successful story.

  8. Andrea Mack says:

    Congratulations everyone!!!! You’re all so inspiring (says someone who couldn’t get their act together in time to enter but enjoyed reading the entries).

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