Perfect Picture Book Friday – Brobarians

It’s Friday!

And you know what that means. . .

Perfect Picture Books!

I don’t know about where you live, but where I live the weather has been most uncooperative!  Long spells of frigid temperatures topped off with snow and ice.  It’s too cold to stay outside for more than about 14 seconds, and even if you dare go out, you have to wade through snow or pick your way carefully over ice.  (Don’t get me wrong – I like winter activities as much as the next person – but getting groceries has turned into an Olympic sport! 🙂 )

The result?

Cabin fever and barbarian behavior!

So I have the Perfect Picture Book for today 🙂


Title: Brobarians

Written & Illustrated By: Lindsay Ward

Two Lions, March 2017, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 3-7

Themes/Topics: siblings, sibling rivalry, conflict resolution, humor

Opening: “In the beginning,
a great warrior laid claim to the land.
Feared by all, his reign was steadfast.

But soon another arrived
and his influence spread quickly.
This fierce rival challenged the great warrior.

Two seekers of high adventure,
Their strength and courage became that of legend.

This is the tale of the mighty Brobarians. . .

Brief Synopsis: Otto and Iggy, two warriors once at peace, end up at odds when they blame each other for spilling the cookies and then Iggy commandeers Otto’s army guys and Otto strikes back by taking Iggy’s bottle 🙂  How can the problem be resolved with two such fierce contenders at war?

Links To Resources: video of how to make your own cardboard sword; video of how to make your own cardboard shield; recipe for Viking Bread

Screen Shot 2018-01-18 at 6.45.22 PM

text and illustration copyright Lindsay Ward 2017

Why I Like This Book: The book is written like a knightly quest tale of old (or maybe it has more of a Viking flavor 🙂 )  All is well in the kingdom until the brothers start fighting over their belongings.  Anyone who has spent time around siblings will appreciate the story!  When the clash between the two reaches an unbearable level, who should step in to referee but Mamabarian! 🙂  The two brothers, sent off in shame, end up friends again when they’re both sentenced to the “dungeon of seclusion” (the bathtub) – partners in crime 🙂  A fun, entertaining story that all Brobarians and Mamabarians will get a kick out of 🙂

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 🙂

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF folks, please add your titles and post-specific links (and any other info you feel like filling out 🙂 ) to the form below so we can all come see what fabulous picture books you’ve chosen to share this week!

Ski, sled, skate, and come in and get warm with a cozy fire, a mug of hot chocolate, and a stack of picture books!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!!! 🙂


Would You Read It Wednesday #271 – Stoyanovich In Paris (MG) PLUS A Plethora of Pitch Winners!


Good Wednesday, Everyone!

It’s snowing at my house.

The dogs are asleep on the couch, the birds are busy at the feeder, and the llama horde and I are practicing hairdos on each other and making up picture book stories.  Although all of theirs are about llamas… 🙂

Screen Shot 2018-01-16 at 6.59.43 PM

illustration copyright Daniel Wiseman 2018



How do we look? 🙂

If you’re having a snow day at your house and need something fun to do, you can read WHEN YOUR LLAMA NEEDS A HAIRCUT and then set up your own styling salon with hairbrush and comb, pony tail holders, ribbons and barrettes, hair gel, etc and go to town 🙂  (Though I’d recommend hiding the scissors!)  You can also do hairstyling in the bathtub with bubbles – TOTALLY fun! 🙂

If you don’t have anyone to practice hairdos with it’s okay, because we’ve got all kinds of fun happening here!

First, we have THREE awesome pitch pick winners!!!

The winner of the September Pitch Pick is Katie with Pirate For Hire, the winner of October is Laura with Gustavo’s Big Idea, and the winner of November is Candace with Cock-A-Doodle WHAT?  Woohoo!  Congratulations to all of you for your great pitches!  They are all on their way to editor Erin Molta for her comments and thoughts!

Congratulations also to all the other writers who worked hard to put together pitches for great stories, bravely shared them here, and revised and improved their pitches based on your helpful feedback.  They are all winners because, thanks to you, they all have stronger pitches than they started with, which will hopefully earn them an agent or editor read at some point!

Now then, since we are having a snow day, it’s a perfect time to create delicious things in the kitchen, so for today’s Something Chocolate, we’re going to roll up our sleeves.  I think the old “10,000 hours to mastery” applies to sweets as well… the more times you make something, the better it gets 🙂  Valentines Day is approaching, so no time like the present to practice up on making Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Valentine Hearts!  This allows for plenty of advance taste-testing to be sure you’ve got it just exactly right before sharing with your better half… or your kids and their classmates… or possibly not sharing 🙂

YUM!  We did good, don’t you think?

But I agree… we’d better make more just to be sure… 🙂

Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Erik.  Erik is a middle-aged dad who never completely grew up, but somehow managed to raise a human being anyway. He is currently hard at work procrastinating on submitting his first manuscript and writing the second.

Follow him on Twitter @duttonerik

Here is his pitch:

Working Title: Stoyanovich In Paris

Age/Genre: MG Historical Fantasy

The Pitch:  Nikolai Stoyanovich Krisayev is the last of a long line of Russian rat nobility, living in exile in 1880’s Paris. When he rescues a visiting mouse princess from armed kidnappers, he is thrust into the midst of a silent war being waged secretly in the streets and sewers of the city.

With only his wits, his father’s sword, and the aid of a shadowy figure who may or may not be on their side, he will have to fight to save both the princess and the city he loves.

So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Erik improve his pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on Would You Read it in the dropdown under For Writers in the bar above.  There are openings in March, so you could get your pitch up pretty soon for helpful feedback and a chance to have it read and commented on by editor Erin Molta!

Erik is looking forward to your thoughts on his pitch!  I am looking forward to writing something fun today!  What should it be about?  The llama horde is pushing for another llama story,


but I’m thinking about snowmen…



Or maybe, atronauts…



Or the Olympics are coming… maybe an exciting sports story…




No! NO! NOOO!!!


See what I’m dealing with here?

Here’s hoping Phyllis keeps napping or there’s going to be a knock-down-drag-out over whether today’s story is about llamas or groundhogs! 🙂

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 🙂

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Gabe And Goon

Guess what today is, everyone?

It is the birthday of my dear friend, talented author/illustrator, Iza Trapani!!!

Happy Birthday, Iza!

And what better way to celebrate than by sharing one of her amazing books with you?!

But first, let’s have some cake 🙂

(And as long as we’re celebrating birthdays with cake, let me take this opportunity to wish Happy Birthday to my Brown Dog who will be 11 tomorrow!)

Isn’t it lovely to have birthdays and cake? 🙂

But now, to Iza’s wonderful book!  Not her newest, which I shared back in the fall, but one of my favorites!

Gabe and Goon

Title: Gabe and Goon

Written & Illustrated By: Iza Trapani

Charlesbridge, July 2016, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-6

Themes/Topics: monsters, friendship, humor, language fun (rhyme)

Opening: “Gabe wasn’t scared of monsters.
He hoped to see one soon.
Well, hiding in his closet
Was a real live monster, Goon.

Brief Synopsis: Gabe is not afraid of monsters.  In fact, he longs to meet one.  Goon lives in Gabe’s closet, but he is terrified of children!  When they meet, Goon does his best to scare Gabe away but nothing works.  But though he’s unsuccessful as a scary monster, he makes a great friend when something comes along that does scare Gabe.

Links To Resources: draw a monster you would like to meet; write a story about what you would do if you met a monster; 25 Crazy Monster Crafts for Kids; 20 Monster Recipes & Snacks For Kids

Why I Like This Book: this is such a fun twist on the idea of kids being afraid of monsters, since in this story it’s the other way around.  Poor Goon does his best to be scary and all Gabe does is laugh.  Gabe wants to be friends but is unintentionally terrifying Goon with his nose-blowing and sneezing (he has a cold.)  But when Goon realizes that Gabe isn’t so brave about everything, it bolsters his confidence a bit and the two become friends.  The art is warm and cozy and inviting.  Goon is an adorable monster.  There is plenty of humor.  Written in Iza’s trademark engaging rhyme which makes for a great read-aloud, this is a fun read kids will love!

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 🙂

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF folks, please add your titles and post-specific links (and any other info you feel like filling out 🙂 ) to the form below so we can all come see what fabulous picture books you’ve chosen to share this week!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!!! 🙂

Would You Read It Wednesday – A Plethora Of Pitch Picks!

Good Morning, Dear Friends!

Boy are you going to love today!

It’s all about sharing your opinions and letting your voice be heard!

Your vote matters!

Because today we have not one, not two, but THREE pitch picks for you to weigh in on!

(And in case you’re wondering, of course I planned this on purpose to be fun for you and give you a little lift in the dead of frigid winter, and three pitches in one day posted weeks after they should have been has nothing at ALL to do with being swamped with holding writing contests and meeting editorial deadlines and taking trips to Brazil and the holidays and visiting family and poor sick daughters who need company during Say Yes To The Dress marathons to recover from their terrible coughs!  No sirree Bob!  This was a matter of careful planning… 🙂 )

To fuel you for your voting marathon, here is Something Chocolate – and Something Perfect for these cold, cold January days!

The World’s Best Hot Chocolate!

hot choc

Recipe HERE at AshleeMarie

Ah!  Isn’t that delicious?  So hot and creamy and chocolatey?!  Feel free to add extra whipped cream (we all need calcium, right?! 🙂 )

Alrighty, then!  Let’s Pitch Pick!

Please read through the groups of pitches below and vote for your favorite in each month (there are 3 separate polls.)  Whichever of these wonderful pitches win will be sent to editor Erin Molta for her professional feedback!

Please place your votes by Sunday January 14 at 5PM EST.  Winners will be posted next week, good lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise! 🙂

September Pitch Pick:

#1 – Maureen – Kit, Not Kitty (PB ages 4-8)
For as long as Kit can remember remembering, she has felt more like fetching a ball and less like laying on a laptop. But how can she convince her family that it’s nothing to take puuuuurrsonally, it’s just that how she feels on the inside does not match how she looks on the outside.

#2 – Katie – Pirate For Hire (PB ages 4-8)
Patch loves being a pirate. The beards! The singing! The treasure! There’s only one problem…he gets seasick. When his shipmates begin poking fun at him, Patch looks for a new gig and a new crew who understand him, but where to work? Patch fumbles as a barber, flounders and a singer, and fails as a jeweler before finding a place perfect for a pirate.

#3 – Leonie – I’m Hungry Mummy (PB ages 2-6)
I’m hungry, but so is Mommy… She pretends to ‘eat you all up’, but there are some problems I make her overcome first!

October Pitch Pick:

#4 – Corine – The Puffin That Couldn’t Fly (PB ages 5-8)
When Paolo the penguin adopts a friendly puffin colony he doesn’t understand why he can´t fly like his friends—until he follows his gut into the deep sea where his flippers lead him to his family and true identity.

#5 – Kim – Belly Button Piranhas (PB ages 4-8)
Olivia is a gullible eight year old girl that must come to terms with her Dad’s explanation of the origin of the holes in her favorite shirt. With the help of her friends and her dog Rowdy, they will cure the infestation of the belly button piranhas.

#6 – Leonie – The Magician’s Apprentice (PB ages 4-8)
The boys are preparing for a show, but Sam keeps forgetting his costume! An outfit disappears and they need to find who stole it!

#7 – Laura – Gustavo’s Big Idea (PB ages 4-9)
Aliana’s little brother Gustavo wants to be in charge for the day. Knowing she’s really the boss, Aliana agrees to play along. Now Gustavo needs to come up with a BIG idea to impress his sister! As they head out to explore the woods near their Rocky Mountain home, Gustavo searches for inspiration, finding his idea in the clouds. The power of observation combined with imagination show both siblings new ways to take pride in their discoveries. Easy-to-follow hands on science project for home or school included.

November Pitch Pick:

#8 – Jennifer – Dewey Drops (PB ages 4-7)
Dewey wants the chance to make someone’s day, but that will never happen if keeps raining on playgrounds and parades. Plus, the next drop zone will be the worst one yet! There’s no way he’ll see a smile now, all he can do is hope not to land on the cake.

#9 – Candice – The Wildness In Mellie Feye (Upper Middle Grade Eco-Fairytale Retelling)
Mellie isn’t sure what her mom made her…half sea serpent? Peculiar mermaid? Water spirit? Or simple cursed?!

Fifteen-year-old Mellie wants to get back home to the magical isle of her two triplet sisters, but her mom’s curse keeps her away, stuck on a spit of land near Sand Blast Bay, FL. Apparently Mellie getting revenge on her dad wasn’t what her mom intended when she told the girls he was still alive. To break the curse, Mellie needs (what else?) true love’s kiss. She’d rather suck out scallop guts. Until her beloved bay turns septic and all the fish and oysters start dying off. It doesn’t look like she can return home to her sisters until she figures out how to restore the collapsing ecosystem. Her revenge is what caused it after all.

THE WILDNESS IN MELLIE FEYE is an upper middle grade fairytale retelling of the Melusine legend (the water spirit on your Starbuck’s cup) with an ecological twist.

#10 – Leonie – Sara Stole My Hiccups! (PB ages 4-8)
Tommy has a problem and Sara is here to help! Follow these two friends on their journey to solve Tommy’s problem – with a twist.

#11 – Candace – Cock-A-Doodle WHAT? (PB ages 2-4)
Clarence Rooster is pacing around the barnyard. He is the smallest rooster at the farm and tomorrow morning will be his first turn at waking up Farmer Judy. What if he’s not loud enough and she sleeps right through his crowing? He decides to hold a practice session behind the barn. Clarence invites his friends to come listen. Each one has a bit of advice for him. Now, he must figure out whose idea is the best.

Wow!  That was a lot of pitch picking!  I hope you had fun, and I hope you know how much I and the participating pitchers appreciate you taking the time to read and vote, and on regular WYRI Wednesdays give thoughtful feedback to help our pitchers improve and give all of us the chance to learn!

Now then.  One last thing before we all tootle off to our Wednesday appointed rounds.  I have realized that, due to the craziness that was October 1 – December 31, 2017, I failed to mention around the web that we need pitches for Would You Read It!  I actually currently have NONE!  So if you have a pitch that you need some help on and feel could benefit from the wisdom of your peers over here, please send it my way!  You could go as early as next week!  If no one sends any pitches, we’ll just have to eat chocolate and shoot the breeze (which wouldn’t be so bad – I love your company and I love chocolate 🙂 ) but really, we’re supposed to do something productive around here, so fire those pitches my way! 🙂

Have a wonderful Wednesday, everyone!  Read! Write! Eat chocolate! 🙂

Happy New Year!

Hi Everyone!

Happy New Year!

I hope you all had spectacular holidays!

I was going to have a spectacular pitch pick today – two actually –  but I haven’t heard back from all the pitchers… so I’m either going to post that later or wait until next Wednesday.

Meanwhile, for the sake of filling today’s space (and not because I’ve been pushed into it by a headstrong llama who desperately needs a haircut!) there’s a new llama in town!


I am so excited about this book!  A lot of you are probably familiar with Daniel’s art from WHEN YOUR LION NEEDS A BATH and WHEN YOUR ELEPHANT HAS THE SNIFFLES, but he gets better with every book.  The art in this one is hilarious!  I just love the llama’s expressions 🙂

I owe this book a little attention, but I felt like I’d blog-toured myself and everyone else out last summer with LION, ELEPHANT and TRUCKS, and following so close on the holidays I didn’t want to impose on your good nature.  So maybe I’ll think up a little something at some point, but for now, I hope you’ll just all get a chance to enjoy the book somewhere!

Here’s a little sneak peek at some of the interior art:

llama 1st page screen shot

Screen Shot 2017-11-21 at 9.20.04 PM

Screen Shot 2017-08-12 at 3.21.09 PM

There’s a GoodReads giveaway for this book if you’re interested… and I think I still have a couple copies available if anyone wants one to read and review on GoodReads, Amazon, B&N, their blog, etc…  Email me if you’d like one!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

When Your Llama Needs a Haircut by Susanna Leonard Hill

When Your Llama Needs a Haircut

by Susanna Leonard Hill

Giveaway ends January 23, 2018.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

And now you are all excused to go about your happy Wednesdays!  You’ll be the first to know if I end up posting pitch picks later 🙂

Have a wonderful day! 🙂

Happy Holidays! Writing With The Stars Mentorship Opportunity!!!

Hi Everyone!

Writing With The Stars is running their mentorship contest again and I thought you’d all like to participate because there are so many amazing opportunities!  And someone who heard about it on my blog last year was one of the winners!  This year it could be YOU! 🙂


Writing with the Stars is a picture book contest where writers and illustrators apply to win a mentorship from published authors and illustrators. The mentors will evaluate the applications and pick a winner to work with for three months. The contest is open to unpublished and un-agented picture book writers and illustrators. All the details can be found at

Doesn’t that sound amazing?!  And you could win a mentorship with Andrea Loni, Alistair Heim, Stacy McAnulty, Lindsay Ward, Josh Funk, Laura Gehl, Adam Lehrhaupt, Corey Rosen Schwartz, Annie Silvestro, Lori Degman, and many more!

Such an incredible opportunity!

Please share with anyone you know who might be interested!

Full details are at this link:

Consider it a little holiday gift to you! 🙂  Good luck!!!


2017 Holiday Contest WINNERS!

Look at us!

Hanging out together on a Tuesday! 🙂

Now, normally I’d go through some kind of song and dance about why you’re here, since Tuesday isn’t a regular posting day in these parts, and I’d pretend I had no idea what was up.

But it’s Holiday time, and all of us are busy, and I am seriously SUPER-busy, so I won’t waste any of your valuable time with silly runarounds.

Nosirree bob!

Not today!

Today, it’s right to the point!

And the point is. . .

. . .is. . .

. . .what was the point?

Oh, no!

I’ve forgotten the point!

But knowing me, it probably had something to do with chocolate. . .

choc moose

That’s chocolate and it has points. . . looks like about 14 points 🙂

Yep.  That was probably it.

So, enjoy some solid dark chocolate moose wherever you are (or, if solid dark chocolate isn’t your thing, a decadent chocolate mousse will do just as well) and have a lovely day!

Thanks for stopping by!

Enjoy your Tuesday!

Only 5 more shopping days til Christmas, so go on!  Skedaddle!






Uh. . .

. . .why are you still here?

There’s shopping and baking and wrapping and freaking out because your mother-in-law showed up two days early and you’re out of eggnog to be getting on with!

What’s that?

You wanted to know about what?




Gosh!  I can tell you a thing or two about Twizzlers!

Oh, winners?

You want WINNERS???


You twisted my arm 🙂

Without further ado, the WINNERS of the


7th Annual Holiday Contest

Kangaroo sleigh



are . . .


A little ado.

Just a teensy bit because I have just a couple quick things to say first 🙂  But the winners are coming very soon, I promise!

As always, I was thrilled to see so many wonderful stories!  Really!  It is amazing and inspiring, not to mention VERY entertaining!  There is just so much talent out there amongst you all!

But with large entry numbers, all of high quality, come hard choices.  My assistant judges and I worked hard to winnow the total down to a manageable number of finalists that we felt were truly all-around deserving of that distinction, and those were the ones we presented to you on Friday for your vote.

There were, however, many other entries that were outstanding in certain areas even though they might not have qualified all-around for one reason or another, or that the judges couldn’t reach a consensus on.

So my assistant judges and I would like to award 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!)

Matthew Lasley for Midnight Delivery (an entry we loved for the writing and kid-friendliness)

Jonathan Merkel for mom and i on Christmas (a lump-in-your-throat bittersweet story)

Carolyn Leiloglou for Old MacDonald Had A Farm. Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho! (well-written and fun!)

Delfina “Sugarplum” Salimbene 🙂 for Sparkle McSprinkle’s Surprise (lively and fun, great rhyme and meter!)

Ryan Roberts for Not Even A Mouse (a fun twist on the original with a great last line!)

Jennifer Prevost for Ginger’s Gift (a sweet story with an original POV – a Christmas tree ornament!)

Susan Schade for Favorite Day (an original story personifying the days of the week!)



2. For Great Kid Appeal: (not already mentioned in the finals or other categories)

Eleanor Peterson for A Surprise For Ava


Michelle de Freitas for Penelope Violet’s Christmas Surprise

Rose Cappelli for Christmas Chaos

Deborah Boerema for Christmas Eve DRAMA


3. For Excellence In Evoking Mood And Holiday Spirit And Tradition:

Elaine D’Alessandro for Here Comes… (we felt like we were there in that kitchen 🙂 )


4. For Beautiful Rendition Of The Christmas Story:

Janie Reinart for Channah’s Star


5. For Lovely Depiction Of Treasured Family Tradition:

Kathy Halsey for Roger The Christmas Squirrel


6. For Favorite Character: (enjoying the continuing adventures 🙂 )

Lucretia Schafroth for Marvin The Chipmunk (The Animated Elf – Marvin Strikes Again!)

Christine Evans for Lulu and Betty (Lulu And Betty’s Christmas Surprise)

Candice Conner for Bean and Jilly (Bean And Jilly And The Holiday Surprise Visitor)



7.  For More Appealing For Grown-ups But Well-Written And Enjoyable!
(These entries were terrific but either focused on the relationship between Santa and Mrs. C or had humor that we considered funnier for adults than kids)

Judy Sobanski for The Very Last Gift

Laura Bower for A New Day For Mrs. Claus


Congratulations to all of you for fantastic elements of your stories!  You may all email me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com to collect your prize, which is your choice of one of the following: (the titles are all links so you can go see what they’re about) (and if you request a paperback, please include your snail mail address!)  Lauri and Kaye, who were finalists with terrific stories but placed out of the top 10, please feel free to choose a prize from the list below if there’s something there you’d like!

For Kindle:

Picture Books: The Write Way by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

Rhyming Picture Books: The Write Way by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

How To Query An Agent Or Editor: A Children’s Writer’s Insider Guide From Mentors For Rent by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

Getting Published: How To Access Editors: A Children’s Writer’s Insider Guide From Mentors For Rent by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

The Easy Way To Write Picture Books That Sell by Robyn Parnell OR

Self-Publish Your Book: A Quick And Easy Step-By-Step Guide (Writing In A Nutshell Series Book 6) by Jessica Bell, OR

The Write Ideas Creative Writer’s Toolkit: A Genre-Spanning Box Set of Writing Prompts And Creative Exercises by Kate Krake

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi , OR

The Postitive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Attributes by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, OR

The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Flaws by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, OR

The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To City Spaces by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, OR

The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Personal And Natural Places by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, OR

The Ultimate Fiction Thesaurus by Sam Stone, OR

Writing In A Nutshell: Writing Workshops To Improve Your Craft (Writing In A Nutshell Series Book 4) by Jessica Bell, OR

In paperback:

Show And Tell In A Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions From Telling To Showing by Jessica Bell

The Six Senses In A Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions From Bleak To Bold Narrative by Jessica Bell OR

Adverbs And Cliches In A Nutshell: Demonstrated Subversions Of Adverbs & Cliches Into Gourmet Imagery by Jessica Bell OR

Creating Extraordinary Characters by Angela Hunt, OR

Evoking Emotion by Angela Hunt, OR

Picture Books: The Write Way by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

Rhyming Picture Books: The Write Way by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard

And now…

…the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

The announcement of the WINNERS OF THE 2015 HOLIDAY CONTEST as voted on by you!!!



In First Place

Winner of the whole shebang…

who gets first choice of all the prizes…

Elizabeth Curry

Waiting For The Winter Gift!!!

Congratulations, Elizabeth, on a beautifully written entry that had a nice element of suspense and a sweet ending and was clearly very popular!!! 🙂

In Second Place

Jennifer Broedel
The Just Desserts

Congratulations, Jennifer, on an entry we loved for your MC’s sneaky plan… and how it backfired 🙂  You get to pick your prize after Elizabeth.

In Third Place

Lucretia Schafroth

Santa’s Delivery Dilemma

Congratulations, Lucretia, on a delightfully fun, kid-friendly entry!  How can you not love pink unicorns? 🙂  Apparently you’re on a roll!  3rd in the Halloweensie Contest and now 3rd in the Holiday Contest!!!  You get to pick your prize after Elizabeth and Jennifer.

In Fourth Place

Mishka Jaeger

Binah’s Journey

Congratulations, Mishka, on a poignant entry with a nice feeling of history and family!  You get to pick your prize after Elizabeth, Jennifer, and Lucretia!

In Fifth Place

Megan Walvoord

Vegan Cut-Out Cookies

Congratulations, Megan, on an entry that had something for both our allergy-conscious young readers and our dinosaur-lovers!  Who knew Santa was a stegosaurus? 🙂  You get to pick after Elizabeth, Jennifer, Lucretia, and Mishka!

In Sixth Place

K. Callard

Lizard In A Blizzard

Congratulations, K!  We loved your clever and creative take on Christmas ornaments!  I’m sure you get the idea of how the prize picking goes by now 🙂

In Seventh Place…

Jen Bagan
Racing The Sun

Congratulations, Jen!  You managed an ending that was a REAL surprise! 🙂  You get to pick next 🙂

In Eighth Place…

Heather Kinser
Rigby and Tuttle: The Pinecone

Congratulations, Heather!  Adored your funny ending 🙂  You get to pick after Jen 🙂

In Ninth Place

Mona Pease
Family Is Home And Home Is Wherever It May Land

Congratulations, Mona, on your sweet, fun entry!  You get to pick after Heather 🙂

In Tenth Place

Rebekah Hoeft
Travelin’ Blues

Congratulations, Rebekah!  We so enjoyed your taste of Christmas in other countries!  You get to pick after Mona!

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 Holiday Treat (gingerbread chocolate truffle anyone?… not that I’m trying to get rid of them or anything… 🙂 )

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!

As I… hmm… maybe didn’t mention…?, I’m taking a little blogging break so I can spend time with my family – I’ve got children to fetch, cookies to bake, Christmas presents to shop for and wrap, and my sister and her family are arriving from Georgia today! 🙂   And, I’ve been so busy I haven’t put up my holiday decorations or gotten a tree yet, can you believe it?!  So I will see you all in a couple weeks – most probably the first week of January 🙂

So now, I want to wish you all a happy and healthy holiday filled with love, laughter, joy, and family, and a happy, healthy and successful new year!  It is a pleasure and a privilege to get to spend time with you all, and I’m happy and grateful to know each and every one of you!

Looking forward to all the things we’ll do in 2018!

Happy Holidays, and all best wishes for a wonderful New Year!!!

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The Prizes:

– a critique of a picture-book manuscript or dummy by agent Rachel Orr of Prospect Agency!!!


– a spot in Renee LaTulippe’s fantastic INTENSIVE RHYME AND METER SELF-STUDY COURSE!!!

Renee-LaTulippeScreen Shot 2017-10-28 at 8.37.39 AM

– a Picture Book Manuscript Critique from the FABULOUS Vivian Kirkfield, author of the forth coming Sweet Dreams, Sarah and experienced and much-loved critiquer!


– a Picture Book Manuscript Critique from the amazing Lori Degman (NORBERT’S BIG DREAM – Sleeping Bear Press 2016, COCK-A-DOODLE OOPS! – Creston Books 2014, 1 ZANY ZOO – Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers 2010) – a terrific choice for any rhymers out there!


– a Picture Book Manuscript Critique from the wonderful Amy Dixon (MAURICE THE UNBEASTLY – Sterling Children’s Books 2017, SOPHIE’S ANIMAL PARADE – Sky Pony Press 2015, MARATHON MOUSE – Sky Pony Press 2012)


– Enrollment in Making Picture Book Magic (my online picture book writing class – in January or a later month to be mutually agreed upon by the winner and me)

2018 Children’s Writer’s And Illustrator’s Market  and a $25 Amazon Gift Card.  (2 available)

– a bundle of (mostly) winter picture books!
We Wish For A Monster Christmas by Sue Fliess
Before Morning by Joyce Sidman
Ten On The Sled by Kim Norman
Someone Like Me by Patricia MacLachlan
The Gingerbread Man Loose At Christmas by Laura Murray

– a pack of Susanna Leonard Hill’s amazing What’s The Story Cards  (scroll about 1/2 way down the page…

I can’t thank these authors and other industry professionals enough for their incredible generosity!  Please visit their sites, buy and recommend their books and services to your writer friends and/or friends with kids, write them nice reviews on Amazon, GoodReads etc if you’ve read and liked their books, and show your appreciation to them in any way you can!

The 7th Annual Holiday Contest FINALISTS! – Vote For Your Favorite!!!


So it’s not my usual posting time Friday.  I’m a little behind schedule.

But it IS still Friday!  So there’s that 🙂

Given the complete and total over-scheduling of late – not just mine, but my fellow judges and probably most of you guys because, let’s face it, Hanukkah is already underway and it’s only 10 days until Christmas! – it’s pretty much of a miracle that there’s a post going up at all!  I have an imminent appointment with a hairy scary tangle of Christmas lights on the agenda, and a recipe to try that involves actual yeast and letting things rise, and who knows how that kind of thing might end!

But here we are, and THAT means it’s time to discuss something of great importance!  Something we cannot go even one minute further without settling!

You know it and I know it!

And I know it’s really been weighing on your minds!

No, not the meaning of life (although clearly that is important too…)

I’m talking about something much less philosophical and much more immediately crucial!

Namely, which reindeer are you?

I tried three different quizzes.  Two of them said Cupid because for me the holidays are all about love and family.  (The other one said Prancer and that I would always be the best dressed person in the room for photographs… I don’t know what went wrong with THAT one because, well, have you SEEN me? 🙂 )

Since I know none of us can go another second without knowing where we are on Santa’s team, feel free to check out the quizzes and let me know how you line up! 🙂  Also, if you got consistent results!  Also, if anyone gets Rudolph, who in my book is technically not one of the hard core team since he was a recent addition to the original 8 who did the job unaided for time immemorial!  You’ll notice there is no mention of him in Clement C. Moore’s classic poem!  But I digress…  Take a quiz or two or three and let me know how it goes 🙂

Quiz 1

Quiz 2

Quiz 3

Alrighty, now that THAT’S settled, what do you want to talk about?


(Always a good topic!)

Or maybe what’s on your Hope-I-Get-It gift list?

(I’m guessing either an agent or a book contract or both are at the top of most of our lists 🙂 )

Or maybe the insanity of ruining perfectly good chocolate by trying to make it taste like gingerbread?

(I am not making this up!  Lindor truffles has a gingerbread flavor!  I saw it in Kohls!  And of course I had to try one because I love chocolate (as you may have heard 🙂 ) and I also love gingerbread… but I’m sorry to say that in my opinion it was an extremely misguided idea!  Feel free to debate, but I’m going to take a lot of convincing.  However technically, I guess this isn’t really a separate topic but falls under the category of “chocolate” above…)

Or maybe…

…just maybe…

you’d like to know who the Holiday Contest Finalists are???????!!!!!!!

Far be it from me to disappoint you!  Ready or not, here they come! 🙂

The 7th Annual Holiday Contest

Kangaroo sleigh


Except first a few words from our sponsor.

Which is, er, me.

First, I want to thank EVERYONE who found time in their busy holiday season schedule to write an entry for this contest – all 78 of you!  The overall quality of the entries was amazing!  There were no easy cuts.  My assistant judges and I found something to like in every story and hated having to cut anyone!  You guys did an amazing job and really rose to the occasion.  So much creativity and great writing!  You should all pat yourselves on the back and have a celebratory bonbon!  (I recommend something besides gingerbread-flavored chocolate 🙂 )

Second, I want to thank EVERYONE who took the time to go around to as many of the 44 different blogs as you could, as well as the 34 entries posted in the comments here, and read and leave supportive comments for the writers who worked so hard on these stories, and especially those who took the time to share many of those entries on social media to draw in other readers.  In this business where rejection is a common and unavoidable part of the process, it means a great deal to writers to know that their work was read and enjoyed, and to receive a few kind words about their writing.  It is one of the best things about this community – that people are so generous and kind to each other.

Third, before I list the finalists, I want to say again how really difficult it was to choose.  There were so many fabulous entries.  The sheer volume meant that many great stories had to be cut.  So if yours didn’t make the final cut please don’t feel bad.  There was a huge amount of competition.  Judging, no matter how hard we try to be objective, is always subjective at a certain point – we all have our own preferences for what makes a great story.  And the fact that you didn’t make the final cut DOES NOT mean you didn’t write a great story.  (And remember – we had VERY specific criteria, so if you wrote a great story that just didn’t happen to fit the combined parameters it might not have made the finalists, but it’s still good!)  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.  You bravely shared your writing with the world.  And you have a brand new story that is now yours to hone and tweak if you like and maybe submit at some point to a magazine or as a PB manuscript.  So bravo to everyone who entered!  I’d also like to point out that someone who entered the 6th Annual Holiday Contest in 2016 embellished on her story a bit and ended up selling it to an editor!  It is going to be a published picture book!  So that could be you, too! 🙂

Finally, I’d like to be very clear about the voting process.  Due to the large number of entries, there are 12 finalists listed below.  I have deliberately listed them by title only, so as to help with objectivity.  Please read through them and choose the one you feel is best and vote.  You are MOST welcome to share a link to this post on FB, twitter, or wherever you like to hang out and encourage people to come read ALL the finalists and vote for the one they think is best.  Please do that.  The more people who read and enjoy these stories the better, and the more objective votes we get the better.  HOWEVER (and I want to be very clear on this) please do not ask people to vote for a specific number or title, or for the story about Dasher and Dancer’s dreams of Broadway stardom or whatever.  Trolling for votes or trying to influence the outcome is counter to the spirit of this competition which is supposed to be based on merit.  I thank you in advance for respecting this.

Remember that the judging criteria were:

  • 1. Kid-appeal! – These stories are intended for a young audience (ages 12 and under), so we’re looking for stories that children will enjoy and relate to.  Entries that were well-written but lacked child-friendliness or whose humor or content felt more appropriate for an older or adult audience did not make the cut.  Sadly there were several GREAT entries where the judges felt the emphasis was too much on the relationship between Santa and Mrs. Claus (too adult to be appreciated by kids) or where the humor was directed at things adults would find funny but were less applicable to kids, etc.  At least one of our favorites fell into this category 😦
  • 2.  Holiday Surprise! – the rules state a Holiday Surprise story, so it must be crystal clear that the story is about Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or whatever you celebrate, and it must contain a surprise! 🙂  Most people did a good job with this, but there were unfortunately some that felt predictable and some that just didn’t feel that surprising.
  • 3. Quality of story – entries must tell a story, including a main character of some kind and a true story arc even if it’s tiny 🙂  Entries must not be merely descriptions or mood pieces.  I’m happy to say you guys did a great job with that in this contest!
  • 4. Quality of Writing: check your spelling, grammar, punctuation etc.  If you’re going to rhyme, give us your best 🙂  Overall writing quality and use of language are also important.  Rhyme is so tricky!  Some of you do it amazingly well – really!  But there are always a few stories that are clever and fun and might have made the finals if written in prose, but problems with the rhyme (usually the meter) keep them from getting there.
  • 5. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.

We cut 66 entries to leave you with these 12.  It was very hard!  We did the best we could.  You’ll find some poetry (surprisingly little in this list of finalists – weird how that works out!) some prose; some for younger readers, some for older; some funny, some quieter; and a mix of holidays.  I hope you’ll all find at least one of your favorites on the list below.

#1 Waiting For The Winter Gift

“Mama, what will we do when winter comes?” Little asked.
“What deer always do,” Mama said, “slow down and eat what we find.”
“Can’t we hibernate like Bear?” asked Little.
“We’ll be cozy beneath the pines,” Mama said.
“We could dig snow tunnels like vole,” said Little.
“Our winter coat will block the chill,” said Mama.
“Let’s vacation like goose!” said Little.
“And miss the winter gift?” said Mama.
“What’s that?” said Little.
“A surprise to wait for,” Mama said.
Soon snowflakes fell.
“Is it time?” Little asked.
“Not yet,” Mama said.
“Are you certain the gift will come?” Little asked.
“It always comes,” Mama said.
Little tired of twigs, bark and pokey pine needles.
She dreamed of acorns, buds and spring flowers.
Finally, on the coldest of evenings, Mama’s whisper woke her.
They crept to the edge of the woods.
“I can’t see!” said Little.
“Shhh,” said Mama. “Wait.”
Little peered into the darkness at a lone pine.
Suddenly, it gleamed with light.
“The tree!” Little said.
“Shhh,” said Mama. “Wait. And listen.”
Little squinted.
Dim shapes gathered around the pine.
Soft voices filled the air.

“The first Noel, the angels did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay…”

As the carolers sang, a boy dragged a sled full of cracked corn toward them.
“Merry Christmas,” he whispered, leaving the sled behind.
Little’s tummy tingled hopefully.
“Is that for us?” Little asked.
“Yes,” said Mama.
And soon Little and Mama’s bellies matched their full hearts.

#2 Just Desserts

Every year at Christmas, it’s my job to pick a game,
so this year I suggested that we each should draw a name.
Last night we went shopping, then came home and wrapped the loot,
piled up mounds of gifts, and settled in to have a hoot.
No one knows the trick I played, to make me get the most
(and I’m not gonna tell them now- I’m not the one to boast).
What a plan! I bet I’ll get all kinds of awesome stuff.
Robots, nun chucks, tablets…I just hope I get enough.

Morning’s here, we all rush down, I feel like I could burst!
“Settle down,” Mom says. “Let’s all take turns. Now, who goes first?”
Looking at the shining paper, fluffing all the bows,
picturing the things we’ll get, I hope it’s good. Who knows?
Gracie picks her gift up first and shakes it in surprise,
tears off all the wrapping, “Oh, I can’t believe my eyes!
It’s everything I wanted! Thank you Mommy, thank you Dad.”
A doll? Who needs a doll? I guess for her, it’s not so bad…
Maybe Ollie’s present will be something more my speed.
Building blocks?! That’s baby stuff. It’s not quite what I need.
My turn! This one’s heavy! I just can’t believe my luck!
I yank the paper off and find… “A GIANT FRUITCAKE! YUCK!”
No big deal, there’s fifteen more, all labeled with my name.
But ripping each gift open, one by one… THEY’RE ALL THE SAME!

#3 Essie The Hen And Her Christmas Surprise

It was almost Christmas and Essie loved nothing more than chatting
and scratching and fussing over excited chicks.
Then one day, a horse trampled her foot.
The kind farmer made a bed for Essie in the kitchen.
Essie tried to tell Nettle the dog all about it, but Nettle hardly noticed her at all.
Each day, Essie waited for Nettle.
Then in the evenings, she did her friendliest best.
She chatted about her grand chicks.
She chatted about her great grand chicks.
Bigger yawn.
She even chatted about her great great great grand chicks.

Time went by, Essie began to hobble about while Nettle did nothing but sleep.
What a lonely Christmas this will be, thought Essie. So she decided perhaps she could help.
Essie tidied the woodchips by the fire.
She picked up Nettle’s spilt food.
She even watched for dangerous intruders.
Nothing seemed to work.

That night, as the fire’s last embers glowed, Essie dreamed of a merry Christmas.
Then she noticed something strange.
Nettle was a big squirming monster!
Essie hid but then …
“One, two three, four, five … six glorious pups!” she squawked.
When Nettle went outside, the pups shivered and whimpered
and cried.
Essie hobbled straight to the basket …
and hopped on top of the pups.
“Cloork, cloork!” sang Essie.
Nettle stared at Essie sitting on her pups, sniffed her then sat beside the basket.
What a merry Christmas this would be after all! Brock!

#4 Travelin’ Blues

We’re travelers.
Mom writes books about different cultures. We’re home for a bit while we catch up with friends and school work. Then — off again!
The only time this is a problem is Christmas. Every year, a new place. I just want to be home.
This is how it goes before Christmas:
“Mama, can we go home for Christmas?”
“Not this year, Kels. This year we’re going to [insert name of faraway country].”
And then we’re off.

I’ve gotta admit we’ve been part of amazing Christmas celebrations.
When I was seven, fireworks and ice cream in Brazil: spectacular!
Thirteen desserts in France. YESSS!
A sauna on Christmas Eve in Estonia:   interesting?!
Last year, two Christmases.
Iceland in December: books and pretty fried bread. Perfection.
Ethiopia in January: 4:00 a.m. candlelight procession. Intense.

This year, I’ve had it. I wanna go home.

We’re in Australia. I say, with grump:
“Mom. Let’s go home for Christmas.”
She just gave a tired smile and kept typing.

Today we’re off to wherever we’re going. Don’t care where.
We’re late, rushing to get settled with our flight standbys: earbuds, neck pillows, books. Mom pulls out a gift bag.
“Open it.”
I know it must be her buttering me up for another traveling Christmas.
As the flight attendant says “…and then straight to the States,” I read the words “DTW” at the end of the printed itinerary that was in the bag. Detroit. Michigan. Home. Heaven on earth.
“Surprise,” Mom says quietly.

Best. Christmas. Ever.

#5 Santa’s Delivery Dilemma

On Christmas Eve, Santa awoke early, ready for his annual journey.

Nice list? Check—toys loaded for delivery. Naughty list? Done—coal on board. All the reindeer had their check-ups and international travel vaccinations last month. The sleigh had its annual tuneup last week. Just a pre-departure test flight remained.

But as the reindeer whisked him into the sky, Santa noticed Rudolph’s nose flickering. Then Rudolph sniffled and sneezed. The sleigh jolted, suddenly losing altitude. Clearly, Rudolph was too sick to fly!

“What are we going to do?,” worried the other eight reindeer. Laden with gifts, the sleigh needed another strong flyer to complete its deliveries before Christmas morning.

“I will summon some Arctic alternates!,” said Santa. “We must believe—in ourselves and in Christmas miracles.” Soon, a menagerie of candidates arrived at Santa’s snow-covered driveway.

A moose plodded up but had no flying experience. “Next!,” called an elf. An athletic polar bear volunteered but was dismissed for exceeding the weight limit. “Next!” A snowy owl eagerly fluttered up but wasn’t strong enough for the position.

As Santa considered his predicament, he sensed something behind him. “I’m well-suited for this task,” a voice whispered. Looking back, Santa stared…

a pink unicorn stood behind him!

“You’re…actually…REAL?,” Santa gasped. “I stopped believing…in unicorns…years ago,” he admitted.

Satisfied after one last test flight, Santa began his important journey—led by Trudy, the unicorn, who proudly flew with an LED light duct-taped to her horn.

#6 Racing The Sun

Mrs. Claus adjusted Santa’s hat.
“This night always makes me nervous,” she said.
“I’ll be fine,” Santa said. “Quick as a wink and back before the sun is up.”
They kissed goodbye just as the head elf opened the door.
“Lift off in 5 minutes!”
The reindeer were waiting.
Santa said, “Fly like the wind. We stay ahead of the sun tonight.”
They understood and soon galloped at full speed into the dark night.
The journey was smooth as Santa whooshed around the South Pacific. Packages flew from his nimble hands through Asia, Africa and Europe.
But then the sleigh was slammed by a meteor shower.
“We have to find shelter!” cried Santa.
The reindeer flew toward earth and landed in the Canadian Rockies.
Santa checked his watch and looked at the sky. We’re running out of time, he thought.
Finally, they could take off.
Santa worked at a frantic pace through Mexico and South America. An amber glow emerged from the darkness as he delivered the last present.
“Home! On the double!” shouted Santa
Dawn was breaking as the sleigh touched down at the North Pole.
“Ouch!” cried Santa as he touched a sizzling blister forming on his cheek.
The elves whisked him inside to Mrs. Claus.
“Tonight was too close,” Santa said as he quickly brushed his fangs.
Mrs. Claus pulled the drapes tight and opened his coffin.
“In you go,” she said. “I’ll see you tonight.”
She closed the lid and chuckled.
If the kids only knew.

#7 Rigby And Tuttle: The Pinecone

It was Christmas, and Rigby Bear still didn’t have a gift for his friend.
“What to get the otter who has everything?” Rigby wondered.
Something special,
He lumbered through the neighborhood, thinking….
and slathering peanut butter onto bread. (Rigby always brought a snack.)
Soon he passed a persimmon tree.
“Persimmon popovers!” said Rigby. “Tuttle loves them! Luckily, I’m the best baker in town.”
But Rigby had given popovers before–
on Valentine’s Day,
April Fool’s Day,
and even Teacher Appreciation Day.
“On second thought,” said Rigby. “Popovers aren’t surprising.”
He bit into peanut-buttery bread. (To help him think, of course.)
Rigby padded into the countryside…
and past a pumpkin farm.
“Pumpkin pie! Good thing I’m an excellent baker.”
But he had given pie, many times before–
on Tuttle’s birthday,
and even National Paperclip Day.
“Come to think of it,” said Rigby. “Pie isn’t surprising.”
He shuffled into the forest…
but couldn’t dream up a Christmas surprise.
Huckleberry tarts? No.
Granola bars? No.
Frosted eclairs? Nope.
Rigby plopped down and sighed. “I only know how to bake. I can’t make anything else.”
He reached for a slice of bread…
picked up a pinecone instead…
and slathered it with peanut butter.
Just then, Tuttle appeared, wearing bird-watching gear.
Rigby waved.
The icky-sticky pinecone clung to his fur…
and thirteen little birds perched on his paw, happily pecking peanut butter.
“A pinecone birdfeeder, for me? Thanks, pal!” said Tuttle. “What a surprise.”
“It sure is,” Rigby agreed…
“Merry Christmas!”

#8 Binah’s Journey

It was the first night of Hanukkah and everyone had gone across to the Mazur’s for latkes, leaving Binah alone to think for the first time since she arrived.
She could still hear them through the walls. It was always noisy in the crowded tenement.
Binah missed the village where she’d lived with Zayde, Bubbe, and Papa. She could run through the nearby fields and breathe fresh air!
Last spring, the pogroms began. Every week bought destruction and fear. One day Papa disappeared.
In August, Binah was sent aboard a ship to join family in New York.
Kneeling near the stove on the cold kitchen floor, Binah dragged her overcoat from under the narrow bed she shared with her cousin Sally. She fumbled in the pockets until she found the large wooden dreidel Zayde tucked inside that day she had to say goodbye. It was large and lopsided, just like Zayde. Binah wondered if she’d ever see him again?She stood the dreidel on end and tried a spin but it toppled right over showing the lucky letter, gimmel. Looking closer, Binah noticed a tiny crack. She put her thumbs on the gimmel and pushed. The side slid open.
Tickling her fingers into wool batting, Binah pulled out a coin, then six more, a gold watch, pearl earrings, and a little paper scroll.
Unrolling it, she read: “Binah—Use these treasures to help build your shining future in America. Always remember I love you, zeisele. I know you will succeed.”

#9 Family Is Home And Home Is Wherever It May Land

Hazel found a safe spot, deep in the arm of a needly fir. She wove a fluffy nest and welcomed her new litter.
Winter winds blew. Swoosh! Whoosh!
Frost sparkled. Crickle! Crackle!
The field mouse and her growing family snuggled until…
Hazel and her children held tight as they went topsy-turvy. Their home was dropped, dragged, then propped upright again.
The mice peered at their woodsy neighborhood from the inside out. Gasp!
Mesmerized, they peeked at the people dancing, decorating, stretching high to place a star.
Snap! Lights twinkled
Choo-choo! A train chugged.
Children hung stockings.
Parents pointed at the clock.
Everyone went upstairs.
After awhile, Hazel and her curious little ones jumped down to explore their new surroundings.
They hopped on the train and rode ‘round and ‘round the holiday town. Whee! Then…Bump! Thump! Thump!
Black boots tromped toward the tree.
Squeakkkkkk! Eeeeeeeek! Hazel and her family raced back to their nest, hoping the big guy with rosy cheeks, twinkly eyes, and white hair, hadn’t seen them.
He piled people presents high; books, blocks, dolls.
Then, he looked straight at the mice. Yikes!
He stretched his black-gloved hand toward them. They froze!
The big guy’s hand opened. Surprise!
Presents: coverlets of silky curls, bits of carrots and cookies, and mouse-sized cups of warm cocoa.
He winked, and waved and left.
Even though temporary, Hazel and her family celebrated the wondrous night at home, together.

#10 Vegan Cut-Out Cookies

Sammy was allergic to a lot of things. He couldn’t have milk or gluten. Peanuts made his face puff up and corn made him throw up.
His mother found a recipe for cut-out cookies called Zucchini Coconut Oil Vegan Sugar Cookies. It was a big deal to create something sweet.
He poured and mixed just the right amount. He rolled the dough out. He cut out a Santa, star, and stocking.
He baked them, cooled them and decorated them. He covered them with homemade frosting and fruit.
As he finished he started to worry. Would Santa like his treat? Would he be delighted with his sugary sweet?
He put out the Soy milk and Vegan cookies out on Christmas Eve. Hoping and praying that Santa would like them.
As He stayed awake in his bed. Thoughts of dread danced in his head. What if he was allergic to coconut?
As he was almost asleep he heard a BUMP! THUMP! Followed by STOMP! STOMP! STOMP! STOMP!
Wow! Santa was heavy. I wonder if I could sneak into see him trying my treat.
Sammy snuck quietly down the hall. He peeked around the corner. He had to muffle a yell.
Santa wasn’t human at all. The Santa Stegosaurus tromped around his living room gulping down the cookies and milk.
Santa Stegosaur turned to Sammy and said, “Thank you! Finally, a kid that knows I’m an herbivore.”
“Yyyou’re welcome,” said Sammy a smile crossing his face. Who knew that Santa was a dinosaur.

#11 Lizard In A Blizzard

Down south in December
It’s usually warm,
Except for the year of
The wicked snowstorm!

One lizard, Negrita,
(Which translates as “bold”)
Chose to take action,
To get out of the cold.

She peered in a window
And what did she see?
A cozy, warm house
With a huge indoor tree!

So she hid on the porch
And trembled and shivered
Then darted inside
When a box was delivered.

Straight for the tree,
She skittered so fast,
Ignoring the squeals
Of the people she passed.

She clambered up branches
And hid on a bough,
As somebody shouted,
“Get it out, now!”

Huge faces came near,
Peering in through the greenery,
But Negrita stayed still
To blend in with the scenery.

Big hands came in next,
Fingers grasping and groping,
“Don’t let them find me,”
Negrita sat, hoping.

The fingers came closer.
She thought she was doomed.
‘Til: “The thing’s disappeared!”
A jumbo voice boomed.

For hours she stayed there,
Continuing to hide,
Thinking, Maybe I would have
Been safer outside.

A branch below rustled,
A human was back!
But instead of chasing Negrita,
They brought her…a snack?

A tiny young human
Carried fruit on a tray.
“It’s not milk and cookies,
But I hope it’s okay.”

“You’re feeding the pest?”
Anger. Irritation.
“It’s not a pest,
It’s our new decoration!”

So, tucked amidst tinsel,
And safe from the blizzard,
Negrita became
The first Christmas Tree Lizard.

#12 Christmas Wildfire

Black bear pawed at the ground by a big douglas fir and snorted, “This one.”
Elk wrapped the tree with honeysuckle vines, carefully tucking in the ends with his antlers.
Bluebird dotted the needles with red Christmas berries.
Jackrabbit dangled wild carrots, joyously jumping to the highest branches.
Coyote paced around the tree and howled with delight.

Black bear grunted, “Quiet.”
Jackrabbit’s nose twitched, “Smoke.”
Elk raised his antlers, “Danger.”
Bluebird chittered, “Run, run, run!”
Coyote snapped at their feet to hurry.

After their long flight, the animals huddled under a strange tree on Christmas Eve.
Jackrabbit rubbed his long ear and squeaked, “Our Christmas tree?”
Black Bear let out a low growl and tucked jackrabbit under his arm.

In the morning Great Horned Owl swooped low and hooted, “Safe.”
The animals meandered through black trunks.
Puffs of ash followed Jackrabbit’s jumps.
Black bear shook soot from his fur.
Bluebird landed on Elk’s antlers and rapidly tweeted, “No. No. But Santa. Oh dear. No.”

Then they froze.

Their Christmas tree stood alone. The green needles were covered in Christmas berries, wrapped in honeysuckle, and dangled with carrots. Only one thing had changed. The tree glistened with a coating of Christmas snow.
Jackrabbit cried, “Saved!”
Black Bear nodded, “Unexpected.”
Elk bellowed, “Miracle.”
Bluebird trilled, “Santa! Santa! Santa!”
Coyote howled with delight.

Having read (and probably re-read and re-read!) through these 12 fabulous finalists, please VOTE FOR YOUR FAVORITE in the poll below by Monday December 18 at NOON EST.  I’m hoping the full weekend will give you enough time but I’m including Monday morning too just in case!  Winners will be posted on Tuesday December 19 and we can celebrate and then all get on with our busy holiday schedules!

Congratulations to the finalists!  And thank you all so much for taking the time to write (if you did), read, and vote!  These contests simply wouldn’t be what they are without all of you!

I can’t wait to see who the winners will be!

Tune in Tuesday… same bat time, same bat station 🙂

Ho! Ho! Ho! The 7th Annual Holiday Contest is HERE!


Deck the halls!

Light the menorah!

Fill the Kikombe cha Umoja!

It’s time for…


Kangaroo sleigh


The Contest:  Write a children’s holiday story (children here defined as approximately age 12 and under) about A Holiday Surprise!  Any kind of surprise – anything at all! – the more unexpected the better! 🙂  Squirrel in the Christmas Tree?  Snowstorm in Jamaica?  Santa delivering toys from an excavator pulled by a herd of worms?  Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever you celebrate, but is not to exceed 250 words (I know!  So much freedom after the Halloweensie Contest 🙂 )  (It can be as short as you like (the judges will be grateful 🙂 , you are welcome and encouraged to write shorter, but no more than 250!  Title not included in word count.)  The field is wide open!  Have fun!  The more creative the better!  No illustration notes please. (And yes, if you feel compelled to submit more than one entry you may, just remember you’re competing against yourself!)


Post:  Your entry should be posted on your blog between right now this very second and Sunday December 10 at 11:59 PM EST, and your post-specific link should be added to the link list below.  This post will remain up through Friday December 15 for your reading pleasure.  There will be no Perfect Picture Book or Would You Read It posts for the duration of the contest so the links will stay up for everyone to visit and enjoy.  If you would like to enter but don’t have a blog you are welcome to paste your entry in the comment section below (please be sure to include your byline so that if your posting handle is staysuplate2write or something I’ll be able to tell who you are!)  If anyone has trouble commenting, which unfortunately happens, please email me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com and I’ll post your entry for you! But please don’t send attachments!  Just copy and paste your story into the email.  Also, please only post your entry once – either in the comment section of my blog or on the link list or by emailing me and asking me to post it.  Multiple postings of the same entry get confusing.


The Judging:  My lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to 10-12 finalists (depending on the number of entries) which will be posted here on Friday December 15 (or, if we’re desperate for a little extra time, Saturday December 16) for you to vote on for a winner.  The vote will be closed on Sunday December 17 at 5 PM EST (or Monday December 18th if we need that extra time.)  Whoever gets the most votes will be first and so on down to tenth place, and the winners will be announced on Monday December 18 (or Tuesday December 19).

Judging criteria will be as follows:

  • 1. Kid-appeal! – These stories are intended for a young audience (ages 12 and under), so we’re looking for stories that children will enjoy and relate to.
  • 2.  Holiday Surprise! – the rules state a Holiday Surprise story, so it must be crystal clear that the story is about Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or whatever you celebrate, and it must contain a surprise! 🙂
  • 3. Quality of story – entries must tell a story, including a main character of some kind and a true story arc even if it’s tiny 🙂  Entries must not be merely descriptions or mood pieces.
  • 4. Quality of Writing: check your spelling, grammar, punctuation etc.  If you’re going to rhyme, give us your best 🙂  Overall writing quality and use of language are also important.
  • 5. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.


The Prizes!:  Ok.  This is the moment where I officially admit to probably having bitten off more than I can chew! 🙂   I’ve been in Brazil for the past week, and upon my return was met with some deadlines I have to add into the time equation, in addition to a couple of school visits and getting ready for the holidays and family coming etc.  I wrote my sample entry at the literal 11th hour just before midnight last night.  (That will be extremely obvious when you read it below 🙂 )  So.  I will add to the prizes today and probably have to update them.  My sincere apologies for having over-scheduled my time – it was not intentional! – but I figured you guys would rather have the contest even on a slightly loosey-goosey schedule than not! 🙂

– a critique of a picture-book manuscript or dummy by agent Rachel Orr of Prospect Agency!!!


– a spot in Renee LaTulippe’s fantastic INTENSIVE RHYME AND METER SELF-STUDY COURSE!!!

Renee-LaTulippeScreen Shot 2017-10-28 at 8.37.39 AM

– a Picture Book Manuscript Critique from the FABULOUS Vivian Kirkfield, author of the forth coming Sweet Dreams, Sarah and experienced and much-loved critiquer!


– a Picture Book Manuscript Critique from the amazing Lori Degman (NORBERT’S BIG DREAM – Sleeping Bear Press 2016, COCK-A-DOODLE OOPS! – Creston Books 2014, 1 ZANY ZOO – Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers 2010) – a terrific choice for any rhymers out there!

Lori Norbert

– a Picture Book Manuscript Critique from the wonderful Amy Dixon (MAURICE THE UNBEASTLY – Sterling Children’s Books 2017, SOPHIE’S ANIMAL PARADE – Sky Pony Press 2015, MARATHON MOUSE – Sky Pony Press 2012)

amy-dixon Maurice

– Enrollment in Making Picture Book Magic (my online picture book writing class – in January or a later month to be mutually agreed upon by the winner and me)

2018 Children’s Writer’s And Illustrator’s Market  and a $25 Amazon Gift Card.  (2 available)

– a bundle of books! (itemized list forthcoming, good lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise)

– a pack of Susanna Leonard Hill’s amazing What’s The Story Cards  (scroll about 1/2 way down the page… (2 available)

I can’t thank these authors and other industry professionals enough for their incredible generosity!  Please visit their sites, buy and recommend their books and services to your writer friends and/or friends with kids, write them nice reviews on Amazon, GoodReads etc if you’ve read and liked their books, and show your appreciation to them in any way you can!


The time has come for my sample.  And I think I can say that I have really outdone myself this time in the Worst Ever Sample department! 🙂  Are you ready?  Have some chocolate to get you in a good mood! 🙂  But this should be very comforting to all of you because you can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that ANYthing you wrote is better than this! 🙂

(And as I told you, I wrote it in a jet-lagged stupor at nearly midnight last night and I openly admit that it is 39 words over the word limit because I didn’t have time to make it shorter!)

So really.  Are you ready? 🙂

The Christmas Plan
(289 words because I ran out of time and also am not actually in the contest! 🙂 )

Christmas Eve in Santa’s barnyard,
Secret meeting underway.
Said the cow, “We’d better hurry –
Any time they’ll hitch the sleigh!”

Duck looked ‘round. “Are you all ready?
Everyone know what to do?”
All the others nodded gravely.
“Okay, then, let’s move out, crew!”

Each went in their own direction
Silently through dark and snow.
Pulled their parts off to perfection,
Met up in the workshop’s glow.

Quietly, they filed inside
Where elves were loading up the sleigh.
Santa called, “Let’s hitch the reindeer!
Time we headed on our way!”

Eight elves hurried to the stable
With intent to fetch the deer.
Soon came running back in panic.
“Sir! The team has disappeared!”

Santa bellowed, “Were they stolen?
Kidnapped? Hidden? Just set loose?”
“If you need a quick replacement,
I’ll step in,” said Christmas Goose.

Santa muttered, disbelieving,
“Why’d my team go on the lam?”
“Never mind, Sir, we can help you,”
Kindly offered Christmas Ham.

Moments later, in the harness,
Ham and Goose were joined by Hare,
Christmas Roast Beef, Duck, and Turkey.
Plan still working – almost there!

Santa, looking quite bemused, said,
“I can’t drive this motley crew!”
“Sorry, Sir, we’re out of options.
There is nothing else to do!”

So it was that not much later,
Waiting hidden in the night,
Josie, hoping to see Santa,
Saw a most surprising sight!

Santa’s sleigh with bells a-jingling
Flying high above her head,
Being pulled by. . . Christmas Dinner?!
“This must be a dream!” she said.

But all around the world next day
When fam-i-lies sat down to eat,
Christmas fowl and roasts were absent.
Served instead? Tofurkey feast!

Back inside the North Pole barnyard
Secret meeting once again,
Cow and Duck high-fived the others.
“Here’s to vegetarians!”


So now!  Is everyone filled with confidence about their entries?  I certainly hope so after that display!  Never let it be said that I’m not willing to make a fool of myself for you guys 🙂  It just proves how much I love you 🙂

I can’t wait to read all of your (much better!) stories!  I hope there will be a lot – the more the merrier!  And there are still over 3 days to write, so you have time if you haven’t written yet and want to join the fun.  Feel free to spread the word to your writing friends as well.  If you just want to enjoy reading, that’s great too!  We need all the readers we can get, so feel free to spread the word to parents and teachers!  And what better way to entertain yourself and your kids while waiting for the holiday goodies to bake?  Or get someone to read aloud while everyone else wraps presents 🙂

Rejoice! and let the festivities begin!!! 🙂

Happy Holidays to All! 🙂

And don’t miss the additional 34 fabulous entries in the comment section below!
(Scroll through comments to view)

  1. Santa’s Switches – Nina
  2. Sneak A Peek At Santa – Jennifer B
  3. Just Desserts – Jennifer B
  4. The Christmas Pageant – Carol
  5. A Magpie Holiday – Karen
  6. Foxy, Mr. Fox – Dianne
  7. A Timely Arrival – Beverly
  8. Not Even A Mouse – Ryan
  9. Waiting For The Winter Gift – Elizabeth
  10. Santa’s Christmas SSS-Surprise – Jenny
  11. Santa Patrol – Megan
  12. Vegan Cut-Out Cookies – Megan
  13. Essie The Hen And Her Christmas Surprise – Kaye
  14. La Navidad I’ll Never Forget – Carmen
  15. Santa’s Bad Day – Anne
  16. Tootsie The Wonder Dog’s Best Day Ever – Kathy B
  17. Holiday Mix-Up – Barbara
  18. The Very Last Gift – Judy S
  19. Family Is Home And Home Is Wherever It May Land – Mona
  20. Christmas With Aliens – Brian
  21. Here Comes… – Elaine
  22. The Ballad Of Bella La Frost – Nancy
  23. The Animated Elf – Marvin Strikes Again – Lucretia
  24. Santa’s Delivery Dilemma – Lucretia
  25. Christmas Cat’s SQUEEZE Day – Lily
  26. Christmas Eve DRAMA – Deborah
  27. Racing The Sun – Jen
  28. A New Day For Mrs. Claus – Laura
  29. The Given Gift – Sarah
  30. Surprise Guests! – Mary
  31. Christmas Eve Surprises – Jim
  32. A Visit From Santa – Judy V
  33. Favorite Day – Susan
  34. The Naughty Christmas Cookie – Britt

Perfect Picture Book Friday – We Wish For A Monster Christmas

Happy December, Folks!

And welcome to a no frills Perfect Picture Book Friday!

No frills because I am out of office… EXTREMELY FAR out of office 🙂

So you’re on your own, boys and girls 🙂

Have fun sharing your books, and I hope you like my pick for the week!

Monster xmas

Title: We Wish For A Monster Christmas

Written By: Sue Fliess

Illustrated By: Claudia Ranucci

SterlingChildren’s Books, October 3 2017, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 3-8

Themes/Topics: Holidays (Christmas), monsters, unexpected consequences, humor

Opening: “We wish for a furry monster,
a big, hairy, scary monster,
our own stomping, chomping monster, for Christmas this year.”

Brief Synopsis: A brother and sister don’t want the usual toys for Christmas…they want a monster!  Their parents refuse, so they take their request to Santa who, of course, delivers.  But having a monster doesn’t turn out quite as they expected!

Links To Resources: sing along to the Karaoke version! 🙂 ; 50 Monster Crafts for Kids Any Time of Year

Why I Like This Book: I like this book because it’s not your usual Christmas book.  It’s about monsters 🙂  It’s fun, it’s different, and if you know We Wish You A Merry Christmas you can sing the story 🙂  There’s plenty of humor, havoc and mayhem.  A little problem solving is required and then…?  Time to think about what to ask for next Christmas 🙂  The endpapers are covered with monster pictures and descriptions, with the one the kids choose (Furzilla) circled and labeled “THIS ONE!”  The art is bright, engaging, humorous, and a perfect fit for the story.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 🙂

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF folks, please add your titles and post-specific links (and any other info you feel like filling out 🙂 ) to the form below so we can all come see what fabulous picture books you’ve chosen to share this week!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!!! 🙂