The 2018 Halloweensie Contest FINALISTS (…FINALLY!!!)

DARLINGS!

The day has FINALLY come!

Normally, I’d engage in a bit of tomfoolery to sidetrack you from our mission and make you think I’d forgotten why we were here on a Thursday.

But I have made you wait so long for the finalists that there will be no stalling today!  We shall get right to announcing the finalists and voting!

(Yes, it’s really me writing this post.  I haven’t been abducted by aliens 🙂 )

We had a huge turnout with 237 very high quality entries!  It is wonderful to watch the writers we see coming back contest after contest getting better every time… but boy does it make the judging hard!!! There are fewer obvious standouts, almost none that are easy to cut, and there are a LOT of very good ones that we have to get very nit-picky over!  It is agony, I tell you!

Before we get to the actual list of finalists, I have a couple things to say.  (I know you’re shocked :))

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 many!

Second, I’d also like to thank EVERYONE – writer, reader, or both – who took the time to go around and 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, before I list the finalists, 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.  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.  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 100 words if you like and maybe submit at some point to a magazine or as a PB manuscript.  A lot of people have successfully done that at this point – we have quite a few books in the world that were born in Halloweensie, Holiday, or Valentiny Contests!  So bravo to everyone who entered!

Now.  Onto the judging criteria which were as follows:

1. Kid-appeal! – These stories are intended for a young audience, so entries that were well-written but lacked child-friendliness did not make the cut.  Same for entries where the appeal, humorous or otherwise, seemed more directed toward adult readers than children.

2.  Halloweeniness – the rules stated a Halloween story, so entries that failed to mention anything Halloween-y did not make the cut even if they were well-written.

3. Quality of story – the rules stated that entries were to tell a story, so if they appeared to be more of a description or mood piece, they didn’t make the cut.  We looked for a character and a true story arc.

4. Quality of Writing: we took note of spelling, grammar, punctuation etc.  In addition, for the rhymers, we looked at rhyme and meter (for which we are sticklers!)  We also looked at overall writing quality and use of language.

5. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.

A surprising number of this year’s entries were amazingly written… but in spite of the warning, still failed to really tell a story.  This is SO TOUGH in 100 words – I totally get it.  But some people managed better than others.  There were any number of entries that were superbly written that we wanted to choose, but when we got right down to it, there really just wasn’t much story… not compared to some of the other entries that really managed to tell one.  They were more descriptions, lists, or mood pieces.  So as awesome as they were, we had to make some very hard calls.  A couple were too adult.  Some, because of the cruelly limiting word count were a little hard to follow.  Some of the rhyming ones we really liked were too off-meter to make the cut.  Some entries were just so close, but missed out because of one relatively small thing!  GAH!  So hard!

When you read the finalists you will note that almost all of them are in rhyme!  This is partly because those just happened to be the best ones, but also because the entries as a group this year were heavily weighted toward rhyme.

Also worthy of note, we had 4 entries with witches named Wanda in the title, at least 3 entries entitled “Witches’ Brew” (plus one Horrid Witches’ Brew), 2 or 3 entries besides my sample that had hot chocolate in the cauldron, and 2 completely different entries written by different authors called “Potion Commotion”!  The vast majority of witches had “w” names – Wanda, Willa, Winni, Winnifred, etc, though we did have a Gwen and a Belinda and probably some others I’m forgetting right now too 🙂

So, without further ado, I present to you the 2018 Halloweensie Contest Finalists.  A mix of poetry and prose, stories for younger readers and slightly older (but still kid) readers, funny, spooky, and cute.  Please read through them carefully, take your time, think it over, and vote for your favorite.  To help with objectivity, finalists are listed by title only, not by author.

And I’d like to be very clear about the voting process.  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 the sombrero-wearing witch 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.

So here we go!

#1 – Belinda’s Broken Brew

Belinda’s best cauldron went bonkers one night.
All her concoctions were full of…delight?
She dropped in a shiver–out popped a kiss.
She snuck in a slither–out poured some bliss.
In went a howl–out came a grin.
A giggle rang out when a wriggle fell in!
She dribbled in cackles, a moan, and a shrug–
Out sprang some cuddles, a wink, and a hug.
She threw up her hands, no more could be done.
She had to admit, the cauldron had won.
This was a curse, nasty and mean!
Belinda was stuck with a nice Halloween.

 

#2 – Witches’ Brew

The witches convened
in a clearing each fall,
to conjure the trickiest
spell of them all.
They gathered up bats
and black cats
and an owl.
Then sprinkled in shivers
and shrieks
and a howl.
The cauldron grew bubbly,
all spicy and hot,
creating a vapor
that rose from the pot.
The witches fell silent.
Their pointy ears perked
each anxious to hear
if the witches’ brew worked.
Then over the clearing,
came rollicking noise.
Ding-dong.
“Trick or treat!”
sang the sweet girls and boys.
The witches, they cackled.
They’d done their job well,
successfully casting
The Halloween Spell.

 

#3 – Broken-down Broom

While flying away to the Halloween Ball,
Gwen’s broom went CAPUT! and she started to fall.
She dropped with a crash into Skeleton Wood-
the creepiest place in the WHOLE neighborhood.
A shrill, nearby howl made her shiver in fright.
She thought, “Now I might miss the party tonight!”
She pulled out her cauldron and looked all around.
She grabbed molding mushrooms and worms from the ground.
Then just as another shriek echoed unseen,
Gwen whipped up a potion for broom gasoline.
She poured in the mixture and scrambled aboard.
“I’m bound for the ball!” She declared as she soared.

 
#4 – Dracula Wants Pie

Today is the day of the Halloween fair and Dracula is hungry.
His mom offers some of her famous red juice. Dracula shivers, “eewwww. I’m tired of juice, I’m in the mood for something new…”
Pie!
“Get your marshmallows here!” shouts Ghost.
No thanks, Dracula wants pie.
“Cauldron is bubbly, hot and delicious”, tempts Witch.
No thanks. Dracula wants pie.
“Care for a bite, do yooouuu?” howls Werewolf manning the grill.
No thanks. Dracula wants pie.
Only one stand left. Finally, he reaches Pumpkin.
Dracula smiles.
Dracula loves pie.

 

#5 – Stitchy Witchy Brew

Party time looming and closet shelves bare,
Hazel VanBazel howled, “Nothing to wear!”
Flipping through frocks, she fell down in a slump.
“This clothing won’t cut it. I look like a frump!”
She danced to her cauldron with sheets from her bed,
satchels of sequins, and spider-silk thread.
In flurries of fabric, she sang out a spell,
tumbled in buttons, then folded it well.
The pot gave a shiver and spit out a gown,
sure to make Hazel the talk of the town.
She twirled in her tulle and sashayed in her sash,
ready to shine at her Halloween bash!

 

#6 – Potion Commotion

One broom, one flight….one magical Halloween night.
“Swizzle-zee, swizzle-zum, sizzle and simmer till it’s done!”
Tabitha sampled her brew. Something was missing… garlic should do.
SPRINKLE
DASH
MUDDLE…
SPLASH!
The cauldron crashed. The potion pitched. The broom set aflame!
No broom, no flight! One horrid Halloween night.
WAIL
GROWL
MOAN
HOWWLLL!
Tabitha paced. Tabitha pondered.
Tabitha began again.
“Swizzle-zee, swizzle-zum, sizzle and shimmer till it’s done!”
Tabitha sampled her brew. Something was missing… dragon scales would do.
BOOM
CRASH
CRACKLE
BASH!
Tabitha laughed! Tabitha danced! Tabitha shivered with glee!
No broom? Alright! Tabitha soared on dragon wing that Halloween night.

 

#7 – The Scariest Night Of The Year

Painted faces.
Heartbeat races.
Trick-or-treat at spooky places.
Vampires,
villains,
ghosts galore –
follow me from door to door.
Cauldrons bubble.
Werewolves howl.
Ghouls and goblins stalk and prowl.
Caught in cobwebs,
swooping bats,
monsters, mummies, creepy cats!
Shivering!
Quivering!
What’s that slithering?
Witchy fingers, gnarled and withering.
All this spooky, scary, stuff –
Maybe I’m not brave enough!
Hold on.
STOP.
I’ll be just fine.
These spooks are all just friends of mine!
We’re dressed in costumes,
having fun.
Back to normal when we’re done.
I say good bye to all my fright
(but I’m still glad it’s just one night.)

 

#8 – If You Can’t Beat Them… 

Griselda banged on the caldron with an old bone. “Wake up. It’s Halloween.”
Around the graveyard ghosts and goblins stretched and yawned. Scratchy voices that hadn’t been used in a year yowled and howled.
“Here come children. Get ready,” whispered Griselda, shivering with excitement.
They leaped from their hiding places, bloodcurdling screams piercing the night air.
The children laughed.
“Forget them,” said Griselda. “Here come some more.”
Zombies wildly grasped for the children. Ghosts fluttered in their hair.
“Cool costumes,” the children said. “Are you going to the party?”
The creatures looked at each other and shrugged. “Might as well.”

 

#9 – The “Wolf” at the Door

On Halloween a pint-size witch
Went door-to-door without a hitch,
A plastic cauldron in her hand,
Collecting candy, as she’d planned.
But at the last house on the block,
In answer to her timid knock,
She heard a long and mournful howl,
Followed by a fearsome growl!
“Is that a wolf?” the young girl cried
As the front door opened wide.
She shivered as she looked around,
And then she saw ———— a basset hound!
She thanked his owner for the treat,
Then laughed and scampered down the street.

 

#10 – The Halloween Shack

10.1.18
Today,
beyond the woods,
a shack appeared.
“Halloween Goods,” read the sign.

10.5.18
Howling sounds from the shack today.
Gave me shivers!
Should I visit?

10.10.18
Peeked through the window.
Mist spewed from a cauldron.
Almost SURE I saw eyes…

10.18.18
Stepped inside today.
CREEPIEST PLACE EVER.
Skulls, spiderwebs, eerie pictures…
Something whispered, “Welcome,”
and I ran!

10.22.18
Walked past the shack today.
Something watched me from the window.

10.31.18
Trick-or-treated at the shack tonight.
Don’t ask why.
A veiled figure
handed me candy
through the door.

I saw its eyes.

11.1.18
Today,
beyond the woods,
the shack…was gone.

 

#11 – Monster Vacancy

My house lost it’s monster and I’m in a jam.
Halloween’s coming but I have a plan.
I called reinforcements. Demons and pests.
Howling wanted. Please come do your best.
I held my breath on Halloween night.
Only one ghost arrived, glistening white.
I put on the cauldron, set it to brew,
Safely conducted a quick interview.
Though doubtful about her blood-curdling skill,
I hired her instantly paying her bill.
To my satisfaction, my shivering fright,
I’d chosen wisely that October night.
When children approached to say ‘trick-or-treat’
Every kiddo ran screaming straight for the street.

 

#12 – Halloween Prize

Eve’s school gives a Halloween prize
for the costume with the best surprise.
Believe me competition’s hot
But she just might win with the idea she’s got.
With cardboard, scissors, paint and string
Eve could’ve made most anything;
A slime-filled cauldron, a spider-filled hat
But they’d been done so she didn’t make that.
Other outfits make kids shiver or scream
But Eve has gone for a different theme.
She attracts them with creative drama
All dressed up as a cute, little llama.
She may not howl, screech or hit
But they’d better watch out … because she sure can spit.

 

#13 – Gordie Goblin’s Potion

On Halloween morning Gordie Goblin awoke with an ACHOO!
“No!” he moaned. “I must do my fierce and frightening tricks tonight!”
Gordie headed out into the howling wind.
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK
“Winni Witch!” he shouted. “I need a healing potion!”
Winni ushered him in and did a quick examination.
“You need a strong brew indeed.”
Winni lit her cauldron while Gordie studied her shelves.
Cyclops lashes
Bat fur
Werewolf toenails
“Yuck!” he thought with a shiver.
Finally, Winni brought him a steaming goblet.
Gordie braced himself and took a sip.
“It’s … yummy!”
Winni smiled. “Chicken soup works every time!”

 

#14 – Next Week

Three friends marched along in the light of the moon:
One doctor, one witch, and one purple baboon.
They shivered and quivered in fear or in chill.
Each carried a colorful cauldron to fill.
With candy—sweet candy! They’d waited all year.
The night they’d awaited was finally here!
“Hello?”
“TRICK OR TREAT!”
“Dears, I’m sorry to say…
I haven’t got candy to give out today…”
“NO CANDY!” they howled.
“Now, my dears, let me speak…
You’ve come a bit early; I’ll have some next week.”

 

Now that you’ve had a chance to read through the finalists, please vote for the entry you feel deserves to win in the poll below by 12PM EST (Noon) Sunday November 18. (We’re going to skip PPBF to leave the poll post up because of the timing getting messed up by the judging taking so long – sorry about that!)

 

 

Tune in Monday November 19 to see THE WINNERS!!!

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 Monday… same bat time, same bat station 🙂

Would You Read It Wednesday #304 – Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone (PB)

Hurray!  It’s Would You Read It Wednesday!  Seems like forever since we had one, what with the Halloweensie Contest running!

Before we get to today’s pitch, I’d like to announce that there’s a new addition to my little household!  It is Princess Blue Kitty’s successor!

Apparently I have a favorite color 🙂

IMG_6910

She is VERY beautiful! isn’t she?  But she does not have a name yet… I will entertain suggestions from the peanut gallery if anyone has one 🙂 I’m pretty sure she’s a she, but I’ve only had her for about 24 hours, so I could be wrong 🙂 She is smaller than Princess Blue, and very zippy 🙂 but she also has tremendous presence.

I think we should celebrate with Something Chocolate, don’t you?  How about some Flourless Belgian Chocolate Cake?  Look at that dense richness!  And anything with the words “Belgian Chocolate” in it has to be decadent and delicious!

Flourless Belgian Chocolate Cake

Plus it’s flourless and gluten-free, which makes it health food so we can have as much as we want guilt-free!  Dig in, my friends! 🙂

Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Ciara, whom you will remember from last month’s pitch for Drop The Dragon, who says, “I am a former teacher, mother of five, and corgi lover. I love puns. I might make them on an hourly basis. And I definitely think that there should be a job where one can be a personal shopper of picture books. That’s a thing, right?”

Find her on the web at ciaraoneal.weebly.com

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone

Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 6-11)

The Pitch: An affectionate but clumsy flamingo doesn’t quite understand why her hugs are not well received by zoo patrons. But when she tries delightful disguises, daring dances, and fishy gifts, will she be able to garner the affectionate she so desperately desires?

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 Ciara improve her 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 January, so you could start the new year out with a bang by getting your pitch up for helpful feedback and a chance to have it read and commented on by editor Erin Molta!

Ciara is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I literally can’t wait to post the Halloweensie Contest finalists tomorrow and see how the votes turn out!

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 🙂

 

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Melissa Stoller!

Hello, Everyone, and welcome to another exciting episode of Tuesday Debut!

First, just a quick note: The Halloweensie Contest finalists will be announced for your reading and voting pleasure on Thursday.  Since I wasn’t able to get them up before the weekend, and I already had today’s Tuesday Debut and tomorrow’s Would You Read It scheduled, I thought it was best just to wait until Thursday when we could have an uninterrupted stretch of days for reading and voting.  The winners will be announced on Monday.  I’m sorry to have kept you all waiting so long, and truly appreciate your patience.  The judging was extremely difficult, and kept getting interrupted with family stuff and work deadlines and other things of that nature which have a tendency to suddenly appear out of nowhere when you’re trying to get something done!  If by some chance you’ve been under a rock and not seen the Halloweensie Contest entries, hop on over and have a look – well over 200 amazing stories await your enjoyment!

Now then, allow me to introduce today’s Debutess, Melissa Stoller!  She shares her first picture book with us, but has a series of chapter books already to her credit (The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection: Return to Coney Island and The Liberty Bell Train Ride) as well as another picture book forthcoming any minute (Ready, Set, GOrilla!)

MELISSA: I’m so happy to be included in your new blog series, Susanna! You know I am a huge fan of your Making Picture Book Magic course and of your books!

SUSANNA: I am thrilled to have you, Melissa, and you are very sweet to say such nice things.  There will be a little extra something chocolate for you in your holiday celebrations this year 🙂 Now then, let’s have a look at your beautiful debut picture book!!!

SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH
Written by Melissa Stoller
Illustrated by Sandie Sonke
Clear Fork Publishing/Spork
October 16, 2018
Fiction, Picture Book
Ages 4-8

Picture1

Scarlet paints perfect pictures with her magic paintbrush until the brush is lost, and she fears she’ll never be able to paint again. When the brush is found, will Scarlet’s own magical creativity emerge?

 

SUSANNA: LOVE that gorgeous cover! 🙂 Where did the idea for this book come from?

MELISSA: The idea for SCARLET came to me when I was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City gazing at my favorite Impressionist paintings. Standing in front of a Monet canvas, I wondered what it would be like to have a magic paintbrush and paint like Monet. Over time, I thought of other questions: Would the brush would help me paint everything perfectly? What would happen if I lost the brush and then found it later? And what would I do if I wanted to paint something and the brush wouldn’t let me? These questions became the basis for my story.

Picture4

Melissa at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in front of a Monet

 

SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?

MELISSA: It took several months to write this story. My mother is always my first reader! And then my children and husband weigh in as well. I have trusted critique partners who helped me dig in through multiple drafts to focus on the theme and underlying layers. And I also had a professional critique as well. Through it all, I kept refining and shaping the story.

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

MELISSA: I like to write in many drafts, making large and small changes as I go along, so my work always has many iterations.

 

SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?

MELISSA: I knew my manuscript was ready when my critique partners all came back saying “this one is done!”

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

MELISSA: My publisher Callie Metler-Smith from Clear Fork Publishing was already publishing my chapter book series, The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection. Turns out Callie and I both love Impressionist paintings so I pitched her my art history-based idea and that manuscript became a book!

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

MELISSA: I definitely celebrated with my family and there were lots of smiles and tears of gratitude!

Picture5

Melissa’s dog Molly who sits patiently next to her when she works (and was no doubt part of the celebrations! 🙂 )

 

SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?

MELISSA: This was my second contract with Clear Fork so I knew what to expect.

 

SUSANNA: Tell us about the editorial process…

MELISSA: Mira Reisberg is editor/art director at Clear Fork/Spork. I know Mira well from many Children’s Book Academy courses and I was thrilled that she loved the manuscript and would be editing and art directing. We did several critiques and Mira offered many excellent suggestions during the editorial process. And I know that she worked closely with Sandie Sonke on the art. I am so proud of the final book!

 

SUSANNA: Tell us about your experience of the illustration process?

MELISSA: Mira selected the amazing artist Sandie Sonke as the book’s illustrator. I couldn’t be happier with this collaboration. Sandie’s vision surpassed my expectations. I just love all the details she added in the illustrations and I love the expressions on Scarlet, the magic paintbrush, and the adorable animals. One benefit to working with a small publisher is being involved throughout the process. Mira and Callie consulted me about the illustrations and I saw the art at various stages which was very exciting.

Picture3

 

SUSANNA: Did you include any art notes with your manuscript?

MELISSA: I didn’t include art notes with this manuscript. In fact, Sandie created a cute story line with the dog appearing in many illustrations that I had not even contemplated. I do include art notes in other manuscripts if they are integral to an understanding of the story.

 

SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?

MELISSA: I signed the contract in November 2016 and the release date is October 2018.

 

SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.

MELISSA: I am in the process of having a book trailer produced, and I have lots of swag including bookmarks, stickers, postcards, magnets, and a t-shirt. Kids love swag! I’m also having an educator guide created for teachers and librarians by Deb Gonzalez.

 

SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?

MELISSA: I started on this KidLit writing journey in 1997 when my oldest daughter was one! Seriously! I joined SCBWI that year and attended many workshops. And I have a file drawer full of rejections. After that initial burst, I worked on many other writing projects, including parenting articles and a parent-child book club resource book. About five years ago I got immersed again in writing for children. I started taking more classes and joined several critique groups. I started submitting picture books and ultimately signed my first contract for my chapter book series. My next picture book is Ready, Set, Gorilla!, illustrated by the very talented Sandy Steen Bartholomew.

SUSANNA: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?

MELISSA: It’s so amazing to hold the finished book in my hands! My message to pre-published writers is to keep going. Work hard; study your craft through in person or online courses (like Susanna’s Making Picture Book Magic which I took twice!); attend conferences; participate in writing challenges and workshops; make connections with other creatives; establish relationships with trusted critique partners; and just write and submit!

I’m so happy to be featured on your blog, Susanna! Thanks, again for chatting!

 

Picture2

Melissa Stoller, Children’s Author

Find Melissa online at:

 

Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Melissa!  We are all very grateful for your time and expertise and wish you the very best success with ALL your books!

Readers, if you have questions for Melissa, please post them in the comments below and if Melissa has time I’m sure she’ll respond.

You may purchase Melissa’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 🙂

 

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude

The 8th Annual Halloweensie Contest aahhhrrrooooOOOOO!

***Update November 12th***
We’re pretty close to having the finalist list, but even if it was ready in a couple hours, that wouldn’t give enough time to vote today and I have previously scheduled blog posts for Tuesday Debut tomorrow and Would You Read It Wednesday on Wednesday, so the finalist list will be posted on Thursday November 15th.  Apologies for the delay, but there were a LOT of good entries and the judging process has been harrowing! 🙂 

***Update November 5th***
So sorry everyone but the other judges and I need more time – my fault not their’s.  Work deadlines, family needs, and 234 wonderful entries from you guys that all deserve careful and thoughtful consideration mean that I’m just not able to post finalists today.  I will get them up as soon as I possibly can but I think Wednesday or Thursday is likely.  Sorry for the delay!

Wool of bat and howlet’s wing!  It’s time for . . .

The 8th Annual Halloweensie Contest!!!!!
~ for children’s writers ~
aahhhrrrooooOOOOO!!!!!

halloweensie-pumpkin

The Contest: write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (children here defined as 12 and under) (title not included in the 100 words), using the words shiver, cauldron, and howl.  Your story can be scary, funny, or anything in between, poetry or prose, but it will only count for the contest if it includes those 3 words and is 100 words (you can go under, but not over!)  Get it?  Halloweensie – because it’s not very long and it’s for little people 🙂  (And yes, I know 100 words is short, but that’s part of the fun and the challenge!  We got 235 fantastic entries last year, so I know you can do it!)  Also, you may use the words in any form – e.g. shivery, cauldrons, howling, whathaveyou 🙂  NO ILLUSTRATION NOTES PLEASE! (And yes, you may submit more than one entry if you’re so inclined 🙂 )

Post: your story on your blog between right now this very second and Wednesday October 31st by 11:59 PM EDT and add your post-specific link to the list below.  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 don’t have a blog and would like to enter, you can simply copy and paste your entry in the comments section below (please include your byline, especially if your posting handle is something like AwesomeWriter92 so I can identify you.)  If you have difficulty posting in the comments, which unfortunately sometimes happens, you may email your entry to me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com and I’ll post it for you.  Please place your entry in the body of the email including your title and byline at the top – NO ATTACHMENTS!
Please Note: although you are welcome to submit more than one entry, please only post each entry ONCE!  If you post it on your blog (preferred method) everyone will come visit you and you’ll make new friends! 🙂  If you don’t have a blog, post it in the comment section below.  If you’re unable to post, please email me with your entry and byline in the body of the email.  Please DO NOT post on your blog, and in the comments, and send me an email to post.  It makes things confusing!
P.S.  Although I try to stay glued to my computer 24/7 I am sometimes forced to leave my desk.  If you haven’t commented on my blog before, your comment won’t show up until I approve it.  It may take a little while if I’m away from my desk.  Likewise, if you send me an entry to post, I promise I will do it as soon as I can!

The Judging: in a grueling marathon over the following days, my devoted assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to 3 top choices (hee hee hee – you know how much trouble I have with only 3, so we’ll see) which will be posted here and voted on for a winner on Monday November 5th (sooner if possible, later if necessary!)  The winner will be announced on Thursday November 8th, good lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise 🙂  If we get more than 25 entries, I will post 6 finalists and give prizes for 1st – 3rd.  If by some chance we get the kind of turnout we’ve had the past couple years, I may post as many as 10-12 finalists and I’ll probably end up giving everyone a prize 🙂  But we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it!

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.  Halloweeniness – the rules state a Halloween story, so it must be crystal clear that the story is about Halloween, not just some random spooky night.
  • 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: (it is currently 1:40AM and I’m at the stage where I’m going to make mistakes, so I will finish posting the prize list properly in the morning.  Apologies for the delay!)

First, the amazingly awesome prize I promised!

– Skip The Slushpile with Editor Hannah Lambert of Little Simon!!!
The lucky winner of this prize will get to place the picture book manuscript of his/her choice directly into editor Hannah Lambert’s hands!  (In case you are wondering, Hannah is the editor of all 4 of my books in the WHEN YOUR… series.)  Hannah will read the manuscript and then send you an email to let you know she’s read your story.  She will include a brief mention of something she likes, and something you can work on. (Not a full critique.)  Of course what makes this prize so incredible is that if you send her a really, really good manuscript the dream could come true! 🙂 So good luck to whoever wins this!  Hannah is particularly interested in mss with a very low word count, and always has an eye out for excellent holiday stories.
(with thanks to Tania Guarino for thinking up the idea of skipping the slush pile!)

– several picture book manuscript critiques from amazing critiquers (details to come – I need to spread my generous volunteers out over 3 contests, so, planning…)

 – 2-Pack of Personalized Signed Picture Books by the lovely and talented Tania Guarino, author of MEET THE QUACKERS (Spork, 2017) and GARDEN PARTY: A COUNTING ADVENTURE (Spork, 2018)
tania-guarino_1_orig Quackers Garden Party

– a personalized signed copy of NOT SO SCARY JERRY by the wonderful and gifted Shelley Kinder

shelley-kinder_orig   Jerry

– Bundle Of Books – assorted PBs, MGs, YAs (details to come) – generously donated by KidLit411

– an e-pub or PDF copy (winner’s choice) of Linda Ashman‘s Nuts And Bolts Guide To Writing Picture Books. OR paperback of Ann Whitford Paul’s Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication.

Please join me again 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 holiday or other gift purchases, rating and/or reviewing their books on GoodReads, Amazon, B&N or anywhere else if you like them, or supporting them in any other way you can dream up 🙂

Now then.  Time for my sample entry which I finished at 1:30 AM and provide because I would never ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do myself.  Also, in case anyone is worried about the quality of their entry they have only to read my truly horrific attempt to be filled with confidence that their’s is MUCH better!

Tricky Witches (100 words)

On a dark All Hallow’s night,
Shivering with cold and fright,
Tiny trick-or-treaters dare
To approach the witches’ lair.
Past the lighted edge of town
Black-cloaked witches stand around.
Something sticky, thick, and hot
Bubbles in their potion pot.
“Come and get it!” witches lure.
“It’ll warm you up for sure!”
Ghostly howls warn, “Stay away!
Don’t be fooled by the bouquet!
Cauldron’s contents might smell sweet,
But that’s trickery, not treat!”
Little candy-hunters flee!
Plan has worked out perfectly.
Witches cackle gleefully,
“Now there’s more for you and me!”
Final check, the brew is done.
“Fresh hot chocolate anyone?”

Now then, darlings!  Is everyone feeling better about their way-better-than-that! stories?  I certainly HOPE so! 🙂

I can’t wait to read all of your entries!  I’m so looking forward to them!  I hope there will be a lot – the more the merrier!  And there are still nearly 5 days to write, so you have time if you haven’t written yet.  Feel free to spread the word to your writing friends as well.  And your reading friends – parents, teachers, etc.  The more people who read and enjoy your stories, the better!!!

Contest Entrants, remember to add your post-specific link to the google form below so we can all come read your awesome stories!  (Post-specific means not your main blog url, but the actual url of the post that has your story in it – otherwise if you post again before the contest ends, your link will take readers… and judges!… to the wrong place!)

Eager Readers – just go along the list of links, click on them, and enjoy the stories!

Happy Writing and Happy Halloween!!! 🙂  🎃

And don’t miss the 122!!! fabulous entries that are posted in the comments below!  (Unfortunately I can’t make links to them, but please scroll through and read and comment for the talented authors!!!)
1. When The Shivers Moved In – Kaye
2. Luna’s Mysterious Costume – Sara A
3. Pet Cemetery Picnic – Corine
4. Fright Night Stew – Dee
5. Halloween Night – Karen
6. Belinda’s Broken Brew – Keatley
7. Mummy’s Mess – Diana
8. New Halloween Cauldron – Kathleen
9. There Was An Old Witch – Dianne
10. Trick Or Treasure – Anne
11. A Seedy Story – Connie
12. The “Wolf” At The Door – Charlene
13. Halloween Sleepover – Pat
14. Little Cauldron’s Halloween Surprise – Ingrid
15. A Halloween Bite – Debora
16. Who Needs – Joan
17. Cauldron Conundrum – Danielle
18. Pete And Re-Pete – Heather
19. Stitchy Witchy Brew – Jennifer B
20. The Lost Boys – Michael
21. Full Moon Rising – Michael
22. Truly Boo – Mary
23. The Last Piece – Carrie
24. One House Left – Tara
25. Mission Halloween – Monica
26. The Family Resemblance – Debora
27. One Chilly Halloween – Debora
28. Skellie Ton’s Encounter – Laura
29. Monster Vacancy – Laura
30. The Halloween Ball – Sylvia
31. Mrs. Tank’s Pennies – Jennifer M
32. Midnight Feast – Becky
33. Halloween Prize – Kirsten
34. Three Pig-Witches – Su
35. The First Corner – John
36. Potion Commotion – Jennifer Bu
37. If You Can’t Beat Them… – Linda
38. A Brew For You – Diana
39. A Horrid Witch’s Brew – Erin
40. Halloween Stew For Two – Anne B
41. A Halloween Scene – Michelle K
42. The Skeletons On Halloween – Michelle K
43. Wolfie’s Pumpkin – Joan
44. What’s Cooking? – Jill
45. Halloween Friends – Kay
46. Not This Halloween! – Carmen
47. A Calm Halloween – Jessica
48. Festival – Beth B
49. School Screams – Lu
50. It’s Only Pretend – Jill L
51. The Candivore – Jill L
52. Shiver, Cauldron And Howl – Lisa
53. A Bite Of Soup – Megan
54. The Gathering – MaryLee
55. Are You Sure? – Jim
56. A Halloween Haiku – Michelle K
57. Festive Feast – Jamie
58. Halloween – Amy
59. The Best Night For Little Ghouls – Beth S
60. Trouble – Bonnie
61. H-A-L-L-O-W-E-E-N K-I-D-S G-E-T C-A-N-D-Y – Michelle K
62. Opposite Day: A Halloween Scare – John
63. Midnight Fright – Patricia
64. Trick Or Treat – Linda
65. Snap Apple Fright – Corine
66. Worst Costume…Never – Rich
67. Witch’s Welcome – Elaine
68. Fright Fight – Nannette
69. The Halloween Ship – Laura B
70. A Gold Wand For Wanda – Laura B
71. Safe – Dawn D
72. Stage Fright – Michelle Kl
73. Dusty Bones Has No Guts – Andrea
74. Who’s The Scariest? – Mona
75. Chef Crone – Diana
76. Calling All Witches! – Anne S
77. Halloween Dinner – Sara G
78. Tis The Season(ing) – Judy
79. Itchy, Itchy, And Twitch – Patricia
80. A Witch Is In The Kitchen! – Jeannie
81. Avocado And Toast – Rebecca
82. The Scary Costume – Karen
83. Trick-or-Treat – Amy B
84. Three Little Pumpkins – Karen
85. Oh Drat! – Kathy
86. Witchy, The Transylvanian Sheepdog – Karen
87. Fright School – Lucretia
88. Ghosts, Witches and Wolves, Oh No! – Amy R
89. Grandma’s Secret – Susie
90. Transylbirdia – Debbie
91. Little Bat’s First Halloween Journey – Linda
92. Mischief Night – Tania
93. The Scariest Night Of The Year – Susie
94. Pumpkin Sky – Cassandra
95. Halloween Punch – Gyeong
96. Winifred Waited – Gail
97. The Night Of The Candy – Jennifer H
98. Untitled – Anna
99. Untitled -Ella
100. The Question Of The Cat On The Pumpkin At Hallowe’en – Jane
101. The Halloween Scheme – Susan
102. A Witch Can Switch – Nancy
103. Guess Who – Mia
104. Little Wolfs Howlween – Beth
105. Gordie Goblin’s Potion – Jen
106. Bubble Bubble – Jen
107. The Missing Treat – Cheryl
108. Stir The Pot – Linda S
109. No Bones About It – JC
110. Trick-Or-Sweet – Lauren
111. Spooky Spies II: The Spookening – Samantha
112. Halloween Surprise – Linda B
113. Last Halloween – Susan V
114. Eat Up Your Carrots – Susan V
115. The Creepy Cupcake CATastrophe – Karen G
116. No Chocolate For Dogs – Shae
117. Double, Trouble, Bubble… – Deborah A
118. Tricky Halloweensie Velvet – Virginia
119. The Sleepy Pirate – Jennifer C
120. Three Little Witches – Debbie V
121. Courageous Cauldron Queens – Katrina
122. One Sweet Halloween – Darcee

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Little Blue Truck’s Halloween

Happy Friday, Folks!

Tomorrow is the opening of the 8th Annual Halloweensie Contest! (If you haven’t written your entry yet, click on that link to read the guidelines and get right to it – there’s still time! 🙂 And the prizes are worth it!!! )

I totally can’t wait (…except I haven’t written my sample yet so I’m a little worried about that…!) but I’m SOOOO looking forward to reading all of the stories you’ve written which I am sure, based on past experience, will be absolutely fabulous!

Since we all have last-minute writing to get to, I will jump right into today’s Perfect Picture Book, which is technically a board book – a lift-the-flap, actually! – but is so cute I couldn’t resist.  Plus, I really wanted something Halloween for today, since it’s the last PPBF before that spooky night! 🙂

Little Blue

Title: Little Blue Truck’s Halloween

Written By: Alice Schertle

Illustrated By: Jill McElmurry

HMH Books For Young Readers, July 2016, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 2-5

Themes/Topics: Holidays (Halloween), costumes

Opening: “Little Blue Truck
and his good friend Toad
are going to a party
just down the road.

“BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!”
says Little Blue.
“It’s Halloween!”
You come, too!

Brief Synopsis: It’s Halloween! Little Blue Truck is picking up his animal friends for a costume party. Lift the flaps to find out who’s dressed up in each costume! Will Blue wear a costume too?

Links To Resources: make your own lift-the-flap: draw an animal, then, on another piece of paper, draw the same animal disguised in a costume.  Paste the costume picture over the animal picture, fastening only the top so you can lift it.  See if your friends can guess who it is, then let them lift the flap to see if they’re right!

Why I Like This Book: As you probably all know, I am a fan of Little Blue Truck 🙂 So I was of course thrilled to discover his Halloween adventure!  This is a sturdy board book with lift-the-flaps.  On each page, Alice Schertle’s trademark catchy rhyme is a joy to read aloud, and one of Little Blue’s animal friends is dressed in costume…and you can lift the flat to discover who it is that’s dressed up.  Does it get more fun than that?  Why yes!  Because it’s just possible that Little Blue has a costume too!  But you’ll have to read the book to find out 🙂  Beautiful fall colors and a whole cast of woodland trick-or-treaters are featured in the illustrations.  All around, a delight!

Screen Shot 2018-10-24 at 9.47.01 PM

text copyright Alice Schertle 2016, illustration copyright Jill McElmurry 2016

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!

Now!  Last minute finishing touches on your Halloweensies and I will see you all tomorrow for the festivities!!! 🙂

 

Would You Read It Wednesday #303 – The Punching Ballerina (PB) PLUS The September Pitch Pick!

Can it be?

Only three more days until the opening moment of HALLOWEENSIE???!!!

I cannot wait!!! – despite the fact that I have been so busy with other projects that I haven’t given even one second’s thought to my sample entry!  It’s going to be another down-to-the-wire situation, I’m afraid.

But just you guys wait until you see what the big prize is!  You’re going to keel right over!

Let’s just say, you’re going to want to put your best effort forward because this is a prize you’re going to want a real shot at!

So.

Now that you’re DYING to know what the prize is and I’m certainly not going to tell you until Saturday morning when the contest post goes up (MWAH-HA-HA, she laughed evilly 🙂 ) let’s talk September Pitch Pick.

Please read through the pitches below, which have been revised thanks to your helpful input, and choose the one you think is best and most deserving of a read and comments by editor Erin Molta.  Then vote for your favorite in the poll by Sunday October 28 at 9PM Eastern.  I realize that Halloweensie will already be underway, so to make sure you remember to read and vote you might want to do it before the weekend!

#1 – Katie E – ENOUGH – PB ages 4-9

Elpis is an uncommon thing. With feathers sparkling, she spreads hope. Amicus and his friends play in her brilliant cascade. Until… Moros swoops in, throwing deep, deep shade. The children flee and Elpis sputters. Moros preens and gloats as gloom settles in. Elpis nearly sinks. Until… Amicus and his pals demand a return to joy. Their stubborn spirit buoys Elpis – and everyone else – because stepping up with hope is enough.

#2 – Katie W – THE ADVENTURES OF LOU AND BARLEY – PB ages 3-6

When Lou leaves his stuffed stegosaurus in the pouring rain he and his dog, Barley, set out to rescue him. Braving giant waves, outsmarting hungry alligators, and battling a monstrous T-Rex, the determined pair discover even imaginary adventures can be fun!

#3 – Lily – GARDEN BED – PB ages 2-4

In Garden Bed, a rhyming picture book targeted to ages 2-4, a parent and child tuck each vegetable in for the night, helping the child to become sleepy too. Tomato, cucumber, parsley, eggplant, kale, purple potato, lettuce, carrots and peas are lulled to sleep by the refrain: Sleep, sleep, my dear one,

  Sleep until the light,
  We’ll both tuck you in,
  And sing you goodnight. 

 

#4 – Sarah – NO SHOES STANLEY – PB ages 4-8 (formerly titled MARSTER SHOES)

While mostly human, like mom, Stanley has his dad’s huge Martian feet.  This wasn’t a problem when they lived on Mars, where Stanley enjoyed the feeling of being barefoot every day.  But Earth’s rules aren’t Mars’ rules, and Stanley must try to come up with a creative shoe solution for life in a new world.  Not one to follow the crowd, Stanley’s answer involves a twist.

It’s always a tough choice, but do your best!  Something Chocolate awaits as your reward 🙂

 

Thank you for voting!

Since Halloween is right around the corner, and this is our last WYRI before it, I wanted something Halloweenie for our Something Chocolate today.  I thought this Reese’s Pieces Peanut Butter Chocolate Lasagna fit the ticket pretty well 🙂

Reese’s Pieces Peanut Butter Chocolate Lasagna

YUM!  Doesn’t that look scrumptious?  I am totally having seconds!

Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Sarah whom you will remember from last month with her pitch for MARSTER SHOES who says, “I am an Optometrist, mother, and lover of the outdoors. I live in NH with my husband and two children. I love to paint in my free time, when I’m not writing.”

Find her on the web at www.sarahheturadny.com

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: The Punching Ballerina

Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-8)

The Pitch: KC is a boy with identity questions, who wishes to express himself via ballet.  Mom is hesitant to acquiesce, encouraging karate for self-defense instead.  After various attempts to learn ballet on his own, KC dresses as a ballerina for school, thereby inciting a group of bullies.    KC reacts in his own way, leaving the situation with new-found confidence in who he is, as well as a potential friend.

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 Sarah improve her 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.  At this point, I think we’re full for WYRI until after the holidays, but there are openings in January, so you have plenty of time to polish your pitch before putting it up for helpful feedback and a chance to have it read and commented on by editor Erin Molta! Reserve your spot in the new year today!

Sarah is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to being struck with inspiration for a Halloweensie sample entry that will delight you all!  Failing that, I’m just hoping to write something down before I go to sleep Friday night/Saturday wee hours of the morning!

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 🙂

 

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Annie Romano!

Good Morning, Everyone!

It’s time to BYOC (Bring Your Own Coffee, Bring Your Own Chocolate, Bring Your Own Chair 🙂 ) and settle in among friends for today’s exciting edition of Tuesday Debuts!!!

I am thrilled to introduce to you for the first time in Picture Book Authorship, Annie Romano and her debut picture book, BEFORE YOU SLEEP: A BEDTIME BOOK OF GRATITUDE.

Welcome, Annie, and congratulations!!!

Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude
by Annie Cronin Romano
Illustrated by Ioana Hobao
Page Street Kids
October 16, 2018
Fiction
ages 3-7

Final Cover BEFORE YOU SLEEP

Synopsis:
This winsome bedtime book has the makings to become a classic and an important part of families’ nightly rituals. Reflecting on various activities through each of the five senses, detailed poetic text and illustrations show memorable scenes.

 

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for joining us today, Annie!  We are excited for you and thrilled to have you here to tell us about your journey to publication!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

 

ANNIE: I worked for nearly 15 years as a speech-language pathologist. One exercise I would do with some of my students involved describing items using the five senses. One night I was having difficulty sleeping. The phrase “before you sleep, before you dream” popped up in my mind (probably because sleep was eluding me), and I wrote it down as a potential refrain for a story. The next day, I played around with the phrase and eventually linked it with the five senses exercise I used with my students. It blossomed from there and became a lyrical bedtime story with a theme of gratitude structured around the five senses.

 

SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?

ANNIE: Once I had the idea for BEFORE YOU SLEEP in mind, I wrote the extremely rough draft in one weekend. It was by no means finished. I sent it off to my critique group and let them sink their editorial teeth into it.

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

ANNIE: Yes, I tend to use a combination of critiques and time when revising. Once I’ve reviewed the feedback I receive from my critique group and incorporated what makes the story stronger, I put the manuscript in a drawer for a while I work on other projects. This could be a few weeks or many months, depending on the project. I find this “let it sit” technique helpful as I can look at the story with a fresh perspective after not reading it for a while. For BEFORE YOU SLEEP, I also drafted a non-rhyming version while the rhyming version was in the drawer. My critique group critiqued that one, too, but ultimately it didn’t come together as well and I returned to the original version. I expanded the verse manuscript based on additional feedback. All in all, the manuscript went through about six drafts over two years. This doesn’t include the revisions I did for the publisher once I sold it.

 

SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?

ANNIE: Once I’d gone through several passes with my critique group and have let the manuscript sit so I could get that “fresh eyes” perspective several times, then I started submitting.

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

ANNIE: Despite loving this manuscript, I was hesitant to query BEFORE YOU SLEEP because I thought it was far too quiet for the current market. But I researched agents who were open to queries and ultimately sent it to five agents I thought would be a good fit. I received three positive personalized rejections with helpful feedback, which is unusual, so I felt something was definitely working. I revised it based on some of the feedback. I then posted a pitch for it in February 2017’s #PBPitch Twitter event. I got a “like” from Kristen Nobles, an editor at an independent publishing company named Page Street that was adding a children’s division. Because I don’t have an agent, I communicated directly with Kristen.

 

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”?  (Best moment ever! 🙂 )

ANNIE: Just three days after I sent Kristen Nobles my manuscript, she emailed me to ask about discussing the possibility of publication. That turnaround time is highly unusual, but because Page Street was just launching its children’s division, they didn’t have a backlog of projects. By early April, I had a signed contract.

SUSANNA: That is amazing!  You must have been over the moon!

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?  (If you care to share 🙂 )

ANNIE: My husband and kids actually planned a surprise celebration for me and took me for a getaway in Boston. We live about 45 minutes from the city and it’s one of our favorite places to explore, so it was wonderful to spend some quality time with my family in the city we enjoy so much. We went to the Museum of Fine Arts, which I love visiting!

 

SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?

 

ANNIE: Because it was my first book contract, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I did a lot of research online and asked a few friends who were already published for some guidance. Then I had a lawyer who specialized in publishing review the contract. She made a few suggestions and adjustments, but overall she reported that it was an honest and straightforward contract, so once a few items were revised, I felt confident moving forward. I recommend having a lawyer with experience in publishing review your contract. She had a much better idea of what was a solid offer in terms of royalty percentages and author copies than I did as a debut author.

I don’t have many contracts of my own to define “normal,” but based on the feedback my attorney gave me and what I’ve learned via research, my contract was fairly standard. From speaking with other debut picture book authors working with small to mid-size publishers, most seem to get an advance ranging from $1000 to $5,000, and mine was in that range. You want a decent advance, but you also want to be able to earn out in a reasonable amount of time. Standard royalties hover around 5% on hardcover. And most debut authors I know received between 10-20 author copies of their books.

 

SUSANNA: Tell us about the editorial process…

ANNIE: Most of my revisions took place after the initial sketches were done, and there were no major revisions. We changed a few words and phrases for pacing and flow, and a few minor changes were made to keep the text timely and to reflect an illustration choice.

 

SUSANNA: Tell us about your experience of the illustration process…

ANNIE: Page Street allowed me to have a say in who would illustrate my book, which was a terrific experience! They sent me several portfolios to consider and invited me to put forth names of illustrators whose work I thought might be a good match. When I received the portfolios, I knew from the styles that the publisher’s vision for the book was in line with mine. I was kept in the loop throughout the process, from initial sketches to final proofs, and they asked for my feedback. I adore Ioana Hobai’s illustrations. She captured the essence of BEFORE YOU SLEEP beautifully, and I couldn’t be happier with how the artwork came together with the text!

BeforeYouSleep_3

 

SUSANNA: Did you include any art notes with your manuscript?

ANNIE: For BEFORE YOU SLEEP, I didn’t include any illustration notes because they weren’t necessary for that text. I do have some manuscripts that contain minimal (one to two) illustration notes, but in general I try to avoid using them unless that note is necessary to the plot and can’t be inferred from the text.

 

SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?

ANNIE: It was about 18 months. I think that’s fast, but again, my book was on Page Street Kids’ first list, so there wasn’t a backlog of projects. I think it would be longer now.
AnnieCR with book

SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?

ANNIE: I am fortunate to be on Page Street’s inaugural children’s list, so they’ve been doing a good amount of marketing for a small publisher. My publisher has sent out introductory mailings and F&G’s (folded and gathered) to reviewers, librarians, and key industry professionals. They also featured their titles at the New England Independent Booksellers Association conference in September, and they’ve had some events to introduce their children’s line to booksellers and librarians. They’re doing social media publicity as well.

 

SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.

ANNIE: My marketing consisted mainly of social media posts and scheduling signings and story time events. I didn’t make a book trailer. I created book plates to hand out at my launch and signings, and I did a Facebook event page for my book launch. I plan to run some giveaways on Goodreads and Twitter once the book is released, and I am doing guest blogs and interviews.

 

SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?

ANNIE: It was about fifteen years, but I also had three young children during the early years, so my writing productivity was definitely slower during that time.

 

SUSANNA: How many copies did your house do for first printing (if you know… and care to share)? The differences between large and small houses can be interesting.

 

ANNIE: My initial print run was under 10,000, which I think is to be expected for a debut author and a smaller publishing house launching its first children’s list. I hope my book finds its way into many people’s hands and we’ll need a second printing! Fingers crossed!

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Thanks so much for having me, Susanna! My website is www.anniecroninromano.com. I can be found on Twitter at @AnnieCRomano and Instagram at anniecroninromano.books.

 

Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Annie!  We are all very grateful for your time and expertise and wish you the very best success with your book!

Readers, if you have questions for Annie, please post them in the comments below and if Annie has time I’m sure she’ll respond.

You may purchase Annie’s book at:

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 🙂

 

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Look At Me! Wild Animal Show-Offs

Yay!  Here we are at Perfect Picture Book Friday!

This week, that means that tomorrow is the annual New York State Sheep and Wool Festival!

I love this festival, and highly recommend it to anyone who does any type of craft with yarn – so much gorgeous yarn to choose from! plus classes and exhibitions on how to  knit, crochet, weave, shear sheep, spin, etc, and tons of beautiful gifts – or to anyone who really likes hanging around with sheep, alpacas, and llamas and enjoys indulging in fall fair food 🙂

I will be signing copies of my books courtesy of Merritt Bookstore in Building B all day Saturday and Sunday.  If you’re in the neighborhood, please stop by and say hi!  My good friend and fellow author, Iza Trapani, will be there too with all of her wonderful books!

Anyway, on to Perfect Picture Books!

Quite by accident, I chose nature-oriented nonfiction books for older picture book readers two weeks in a row!  This is a beautiful one that I think you’ll really like!

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Title: Look At Me! Wild Animal Show-Offs

Written & Illustrated By: Jim Arnosky

Sterling Children’s Books, September 4, 2018, nonfiction

Suitable For Ages: 6-10

Themes/Topics: animals, nonfiction

Opening: From the introduction written by the author: “Whenever I view a distant bird up close through my camera’s telephoto lens or hold a glistening trout in my hands as I release it back into the water, I am awestruck by their beauty.  Why are wild animals so stunningly beautiful?

From the first section: Fanned Tails: “Behold the glorious peacock! When fully displayed, a peacock’s spectacular tail is four feet wide and two feet high. That’s eight square feet of tail! Combined with the bird’s loud, raucous call, a displaying peacock gets plenty of attention.

Brief Synopsis: From the publisher’s summary: “Meet the show-offs! With their wacky eyebrows, beautiful patterns, and bright feathers and scales, many animals seem to be saying: “Look at ME!” That behavior certainly won’t protect them from predators, so why do they do it?  Jim Arnosky explores a multitude of creatures from across the globe to reveal the reasons behind their attention-grabbing behavior.”

Links To Resources: the book itself is an incredible resource.  Full of interesting facts, and amazingly detailed illustrations. An author’s note at the back gives a glimpse into the author’s experience and process of writing the book.  A useful bibliography of further resources is also included.  Draw a bird, animal, or reptile and decorate with your own feathers, textures, sequins, etc.  Make it as realistic as possible or invent your own creature and make it as fanciful as you like!

Why I Like This Book: I love learning about animals and nature, and this book is terrific for that.  The information presented is interesting and accessible, but actually, I truly love this book for the art!  The illustrations are exquisite!  Most of the pages fold out so that the illustrations are the size of 4 pages.  The colors and attention to detail are incredible.  This is an excellent choice for the animal and/or nonfiction-loving young reader and would make a great addition to classroom, library, or home bookshelves!

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Look at the detail!

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And here’s one of the fold out spreads that is 4 pages wide

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 #302 – Weeping Willow (PB) PLUS The July Pitch Pick Winner!!!

Apparently, it is Wednesday.

I’m not sure how we got here… TARDIS? The twilight zone? The yellow brick road? The Starship Enterprise?…but I skipped right over Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.  That is what days holed up in front of a deadline will do to a person.  Along with eating apple cinnamon cheerios for dinner so you don’t have to take time away from work to shop 🙂

Anyhow, one way or another, here we are at Wednesday, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, shampooed and dressed in outdoor clothes and ready to take on the world!

Or possibly take a nap 🙂

But really, who can nap when the winner of July Pitch Pick is Greg with his PB pitch for The Remindeer!!!  Congratulations, Greg!  Your pitch will be on its way to editor Erin Molta any minute now as I try to regain control of my email after days of ignoring it!

And congratulations to our other fabulous pitchers who all did a tremendous job!  I hope the experience was helpful to you even if Erin doesn’t get to read your pitch.

Now, onto the next item on our agenda:

No Pitch Pick this week! 🙂

I could have done September, but I figured you guys had really earned a break!  So… next week 🙂 And thank you from the bottom of my chocolate-loving heart for being so wonderful about voting for weeks in a row!

Speaking of chocolate… How about Something Chocolate? I don’t really think we can go far wrong with 24 Layer Chocolate Cake!!!

24 Layer Chocolate Cake

I’m not sure I have the patience to actually bake and assemble that beautiful thing, but you can count on me to eat it! 🙂 Breakfast of champions – that’s what I say! 🙂

Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Meghan who says, “My name is Meghan. I am an aspiring author. When I’m not living with my nose in a book or a piece of writing I’m working on, I am teaching third grade, working out, spending time with the people I love, or binge-watching my favorite movies and television shows (I love to Netflix and chill on my own). I have loved books for as long as I can remember, and now I’d like to use that passion to create timeless works of literature for all ages.”

Find her on the web at her author page: https://www.facebook.com/Meghan-Wiley-563844300401335/

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Weeping Willow

Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-10)

The Pitch: Todd is a young boy that faces an unexpected choice: one that could ruin or fulfill his new friend’s deepest dreams. She is a tree that yearns to be made into something magical, but the consequence might be too much for Todd to bear. Can he handle the pressure?

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 Meghan improve her 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 November, 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!

Meghan is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to that nap I mentioned…except I don’t actually have time for a nap, so maybe I’ll just have a second helping of the 24 Layer Chocolate Cake (fortification, you know – gotta keep my strength up 🙂 ) and forge ahead, plowing through my inbox, boldly going where nobody has gone for many days…

If you don’t hear from me within a reasonable amount of time, send out a search party! 🙂

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 🙂

 

Tuesday Off

Today’s scheduled Tuesday Debut must have gotten cold feet 😦

The interview materials did not arrive, so, sorry to disappoint but we don’t have a post today.

Think of it as a day off, though.  An unexpected few extra minutes for you to write something new!

Here’s a prompt if you need one:

Geraldine could not remember whose idea it had been to cross the road, but she was beginning to wish she’d stayed home!

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Have a terrific Tuesday, everyone!