Perfect Picture Book Friday – A Song For Gwendolyn Brooks

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, Folks!

If you live in the northeast, I hope you’re all prepared for the white stuff that’s coming!

Today I have such an amazing book to share with you that we must just jump right in!  With Martin Luther King Day, Black History Month, and Women’s History Month all on the near horizon, this really is a Perfect Picture Book!

g brooks

Title: A Song For Gwendolyn Brooks

Written By:Alice Faye Duncan

Illustrated By: Xia Gordon

Sterling Children’s Books, January 2019, nonfiction

Suitable For Ages: 5+ (I think maybe a little more on the + side – the basic story is accessible to age 5, but there’s a fair amount of vocabulary)

Themes/Topics: writers/authors/poets, working hard to reach your goals, girl power, creativity, believing in yourself

Opening: “SING a song for Gwendolyn Brooks.
Sing it loud – a Chicago Blues.

Skip to the beat of elevated trains.
They grumble, rumble, and roll real fast.

The year is 1925.
Gwendolyn Brooks is eight years old.

Gray bursts of smoke hide the yellow sun.
Can flowers grow without sunlight?

Gwendolyn leans on the front yard gate.
Gwendolyn is unsure.

gwen 1

text copyright Alice Faye Duncan 2019, illustration copyright Xia Gordon 2019

Brief Synopsis: Gwendolyn Brooks grew up on the South Side of Chicago in the 1920s. She wrote her first poem at age 7, and was nurtured and encouraged by her parents  to cultivate her talent. She ultimately published twenty collections of poetry, two autobiographies, and a novel.  She gave voice to the urban black experience and became the first Black writer to win the Pulitzer Prize.

Links To Resources: this book is a resource in itself, using some of Gwendolyn Brooks’s own poems, including an information-filled author’s note, a timeline of Gwendolyn Brooks’s life and accomplishments, suggested further reading, and a useful bibliography; encourage your students or children to write their own free verse poems about moments and/or details of their own experience.

gwen 3

text copyright Alice Faye Duncan 2019, illustration copyright Xia Gordon 2019

Why I Like This Book: I just love the way this book is written – a mixture of Gwendolyn Brooks’s poetry and Alice Faye Duncan’s.  The text is so lyrical – wonderful to read aloud – and expresses so much in so relatively few words.  Anyone who has ever had doubts – writers in particular – will connect with this story.  My favorite part is:

But sometimes – Gwendolyn doubts her radiance,
When jarring, crashing, discordant words,
Splotch and splatter her notebook paper.

And when RIGHT words don’t crystallize,
Gwendolyn grabs her mother’s garden trowel.

She digs beneath the snowball bush,
And buries her poems in a backyard grave.

Doesn’t that sum up the creative experience well?! The art is mostly warm hues of brown and pink that perfectly suit the mood of the writing.  This lovely book gives us a glimpse into the life and creativity of an incredibly talented writer – a beautiful and interesting read!

gwen 2

text copyright Alice Faye Duncan 2019, illustration copyright Xia Gordon 2019

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 – stay warm and safe!!! 🙂

Would You Read It Wednesday #309 – Mawbelina Ballerina (PB)

Bom Dia! Buenos Dias! Buongiorno!

You have now heard my entire vocabulary in Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian 🙂
(and it’s possible I slightly cheated by looking up spelling…!)

But good morning!!! 🙂

I’m not sure about the regions you inhabit, but in my neck of the woods we’ve got these pesky critters called weather forecasters who seem to have a hankering for stirring up trouble!

They are currently making dire predictions about the the “FIRST BIG SNOW EVENT OF 2019!” which, if they can be believed, will descend on Saturday.

I ask you.

How bored do you have to be?

I know why they’re all hyped up though.  It has nothing to do with the actual weather systems.

It’s because it’s been winter for weeks and nothing interesting has happened weather-wise, so they’re casting about looking for something to jazz things up!

I will believe it when I see it!

But I will also prepare a Just-In-Case Plan by making sure I have a few handy ingredients lying about.  That way, if we DO get snowed in, I’ll be ready to practice Something Chocolate – Super Bowl Cupcakes!

It’s a couple weeks early, but practice makes perfect, right? We need to do warm-ups – a test run, if you will – of this line-backer-sized* treat.  Just look…!
(disclaimer: football is NOT my area of expertise! I’m only guessing line-backers are the extra large folks on the field???)

Super Bowl Cupcakes!

OH. MY. GOODNESS!

I DARE you not to drool! 🙂

Get right on it.  Whip up a batch and sample them so you can perfect your technique in time for Super Bowl Sunday!  If you need to do it more than once, who can blame you? You just want to achieve ultimate flawless deliciousness!

Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Dedra who says, “I am a late-in-life writer who just found her bravery. Five years ago, I started writing professionally after receiving a journalism degree twenty-six years earlier. Writing has always been in my heart. I wrote three children’s books almost thirty years ago, received a no, and filed them away. Because I now write regularly and have the confidence, I am writing more children’s manuscripts. And this time, I will continue until I get a yes!”

Find her on the web at:

 

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Mawbelina Ballerina

Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 3-8)

The Pitch: Mawbelina Ballerina is a young weenie dog desperate to go to dance school with her older siblings. Not long enough or tall enough to go, she whines and pouts until her mom teaches her patience, showing her being small is fun for now.

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 Dedra 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 February – not far off! – 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!

Dedra is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to seeing exactly how wrong the weather people are.  My bet? A dusting.  We’ll just wait and see who’s right and who can’t predict weather!  (And no, Phyllis isn’t helping.  Even though this is fake winter, she’s currently asleep and will not be available to venture weather opinions until February 2!)

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 🙂

 

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Business Pig

Welcome back to Perfect Picture Book Friday – the 2019 Edition! 🙂

I have an unusual (but fun) title to share with you today!

business pig

Title: Business Pig

Written & Illustrated By: Andrea Zuill

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

Suitable For Ages: 3-7

Themes/Topics: fitting in/belonging, someone for everyone, being yourself

Opening: “One morning at the Sunshine Sanctuary for Farm Animals, Jelly Bean the sow gave birth to a litter of piglets.
Right away the volunteers noticed something unusual.”

Brief Synopsis: Jasper the pig is different from the other pigs – a suit-wearing, flow-chart-loving, genuine business pig.  The farm animals mostly accept him for who he is.  The trouble is, no one seems to want to adopt him.  It takes a special person to bond with this special pig.

Links To Resources: make your own business model for getting adopted – what are your good points? what are your skills? what makes you lovable and fun to have around? make a poster! 🙂 How To Make Piggy Cupcakes

Why I Like This Book: The premise of this book is familiar – someone longing to be accepted and find his place in the world – but the delivery is delightfully inventive.  Who would think of a business pig being born at an animal sanctuary? 🙂 Jasper applies his considerable business skills to the most important task of all – getting adopted – and proves in the end that there’s someone for everyone – you just have to look in the right place.  The girl who ends up adopting Jasper is perfect 🙂  The art is very engaging, somehow managing to make a pig in a business suit look irresistibly sweet and cute.  Although some kids might not engage with the whole business model, I think many kids will find the originality of this presentation fun and fresh.

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 #308 – Professor Steed And The Elusive Thieves (CB)

Happy New Year, Everyone!

And welcome back to the wonderful world of writing for kids, reading with kids, reading to improve our writing skills, and writing to improve kids’ reading experience!

I hope everyone’s holidays were warm and happy and restorative (although I know for a lot of us getting back to work feels like a rest after the holidays! 🙂 )

I am not quite fully back into regular work mode because I still have one little Hill at home… but I’m getting there…!

I’m pretty sure Something Chocolate would help us ALL get back in gear, don’t you think?

Let’s start the new year off healthy with some Triple Chocolate Brownie Cake for everybody!!! 🙂

Triple Chocolate Brownie Cake

triple_chocolate_brownie_cake2-s

Recipe HERE at Lil’Cookie

Mmmmmm!!  Scrumptious!!! 🙂

I feel more like a nap energized already, don’t you? 🙂

Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Aileen.  Besides writing, Aileen Stewart spends her days reading, attending Library Board of Trustee meetings, managing the local farmers’ market, taking pictures, cooking, tending to the needs of her family, and herding three cats which is just as difficult as it sounds!

You can find her on twitter: http://www.twitter.com/AileenWStewart
On her blog: http://www.aileensthoughts.com
Or on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAileenStewart

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Professor Steed And The Elusive Thieves

Age/Genre: Chapter Book (ages 8-12)

The Pitch: When solving a rash of burglaries leaves everyone in in Collarsville at a loss, dedicated hound, John Steed, uses both his undercover skills gained by working for B.O.N.E. and his position as a professor at Hound Academy to sniff out the thieves and recover the stolen goods.

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 Aileen 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 February, 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!

Aileen is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to my nap some extremely productive work time today 🙂

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 🙂

 

Great Opportunity For Writers

Hi Everyone!

I’ll be back to business-as-usual on the blog this week, but just a quick PSA for those of you who might be interested in a fantastic writing opportunity!

Tara Luebbe is once again running her Writing With The Stars mentorship program and there is still time to apply.

screen-shot-2016-12-20-at-10-13-05-pm

What is Writing with the Stars?

Writing with the Stars is an opportunity for aspiring picture book writers and illustrators to win a free, three-month mentorship with a published author or author/illustrator. Mentors will help mentees further develop their craft and share invaluable advice and insight into the publishing world.

When is Writing with the Stars?

The application window is from January 9, 2019 through midnight January 13, 2019 EST. Winners will be announced on Twitter (@T_Luebbe) and on my blog on January 31, 2019 at 11:00 am EST, and the mentorships themselves run from February 1 through April 30, 2019.

For official rules click here.

So jump at the chance!  Who knows what you might achieve in 2019!

Have a great rest of the weekend and see you Wednesday! 🙂

2018 Holiday Contest WINNERS!!!

So darlings, it’s Wednesday, and you know what that means, right?

 

Yes!

 

It means that today is the day…

 

…for us to FINALLY find out…

 

…the thing that kept us up all night in anticipation…

 

…what our reindeer names are!

According to the Elf On The Shelf Site (a character I confess I find a bit creepy and don’t really get!) my reindeer name is Cocoa Wonderland.

I don’t know about you, but that seems like a bit of a mouthful to me…

On Dasher, on Dancer,
On Prancer and Vixen,
On Comet, on Cocoa Wonderland,
On Donner and Blitzen…

I don’t know…

When in doubt, try another site! So I took the MagiQuiz… and now my name is Mistletoe!

Pretty, but…

Since I’m a writer, and here in the land of writers we love the Rule Of Three, I thought I’d better check one more option… and there I struck gold, the best of the best, the cream of the crop, the pick of the litter, my True Reindeer Name (which I might have to give to my car after Christmas 🙂 )

Are you ready?

(I am not making this up…!)

My reindeer name is…

 

…wait for it…

 

Salla Shinyhooves The Speeder!

 

Really!  That’s what it is!

Okay.  Technically even longer than Cocoa Wonderland, but I can’t resist 🙂

Let’s try it out!

On Dasher, on Dancer,
On Prancer and Vixen,
On Comet, on Cupid,
On Donner and Salla Shinyhooves The Speeder!

*** moment of appreciative silence***

I just don’t think it gets any better than that 🙂

I wonder what YOUR reindeer names are…???!!! 🙂

But okay, okay.  Enough reindeer games.  You may all address me as Salla Shinyhooves The Speeder from now until Christmas (don’t even think about nicknaming it down to Salla or Shiny or Speedy!) and we will devote ourselves to the business at hand…

Hot chocolate…

…and…

…the wrap up of…

THE 8TH ANNUAL HOLIDAY CONTEST!!!

Super Santa.png

~for children’s writers~

 

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 as you well know by now, 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 (yes it was still even if barely) Saturday 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!)

Teresa Traver for Ten Chocolate Coins (an entry we loved for the writing and kid-friendliness)

Judy Sobanski for Ozzie Owl To The Rescue (an entertaining, well-written rhyme with some great lines – “directional expertise”, “Santa switching to cruise control”, and “To OWL a great night!” 🙂 )

Angela Hawkins for Burro’s Christmas Wish (a well-written story with a great twist ending!)

Sue Heavenrich for Moose Is A Hero! (how can you not love a moose with X-ray goggles and a decoder ring determined to be a hero even if others say he can’t be?!)

Lisa Lee Furness for Come Back, Santa (wonderfully relatable kid character, plenty of humor – loved those reindeer names 🙂 – and heart!)

Barbara Gruener for A Recipe For Hope (a tale of true heroism, kindness, and Christmas spirit beautifully written for kids)

Liz Tipping for Happy Rose For Christmas (a beautifully written story about one child noticing and caring about the need of another)

Johanna Speizer for The 12 Days Of Christmas With Noni (a lovely twist on Secret Santas)

 

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

Stacy Jensen for Penguin’s Quest For Answers: Saves Christmas (which could also have been in a category for Favorite Character – Penguin is something else! We loved this one, Stacy 🙂 )

Stuart Carruthers for How I Saved Christmas Dinner (believable, imaginative kid character and there’s a dragon involved – what kid wouldn’t love that?! 🙂 )

 

3. For Excellence In Representing A Different Holiday Tradition:

Mary Ann Cortez for The Burro’s Blanket(finally a story about Las Posadas! 🙂 )

 

4. For Beautifully Written Spiritual Story:

Michelle Kennedy for The Christmas Prayer (such a lovely expression of what the world needs, and beautiful last line: “Whatever you do, let love be the reason.”)

 

5. For Best Entry Based On A True Story:

Matthew Lasley for Delivery (we loved that this actually happened and could imagine it as a picture book with a little more detail and emotional resonance than 250 words allowed for!)

 

6. For Best, Most Original Setting:

Shariffa Keshavjee for Momo The Xmas Hero (set in Nairobi, Kenya, with a wonderful folk tale feel to the writing)

 

 

7.  For Humor Funnier For Grown-ups But Well-Written And Enjoyable!

Darcee A. Freier for The Cookie Defenders

Julie Abery for The Holiday Show

(both of which were delightful and oh-so-believable! but for which we felt adults would be more amused by the humor than kids would)

 

8. For Incredibly Original And Different (but the math vocab was a little over our heads 🙂 ):

Mishka Jaeger for Christmas-Shaped

 

Congratulations to all of you for fantastic elements of your stories!  You may all email me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com subject line Prize Winner 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!)

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

Just For Fun…

2019 Pocket Calendar (Kittens) OR

2019 Pocket Calendar (Puppies) OR

Magnetic Poetry – Little Box Of Awesome Kit – Words For Refrigerator (let me know your color choice if you care 🙂 )

 

And now…

…the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

The announcement of the WINNERS OF THE 2018 HOLIDAY CONTEST as voted on by you, our esteemed readers!!!

rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat

DDDRRRUUUMMM RRROOOLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!

In First Place

Winner of the whole shebang…

who gets first choice of all the prizes…

John McGranaghan
for

Christmas In The Park!!!

Congratulations, John, on a beautifully written, poignant entry with carefully chosen details and a lovely message that clearly struck an emotional chord with a LOT of readers!!! 🙂

In Second Place

Jennifer Broedel
for
Nippynose Flu

Congratulations, Jennifer, on an entry we loved for its fun story, rollicking rhyme, clever solution to a knotty (I just can’t say snotty 🙂 ) problem, and chicken soup with snowballs!    Apparently you’re a writer to watch – 2nd in last year’s Holiday Contest, 1st in this year’s Halloweensie Contest, and now 2nd again in the Holiday Contest!  You get to pick your prize after John.

In Third Place

Jill Lambert
for

Christmas Scent-sation

Congratulations, Jill, on a delightfully fun, kid-friendly entry in wonderful rhyme!  How can you not love firefighters and Stan the wildlife control guy saving toys for tots from a skunk soaking? 🙂  You get to pick your prize after John and Jennifer.

In Fourth Place… a TIE!!! between

Patricia Nozell             and            Jenna Waldman
for                                                 for
Hester Saves Christmas                   Larry’s Latkes

Congratulations, Patricia, on a most entertaining and humorous entry about determination and working hard to achieve your goals – hurray for Hester the cow!  And congratulations, Jenna, on a most original story – latke-eating gators – who’d have thought?! – in perfect rhyme with fabulous language!  You two get to pick your prizes after John, Jennifer, and Jill!  I guess we may have to negotiate a little…

 

In Sixth Place

Nicole Loos Miller
for

Alex & Apple

Congratulations, Nicole!  We loved the whole “Santa stakeout/witnessing of a crime!” and Alex’s MacGyver-like ability to make use of things to hand to save the day!  You get to pick after John, Jennifer, Jill, Patricia, and Jenna!

In Seventh Place…

Vivian Kirkfield
for
A New York Hero

Congratulations, Vivian!  We loved the authentic historical immigrant-new-to-New York feel of your story, the coziness of Rachel’s store, the believability of a child suffering stares and glares and wrinkled noses, and the heroism of offering help even after being treated unkindly! I’m sure you get the idea of how the prize picking goes by now 🙂

In Eighth Place…

Beverly Warren
for
A Special Nest

Congratulations, Bev!  We loved your original and very accessible take on the baby in the manger, your earnest, formal yet affectionate Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow who worked so hard to accomplish their important task, and the tiny sprinkling of humor woven in.  You get to pick after Vivian 🙂

In Ninth Place… ANOTHER TIE!!! between

Laura Bower             and            Connie Bergstein Dow
for                                                     for
The Christmas Pick-Up                     Sparkle The Snowflake

Congratulations, Laura, on your big-hearted, helpful truck entry, and to you, Connie, on your beautifully written dance of the snowflakes that made us long for a white Christmas!  You two get to pick after Beverly :). And again, we may need to negotiate a little…

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 (Reindeer Chow anyone?  🙂 )

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, or by donating a prize.  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…? but seem to do every year so you’re probably not surprised, 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 just arrived from Georgia! 🙂   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 2019!

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

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The Prizes!:

Magic Happens When You Make Every Word Count Writing Mentorship with Author Vivian Kirkfield!

Vivian will:
1. Read through your body of work (3-5 PB mss)
2. Skype chat with you to discuss your dream/vision/direction and her general thoughts about your work.
3. Help you choose which manuscript to move forward with/work on with her.
4. Critique that ms and then set up a Skype chat to go over it.
5. Help craft a cover letter and pitch for your ms which will then serve as a template for you as you move forward with your other work.

This is a truly amazing opportunity to work one-on-one with a talented author and critiquer to get you submission-ready for an editor or agent!

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Vivian Kirkfield

Writer for children – reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. She’s got a bucket list that contains many more than five words – but she’s already ticked off skydiving, parasailing and banana-boat riding. When she is not looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books that she hopes will encourage young kids to become lovers of books and reading. She is the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate(Holiday House, Feb 2019); Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book(PomegranateKids, March 2019); Sweet Dreams, Sarah(Creston Books, May 2019); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books, Spring 2020); From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall 2020). You can visit Vivian on her website, Picture Books Help Kids Soar, where she hosts the #50PreciousWords Writing Challenge every March. Or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter,Pinterest,Instagram, Linkedin, and just about anywhere people are playing with picture books.

cover on amazon   four otters cover amazon   sweet-dreams-new-on-amazon

A Rhyming Picture Book Manuscript Critique by prolific author Diana Murray!

diana-murray  One Snowy Day

A Non-Rhyming Picture Book Manuscript Critique by talented author Amy Dixon!

amy-dixon  Maurice

A 2-Pack of Personalized, Signed Picture Books by Tara LuebbeI Am Famous and Shark Nate-O

Tara Luebbe Shark Nate-O I Am Famous

a spot in my online picture book writing class Making Picture Book Magic (in any month mutually agreed upon by the winner and me)

MPBM

Children’s Writer’s And Illustrator’s Market 2019 – by Robert Lee Brewer AND a $25 Amazon Gift Card (2 available)

Children's Writer's Guide 2019

– Yes You Can Learn How To Write Beginning Readers And Chapter Books – by Nancy I. Sanders AND a $25 Amazon Gift Card
nancy sanders 2
laura salas educational market
Making A Living
Please join me in thanking these very generous authors and other writing professionals for contributing their books and writing expertise as prizes by visiting their websites and blogs, considering their books and services for 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 🙂

The 2018 Holiday Contest FINALISTS!!!

So, a little over three weeks ago the person who runs this popsicle stand was ruminating on possible themes for the Holiday Contest.

She consulted her fellow judges.

They mulled over mischief, magic, misunderstandings, miracles, mayhem, and more.

And then somebody (who shall be nameless!) (Judge #2!) suggested heroes!

“Great idea!” the rest of the knuckleheads agreed.

And so Holiday Heroes it was!

Now I ask you.

What the flingin’-flangin’-fiction-factory were we thinking???!!!

Fast forward through three days of fabulous authors posting fantastic entries – each one better than the last – to The Moment Of Judgment!

And what happened during The Moment of Judgment?

Which was supposed to take a couple days?

And be completely finished by Thursday evening so the finalists could be posted on Friday?

Well, I’ll tell you…

Judge #1 said a hero was someone who was admired for achievements and noble qualities.  Judge #2 said, well, yes, but also a hero was an illustrious warrior or at least had to show great courage.  Judge #3 said, well, yes, but just plain kindness could count as heroism even if it didn’t accomplish much or require a great deal of courage because on its own it is noble. Judge #1 and Judge #2 said kindness alone wasn’t necessarily heroism.  After some discussion, Judge #2 and Judge #3 agreed that some level of courage ought to be involved because that makes everything more heroic.  To which Judge #1 countered that courage means different things to different people, as does heroism…

I’m sure you see where I’m going with this…

Hence, many days, Many pots of coffee and MANY pounds of chocolate later, we have agreed on one thing: we were nuts to pick heroism! 🙂

After much impassioned arguing civilized discussion (which included hardly any injuries  and a bare minimum of bandages, splints, antibiotic ointment, sterile cotton, and tetanus boosters) we have arrived at 10 finalists.

No problem. At all! 🙂

We did the best we could to choose stories that showed true heroism, and were kid-friendly and well-written.

Narrowing the field to 10 was excruciatingly difficult.  We could SO easily have posted an additional 10… and even then there would have been a whole bunch of others we would have wanted to include as well!

You guys write great stories.

But 10 it is.  We have 10 prizes, and 10 seemed like the most number it was fair to ask you to read and vote on. So there you have it!

So, just quickly, before I post the actual finalists I want to say three things:

First, 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, I want to reiterate 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, plus a chapter book series that came out of the Fractured Fairy Tale Contest one spring!  So bravo to everyone who entered!

You will recall the judging criteria:

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.  Holiday Heroism! – the rules stated a Holiday Hero story, so entries that failed to mention anything Holiday (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, etc.) or that did not contain a true hero/act of heroism 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.

 

As I said above, you all did a stellar job – there were no bad stories.  But we had to pick the 10 we thought were the all-around best on all 5 counts listed.

So, without further ado, I present to you the 2018 Holiday Contest Finalists.  A mix of poetry and prose, stories for younger readers and slightly older (but still kid) readers, funny, poignant, 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 identify yourself as a finalist on social media, please do not ask people to vote for a specific number or title, and please do not ask people to vote for the story about the sumo wrestling reindeer to the rescue 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 –  CHRISTMAS IN THE PARK

Momma says, “It’s time to go.”

But I don’t want to go.
The park is cold.

“Time to go,” says Daddy.

I want to stay home
and make my Christmas list.

“People are waiting,” says Daddy.

I grab my coat,
cross my arms,
and sit in the back seat.

The food trays are warm.
They smell yummy.

The city lights shine bright.
But the park is dark.

It is supper time.
People start to gather.

I grab a big spoon,
and start serving.
They thank me.

Momma tells me to say,
“You’re welcome. Enjoy the meal.”

Millie squeezes my cheeks.
Her hands are scratchy,
not soft like Momma’s.

Momma and I bring food
to the lady in the bushes.
Her hair is messy.
She does not talk,
but she takes the food.

Abraham tells Daddy
the library won’t let him
take out any books.
He has no address.

Jimmy tells me
he sleeps under the stars
like a cowboy.
But it’s not like the movies.

I play checkers with Patrick.
He promises to
teach me how to play chess.

Will pulls out a
crumpled copybook.
He reads his poems.

When I ask why we come,
Daddy says,
“It’s good to help people.”

Momma says,
“People helped us.”

It is time to go.
I wave good bye.

On the way home
I start my Christmas List.

Millie – hand lotion
Lady in the bushes – hair brush
Abraham – books
Jimmy – tent
Patrick – chessboard
Will – notebook.

 

#2 – THE CHRISTMAS PICK-UP

With a sack full of gifts and some fresh fallen snow,
Santa started his journey with “Ho, Ho, Ho, Ho!”
The sleigh chugged along like a train on a track.
It was all going smoothly until he heard CRACK!
Underneath the soft snow was a pond filled with ice.
Santa grabbed for his list (both the naughty and nice).
He wrangled his sack and held all the toys tight,
and the nine deer pulled hard, using all of their might.
But the sleigh wouldn’t budge. It was sunken and stuck.
Just then, through the woods, came an old pick-up truck.
“Hi Santa, I’m Rusty. I heard your deer yelp.
I see you’re in trouble, so I’m here to help!”
Rusty revved up his engine. His wheels found their groove.
Then he heard Santa shout, “The sleigh’s starting to move!”
CRICK, CRACK went the ice. But with one final push,
Santa’s sleigh was on track with a SWOOSH and a WHOOSH!
There was no time to stop. He flew high in the sky,
and shouted to Rusty with twinkling eyes,
“You saved Christmas for all of the good girls and boys.
Thanks to you they’ll be getting their trinkets and toys.”
Rusty woke Christmas morning and found a wrapped gift,
with a note from the big guy, “Thank you for the lift.”
What came on the next line made him start to tear,
“I’ll pay you a visit the same time next year.”

 

#3 – ALEX & APPLE SAVE CHRISTMAS

Alex watched in wide-eyed horror as Papa ate the cookie meant for Santa before heading to bed. 

Ducking back behind the couch, Alex lamented that the Santa-stakeout had instead led to witnessing a crime! And now, it was up to Alex to replace the cookie before Santa arrived and decided the Yusef family belonged on the Naughty List! 

Alex groaned. Apple, feline best friend extraordinaire, meowed in sympathy. 

Where to get a cookie now? The whole family had come over earlier in the day to bake and decorate but everyone had taken cookies home! The cookie left out for Santa was the last one in the whole apartment. 

Alex took a deep breath. “No time for pity parties.” Apple twitched her tail in agreement. 

Alex and Apple padded ever so quietly into the kitchen, picked the least-squeaky chair and stealthily pushed it to the kitchen counter. They took stock of their supplies:
– Open tub of white frosting
– 1 slightly burnt gingerbread woman (behind the coffee maker)
– 3 Graham crackers
– 4 Cinnamon candies

Alex looked at Apple. Apple looked at Alex. Oh yes, they could save Christmas. 

“Oh Alex,” sighed Mama, waking Alex with a start. “Did you sleep behind the couch all night?”

Without answering, Alex and Apple rushed to the tree. Their Christmas-race-car (with cinnamon wheels and a slightly burnt driver) had a large bite taken out of it and a note laying next to it. 

The most creative treat I’ve enjoyed all night. Nice save. Love, Santa

 

#4 – A CHRISTMAS SCENT-SATION

Two weeks before Christmas,
way out in the shed,
presents were stockpiled
and wrapped, green and red.

Behind the brick firehouse
was joy, guaranteed,
collected each Christmas
for families in need.

The firefighters planned
to deliver the gifts
the very next day
when they finished their shifts.

Then what did their
sensitive noses detect,
but a strong scent of skunk–
all the gifts had been wrecked!

A skunk made his burrow
out under the shed,
then an unwelcome
possum crawled in it instead.

Well, what would you think
that striped stinker should do?
He blasted the possum
with skunk musk—P-U!

And of course all the presents
soaked up the foul odor
as it seeped through the floorboards–
that furry exploder!

Now what could be done
to remove the aroma,
without putting everyone
into a coma? 

“I’ll call my friend, Stan,”
the chief told the crew,
“He’s in wildlife control,
so he’ll know what to do.”

Stan was there in a flash
in his van full of tricks,
“I’ll fill up my fogger
with a mystery mix.

It’s my favorite concoction
for skunk residue.”
Then he put on a gas mask,
his coveralls, too.

Stan fogged and he fumed
till the stink disappeared.
They delivered the packages,
all the kids cheered:

“Hooray for old Stan,
he’s a Christmas scent-sation!
He rescued our presents
from contamination!”

And they heard the skunk mumble
as he slunk out of sight,
“Guess I’ll find a new burrow.
Merry Christmas! Good night!”

 

#5 – HESTER SAVES CHRISTMAS

Hester loved jingling bells, the scent of sparkling pine trees, and the promise of present-filled stockings hung by Farmer O’Neill’s chimney. She especially loved stories of Santa and his reindeer.

“Mama, can I can pull Santa’s sleigh next year?” Hester asked.

“Flying reindeer pull Santa’s sleigh, Hester. And everyone knows Highland Cows can’t fly.”

But I can dream, thought Hester. And practice.

She hopped over heather and thistles.

“Ouch!”

She jumped across rocky streams…almost.

            SPLASH!

She trotted uphill, leapt, and…

tumbled down a steep slope.

            Moooo…

Hester kept trying…

and trying…

and trying…

but not quite succeeding.

As Christmas drew near, Hester turned her nose from pine trees and looked away from the chimney. She hung her shaggy head. Large tears fell, freezing like a glistening beard.

“A blizzard,” sighed Farmer O’Neill on Christmas Eve. “No presents tomorrow. Santa’s reindeer can’t fly through this mess. Into the barn, girls.”

All but one shuffled into the warm barn.

Hester trudged through deep snowdrifts. She shivered in the blustery wind and slipped on icy paths until…

She heard a faint jingle-jingle. She scrambled and spied…

Santa in his sleigh with eight grounded reindeer stuck in a snow pile.

Hester pulled, tugged and led the reindeer, sleigh and Santa along the snowy trail.

The next morning, presents filled stockings.  Laughter rang like jingling bells across the farm.

“Merry Christmas, Hester,” Farmer O’Neill said.  “Wake up! Somehow Santa came!”

Hester yawned and wondered,

Can a cow hide Easter eggs?

 

#6 – NIPPYNOSE FLU

The night before Christmas, with no time to spare,
unparalleled storms spilled a chill in the air.

Amid all the bustle, two tinkering elves
coughed at each other and startled themselves.
The shivering, sneezes, and sniffles spread quick,
till every last elf in the workshop was sick.

The presents piled up, and the reindeer weren’t fed,
the list wasn’t checked, and the room filled with dread.
“Is everyone sick now? Is no one immune?
We need to do something, or get some help soon!”

Plain out of time, and with so much to do,
Christmas was threatened by Nippynose Flu!

“The snowmen can help us guys, all isn’t lost,”
said Tinselbelle, wiping her nose clean of frost.
As soon as the snowmen got wind of the fuss,
they hollered “Don’t worry, just leave it to us!
We snowmen enjoy a good frigid-frost chill,
we can’t catch a flu and we never get ill.”

So while all the elves were reclining in bed,
the snowmen saved Christmas, and worked in their stead.
Where elves had been chilly and starting to freeze,
the snowmen breezed through all the work with great ease.

They finished the wrapping and loaded the sleigh,
happy to help Santa off on his way.

To top it all off, they brought soup to the elves…
“We hope you enjoy it, we made it ourselves.
Our Nana’s own recipe: my, it tastes nice!
Chicken with snowballs, but we held the ice.”

 

#7 – A SPECIAL NEST

A distant donkey brayed. Mrs. Sparrow awakened. A silvery light flooded the stable.
How peculiar, she thought, and flew outside to find its source. A single star brightened the world below.
Two figures slowly picked their way along the stony path leading to the stable. Mrs. Sparrow flew near.
“Oh my!” she exclaimed, and raced home. “Wake up Mr. Sparrow. We must build a nest.”
“What?” he asked “Are you going to lay eggs?”
“No, Mr. Sparrow. Company is coming. The woman will soon give birth.”
“Where can we build a nest for an enormous egg?” he asked.
“Mr. Sparrow, people don’t lay eggs,” she said. “Quick, help me find a place for the nest.”
They circled the room. He went right, she went left, they collided and tumbled into an empty box.
Mrs. Sparrow chuckled. “The manger! It’s perfect. But where can we find clean straw?”
“I know,” chirped Mr. Sparrow. “The innkeeper put fresh hay behind the stable.”
The two birds gathered strips of hay and packed them snugly, until the silvery light was dimmed
by the couple’s shadowed form.
The man settled his wife beside the manger.
“Do you think it was enough hay, Mrs. Sparrow?”
A baby’s cry rang out in the room.
“Oh yes, Mr. Sparrow,” she answered.
The woman then wrapped her child in cloth and placed him in the manger. Exhausted, she lay down.
Her eyes caught the movement of two small birds huddled in the rafters above, and she smiled at them.

 

#8 – LARRY’S LATKES

 Big Larry ran a latke shop

for tater loving gators.

Hot pancakes, piled on paper plates,

were plopped down by the waiters.

 Applesauce and sour cream

made trails around the plate,

as gators licked their massive lips

with pleasure while they ate.

 Hanukkah was coming fast,

Big Larry’s busy season.

But this year’s business hit a snag,

for one disastrous reason…

 Spud supplies were running dry

from gator tater famine!

But gators need their latkes like

like a bagel needs smoked salmon.

Big Larry sat around his shop,

he moaned and groaned, “oi vey!”

“Our Hanukkah won’t be the same

if spuds don’t come our way.”

He vowed to find an answer fast,

and keep the gators fed!

Potatoes may have gone away,

 what else could work instead?

He tried a carrot pancake but,

it tasted far too sweet.

His hands turned pink, and stained the sink,

when he fried up a beet.

Zucchini was too boring and

the onions were a flop.

A yam, a pear, some camembert,

one more and then he’d stop!

The only thing that he had left:

A teeny tiny dud,

a little sad pathetic orb…

the last remaining spud!

But thinking of his patrons and

a Hanukkah disaster,

He made a dish that was delish,

a gator latke master!

The carrots, beets, zucchini, AND

some onions, yams AND pear.

The teeny, tiny tuber,

AND a dash of camembert!

“A miracle!” Big Larry cried,

“An absolute delight!

Chag sameach, everyone!”

The menorah shimmered bright.  

 

#9 – SPARKLE THE SNOWFLAKE

Everyone knows that no two snowflakes are alike, but Sparkle was extra special.  She shone and shimmered a little brighter than all of the other snowflakes that lived in her cluster of clouds.

Sparkle and her snowflake friends had an important job to do.  They were to fall to earth on Christmas Eve. They would cover the hills and trees, and especially the rooftops of the houses, so that Santa and his reindeer would leave their footprints on the rooftops for children to see on Christmas morning.

The snowflakes were busy the day before Christmas.  They carefully planned their journey from the clouds. They practiced floating and staying together so they could create a beautiful snowfall that evening.

Sparkle and all of the other snowflakes snuggled deep into the billowy clouds to get some rest before the busy night.  Soon, Sparkle woke up and looked around in alarm.  It was almost midnight!  “Wake up!” Sparkle called. Then she soared from cloud to cloud, making sure that every snowflake was ready.

Just in the nick of time, they slipped from the puffy clouds and began to twirl and dance in the chilly night air.  The snowflakes landed gently, and waited silently.  When the sun peeked over the hill, the snowflakes heard children laughing as they ran from their houses and saw the glistening snow.  Little did the children know that the snow that had greeted them this Christmas morning was all thanks to Sparkle, the shiny little snowflake.

 

#10 – A NEW YORK HERO

The sign flashed PIZZA/DELI. Christmas bells jingled as Rachel hurried inside. Shaking off snow, she slipped past cloth-covered tables. Warmed with the heat of a wood-fired oven, the room felt good, but Rachel wondered if this would ever feel like home.

Almost a year ago, Rachel and her family arrived in America. She was grateful to be in a safe place. But everything was different. She was different. Living over the store, Rachel always smelled like pastrami or salami or pepperoni pizza. Kids at school stared and glared and wrinkled their noses. Especially Mia, who lived over the laundromat next door. Mia smelled like flowers and sunshine and spring rain. Rachel sighed. Still, it was Christmas vacation – no stares or glares or wrinkling noses for a whole week.

That night, the wind howled and snow fell. In the morning, silence. Power was out all across the city. But the wood-fired oven burned merrily and Mama lit candles for each table. In the kitchen, Rachel layered pastrami and salami and thought about Mia. Without power, maybe Mia’s family would have no heat. Rachel remembered being cold.

“Can we invite Mia to eat with us?”

“Of course,” Mama replied. “Go ask.”

Soon, Mia and her family trooped in, stamping snow from their boots. Before long, everyone was biting into sandwiches piled high with meats and cheeses.

“Here in New York,” Rachel said, “this sandwich is called a hero.”

“Maybe,” Mia said as she moved closer. “But to me, you are a hero.”

 

Wow! Are your socks knocked off or what?! 🙂

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 5PM EST Tuesday December 18.

 

 

Tune in Wednesday December 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 Wednesday… same bat time, same bat station 🙂

Ho! Ho! HO! The Eighth Annual Holiday Contest Is HERE!

Deck the halls!

Light the menorah!

Fill the Kikombe cha Umoja!

It’s time for…

THE 8TH ANNUAL HOLIDAY CONTEST!!!

Super Santa.png

~for children’s writers~

The Contest:  Write a children’s holiday story (children here defined as age 12 and under) about A Holiday Hero!  Your hero’s act of heroism can be on a grand scale or a small one – from saving Christmas to leaving a fresh-baked loaf of Challah bread for a homeless person to something like Gift Of The Magi where two people give up the thing most important to them to be sure someone they love has a good holiday.  Your hero can be obvious or unlikely.  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 Saturday December 8 at 11:59 PM EST, and your post-specific link should be added to the link list below.  This post will remain up for your reading pleasure until I post the finalists.  There will be no regular posts (Tuesday Debuts, Perfect Picture Book, or Would You Read It) 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 midnightwriter1 or something I’ll be able to tell who you are!)  If anyone has trouble commenting, which unfortunately happens, please email your entry to 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 including byline 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 approximately 10 finalists (depending on the number of entries – if we get a lower turnout we’ll post fewer finalists, a higher turnout possibly one or two more.)  In the interest of finishing up the contest in a timely fashion so everyone can go about their holidays, we will do our best to post the finalists here by Friday December 14 for you to vote on for a winner.  The vote will be closed on Sunday December 16 at 5 PM EST.  Whoever gets the most votes will be first and so on down to tenth place (or wherever we place to), and the winners will be announced on Monday December 17 (how’s that for ambitious?! 🙂 )

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 Heroism! – the rules state a Holiday Hero story, so it must be crystal clear that the story is about Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or whatever you celebrate, and it must contain a hero and act of heroism in some form! 🙂
  • 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!:

Magic Happens When You Make Every Word Count Writing Mentorship with Author Vivian Kirkfield!

Vivian will:
1. Read through your body of work (3-5 PB mss)
2. Skype chat with you to discuss your dream/vision/direction and her general thoughts about your work.
3. Help you choose which manuscript to move forward with/work on with her.
4. Critique that ms and then set up a Skype chat to go over it.
5. Help craft a cover letter and pitch for your ms which will then serve as a template for you as you move forward with your other work.

This is a truly amazing opportunity to work one-on-one with a talented author and critiquer to get you submission-ready for an editor or agent!

Screen Shot 2018-12-05 at 10.39.16 PM

Vivian Kirkfield

Writer for children – reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. She’s got a bucket list that contains many more than five words – but she’s already ticked off skydiving, parasailing and banana-boat riding. When she is not looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books that she hopes will encourage young kids to become lovers of books and reading. She is the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate(Holiday House, Feb 2019); Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book(PomegranateKids, March 2019); Sweet Dreams, Sarah(Creston Books, May 2019); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books, Spring 2020); From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall 2020). You can visit Vivian on her website, Picture Books Help Kids Soar, where she hosts the #50PreciousWords Writing Challenge every March. Or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter,Pinterest,Instagram, Linkedin, and just about anywhere people are playing with picture books.

cover on amazon   four otters cover amazon   sweet-dreams-new-on-amazon

A Rhyming Picture Book Manuscript Critique by prolific author Diana Murray!

diana-murray  One Snowy Day

A Non-Rhyming Picture Book Manuscript Critique by talented author Amy Dixon!

amy-dixon  Maurice

A 2-Pack of Personalized, Signed Picture Books by Tara LuebbeI Am Famous and Shark Nate-O

Tara Luebbe Shark Nate-O I Am Famous

a spot in my online picture book writing class Making Picture Book Magic (in any month mutually agreed upon by the winner and me)

MPBM

Children’s Writer’s And Illustrator’s Market 2019 – by Robert Lee Brewer AND a $25 Amazon Gift Card (2 available)

Children's Writer's Guide 2019

– Yes You Can Learn How To Write Beginning Readers And Chapter Books – by Nancy I. Sanders AND a $25 Amazon Gift Card
nancy sanders 2
laura salas educational market
Making A Living
Please join me in thanking these very generous authors and other writing professionals for contributing their books and writing expertise as prizes by visiting their websites and blogs, considering their books and services for 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.

 

The time has come for my sample.  I wrote it between midnight and 2 AM, so that’s my excuse for how bad it is and I hope you all appreciate the fact that I am willing to make a complete fool of myself just for you! 🙂  But this should be very comforting because you can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that ANYthing you wrote is better than this! 🙂

So.  Are you ready? (Be forewarned you might need a little chocolate to help you through… I’m going to need a LOT! 🙂  I have taken dreadful writing to a whole new level and should probably write a new sample tomorrow!  Also because this one is a few words over the limit 🙂  )

 

The Christmas Rescue

‘Twas the night before Christmas
The sleigh was packed high.
The team shook their jingle bells
Eager to fly!

Santa and Elsie Elf
Boarded the sleigh
And quick as a wink
They were up and away!

As they soared over rooftops
That glittered with snow
Elsie said,
“Look at that shooting star go!”

Santa leaned forward
And peered through the night.
“That’s no shooting star!
It’s a meteorite!”

“Pretty!” said Elsie.
And Santa said, “Yes…
But it’s going to wreak havoc
With our GPS!”

The NAV screen went blank
A search icon spun round
Because Magnetic North
Could no longer be found!

They tapped at the screen
Turned it off and back on
But it was no use
Their directions were gone!

The meteor’s metal
Messed up Elsie’s phone
So she couldn’t call Tech
At the workshop back home.

“Maybe star navigation?”
said Santa with doubt.
But clouds had moved in
And they blocked the stars out.

“We have no direction
We can’t find our way
To get gifts to good girls and boys
Christmas Day!”

At this precise moment
From out of the blue
A small caped crusader
Flew into their view.

“My goodness!” said Santa.
“Whatever is that?”
The crusader said proudly,
“I’m Super Bat!

I just couldn’t help
Overhearing your plight.
The Bat Squad and I
Can assist you tonight.”

“How?” wondered Elsie.
“Without navigation.”
“No problem,” said Bat,
“we use echolocation!”

With Super Bat skillfully
Guiding the sleigh
The gifts were delivered
By dawn Christmas Day.

“We couldn’t have done this
Without you, you know.”
Santa smiled and said,
“Bat, you’re a Christmas Hero!”

 

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 you still have until Saturday midnight 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 49 fabulous entries in the comment section below!
(Titles are not links – sorry! Scroll through comments to view)

  1. The Super-Invisible Snowgirl – Anne L
  2. Toby Saves Christmas – Sherry H
  3. The 12 Days of Christmas With Noni – Johanna
  4. Saint Bernard Savior – Sandra
  5. The Cookie Defenders – Darcee
  6. Nippynose Flu – Jennifer
  7. Santa’s Gift – Barbara
  8. I’m Santa – Sarah
  9. Manger Mayhem – Susan
  10. Cat Called Hero – Lily
  11. All By Myself – Jessica
  12. Surprise On The Sleigh – Sarah
  13. Ozzie Owl To The Rescue – Judy
  14. Come Back Santa – Lisa
  15. Christmas Presence – Angelique
  16. Papa Bear’s Rescue – Dianne
  17. Santa Tryouts – Amy F
  18. Just One Bean – Kristy
  19. Merritt Mouse – Saves Christmas – Patricia
  20. Jesse The Pup Saves Hanukkah – Amy B
  21. Sammy, the Skillet Saves Hanukkah – Amy B
  22. UH-OH. OH NO. HO HO – Jill
  23. The Christmas Boots – Sherry F
  24. Christmas Cookies – Kami
  25. Christmas In The Park – John
  26. A Christmas Scent-sation – Jill
  27. A Christmas Prayer – Michelle
  28. A Special Nest – Beverly
  29. Tent City Christmas – Anne B
  30. Who Was The Real Hero The Night Baby Jesus Was Born? – Carmen
  31. The Cookies That Saved Christmas – Jamie
  32. Fox And The Red Wagon – Kathy
  33. Listen To Libby – Nannette
  34. The Soldier’s Little Girl – Beth
  35. Momo The Xmas Hero – Shariffa
  36. The Santa Kid – Mega
  37. Dasher Saves The Day By Night – Tara
  38. Alex & Apple Save Christmas – Nicole
  39. Sparkle’s Special Christmas Wish – Lucretia
  40. Santa’s Beard – Linda
  41. Christmas Kindness – Beth B
  42. A Neighborly Christmas Eve – Mona
  43. Ellen – Priya
  44. The Christmas Pick-Up – Laura
  45. Christmas-time Tea – Elizabeth
  46. The Holiday Hero – Ranessa
  47. The Little Reindeer – Debora
  48. The Hay – Anna
  49. Happy Rose For Christmas – Liz

Would You Read It Wednesday #307 – Hungry In The Hills Of Hercegovina (PB)

Hiya Folks!

You will all be glad to know that I braved the basement and found the window candles!

And I only smashed one by accident on the basement floor!

I put the candles in the windows and then risked life and limb to climb up and put the wreath in the peak of the porch roof.  Just call me Spidey 🙂

So now my little house looks very festive 🙂

Just in time for the Holiday Contest which opens tomorrow!

If you know me at all, you will not be shocked to know that I haven’t given even one tiny second’s thought to my sample entry.  So no more shilly-shallying!  We must get down to business right now so I can go think something up!

If you’re suggesting there’s no better way to get down to business than with Something Chocolate, that just proves we are kindred spirits and great minds think alike 🙂 Not to pick one holiday over another – I just thought these were cute – and they’re made of chocolate cupcakes… 🙂

Easy Christmas Tree Cupcakes

Christmas-Tree-Cupcake-Recipe-2

Recipe HERE (including helpful video!) at YourCupOfCake

YUM!  Festive AND delicious!!!

Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Lily whom you will remember from September with her pitch for Garden Bed. Lily Erlic is a member of the SCBWI. She has authored many books included Finger Rhymes for Manners and Glaciers: Landscape Carvers. She is a preschool and daycare teacher (ECE) with a BA degree from the University of Victoria.

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Hungry In The Hills Of Hercegovina

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

The Pitch: (Based on my Aunt’s True Story) Ana, is a young girl who struggles with hunger. Puto, her dog, chases wolves away from the family’s herd of sheep. Ana and her family do not have enough to eat sometimes in her poor village in the hills of Hercegovina. When Ana faces a vulture with Puto, the real challenge begins.

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 Lily 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 get your new year of writing of to a great start by getting your pitch up for helpful feedback and a chance to have it read and commented on by editor Erin Molta!

Lily is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to the opening of the Holiday Contest tomorrow!!!  I CAN’T WAIT to read your stories!!!

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 🙂

 

Extra! Extra! Meet The Baby Scientists!

Okay.

So I know last week I said that this week we’d be back to normal.

But something came up, and I had to add an extra post.  When friends ask me to share their excitement I can’t say no! 🙂

I think it’s something you’ll enjoy, though, because it is a Surprise Book Cover Reveal and you guys are the very first to get to see it!!!

I hope you all feel stupendously special! 🙂

Laura Gehl and Daniel Wiseman, (whose illustrations you might have seen on this blog once or twice before 🙂 )

lion_needs_a_bath_cover elephant_has_sniffles_cover  llama_needs_haircut_cover monkey_bed_cover

have a brand new series of board books coming out in 2019!  The series is called Baby Scientist, and will begin with the release of

BABY OCEANOGRAPHER (HarperFestival April 30, 2019)

BabyOceanographer c

and BABY ASTRONAUT (HarperFestival May 7, 2019)!

BabyAstronaut

Don’t they look fabulous?

And YOU get to see them first!!!

Not only do you get to see the covers first, but Laura and Daniel were kind enough to share Five Fun Facts each about the creation of this new series! (Since we over here are always curious about the writing/illustrating process and where books come from 🙂 )

Let’s hear from Laura first!

SUSANNA: Hi Laura.  Thanks for joining us! Where did you get the idea for these books?

LAURA: I’ve loved both science and writing since I was a kid, but as an adult I can see that many other adults I meet are intimidated by science. When people talk to me about my writing, they often say, “I hope to write a book one day too.” But when people talk to me about my science background (I have a PhD in neuroscience), they say, “Wow, I could never do that.” The prevailing belief is that writing is much easier than science (false!). The idea of this series is to show kids that scientific careers are fun, approachable, interesting, and relevant. Instead of wondering, “Could I be a scientist?” I want kids to wonder, “Which type of scientist should I be?” I want kids who read these books to grow up thinking, “Of course I could be a scientist! Why not???”

SUSANNA: Did you want to be an astronaut or an oceanographer when you were a kid?

LAURA: No, but I did want to be a chemist! Marie Curie was my hero, and I memorized the periodic table in elementary school. My daughter, age 8, wants to be an astronaut. My dedication for BABY ASTRONAUT is to her (Shh! She doesn’t know yet!).

SUSANNA: Was it hard to make the information you researched accessible to this age group?

LAURA: I used to write about science for children’s magazines, so I did have a lot of experience framing difficult concepts in age-appropriate language. The hardest part of making science accessible to young kids is that sometimes in order to write something in simple enough terms, it is no longer exactly accurate. For example, BABY ASTRONAUT says, “On Earth, gravity stops us from floating into the air. In space, there is less gravity. Baby floats through the air. Baby’s food floats too. So does her toothbrush!” All of this is correct—but it is also a bit misleading. There IS less gravity in space. And astronauts DO float through the air. In reality, though, at 200-250 miles above Earth, where the International Space Station is in orbit, Earth’s gravity is still strong. The real reason astronauts float is because they are in constant free fall—but the science of that is tricky even for adults to understand. So I kept it super simple, and we just have to hope that BABY ASTRONAUT inspires future scientists who will one day understand the complexities of microgravity.

SUSANNA: What are the most interesting things you learned while writing these books?

LAURA: For BABY ASTRONAUT, we were specifically focusing on astronauts as scientists, so I read a lot about the different science experiments happening on board the International Space Station. That was fascinating! One experiment showed that 3D printing works normally in space. This is key for deep-space missions, because the astronauts will be able to print items they need on these very long missions.

I also learned how much is still unknown in the field of oceanography. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, eighty percent of our oceans are unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored. Just the thought of all of that exploration yet to

come gives me chills. I hope lots of little readers will be inspired to grow up to be oceanographers. Imagine the discoveries they could make!

SUSANNA: What fields of study will the baby scientists tackle next?

LAURA: The next two books in the series will be BABY PALEONTOLOGIST and BABY BOTANIST. I was never a dinosaur-focused kid. In fact, I was at the Museum of Science in Boston over Thanksgiving and realized I had never once, in all my visits over the years, stopped by the dinosaur exhibit there. But researching paleontology was particularly intriguing, and now I really want to visit an active dig site. I found out there are some sites where you can go with your kids and help excavate fossils. How cool would that be?

SUSANNA:  VERY cool!!!  Thanks Laura! Now let’s hear from Daniel!  Hi Daniel!  Thank YOU for joining us too!  What made you want to illustrate these stories?

DANIEL: So many things! I loved the idea of introducing scientific principles in a fun way to very young children. I loved the theme of each book (there are 2 more in the series). I also love to take on book series where each book involves a different main character, because it affords me the opportunity to vary the ethnicity of each one. It’s always a priority of mine for every child to be able to see themselves in the books I help create. Lastly, at the same time I signed on to illustrate this series I was also about to have a new little one in my own family. So it seemed timely that I could dedicate a set of baby books I illustrated to the new baby in my life. One of the greatest joys of book making is that I’m creating something that can live on with my family for generations.

SUSANNA: Did you want to be an astronaut or an oceanographer when you were a kid?

DANIEL: When I was young (maybe 10 or 11), I was fascinated with the ocean. I told everyone I was going to be a marine biologist, even though I didn’t know what one really did! It came about after I was gifted a massive photography coffee table book documenting the work of underwater photographer David Doubilet. I was mesmerized by the vastness of the underwater world, all the different creatures, and landscapes (seascapes?). If you think about it, it’s sort of a bizzaro outer-space filled with real life “aliens”. So cool! I think if I wasn’t an illustrator I’d try my hand at some sort of life-science field. I’m fascinated by our world, and all the secrets and treasures it holds.

SUSANNA: Did you have to do a lot of research to be able to draw accurate illustrations?

DANIEL: I did do a fair amount of research…with the help of Chelsea, our art director, fact-checking my sketches. I even learned a few things myself! Like what an electrical outlet looks like on the ISS, and that there’s a fifth ocean called the Southern Ocean. I had no idea. The bigger challenge with these books was to strike a balance between portraying accuracy while keeping the illustrations playful and fun for little ones to look at. I was given a lot of creative freedom to add goofy details like hats on dolphins, and faces on planets. That made illustrating these books a blast!

SUSANNA: Which is your favorite illustration from the astronaut book? The oceanographer book? Why?

DANIEL: In BABY ASTRONAUT there’s an illustration depicting the difference between gravity on Earth and (the lack of) gravity in space. I really loved thinking up funny things to have floating around the space shuttle and space station. This particular illustration involves broccoli, carrots, ranch, a jelly sandwich, toothpaste, and a toothbrush…Did I mention I took some artistic liberties with these books?!

For BABY OCEANOGRAPHER, I really like the spread of the baby floating on a big wave inside his submarine. For each book I included a little sidekick friend for the baby, and in this spread his crab buddy is hanging on for dear life to the top of the submarine. I really enjoyed finding funny things for this crab to do to add a little more humor and fun to each illustration.

SUSANNA: How did illustrating these fact-based stories differ from the straight fiction you’ve done previously? Was it easier or harder?

DANIEL: I wouldn’t say it was any easier or more difficult. Every book is different, and presents different challenges. These were the first books I’ve illustrated that included baby characters. Drawing babies can be a bit daunting when they need to perform complex actions in the story. Babies, by nature, don’t really do anything except lay there and eat, so drawing them manning submarines, driving boats, and shooting off into space was a funny challenge I gladly accepted. I took a few creative liberties with my baby characters, giving them longer limbs and super baby abilities, while still trying to keep them little and cute.

Daniel also thought we might be interested in seeing a little of the illustration process, so he was kind enough to share a couple of sketches and a couple spreads of finished art!

First, here’s the sketch:

ASTRONAUT-sketches-9-12

And this is how the art looks finished!

9-10

11-12

Pretty cool, isn’t it?

Many thanks to Daniel and Laura for sharing their new books here first!  And for giving us all some insight into how they were created!

The books are available for preorder.  Undoubtedly you can request your local independent book store to order them for you, or, if you’re an online shopper, they’re available for preorder on IndieBound,  Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Thanks for stopping by to read even though it’s Monday!  Have a marvelous day, everyone! 🙂

(And if you have questions or comments for Laura and/or Daniel, I imagine they’ll check in 🙂 )

Oh, and P.S. – if you’re in the mood to keep reading about where books come from, Miracle On 34th Street is featured on Kathy Temean’s Writing And Illustrating blog today!