Perfect Picture Book Friday – Diva Delores And The Opera House Mouse PLUS 5 Fun Facts From The Author AND A Giveaway!

Hurray!  It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday, and boy do I have a treat for you today!

It’s Diva Delores’s debut!

diva-1.jpeg

Isn’t she gorgeous?! 🙂

You’re going to get to see this beautiful book AND hear from the author AND the publisher is generously doing a giveaway, so one lucky commenter from the US or Canada will be chosen at random to receive a copy of the book!

Let’s jump right in, shall we?

First, a look at the book!

IMG_5301

Title: Diva Delores And The Opera House Mouse

Written By: Laura Sassi

Illustrated By: Rebecca Gerlings

Sterling Children’s Books, March 2018, nonfiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: friendship, manners, opera

Opening: “Fernando loved chocolate
and cheese on dry toast,
and popcorn and gumdrops,
but what he liked most . . .

was feasting on Mozart,
Puccini, and Strauss,
and lending a paw
at the Old Opera House.

Brief Synopsis: Fernando the mouse loves everything about opera.  He wants to help Delores with her debut, but the diva thinks she deserves bigger and better help!  It takes a few opening night jitters to get Delores to truly appreciate her helpful little friend.

Links To Resources: Teacher Approved: Seven Things Kids Can Learn From Diva Delores; Opera Facts For Kids; discuss what it means to be a “diva” and dress up one of your stuffed animals as a diva!  (AND, you can use the 5 Fun Facts from the author below as bonus material to go along with the book! 🙂 )

Why I Like This Book:  The fun of this book is in the setting – an opera house – and the main characters – who both love opera!  Although the story is really about friendship, manners, and appreciation, the fact that it takes place in an opera house and involves operatic performance makes it educational as well as original and fun.  (Picture books writers – this is how you make a theme like friendship original, fresh and fun by putting your own twist on it!  Add this to your mentor text list 🙂 )  The story is told in fabulously-written rhyme which makes for a fun read-aloud, and artist Rebecca Gerlings does a gorgeous job of capturing both the feel of an opera house and the personalities and expressions of our heroes 🙂

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 🙂

As an added bonus, I thought it would be fun to learn a little about the story behind the story and Laura’s writing process/path to publication with this book, so I asked her to share five fun facts about writing this delightful, creative, and original story.

Here’s what she had to say:

FIVE FUN FACTS ABOUT WRITING DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE

FACT #1 The journey from spark to publication took seven years.

I got the original idea for my story while participating in Tara Lazar’s wonderful STORYSTORM challenge, or Picture Book Idea Month as it was called back in 2011.  I then worked on the story off and on for five years. I played with plot, rhyme, character development – everything but setting, really – until finally it was ready to sub in 2016. It was acquired by Sterling Children’s Books that spring and took another two years to be published, which is typical for picture books.

FACT #2  Diva Delores wasn’t always a seal.

Originally, I imagined everyone at the opera house, including Diva Delores, as human, except of course, for Fernando the mouse. The team at Sterling , however, felt that mixing humans with a talking mouse might be problematic so early on we decided that all the characters in the opera house world would be animals. Early ideas for Delores included a hippo and an ostrich. Ultimately, illustrator Rebecca Gerlings used her wonderful talent and imagination to create the delightful seal Delores who we now know and LOVE!

FACT #3 I chose an opera house setting, because an opera, IMHO, is a lot like a picture book.

Both tell a full story in very few words with magnificent characters. Because there are so few words each word/note must work charmingly to move the story forward. Finally, both are gorgeously illustrated – one with stunning sets and props and the other with delightful painted spreads.

FACT # 4 I didn’t attend my first opera until I was in college.

I attended university about 90 minutes from Manhattan and my freshman year signed up for a special bus-excursion field trip to the Met to see TURANDOT!  I loved everything about the evening.  It was a magical introduction to opera, which I hope my book is too.

FACT #5 According to my kids, I am hard to be around when I am working on a rhyming manuscript.

This is because I click and tap to the beat as I write. I also, apparently, talk to myself in rhyme as I am writing. Worse yet, I sometimes even do this in public places, like if I’m out walking the dog or if I’m working at a coffee shop. This is mortifying to my children, but it works for me. And isn’t part of a mother’s job to embarrass her children?

Thanks for having me, Susanna!

Thank YOU so much for joining us, Laura, and for sharing all that interesting back story!  I am the first to admit that, although I love music, I know absolutely nothing about opera, so I love the whole concept!  (Also, Delores and Fernando are darling 🙂 )

Diva 2
BIO:  Laura Sassi has a passion for telling humorous stories in prose and rhyme. She is the author of GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, 2014)and GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, 2015), DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling, 2018) and LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, 2018) She lives in New Jersey with her husband, two children, and a black Cockapoo named Sophie.

Links:
blog:http://laurasassitales.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LauraSassiTales
Twitter: twitter.com/laurasassitales
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/laurasassitales/

To join Laura on the rest of Delores’s Blog Tour, please stop off and visit these other fabulous blogs:

Diva 3

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!

Don’t forget, Sterling has offered to do a giveaway. They will send one book to one lucky winner in the US or Canada. It will not be signed because they are sending but it will be fresh off the press!  Just leave a comment below by Tuesday March 20 at 5 PM Eastern to get yourself in the running for the random drawing!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!!! 🙂

 

Would You Read It Wednesday #277 – Porcupette And Moppet (PB)

Happy Wednesday, Everyone!

First things first!  I have an important announcement!

Today is…

(wait for it…)

National Potato Chip Day!!!

This means it’s time for the age-old debate over which is better: ruffled or smooth?  (I hope you all know the correct answer to that (ruffled), but feel free to attempt to convince me otherwise 🙂 You will need to use solid arguments backed by at least 3 primary sources 🙂 )

It is also time to share your favorite potato chip flavor!  For me it’s a three-way tie between sour cream and onion, barbecue, and plain old regular salty chips.

But let’s be honest.  I haven’t met too many potato chips I don’t like. 🙂  (Except salt and vinegar which I think should be banned, not just from the earth but from the entire solar system, but that’s just me 🙂 )  What flavor of chip rocks your world?

And speaking of chips rocking the world, there are picture books about bagels, and picture books about cupcakes, and picture books about sandwiches… but I can’t think of a picture book about a potato chip.  I think the time has come!  You all have your writing prompt for the day… write a picture book where the MC is a potato chip 🙂

Now then!  From chips to chocolate!

Since it’s nearly St. Patrick’s Day, we obviously need something festively green, so how about some no-bake Mint Oreo Cheesecake for our Something Chocolate today?!

No Bake Mint Oreo Cheesecake

Doesn’t that look so chocolatey and minty fresh?!  Plus it’s green which means it’s a vegetable, and that makes it health food 🙂

Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Nadine who says, “I am an elementary librarian in an urban school district and I love my job! I am on the selection committee for the Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award (PA’s state book award) and a wiener dog owner and lover!”

Find her on the web at

 

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Porcupette And Moppet

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

The Pitch: (background information: a young porcupine is called a porcupette and a natural predator of a porcupine is a fisher.)
Pitch: Porcupette knows the importance and joy in reading. When he encounters a sneaky, sly fisher named Moppet, Porcupette outsmarts this predator armed with his quills? No. Porcupette uses his book!

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 Nadine 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 April, 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!

Nadine is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts on potato chips and to reading everyone’s one-sentence pitch for a picture book starring a potato chip!  Ready, GO! 🙂

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 🙂

 

Perfect Picture Book Friday – We Don’t Eat Our Classmates

A heartfelt TGIF to everyone this morning!

Here on Blueberry Hill, spring has arrived, as you can clearly see 🙂

IMG_5288 IMG_5290

What a week!

I am more than ready for the weekend and #5’s visit for her spring break this coming week!

What are you all planning for the weekend?

I have a tons-of-fun book to share today – completely different mood from last week’s! 🙂 – and I can’t wait to show it to you… even though it isn’t due out until June so you’ll have to wait a while to read it.  (I was lucky to receive an advance copy.)

Penelope Rex

Title: We Don’t Eat Our Classmates

Written & Illustrated By: Ryan T. Higgins

Disney-Hyperion, Coming June 2018, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 5-6

Themes/Topics: first day of school, making friends, humor, perspective, dinosaurs

Opening: “Penelope Rex was nervous.  It’s not every day a little T. rex starts school.

Brief Synopsis: It’s the first day of school and poor Penelope is having a tough time making friends…maybe because she keeps eating her classmates!  It takes a little help from Walter the class goldfish to help Penelope see matters from another point of view 🙂

Links To Resources: class, small group, and individual activities for making friends (including a downloadable board game); discuss what makes a friend?; draw a friendly T Rex 🙂

Why I Like This Book: I love this book, not only because of Penelope’s personality, which oozes from every page, or the humor, which is delightful and unexpected, but also because of the wonderful message of empathy and the importance of seeing things from others’ point of view which is delivered in such a fun and unique way.  I’m not even going to tell you about Walter’s role – you’re just going to have to read the book and see for yourself!  This book is fun from cover to cover and I dare you not to love it! 🙂

I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do when you get a chance to read it.  It will be out in June 🙂

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 #276 – Baba Yaga’s Arrful Day (CB)

I don’t know, folks!

The last two times I’ve posted, we’ve gotten slammed with snow!

Friday it resulted in several days of power outages and limping internet.  Today, we’re supposed to get even more snow than last week – some say as much as 18 inches with thunder (Jem Dog hopes not! She does not like thunder, with or without snow!) – so if you don’t hear from me you’ll know the internet got wiped out again!

Or that I’ve taken myself off to somewhere warm and sunny and stopped posting for a while to protect the east coast from further storms.  It’s important that I use my power for good 🙂

But you know the weather clan – they do like to get all dramatic about storms.  So maybe it will be a tempest in a teapot and all we’ll get is a dusting 🙂

I guess we’ll see…

Meanwhile, what better way to greet a snowy day than with Something Chocolate? Chocolate Espresso Cheesecake is looking pretty good…!

Chocolate Espresso Cheesecake

Choc Espresso cheesecake

Recipe HERE at Foodtasia

Mmmm!  Lucious!  Chocolate and coffee in one!  What could be more delicious?!

Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Pat who says, “I read my way through my childhood and teenage years, specializing in books on rabbits (although there are no rabbits in any book I’ve written since). I once worked on a public art project that became a Crimestoppers crime of the week. You can get more details by visiting my website (see below). My main character has been writing a blog (also see below) , which has been way fun, but it can be hard to stop talking like a pirate, ARRRR.”

Find her on the web at
gardenstar@comcast.net
www.patstarzyk.com
blog: www.bababloggayaga.com

 Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Baba Yaga’s Arrful Day

Age/Genre: Chapter Book (ages 7-10)

The Pitch:  When her magic stops working and a shipload of bad things happen, pirate-talking witch Baba Yaga has to think outside the wand if she’s going to turn this arrful day into a chest full of gold doubloons.

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 Pat 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 March, so you could get your pitch up pretty soon for helpful feedback and a chance to have it read and commented on by editor Erin Molta!

Pat is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am STILL looking forward to Spring, even though the weather seems to have other plans!

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 🙂  Stay warm and safe!

 

Perfect Picture Book Friday – The Rabbit Listened

So…

On Wednesday you’ll recall I was waxing poetic about March and Spring…

…and apparently we’re supposed to get 8 inches of snow today!

In like a lion, right? 🙂  I guess March is trying to live up to its reputation!

Grab a cup of hot chocolate and forget the snow for a minute, though, because oh my goodness, do I have a book for you today!

By definition, I love every book I post for Perfect Picture Books, but every once in a while one comes along that is truly special.  And when that special book is written and illustrated by a friend, that’s even more wonderful!  If you haven’t read this one yet, you owe it to yourself and your kids to take a trip to the library or the bookstore this weekend!

Rabbit

Title: The Rabbit Listened

Written & Illustrated By: Cori Doerrfeld

Dial Books For Young Readers, February 2018, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 3-5 (but seriously, this book speaks to all ages!)

Themes/Topics: empathy, emotions/coping with emotions, friendship

Opening: “One day, Taylor decided to build something.
Something new.
Something special.

Brief Synopsis: When something happens to upset Taylor, all the animals try to help.  But none has the right approach until the rabbit, who knows just how to help Taylor feel better.

rabbit 3

text and illustration copyright Cori Doerrfeld 2018

Links To Resources: 5 Circle Time Lessons About Emotions (with activities); Scholastic: My Mini Book Of Feelings (downloadable pdf); talk about how different situations make you feel; talk about how you might help someone who felt angry, sad, or scared, or how you might join in someone’s happiness or excitement; draw pictures of what different emotions mean to you – what does anger look like? or happiness?  or surprise?

Why I Like This Book: Oh my goodness!  What is there not to like – nay, love! – about this wonderful book!  A sweet, simple story told in spare text, with illustrations that shine with emotion, and a situation every child, every person, can relate to.  We have all been upset.  We have all been the recipients of people’s attempts to make us feel better, and we have all done our share of trying to make others feel better.  But how do we know what will help?  Sometimes all someone really needs is quiet friendship and understanding – someone to just listen.  That’s something we can all learn from.  This is definitely one of those “wish I wrote that!” books!  Kudos to Cori for a truly special book!

rabbit 1

text and illustration copyright Cori Doerrfeld 2018

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 #275 – The Love Song of Jubal Jacques (CB)

I have something VERY important to say this morning!

Tomorrow is March!

Doesn’t that just give you a little pick-me-up?

March means the clocks change (a totally stupid system, but let’s not get sidetracked 🙂 ) so in a couple more days we’ll have light into the evening for those lovely after dinner strolls.

And March is the official beginning of Spring

I realize that “official” doesn’t mean Spring actually comes.  Around here, Spring takes its own sweet time and generally wanders in around the 4th week of April 🙂

But just knowing that in a couple of weeks it will officially be Spring is uplifting!

So in the spirit of uplifting, let’s have some cookies, shall we? 🙂

You’ve heard of Chocolate Lava Cake… today, for our Something Chocolate, let’s try Chocolate Lava Cookies!!!

Chocolate Lava Cookies
(like the nice springy green letters I chose?)

Screen Shot 2018-02-27 at 3.13.32 PM

Recipe HERE (including helpful video!) at Tastemade

 

I recommend some coffee, hot chocolate, or milk for dunking!  Delish!  And like the commercials say, they’re part of a complete breakfast with eggs, toast, juice, fruit, pancakes, oatmeal, bacon, maple syrup, bran cereal, Belgian waffles, biscuits, muffins, and a couple of pastries!

Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Ann who recently wowed us in the Valentiny Contest with her wonderful story, The Hope Of Spring, and who says, “I’m a freelance children’s author living in Cygnet, a small town in rural Tasmania. My jazz musician husband and I love being a part of this vibrant, creative community. I write as Carol Ann Martin and am published mainly by Scholastic Australia. Visitors are always welcome at my blog, Carol Ann Martin Spinning Stories for Children, and my Facebook page, Henhugs and Ticklefeathers.”

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: The Love Song of Jubal Jacques

Age/Genre: Chapter Book (folk-style fantasy ages 8 to adult)

The Pitch:  The ten-year-old narrator has been sent to stay with her grandmother on a small, green island, to convalesce after a long illness.

Her Uncle Jubal is in love with the honey-haired lady who lives on the hill. He writes her a beautiful lovesong and sings it to her, but the lady just sits on her verandah and weaves and weaves, never as much as turning her head. How can she be so cruel?

It is the child who finally guesses the secret that will enable Uncle Jubal’s lovesong to reach the honey-haired lady’s heart.

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 Ann 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 March, so you could get your pitch up pretty soon for helpful feedback and a chance to have it read and commented on by editor Erin Molta!

Ann is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  And I (could you tell by the beginning of this blog post?) am looking forward to SPRING! 🙂

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 🙂

2018 Valentiny Contest WINNERS!!!

“The time has come!” the walrus said, “to announce the winners of the 3rd Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest!!!”

Valentiny Writing Contest 2018

Okay.

Maybe that’s not exactly what the walrus said.

I believe he rambled on for a bit about shoes and ships and sealing wax, cabbages and walrus colorkings, why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings…

But I’m pretty sure he was getting around to the Valentiny Contest 🙂

 

 

Anyway…

I know none of you slept for the entire weekend, on tenterhooks (whatever those are… probably something the walrus was also getting around to discussing! 🙂 ) over who the winners would be!

And I’m sure you all rushed to your computers at the earliest possible moment this morning, disregarding bed head and whether or not you had packed the little darlings’ lunches yet, in order to see the results!

So I won’t make you wait another moment!

Well, maybe just one. . .

. . .since as usual I have a couple things to say first… 🙂

As always, I was thrilled to see so many wonderful stories!  (Did I mention there were 160?!)  Really!  It is amazing and inspiring, not to mention VERY entertaining!  There is just so much talent out there amongst you all!  The other judges and I are blown away anew each time!

But with large entry numbers, all of high quality, come hard choices.  My assistant judges and I worked hard to winnow the total down to a manageable number of finalists that we felt were truly all-around deserving of that distinction, and those were the ones we presented to you last week 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 M.I. Shaefer for A Valentine For Maia

Colleen Murphy for He Thought He Could

Laurie Batzel for The Blue Valentine

Jean James for The Princess Frog

David McMullin for Steve

Carolyn Leiloglou for Won’t You Be My ValenSPINE?

 

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

Greg Bray for A Squirrelly Valentine (also funny 🙂 )

Jilanne Hoffman for The Best Valentine’s Day Party Ever

Nina Nolan for Bunny Hugs

 

3. For Excellence In Evoking Powerful Emotion:

Jenna Waldman for Grandpa’s Roses

Amy Frost Davidson for Not Alone

 

4. For Original/Unique/Entertaining POV:

Liz Tipping for The Happy Little Paper (piece of paper – also nice kid appeal)

Matthew Lasley for Puppy Love (excellent job making Jed seem like a dog! 🙂 )

Laura Sealey for A Card With A Heart (card and envelope love story)

Franziska Macur for The Heart Of The Heart

M.S. Nass for Rose And Tulip

Sara Gentry for This Will Be The Year (Gerald turned out to be a gerbil! 🙂 )

 

5. For Humor:

Christine Rodenbour for Sweet Love

 

6. For Favorite Character: 

Rebekah Hoeft for Grumpily Yours (we loved both Vern AND Miss Springtide! 🙂 )

Leah Kolidas for Max’s First Valentine (we loved Max and especially Lulu!)

Katrina Swenson for Grumble’s Best Valentine’s Day Ever (gotta love a troll valentine story 🙂 )

 

7. For Conveying A Great Message:

Mishka Jaeger for Happy Thursday

Ariane Peveto for Special Delivery

 

8. For Beautiful Use of Language:

Alayne Christian for Ladybug Love

 

9.  For More Appealing For Grown-ups But Well-Written And Enjoyable!
(These entries were terrific but either focused on content we felt was more appropriate for over age 12 or that had humor that we considered funnier for adults than kids)

Susan Schade for Valenswine (funny 🙂 )

Susie Sawyer for Valentine For Mom (also funny! 🙂 )

Ryan Roberts for Upside Down Valentine’s Day

 

Congratulations to all of you for fantastic elements of your stories!  You may all email me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com to collect your prize, which is your choice of one of the following: (the titles are all links so you can go see what they’re about) (and if you request a paperback, please include your snail mail address!)

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…

2018 Pocket Calendar (Kittens) OR

2018 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 VALENTINY CONTEST as voted on by you!!!

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…

Mary Warth
for

Red!!!

Congratulations, Mary, on a fabulously written poem that made us feel your character’s hope and embarrassment superbly, was very realistically kid, and was clearly very popular!!! 🙂

In Second Place

Meg Mahoney
for
Valentine Handyman

Congratulations, Meg, on an entry we loved for your MC’s amusingly earnest innocence and sweet desire to help his mom.  Beautifully done!  You get to pick your prize after Mary.

In Third Place

Rachel Dutton
for

Heart-Shaped Butt

Congratulations, Rachel!  You had us rolling on the floor 🙂  You get to pick your prize after Mary and Meg.

In Fourth Place

Stephanie Williams
for

A Valentine For Leaf

Congratulations, Stephanie, on a lovely entry with a unique POV!  You get to pick your prize after Mary, Meg, and Rachel!

In Fifth Place

Lynne Marie
for

A Valentine’s Day For Milton Monster

Congratulations, Lynne, on an all-around well-written and fun entry with great kid appeal!  You get to pick after Mary, Meg, Rachel, and Stephanie!

In Sixth Place

Gabi Snyder
for

The Valentine’s Rooster

Congratulations, Gabi!  You tugged on our heartstrings with your unique spin on a Valentine’s Day pet adoption!  I’m sure you get the idea of how the prize picking goes by now 🙂

In Seventh Place…

Nancy Riley
for
Antsy Valentines

Congratulations, Nancy!  You wrote a fun story with a perfect last line 🙂  You get to pick next 🙂

In Eighth Place…

Becky Shillington
for
Hoping For Snow

Congratulations, Becky!  You captured hoping for a snow day perfectly 🙂  You get to pick after Nancy 🙂

In Ninth Place

Leigh Anne Carter
for
Timberdoodle Valentine

Congratulations, Leigh Anne, on a beautifully written, evocative (and educational!) entry!  You get to pick after Becky 🙂

In Tenth Place

Judy Sobanski
for
Mums The Worm

Congratulations, Judy!  We just loved Wendell and Juanita and the clever way they managed to express their love 🙂  You get to pick after Leigh Anne!

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.  Carol Ann and Beth, if you’d like to choose a prize from the Honorable Mention selection of prizes you are most welcome to!

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

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

Have a marvelous Monday, everyone! 🙂

 

The Prizes:

– a PB manuscript read and critique from Nikki Garcia, assistant editor at Little, Brown!

Nikki-Garcia

Nikki Garcia

– a PB manuscript read and phone call critique with Nicole Otto, assistant editor at MacMillan Children’s Publishing!

Nicole Otto

Nicole Otto

– a PB manuscript critique from the superb multi-published award-winning author/illustrator Iza Trapani

Iza 2014          Old MacDonald
Iza Trapani was born in Poland and moved to the US at age seven.  Her relatives gave her a large Mother Goose Treasury, and she began learning English through those rhymes.  Little did she know that someday her dream would come true and she would become a children’s book author and illustrator.
    Iza’s best selling nursery rhyme extensions, including The Itsy Bitsy Spider, Shoo Fly and Row, Row Row Your Boat are widely used in schools and libraries across the U.S. and abroad. Old MacDonald Had a…Zoo?  is Iza’s latest release. She is currently at work on her 27th picture book, as well as a childhood memoir.
You can learn more about Iza and her books at:

http://izatrapani.com/blog
Facebook
Twitter

– a PB manuscript critique (ms not to exceed 800 words please) along with a follow-up phone call if the author is interested from the lovely and talented Katey Howes, author of Grandmother Thorn (Ripple Grove Press 2017) and Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe (Sterling Children’s Books 2018)

KathrynHeadshots-20 (2)               Magnolia Mudd cover art

– a PB manuscript critique from the fantastic Lynne Marie, author of Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten – illustrated by Anne Kennedy (Scholastic, 2011), Hedgehog’s 100th Day of School – illustrated by Lorna Hussey (Scholastic, January 2017), The Star of the Christmas Play — illustrated by Lorna Hussey (Sparkhouse Family, 2018) and Moldilocks and the 3 Scares (Sterling, pending) . Her stories, poems, folk tales and crafts have appeared in many magazine markets, including Family Fun, Highlights, High Five, Spider, Baby Bug and more. She was a first-round panelis for 2016 Cybils Awards and again, in 2017. In addition, she’s an on-staff writer for Jon and Laura Bard’s Children’s Book Insider and a book reviewer. She lives on a lake in South Florida with her daughter and Anakin, their little Schipperke, as well as several resident water birds. She has offers both critiques and mentorships for writers. You can learn more about her at www.LiterallyLynneMarie.com

Lynne          HH100th

– a PB manuscript critique (non-rhyming please) from the wonderful and amazing Melissa Stoller, author of The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection: Return To Coney Island (Spork 2017)

Melissa Stoller               Return To Coney Island

– a signed copy of Charlie Takes His Shot: How Charlie Sifford Broke The Color Barrier In Golf (Albert Whitman 2018) from fabulous author Nancy Churnin accompanied by a terrific Teacher’s Guide (created by Marcie Colleen)

Nancy Churnin               Charlie Takes His Shot

– a signed copy of Twinderella from Corey Rosen Schwartz AND a signed copy of The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection: Return To Coney Island from Melissa Stoller

Twinderella          Return To Coney Island

– a copy of Laura Purdie Salas’s brand new book Making A Living Writing Books For Kids

Making A Living

– a copy of the 2018 Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market (it’s only February – still very useful!)

Children's Writer's & Illustrators 2018

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

The 3rd Annual Valentiny Contest FINALISTS!!!

So, there we were.

A group of esteemed judges gathered around our computers, armed to the teeth with cafe au lait and heart-shaped double chocolate brownies, chatting away about entries, extremely hopeful that we would reach a unanimous decision on the Valentiny finalists in a timely fashion…

…except Judge #1 ended up with a whole lot of extra family stuff – some expected, some not…

…Judge #2 had sudden unexpected actual job-related work that had to be attended to (since getting fired would adversely affect their ability to pay the rent)…

…and Judge #3 has a new puppy and is therefore suffering from extreme sleep deprivation! 🙂

Judge #4 was the only one showing up to get the job done!

As a group, we were less available, organized (and awake 🙂 ) then we’d intended!

Add to that the fact that you guys wrote such overall great entries that you threw us into a total tailspin over narrowing the field and it’s no wonder it took us so long to come up with a list of finalists!  It is possible that some of us (who shall not be mentioned!) are still arguing over the finalist decision, feeling that there were other deserving entries that could have been included!

But at a certain point (preferably before the 4th of July) decisions have to be made and finalists have to be posted.

So here we are on Wednesday evening instead of Monday morning.

But we’re here!  That’s the main thing, right?

And it is my pleasure to present to you . . .

The 3rd Annual Valentiny Writing Contest

Valentiny Writing Contest 2018

FINALISTS!!!

And may I just say, once again, that the quality of entries in these contests is improving every time.  This means there are fewer obvious standouts, almost none that are easy to cut, and there a LOT of very good ones that we have to get very nit-picky over!  It is agony, I tell you!  Agony!

Before we get to the actual list of finalists, I have a couple things to say.  (I know you’re shocked as I’m normally so spare with my words :))

First of all, I want to thank EVERYONE who took the time and care to write an entry for this contest.  You all did a fabulous job and provided great enjoyment for so many!

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 214 words if you like and maybe submit at some point to a magazine or as a PB manuscript.  So bravo to everyone who entered!

Now.  Onto the judging criteria which were as follows:

  1. Kid-appeal/Kid-friendliness – remember, this is a story for kids!
  2. Creativity in using hopefulness and success in making us feel the hope! (Not enough just to use the word hope!)
  3. Valentine’s Day appropriateness – this is a VALENTINE story and as such must feel like it is connected to Valentine’s Day/has something to do with it being Valentine’s!
  4. Quality of story – we will look for basic story elements and a true story arc
  5. Quality of writing – use and flow of language, correctness of mechanics
  6. Originality – surprise us with something new and different! 🙂

We really tried to choose stories that did the best job of fulfilling ALL the judging criteria.  There were some truly wonderful stories that didn’t have much to do with Valentines Day even if Valentine’s Days was mentioned in passing – they just didn’t seem connected to Valentines – or that didn’t seem to really showcase hope although they may have used the word “hope”, or that didn’t seem particularly kid-oriented even though they were very creative and well-written, or that really had us…until the last line or two when things sadly fell apart.  We tried our best to select finalists that checked all the boxes.

So without further ado, I present to you the finalists in the 2018 Third Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest!  Please read through them carefully, take your time, think it over, and vote for your favorite in the poll below by Sunday February 25 at 12 PM (noon) Eastern time.

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 littlest velociraptor  with the biggest hopeful heart 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.

#1  A Valentine for Leaf

Leaf had been dangling alone from a branch all winter. He watched his friends get called down to the earth one by one. He trembled in the wind, hoping for his chance. Would the earth ever call him down?

“I can’t believe I’m still up here. I hope Earth wants me at all,” he thought with a frown.

Leaf spotted children on their way to school. They held paper hearts and cards. “Happy Valentine’s Day!” they shouted to the mailman across the street.

“Valentine’s Day? We’re half way through February!” Leaf imagined all the leaves snuggling with the earth, whispering sweet nothings to one another. He was losing hope.

He pitied himself for the next few hours. Suddenly, he felt a breeze. And then a snap! Leaf was floating down. He was being called!

Leaf smiled as he picked a spot to land. “What’s that? A heart? A Valentine just for me!”

Sure enough, there was a gray heart moving across the earth below Leaf. The heart got smaller and smaller until he landed right on top of it.

“Oh, Earth! What a special Valentine you gave me! You do want me after all!” Leaf closed his eyes and nuzzled the Earth in a big hug. “I never gave up hope! Happy Valentine’s Day.”

#2 The Valentine’s Rooster

At the animal shelter, Rooster trembled.

His Valentine’s wish was for someone to take him home and love him.

On the inside, Rooster was as soft and cuddly as a chick.

But when people stopped at Rooster’s cage, they only saw his outside.

“He was a fighting rooster.”

“Looks mean.”

“Ugly.”

Rooster’s heart sank. Maybe he was unlovable.

The day before Valentine’s Day, a girl stopped at Rooster’s cage. “He’s trembling. Why is he all alone?”

“He’d peck another animal,” answered a man.

Rooster slumped. He would always be alone.

“Could a person hold him?” she asked.

Maybe I can be loveable. I’ll show her!

Rooster cocked his head and cooed.

Only his coo came out as “BAWK!”

“See?” said the man. “Ornery.”

“I’m not sure…” said the girl.

Then the girl went away, and night came.

Long. Dark. Lonely.

But a peck of hope had lodged in Rooster’s heart.

In the morning, the girl returned. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Rooster!”

The girl stroked his neck, and Rooster almost stopped trembling.

“Ahh,” she said. “You’re a lover, not a fighter.”

Rooster snuggled into the girl’s arms.

She rocked him and sang, “Rock-a-bye Rooster…”

He trilled softly and closed his eyes.

“You’re going home with me,” she whispered.

And Rooster lived happily, and cuddly, ever after.

#3 Valentine Handyman

 

Mom’s been quiet since Grampa died. Sometimes I see tears on her cheeks.

Dad says she’ll be ok, but that her heart is broken.

I know that it must be serious because I know hearts are important. I wonder if it hurts.

At school we decorated paper Valentine’s hearts. Mine ripped when I was cutting it out and I was mad that it was ruined. Miss Kelly taped it together but it’s not the same.

I bring Mom some tape.

She smiles, but she’s just not the same either.

I bring her a Band-Aid. Band-Aids make my cuts feel better.

Maybe it’s broken enough to need super glue.

Maybe a hammer and nails. Or a screwdriver. Or a drill.

I don’t know how to fix a heart.

As I’m falling asleep I see my Valentine heart poking out of my backpack. When I tiptoe into Mom and Dad’s room to leave it for Mom, I find her sitting on the edge of the bed. I crawl up beside her and I hand her my heart. I climb into her lap and listen to stories about Grampa. When we snuggle I know her heart is less broken because I can hear it working: tha-thump, tha-thump. Maybe it was the tape?

#4 The Hope Of Spring

Little Miss Bright-eyes Chickaree

hopped out of her nest in the cottonwood tree.

She was kind of hoping it would soon be spring

And all the birds would start to sing.

 

The sky would be blue, the sun would shine

And she would dance with her Valentine.

 

But Jack Frost nipped her nose and her toes

She snuffled and sneezed and her whiskers froze.

“I’m sure spring will soon be here,” she said

as she popped back into her cosy bed.

 

A day or two later she looked out again.

This time she was soaked by the icy rain.

“Forget about spring,” cried the squirrel next door.

“Winter will stay for evermore!”

 

Poor little Bright-eyes Chickaree,

hid in her nest in the cottonwood tree.

The world was wintry, cold and grey,

But surely spring would arrive one day!

On Valentine’s morning she opened her eyes

And goodness gracious, what a surprise!

 

Squirrel Bushtail was there at her door,

With a posy of flowers clasped in his paw.

“Oh, Miss Bright-eyes, look what I found.

“Snowdrops poking their heads through the ground.

“When these brave little flowers start to appear

“We can be sure that spring is almost here!”

 

“The sky will be blue, the sun will shine,

“And I’ll dance with you, sweet Valentine!

 

#5  A VALENTINE’S DAY FOR MILTON MONSTER 

“Go on ahead, Matilda,” Milton prodded.

“What are you up to?” asked his sister.

“Searching for worms,” said Milton.

Alone, he emptied his backpack. Hopefully, I’ll get others to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Even if I need to sway them one monster at a time.

He counted supplies.

Chocolate candy

Fuzzy lovey

Red roses

Mushy card

Check!

He placed the gifts, then peeked from behind a tombstone.

Myrtle Magog stopped, read and ran. AHHHHHHHHHH!!!

Milton wilted.

He sifted through the toppled trinkets.

Too sweet?

Too fluffy?

Too rosy?

Too mushy?

With a heavy heart, he headed to school.

“I saw what you’re up to,” said Matilda. “Holidays are for humans. No monster eats chocolate hearts. YUK!”

“Thanks for the idea!” Milton exclaimed.

“Oh, no!” said Matilda.

Hope soaring, Milton raced off.

He dug and dipped.

He snipped and sewed.

He ruined and rhymed.

After school, Matilda found several items by her cubby:

Chocolate-covered worms,

a zombie doll,

a thorn bouquet and

a card:

Candy is rotten,

Presents are worse.

To my great horror,

I’m writing in verse.

Be my Malentine!

Slugs and Hisses,

Milton

“So maybe  Malentine’s Day isn’t the worst idea ever.” Matilda took a bite of her chocolate-covered worms. “Yum, not bad.”

Milton smiled from his hiding spot. One monster at a time…

 

#6  HOPING FOR SNOW

When Dad says, “There’s a chance of snow!”

I dance around and whoop and cheer.

But just as I begin to hope,

I think, “We never get snow here.”

 

My Valentines are neatly stacked.

I’ve made each friend a special treat.

So if it doesn’t snow tonight,

at least school will be fun and sweet!

 

When Mom and Dad tuck me in bed,

I toss and turn and sigh all night.

As minutes tick-tock off my clock,

I peek outside and look for white.

 

Then suddenly, tomorrow’s here.

Mom sings, “It’s time to rise and shine!”

I look outside again. No snow.

But here’s a lovely Valentine!

 

At school, my friends have sleepy eyes;

it looks like no one slept last night.

“No snow—no FAIR,” they all complain.

“There goes our epic snowball fight!”

 

“Cheer up!” I say. “It STILL might snow—

the news guy said so on TV.”

I hand each friend an envelope.

“Now here’s a special treat from me!”

 

They open up their Valentines

and smile when they see what’s inside:

a cookie heart for everyone

and heart-shaped snowflakes made with pride.

 

“Let’s find some string and hang these up.

We’ll make it snow ourselves,” I say.

But as we work, I look outside.

“It’s snowing now for real! HOORAY!”

 

#7 Heart-Shaped Butt

“Help!” hollered Hen, “I must make a valentine for Cow, so she’ll love me and let me ride around on her magnificent horns. But look at this place! There’s not a speck of glitter or a scrap of ribbon! No red paper, no glue!”

“How about a feed sack and string?” Suggested Cat.

“UGH,” moped Hen. “Those horns deserve fabulous, not feed sack.”

“Scratch a heart in the dirt!”

“Dirt?! She’ll walk right through it and break my heart.”

“Heart-shaped haystack?”

No, no, no, Hen moaned hopelessly.

“Well,” Cat said, “even if you can’t make a valentine, you still have the biggest butt in the whole barn. It’s fantabulous! It’s glorious! It’s the fluffiest butt ever!”

Hen sighed, comforted. She did have the fluffiest butt.

A red feather fell from the rafters, one of Hen’s own.

She shoved her butt in Cat’s face. “My butt! Is it heart-shaped?”

“Um…kinda?”

Hen primped and preened and braided all night.

She waited on the fence for the sun to rise. As Cow came over the hill, Hen presented the prettiest, poofiest, floofiest valentine the farm had ever seen.

“Will you be my valentine?”

Cow swooned. She’d been feeling so unappreciated.

Hen perched her glorious behind on Cows magnificent horns, and off they went, best friends forever.

#8  Red

She read my face,

with just one look.

My bright red face-

an open book!

Red cheeks

Red chin

Red neck

Red nose.

She read my face

And now she knows.

I sent the card,

without my name.

but now my face

takes all the blame.

Red hearts

Red paint

Red “X”

Red “O”s

She read them all

And now she knows.

I hope that what my good friend read,

will please, please stay inside her head!

She gave a nod, a smile, a wink.

My bright red face cooled down to pink.

#9 MUMS THE WORM

Wendell Worm squiggled up to the Valentine’s Day cards.

A sign said, SOLD OUT!

“Oh NO!” thought Wendell. “How will I let Juanita Worm know I want her to be my Valentine?
Worms don’t talk. We can only think.
I have no feet so I can’t dance to show my feelings.
I have no hands to write down a love poem.
I hope I can think of some way to let Juanita know I want her for my Valentine!”

Wendell thought and thought. Before long he was all twisted up into a knot. That’s when he came up with his plan.

Soon, Juanita came inching up the sidewalk.

“Here goes,” thought Wendell.

He turned and squirmed until from one end to his other end he formed a heart.

When Juanita saw what Wendell did she thought, “That’s the sweetest thing any worm has ever done!”

She stretched herself straight across the heart to show Wendell that Cupid’s arrow had struck her, too. She loved Wendell!

Together, Wendell and Juanita wriggled off to spend the rest of their lives together digging in the earth.

Sometimes, on rainy days, whenever they get washed up onto the sidewalk, Wendell twists himself into a heart and Juanita stretches herself into an arrow…just to show their squirmy, wormy love.

#10  Timberdoodle Valentine

“I hope the Timberdoodle finds his Valentine,” I say.

We are going to watch the birds in the field that gets smaller every year. It’s Valentine’s Day.

“We have to be there before sunrise,” Mom says. “That’s when the Timberdoodles show off their sky dance.”

Quietly, we walk along the path. No one else is awake.

The tall grass tickles my hands. I see lights beside the field.

“It used to be very dark here in the mornings. Those houses are new,” Mom whispers, worried. “The birds need lots of land to survive.”

Will the Timberdoodle be able to find his Valentine?

“Let’s listen,” she whispers. “He will dance, and she will watch.”

We wait in the cold dark. And wait. And wait.

My ears hope to hear. My eyes hope to see.

“Peent!…Peent!…Peent!” a bird calls from the dark grass.

“It’s them! They’re here!” I whisper. Will he dance?

SWISH. I see him lift from the ground, and my heart soars with him. He flies high over our heads.

I hear his wings twittering like music. His sky dance makes a big circle, and he lands.

“Did he find his Valentine?” I ask.

“Peent!” the Timberdoodle calls again. Two dark shapes waddle away.

“I think he did!” Mom answers.

The sun wakes up.

#11  Antsy Valentines

“Oh no!” Mason stared at the calendar on the anthill wall. “Valentine’s Day and I didn’t get a gift for Abeegail. She’ll be stinging mad if I show up empty-legged,” he moaned. “I hope I find something on the way to school!”

He searched the meadow for clover, Abeegail’s favorite flower. Nothing, only dead grass and crunchy leaves. He checked the flower shop, but they didn’t sell clover. Losing hope, Mason walked on in the cold February wind. “My feelers are going to freeze and fall off.” He scurried across the playground, staring up at the giant humans on their way to school.

Plop! Clickity plop! Candies tumbled from a girl’s backpack. One crashed in front of him and he smacked into it. His six legs tangled together. He stared at the purple candy. “This is perfect!” he exclaimed. Mason grabbed the treat and dashed to his classroom.

“There you are,” said Abeegail, buzzing over to him. “I was getting antsy waiting for you,” she giggled. “Get it? Ant-sy?” She handed him a tiny jar, “Honey from my beehive.”

“Thanks,” said Mason, blushing. “Happy Valentine’s Day,” he said, handing her his gift. “Hope you like it.”

“I love it,” cried Abeegail, as she read the words on the purple candy heart. “Bee Mine.”

#12  A Fur-Ever Valentine

Cleo licked her paw and smoothed her fur for the tenth time. She wasn’t a kitten anymore, but it could still happen.
A family with three loud little boys passed by the banner reading “Adopt a Valentine”. Cleo shrunk back against the wall. Not them.
She returned the stare of a round lady with thick glasses. The lady smelled like so many other cats it made Cleo’s fur stand up a little. No way.
Cleo batted at the shiny red hearts taped to her fence and waited.
“Awww, look. She’s playing with the decorations!” The little girl was barely big enough to bend over the fence, but she smelled good. Maybe?
The girl held out her hand and waited for her. Cleo liked that.
“The sign says that her name is Cleo,” said the girl’s mother.
The little girl smiled. “Hi, Cleo! I’m Molly. You’re a pretty kitty,”
That was a good start. Cleo walked over to the edge of the pen and gave Molly’s hand a little bump. “She’s friendly,” Molly said, petting Cleo’s back.
“Can we take her home, Mommy?”
Cleo wrapped herself tightly around Molly’s arm and rubbed her nose against her hand.
Molly’s mother laughed. “I think that’s a yes, sweetie.”
Cleo purred. She was going to her fur-ever home.

 

Wow!  Those were impressive, weren’t they?  Good luck picking! 🙂

Please vote for your favorite in the poll below by Sunday February 25 at 12 PM (noon) Eastern time.

Tune in Monday February 26 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!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to lie on the couch and eat bonbons to recover from all that reading and agonizing and negotiating.

Okay.

Not really.

I will actually be frantically trying to catch up on things I shoved to the back burner whilst reading Valentiny stories… but I could probably manage a few bonbons at least 🙂

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! . . . now that it’s basically Thursday 🙂

With Hopeful Heart! – The 3rd Annual Valentiny Writing Contest!!!

Update February 19 – Sorry folks!  We need more time to make our decisions between all these amazing entries!  I will get the finalists up just as soon as I can!!!

Roses are red

Violets are blue

Valentinies rock

And so do YOU!

Hang onto your chocolate everyone!  It’s time for . . .

The Third Annual Pretty Much World Famous
Valentiny Writing Contest!!!

Valentiny Writing Contest 2018

Valen-tiny because the stories are not very long and are written for little people 🙂

The Contest:  since writing for children is all about “big emotion for little people” (I forget who said that, but someone did so I put it in quotes!) and Valentines Day is all about emotion, write a Valentines story appropriate for children (children here defined as ages 12 and under) maximum 214 words in which someone is hopeful!  Your someone can hope for something good or something bad.  Your story can be poetry or prose, sweet, funny, surprising or anything in between, but it will only count for the contest if it includes someone hopeful (can be the main character but doesn’t have to be) and is 214 words (get it? 2/14 for Valentines Day 🙂  You can go under the word count but not over! (Title is not included in the word count.)  If you are so inclined, you are welcome to enter more than one entry – just remember you’ll be competing against yourself 🙂  No illustration notes please!

Post your story on your blog between right now this very second and Wednesday February 14th by 11:59 PM EDT and add your post-specific link on the form below.  There will be no Would You Read It or PPBF this week, so the post and the list of links will stay up for everyone to enjoy.  If you don’t have a blog and would like to enter, you can simply copy and paste your entry in the comments section below. (Or, if you have difficulty with the comments, which unfortunately sometimes happens, you may email your entry to me and I’ll post it for you!  susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com ) Please copy and paste your entry into the body of the email – no attachments!  Please only post your entry ONCE! Either on your blog and the associated link list, or in the comment section of my post!  Otherwise it gets confusing 🙂

The Judging: My lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to 6-10 top choices depending on number and quality of entries (hee hee hee – you know how much trouble I have with the narrowing, so we’ll see) which will be posted here and voted on for a winner on Monday February 19th (or possibly Tuesday February 20th if the judges need extra time.)   The winner will be announced by Friday February 23rd. (And there will be no WYRI or PPBF that week either so that everyone will have time to read and vote and so that we don’t confuse PPBF with announcing winners.)  The dates of the judging/voting/winner announcements are subject to finagling depending on how much time the judges actually end up needing!

Judging criteria will include:

  1. Kid-appeal/Kid-friendliness – remember, this is a story for kids!
  2. Creativity in using hopefulness and success in making us feel the hopefulness!
  3. Valentine’s Day appropriateness – this is a VALENTINE story!
  4. Quality of story – we will look for basic story elements and a true story arc
  5. Quality of writing – use and flow of language, correctness of mechanics, excellence of rhyme and meter if you use it.
  6. Originality – surprise us with something new and different! 🙂

The Prizes:  Oh, boy, do we have some GREAT prizes!  I feel certain you are all highly motivated to compete for these!!!

– a PB manuscript read and critique from Nikki Garcia, assistant editor at Little, Brown!

Nikki-Garcia

Nikki Garcia

– a PB manuscript read and phone call critique with Nicole Otto, assistant editor at MacMillan Children’s Publishing!

Nicole Otto

Nicole Otto

– a PB manuscript critique from the superb multi-published award-winning author/illustrator Iza Trapani

Iza 2014          Old MacDonald
Iza Trapani was born in Poland and moved to the US at age seven.  Her relatives gave her a large Mother Goose Treasury, and she began learning English through those rhymes.  Little did she know that someday her dream would come true and she would become a children’s book author and illustrator.
    Iza’s best selling nursery rhyme extensions, including The Itsy Bitsy Spider, Shoo Fly and Row, Row Row Your Boat are widely used in schools and libraries across the U.S. and abroad. Old MacDonald Had a…Zoo?  is Iza’s latest release. She is currently at work on her 27th picture book, as well as a childhood memoir.
You can learn more about Iza and her books at:

http://izatrapani.com/blog
Facebook
Twitter

– a PB manuscript critique (ms not to exceed 800 words please) along with a follow-up phone call if the author is interested from the lovely and talented Katey Howes, author of Grandmother Thorn (Ripple Grove Press 2017) and Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe (Sterling Children’s Books 2018)

KathrynHeadshots-20 (2)               Magnolia Mudd cover art

– a PB manuscript critique from the fantastic Lynne Marie, author of Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten – illustrated by Anne Kennedy (Scholastic, 2011), Hedgehog’s 100th Day of School – illustrated by Lorna Hussey (Scholastic, January 2017), The Star of the Christmas Play — illustrated by Lorna Hussey (Sparkhouse Family, 2018) and Moldilocks and the 3 Scares (Sterling, pending) . Her stories, poems, folk tales and crafts have appeared in many magazine markets, including Family Fun, Highlights, High Five, Spider, Baby Bug and more. She was a first-round panelis for 2016 Cybils Awards and again, in 2017. In addition, she’s an on-staff writer for Jon and Laura Bard’s Children’s Book Insider and a book reviewer. She lives on a lake in South Florida with her daughter and Anakin, their little Schipperke, as well as several resident water birds. She has offers both critiques and mentorships for writers. You can learn more about her at www.LiterallyLynneMarie.com

Lynne          HH100th

– a PB manuscript critique (non-rhyming please) from the wonderful and amazing Melissa Stoller, author of The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection: Return To Coney Island (Spork 2017)

Melissa Stoller               Return To Coney Island

– a signed copy of Charlie Takes His Shot: How Charlie Sifford Broke The Color Barrier In Golf (Albert Whitman 2018) from fabulous author Nancy Churnin accompanied by a terrific Teacher’s Guide (created by Marcie Colleen)

Nancy Churnin               Charlie Takes His Shot

– a signed copy of Twinderella from Corey Rosen Schwartz AND a signed copy of The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection: Return To Coney Island from Melissa Stoller

Twinderella          Return To Coney Island

– a copy of Laura Purdie Salas’s brand new book Making A Living Writing Books For Kids

Making A Living

– a copy of the 2018 Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market (it’s only February – still very useful!)

Children's Writer's & Illustrators 2018

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

Now.

I’m afraid the time has come for my sample (because I would never ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do myself 🙂 )

Brace yourselves for mediocrity 🙂  (I recommend a large quantity of chocolate to get you through – perhaps a dump truck load or so?) and prepare for the return of Boris and Irma (who appeared in the inaugural Valentiny 🙂 )

A Hopeful Kind Of Valentine
(214 words on the nose!)

Three days before Valentine’s, Irma made her list.

“I will make 32 valentines!” she announced. “How many are you making, Boris?”

“Zero,” said Boris.

“Spoilsport,” said Irma. “I hope Norman’s not a spoilsport.”

Irma cut construction paper.

“Are you making pink hearts or red hearts,” she asked.

“Neither,” said Boris.

“Party pooper,” said Irma. “I hope Norman’s not a party pooper.”

The day before Valentine’s, Irma decorated. Confetti hearts and glitter flew everywhere.

Boris ignored her.

But then she said, “I hope Norman will be my Valentine.” She sounded so wishful that Boris looked at her thoughtfully. He had doubts about Norman.

Boris made a list.

On Valentine’s Day, Irma clutched her valentines. “I hope Norman will give me a valentine,” she told Boris on the school bus.

Boris worried.

Tears rolled silently down Irma’s cheeks all the way home. She went right to her room.

Boris went right to work.

At dinner, Irma sat with her eyes downcast and said nothing.

Although Valentine’s was stupid, Boris didn’t want Irma to be sad.  If only his plan would work.

He set the pink-frosted, heart-shaped chocolate cake he had made in front of Irma.

“It’s not Norman, but Happy Valentine’s Day,” he said.

“It’s perfect,” said Irma, hugging him.

“Yuck,” said Boris, but he smiled.

❤               ❤               ❤               ❤               ❤               ❤               ❤

Everyone feeling better about their stories now?  I should certainly HOPE so! 🙂  After that horror show you can post yours with certainty that yours is better! 🙂

I can’t wait to read all of yours!  I’m SO looking forward to them!  I hope there will be LOTS – 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!!!  Also, have I mentioned the number of people who have gotten agents or sold manuscripts to editors based on the writing contest entries over the years?  There are quite a few!  One of these days I’ll figure out how many and do a blog post 🙂

So!

Contest Entrants, remember to add your post-specific link to the list 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!)  Please allow a few minutes and possibly refresh your browser before deciding that your link hasn’t posted and adding it a second time or emailing it to me.

Eager Readers – click on the links in the list to visit the blogs and read the stories.  And be sure to read the 76 fabulous entries posted in the comment section below!!!

Happy Valentines Week, Everyone! ❤

Scroll through the comments to find these wonderful stories!

  1. Victoria’s Valentine – Susan
  2. Victor’s Valentine’s Day Surprise – Sharmaine
  3. You – Jennifer B
  4. the most amazing fantastic special Valentine ever – Erin
  5. The Lost Dog Dilemma – Chris
  6. Thank You – Katelyn
  7. Positively Paulina – Nancy
  8. A Day In The Life Of Cupid – Marty
  9. Rose And Tulip – M.S.
  10. The Valentine Monster Crash – Megan
  11. Valenswine – Susan
  12. Top Secret Valentine – Marie
  13. Tiny the Pony Wants to be Special – Kaye
  14. Grandma’s Cookies – Deborah
  15. This Will Be The Year – Sara
  16. Who Sent This Valentine? – Marie
  17. Hope In A Jar – Anne
  18. A Fur-Ever Valentine – Beth
  19. A Card With A Heart – Laura
  20. Upside Down Valentine’s Day – Ryan
  21. Not Alone – Amy
  22. Valentine’s Day Strike – Chambrae
  23. I Love Ewe – Kirsten
  24. A Valentine’s Day Adventure – Sarah H
  25. Adeline’s Hope – Carmen
  26. Snowy Owl Valentine Delivery – Kathleen
  27. A Valentine Snowman – Rebecca
  28. The Heart Art Contest – Marie
  29. The Right Valentine – Lauren
  30. The Red Envelope – Karen
  31. First Grade Love – Darcee
  32. Mama’s Purple Heart – Anne B
  33. Valentine’s Day With The Deli Family – Sandra
  34. Valentine-Making Time – Robin
  35. Unexpected Valentine – Brian
  36. The Valentine Tree – Jenny B
  37. Valentine Treat – Judy V
  38. A Purrfect Valentine – Mia
  39. Eliza’s Broken Heart – Anne S
  40. Porcupine’s Gift – Jim
  41. Hope’s Valentine – Nancy R
  42. Yellow And Blue Valentines – Marty
  43. Tootsie The Wonder Dog’s Valentiny Poem – Kathy
  44. Sakie’s Flock – Gayle
  45. Teddy’s Valentine’s Day – Deb
  46. Dear Daughter – Sandra S
  47. Mum’s The Word – Judy S
  48. Hope Floats – Jen B
  49. Charlotte’s New School – M.R.
  50. The Valentine Genie – Anne S
  51. Triple The Love – Brandi
  52. Emily’s Big Idea – Beth
  53. Red – Mary
  54. The Valentine Hat – Gwen
  55. Winston Wins! – Corine
  56. Bamboo Panda’s Special Surprise – Liz
  57. Oh No! Where Did It Go? – Mona
  58. Sweet Love – Christine
  59. You Rock! – Karla
  60. Picture Perfect – Tiffany
  61. Bunny Hugs – Nina
  62. Timberdoodle Valentine – Leigh Anne
  63. Valentine For Mom – Susie
  64. The Muddy Valentine – Karen
  65. Chocolaty Delight – Gina
  66. Valentine Handyman – Meg
  67. Daisy Power – Patricia
  68. Cupid’s Graduation Wish – Lucretia
  69. Huggle And Snug – Stephanie V
  70. My Valentine – Kurt
  71. Cupid’s Candy Craving—Marvin’s Valentine’s Surprise – Lucretia 
  72. A Pirate Valentine – Ingrid
  73. Lily’s Leg – Stephanie K
  74. If I Gave A Witch A Valentine – Amber
  75. Bunnies’ Heart-Shaped Hopes – Jen R
  76. Grumble’s Best Valentine’s Day Ever – Katrina

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Here Comes Valentine Cat

Hurray!  It’s Friday!

That means Perfect Picture Books AND…

…that the Valentiny Writing Contest opens tomorrow!!!

I know we all have tons to do (er… it’s possible some of us may not have even given a moment’s thought to their sample entry yet! 🙂 ), so let’s get right to today’s pick!  I’m sure it’s been done before, but I love it so I’m doing it too 🙂

Valentine Cat

Title: Here Comes Valentine Cat

Written By: Deborah Underwood

Illustrated By: Claudia Rueda

Dial Books for Young Readers, December 2015, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 3-6

Themes/Topics: holidays (Valentines Day), misunderstanding, friendship, humor

Opening: “Hey, Cat!
Any Valentine’s Day plans?”

Brief Synopsis: Cat does NOT like Valentine’s Day. It’s much too mushy, and no way is he making anyone a valentine—especially not his new neighbor, Dog who clearly has no understanding of how to behave!  But maybe it’s Cat who is misunderstanding Dog’s intent!

Links To Resources: make Valentines! 🙂  Use colored construction paper, stickers, glitter and glue, markers and paint, fancy doilies too!  Anything goes!  Write a Valentine poem!  Try starting with “Roses are red, violets are blue” if you need a nudge 🙂

Why I Like This Book:  I love all of Deborah Underwood’s Cat books – they are so funny!  I love Cat’s grumpy personality and sly humor.  And I love Claudia Rueda’s art – especially her skill with facial expression.  This is a story kids will relate to well.  Many kids feel as Cat does that Valentine’s Day is way too mushy 🙂  And haven’t we all been in situations where we misunderstood the actions of others, or had our own behaviors misunderstood?  Cat resolves the problem in this story… but he doesn’t go mushy!  He gets the last word as always 🙂

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!!! 🙂

See you tomorrow for the Valentiny Writing Contest!!!