The 12th Annual Holiday Contest Finalists Are HERE!!! – VOTE For Your Favorite!!!

Oh my fur and whiskers! I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!

Okay. It was really the White Rabbit who said that first, but it is very true for me, too, so let’s just go with it!

Due to the fact that it is December 20, and we have 15 finalists because there are 15 fabulous and generously donated prizes, and the Holiday Contest entries are a bit longer than the Halloweensie ones, we will skip all the joking around and get straight to the finalists!

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Tuesday Debut – Presenting Royal Baysinger!

Welcome to today’s edition of Tuesday Debut, everyone!

I realized, as I’m in the habit of introducing authors here as “Debut-esses”, that today’s debut is only the 3rd man to be presented in our series so far. Out of 105! (The others being Matthew Lasley way back at #12, and John Bray, #97, in case you’re interested 😊) I guess that’s an indication of how much more prevalent women are in the world of picture book writing!

This publication journey is also interesting because the author and illustrator submitted as a team, which is pretty unusual.

So, without further ado, I’m delighted to present Royal Baysinger and his debut picture book, KASANOVA – LOST IN LOVE!

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Tuesday Debut – Presenting Phyllis Harris! PLUS A Giveaway!

Hello, my friends!

It’s Tuesday Debut Day once again!

If you haven’t voted for your favorite HALLOWEENSIE CONTEST FINALIST yet, you still have until 7 PM Eastern this evening! Please hop over HERE and vote – we need all the votes we can get to break ties!

Thanksgiving is behind us and the holidays are coming which is just perfect for today’s debut picture book, THE GIFT SHOP BEAR, and debut author/illustrator Phyllis Harris, who has graciously come by to share her journey to publication with us (including a glimpse of her lovely work space which will have you all goggle-eyed with envy 😊)

So let’s meet Phyllis and have a look at this sweet holiday book! She is kindly offering a giveaway copy (US residents only) so if you leave a comment on this post, you could be a winner!!!


Author/Illustrator, Phyllis Harris
WorthyKids/Hachette Book Group
Published 10/26/22
Fiction for ages 4-7

All year long, Bear watches from his spot in the attic as the seasons change, waiting for the first snowflakes that signify Christmas is coming. You see, at Christmastime, Bear gets to join his special friend, Annie, in the festivities in her grandma’s gift shop. But this year is different–the gift shop is closing and Bear’s future seems uncertain. Will Bear see Annie and Nana again?

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for joining us today, Phyllis! We are thrilled to have you and your beautiful debut picture book which is so perfect for this time of year! Where did the idea for this book come from?

PHYLLIS: I was babysitting my granddaughter when she was 3 or 4 years old and we were looking through her mother’s old toybox and came across her old teddy bear. She immediately felt so sad for this bear because her had been left alone in this dark box for all these years with no one to love and care for him. At that moment, I knew I had a new story idea!

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

PHYLLIS: The story idea came about when my granddaughter was 4 and it was just published last October when she was 8 years old so it took about 4 years to publication. However, that also included finding and signing with my agent, Adria Goetz and then us working through edits to prepare it for submission. Once it went out on submission it took 10 or 11 months before we got the offer.

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

PHYLLIS: The actual writing process included many rounds of revisions with the help of my critique partners. Also, it didn’t start out as a Christmas book.  The original setting was a book store but when I realized the store would be closing, it was too depressing to have a book store go out of business so I changed it to Nana’s Gift Shop closing because of her retiring which made for a much kinder plot and that’s when I realized it had to be a Christmas book!

Phyllis’s gorgeous work space and her work buddy, Brinkley. (Named after the dog in her favorite movie, YOU’VE GOT MAIL. 😊

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

PHYLLIS: I knew it was close to being ready when I got the interest of my agent on a Twitter contest. That gave me the boost of confidence I needed and then after I signed with her, we tweaked it a bit more before it went out on submission.

Phyllis working in her art studio

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

PHYLLIS: My goal was to be an author/illustrator of picture books, so when I had a few stories ready in book dummy form, I decided to try some of the Twitter contests. I entered #PBPitch and #FaithPitch since one of my books was faith based. Fortunately, I had some interest from a few agents and an editor and that’s when my agent first showed interest in my faith-based book and wanted to see what other books I had to offer so I sent her the book dummy for THE GIFT SHOP BEAR and she loved it. She didn’t offer representation right then but gave me the invitation to send her more once I had more to offer. Eventually a year or so later, I did have more to offer and after getting interest from 3 agents, I decided Adria Goetz was the perfect fit for me.

SUSANNA: How long after you found out about your book going to acquisitions (if you did) or after you submitted were you told it was a “yes”?

PHYLLIS: We got an email from Peggy Schaefer, Associate Publisher of WorthyKids, asking if it was still available on June 10th and then were told it was being submitted to the next acquisitions meeting and we got an offer July 22.

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”, which these days is more likely to be “the email”?  (Best moment ever! 😊)

PHYLLIS: It truly was the best moment ever! My agent called with the news of the offer and I remember seeing her name come up on the caller ID and trying not to lose it when I answered.  She had previously shared with me via email that it had gone to acquisitions but I also knew that lots of books go to acquisitions and don’t end up getting acquired so I was trying to prepare myself for whatever the outcome would be.

Peggy Schaefer, Associate Publisher at WorthyKids had shown interest the previous year but couldn’t make an offer then because they weren’t ready to start acquiring for their new list yet and she didn’t want to hold me up in case I had other interest. I had illustrated several books for WorthyKids over the years, including ON CHRISTMAS DAY by Margaret Wise Brown and MAVERICK AND ME by Katherine Schwarzenegger so I already had a wonderful relationship with them as an illustrator.

I also had a request for a revise and resubmit from Little Brown during the submission process and even though I didn’t get an offer from them, I feel like the book became even better because of the revision request.

SUSANNA: How long was it between getting your offer and getting your contract to sign?

PHYLLIS: We got the offer in July and signed the contract 5 months later in December.

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract? 

PHYLLIS: My husband had purchased “good” champagne previously and was saving it to celebrate my debut offer as author. He thankfully had confidence in the story, too. We shared that bottle with our daughter and son-in-law and of course our granddaughter had the non-alcohol version. 😊

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

PHYLLIS: This is when it is so helpful having an agent who has your best interests in mind to handle all of the negotiations. Adria is so wonderful at getting the best possible terms for her clients and is so knowledgeable about all involved in the contract.

WorthyKids offered very fair terms and I was pleased with their final offer.

SUSANNA: What was your experience of the illustration process like?

PHYLLIS: Since this was my debut as author- illustrator, this was unique experience for me.

I had submitted a book dummy with all of the illustrations roughed out so I already had the overall vision for the book in place. I eventually added a few new illustrations and a new cover design to fit in with any new edits but overall, the art ideas did not change too much. I then went on to create each piece in final art form where I used traditional materials such as watercolor and some charcoal pencil and then scanned them in and added digital touches. Normally, art directors want to do the scans in house but since I had worked with this publisher before, they were aware that I provided quality scans and so they trusted the final files regarding the resolution, etc. Many artists don’t have good enough scanners to be able to do this so it may  vary for others.

text and illustration copyright Phyllis Harris 2021, Worthy Kids

SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc? What was that like?

PHYLLIS: This was one of the only disappointments besides having my book launch during a pandemic. I didn’t get any book reviews from Kirkus, SLJ or Horn. Possibly because it was a Christmas book from a smaller publisher.

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

PHYLLIS: My book was actually published a lot quicker than most in traditional publishing these days. Since I was both author and illustrator and it was a Christmas book, once we worked out the schedule, I started working on final art during the peak of the pandemic which was so wonderful to have something to work on while in lock down. If possible, the publisher wanted to fast-track it if I were comfortable with the schedule and I was. I didn’t want to wait another entire year for its release so I buckled down and got it accomplished.

Even with the pandemic shipping problems, which delayed my release date by 3 weeks, I had my first author copy about one year after I got the offer. The initial print run was 11,000 which I thought was great for a first-time author.

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

PHYLLIS: I was assigned a marketing team for my book and we had several zoom meetings talking about their strategies and plans for the marketing. They did a virtual booth at Picture Book Palooza, hosted by School Library Journal where I answered questions via live chat.

They reached out to bloggers and influencers from lists that I provided and posted on social media.

They also provided these fun activity sheets! https: //

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

PHYLLIS: I was planning on doing a book tour but because of the pandemic most book stores were not allowing in-person book signings. I have to admit, that was pretty disappointing.

I created a book trailer and posted it on youtube and shared it on social media. You can see it here: I also reached out to local newspapers and TV stations and was so excited that the KC STAR did a feature article.

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

PHYLLIS: Probably about 3 or 4 years. I dabbled with the writing for over 25 years but because I was so busy and invested with the illustration side of books, I never took the time needed to work specifically on my craft of writing. That is my one regret, that I didn’t take the time to really work on my writing craft, earlier.

The first time Phyllis saw her book on the shelves at a Barnes & Noble! 😊

SUSANNA: What is the most important/helpful thing you learned on your way to publication? (Or what is your most helpful piece of advice for up and coming writers?)

PHYLLIS: If you want something bad enough, you have to put in the time. Take the writing workshops. Go to conferences. Find critique partners. Read, read and read more. Especially the kind of books you want to write. And most importantly, start writing, even if you feel it isn’t very good. We all have terrible first drafts and book ideas that remain in the drawer but the more we write, the more likely one of them will be the ONE that gets us going in the right direction. And you are never too old to dream a new dream! I am sixty, and I am just getting started!


SUSANNA: Phyllis, thank you so much for stopping by today to share your journey to publication! We are all so grateful and wish you the best of luck with this and future titles! Readers, if you have questions for Phyllis, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!

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


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

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

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

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries

– sharing their books on social media

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

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

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

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

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

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

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

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

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job (self pub)

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

Ciara O’Neal – Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone (self pub)

Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)

Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)

Kirsten Larson – Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents An Airplane

Valerie Bolling – Let’s Dance!

Janet Johnson – Help Wanted: Must Love Books

Susi Schaefer – Cat Ladies

Heather Kinser – Small Matters: The Hidden Power of the Unseen

Kelly Carey – How Long Is Forever?

Mary Wagley Copp – Wherever I Go

Nell Cross Beckerman – Down Under The Pier

Claire Noland – Evie’s Field Day: More Than One Way To Win

Sharon Giltrow – Bedtime, Daddy!

Gabi Snyder – Two Dogs On A Trike

Sarah Kurpiel – Lone Wolf

Vicky Fang – Invent-a-Pet

Lisa Katzenberger – National Regular Average Ordinary Day

Pam Webb – Someday We Will

Abi Cushman – Soaked!

Teresa Krager – Before Your Birth Day

Lindsay H. Metcalf – Beatrix Potter, Scientist

Nancy Roe Pimm – Fly, Girl, Fly! Shaesta Waiz Soars Around The World

Jolene Gutiérrez – Mac And Cheese And The Personal Space Invader

Julie Rowan-Zoch – Louis (picture book illustration debut!)

Janie Emaus – Latkes For Santa

Amy Mucha – A Girl’s Bill Of Rights

Hope Lim – I Am A Bird

Melanie Ellsworth – Hip,Hip…Beret!

Rebecca Kraft Rector – Squish Squash Squished

Gnome Road Publishing (publishing house debut)

Sue Heavenrich – 13 Ways To Eat A Fly

Julie Rowan-Zoch – I’m A Hare So There (author/illustrator debut)

Nancy Derey Riley – Curiosity’s Discovery (author/illustrator self-published debut)

Moni Ritchie Hadley – The Star Festival

Sita Singh – Birds Of A Feather

Ann Magee – Branches Of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree

Amanda Davis – 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag (nonfiction)

Jennifer Buchet – Little Medusa’s Hair Do-lemma

Michelle Vattula – The Stalking Seagulls

Christine Van Zandt – A Brief History Of Underpants (nonfiction)

Candice Marley Conner – Sassafras And Her Teeny Tiny Tail

Ashley Belote – Frankenslime

Becky Scharnhorst – My School Stinks!

Darshana Khiani – How To Wear A Sari

Ana Siqueira – Bella’s Recipe For Success

Kate Allen Fox – Pando: A Living Wonder Of Trees (nonfiction)

Jenna Waldman – Sharkbot Shalom

Karen A. Wyle – You Can’t Kiss A Bubble

Rebecca Mullin – One Tomato (board book)

Cynthia Argentine – Night Becomes Day: Changes In Nature (illustrated with photographs)

Karen Greenwald – Vote For Susanna: The First Woman Mayor (nonfiction)

Anne Appert – Blob (author/illustrator)

Patti Richards – Mrs. Noah

Dianna Wilson-Sirkovsky – James’ Reading Rescue

Karen Condit – Turtle On The Track (hybrid publishing)

Renee LaTulippe – The Crab Ballet (picture book poem)

Amy Duchene – Pool Party (collaboration/co-writing)

Kimberly Wilson – A Penny’s Worth

Candace Spizzirri – Fishing With Grandpa And Skye

Carrie Tillotson – Counting To Bananas

Patrice Gopo – All The Places We Call Home

Rebecca Gardyn Levington – Brainstorm!

John Bray – The End

Jocelyn Watkinson – The Three Canadian Pigs: A Hockey Story

Katie Mazeika – Annette Feels Free: The True Story of Annette Kellerman, World-Class Swimmer, Fashion Pioneer, and Real-Life Mermaid (nonfiction)

Shachi Kaushik – Diwali In My New Home

Carrie Sharkey Asner – Blueberry Blue Bubble (self published)

Gela Kalaitzidis – Ozzie & Prince Zebedee (author/illustrator)

Caroline Perry – The Corgi And The Queen (nonfiction)

The 12th Annual Halloweensie Contest Finalists Are HERE! Vote For Your Favorite!!!

There are witches in the air,
Evil spirits everywhere.
Creepy monsters walking by.
Pumpkin moon up in the sky. . .

Halloween is so spooky, isn’t it?


Are you suggesting it’s not Halloween anymore?

Are you asserting that this is nonsense, and that Thanksgiving has come and gone, and it’s snowing where you are, and you’re putting up your holiday decorations and wondering what the twinkle twinkle little bat is going on around here?


It’s possible that this post is a teensy bit late in coming.

But better late than never, I always say!

And I hope you agree because, at long last, it’s time for you to see who the 2022 Halloweensie Contest Finalists are and vote for your favorite!

The 12th Annual Halloweensie Writing Contest!!!


We’ve got an interesting mix this year. There were a LOT of entries about snakes and slugs (not surprising, given the “slither” requirement), quite a few “First Halloween” stories, lots of “costume decision” stories, an unfortunate number that were really mood pieces or lists that, while nicely written, were not stories, a few that didn’t use all the required words, one that didn’t use any!, several (sad face) with proofreading errors that prevented them from being finalists because it didn’t seem right to choose one with mistakes when there were other good stories without mistakes, more spooky/creepy/icky ones than usual, and more for the 9-12 age group than usual, and quite a few with a nice non-fiction-y element. . . In short, so many wonderful stories, as always! You are all so talented! We love the ones we chose, but we also loved a lot of the ones we didn’t or couldn’t choose.

If you didn’t make the finalist list, I don’t want you to feel bad! It doesn’t mean you didn’t write a good story! It’s VERY hard to tell a great story in 100 words. There is a LOT of competition. Out of 240 entries, 226 did not make the finals, so you are in excellent company. And don’t lose heart. A lot of you will be on the Honorable Mention Lists in a few days. The judging is always the part I hate 😊 There are always so many more I want to choose… But a contest is a contest, and so we have to try, to the best of our ability, to select the cream of the crop. I’m sure, despite our best efforts, there may be some we didn’t choose that you think we should have, and some we did choose you think we shouldn’t have. But we really tried to make good choices. We looked for originality and that little extra something that makes a story stand out.

And for those who didn’t make the cut, you still practiced your craft, wrote good stories, met writing requirements, wrote to a deadline, and increased your writing experience. You produced good work that you were brave enough to share in public. And you hopefully have a strong basis to build on that may allow you to expand and polish your story into a magazine piece or a picture book when you’re not constrained by the contest parameters. So bravo, and congratulations to everyone!

The 14 finalists are listed below. We have a mix of stories for younger and older children, some in rhyme and some in prose, some funny, some lovely, some downright creepy – all fabulous!

Please read them all, choose your favorite, and vote for it in the poll below by Tuesday November 29th at 7PM Eastern. (I do have a Tuesday Debut scheduled that day, so this post will drop from the top of my blog page, but I will be sure to include a link to this finalist/voting page so it’s still easy to find!)

Please feel free to share the link to this post on social media – the more readers and voters the better! Every one of these entries deserves to be read by as many people as possible. But I ask that you please not troll for votes! The contest is supposed to be based on merit, not a popularity contest based on who has the most followers or can talk more people into voting for their story. If you are a finalist, please do not say you’re a finalist or mention your entry by name or number. Encourage people to come read and vote, and let them make their own decisions. As judges, we make our selections blind. The names are all removed so we make our choices based solely on the story so we can remain unbiased. In fact, as of this writing, I still don’t know who wrote the stories on this list. You can bet I’m going to go look right after I post!

So read, enjoy, vote! 😊


The weeds were thick. The branches, slick.
But Howard vowed to play a trick
by sneaking up behind Doreen
to frighten her on Halloween.

He’d slither near, unseen, unheard—
a streak of color, faintly blurred—
using stealthy camouflage,
then shock her with a “BOO!” barrage.

He scurried, on his tree-top chore,
high above the valley floor
and spied her on a banyan trunk.
A terrify-your-friend slam dunk!

What a treat! That very night
he gave Doreen a spooky fright.

Yes, Howard the chameleon scared sweet Doreen the gecko.

But after Howard hollered “BOO!!!”—he fainted, from the echo.


Beneath a full and pumpkin moon,
I flew to trick-or-treat,
when, from the corner of my eye,
I spied a heap of meat.

I shivered as it stared at me,
wide eyes without a face,
a creature with no place on Earth.
It came from outer space!

With body like a comet’s tail,
legs like a centipede’s,
it slithered through the unkempt field
to jump me from the weeds.

A skeleton creaked up just then,
gave me a bony hug.
“You’ve found my brain and spine!” he said
and took that scary slug.


It was Halloween, and Sun was fuming.
“Moon has all the fun!” huffed Sun. “I can be spooky. Come play, ghosts, goblins, and ghouls!”
But all Sun got on this bone-chilling holiday…
was festive foliage and boisterous birdsong.
“Sun,” whispered Moon, spying the sulky star. “How about a daytime treat?”
Sun beamed as Moon’s shadow masked her rays, until…
all was dark!
Witches flew—
Skeletons danced the monster-mash—
Black cats pranced on tip-toe—
Ghosts haunted the Halloween Bash—
Sun slithered out.
Spooky creatures everywhere agreed—
Sun’s scare eclipsed all other Halloweens!


I didn’t mean to SCARE her,
but I guess that’s what ghosts do.
As ghosts go, I’m not scary.
I simply whisssspered,
I mean, it’s Halloween night,
so, I SLITHERED up the walk.
I wriggled up the steps and
adjusted my ghost-sock.
My tongue flicked out and rang the bell.
I gave a fangy grin.
My scaly tail held out my bag–
“Let trick or TREAT begin!”
She gasped.
She squealed.
She dropped the bowl.
She fainted dead away.
Who knew a sock with two eyeholes
could scare someone this way?


A candle in a pumpkin sees
the sun set out of sight.
Then tilts its flame near windows cut
to free the candle’s light.

Its glow will guide the ghouls and ghosts—
some scary, others sweet—
by casting beams upon a path
for all to trick-or-treat.

“Stay bright tonight!” The candle chants
behind its pumpkin’s face,
while waxy droplets slither down
and puddle at its base.

It droops. It stoops. But still, it shines
‘til night has come and gone.
Then sighs triumphant threads of smoke
into the light of dawn.


It’s a Halloween party!

Ruff, ruff. Roo!

No shoes on the carpet means . . . 

Front-door treats for me!

I must have one. Or two. Or ten!

Nobody’s looking. I gotta go fast.

Crawl. Slither. Roll over. 


Princess slippers.

Baseball cleats.

Gopher loafers.

Pirate boots.

How to choose?

Sniff. Lift. Wag. 


Ruff, ruff. Roo!

Surfer sandals,

Ballet flats. 

Scary sneakers.

Fairy clogs.

I want them ALL!

“Puppy, no!”


I need treats to-go.


Gotcha, kitten heels.

The purrfect pair.

Jump. Gallop. Zigzag.


Under the bed. 

Trick-or-treat, shoes to eat. 

Ruff, ruff. ROO!


“It’s Halloween!” Witch Wanda screeched.
“And I can’t scare up tricks or treats!”

“The cauldron’s cracked.”
“My potion burned.”
“I’m out of bats and three-eyed worms.”

So Wanda flew into the night,
And gathered things to give a fright.

Ten slithery snakes,
Two warty toads,
A shrew that had a runny nose.

“Yippee!” she cried, “What spooky fun!”
“Can’t wait to see those kiddies run!”

But when they spied Witch Wanda’s “treats”,
Excited children filled the streets.

They hugged the snakes.
They cuddled the shrew.

Now Wanda runs a petting zoo.


Billy and Maribelle thought it unfair
that the Halloween treats were not evenly shared.
Bored with their thistle and grass-loaded diet,
“Oh Candy” sighed Billy, “I’m eager to try it.”

They made themselves costumes to scare the town silly,
smeared mud on their beards and tossed hay willy-nilly.
They covered their horns, pinned their beards tightly down
and with eyes glaring brightly they clomped into town.

The villagers fled as their fear slithered out,
scattering treat bags and candy about.
The goats quickly gobbled the treats left behind,
“Not bad” Billie said, “But these bags taste divine!”


Sapling was scared.
October was nearly over,
and still she had no costume.
On October 1st,
Maple proudly primped in his pumpkin colors.
By mid month,
Oak fetchingly flaunted her firefighter red.
Sapling grew green with envy.
“Don’t worry,” Hickory whispered
through his fur-brown mask of foliage.
“Mother Nature will make sure you’re ready for trick or treat.”
Hickory and his brothers were the three bears.
On Halloween Eve, Sapling swayed slightly.
A cool breeze slithered through her leaves.
She held onto hope.
When the sun rose on Halloween,
Sapling’s costume was complete.
Sapling, the young Ginkgo, was Goldilocks.


Slither, Slither.
The moon is bright.
It’s time to sneak.

Down the hallway.
Stop to see.
The coast is clear.
I smirk with glee.

‘Twas a night of
costumed fun.
With bags of treats
the night was done.

Now I creep and
Tiptoe light.
A shadow’s there!
I freeze with fright!

Stepping slowly,
Then a whirl!
It’s just the dog…
“You scared me, girl!”

In the kitchen
hidden high.
I reach the snacks
“Success!” I sigh.

Then I heard a
great big SNAP!
“I caught you Dad!
You like my trap?”


A tiny spaceship landed with a rumble and a roar
So Timothy, a Martian boy decided to explore
Zombies, witches, scary creatures slithered down the street
Traveling from door to door, they shouted “TRICK OR TREAT!”

Suddenly, poor Timothy felt frightened and alone
“This Earthly kind of holiday just isn’t in my zone!”
An alien, dressed up in green, peculiarly appeared
“You’re looking lost. I’ll get you home,” she gladly volunteered.
She found his spaceship just in time. He knew she saved the day.
Then she reached inside her sack. “Have a Milky Way.”


One tiny pumpkin sat on the vine.

“Grow, Pumpkin, grow,” chanted Witch.

When scary bugs slithered close, Ghost shouted “Boo!”

“Grow, Pumpkin, grow,” chanted Ghost.

Mummy watered during four months of sunshine.

“Grow, Pumpkin, grow,” chanted Mummy.

Cool weather came; Pumpkin stopped growing.

“Pumpkin’s perfect!” said Witch, Ghost, and Mummy.

“Let’s bring him to the contest at the Trick-or-Treat Fair!”

Carved pumpkins… Warty pumpkins… Tasty pumpkins…

But no pumpkin beat Pumpkin.

Witch, Ghost, and Mummy beamed with pumpkin pride

Their precious Pumpkin won grand prize —


FUN FACT: The Guinness World Record for heaviest pumpkin is 2,702 pounds.


It’s Halloween! Come one and all!
Slither, scurry, climb and crawl –

gather round the bright full moon.
Children will be coming soon.

As they swarm the darkened streets,
calling out their “Trick or Treats!”

we’ll lurk nearby, our eyes aglow,
making sure our tails don’t show.

Once they’re candy-full and sleepy –
numbed to all that’s scary, creepy –

leap out from our hiding place
and lick the children – just a taste.

The sweetest tasting child will be
the one we eat on Halloween!


Costumes on,

grab your gear,

Candy Night is almost here.

Sun is set,

route is mapped,

we won’t leave one house untapped.

Trick or treat,

check the haul.

Chocolate! Gummies! Eat them all.

Wrapper pile,

empty tote,

taffy slithers down my throat.

Not enough.

We need more!

I know somewhere we can score.

Candy out,

down the road,

now we’ve hit the motherlode.

“Just take one?”

I think not.

Ditch the sign and grab the lot!

Lights come on,

time to run!

If my mom finds out, I’m DONE.

Just a scare,

so we think?…

Doorbell footage has us linked.

PHEW! So there you have it! Good luck choosing just one of those amazing stories!

Please vote for your favorite in the poll below by 7PM Eastern Tuesday November 29!

The Winners and Honorable Mentions will be posted on Wednesday November 30 (because running into December would just be a bridge too far! 🤣)

I can’t wait to see who you all choose as your winners!

Tune in Wednesday!!! 🎃🧙‍♀️👻🎃

Guidelines for the 12th Annual Holiday Writing Contest!

Guess what time it is?

I realize, of course, that I have yet to post the Halloweensie Finalists. They are coming! I promise! Hopefully in a few days. What a perfect storm of downright insanity the last few weeks have been!


Time waits for no one, so I have to get the Holiday Contest Guidelines up so you have a couple weeks to write your entries!

Which brings me to the fact that someone (besides me) is in BIG Trouble!

This Dastardly Duo is charged with:

  • Identity Theft (Jingle and Dingle were found like icicles, dressed in garbage bags, doing jumping jacks to keep warm!)
  • Knowingly Impersonating an Elf (not very well, I might add!)
  • Breaking and Entering (emphasis on breaking)
  • Burglary (No. There is no turkey left. None. So don’t keep asking!)
  • Breaking and Leaving (not a usual charge but when the dog collar fits…)
  • Fleeing the Scene of a Crime (and in the process…)
  • Assault with a Greasy Weapon (one of the perpetrators whacked an innocent bystander in the thigh with a large turkey haunch which left a significant bruise on her leg and a stubborn grease stain (which may be permanent!) on her favorite holiday skirt)
  • Willful Destruction of Private Property (knocking over a Christmas Tree, smashing ornaments, tangling Christmas lights, and causing a not-that-small fire due to sparks from the mistreated electrical outlet igniting the dry conifer)
  • Necessitating a Bath (seemingly unrelated unless it was some part of the Elf Impersonation gone awry, but they’re GREEN! Seriously! In the manner of the Witch of the West and the Grinch! What is WITH that?!)

In short, they have been Very Bad Dogs!

Why, you ask, am I bringing this Wickedness to your attention?

Well, I’ll tell you!

As we enter the Holiday Season, there is always an emphasis on Holiday Parties, giving gifts, being kind to others, doing good deeds, sweetness and light., but . .


. . .what about the Bad Guys?

Because you know they’re out there, wreaking havoc whenever, wherever, and however they can! One look at that WANTED poster will tell you that!

It’s an outright example of Mischief and Mayhem! Tomfoolery! Skulduggery!

Exactly the kind of misbehavior you should be keeping in mind when you sit down to write your entry for the . . .

12th Annual Holiday Writing Contest

~ for children’s writers ~

The Contest:  Write a children’s holiday story (children here defined as age 12 and under) about a Holiday Bad Guy – think along the lines of The Abominable Snow Monster (aka The Bumble), Heat Miser/Snow Miser, Burgermeister Meisterburger, the Winter Warlock, The Grinch, Scrooge, etc…, but make up your own – someone you can have some fun with! An elf who laces Mrs. Claus’s cookies with Argu-mint so that everyone who eats them starts fighting! A Candle Kidnapper who holds all the candles for ransom just before Hanukkah! A pair of zebra gangsters who dress up as reindeer, planning to sneak onto Santa’s team and then steal the sleigh and keep all the toys for themselves! A taciturn girl who is found responsible for removing lights and ornaments from all the village displays…but turns out to have brought them to the Nursing Home to cheer the residents. Anything and everything you can think up – the badder the better 😊

  • Your bad guy can be human, animal, or any made-up creature you like.
  • They can wind up punished, or redeemed, or they can escape to attempt their mischief and mayhem another day.
  • They can be the main character or the antagonist, but they should play a significant role in the story.
  • Their badness can be due to extenuating circumstances that make them sympathetic, or they can be just plain naughty! 😊
  • We are aiming for lighthearted and entertaining so we don’t go down too dark a path – these are holiday stories for children, after all! – but you can be serious if you like as long as it’s not too grim!

Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, New Year’s or whatever you celebrate during the Holiday Season, 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 between 12:01 AM EST Friday December 9th and Sunday December 11th at 11:59 PM EST, and must be posted in the comment section of the Official Contest Post which will go up here on my blog on Friday December 9th. That post will remain up for your reading pleasure until I post the finalists.  There will be no regular posts (Tuesday Debut or Perfect Picture Book) for the duration of the contest so everyone will have plenty of time to visit and enjoy.  If you have trouble commenting, you can email me (we’ll go over this part in more detail on the December 9th post! 😊 ) but do not email me any entries before the opening of the contest on December 9th! They will not be accepted or read!

The Judging: My lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to approximately 12 finalists.  Due to the nature of life at the moment I am not going to hazard a guess as to when the finalists will be posted – they’ll be up as soon as I can get them up.

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 Bad Guy! – the rules state a Holiday Bad Guy story, so it must be crystal clear that the story, including your holiday bad guy, in some way relates to Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, New Year’s, or whatever seasonal winter holiday you choose.  Your bad guy must be central to the story  – not just an offhand mention/reference in a story about something else. Have fun creating your bad guy! Make him or her a real character whose wickedness we can enjoy 😊
  • 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. Please proofread! A typo may be the difference between being considered and being set aside.
  • 5. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.
  • 6. PLEASE FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS! Large numbers of entries make it easy to cut entries that haven’t been entered as we asked.

The Prizes!: Oh WOW!!!

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

⭐️ Ask Me Anything Zoom Chat with Sandra Sutter, author of THE REAL FARMER IN THE DELL (Spork, March 2019) and STAN’S FRIGHTFUL HALLOWEEN (Spork, September 2020) and the Owner/Publisher/Editor of Gnome Road Publishing)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (author, illustrator, or both) from author/illustrator Julie Rowan-Zoch author/illustrator or I’M A HARE, SO THERE! (Clarion Books 2021), illustrator of LOUIS (written by Tom Lichtenheld, Clarion Books, 2020) and illustrator of NOT ALL SHEEP ARE BORING (written by Bobby Moynihan, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, September 2022)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (written/Zoom) OR Ask Me Anything 1 hour session about author websites from author and website creator Stacy Jensen ( – currently undergoing revision), author of BEFORE I LIVED HERE (coming Fall 2024 from Neal Porter Books)

Author and website creator Stacy Jensen

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (fiction) from Melissa Stoller, author of SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH (Spork 2018), READY, SET, GORILLA! (Spork 2018), THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION (chapter books) (Spork 2017), SADIE’S SHABAT STORIES (Spork, 2020) and PLANTING FRIENDSHIP: PEACE, SALAAM, SHALOM

⭐️ 30 Minute Ask Me Anything Zoom Chat AND Signed PB from Janet Johnson, author of HELP WANTED, MUST LOVE BOOKS (Capstone 2020), BRAVER THAN BRAVE (Capstone, July 2022), and A BAD CASE OF THE ALMOSTS (Capstone, December 29, 2022)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique and Zoom Chat (especially STEAM) from Sue Heavenrich, author of 13 WAYS TO EAT A FLY (Charlesbridge 2021) and many nonfiction books for older kids.

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Penny Parker Klostermann, talented author of THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT (Random House 2015) and A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE (Random House 2017) as well as the forthcoming SPIDER LADY: Nan Songer and Her Arachnid WWII Army (Astra/Calkins Creek 2025) and another as yet unannounced 😊

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Roxanne Troup, author of MY GRANDPA, MY TREE, AND ME (Yeehoo Press, March 6, 2023)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Rosanne Kurstedt, author of KARATE KID (Running Kids Press, September 2019) and AND I THINK ABOUT YOU (Kids Can Press, September 20, 2022)

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

⭐️ Ask Me Anything Zoom Chat and signed book from Cindy Schrauben, author of THIS COULD BE YOU (Cardinal Rule Press, April 2022) and the just announced HANK’S CHANGE OF HEART (scheduled for February 2025 from The Little Press)

⭐️ Signed copies of LISTEN (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books July, 2021), COUNT ON US (Barefoot Books, September 20, 2022), and the new TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE board book (Harry N. Abrams, October 18, 2022) – 1 prize 3 books from author Gabi Snyder

⭐️ 15 minute AMA with Teresa Robeson, award-winning author of QUEEN OF PHYSICS: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom (Union Square Kids 2019), TWO BICYCLES IN BEIJING (Albert Whitman 2020), and the forthcoming CLOUDS IN SPACE: THE NEBULA STORY (scheduled for Spring 2024 from Candlewick/MIT Kids Press)

⭐️ A signed copy of SLEEPY HAPPY CAPY CUDDLES (Page Street Kids, October 18, 2022) by Mike Allegra AND a signed copy of DIWALI IN MY NEW HOME (Beaming Books, September 27, 2022) by Shachi Kaushik

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

So! Butt in chair! Snack and beverage near to hand! Writing implement ready! Mischief-making, Mayhem-creating Thinking Caps on!

One. . .

Two. . .

Three. . .