Tuesday Debut – Presenting Janet Johnson!

Hi Everybody!

Tuesday Debut is always a fun and exciting day, but it’s especially fun and exciting when the debut-ess is a hackey-sack queen and a personalized license plate fan 🙂

I am thrilled to introduce you to Janet Johnson and her debut picture book!

Help Wanted, Must Love Books
Written by: Janet Sumner Johnson
Illustrated by: Courtney Dawson
Published by: Capstone
Fiction, ages 4-7
March 1, 2020

Cover.Help Wanted Must Love Books.small

When Shailey’s dad starts a new job, and it gets in the way of their bedtime story routine, Shailey takes action! She fires her dad, posts a Help Wanted sign, and starts interviews immediately.

SUSANNA: Welcome, Janet!  Thank you so much for joining us today!  We are so excited to have you!!!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

JANET: This story idea came from my husband and daughter’s own bedtime story routine. One night, my then-7-year-old came in and announced it was time for bedtime stories. My husband had a work presentation the next morning and lots to prepare, so he told her he couldn’t. My daughter didn’t beg. She stomped her foot and said, “I’ll read my own story!”

I laughed, and said, “I think you just got fired!” And boom! The idea struck. It wasn’t fully formed, but over the next hour, I asked myself a bunch of questions: If she fires her dad, what will she do next? And if she puts up a help wanted sign, who can actually apply for the job? Siblings? Mom? Neighbors? I didn’t like those ideas, so I kept digging until I stumbled on the idea of book characters. That led to brainstorming a list of possible candidates, and what problems they would each bring to the story.

 

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

JANET: My first draft went fast. I had it done in about an hour. That is unusual for me. What really helped was that I had a great model for who my character was (through my daughter). I knew what my character’s problem was. I knew what she would do to try to fix the problem. And I knew how I wanted it to end. By answering those questions before I began writing, the actual writing went very quickly.

Revision took much longer.

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

JANET: Haha! Yep. Lots of revision. First, I had several rounds with my critique partners. They pointed out some problems I hadn’t thought of. For example, while Shailey put up the help wanted sign, she didn’t really do anything else in that first version, so I needed to make her more pro-active.

It was hard to hear, because I loved what I’d written, but I turned off that urge to argue, and instead worked on finding a solution. That took some more brainstorming. I had to re-organize my characters, and find some new ones that would work with the new structure. And amazing, I liked that new version even better!

My agent also asked for several revisions. She pointed out some characters who might be too obscure for kids. She also pointed out inconsistencies with who I’d chosen. For example, in that earlier draft, one candidate was the monster in her closet, who, she rightly pointed out, was not a book character. That meant more brainstorming to find more characters.

The key to good revision is listening. Readers could see things I couldn’t because I was too close to the story.

 

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

JANET: When my agent had no more comments on my draft! I’m a huge proponent of agents, and critique partners. If it had just been me, I would have sent that first draft because I loved it so much. If that had happened, it would not be a book now.

 

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

JANET: I have an agent, so when the manuscript was ready, my agent sent me a list of publishers she was sending it to. She forwarded responses as she got them, and my main job was to sit back, forget all about it (haha!), and write the next thing.

 

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

JANET: The whole submission process was quite the ride. We went out in January, and in February, I got an R&R. The editor really liked it, but felt the ending was too obvious. I talked with my agent about it, and we decided to go for it, because we had ideas. This isn’t typical, but my agent decided to send the change to every editor who had it.

Once we did that, I had a lot of interest. My book went to several acquisitions meetings (some with the old ending, and some with the new), and I had a lot of close calls, but in the end, none of them offered. That was really hard.

By July, my agent and I had moved on to submitting the next book. So, when she called, I had zero expectations. I was in the kitchen, texting with some author friends, glumly reporting that I had nothing to report. And then everything changed with those four magic words: “We have an offer!”

And because I’m guessing some of you are curious, my editor allowed me to choose my preferred ending. I went with the original which she confessed was her favorite, too. Writing really is so subjective!

 

SUSANNA: Those words, “We have an offer!” really are magical, aren’t they?  There is nothing like them (except for maybe it’s a girl! or it’s a boy! 🙂 ) How did you celebrate signing your contract?

JANET: I went out to dinner with my family. (After an impromptu dance party in the kitchen!)

 

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

JANET: Because I had already published a middle grade book with my publisher (Capstone), my expectations were pretty grounded. However, the advance was significantly lower than I expected (under 5K) because they had recently gone through a re-organization.

We sold World Rights and negotiated royalties to 6% for hard cover and paperback, 12% for digital products, and 5% for audio. They were willing to negotiate on percentages, but not on the advance, which I found interesting. I will receive 20 copies as the author, and my agent will receive some as well.

Some other interesting contract things: we negotiated the non-compete clause to make it more narrow. We negotiated how much say I would have on images and cover (spoiler alert, not much, but more than zero!). And the contract included deadlines for both the publisher and me. It was a pretty straight-forward contract.

 

 

SUSANNA: What was the editorial process like for you?

JANET: The editorial process really surprised me. I had an initial chat with my editor, who had almost no changes for me at the time. They wanted a new title, and we discussed adding back matter. I spent a month working on that.

Over the next several months, I got periodic emails with suggested changes—some big, some small. Often, they came because of feedback from another department (like marketing). This continued up until the day it was being sent to print (we literally made the last change that day!).

I considered all the comments thoughtfully, but there were times I still didn’t agree. When that happened, I would share my concerns with my editor, and explain why I disagreed. At that point we could talk it through and come to a solution we both felt good about—sometimes that meant we left it as it was, and sometimes that meant changing it.

I think communication is so important. There is so much give and take in the process—as an author you need to both listen and speak up for yourself. It can be a delicate balance. It helped to remember that we both loved the book and had the same goal of making the best story possible.

 

Captain Hook

 

SUSANNA: I have to say that the back matter in your book is one of my favorite parts – so entertaining! 🙂  Can you tell us a little about your experience of the illustration process?

JANET: As per my contract, I got to see the sketches and give input. However, in the case we disagreed, the publisher had the final say. Everything was sent digitally, so no F&Gs.

For the most part I loved what I saw. We were all definitely on the same page in terms of vision. However, I did have some concerns.

The publisher made a few changes based on my comments, but also chose not to make others. Some of that came down to cost, which I can respect. But it also meant that I had to change some of the text to work a little better with the images. I definitely hadn’t expected that! Still, I love how the book turned out.

My manuscript had quite a few art notes, and to my surprise, my editor made a point to thank me for having as many as I did. Here is one example of how my art note went from text to image:

This arrangement worked perfectly . . . until her dad got a new job.

[ART: Dad on cell phone; Dad studying a book; Dad tapping at laptop; Dad snoring on couch]

 

Janet's Favorite Spread

 

This is probably my favorite spread! I’m so happy with how it turned out.

 

 

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

JANET: The marketing department sends me all the advance reviews shortly before they publish. I’ve had some not-so-nice reviews in the past, so I have mixed feelings about this. I have to let those emails sit while I build up the courage to look.

When the reviewers like your book, it’s fabulous. And since they don’t review everything, it’s a really happy thing when they do. But the not-nice reviews are tough. I remind myself that not everyone will like my book, and that it’s not a critique of me personally.

 

 

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

JANET: From offer to copy in hand (I’m estimating, because I don’t actually have one yet!) was about 20 months. For a picture book, that feels really fast. The publishing date changed a couple of times and ended up being faster than expected.

 

 

 

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

JANET: My publisher offered advanced copies at ALA in 2019, and also put it on NetGalley. That’s made a huge impact on getting the word out about my book. They sent ARCs to bloggers and review groups, as well as to the industry reviewers like Booklist and Publisher’s Weekly. They regularly post about it on their social media accounts, and they also support my tweets. Recently they hosted a free webinar for teachers and librarians, and they book-talked all their upcoming titles, including mine.

One thing I’m really excited about is that they’re making a book trailer! It should be out soon.

 

 

SUSANNA: Ooh!  I can’t wait to see the book trailer!  Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.

JANET: Marketing and promotion is something I’m constantly learning. One of the best things I’ve done is join a debut group for picture books: the Debut Crew 2020. We work together to promote each other’s work and to find opportunities to build our platforms. It’s been super helpful!

In addition, I had bookmarks made, and still plan to make some stickers and other swag for future events. I also hope to get some coloring pages made, as well as an activity guidebook.

While I’m not doing an official blog tour, I’ve been fortunate to be invited to interview or write a guest post on several blogs in the weeks surrounding my book’s release.

I’ve also booked several in-person events over the next few months: a book launch, bookstore signings, school visits, book festivals, conference presentations, and NerdCampSoCal. You can see the full list on my events page. I’m excited to have so many opportunities to make connections and promote my book.

A lot of these opportunities have come because of connections I’ve made with people at previous events or through online discussions. Others have come from participating in groups on social media where others have shared calls for proposals or information about upcoming events. Making connections is key.

 

 

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

JANET: It took about 8 years to get that first picture book deal. Granted, I was focusing on middle grade for a lot of that time, but I’ve had the dream of getting a picture book published from the beginning. It’s still hard to believe I’m a published picture book author!

Thanks so much for having me, Susanna! Your classes made such a difference for me!

JanetJohnson.AuthorPic

Author Janet Johnson

Social Media Links:

Website: http://janetsumnerjohnson.com/
Twitter: @MsVerbose
Instagram: @janetsumnerjohnson
Facebook: @janetsumnerjohnson

 

SUSANNA:  Thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your experience, Janet!  It was so interesting and enlightening – a real benefit for our readers!  I know I speak for all of us when I wish you all the best with this and future books!

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

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

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

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

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– 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!

 

 

 

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Marilyn’s Monster

Woo hoo!  It’s Friday!!!

And you know what that means, boys and girls…

It’s time for Perfect Picture Books!

(Although truth be told, I’m not even here today!)

I can’t say today’s choice relates to the time of year or anything that’s going on.  I just loved this book from the opening sentence, and I hope you will too!

Title: Marilyn’s Monster
Written By: Michelle Knudsen
Illustrated By: Matt Phelan
Candlewick, March 2015, Fiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: patience/waiting, monsters, doing what you know is right

Opening: “Some of the kids in Marilyn’s class had monsters.  It was the latest thing.  Marilyn didn’t have a monster.  Not yet.  You couldn’t just go out and get one.  Your monster had to find you.  That’s just the way it worked.”

Brief Synopsis:  Marilyn longs for her monster to find her.  She tries to be patient and be the kind of girl no monster can resist.  But the longer she waits, the harder it gets, until finally Marilyn takes matters into her own hands.  And it’s a good thing she does!

Links To Resources: Marilyn’s Monster Story Time Kit; Q&A with Michelle Knudsen and Matt Phelan

Why I Like This Book: Oh, gosh!  Where to begin?  The story is wonderfully original and entertaining, and relates to a theme all kids can understand – having to wait for things!  Marilyn is so believably child-like in her behaviors and emotions.  The art is delightful, full of wacky monsters that are tons of fun to look at, and Marilyn’s face and body language are so expressive.  Marilyn goes against expectation without being disobedient or breaking any rules, so it’s a nice way to model doing what you know is right, or being true to yourself.  And the resolution is surprisingly sweet.  Across the board, this one is a winner!

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!!! 🙂

And wish me luck at today’s school visit!  New presentation. . . little bit o’ shaking in my astronaut boots. . .! 🙂

Would You Read It Wednesday #351 – Rabbit’s Lists (PB)

Welcome to Would You Read It Wednesday, where this week’s installment falls smack in the middle of Read Across America Week!

Read Across America

Read Across America Week begins with Read Across America Day – the Monday that falls closest to March 2, Dr. Seuss/Theodor Seuss Geisel’s birthday – and continues for a week of reading celebration.

I don’t know about you guys, but I loved Dr. Seuss and so did my kids.  I read The Cat In The Hat, The Cat In The Hat Comes Back, Green Eggs And Ham, One Fish Two Fish, And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, and many others so many times I could recite them verbatim when my kids needed entertainment in the car or waiting in any of the many situations that require waiting (the DMV, the supermarket, doctor’s and dentist’s offices, airports, restaurants…)  The man was a genius!

So what are you reading this week?  What are you writing?  How are you celebrating with your kids and/or students?

Whatever you’re reading, it goes better with Something Chocolate! (Like how smoothly I slipped right into chocolate time? But let’s be honest, any celebration is a good reason to have cake 🙂 )

Today I think we’ll wander on the road less traveled.  I know we all often think of white chocolate as milk and dark chocolate’s lesser sister – a chocolate imposter – but it IS technically still chocolate, and sometimes it’s nice to change things up a bit, especially when no baking and fresh raspberries are involved.  What could be better for breakfast?

No Bake White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

no-bake-white-chocolate-raspberry-cheesecake-www.thereciperebel.com-600-11

Recipe (including helpful video) HERE at The Recipe Rebel

 

Doesn’t that look decadently delicious?  But if thinking of it as health food makes it more appealing as a breakfast choice, no problem!  It’s fresh fruit, calcium, protein, and whole grains 🙂

Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Rose who says, “I am a former reading specialist and lover of literacy, nature, and all things pumpkin. You can read more at my blog http://www.imaginethepossibilities.wordpress.com or follow me on Twitter @RoseCappelli”

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Rabbit’s Lists

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

The Pitch: It’s Stew Saturday and Rabbit’s whiskers are in a tizzy. She can’t find the vegetables she needs to make her special stew for Squirrel, Badger, and Porcupine. Rabbit searches and digs accepting no substitutions until she is finally forced to step out of her comfort zone and try something new.

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 Rose 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!

Rose is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to my school visit on Friday where I will be doing a new presentation (I won’t lie – I’m feeling a wee bit panicky!) so wish me luck!

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 🙂

 

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Valerie Bolling!

Hi there, everyone!  It’s time for another exciting episode of Tuesday Debut!

As writers, I think we’ve all had the experience of getting a fantastic idea, writing the story . . .and then finding out that someone else has beaten us to it!  Great minds think alike, right?

But great minds may also begin at the same starting point and go in divergent directions.

I have a manuscript I love in my haven’t-got-it-quite-right-to-submit-yet file (and I’m not even going to tell you how many years it’s been sitting there waiting for the spark that will make it work 🙂 ) that has the same title as today’s debut, but is a completely different story!  Funny how that works!

It just goes to show how we all bring our own unique twist to ideas.

Today, I’m happy to introduce you to debut author Valerie Bolling and her unique and delightful twist on Let’s Dance!

Title: Let’s Dance!
Author: Valerie Bolling
Illustrator: Maine Diaz
Age Range: 3 – 7 years
Publisher: Boyds Mills & Kane
Release Date: March 3, 2020

Book Cover

Let’s Dance! celebrates dances from around the world and the diverse children who enjoy them.

 

SUSANNA: Welcome, Valerie!  Thank you so much for coming to chat with us today!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

VALERIE: I have noticed that whenever music is played, most children start to dance. Babies who can barely walk will sway and /or raise their hands. Whenever music is played, my nieces dance. When they were two and four, they even danced while brushing their teeth. Now at ages five and seven, they still love to dance! They definitely inspired this book.

I thought it would be fun to write the book in rhyme to mimic the rhythms of music and dance movements.

 

 

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

VALERIE: I wrote the first draft in May 2017 and continued to revise the book throughout the year.

An earlier draft was entitled I Love to Dance, as this line was repeated between stanzas. Marianne McShane, a friend who is a writer, storyteller, and retired librarian, suggested I read Summer Wonders by Bob Raczka as a mentor text and that I start the story with a line that appeared later in the text: “Tappity-tap/Fingers snap.” Her recommendations helped significantly in revising the book.

 

 

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

VALERIE: I felt it was ready when my scansion was tight. Scansion must be perfect for rhyming picture books.

 

Desk.2.

Valerie’s work space

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

VALERIE: I sent my first query on Jan. 1, 2018 – what a way to start the year, huh?! I sent two more queries on Feb. 25, 2018, and an agent was interested in the story! She requested I send her two more manuscripts, but when I did, she wasn’t as interested in those stories, saying, “I foresee a harder sell for the other projects.” Thus, she decided to pass. I continued to submit queries and also participated in two Twitter pitches in June. I received a “like” in #PitMad that was turned down when I sent the manuscript, and I received another “like” later in the month during #PBPitch. When I sent the manuscript to Jes Negrón at Boyds Mills & Kane on June 18, 2018, she emailed me two weeks later on July 2, requesting to have a conversation. During that phone call, I learned that Jes was interested in acquiring the story!

I do not have an agent. I started with query letters. I had already been querying other stories since June 2017, so I was not new to querying when I started with Let’s Dance! I submitted to agents, editors, and publishing houses that accepted unsolicited manuscripts. I entered Twitter pitches but didn’t submit this story to contests, though, more recently, I have submitted other stories to contests.

 

 

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

VALERIE: My editor is connected directly with a publisher, so there was no “shopping around.” The original publisher was StarBerry, an imprint of Kane Press. In May 2019 I received an email from the publisher that Kane Press had merged with Boyds Mills. My book would now be published by Boyds Mills & Kane.

 

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

VALERIE: I didn’t celebrate, per se. I did share the news with family and friends who were all excited for me. My gratitude and their congratulations were celebration enough.

 

 

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

VALERIE: I honestly didn’t know what to expect in a contract. When I received the deal memo, the precursor to the contract, I reached out to author friends who I believed could offer some advice. One friend, Ramin Ganeshram, suggested I join the Authors Guild because that organization has lawyers who would read my contract and offer advice. I also reached out to SCBWI, and Stephen Mooser read through my contract. I was told by him and by the Authors Guild that my contract was fair for a debut author. I did negotiate a couple of things, like my percentage (after selling 20,000 books, my royalty percentages will increase by 1%), and I was able to get 25 author copies instead of 10. There may have been a couple of other changes, but I don’t recall now.

 

 

SUSANNA: How did you find the editorial process?

VALERIE: My editorial process was atypical. It’s remarkable that my editor, Jes, changed not ONE word of my manuscript. I did have to delete two stanzas to fit within the 32-page format though.

Jes had a vision for my story that I did not originally have, but I was thrilled with her ideas! She asked me to write illustrator notes next to each stanza to signify what type of dance my words described. I hadn’t connected all of my words to particular dances, so this was an interesting exercise. I shared with Jes that “I want a lot of brown kids in this book!” Jes assured me there would be. I also said I wanted children of differing abilities and from diverse backgrounds. I said I wanted the ballet spread to have a boy in a tutu, and Jes agreed. (In the end, I got something even better, a child in a blue tutu whose gender is indiscernible.) In October 2018, Jes shared that she thought we were missing out on an opportunity to make the story more global. She recognized that some of my words could describe cultural dances. For instance, where I saw “Tappity-tap/Fingers snap” as tap dance, Jes imagined flamenco from Spain. I envisioned the electric slide for “Glide and slide/Side to side,” but Jes suggested long sleeve dancing from China. I am thrilled to have this added layer of cultural representation in my book!

Jes later requested that I write two descriptive sentences about each dance to be included in the book as back matter. This wasn’t an enjoyable exercise for me, but I’m so glad that this is a component of Let’s Dance!, which, I believe, may add to its appeal and marketability.

 

 

SUSANNA: I love that you and your editor insisted on diversity and representing all different kinds of kids in dance!  What was your experience of the illustration process like?

VALERIE: Jes allowed me to weigh in on the selection of an illustrator, and she also shared sketches with me two or three times throughout the process and considered my feedback – even making changes based on it. I am aware that this does not usually happen. When I received the PDF of Let’s Dance!, before the F & G, I was THRILLED! Maine Diaz is such a talent. She brought my words, my vision, and Jes’ vision to life. Her gorgeous, energetic illustrations truly make my book dance!

One example:

My note:

Turn, twirl.

Twist, whirl. [Partner dancing, maybe ballroom but not sure how many young children do that; a child/ren could be looking over his/her/their shoulder as his/her/their body spins in the opposite direction]

 

Jes’note:

Turn, twirl.

Twist, whirl. [Kathak, Indian dance]

 

And here’s how the spread looks in the book:

Screen Shot 2020-03-02 at 12.32.34 PMScreen Shot 2020-03-02 at 12.32.48 PM

text copyright Valerie Bolling 2020, illustration copyright Maine Diaz 2020
Boyds Mills & Kane

 

 

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

VALERIE: The publisher will share all reviews with me. So far, I’ve seen only one review from Kirkus. I was pleased to have Kirkus review Let’s Dance!, and it was mostly positive. The reviewer said, “Bolling encourages readers to dance in styles including folk dance, classical ballet, breakdancing, and line dancing. Read aloud, the zippy text will engage young children.” Also, “The snappy text will get toes tapping …”

There were two aspects of the review with which I disagreed, but I know that all reviews are subjective. Overall, I’m happy with my first official review. What has meant even more to me, however, is the enthusiastic reaction of librarians and bookstore personnel.

 

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

VALERIE: As I said, the book was picked up on July 2, 2018; I received two F & Gs on Nov. 21, 2019. I shared one with my husband that evening and took it to work the next day to share with my colleagues and boss. On January 27, 2020, I received my 25 author copies!!!

 

 

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

VALERIE: My publisher sent me an email in July 2019, detailing the marketing plan. I was also requested to complete a questionnaire with contact information for local libraries, bookstores, media, and my alumni magazines. Those are the contacts that have received F & Gs of Let’s Dance!

 

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

VALERIE: I have a website; I have emailed over 130 bloggers requesting reviews and/or interviews; I have an email list; and I’m trying to remember to tell everyone I know or meet about my book. I really want to spread the word. It’s a delicate balance of sharing news about the book but not sounding as if I’m boasting or as if my book is the only thing I can talk about.

I have already had several articles written about Let’s Dance!, and/or myself. Feel free to look at the bottom of this page to see them. I’ve done a podcast and have several school and library events already planned.

Lisa Stringfellow, a friend and fellow author, created a beautiful flyer for my book launch event that I emailed and posted on social media. In addition, the library where I’m hosting my event, will display their own flyers. The publisher created postcards for me; I plan to pass them out to dance studios and stores that sell dance apparel. My editor also designed a coloring sheet, using the end pages of the book, which I can give to children at my launch event as well as school, library, and bookstore events. I decided that I would share information about my book, where to purchase it, and how to make contact with me on the back of the coloring sheet, making use of both sides of the paper.

Let’s Dance! Coloring Sheet

 

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

VALERIE: I wrote two PBs in December 2016; each featured one of my nieces as the main character. I wrote other stories in 2017, and Let’s Dance! was acquired in July 2018. Therefore, it took a year and a half from the time I started writing seriously to the time I sold my first picture book.

 

Author Photo

Author Valerie Bolling

My social media links are:

Website: http://valeriebolling.com

Twitter: @valerie_bolling 

Instagram: @valeriebollingauthor and @letsdancebook.

 

 

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and pay it forward to other writers! We so appreciate your time and expertise and wish you all the best with this and future books!

VALERIE: THANK YOU for your willingness to feature me in a Tuesday Debut!

 

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

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

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

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

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– 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

 

 

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Lost Cat

Woo hoo!  It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday!

So, last Friday I got a text from my sister-in-law who was helping a friend find a home for a cat.  Long story short, the cat has found a home (not on Blueberry Hill – in Manhattan 🙂 ) All good, but as a result I have cats on my mind, and that reminded me of this book that I absolutely love.

Title: Lost Cat

Written & Illustrated By: C. Roger Mader

Houghton Mifflin Books For Children, October 2013, Fiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: journey, pets, love (person/pet)

Opening: “Ever since Slipper was a tiny kitten, she’d lived with a little old lady in a little old house in a little old town.”

Brief Synopsis: Slipper has always lived happily with Mrs. Fluffy Slippers, but when Mrs. Fluffy Slippers moves, Slipper accidentally gets left behind in the commotion.  Slippers searches for a new home, but not just any home will do – it has to be the right one.  Will she find a new family she can adopt?

Links To Resources: Washington Children’s Choice Award Activities (scroll about 1/2 way down the pdf); Fun Facts About Cats; How To Draw A Cat video; learn to draw a cat step-by-step guide.

(Sorry – I can’t make that picture turn the right way around so you’ll have to tilt your head! 🙂 )

Why I Like This Book: First and foremost, I love the art!  Soft pastels that render that beautiful kitty so life-like!  Her expressions are perfect, especially her fright at High Tops, her polite pleading with Miss Shiny Shoes, and her bliss on the last two pages.  And the cat’s-eye-view perspective is wonderful.  The story is a sweet one with both humorous and poignant moments.  I love that all the people in the story are named for their footwear – which is what Slippers sees of them first 🙂  And most of all, I love that this lost cat story has a happy ending 🙂

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!!! 🙂

Maybe there’s a cat out there waiting to be adopted by YOU! 🙂

Would You Read It Wednesday # 350 – Hotdogs Don’t Camp (PB)

Hey there, peeps!

I saw this on FB yesterday, and I think I’m going to adopt it as my permanent motto 🙂

 

Think how cheerful we’ll all feel! 🙂

And to make us even cheerfuller (which should be a word because it’s fun to say) how about Something Chocolate?

I was instantly sold on this recipe because it was advertised thusly:

“If you haven’t made brownies in your waffle iron, you haven’t truly lived yet.”

Whoever wrote that, has the same appreciation I do for all things chocolate!

How is possible that I have never made brownies in my waffle iron?!

This is a situation which must be rectified immediately!

So let’s make breakfast, shall we?

Waffle Iron Brownies

delish-waffle-iron-brownies-still003-1579717010

Recipe HERE at Delish

 

I always say, “Chocolate!  It’s what’s for breakfast!”. . . and today it really is! 🙂

Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Sarah who you know very well by now! 😊  Sarah says, “I am an Optometrist, mother, and lover of the outdoors. I live in NH with my husband and two children. I love to paint in my free time, when I’m not writing.”

Find her on the web at www.sarahheturadny.com

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Hotdogs Don’t Camp

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

The Pitch: Hotdogs, humans, and bears—oh my! All on one campsite? There is bound to be some in-tents conflict. Three stories in one—with the primary story about hotdogs trying the impossible:  to camp like the humans do—explode off the page in this illustrator-heavy manuscript.

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

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

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on Would You Read it in the dropdown under For Writers in the bar above.  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!

Sarah is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to Leap Day!  What could be better than a day devoted to leaping?

7AF5AFED-9E61-43C3-A55D-FF05BD6CEA71_1_201_a

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 🙂

 

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Kirsten Larson!

Greetings, everyone!

What with the Valentiny Contest and such, we haven’t had a Tuesday Debut for a couple weeks, but I’m thrilled to be back today featuring the birthday of a wonderful book I’ve watched come along pretty much from its inception.  And I can’t wait for you to meet our Tuesday Debut-ess, the lovely and talented Kirsten Larson (who once upon a time participated in Phyllis’s World Tour back in March of 2012 by taking Phyllis to the Mojave Desert to ride on an F-117 Night Hawk! 🙂 )

First, have a look at this terrific book!

WOOD, WIRE, WINGS: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane
by Kirsten W. Larson
illustrated by Tracy Subisak
Calkins Creek, Feb. 25, 2020
nonfiction for ages 7 to 10.

Version 2

Even as a girl, Emma Lilian Todd saw problems like gusts of wind – they set her mind soaring. When Lilian saw the earliest airplane designs, she knew she could build something better, trying and failing repeatedly until her biggest dream took flight.

 

SUSANNA: And now, please help me welcome Kirsten Larson!  We are so excited to have you join us today, Kirsten!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

KIRSTEN: In 2014, I was exploring an idea I’d jotted down in my writer’s notebook: Rosie the Riveter. I had a stack of books from the library including Andrea Beatty’s Rosie Revere, Engineer, illustrated by David Roberts, which included Lilian Todd in a list of female aviation firsts. I have no idea what made me pick up a fictional picture book (in rhyme) only tangentially related to my original topic, but I’m so glad I did. Reading books of all kinds has always given me ideas and improved my craft.

 

 

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

KIRSTEN: Well, as you know, I wrote the first draft of this book in your March 2014 Making Picture Book Magic class, and you were one of my first readers! I had started my research that February and worked on this book until August 2014 when I started a new project.

 

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

KIRSTEN: A million! Even after those first six months of concerted effort, I revised the book periodically in response to conference critiques or a brainstorm I had for a new way of approaching things. I even wrote it as a middle grade historical fiction (only a chapter). Because I started my career writing school and library books to spec on tight deadlines, I don’t become too attached to my words. And in Making Picture Book Magic you encouraged a flexible approach, making us write multiple first lines and endings, for example. Honestly, revising and tinkering with structure and approach is my favorite part of writing and revision.

 

 

SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
KIRSTEN: Do we ever REALLY know? I think our instincts get better as we go along, but all of us submit work before it’s ready. This book was no different. I sent it to agents when I probably shouldn’t have (including the half-written middle grade opening. Yikes!). But once I’d made it the best I could with the help of many critique partners and professional critiques, and wasn’t making meaningful changes, I felt it could go out to agents. Now that I have an agent, I’m happy to have another sounding board for when work is ready.

 

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

KIRSTEN: Early on I decided writing for children was going to be my career, and I wanted an agent. I only sent this book to one publisher via an SCBWI conference submission. In my opinion, it’s important to pick a path: either submit directly to publishers or to agents, not both. One or two submissions to publishers while querying agents may be fine, but if you query too many, you’ve limited an agent’s options. And they won’t take you on as a client.

 

 

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

KIRSTEN: When my agent took WOOD, WIRE, WINGS out on submission, it racked up the rejections over a period of seven months. I’ll be forever grateful to Carolyn Yoder who saw the potential in Lilian’s story, was willing to work with a developing writer, and asked for a revise and resubmit. I finally had an offer about nine months after we first sent the story out. I truly believe it’s about finding the publishing partner who’s the right fit for a particular book. And Calkins Creek was so worth the wait.

 

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

KIRSTEN: For me, I’ve always found the most magical moment to be when you get an offer (from an agent or a publisher) since contract negotiations can take awhile. Still, when my contract finally arrived, I made my kids pose for a signing photo with me even though they had no idea what was going on. And my husband bought me some really cool paper airplane earrings.

 

 

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

KIRSTEN: If it hasn’t been mentioned already, I would refer folks to author Hannah Holt’s survey of picture book advances. (link: https://hannahholt.com/blog/2017/9/25/writing-picture-books-a-look-at-the-number-part-2) I will say my offer was in line with what one would expect from a small-to-mid-sized publisher, and I am thankful to have an agent negotiating my advance, royalty rates, and other elements of my contract. But compensation is really only one consideration when evaluating an offer. It’s important to know about a publisher’s reach (distribution and marketing), the editor’s vision for the book, and in my case, the fact-checking process. The best offer isn’t always the highest offer. You have to look at the whole package.

 

 

SUSANNA: What can you tell us about the editorial process?

KIRSTEN: My editorial process began before I even sold the book, since my wonderful editor, Carolyn Yoder, bought the book on a revise and resubmit request. The R&R focused on adding historical context. After I sold the book, I revised again, focusing on adding interiority and emotional truth the story. Finally, in an unusual twist, we did another revision after we saw illustrator Tracy Subisak’s dummy. There was so much of the story Tracy was able to tell visually, allowing me to cut portions of the text. Going through these revisions changed my writing process going forward. I have learned to consider what part of the story illustrations can carry, and what I absolutely HAVE to say with words.

 

 

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

KIRSTEN: One thing that surprised me for this particular book was the amount of input I had into the illustration process. I was offered input into who might illustrate and was thrilled when Tracy Subisak came on board. Very early in the process, I was asked to provide art references. These were visual descriptions from my written sources, as well as copies of historic photographs Tracy could use. I had input into the art at every stage, and in some cases, editor Carolyn Yoder and I made suggestions for better historical accuracy. For example, we asked Tracy to revise the shape of the room at the Patent Office to make it more historically accurate. I have such utter respect for illustrators of nonfiction, who must marry such attention to detail with their artistic vision.

 

 

SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc?  What was that like?
KIRSTEN: Waiting for reviews was one of the most nerve-racking parts of the process. Because I wrote this book so many years ago, I feel my writing has changed significantly, and I was nervous about how this earlier work would be received. I was so thrilled when the book got a positive review from Kirkus. I felt like the reviewer really “got” the book, including the deeper messages about failure being a natural part of invention and engineering, and perseverance being an essential trait for any creator. Link to full review: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/kirsten-w-larson/wood-wire-wings/

 

 

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

KIRSTEN: I got my formal offer Feb. 10, 2017 and received my advance copy just before Christmas 2019 all wrapped up with a shiny red ribbon from my publisher. So that’s just shy of three years.

xmas Kirsten with new book

 

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

KIRSTEN: One of the most fascinating parts of my publishing journey has been learning what a good publisher can do in terms of marketing. While it’s very early in my publishing process, my publisher has sent F&Gs (folded and gathered copies of the book) out to professional reviewers like Kirkus and book influencers, like Alyson Beecher at KidLit Frenzy. As soon as professional reviews were published, the publisher was able to feed review snippets to Amazon, B&N, and Edelweiss, which is used by book buyers. I know Calkins Creek has wonderful distribution through Penguin Random House with a team of sales reps who are knowledgeable about my book and are able to sell the book into bookstores and museum gift shops. And Calkins Creek has a presence at many conferences, where I’m sure my book will make an appearance.

 

 

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

KIRSTEN: I think one of the most powerful things I did (along with 37 of my best book peeps) is create a book-marketing group, the Soaring 20s. I’ve also recently joined @STEAMTeam2020, which is cross promoting STEM/STEAM-focused books for all ages. Sometimes it feels weird to scream and shout about your own book, so working as part of a team to cheer each other on is much more comfortable for me. Aside from boosting each other on social media and creating original blog and social media content to reach potential book readers, my groups are focused on early reviews, reaching out to book influencers, and library purchases.

I think another positive marketing approach for this book was to reach out to like-minded groups who are natural audiences for a book about a female aviation pioneer. I’ve booked some speaking opportunities and pitched articles for their publications. For me, those groups included the Experimental Aircraft Association and Women in Aviation International.

 

 

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

KIRSTEN: I wrote the first terrible draft of a magazine article for kids in October 2011, and started writing picture books in 2012 through Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 challenge. So, it will be more than eight years of honing my craft, finding an agent, learning book marketing, etc.

 

 

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

KIRSTEN: I’ve always thought writing is a lot like inventing/engineering. It’s a flash of inspiration followed by years of perspiration and perseverance as you tinker with and tweak your initial idea until it can soar.

 

 

Version 2

Author Kirsten Larson

My website: kirsten-w-larson.com

Twitter/Instgram/Pinterest: @kirstenwlarson

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KirstenLarsonWrites/

 

 

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series, Kirsten, and for paying it forward to other writers!  Your knowledge and expertise are so helpful to all of us, and we wish you all the very best of success with this and future books!

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

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

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

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

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– 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)

The 2020 Valentiny Writing Contest WINNERS!!!

Darlings!

Do you know what today is?

Of course you do!

That’s why you’re here!

No one wants to miss National Tortilla Chip Day!

Let’s take a poll!

Which is better: potato chips or tortilla chips?

and

What is your favorite dip? Guacamole? Salsa? Queso? Other?

These are the burning questions that can only be answered by the great minds here in our little community.

Now I come to think of it, there is probably a picture book in this. . . The Search for Perfection. . . or maybe, Who Stole The Dip?

But back to the point, I think we can all agree that for un-dipped flavor, our friends the potato chips have poor plain tortillas beat hands down.  Also, I would argue that ruffled potato chips have more flavor than smooth ones.  But once dip is involved, all bets are off.  Tortilla chips with both guacamole AND salsa may surpass the lowly plain potato chip.  (Although, if you get a good barbecue or sour cream and onion potato chip, the tables turn again!)

MY!  What a knotty problem!  Thank goodness you’re here to weigh in!

Now off you go to your Mondays to enjoy your properly-dipped tortilla chips.

Ta-ta.

See you tomorrow for Tuesday Debut.

Thanks for stopping by.

Buh-bye now.

What?

You DIDN’T come to talk about tortilla chips?

What else could possibly be on your mind on National Tortilla Chip Day?

Ah. . .

. . . I know what it is!

You’ve spent the whole weekend in a fever of anticipation to find out who won

The 5th Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest!!!

Valentiny Writing Contest 2019!

 

So I suppose, if you’re very nice to me and agree with everything I say (for example, that ruffled potato chips are better than smooth ones) and are willing to give me a tiara and elect me Princess of Clove Valley, I will tell you.

But first a few words from our sponsor (me) which I know shocks you (not!) 🙂

As always, I was thrilled to see so many wonderful stories!  (Did I mention there were nearly 150?!)  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.  It is SO HARD! One of our favorite entries – well written and curious – was over the word limit!  Two entries came in after the deadline.  Many other entries were so well written but simply weren’t curious enough, although they were fabulous in other ways!

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!)

Ingrid Boydston for What’s Love?

Theresa Kiser for Little Card’s Purpose

Rebecca Loescher for Crabby’s Heart Speaks

Mia Geiger for Secret Stash

 

 

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

Laura Howard for Bags Of Love (fun and sweet!)

Kelsey Gross for Moe’s Valentine’s Day Discovery  (good story structure and curiosity, sweet ending)

Sarah Meade for Valenturtle

Mary Warth for Mystery Marks

 

3. For Original POV:

Amy Flynn for Mailbox (POV of a mailbox! – well-written!)

 

4. For Humor:

Genevieve Puttay for Cupid Caper (clever and funny! but we thought maybe some of the humor would escape the 12 and under set)

Katrina Swenson for Cupid’s Love Trials

Jen Bagan for Cupid And Curtis

Andrea MacDonald for Peck! (funny, original inside-the-egg POV)

 

5. For Well-Written, Fun Story With Great Sibling Interaction:

Jilanne Hoffman for Double-Crossed Hearts

Joy Pitcairn for February 14

 

6. For Well-Written Scariest Valentine Ever That Totally Gave Us The Shivers! : 

Sofia Dibble for Ophelia Divine (so original and very Edgar Allan Poe!)

 

7. For We Loved It But Not Curious Enough!:

Aundra Tomlins for Better With Bear

Elizabeth LaGrange Muster for Cupid’s Curious Conundrum (great mash-up of holiday characters!)

MaryAnn Cortez for Yeti Wants A Valentine

Sue Lancaster for Shelly & Saul

Claire Lewis for My Piggy Valentine

Elsie Duffany for The Curious Kitten (well done, Elsie!  Keep up the great work!)

Cindy Williams Schrauben for How To Find Your Valentine

Anne Bromley for A Shelter Dog’s Valentine

Kate Thompson for When Love Gives You Wings

 

Congratulations to all of you for fantastic elements of your stories!  You may all email me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com subject line Prize Winner to collect your award badge and prize, which is five dollars in a format that can be emailed for you to put toward something you’d like at a large online store (and I’m being cryptic because when I did this for Halloweensie I got a ton of problematic spam mail because of the way I worded the post, but hopefully you can figure it out.  The store starts with the letter A 🙂 )

 

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, our devoted readers!!!

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

DDDRRRUUUMMM RRROOOLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!

In First Place

Winner of the whole shebang…

who gets first choice of all the prizes…

Nicole Loos Miller
for

Seeds Of Love!!!

Congratulations, Nicole, on a beautifully written entry which had us wondering right along with your main character what would grow and what would be done with it, along with a lovely message!

In Second Place

Kelly Conroy
for
Candy Conundrum

Congratulations, Kelly, on a delightfully kid-friendly entry we loved for your MC’s very believable curiosity and subsequent taste-testing of the candy hearts and perfect final question 🙂   You get to pick your prize after Nicole.

In Third Place

Sarah Meade
for

Gibbon’s Valentine’s Surprise

Congratulations, Sarah!  You did a terrific job of writing a fun, well-structured story in 214 words!  We were especially fond of Sloth 🙂  You get to pick your prize after Nicole and Kelly.

In Fourth Place

Nancy Riley
for

Finding A Friend

Congratulations, Nancy, on an engaging story of a curious little rover on a Valentine mission on Mars in perfect rhyme!  You get to pick your prize after Nicole, Kelly, and Sarah!

In Fifth Place

Charlotte Sheer
for

Scraps Of Love

Congratulations, Charlotte, on your heart-warming story. We felt Papa and the neighbors’ curiosity over what on earth Sergio was up to!  How lovely that he was doing something nice for those who had helped him. . .  using reclaimed and recycled items!  You get to pick after Nicole, Kelly, Sarah, and Nancy!

In Sixth Place

Jean James
for

The Stinky Valentine

Congratulations, Jean!  You really had us wondering what kind of awful stinky thing was in that box!  And what a fun twist that a Valentine mix-up had occurred! I’m sure you get the idea of how the prize picking goes by now 🙂

In Seventh Place…

Marty Bellis
for
Dear Cupid

Congratulations, Marty!  You made us laugh 🙂  You get to pick next 🙂

In Eighth Place…

Sara Ackerman
for
I Snorfle You

Congratulations, Sara!  You did a beautiful job of showing curiosity in an unfamiliar world (we loved that two eyeballs seemed strange and that Zingle marveled over cold bits of the sky falling and that he had to learn that glitter was not a snack! 🙂 ) as well as the beginning of friendship.  You get to pick after Marty 🙂

In Ninth Place…

Chelsea Tornetto
for
Sending Love

Congratulations, Chelsea!  We loved your imaginings of how a Valentine might get from one side of the map to the other!  You get to pick after Sara!

In Tenth Place…

JC Kelly
for
Always.  Every Day.  No Matter What.

Congratulations, JC!  We loved how believably “kid” Johnny was with his curiosity over how far his mom’s love went, and how patient and forgiving his mom! You get to pick after Chelsea!

In Eleventh Place…

Michelle Howell Miller
for
Whose Valentine Could This Be?

Congratulations, Michelle, on a wonderful entry for youngest readers, beautifully done!  You get to pick after JC 🙂

In Twelfth Place…

Chambrae Griffith
for
Beetle’s Valentine

Congratulations, Chambrae, on a lovely, curiosity filled story in well-written rhyme!

 

All the winners should email me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com with the subject heading Prize Winner so we can work out details for you to receive your prizes!  (The sooner the better!)  And for your convenience, the whole prize list is included at the bottom of this post.

Congratulations again to all our winners – it was a stiff competition!! – and congratulations to EVERYONE who wrote and entered a story in the contest.  You all deserve a huge round of applause and a gigantic chocolate heart… or lots of little chocolate hearts… or both… really, you can never have too much chocolate 🙂 . (Or perhaps you’d rather have a shower of tortilla chips and some lovely dishes of dip 🙂 )

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:  Oh, the awesomeness!  With heartfelt thanks to all who donated!

Penny’s Two Cents – an incredible opportunity for any picture book writer!

Sometimes it’s helpful to chat with a published author about your writing journey. Penny Parker Klostermann is offering her two cents. The prize includes six thirty-minute Skype/Google Hangout sessions with Penny. The sessions can be used anytime during 2020. Ask her anything related to writing for children and getting published. Up to two sessions can be used for general comments on a manuscript (not a full critique). Penny doesn’t claim to have it all figured out, (by any means) but she’s happy to share her two cents based on what she’s learned and continues to learn on her journey as an author.

Penny Klostermann

Penny is the author of THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT (Random House 2015) (now available in board book and with matching pajamas! 🙂 ) and A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE (Random House 2017)

495eb-penny      Cooked-Up Fairy Tale

 – Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Rosie Pova, author of If I Weren’t With You (Spork 2017),  Sarah’s Song (Spork 2017), and the forthcoming Sunday Rain (Lantana Publishing, September 2020)

Rosie Pova                Sarah's Song

If I Weren't With You Sunday Rain

Picture Book Manuscript Critique (rhyming or non-rhyming) from Katey Howes, author of GRANDMOTHER THORN (Ripple Grove Press 2017), MAGNOLIA MUDD AND THE SUPER JUMPTASTIC LAUNCHER DELUXE (Sterling Children’s Books 2018), BE A MAKER (Carolrhoda Books, 2019), and the forthcoming RISSY NO KISSIES (Lerner/Carolrhoda Spring 2021)

KathrynHeadshots-20 (2)               Magnolia Mudd cover art Grandmother Thorn  Be A Maker

Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Ellen Leventhal, author of DON’T EAT THE BLUEBONNETS (Spork 2017), LOLA CAN’T LEAP (Spork 2018), and HAYFEST A HOLIDAY QUEST (ABCs Press 2010)

Ellen Leventhal       Don't Eat The Bluebonnets

Hayfest     Lola Can't Leap

Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Sherry Howard, author of ROCK & ROLL WOODS (Spork 2018)

Sherry Howard (4)Cover Rock and Roll Woods

Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Lydia Lukidis, author of NO BEARS ALLOWED (Blue Whale Press 2019) and many educational titles.

Lydia Lukidis        No Bears Allowed

– a spot in Making Picture Book Magic (Interactive or Self Study version – winner’s choice) – an online picture book writing course from Yours Truly.  If you choose the interactive version, month to be mutually agreed on by me and the winner.

MPBM

– Prize Pack #1 – a personalized signed copy of A MORNING WITH GRANDPA (Lee&Low Books 2016) by Sylvia Liu and the 2020 Guide To Literary Agents (which you may exchange for the Children’s Writer’s And Illustrator’s Market 2020 if you prefer)

MorningWithGrandpa_cover 2020 Guide to Literary Agents
Lee&Low New Voices Award 2013

Picture Book Prize Pack – a personalized signed copy of NOT QUITE SNOW WHITE (HarperCollins 2019) by Ashley Franklin and a personalized signed copy of NOAH NOASAURUS (Albert Whitman & Co 2019) by Elaine Kiely Kearns

Not Quite Snow White      noah

Picture Book Pack From Chris and Chris: a personalized signed copy of EMILY’S IDEA (Sounds True, March 2020) by Christine Evans and a personalized signed copy of HEY, HEY, HAY! A Tale of Bales and the Machines That Make Them (Holiday House 2018) by Christy Mihaly

Emily's Idea HEY, HEY, HAY! Cover

Historical Women Picture Book Pack: a personalized signed copy of QUEEN OF PHYSICS: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom (Sterling Children’s Books 2019) by Teresa Robeson and a personalized signed copy of MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books 2020) by Vivian Kirkfield

queen of physics cover              Making Their Voices Heard
Asian/Pacific American Award Picture
Book and ALA Notable Picture Book

A SURPRISE PACK! – 2 additional picture books (not signed) donated by Darshana Khiani (who will have her own book, How To Wear A Sari, out in Spring 2021!): What Color Is Night? by Grant Snider and Caspian Finds A Friend by Jacqueline Veissid

What Color Is Night? Caspian Finds A Friend

 

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, buying and recommending their books and services to your writer friends and/or friends with kids, writing them nice reviews on Amazon, GoodReads etc if you’ve read and liked their books, and showing your appreciation to them in any way you can! 😊

The 5th Annual Valentiny Contest -FINALISTS!!!

Every time I run a contest I have a great time reading fabulous entries from writers who have entered my contests before and being dazzled by new writers who are entering for the first time, visiting blogs I’ve been to many times and blogs I’m seeing for the first time, reconnecting with old friends and making new ones, and generally being blown away by the collective talent (and peer support) in the kid lit community.

It is SO MUCH FUN!

And everything is as lovely as lovely can be. . .

. . . right up until I have to choose the finalists!

Then, all of a sudden, I find myself saying, “Why? Why do I do this to myself?”

and, “Whose idea was this ANYWAY?!”

and “GAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!”

cd521-surprisedbabytiger

Because you are all creative geniuses, and your work is spectacular, but there are only 12 prizes.

So somehow the other judges and I have to winnow somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 entries (sometimes more than twice that) down to 12!

Ouch!

Is it any wonder that we are reduced to a state where only a roomful of puppies and chocolate can give us the will to go on? 🙂

But we have made it through and by sheer stubborn determination present to you

The 5th Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest!!!

Valentiny Writing Contest 2019!

~ FINALISTS!!!~

 

And it turns out, “curiosity” was much harder to incorporate well than I expected it to be!  Some terrifically-written entries missed it altogether, some were more self-examining or kind of wondering than really curious, some had one or two questions included but didn’t give rise to any real curiosity. . .  A curious state of affairs! 🙂

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 – about 150 entries of which only 12 made the finals.  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 curiosity and success in making us feel the curiosity!
  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! 🙂

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 Day was mentioned in passing – including a couple that literally didn’t mention it at all – or that didn’t seem to really showcase curiosity although they may have used the word “curiosity” – several of which were very creative and well-written, or that were written in rhyme where the meter was off, or that didn’t seem particularly kid-oriented even though they were wonderful stories, or that really had us…until the last line or two when things sadly fell apart (which I know is often due to the tight word count requirement.)  We tried our best to select finalists that checked all the boxes.

So without further ado, I present to you the finalists in the 2020 Fifth 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 Saturday February 22 at 5 PM 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 tell people you are a finalist.  Please do not ask people to vote for a specific number or title, or for the story about the curious little kitty whose curiosity nearly landed her in the jaws of the big bad wolf 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.  We operate on the honor system.  I thank you in advance for respecting this. Your win will mean more if it’s honestly earned.

So now, here are the 2020 Valentiny Contest Finalists!!! Some poetry, some prose, some for younger readers, some for older (but still kid) readers, all fabulous 🙂

 

1 – Candy Conundrum

I wonder what they taste like.

The Hug Me heart looks good.

My mommy says, “Don’t eat them.”

My tummy says, I should.

I smell True Love and Kiss Me,

then give Be Mine a lick.

I chew up Smile and Soul Mate…Yuck!

I think I might be sick.

I wonder why they make them,

those pretty hearts I ate,

to give to someone that you love

…or someone that you hate.

 

2 – Seeds Of Love

“The world needs more love,” says Grandma.
She sets a flower pot on the table.
We paint it with hearts for Valentine’s Day.
I don’t know about love, but the world has more color at least.

The seed is tiny, but Grandma says not to underestimate it.
What kind of seed is it?
But she won’t tell me.
“Life is better when there is room for wonder,” she whispers.

Poke. Dig. Poke.
The dark dirt sticks under my fingernails.
Scoop. Scoop. Scoop.
Back over my seed. Like a cozy blanket.

See you soon, little seed.

You are my sunshine, I sing.
My watering can is a gentle rainstorm.
Push. Push. Up!
A tiny bit of green starts to show.
You can do it.

Grow.
Secrets, bunched and waiting on a thin green stem.
Grow.
A little taller each day.
Stretch.

At last!
A tiny star surrounded by pink.
Bright and delicate.
Lovely and strong.

“Who should we give it to?’ Grandma asks.
I want to keep it.
“Love is for sharing,” she insists.
We leave it on our neighbors doorstep.

“We did it,” laughs Grandma.
And she’s right.
I can feel it.
There’s more love now.

From just one seed.

 

3 – The Stinky Valentine

The box arrived,
we stood and stared.
It smelled so bad,
that no one dared,
to pick it up
or sniff their nose,
the contents likely decomposed.

The box was wrapped
with bows, and hearts,
a Valentine
that smelled like farts!

It was addressed
to our whole family,
posted from
our favorite Grammy.
But why would Grammy
send a cache
that smelled like
weeks old, rotting trash?

I don’t think that’s
a Valentine’s treat,
it smells like Grandpa’s
stinky feet!

Mom called out
for Volunteers,
but we replied
with loud Bronx cheers!

Mom grabbed the box,
and held her nose,
tore off the hearts,
ribbons, and bows.

We all leaned in,
a tight knit squeeze,
and eyed a block
of blue veined cheese!

“Ewww,” we cried!
Quite displeased,
to find this marbled,
Valentine Cheese!

Then “Knock, Knock, Knock”
tapped like a score,
from the knocker
on our door.

Now who is that?
We went to see,
why,
Mr. Mouse’s Family,
who held a box
adorned with hearts,
that smelled divine,
and not like farts.

“I think this box belongs to you!”
It seems the post
mixed-up the two,
and no offense,
but this box reeks
of sickly, sugary,
doughy treats.”

We all laughed,
relieved to find,
a much more palatable
Valentine!

 

4 – I Snorfle You

Zingle gripped Mama’s warm green hand.

“I snorfle you,” Mama said.

“Snorfle you too.”

Zingle didn’t like this planet.

Spaceships zoomed on the ground. HONK!

Everyone stared at him—with two eyeballs.

And cold bits of sky fell everywhere.Brrrr.

“What’s this? What’s this? What’s this?” Zingle asked.

“Flag. Squirrel. School.” Mama brought him inside. “I snorfle you,” she said before leaving.

Zingle’s eye teared up. But then he looked around. “What’s this? What’s this? What’s this?”

“Sand. Playdough. Hamster.” an Earthlittle replied.

Lucy taught Zingle everything. Zingle got used to Lucy’s second eye.

Then one day, school looked different.

“What’s this?” Zingle asked Lucy. “What’s this? What’s this?”

“Glitter. Heart. Valentine.”

“Why?” Zingle asked.

“It means ‘I love you.’”

“I zuv you?”

“Love.”

Zingle didn’t know what that meant, but he liked making things. And he liked his friend. Zingle would make a valentine for Lucy!

But the scissors wouldn’t listen to him. The glue was too sticky. Glitter was NOTa snack. A classful of double eyeballs stared at him. The valentine was all wrong, the sky was falling again, and Zingle wanted Mama. His eye teared up.

Then Lucy put something in Zingle’s hand. “Happy Valentine’s Day!”

Zingle read the crooked heart: I snorfle you.

Zingle hugged Lucy. “Snorfle you, too.”

 

5 – Finding A Friend

She booted up and rolled outside.
“Today’s a special day.
How can I find a Valentine?
There has to be a way.”

“My mission is to make a friend,”
explained the little rover.
“So, NASA I am signing off.
I’ll call you later—over.”

She rumbled up a Martian hill,
antennas on alert.
She caught a sound, but what she found
was only blowing dirt.

Then suddenly, her radar pinged.
What could that be ahead?
She saw a rover stuck in sand.
Its batteries seemed dead.

“Oh, who are you?” she beeped in code.
“I wonder when you landed?
You couldn’t see the sand is deep?
Is that how you got stranded?”

She stretched her robot arm to him
and scanned his power pack.
“Perhaps a jolt of megavolts
will bring your functions back.”

Her stream of power filled his heart.
In minutes he was ready.
She pressed the button labelled START
and then she told him, “Steady.”

His motors revved and servos whirred.
She helped him from the hole.
“I’m Spirit. Thanks, you rescued me
and won my heart and soul!”

“My name is Curiosity.
I tracked down every sign,
to find a friend—I hope it’s you.
Please be my Valentine?”

 

6 – Dear Cupid

Dear Cupid,

Just wondering…

How good is your aim?

How often do you practice?

If you miss, do you try again?

How many arrows do you have, anyway?

Do you take requests? From anybody?

Or, are you like Santa? Do I have to have been good?

(I promise to try harder if you help me out.)

Here’s my list of targets. It’s kind of urgent. Let me explain.

  1. Mr. Crabtree. I sorta trampled his prize tomato plants…totally by accident. (He’s a BIG man. It might take two arrows.)
  2. Dad. Minor dent, garage door. Nothing anyone else would notice But he will.
  3. Mrs. Crinkly. Her trellis is trashed. Ball went haywire. Craziest thing. ( I’d like to stay on her good side. She bakes great cookies. And gives you milk, too. Or did. Not sure now. )
  4. Mom. Her fudge cake. I tested it. Delicious. Apparently not for me.

I’m usually a lovable kid, but today’s been an exceptionally bad day.

Thanks.

Your friend, I hope!
Dennis, as in Grateful (no, NOT the menace guy)

P.S. Can you leave me some arrows? For when you’re on vacation?
Thanks again,
Dennis, as in Hopeful (and slightly Hungry)

PPS. I’ll save you some cake and a cookie, if I can.

 

7 – Sending Love

Today I sent you all my love
Boxed up in bubble wrap.
I wonder how it gets to you
On your side of the map?

Do mailboxes have secret slides
To subway trains below?
That rumble through the tunnels
With their heart-covered cargo?

Do elevators lift my love
To rooftops way up high?
Where helicopters wait
To take it whizzing through the sky?

Do parachutes let my love drift
And land upon a train?
That chugs and chugs its way across
The mountains and the plains?

And when the railroad tracks run out
Does my love take a trip
Across the rolling ocean waves
Aboard a pirate ship?

Do pirates trade my love
For cheesy pizza when they dock?
And does the pizza guy
Drive on his scooter down your block?

And leave my love upon your step
For you to come home to?
I wonder if that’s how my love
Travels from me to you?

No matter how it gets there
In a plane or bus or car,
I’ll keep on sending all my love
From me to where you are!

 

8 – Always. Every Day. No Matter What.

Johnny’s eyes kept POPPING open.
He couldn’t sleep.

“MOOOOOOOM,” he called out.

Mom cracked open the door and whispered,
“What?” into the darkened room.

Johnny had a really important question
that couldn’t wait till morning.

“Will you always love me? No matter what?”
“Always,” said Mom. “No matter what.”

“Not just on Valentine’s Day?”
“Every day,” said Mom.

“Would you love me if I were a naughty puppy?”
“I’d push you out of trouble’s way with my wet nose.”

“What if I were a scared kitten?”
“I’d lick you until you purred.”

“What if I were a wiggly octopus?”
“I’d wrap my tentacles around you and give you a big squeeze.”

“What if I were a goofy giraffe?”
“I’d twist my neck around yours and kiss the tippy top of your head.”

“Would you still love me if I was a hungry little boy who ate all of my Valentine’s candy before bed?”
“Always,” said mom.

“Would you still love me if I ate… all… of…. your…. Valentine’s chocolates too?”
“Well,”…. said mom, “first I’d nuzzle you with my wet nose, then I’d lick you, then I’d squeeze you with my tentacles, then I’d give you a kiss on the tippy top of your head. And, then I’d say: “I love you, and GOODNIGHT!”

 

9 – Whose Valentine Could This Be?

Whose Valentine could this be?

Is it yours, fox, down deep in your den?
Is it yours, rooster,
or yours, hen?

Is it yours, hawk, high up in your tree?
Is it yours, cricket,
or yours, bee?

Is it yours, shark, out there in the bay?
Is it yours, turtle,
or yours, ray?

Is it yours, frog, afloat on the lake?
Is it yours, fish,
Or yours, snake?

Whose Valentine could this be?

Why,
there’s one for each of you,
with love, from me.

 

10 – Gibbon’s Valentine’s Surprise

Meerkat, Marmoset, and Sloth were sharing stories when Gibbon burst in.

“I’m making a Valentine’s surprise, and I need your help!”

They set down their books.

“I wonder what it is…” Meerkat mused.

“Maybe Valentine’s candy?” Marmoset murmured.

“Or… something… elssssssssse,” Sloth whispered.

First Gibbon grabbed paint and brushes.

“I wonder what he’s going to paint…” Meerkat mused.

“Maybe Valentine’s cards?” Marmoset murmured.

“Or… something… elssssssssse,” Sloth whispered.

Next Gibbon gathered wood and his toolbox.

“I wonder what he’s going to make…” Meerkat mused.

“Maybe a valentines mailbox?” Marmoset murmured.

“Or… something… elssssssssse,” Sloth whispered.

“Paint something you love on your pieces of wood,” Gibbon instructed.

“I love stories…” Meerkat mused.

“Me too,” Marmoset murmured.

“Oh….yesssssss,” Sloth whispered.

Everyone planned and painted.

“Perfect! Thanks!” Gibbon gathered everything and gamboled off.

“I wonder where he’s going…” Meerkat mused.

“Maybe the post office?” Marmoset murmured.

“Or… somewhere… elssssssssse,” Sloth whispered.

The three friends waited.

They pulled out paperbacks and read together.

And waited.

On Valentine’s Day Gibbon gathered his friends.

“Surprise!” Gibbon pointed.

“A little library!” Meerkat cried.

The outside:

“Our paintings!” Marmoset cheered.

Inside:

“Bookssssss!” Sloth said with a slow smile.

“Something we all love,” Meerkat mused. “Thank you, Gibbon!”

“Thank you!” said Meerkat.

“Thanksssss,” said Sloth.

Gibbon grinned. “Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!”

 

11 – Beetle’s Valentine

Beetle bakes a Valentine,
Frosting letters spell, ‘Be mine!’
Picks a rose and ties a bow,
Signs, ‘Love, Beetle— X and O.’

Hopes to woo her with affection,
Scuttles off with his confection.
“Where could Caterpillar be?”
Scours milkweed, checks each tree.

Searches under, searches over,
Every leaf and every clover.
Sits beside her favorite flower,
Waits for hour after hour.

“Is she ever coming back?”
Spots a small, brown hanging sack.
“What is this?” Creeps close to see,
“Caterpillar?” Couldn’t be.

Turns to go, snap, “What’s that sound?”
Startled, Beetle whirls around.
Sack bursts open, color flies.
Beetle can’t believe his eyes.

Caterpillar, fluttering high,
Now a lovely Butterfly!
“Is that Valentine for me?”
Beetle blushes, “Yes siree!”

 

12 – Scraps Of Love

Jumping out of bed, Sergio announced, “Yay! Recycle day!”

Papa’s bushy brows wrinkled his forehead. “You’re up early for a Saturday! Taking out the green buckets?”

“Yup, but I have to beat the collection truck to everyone’s driveways!”

Sergio slipped a clipboard under his arm, grabbed a pen, and went into the garage. He carried the last bin of moving day packing paper to the curb.

“What do you think that boy’s up to?” Papa asked Curious, their cat, who watched from the windowsill.

Balancing a battered cardboard box on top of his creaking wagon, Sergio stopped at each house on the street.

“#6 Fitzpatrick”, Sergio wrote. “Good stuff!” he exclaimed, dropping a tennis magazine, ticket stubs, and birthday card into the box.

Hearing his enthusiastic outbursts, neighbors peeked outside. They phoned each other, wondering, “What’s he looking for? They seemed all set when we helped them move in!”

At home, Sergio stashed his trash treasures in a closet so Curious couldn’t shred them.

Sergio spent hours shaping cardboard scraps into hearts. Each became the canvas for a paper collage created from each family’s own junk.

On Valentine’s Day, Sergio delivered the personalized artworks to all the neighbors with a note that said, “Thanks for opening your hearts to my family. Your friend, Sergio.”

 

 

 

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

Please vote for your favorite in the poll below by Saturday February 22 at 5PM Eastern time.

 

Tune in Monday February 24 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 lounge on my chaise and call upon Jacques, my personal masseuse, to give me a one hour foot massage. . . SNORT! As if!  I can’t even say that with a straight face 🙂

Ahem.  Let’s try again.

I’m going to go start plowing through the work that built up during all that reading and agonizing and negotiating over Valentiny stories!

Less indulgent, perhaps, but a lot more believable (and true) 🙂

Have a thrilling Thursday, everyone!

What’s In Your Heart? – The 5th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest!!!

 

Roses are red

Violets are blue

Valentinies rock

And so do YOU!

Hang onto your conversation hearts everyone!  It’s time for . . .

The 5th Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest!!!

Valentiny Writing Contest 2019!

~ for children’s writers~

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 feels curious!  Your someone can feel curious themselves or make someone else feel curious.  The curiosity may be about a person, place, thing, quality, idea, event, or about whether something will happen or something is true or real, or anything else under the sun you can think up!  Think beyond the obvious!  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 curious (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 Friday February 14th by 11:59 PM EDT and add your post-specific link to the list below.  There will be no regularly scheduled posts (Tuesday Debut, Would You Read It or PPBF) for the duration of the contest, so this post and the list of links will stay up all week for everyone to enjoy. If you would like to enter but don’t have a blog you are welcome to paste your entry in the comment section below (please be sure to include your byline so that if your posting handle is writesbynightlight1 or something I’ll be able to tell who you are!)  If anyone has trouble commenting, which unfortunately happens, please email your entry to me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com and I’ll post your entry for you. But please no attachments!  Just copy and paste your story including byline into the email.  Also, please only post your entry once – either in the comment section of my blog or on the link list or by emailing me and asking me to post it.  Multiple postings of the same entry get confusing. 🙂
P.S.  Although I try to stay glued to my computer 24/7 I am sometimes forced to leave my desk.  If you haven’t commented on my blog before, your comment won’t show up until I approve it.  It may take a little while if I’m away from my desk.  Likewise, if you send me an entry to post, I promise I will do it as soon as I can!

The Judging: over the next several days, 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 Wednesday February 19th (or possibly a day or two later if the judges need extra time.)   The winner will be announced Friday February 21st or Saturday February 22nd depending on judging and voting time needed. (And there will be no Tuesday Debut, 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 curiosity and success in making us feel the curiosity!
  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, so many wonderful things to choose from that will be of great help to you in your writing career!!!

Penny’s Two Cents – an incredible opportunity for any picture book writer!

Sometimes it’s helpful to chat with a published author about your writing journey. Penny Parker Klostermann is offering her two cents. The prize includes six thirty-minute Skype/Google Hangout sessions with Penny. The sessions can be used anytime during 2020. Ask her anything related to writing for children and getting published. Up to two sessions can be used for general comments on a manuscript (not a full critique). Penny doesn’t claim to have it all figured out, (by any means) but she’s happy to share her two cents based on what she’s learned and continues to learn on her journey as an author.

Penny Klostermann

Penny is the author of THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT (Random House 2015) (now available in board book and with matching pajamas! 🙂 ) and A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE (Random House 2017)

495eb-penny      Cooked-Up Fairy Tale

 – Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Rosie Pova, author of If I Weren’t With You (Spork 2017),  Sarah’s Song (Spork 2017), and the forthcoming Sunday Rain (Lantana Publishing, September 2020)

Rosie Pova                Sarah's Song

If I Weren't With You Sunday Rain

Picture Book Manuscript Critique (rhyming or non-rhyming) from Katey Howes, author of GRANDMOTHER THORN (Ripple Grove Press 2017), MAGNOLIA MUDD AND THE SUPER JUMPTASTIC LAUNCHER DELUXE (Sterling Children’s Books 2018), BE A MAKER (Carolrhoda Books, 2019), and the forthcoming RISSY NO KISSIES (Lerner/Carolrhoda Spring 2021)

KathrynHeadshots-20 (2)               Magnolia Mudd cover art Grandmother Thorn  Be A Maker

Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Ellen Leventhal, author of DON’T EAT THE BLUEBONNETS (Spork 2017), LOLA CAN’T LEAP (Spork 2018), and HAYFEST A HOLIDAY QUEST (ABCs Press 2010)

Ellen Leventhal       Don't Eat The Bluebonnets

Hayfest     Lola Can't Leap

Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Sherry Howard, author of ROCK & ROLL WOODS (Spork 2018)

Sherry Howard (4)Cover Rock and Roll Woods

Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Lydia Lukidis, author of NO BEARS ALLOWED (Blue Whale Press 2019) and many educational titles.

Lydia Lukidis        No Bears Allowed

– a spot in Making Picture Book Magic (Interactive or Self Study version – winner’s choice) – an online picture book writing course from Yours Truly.  If you choose the interactive version, month to be mutually agreed on by me and the winner.

MPBM

– Prize Pack #1 – a personalized signed copy of A MORNING WITH GRANDPA (Lee&Low Books 2016) by Sylvia Liu and the 2020 Guide To Literary Agents (which you may exchange for the Children’s Writer’s And Illustrator’s Market 2020 if you prefer)

MorningWithGrandpa_cover 2020 Guide to Literary Agents
Lee&Low New Voices Award 2013

Picture Book Prize Pack – a personalized signed copy of NOT QUITE SNOW WHITE (HarperCollins 2019) by Ashley Franklin and a personalized signed copy of NOAH NOASAURUS (Albert Whitman & Co 2019) by Elaine Kiely Kearns

Not Quite Snow White      noah

Picture Book Pack From Chris and Chris: a personalized signed copy of EMILY’S IDEA (Sounds True, March 2020) by Christine Evans and a personalized signed copy of HEY, HEY, HAY! A Tale of Bales and the Machines That Make Them (Holiday House 2018) by Christy Mihaly

Emily's Idea HEY, HEY, HAY! Cover

Historical Women Picture Book Pack: a personalized signed copy of QUEEN OF PHYSICS: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom (Sterling Children’s Books 2019) by Teresa Robeson and a personalized signed copy of MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books 2020) by Vivian Kirkfield

queen of physics cover              Making Their Voices Heard
Asian/Pacific American Award Picture
Book and ALA Notable Picture Book

A SURPRISE PACK! – 2 additional picture books (not signed) donated by Darshana Khiani (who will have her own book, How To Wear A Sari, out in Spring 2021!): What Color Is Night? by Grant Snider and Caspian Finds A Friend by Jacqueline Veissid

What Color Is Night? Caspian Finds A Friend

 

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

 

And now, lovelies, it is time for my traditional sample entry, since I feel I shouldn’t ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do. . . 🙂

Steel yourself!

A Valentiny Mystery (184 words)

Mama’s working busily
Making something I can’t see.
“What’s that?” I ask her quizzically.
“Try to guess,” she answers me.
“It’s a little mystery.
I’ll give you clues.  Think carefully,
And figure out what it could be!
It’s something red.”

What could it be?

“Ribbon? Wagon? Redwood tree?”

Ooh! I love a mystery!

“It’s something sweet and sugary.
And something red.”

What could it be?

“Candy apple? Raspberry?”

Hmm… it’s still a mystery!

“It’s something heart-shaped perfectly,
And something sweet and sugary.
And something red.”

What could it be?

“A candy heart? A strawberry?”

Hmmm… it’s still a mystery!

“It’s something super sparkly.
And something heart-shaped perfectly.
It’s something sweet and sugary.
And something red.”

What could it be?

“A sparkle-sprinkled chocolate cherry?”

Golly! What a mystery!

By now, it smells deliciously!
I know it’s super sparkly. . .
I know it’s heart-shaped perfectly. . .
I know it’s sweet and sugary. . .
It’s something red. . .

What could it be?

“I’ve got it!” I say gleefully.
“I figured out the mystery!
It’s my Valentiny cookie!”
Made by Mama just for me!

I warned you. . . 🙂

Never let it be said that I’m not willing to embarrass myself for you! 🙂

And now you all hopefully feel filled with confidence in your own entries because certainly they are all FAR better than that!

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 you still have until midnight Friday 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!!!

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 90 fabulous entries posted in the comment section below!!!

Happy Valentines Week, Everyone! 💕

Scroll through the comments to find these wonderful stories! Titles are direct links.

  1. Shelly & Saul – Sue Lancaster
  2. Bags Of Love – Laura Howard
  3. Some Bunny Loves You – Laura Howard
  4. I Don’t Need A Valentine – Deb Buschman
  5. Sending Love – Chelsea Tornetto
  6. My Sunny Valentine – Glenda Roberson
  7. What Makes Your Heart Beat? – Beth Brody
  8. The Perfect Valentine’s Playdate – Deb Sullivan
  9. The Heart – Nina Nolan
  10. Love And My Teddy – Tracy Curran
  11. Crazy, Foolish Love – Tracy Curran
  12. The Chocolate Beast – Megan Walvoord
  13. How To Fix A Broken Heart – Paul Roncone
  14. Little Card’s Purpose – Theresa Kiser
  15. Valentine Story 2020 – Shariffa Keshavjee
  16. A Robot’s Valentine’s Day – Susan Summers
  17. Mystery Valentine – Lindsey Hobson
  18. The Hunter Games – Anne Lipton
  19. Cupid’s Love Trials – Katrina Swenson
  20. Will You Be Mine? – Ryan Roberts
  21. I Snorfle You – Sara Ackerman
  22. Signed Sealed Delivered – Delia Black
  23. A Shelter Dog’s Valentine – Anne Bromley
  24. The Curious Concoction – Stacey Miller
  25. Crabby’s Heart Speaks – Rebecca Loescher
  26. Valentine Clue – Alicia Fadgen
  27. Cupid’s Confusion – Alicia Fadgen
  28. Cupid’s World – Alicia Fadgen
  29. The Perfect Valentine – Maryna Doughty
  30. Jigna’s Valentine – Gabrielle Cardwell
  31. Moe’s Valentine’s Day Discovery – Kelsey Gross
  32. The Rose Thief – Margaret Aitken
  33. The Egg – Rebecca Woodall
  34. How Do You Write A Poem? – Belen Medina Cabot
  35. Missing Hearts – Bru Benson
  36. An Antique Valentine – Abbi Lee
  37. My Piggy Valentine – Claire Lewis
  38. Romeo And Jellyette – Kristy Roser Nuttall
  39. The Lost Valentine – Ellie Langford
  40. Mia Flying Heart Girl – Lily Erlic
  41. Squirrel’s Surprise – Darci Nielson
  42. Sylvia’s Special Valentine – Vanessa Cicarelli
  43. This Arrow Is Narrow – Linda Staszak
  44. Valentine’s Day Is Gross – Ranessa Doucet
  45. The Art Of The Heart – Wikki Krawczyk
  46. Valentine Equation – Claire Bobrow
  47. Cupid’s Diary – Ketan Ram
  48. Valentine Broccoli? – Susan Drew
  49. The Upside-Down Heart – Mary Munson
  50. Who Could It Be From? – Ashley Congdon
  51. The Curious Case Of The Valentine Gift – Heather Kauffman
  52. My Heart’s Wish – Melissa Stiveson
  53. The Unquestionable Valentine– Deborah Boerema
  54. Whose Valentine Could This Be? – Michelle Howell Miller
  55. Mailbox – Amy Flynn
  56. I Miss You – Jarmila Kurucova
  57. What Is That? – Jyoti Gopal
  58. Katerina The Caterpillar Solves A Conundrum – Dina Towbin
  59. Beetle’s Valentine – Chambrae Griffith
  60. Scales Of Love – Caroline Perry
  61. Cupid And Curtis – Jen Bagan
  62. What If…? – Susie Sawyer
  63. A Valentine Surprise – Corine Timmer
  64. Where Is Love? – Emmie R Werner
  65. Will She Or Won’t She? – Elizabeth Volkmann
  66. Mystery Marks – Mary Warth
  67. Roosters And Roses – Paul Kurtz
  68. Computer Bugs – Paul Kurtz
  69. Boys – Yecchh! – Donna Kurtz
  70. Eight Legs Of Love – Donna Kurtz
  71. Secret Stash – Mia Geiger
  72. The Curious Kitten – Elsie Duffany
  73. What’s Love? – Ingrid Boydston
  74. An Unexpected Valentine – Michelle S. Kennedy
  75. How To Find Your Valentine – Cindy Williams Schrauben
  76. Peck! – Andrea MacDonald
  77. The Mailbox Mouse – Roo Parkin
  78. Pandora’s Peek-Not Pact – Jenny Buchet
  79. Dear Cupid – Marty Bellis
  80. Curious Kip – Kirsten Pendreigh
  81. Bernard And Robin: One Adventure, Two Friends – Susan Twiggs
  82. Scraps Of Love – Charlotte Sheer
  83. When Love Gives You Wings – Kate Thompson
  84. What If . . . A Valentine’s Story – Kelly Pope Adamson
  85. Cookie Memories – Judy Sobanski
  86. Wanted – Jill Lambert
  87. Always. Every day. No matter what. – JC Kelly
  88. Ophelia Divine – Sofia Dibble
  89. Bee My Perfect Valentine – Kelly Pope Adamson
  90. Joy Finds Love – Olivia Rehfield