The 2015 Holiday Contest WINNERS!!!

Hi there!

I’m so glad you’re here!

I have something of great import to discuss with you, and it really cannot wait another minute.

No, not the questionable decision to place Holiday Inflatables in your front yard… although if you do that we should probably talk… 🙂

And no, not the age old question of what that stuff in fruit cake really is… because darn tootin’ it’s no kind of fruit I could identify!

I think you can guess what it is. . .

. . . the thing that is first and foremost on all of our minds today. . .

. . . and that is. . .

. . .

. . .what our Official Holiday Elf Names should be!!!

Seriously!  We’re running out of time to decide!

Apparently I’ve got a choice of 5:

Cupcake Gingersocks
(generated by http://christmas.namegeneratorfun.com/ – random)

Cinnamon Embercrystals
(generated by http://christmas.namegeneratorfun.com/  – based on first and last name)

Elvis McJingle
(generated by http://mix108.com/if-you-were-an-elf-what-would-your-name-be-find-out-now/ 

Candy Sparklepants
(generated by http://965kvki.com/whats-your-elf-name-generator/ 

or

Sugar Candykirk
(generated by http://www.elfontheshelf.com/content/elf-name-generator 

I’m torn!

I really am!

I think I have to go with either Cupcake Gingersocks or Candy Sparklepants, though… although Elvis McJingle is very appealing too!  Which one do you think I should pick?

And you should go get yours!  Right now!  And share it in the comments!  You know you want to… 🙂  I’m all about the giving over here – I went and researched these helpful links just for you, so that you could waste a little time spend the holidays being called by your official Elf Name 🙂  Think of it as my little holiday gift to you 🙂

So now, happy holidays!  See you in 2016!  May the force be with you etc.!

What?

You were expecting to discuss something else?

Something more important than official Elf Names? (as if there could be anything more important…!)

Oh!

Right!

I knew there was something else. . .

🙂

                    The 5th Annual Holiday Contest!!!!

WINNERS!!!

As always, I was thrilled to see so many wonderful stories!  Really!  It is amazing and inspiring, not to mention VERY entertaining!  There is just so much talent out there amongst you all!

But with large entry numbers, all of high quality, come hard choices.  My assistant judges and I worked hard to winnow the total down to a manageable number of finalists that we felt were truly all-around deserving of that distinction, and those were the ones we presented to you on Tuesday 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.

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:
     David McMullin for Christmas In Discomfort (also so original and creative)
     Jaclyn Kruzie for A Rockin’ Christmas Wish
     Sam Steinfels for Unsilent Night
     Melissa Bulls for Santa’s Stain (also a fun-for-kids mystery)
     Heather ??? for A Real Christmas Tree

2. For Great Kid Appeal: (not already mentioned in the finals or other categories)
     Wendy Greenley for Cookin’ Up The Holiday Kid-Style
     Kirsten Bock Mel The Marshmallow’s Cocoa Catastrophe (also great ending!)
     Gabi Snyder Christmas With Kevin The Nanny Bot

3. For Excellence In Evoking Mood And Holiday Spirit And Tradition:
     Joni Klein-Higger for Happy Festival Of Lights
     Shelly Bond for Christmas Story Time!
     Tracey Cox for Zippin’ Around On Christmas Eve

4. For Beautiful Rendition Of The Christmas Story:
     Kristi Veitenheimer for A Christmas Birth
     Aileen Stewart for Huddled Around The Stable Door

5. For Most Original Setting:
     Anne Sawan for The Outback Christmas Hop
     Lorraine Nelson for A Very Spacey Christmas

6. For Favorite Character:
     Marla LeSage for spunky, resourceful, entertaining Sheila in Holiday Heist

7. For Best-Written Original Point Of View:
     Julie Bergman for The Little Burnt Latke (POV of a latke!)
     Joanne Sher for Precious Cargo (POV of the donkey who carried Mary)

8. For Fun Story In Fewest Words:
     Miranda Ireland for Christmas Party Hop (4 lines, 44 words – the overworked judges love you :))

9. For Best Entry For Parents 🙂
     Shari Schwarz for Rocking Beside The Christmas Tree (so sweet :))

10. For Best Entry For Writers 🙂
     Debbie Austin for What Happened When I First Sat Down To Write This Story (so clever and entertainingly done! – writers you will not want to miss this one!)

11. For Fun Well-Written Animal Entries:
     Ashley Franklin for Picture Perfect (dog)
     Catherine Flynn for Pouncing Around The Christmas Tree (cat)
     Carol Lescinski for Rockin’ Reindeer
     Jo Hart for Jungle Bell Rock (a whole menagerie :))

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

For Kindle:
Picture Books: The Write Way by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

Rhyming Picture Books: The Write Way by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

The Easy Way To Write Picture Books That Sell by Robyn Parnell OR

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi , OR

The Postitive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Attributes by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, OR

The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Flaws by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, OR

The Ultimate Fiction Thesaurus by Sam Stone OR

In paperback:
Show & Tell In A Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions From Telling To Showing by Jessica Bell, OR

The Six Senses In A Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions From Bleak To Bold Narrative by Jessica Bell OR

Adverbs And Cliches In A Nutshell: Demonstrated Subversions Of Adverbs & Cliches Into Gourmet Imagery by Jessica Bell OR

Creating Extraordinary Characters by Angela Hunt, OR

Evoking Emotion by Angela Hunt, OR

Picture Books: The Write Way by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

Rhyming Picture Books: The Write Way by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard

And now…

…the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

The announcement of the WINNERS OF THE 2015 HOLIDAY CONTEST as voted on by you!!!
rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat
DDDRRRUUUMMM RRROOOLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!
In First Place
Winner of the whole shebang…
who gets first choice of all the prizes…
Jennifer Reinharz
for The Hanukkah Elf!!!
Congratulations, Jennifer, on a fabulous entry that was clearly very popular!!! 🙂
In Second Place
Vivian Kirkfield
for The Christmas Seed
Congratulations, Vivian!!  You get first choice of the prizes that are left after Jennifer makes her choice.
In Third Place
Suzy Levinson
for City Critter Christmas
Congratulations, Suzy!  You get first choice of the prizes that are left after Jennifer and Vivian choose theirs.
In Fourth Place
Cindy Williams Schrauben
for Jugglin’ High For Pumpkin Pie
Congratulations, Cindy!  You get to pick after Jennifer, Vivian, and Suzy.
In Fifth Place
Kris Allen
for The Incident
Congratulations, Kris!  You get to pick after Jennifer, Vivian, Suzy, and Cindy.
In Sixth Place
Lisa Connors
for The Gift Of The Magpie (And Friends)
Congratulations, Lisa!  I’m sure you get the idea of how the prize picking goes by now 🙂
In Seventh Place
Sandy Jones
for Red Berries In The Snow
Congratulations, Sandy!  You get to pick next 🙂
In Eighth Placea 4-way tie!
Linda Schueler
for Randolph, Not A Reindeer
Nancy Tandon
for No Peeking!
Sheila Lynch-Afryl
for Clucking Christmas
Jen Bagan
for Ned’s Christmas Wish
Congratulations, Linda, Nancy, Sheila and Jen!  You get to pick after Sandy!  And we’ll just have to sort it out between us since you tied!
And in Twelfth Place, rounding out the top dozen of these amazing finalists and the 97 Holiday Contest Entries for 2015…
Deborah Boerema
for A New Classic?

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!  And for your convenience, the whole prize list is included at the bottom of this post.

Congratulations again to all our winners – it was a stiff competition!! – and congratulations to EVERYONE who wrote and entered a story in the contest.  You all deserve a huge round of applause and a Holiday Treat which is not fruitcake! (unless you happen to like it :))

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!

As I… hmm… maybe didn’t mention…?, I’m taking a little blogging break so I can spend time with my family – I’ve got children to fetch, cookies to bake, Christmas presents to shop for and wrap, and my sister and her family are arriving form Georgia on Monday! 🙂 –  Oh, and we’re going to see the new Star Wars movie on Wednesday!  So I will see you all in a couple weeks – most probably Wednesday January 6th for Would You Read It 🙂

So now, I want to wish you all a happy and healthy holiday filled with love, laughter, joy, and family, and a happy, healthy and successful new year!  It is a pleasure and a privilege to get to spend time with you all, and I’m happy and grateful to know each and every one of you!

Looking forward to all the things we’ll do in 2016!

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

Love,
Susanna


The Prizes!!!  (items in color are links for more info!):

– A Picture Book Manuscript read and critique (winner’s choice of in-person, on the phone, or via email) by Claire Dorsett, Editorial Assistant, Roaring Brook Press!!!
   A bibliophile and outdoor enthusiast, Claire spent her childhood summers road-tripping across the United States, reading constantly on the long car rides between parks and museums. Her love of literature led her to pursue a BA in English from Cornell University, where she was involved with campus publications The Daily Sun and Rainy Day literary magazine. Claire then completed the six-week intensive Columbia Publishing Course before finding a home at Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, assisting VP and Publisher Simon Boughton. She has worked on a range of projects during her time at Roaring Brook, including Lane Smith’s middle-grade debut Return to Augie Hobble, Steve Sheinkin’s National Book Award finalist Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War, and picture books The SkunkThere is a Tribe of Kids, and Ned The Knitting Pirate
– a brand new Picture Book Webinar Bundle including one webinar on Concept Books and the other on Rhyme, Verse and Lyricism in Picture Books, generously donated by Emma Walton Hamilton, author, editor, writing coach, and teacher of the fabulous Just Write For Kids courses.
– a 2016 Membership to Children’s Book Insider, including their Children’s Writing Knowledge Base, an absolutely fabulous resource for kid lit writers of all kinds, generously offered by Jon Bard and Laura Backes
 – A Picture Book Manuscript Critique by talented author/illustrator Iza Trapani, author of JINGLE BELLS, OLD KING COLE, ITSY BITSY SPIDER, and many, many more!
 – A Picture Book Manuscript Critique by the fabulous Lori Degman, author of 1 ZANY ZOO and COCK-A-DOODLE OOPS!
 – an e-copy of the fantastic How To Promote Your Children’s Book generously donated by Katie Davis!

 – Enrollment in Making Picture Book Magic (my online picture book writing class – in January or a later month to be mutually agreed upon by the winner and me)
 – A 6-Month Membership to the new and fabulous One Stop For Writers Site!
 – 2016 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market  and a $25 Amazon Gift Card.
– another 2016 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market  and a $25 Amazon Gift Card.
– a pack of Susanna Leonard Hill’s amazing What’s The Story Cards (hitherto un-introduced to the world!) – writing prompts for every occasion 🙂
 – another pack of Susanna Leonard Hill’s amazing What’s The Story Cards

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

The Contest Winner gets first choice of the prizes.  2nd place gets next choice of what’s left and so on.  I do it this way in the hopes that no one will get something they already have and also because I think all the prizes are fabulous and I wouldn’t want to make anyone feel less valued by giving them as 6th place as opposed to 1st. 🙂

The 5th Annual Holiday Contest Finalists – Vote For Your Favorite!!!

The 5th Annual Holiday Contest!!!!
FINALISTS!!!
Darlings!
I must apologize!
Just look what I’ve done to you!
You look haggard!
Bags under your eyes!
Hair in a disarray!
Nervous tics and twitches popping up at every turn!
And chocolate of all kinds being consumed in an uncontrolled fashion!!!
(Well, okay, I admit that around here the chocolate thing is pretty much par for the course, not confined to anxiety over waiting for contest finalists to be posted… uncontrolled chocolate consumption is a good thing :))
But I do sympathize!
Bad enough that I always make you wait the weekend to find out who the contest finalists are, but this time I made you wait a WHOLE EXTRA DAY!  I’m so sorry!
Is that a jam stain on your blouse?
Please.
Go take a shower and put on clean clothes.
We’ll wait. . . 
. . .
. . .
. . .
There now.

Isn’t that better?

And now, at long last, the waiting is over!
Almost 🙂
Because as always, we must begin with a few words from the people in charge around here.
First, I want to thank EVERYONE who found time in their busy holiday season schedule to write an entry for this contest – all 96 of you!  The overall quality of the entries was amazing!  There were no easy cuts.  My assistant judges and I found something to like in every story and hated having to cut anyone!

Second, I want to thank EVERYONE who took the time to go around to as many of the 48 different blogs as you could, as well as the 48 entries posted in the comments here, and read and leave supportive comments for the writers who worked so hard on these stories.  In this business where rejection is a common and unavoidable part of the process, it means a great deal to writers to know that their work was read and enjoyed, and to receive a few kind words about their writing.  It is one of the best things about this community – that people are so generous and kind to each other.

Third, before I list the finalists, I want to say again how really difficult it was to choose.  There were so many fabulous entries.  The sheer volume meant that many great stories had to be cut.  So if yours didn’t make the final cut please don’t feel bad.  There was a huge amount of competition.  Judging, no matter how hard we try to be objective, is always subjective at a certain point – we all have our own preferences for what makes a great story.  And the fact that you didn’t make the final cut DOES NOT mean you didn’t write a great story.  Everyone who plonked their butt in a chair and worked hard to write a story for this contest is a winner!  You showed up.  You did your best work.  You practiced your craft.  You wrote to specifications.  You bravely shared your writing with the world.  And you have a brand new story that is now yours to hone and tweak if you like and maybe submit at some point to a magazine or as a PB manuscript.  So bravo to everyone who entered!

Finally, I’d like to be very clear about the voting process.  Due to the large number of entries, there are 12 finalists listed below.  I have deliberately listed them by title only, so as to help with objectivity.  Please read through them and choose the one you feel is best and vote.  You are MOST welcome to share a link to this post on FB, twitter, or wherever you like to hang out and encourage people to come read ALL the finalists and vote for the one they think is best.  Please do that.  The more people who read and enjoy these stories the better, and the more objective votes we get the better.  HOWEVER (and I want to be very clear on this) please do not ask people to vote for a specific number or title, or for the story about Mrs. Claus dancing the makaraina with Rudolph or whatever.  Trolling for votes or trying to influence the outcome is counter to the spirit of this competition which is supposed to be based on merit.  I thank you in advance for respecting this.

Now, without further ado, here are your finalists.  There is a mix of poetry and prose, funny, cute, and poignant – quite a spread!

Remember that the judging criteria were:

1. Kid-appeal! – These stories are intended for a young audience, so entries that were well-written but lacked child-friendliness or whose humor or content felt more appropriate for an older or adult audience did not make the cut.
2.  It (hopefully) goes without saying that you must follow the contest rules – there were very specific instructions about the opening line which almost all of you followed to the letter… but a couple of strong entries did not.  I thought the instructions were clear because of the multiple examples given… but one entry in particular caused serious debate among the judges as to whether the rules had been followed or not – the opening line was clearly modeled on the song but did not follow the pattern spelled out.  In the end, we did not add that entry to the finalist list because some people who weren’t sure emailed for clarification and this author did not, and about 90 of the 96 entries followed the correct pattern flawlessly.  So… executive decision… although we weren’t entirely happy about it.
3. Quality of story – the rules stated that entries were to tell a story, so if they appeared to be more of a description or mood piece, they didn’t make the cut.  We looked for a true story arc, and unfortunately there were quite a few lovely, well-written entries that failed to meet this criteria.
4. Quality of writing – use of language, correctness of tense, spelling and grammar, quality of rhyme and meter for the poetry entries, and overall impression of writing were factored in.
5. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.

We cut 84 entries to leave you with these 12.  It was very hard!  We did the best we could.  T
here were a number of stories where the judges loved the concept, but the rhyme/meter needed too much work to make the finals.  And there were some that modeled the song beautifully with perfect meter and rhyme that failed to tell a story.  In any case, I hope you’ll all find at least one of your favorites on the list below.

#1 CITY CRITTER CHRISTMAS


Soaring over skaters at the Rockefeller Rink,
Pigeon spies a Christmas tree and stops to have a think.
Perched upon a frosty branch that twinkles red and blue,
he wishes that the holidays were meant for critters, too.
Dashing through the Christmas tree in front of 30 Rock,
Squirrel bumps into Pigeon and he stops to have a talk.
“Why so sad?” he asks the bird. “It’s Christmas Eve, you know.”
“Not for critters,” Pigeon says. “Hey, look who’s right below!”
Trudging home from Macy’s (where he worked a double shift)…
it’s Santa Claus! He slips, he slides, he winds up in a drift!
Squirrel and Pigeon watch him fall—it’s not a jolly sight.
They scurry down the Christmas tree to see if he’s all right.
Twisting on the sidewalk while the critters yank his boot,
Santa Claus begins to yell, “Lay off my Santa suit!”
“We’ll help you up,” the critters say. “We know you’re in a rush!
You should be heading to your sleigh, not stuck here in the slush!”
Getting to his feet as shoppers shop and skaters twirl,
Santa grins at Pigeon, then he turns and grins at Squirrel.
“Thanks,” he tells the critters, gently wringing out his hat.
“I’ll give you both a Christmas gift!” They like the sound of that.
Sharing roasted chestnuts Santa purchased on the street,
Squirrel and Pigeon sit upon their Christmas tree and eat.
They look out at the city, filled with angels, while they chew,
agreeing that the holidays are meant for critters, too.


#2 Red Berries in the Snow


Hopping along the twisty trail in the quiet, wintry woods,
Rabbit spied red berries poking through the snow. “The Giver will be here
soon,” he squealed. Then a heavy branch dropped snow on his head. Rabbit’s
whiskers froze into tiny icicles.
He hopped to Mole’s house and thumped his foot on the cold
ground near the door. Thump, Thumpity-Thump, Thump. “I saw red berries in the
snow!” Rabbit hollered down the hole. “Please tell the Giver that I’d like a warm
scarf this year. I’m going home to thaw my whiskers.”
Mole was dizzy from Rabbit’s wild thumping, but he clawed
his way through his dark tunnel and popped out next to Mouse’s tidy nest. “Red
berries in the snow,” Mole announced. “Kindly tell the Giver that Rabbit would
like a scarf to keep his whiskers warm. And I would like a lamp for my tunnel. I’m
going to sit in my favorite chair until my aching head feels better.”
“Oh dear, oh dear,” stammered Mouse as she pulled on her boots.
“Rabbit and Mole are so impatient. Red Berries in the snow! Scarves and lamps!
I’ve no time to waste.” She scurried up an oak tree and teetered on a tiny
branch. “Good evening Owl,” she said. “It’s the sharing season and we must send
the Giver a message. Tell him that Rabbit would like a warm scarf and Mole would
like a bright lamp. Since I never seem to have enough time, I would like a
watch.”
Owl listened carefully, then he lifted his strong wings and
flew North until he saw the tallest evergreen in the woods. He circled it three
times and landed deep within its boughs.
In the warmth of the morning, Rabbit found his scarf. Mole
switched on his lamp and Mouse admired her watch. Beside each present lay a
note that read: Your greatest gift will be found just outside your door. “Hooray!”
said Rabbit, and he threw open his door. Mole and Mouse were staring back at
him, and he knew the Giver’s words were true.

#3 The Incident

Fleeting through the crowded aisles 
Of the mall – both hands held tight,
‘Cause Mom and Dad are really mad 
About “the incident” tonight.
It all started with a fun-filled trip 
To sit on Santa’s knee
So I could tell him all the things 
I hoped he’d bring for me.
But when I saw the line of kids 
Went far past Santa’s sleigh,
I knew somewhere, someway, somehow, 
I had to get away.
So I thought up an escape route,
‘Cause I think it’s so unfair, 
For kids to wait instead of play
When toys are everywhere.
Quick – I bolted up the steps,
Down aisles, and through a store.
I figured it was better than 
that long line – what a bore!
But the store was NOT a fun one. 
It was filled with frilly things,
Stuff that grown-up ladies wear, 
NO TOYS like Santa brings.
And then . . . my parents found me.
I knew it wasn’t good.
So I hid inside a clothes rack 
Like any smart kid would.
Then without so much as looking, 
Mom reached in and grabbed my collar
While Dad stood with his lips pinched tight, 
trying not to holler.
They yanked me from that clothes rack, 
Past holiday displays,
Down the escalator, 
And ’round people like a maze.
And as we fled past Santa, 
I thought I saw him grin –
I guess I’ll send a letter 
About how good I’ve been.

#4 The Hanukkah Elf

Tapping on the window pane at the Klein family home was Max, Santa’s hungriest elf.  He was waving a jar and a letter.  It read:
Dear Santa,
Potato pancakes, jelly donuts, games and light.  Please come to my house on Hanukkah.
Love, Joe
“Santa has to deliver presents tonight,” the elf stepped inside.  “So he sent me, Max.  And this oil.  When do we eat?”
“After we light the menorah,” Joe said.  “Bring the jar.”
Max filled each of the eight cups with Santa’s gift.  The boy and the elf lit the wicks.
The menorah glowed bright, but Santa’s oil was gone.
Joe frowned.  “We need more to make the latkes and sufganiyot.”
Max’s stomach growled.  “Time for a little elf magic.”
Twinkle.  Wiggle.  Clap.
The jar refilled.  “Okay, Joe.  Let’s get cooking.”
Max flipped the potato pancakes.  Joe fried the donuts.
The boy and the elf devoured their feast.
Bellies full, faces sticky with applesauce and jam, Max and Joe settled their stomachs with a game of dreidel.
“I think I’ll save my chocolate winnings for the ride home,” Max said.
Joe read the letters on the top.  “Nun.  Gimel.  He.  Shin.  In Hebrew that stands for A Great Miracle Happened There.  Thank you for the oil.”
“I came for the food and made friend,” Max smiled.  “I hope we can celebrate Hanukkah together again.  Santa will be flying by soon.  I should get to the roof.”
But Max didn’t move.
“What’s wrong?” asked Joe.
“How will Santa know where to find me?  This isn’t one of his usual stops.”
“Yes it is.”  Joe grinned and pointed to the stockings on the mantle.  “We celebrate Christmas too.  Merry Christmas, Max!”
“Happy Everything, Joe!”


#5 The Christmas Seed

Circling round the planet Mars on their space craft RV-3,
the children begged and pleaded for a real live Christmas tree.
“There is no way,” cried Maw and Paw, “for that to come about.”
So Sue and Lou and Baby Boo would have to do without.
No Christmas tree? That cannot be…they vowed to find a way.
Sue climbed up high and searched the sky, but only saw a sleigh.
And Lou got tangled in the lights while looking in a drawer.
And Baby Boo picked up a seed as he crawled on the floor.
“Take that away,” cried Maw and Paw, “that’s not for Boo to eat”
But Boo skedaddled like a flash to the ejection seat.
Maw screamed! Lou tripped! Sue scrambled down! Paw reached to
save his kid.
They heard a BOOM! It shook the room! The spaceship blew its lid!
They watched as Boo flew through the air; it was a fearful sight.
This wasn’t quite the way they’d planned to spend this Christmas
night.
And Maw, she moaned, and Paw, he groaned, and Sue and Lou,
they cried.
But then they heard a HO! HO! HO! and Santa slid inside.
He opened up his big red sack – plucked out a doll for Sue,
a watch for Paw, a book for Maw, a bat and ball for Lou.
But Maw and Paw, their faces drooped, and Sue and Lou, they
frowned,
until they heard, deep in the sack, a most familiar sound.
Then Santa reached way down inside and pulled out Baby Boo.
“I saved the best for last,” he said. “This one’s for all of you!”
And scrambling up onto his sleigh, he pointed straight at Mars
The seed Boo found had grown into a Christmas tree with stars.
And Santa’s booming voice rang out as he rode out of sight,
“May peace and love and joy be yours on this and every night.”
So if you get a telescope, please aim the lens towards Mars,
and you might see Boo’s Christmas tree, adorned with twinkling
stars.


#6 Randolph, Not A Reindeer

“Packing up the presents at the North Pole workshop.” The elves and reindeer sang the traditional Christmas song. But Randolph couldn’t sing. Tears made the words stick in his throat.
Randolph was thinking about when Santa had told him that Randolph had not been chosen to pull the sleigh. “It’s not that you’re not fast enough, Randolph,” Santa had said, his eyes sad. “It’s…”
“Yes, I know, Santa,” Randolph had said, blinking back the tears. He had heard the rumours already. How all the children had cried, because Randolph had melted all the snow as he flew by.
Because Randolph was not a reindeer, but a raindeer, it rained wherever he went.
So instead of singing with the elves and reindeer, Randolph was doing what he did best: cleaning.
The elves started to chatter about the snowstorm that had taken place the night before in Canada.
“I’ve heard the snow is all the way to the rooftops,” said one elf.
“Santa is bringing extra food along,” said another.
The Christmas sleigh flew off , and everyone listened to the radio as it gave updates on Santa’s progress. All was well.
Then Santa hit Canada. The radio crackled, “Santa here, over. We’ve got an emergency, over. Send over everyone, over.”
Santa wanted everyone? Even Randolph?
Randolph flew high in the sky. Faster, faster, faster until he reached Santa and his sleigh.
Snow was not only up to the rooftops, but it was also covering the chimneys. That meant that Santa could not deliver the presents and food!
Elves were digging out the chimneys as fast as they could, but it was not fast enough. Randolph knew what he must do.
He flew over a house. The rain from the raindeer’s clouds melted the snow from the roof. Soon the chimney was exposed.
“Ho ho ho, well done, Randolph,” laughed Santa.
Santa went down the chimney, and then Randolph flew to the next house. And the next one.
“Packing up the presents at the North Pole workshop.” The elves and reindeer sang as they worked, and this time Randolph sang along.


#7 No Peeking!

Sneakin’ around the present stash
At the bottom of the tree,
In stealth mode, got my ninja on,
Look how black-ops I can be!
I shouldn’t look, but too late now,
Hey, I think this one’s for me!
Later I might regret this choice,
But right now I’ve got to see.
Santa, please forgive me sir, it’s awfully hard to wait.
Voices saying, “It’s not Christmas – put that present down right now, Miss!”
Sneakin’ around the present stash
Is the most fun thing to do.
Parents are at their office bash,
If you were me, you’d peek too!
Here I go, I’m gonna open just one little gift.
Peel the tape slow, careful – don’t tear…
Jokes on me now, I got UNDERWEAR!

Wrap it back up, no time to waste
Hide this sneaky thing I did.
I’ll call St. Nick and plead my case,
“Please remember, I’m a kid!”


#8 The Gift Of The Magpie (And Friends)

Flitting around the birdfeeder at the tiny woodland house, birds of all kinds shared the feast that appeared like magic when winter arrived. Chickadee dipped and swooped while spreading his dee dee dee cheer. Goldfinch called po-ta-to-chip. Titmouse tap-tapped his seed. Magpie noticed Sparrow whose feathers slumped as she stared in the window.
“What’s wrong dear friend? In this season of chill, these people feed us from their goodwill. You should chirp, you should sing, you should eat your fill.”
“It’s the boy,” Sparrow cried.
The birds loved the boy. He watched them whenever he was home, and he spent his allowance on birdseed.
“His mom said there isn’t enough money to buy a Christmas tree this year.”
Magpie peered into the house. The boy was drawing birds, but Magpie saw him wipe his eyes.
“We’ll help him smile, I do decree. We’ll get our friend a Christmas tree.”
The closest trees to the house were maples and oaks whose leaves had fallen for the winter. Squirrel nibbled the stem of a young cedar tree so they could take it to the boy. But the whole flock of birds couldn’t lift one tree.
“Plan B is better, this I know. You’ll still need your muscles though,” Magpie enthused.
They practiced making tree-shaped pyramids, but the bottom birds got tired or hungry before the star-bird could settle on top. On their third attempt the neighbor’s cat almost got her own Christmas treat! Feathers flew; Cat missed, but Magpie got an idea!
“Who says we need an evergreen? Come all my friends, it’s time to preen!”
On the dawn-quiet of Christmas morning, the boy donned boots and a coat. He went to the closest maple by his window to hang birdseed ornaments for his friends. He gasped and smiled. From it’s naked branches hung colorful, delicate feathers gleaming with the new day’s light. He sang out loud as he added his ornaments. “Merry Christmas my woodland friends!” The morning air filled with bird song in reply.

#9 A New Classic?

Waiting in line for Santa’s knee
At the mall we always shop.
Suddenly, someone nudges me.
It’s an undercover cop!
You will not believe this crazy story when you hear…
He’s dressed like an elf, by golly!
In my shock, I drop my dolly.
The cop asks for my help, you see.
This is what he has to say:
“Three bullies have been on a spree.
For their stunts they now must pay!”
“They must be stopped,” I do agree
“What kind of help can I bring?”
He replies, “Teamwork is the key.
We will organize a sting.
“Those creeps are smashing candy canes swiped from little kids.
Wait ‘til you get to Santa’s chair.
Then get your cane, and I’ll be there.
“They’ll grab your treat and try to flee.
It will really make my day
To catch them in the act—all three—
And propel them on their way.”
Our plan works out just perfectly.
We make an unlikely team:
An elf cop and a little girl.
Sounds just like a wacky dream!
The mall’s now very safe, you’ll find;
So hop up on Santa’s lap.
Watch out if mischief’s on your mind,
For we’ll set another trap!


#10 Clucking Christmas

Sneezing around the reindeer pen on the night before Christmas… AAAAACHOOOO! HOOONK! Santa blew his nose for the 50th time that Christmas Eve. “You’re done with your bath, Donner. Now you’re sparkling clean for our big… ACHOOO! HONK! …night.”
Mrs. Claus, with Agnes, her favorite backyard chicken, clucking behind her, said, “Santa dear, you’re allergic to those reindeer. There’s no way they can lead your sleigh tonight.”
A triple sneeze shot out of Santa and onto Donner. “Hogwash,” Santa muttered weakly.
Agnes scurried back to the henhouse. “Santa’s allergic to the reindeer. We have to help him!”
“Poor Santa! He’s a good egg,” Beaker moaned.
“Should we buy him allergy pills?” Lovey asked.
“This is our big chance!” Dixie flapped.
“Everyone in favor say ‘squawk,’ ” said Agnes.
“Squawk!” It was unanimous.
The chickens bustled outside and took a place in front of the sleigh.
Santa sighed. “I guess I have no choice. Reindeer, you get the night off.” He grabbed the reins. “On Agnes! On Bertha!”
The chickens weren’t listening. “Agnes! Why did he call your name first?!” Dixie clucked.
“Jiminy Christmas! You chickens don’t rule the roost,” Santa sputtered. “On Lovey! On Beaker!”
The chickens frantically flapped their wings. The sleigh crept forward, then moved faster and faster. It lifted a foot off the ground and Santa breathed a sigh of relief.
But CRASH it fell back to the ground.
“On Dixie! On Betty!” The chickens started flapping, and again the sleigh gained speed. Faster and faster it went, until—
“To the left! To the left!” Santa shouted as Mrs. Claus rolled out of the way.
And THUD, a bottle of Reindeer Wash that Santa left in the sleigh fell over and spilled.
“ACHOO!” he sneezed.
“Why, Santa,” Mrs. Claus said, “you must be allergic to the Reindeer Wash, not the reindeer!”
“Whew! Chickens, thanks for your service, but…On Donner! On Blitzen!”
The chickens watched the sleigh glide off into the sky. “Well, it looks like they flew the coop,” Agnes said. She turned on their favorite song. “Squawking around the Christmas tree in the Clauses’ chicken coop.”

#11 JUGGLIN’ HIGH FOR PUMPKIN PIE

Glidin’ aside this luscious grub 
at the festive Christmas Feast.
I’ll indulge in every dish. 
One small bite, at least.
I love stuffing, beans, and squash,
but treats are always last.
Pumpkin pie’s my favorite prize. 
I’d better get there fast.
Stacking food up tall and wide, 
I’m hoping it won’t slop.
Ham and yams and tators mashed,
it’s one big goopy glop.
The massive mound slants, slopes,
and slides, the situation’s bleak.
Guess it’s time to pull off my best
juggling technique.
Swivel left and sway back right, 
can’t let this mountain slip.
The butter in my pocket’s warm,
it’s just about to drip.
Seems I’ll need another plate, 
can’t manage one more crumb.
I’ll balance it atop my head, 
an olive on each thumb.
Berries slide right down my nose
and plop on my new shoe.
Deviled eggs are in my hair 
with greasy gravy goo.
A drumstick’s safe beneath my arm. 
Rolls are in my shirt.
Thought I’d never make it but, 
at last, I spot dessert.
Almost there. I’m getting close. 
There ‘s lusciousness in sight…
lick my lips and take a whiff, a
holiday delight.
Slow and steady, grab the last 
of Nana’s pumpkin pie.
Trap it tight between my chin 
and snazzy blue bow-tie.
I sneak beneath the food buffet, 
can’t make it to my seat.
Got my pie, but now I’m simply 
too wiped out to eat.


#12 NED’S CHRISTMAS WISH

Chipping through the ice of the glistening forest pond, Ned the turtle finally breaks through and inhales deeply. This is the year, he thinks. Timmy Elf will finally call my name for the sleigh loading.
Ned arrives at the clearing as Timmy says, “And that’s it. Thank you for helping us each Christmas Eve. We couldn’t load the sleigh in time without you.”
Ned inches closer and sees the usual foxes, hares and bobcats high-fiving each other as they wait in Vixen’s sled. Timmy takes the reins and Ned cries,
“WAAAIITTTT!”
“Not again,” Timmy mutters.
Ned gasps,
“You didn’t call my name? Please give me a chance.”
Timmy considers.
“OK – if you promise to stay put, you can finally come see for yourself why this is no job for a turtle.”
When they land at the North Pole, Ned stays in Vixen’s sled while the others spring into action. He watches as a flurry of hands, paws and hooves stack presents in the sleigh. Suddenly, it’s jostled and a small doll flies through the air and lands right below Ned. The tag says,
For Mary: Next year will be better. Love, Santa
“Two minutes to take off!” cries Timmy.
Ned raises his claw.
“Excuse me? There’s a doll here.”
In their frantic rush, nobody hears him. Ned knows this doll is important. Carefully he climbs off the sled.
I can do this, he thinks.
Ned reaches the doll and gently nudges her onto his back. He keeps his eyes on the sleigh and plods with determination.
Timmy calls, “Hooves up in one minute!”
Ned surges forward and bumps smack into Santa’s boot. He looks up.
“Wow,” says a stunned Ned.
Santa smiles and takes the doll.
“Thank you, my friend. This one is special.”
They take off and Ned beams as he watches the sleigh glide across the sky.
Timmy rushes over and snaps,
“I told you to stay on the sled.”
Then he sighs.
“Now do you understand why turtles could never help with this job?”
Ned doesn’t listen. He did help tonight. His Christmas wish came true.



*  *  *  *  *  



PHEW!  Now that you’ve had a chance to read through the finalists, please vote below for the one you think deserves to win by Thursday December 17 at 5 PM EST.  Winners of all kinds will be announced on Friday December 18!  (Possibly a bit late, I forewarn you, as I will be out of office all day on the 17th!)  I know.  That gives you a little less voting time than usual (because I took up an extra day with judging) but I want to be able to announce the winners on Friday so we can then all go off happily to our holiday celebrations 🙂

Thank you all so much for taking the time to write (if you did), read, and vote!  These contests simply wouldn’t be what they are without all of you!

I can’t wait to see who the winners will be!

Tune in Friday (no PPBF!)… same bat time, same bat station 🙂

Ho! Ho! Ho! The 5th Annual Holiday Contest Is Here!!!

Deck the halls!

Light the menorah!

Fill the Kikombe cha Umoja!

It’s time for…

The 5th Annual Holiday Contest!!!!
WA-HOOO!!!! 🙂

The Contest:  Write a children’s story (children here defined as approximately age 12 and under) beginning with any version of “Rocking around the Christmas tree at the Christmas party hop.”  You may use that actual opening, or you may change it to any similar version “[Verb of your choice]ing [any preposition you choose] the [any item you choose] [any preposition you choose] the [venue of your choice].”  For example, “Surfing along the wind-whipped waves at the Yuletide barbeque,” or “Wandering through the pine-sweet woods at the cut-your-own tree farm,” or “Quarreling in the checkout line at the local Toys R Us,” or “Waltzing among the candy canes at the Holiday Bazaar”….   You get the idea, I’m sure 🙂  But “Rocking around the Christmas tree at the Christmas party hop” is completely acceptable too – whatever works for you 🙂  Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever you celebrate, but is not to exceed 350 words (I know!  So much freedom after the Halloweensie Contest :))  (It can be as short as you like (the judges will be grateful :)), but no more than 350!)  The field is wide open!  Have fun!  The more creative the better!  No illustration notes please. (And yes, if you feel compelled to submit more than one entry you may, just remember you’re competing against yourself!)
Post:  Your entry should be posted on your blog between right now this very second and Friday December 11 at 11:59 PM EST, and your post-specific link should be added to the link list below which will remain up through Sunday December 13 (no WYRI or PPBF during that week.)  If you don’t have a blog but would like to enter, please copy and paste your entry into the comments on my December 7th post.  (If anyone has trouble commenting, which unfortunately happens, please email me and I’ll post your entry for you! But please don’t send attachments!  Just copy and paste your story into the email.)  And please be sure to include your byline!! We don’t want to have to guess who wrote your entry!
The Judging:  My lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to 10-12 finalists (depending on the number of entries) which will be posted here on either Monday December 14 or Tuesday December 15 (depending on the number of entries :)) for you to vote on for a winner.  The vote will be closed on Thursday December 17 at 5 PM EST and the winners will be announced on Friday December 18.  Whoever gets the most votes will be first and so on down to tenth place.  Judging criteria will be kid appeal/kid-friendliness, creativity, quality of story, quality of writing, and originality.
The Prizes!:  Wow!  We’ve got some truly great prizes! (items in color are links for more info!):

– A Picture Book Manuscript read and critique (winner’s choice of in-person, on the phone, or via email) by Claire Dorsett, Editorial Assistant, Roaring Brook Press!!!
   A bibliophile and outdoor enthusiast, Claire spent her childhood summers road-tripping across the United States, reading constantly on the long car rides between parks and museums. Her love of literature led her to pursue a BA in English from Cornell University, where she was involved with campus publications The Daily Sun and Rainy Day literary magazine. Claire then completed the six-week intensive Columbia Publishing Course before finding a home at Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, assisting VP and Publisher Simon Boughton. She has worked on a range of projects during her time at Roaring Brook, including Lane Smith’s middle-grade debut Return to Augie Hobble, Steve Sheinkin’s National Book Award finalist Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War, and picture books The SkunkThere is a Tribe of Kids, and Ned The Knitting Pirate
– a brand new Picture Book Webinar Bundle including one webinar on Concept Books and the other on Rhyme, Verse and Lyricism in Picture Books, generously donated by Emma Walton Hamilton, author, editor, writing coach, and teacher of the fabulous Just Write For Kids courses.
– a 2016 Membership to Children’s Book Insider, including their Children’s Writing Knowledge Base, an absolutely fabulous resource for kid lit writers of all kinds, generously offered by Jon Bard and Laura Backes
 – A Picture Book Manuscript Critique by talented author/illustrator Iza Trapani, author of JINGLE BELLS, OLD KING COLE, ITSY BITSY SPIDER, and many, many more!
 – A Picture Book Manuscript Critique by the fabulous Lori Degman, author of 1 ZANY ZOO and COCK-A-DOODLE OOPS!
 – an e-copy of the fantastic How To Promote Your Children’s Book generously donated by Katie Davis!

 – Enrollment in Making Picture Book Magic (my online picture book writing class – in January or a later month to be mutually agreed upon by the winner and me)
 – A 6-Month Membership to the new and fabulous One Stop For Writers Site!
 – 2016 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market  and a $25 Amazon Gift Card.
– another 2016 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market  and a $25 Amazon Gift Card.
– a pack of Susanna Leonard Hill’s amazing What’s The Story Cards (hitherto un-introduced to the world!) – writing prompts for every occasion 🙂
 – another pack of Susanna Leonard Hill’s amazing What’s The Story Cards

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

The Contest Winner will have first choice of the prizes.  2nd place will have next choice of what’s left and so on.  (I’m doing it this way in the hopes that no one will get something they already have and also because I think all the prizes are fabulous and I wouldn’t want to make anyone feel less valued by giving them as 6th place as opposed to 1st.)

So let’s get this Holiday Party started! 🙂

I want to warn you in advance that this may actually be the worst story I’ve ever written – embarrassing for me, but very comforting for anyone who is worried about the quality of their story – I can say with complete confidence that ANYTHING you write will be better than this sample! 🙂  Every time I do this I’m amazed by how fast I use up my 350 words!

Christmas Pie
350 words

Skimming across the sugar snow in a one-horse open sleigh, Rabbit headed for the Holiday Festival with his specialty Christmas Pie, fresh-baked, still warm, and smelling delicious!
He passed Mouse.
“May I have a ride?” asked Mouse.
“Sure!” said Rabbit.  “Hop in.  But careful of the pie!”
Mouse climbed up beside Rabbit and off they went.
Soon they passed Squirrel.
“May I have a ride?” asked Squirrel.
“Sure!” said Rabbit.  “Hop in.  But careful of the pie!”
Squirrel climbed up beside Rabbit and Mouse and off they went.
Soon they passed Possum.
“May I have a ride?” asked Possum.
“Sure!” said Rabbit.  “Hop in.  But careful of the pie!”
Before long they had passed the Turkey Twins, Raccoon, Badger, Fox, Bobcat, and Deer and his eight out-of-town cousins visiting from somewhere up North, and they ALL climbed in.  The sleigh was very crowded indeed, but the pie sat safe beside Rabbit, fresh-baked, still warm, and smelling delicious!
“Got room for one more?” asked Bear as they drew up alongside him.
“Sure!” said Rabbit.  “Hop in.  But careful of the pie!”
Bear hopped in.
But the way had grown steep…
…and the sleigh was VERY full!
Pretty soon the horse stalled out and the sleigh wouldn’t budge another inch.
“We’ll help!” volunteered the passengers, and they all got out to push.
Up, up, up the hill they went until…
…YIKES!
The hill pitched steeply down the other side.
The sleigh took off at high speed and crashed into a snow bank at the bottom.
Animals tumbled helter-skelter.
The Christmas Pie sailed through the air…
…and landed high in the branches of the Holiday Festival Christmas Tree!
“My pie!” wailed Rabbit.  “We’ll never get it down!”
“Yes, we will!” said Bear.
Squirrel, Possum, the Turkey Twins, Raccoon, Badger, Fox, Bobcat, and Deer and his eight cousins all climbed up on Bear.  All the way to the top of that tippy-tippy tower climbed Mouse, who plucked the pie from the high branches and passed it down to Rabbit, fresh-baked, still warm, and smelling delicious!
“Hurray!” cheered Rabbit.

           And they all ate Christmas Pie!

So now!  Is everyone filled with confidence about their entries?  I certainly hope so after that display!  Never let it be said that I’m not willing to make a fool of myself for you guys 🙂  It just proves how much I love you 🙂

I can’t wait to read all of your (much better!) stories!  I hope there will be a lot – the more the merrier!  And there are still nearly 5 days to write, so you have time if you haven’t written yet and want to join the fun.  Feel free to spread the word to your writing friends as well.  If you just want to enjoy reading, that’s great too!  We need all the readers we can get, so feel free to spread the word to parents and teachers!  And what better way to entertain yourself and your kids while waiting for the holiday goodies to bake?  Or get someone to read aloud while everyone else wraps presents 🙂

Remember to put your post-specific link (not your general blog link or people will find the wrong page if you post again before the contest is over) in the list below!

Rejoice! and let the festivities begin!!! 🙂

Don’t miss the 48 fabulous entries in the comment section! Click on the names to go to the story.  Please note that it takes a minute to load.  And please also note that clicking on these links will allow you to read the story and leave your own comment, but not see previous comments left on that story… I don’t know why… so if you want to see all the comments left on the story, you’ll have to scroll through the whole comment section.

Lindsay – Zippin’ Around The Chaos Tree
Julie – The Christmas Tarts
Lori – A Modern Hanukkah Miracle
Lorraine – A Very Spacey Christmas
Carol – Rockin’ Reindeer
Ann – Guardian Angel
Miranda – Christmas Party Hop
Suzanne – Santa’s Stolen Suit
Barbara – Christmas On An Island
Sharon – A Tree For The City
Tracie #1 – Scrambling Around The Christmas Tree
Tracie #2 – Shopping Around For A Christmas Tree
Cindy – Rocking Chair Fun
Jana – The Yule Tide
Polly – Picking On Nick
Anne – The Outback Christmas Hop
Jenifer – Splashing Through The Ocean
Corine – Saint Nikolaos Of Myra
Tracie #3 – Santa’s Jeep
Rebecca – Chicken Trouble
Melissa – Santa’s Stain
Julie B – The Little Burnt Latke
Kris – The Incident
Debbie #2 – What Happened When I First Sat Down To Write This Story
Debbie #1 – Christmas Eve Emergency
Kim – Henrik The Tall Reindeer
Sam – Unsilent Night
Joni – Happy Festival Of Lights
Kirsten – Mel The Marshmallow’s Cocoa Catastrophe
Mary – The Santa Coin
Sara – Dancing Around The Christmas Tree
Valerie – Santa Doesn’t Make Mistakes
Sheila – Clucking Christmas
Maureen – Pajama Party Predicament
Kristen – Sweet Dreams For Santa
Cindy – Jugglin’ High For Pumpkin Pie
Jen B – Ned’s Christmas Wish
Summer – The Best Christmas
Jessie – A Christmas Without Books
Suzy – City Critter Christmas
Gayla – A Rockin’ Heavenly Christmas
Sandy – Red Berries In The Snow
Kelly – The Ice Queen’s Pond
Shelley – A Yawn Bird Christmas
Bonnie – Christmas Eve At The Grand Old House
Patricia – The After-Christmas Elf Party
Nancy – Bethlehem Road
Ken – Waiting To See Santa

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Perfect Picture Book Friday – Oskar And The Eight Blessings

Hey there!

Surprised to see me?

After last week’s debacle…???

I still can’t believe I forgot to post last Friday!  I’m so sorry!  There I was, all caught up in family and leftover pie, and I never even realized it was Friday until it was suddenly Saturday and I hadn’t posted!  Any of you who had a Perfect Picture Book last week are welcome to add that link to today’s link list in addition to your titles for today!

I would like to take this opportunity to remind you that this will be the last official Perfect Picture Book post for 2015, as the next few Fridays will be taken up with the Holiday Contest and then the holidays themselves.  So I’ll meet you back here for the next PPBF on Friday January 8, 2016!!!

Now then, I hope you will all enjoy the today’s story.  I think it’s beautifully done, and has much to offer young readers!

Title: Oskar And The Eight Blessings
Written By: Richard Simon and Tanya Simon
Illustrated By: Mark Siegel
Roaring Brook Press, September 2015, Fiction (with some fact)

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: Hanukkah, kindness/compassion, looking for the good

Opening: This is an unusual picture book.  It has what could almost be called a prologue before the actual story starts – a set up to explain why Oskar happened to be traveling alone to New York City in December 1938 – with the text in italics and the illustrations on a black background.
Opening of the book: “Oskar’s mother and father believed in the power of blessings.  So did Oskar…until the Night of Broken Glass.”
Opening of the story: “Oskar arrived in New York on the seventh day of Hanukkah.  It was also Christmas Eve.  He knew his Aunt Esther would be lighting the menorah at sunset. To reach her before the sun went down Oskar would have to walk over a hundred blocks on the avenue called Broadway.”

Brief Synopsis: Oskar is a refugee, seeking sanctuary from the horrors of Kristallnacht.  He arrives in New York City with nothing but a photograph and an address for an aunt he has never met. It is both the seventh day of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve, 1938. As Oskar walks the length of Manhattan, he views the city’s many holiday sights, and encounters various people. Each offers Oskar a small act of kindness, welcoming him to the city and helping him on his way to a new life in the new world, and proving the truth of his father’s last words to him: “Oskar, even in bad times, people can be good. You have to look for the blessings.

Links To Resources: The book is a resource unto itself.  An author’s note details the origin of the story and the historical accuracies, including the presence of both Count Basie and Eleanor Roosevelt in New York City on Christmas Eve 1938.  There is also a map of Manhattan, showing Oskar’s route from the ship to his Aunt’s house with some of New York City’s well-known landmarks.  Older children/students can discuss Kristallnacht and the holocaust.  All children/students can discuss the power of kindness and think about what small acts of kindness they might be able to perform during the holidays and all year round.

Why I Like This Book:  This story tackles a difficult subject in an accessible, child-friendly way, and it reminds us of the true meaning of the holidays with its emphasis on compassion and human kindness, looking for the blessings in life even when times are hard – lessons that should not be reserved for the holidays, but carried with us throughout the year.  The art has the feel of an old photograph album, like pictures your grandparents might have shown you.  The inclusion of historical fact makes the story feel believable even though it’s mostly fiction.  Though on some levels a more serious holiday title, the story is uplifting, and the ending emotional.  A wonderful addition to any library!

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

Now then, before we all go off for our weekend of fun, I want to remind everyone that the Holiday Contest opens on Monday!!!  Whoopee!!!  Think of all the stories we have to look forward to!  Think how much fun it will be to read them ourselves and share them with our children and students!  I can’t wait!

except for the teensy weensy difficulty of not having an inkling of what I will post for a sample…

Polish up those drafts!  Put the finishing touches on your masterpieces!  There are some pretty great prizes on offer!

PPBF bloggers please be sure to leave your post-specific link in the list below so we can all come visit you!

Have a great weekend, everyone!  See you Monday for the Holiday Contest extravaganza!!!

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Perfect Picture Book Friday – The Great Thanksgiving Escape

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, Everyone!!!

Even as you read this, I shall be driving to the Green Mountains, accompanied on my journey up my my trusty Audible version of A Storm Of Swords (Book 3 in A Song of Ice and Fire – you know, Game of Thrones :)), and accompanied on my journey back by child #5! 🙂  And by the time we get home, child #3 will be there too!  I love the holidays and having the kids home! I can’t wait!!! 🙂  I have baked Heath Bar brownies in preparation…which I sampled…and they are GOOD! 🙂

So although I shall be nowhere near my computer today, I will be with you in spirit for PPBF.  I hope you’ll enjoy this entertaining Thanksgiving offering!

Title: The Great Thanksgiving Escape
Written & Illustrated By: Mark Fearing
Candlewick, September 2014, Fiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: family, holidays (Thanksgiving), humor

Opening: “It was another Thanksgiving at Grandma’s.
“You can play in here with the rest of the kids,” Gavin’s mother told him.  “We’ll call you when the turkey’s ready.”
“Have fun!” Gavin’s dad called.  
But Gavin knew it was not going to be fun.  Not fun at all.

Brief Synopsis: While waiting for the Thanksgiving turkey, Gavin is supposed to play with his cousins.  But most of them are drooling, stinky babies.  No fun!  He and his cousin Rhonda plan their escape to the swing set in the back yard, but it’s not easy to navigate the perils of a family get-together!

Links To Resources: Turkey Songs, Poems, and Finger Plays; Turkey Coloring Pages; play Duck, Duck, Turkey 🙂

Why I Like This Book:  Anyone who has ever been to a family get-together knows about the football-watching uncles gathered around the TV, the cheek-pinching aunts just lying in wait, and the annoying little cousins who demand attention and entertainment 🙂  This story is drolly told from the point of view of the kids who realize that “sometimes you have to make your own fun.”

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF bloggers please be sure to leave your post-specific link in the list below so we can all come visit you!

Have a wonderful, happy weekend, everyone!!! 🙂
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Monday Munchday…An Exciting Announcement!

Darlings!

So nice of you to drop by on Monday and visit me!  I missed you so over the weekend 🙂

And you won’t be sorry for coming over!

I have SUCH exciting news!!!

Guess what???

I have invented a new recipe!

Yes!  It’s true!

I must give credit where credit is due.  I was inspired by Shelley Kinder in a blog comment on the Halloweensie Winner’s post.  During all the talk about nuts vs. no nuts in dessert, she suggested the benefits of peanut butter chips… and an idea was born!

Lo and behold, my new recipe:

Take the brownie recipe of your choice and add 1/2 (or 1/2 +) cup of peanut butter chips!  YUM!

And this gave rise to ANOTHER idea… add 1/2 (or 1/2+) cup of toffee chips!

OR add 1/2 (or 1/2+) cup of crushed peppermint!

OR go the s’mores route and add 1/2 cup mini marshmallows and 1/4-1/2 cup graham cracker cereal!  (Although that might get mushy… I’ll have to experiment…!  Maybe crushed graham cracker at the bottom with the brownie batter mixed with marshmallows added on top…?)

I KNOW!

And you’re welcome, because I know I have just given you a whole new outlook on your holiday baking plans! 🙂

At least, I’ve given MYSELF a whole new outlook on MY holiday baking plans! 🙂

And the added benefit?  An unexpected Monday Something Chocolate Snack:

Please forgive the photos – I’m a baker not a photographer 🙂 – but I promise they taste delicious!!! 🙂

So, thanks for stopping by.  I hope it was worth your time.  And I hope you weren’t expecting anything else…

What?

You were expecting something else?

Well in that case…

…maybe I should tell you…

…that it’s time for…

The 5th Annual Holiday Contest!!!!
WA-HOOO!!!! 🙂

The Contest:  Write a children’s story (children here defined as approximately age 12 and under) beginning with any version of “Rocking around the Christmas tree at the Christmas party hop.”  You may use that actual opening, or you may change it to any similar version “[Verb of your choice]ing [any preposition you choose] the [any item you choose] [any preposition you choose] the [venue of your choice].”  For example, “Surfing along the wind-whipped waves at the Yuletide barbeque,” or “Wandering through the pine-sweet woods at the cut-your-own tree farm,” or “Quarreling in the checkout line at the local Toys R Us,” or “Waltzing among the candy canes at the Holiday Bazaar”….   You get the idea, I’m sure 🙂  But “Rocking around the Christmas tree at the Christmas party hop” is completely acceptable too – whatever works for you 🙂  Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever you celebrate, but is not to exceed 350 words (I know!  So much freedom after the Halloweensie Contest :))  (It can be as short as you like (the judges will be grateful :)), but no more than 350!)  The field is wide open!  Have fun!  The more creative the better!  No illustration notes please. (And yes, if you feel compelled to submit more than one entry you may, just remember you’re competing against yourself!)
Post:  Your entry should be posted on your blog between 12:01 AM EST Monday December 7 and Friday December 11 at 11:59 PM EST, and your post-specific link should be added to the link list on the official holiday contest post which will go up on my blog on Monday December 7 and remain up through Sunday December 13 (no WYRI or PPBF during that week.)  If you don’t have a blog but would like to enter, please copy and paste your entry into the comments on my December 7th post.  (If anyone has trouble commenting, which unfortunately happens, please email me and I’ll post your entry for you! But please don’t send attachments!  Just copy and paste your story into the email.)
The Judging:  My lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to 10-12 finalists (depending on the number of entries) which will be posted here on either Monday December 14 or Tuesday December 15 (depending on the number of entries :)) for you to vote on for a winner.  The vote will be closed on Thursday December 17 at 5 PM EST and the winners will be announced on Friday December 18.  Whoever gets the most votes will be first and so on down to tenth place.  Judging criteria will be kid appeal/kid-friendliness, creativity, quality of story, quality of writing, and originality.
The Prizes!:  Ok, so I’m still working on the prize list and will have to update, but here are some of the prizes that will be offered, and I think we’re going to have some additional awesomeness to add! (items in color are links for more info!):

A Picture Book Manuscript read and critique (winner’s choice of in-person, on the phone, or via email) by Claire Dorsett, Editorial Assistant, Roaring Brook Press!!!
   A bibliophile and outdoor enthusiast, Claire spent her childhood summers road-tripping across the United States, reading constantly on the long car rides between parks and museums. Her love of literature led her to pursue a BA in English from Cornell University, where she was involved with campus publications The Daily Sun and Rainy Day literary magazine. Claire then completed the six-week intensive Columbia Publishing Course before finding a home at Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, assisting VP and Publisher Simon Boughton. She has worked on a range of projects during her time at Roaring Brook, including Lane Smith’s middle-grade debut Return to Augie Hobble, Steve Sheinkin’s National Book Award finalist Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War, and picture books The SkunkThere is a Tribe of Kids, and Ned The Knitting Pirate
– a brand new Picture Book Webinar Bundle including one webinar on Concept Books and the other on Rhyme, Verse and Lyricism in Picture Books, generously donated by Emma Walton Hamilton, author, editor, writing coach, and teacher of the fabulous Just Write For Kids courses.
– a 2016 membership to Children’s Book Insider, including their Children’s Writing Knowledge Base, an absolutely fabulous resource for kid lit writers of all kinds, generously offered by Jon Bard and Laura Backes
 – A Picture Book Manuscript Critique by talented author/illustrator Iza Trapani, author of JINGLE BELLS, OLD KING COLE, ITSY BITSY SPIDER, and many, many more!
 – A Picture Book Manuscript Critique by the fabulous Lori Degman, author of 1 ZANY ZOO and COCK-A-DOODLE OOPS!
 – Enrollment in Making Picture Book Magic (my online picture book writing class – in January or a later month to be mutually agreed upon by the winner and me)
 – 2016 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market  and a $25 Amazon Gift Card.
 – a pack of Susanna Leonard Hill’s amazing What’s The Story Cards (hitherto un-introduced to the world!)

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

And now!  Sharpen those pencils!  Top off those coffee mugs!  Get those derrieres in your chairs!  And start writing those prize-winning entries!!!

I can’t wait for the festivities to begin! 🙂

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Leaf Man

Wahoo!  It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday!

Is there anything more fun for a picture book writer or illustrator, a parent, a teacher, or a child then the prospect of diving into a pile of great picture books?

I didn’t think so 🙂

Unless maybe it’s the prospect of diving into a pile of great picture books with a cup of hot chocolate near to hand (though not quite near enough to get kicked over during the diving :))

It is also tons of fun to dive into a pile of autumn leaves!!!

Given the fact that I’ve spent the last two weeks up to my hair in Halloweensie, I’m totally cheating and recycling a book today that I posted last year.  But it’s an excellent book, and you won’t want to miss it!  Get ready to have your breath taken away by this thing of beauty! 🙂

Title: Leaf Man
Written & Illustrated By: Lois Ehlert
Harcourt, September 2005, Fiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: seasons (autumn), nature, imagination

Opening: “Leaf Man used to live near me, in a pile of leaves.  But yesterday the wind blew Leaf Man away.

Brief Synopsis: From the publisher: “Fall has come, the wind is gusting, and Leaf Man is on the move. Is he drifting east, over the marsh and ducks and geese? Or is he heading west, above the orchards, prairie meadows, and spotted cows? No one’s quite sure, but this much is certain: A Leaf Man’s got to go where the wind blows.”

Links To ResourcesTeacher’s Guide (Harcourt); Lesson Plan (Scholastic);  the jacket flaps of the book are covered with “mystery leaves” – pictures of the leaves with a hint about where they come from so children can try to guess/identify them; the endpapers of the book show examples of many types of leaves, pictured and labeled; go on a leaf walk and collect leaves of your own – how many different kinds can you find? how many colors and shapes?; make a leaf collage, or a pencil rubbing of a leaf, or any kind of leaf art.

Why I Like This Book: If you’ve spent any time at all on Perfect Picture Books, you’ll know that 99.99 times out of 100, I choose books because I love the words or the story.  This is one time when I chose a perfect picture book for the art.  It also has a whimsical story :), but it’s the art that sells this book.  It’s simply gorgeous.  The illustrations are made from actual fall leaves.  The pages are cut and layered in the shapes of hills.  Each page pictures its subject made out of leaves, for example, on the page where perhaps Leaf Man flew over the turkey, there is a turkey crafted from fall leaves.   The colors are vibrant, and both the story and the art allow children to fancifully imagine all that a leaf might do as it blows before the wind.  The whole book sings autumn – it’s just lovely!

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF bloggers please be sure to leave your post-specific link in the list below so we can all come visit you!  I can’t wait to see your picks for this week!

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2015 Halloweensie Contest WINNERS!!!

As you all know, I do not normally post on Thursdays.

That is because Thursday is my day for lying on the couch eating bonbons.

I am making an exception today because I have something VERY important to discuss with you.

Something that I know has been weighing as heavily on your minds as it has on mine.

Something very crucial!

Something so earth-shatteringly important that it probably kept you up all night!

So let’s just lay it out on the table, shall we?

What is the deal with nuts in dessert items?

I’m serious!  Whose idea was that???

Obviously a dessert like pecan pie requires nuts.  I’m okay with that.

But brownies, cookies, and ice cream were made to be fudgy, chewy, and creamy respectively.  I’m sure you can see how adding hard, crunchy nuts is totally counter to the texture experience and therefore to the true enjoyment of said desserts!  Such appalling effrontery!

I think it’s high time we take a stand, don’t you?

NO MORE NUTS!  NO MORE NUTS!

What?

You think I’M nuts???

I won’t lie.  I’m a little hurt.

Sad face.

Sniffle-sniffle.

Were you expecting a discussion on another topic?

I’m not sure anything needs our attention as much as the ongoing nuts/no nuts debate…

…except maybe…

THE WINNERS OF
The 5th Annual HALLOWEENSIE CONTEST!!!!!
WA-HOOOOOOO!!!!!

(But wait!  Before I announce, do you want to state your opinion on whether nuts belong in dessert items?

No?  You’re sure?

Alrighty then.  Don’t say I never gave you a chance to be heard :))

As you are all aware by now, we had a record turnout for the Halloweensie Contest – 145 entries! (Plus 2 that came in after the deadline!)  Holy Halloweensie!  Who’d-a-thunk it?

I was thrilled beyond measure to see so many wonderful stories and meet so many new writers!

But with large entry numbers come hard choices.  My assistant judges and I worked hard to winnow the total down to a manageable number of finalists that we felt were truly all-around deserving of that distinction, and those were the ones we presented to you on Monday 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 (one reason being that, at a certain point, we just had to stop adding finalists to the list! :))

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:
     Mishka Jaeger for The Little Trick-or-Treater
     Vivian Kirkfield for Halloween Fever
     Sandy Jones for Frank-N-Stein’s Store      
     Gabi Snyder for Jack’s First Night (which could also have placed in Best Original POV for being told from a pumpkin’s viewpoint!)

2.  For Best Entry For Teen Readers:
     Lori Dubbin for Indelible! (beautifully done!!!)
  
3.  For Great Kid Appeal: (not already in the finals)
     Charlotte Dixon for Arabella’s Web
     Stacy Jensen for Gilda’s Zombie Fix
     Julie Rowan-Zoch for Creeeaak….
     Shaelyn Berg for Scaredy House
     Saundra Jones for Halloween Countdown (youngest readers)

4.  For Best Descriptive/Mood Piece:
     Rosi Hollinbeck for The Halloweensie Party
     Becky Shillington for Monster Bash

5.  For Best Use of Poetic Language:
     Randi Sonenshine for March Of The Gargoyles
     Suzy Levinson for Trick For Treats

6. For Spookiest Entry: (not already in the finals)
     Bradin Farnworth for Buddy
     Amanda Sincavage for The Haunted Dash

7. For Funniest Entry: (not already in the finals)
     Stephanie Salkin for Mummy Unveiled (which also had great poetic language!)
     Mike Allegra for Night Ninja
   
8. For being Judge #3’s Favorite Entry 🙂
     Lynne Pisano for Boo Who?
   
9.  For Best Written Original Point of View:
     Johnell DeWitt for Dark’s Knight (POV of the dark!)
     Marlaina Gray for YIPE! (POV of a terrier :))
   
10.  For Originality/Creativity:
     Carrie Burrows for Sophie And The Teal Pumpkin (because we learned about the Teal Pumpkin for allergy-sensitive trick-or-treaters!)
   
11.  For Favorite Character:
       Lisa Riddiough for Mo, The Ghost Who Said Moo

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

For Kindle:
Picture Books: The Write Way by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

Rhyming Picture Books: The Write Way by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi , OR

The Postitive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Attributes by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, OR

The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Flaws by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, OR

In paperback:
Show & Tell In A Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions From Telling To Showing by Jessica Bell, OR

Creating Extraordinary Characters by Angela Hunt, OR

Evoking Emotion by Angela Hunt, OR

Picture Books: The Write Way by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

Rhyming Picture Books: The Write Way by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard

Now then.  A word about the prizes before I announce the winners.
We have 9 fabulous prizes, generously donated by authors and various professionals in the writing field.  My policy is to let the first place winner have first pick of all the prizes, the second place winner have second choice, etc.  That way hopefully nobody gets something they already have, and hopefully everyone gets something that’s valuable to them.  All prizes are listed at the bottom of this post for your convenience in perusing the goodies 🙂
Now.
Finally!
Onto the moment you’ve all been waiting for. . . 
. . . the reason you got out of bed this morning. . . 
. . . to tell the world once and for all how you feel about nuts in your dessert!
. . . THE WINNERS OF THE 2014 HALLOWEENSIE CONTEST as chosen by you, our esteemed voters!!!!!
In First Place, winner of the whole entire contest and top of the heap who gets first choice of all the prizes…
Shelley Kinder
for
A Meaty Trick-or-Treat
Congratulations, Shelley, on a delightful entry that was all around well done and clearly very popular!!!
In Second Place,
Sam Steinfels
for
Spooky Spies
Congratulations, Sam, on an exceptionally clever premise beautifully executed! You get first choice of the prizes that are left after Shelley chooses!
In Third Place, a tie!!! between
Marla Lesage                         Polly (sorry I don’t know your last name!)

                   for                                                                    for
 Pirate Prepares For Halloween                                   Nothing To Wear
Congratulations, Marla and Polly, on entertaining, well written entries that we all loved!  You get first choice of the prizes that are left after Shelley and Sam choose!
In Fifth Place, a three-way tie!!!
      Buffy Silverman                    Cathy Mealy                           Jana Locke
               for                                       for                                           for
Spider’s Halloween Debut       Goodnight Halloween     The Unicorn Ate My Candy Corn:
                                                                                                  A Halloween Tall Tale
Congratulations, Buffy, Cathy and Jana, on your wonderful entries!  You get to pick your prizes after Shelley, Sam, Marla and Polly!
In Eighth Place,
Patricia Nozell
for
Leila’s First Halloween
Congratulations, Patricia, on a standout entry that was markedly different from the others with its unique theme!  You get to pick your prize after Shelley, Sam, Marla, Polly, Buffy, Cathy, and Jana!
In Ninth PlaceJulie Abery for The Teensy-Weensy Witch!  Congratulations, Julie!  What a determined little witch!  You get the idea of the prize picking by now I’m sure 🙂
And, I don’t think I need to remind anyone that in addition to all these fabulous prizes, everyone mentioned on this page has bragging rights as having won or placed in the Pretty Much World Famous Halloweensie Contest!  Not just anyone can say that 🙂
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!  Finalists who did not finish in the top 10 (Stephanie, Jacqueline, Jean, and Chrystal) may also contact me for their choice of the Kindle or paperback prizes listed above.

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, a confetti parade, and a large amount of chocolate cake 🙂

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!

And before we go, I will give you all advance warning so you can start planning a little time into your December schedule…

The 5th Annual Holiday Writing Contest will be coming up sometime in the neighborhood of December 7-11 so we can all fully enjoy it and still have time for last minute holiday things.  I will do my best to post the rules well in advance so you all have time to work on your stories!

Have a terrific Thursday everyone, and thanks again for making the Halloweensie Contest such a wonderful time for all! 🙂

The Prizes:  we’ve got some seriously amazing prizes! (words in color are links to more info)
 – a read and comments on a PB ms by fabulous agent Tricia Lawrence of Erin Murphy Literary Agency!!!
 – a picture book manuscript critique by picture book author Diana Murray!  website
 – a query critique from Heather Ayris Burnell, founder of the Sub It Club
– a 6 month subscription to One Stop For Writers (value $50)
 – an e-pub or PDF copy (winner’s choice) of Linda Ashman‘s Nuts And Bolts Guide To Writing Picture Books
  – personalized signed copies of Sarah Frances Hardy’s Dress Me! and Paint Me! (Reviewed HERE for PPBF)
 – a personalized signed copy of Amy Dixon’s Sophie’s Animal Parade (Reviewed HERE for PPBF)
– a personalized signed copy of Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca Gomez’s What About Moose?(Reviewed HERE for PPBF)
 – a personalized signed copy of Penny Parker Klostermann’s There Was An Old Dragon Who Swallowed A Knight (Reviewed HERE for PPBF)
Please join me again in thanking these very generous authors and other writing professionals for contributing their books and writing expertise as prizes by visiting their websites and blogs, considering their books and services for holiday or other gift purchases, rating and/or reviewing their books on GoodReads, Amazon, B&N or anywhere else if you like them, or supporting them in any other way you can dream up 🙂

Would You Read It Wednesday #191 – Showdown At The Sippy Cup Saloon (PB)

Howdy folks!

We interrupt our regularly scheduled Would You Read It for this important message from our sponsors:

Voting continues in the Halloweensie Contest until 5 PM today!!!  If you haven’t had a chance to weigh in yet, please hop over HERE to read the amazing finalist stories and vote for your favorite!!!  We need all the votes we can get!!!

Now then, back to WYRI!

And by “back to WYRI” I of course mean “time for Something Chocolate!!!” 🙂  And since it’s only a couple days after Halloween, what better than leftover chocolate Halloween Candy???

Whoever thought up Halloween was a genius! 🙂

YUM!!!  Of course, I don’t actually HAVE any leftover chocolate Halloween candy… I can’t imagine why… 🙂

Today’s pitch comes to us from Jessica Swaim, a parttime poet who spends an inordinate amount of time playing with her dogs.
Take a peek at both her books and her dogs at http://jessicaswaim.com

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Showdown At The Sippy Cup Saloon
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-8)
The Pitch: In the tiny town of Toddle, in the cradle of the West, Sheriff Wyatt Burp is snoozing in his crib when Wild Bill Hiccup arrives to wake up — and shake up — the pint-size population.  “Don’t go gettin’ yer onesie in a twist,” Wild Bill warns Wyatt, but tempers flare until the two go bib to bib in a showdown at the Sippy Cup Saloon. Who will emerge the rootin’ tootin’ squirt gun shootin’ hero of the West? 

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 Jessica 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 the Would You Read It tab in the bar above.  There are openings in January so you’ve got a little time to polish up your pitches and send yours for your chance to be read by editor Erin Molta!

Jessica is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to finding out who wins the Halloweensie Contest!  Tune in tomorrow!!!  Meanwhile, try to keep calm and think about something else so you won’t go nuts waiting.  Really.  Just don’t think about it.  Don’t keep wondering who the winner might be, and who might be second and third….! 🙂

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone! 🙂

The 2015 Halloweensie Contest FINALISTS! – Vote For Your Favorite!!!

Darlings?

Is that you?

I can’t see that far…

…from my spot on the floor…

I’m delirious after an agonizing weekend of trying to choose 10 finalists out of more than 10 times that number of entries, all of them wonderful in one way or another!  (And no.  We did not choose 10.  We chose a baker’s dozen – 13 for Halloween!)

The fact that I am flat on the floor is nothing to worry about.  Really.  I’m fine.  And so are the other judges.  You just can’t see them because they crawled off to bed in the wee hours and have yet to emerge.

Seriously.  There is no need to worry about us.  But we won’t say no to chocolate if you wish to send some our way and help us recover 🙂

We had the biggest turn out we’ve ever had in terms of number of entries – 145! – and the overall quality of the entries was fantastic.  Really, it is readily apparent that the quality of entries in these contests is improving every time.  This means there are fewer obvious standouts, almost none that are easy to cut, and there a LOT of very good ones that we have to get very nit-picky over!  It is agony, I tell you!

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

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

Second, I’d also like to thank EVERYONE – writer, reader, or both – who took the time to go around and read as many entries as you could and leave supportive comments.  This means so much to the writers who worked hard on their stories.  It helps them see what they did well, as well as giving them the joy of knowing that their stories were read and enjoyed.  I hope you all got as much delight  and entertainment out of the reading as I did!  Plus, we got to meet quite a few new people which was a wonderful added bonus! 🙂

Third, before I list the finalists, I want to say again how difficult it was too choose!  There were so many amazing entries.  Really.  I could find at least something terrific about every single one.  The sheer volume of entries meant that many good ones had to be cut.  So if yours didn’t make the final cut please don’t feel bad.  There was a huge amount of competition.  Judging, no matter how hard we try to be objective, is always subjective at a certain point – we all have our own preferences for what makes a great story.  And the fact that you didn’t make the final cut DOES NOT mean you didn’t write a great story.  Everyone who plonked their butt in a chair and worked hard to write a story for this contest is a winner!  You showed up.  You did your best work.  You practiced your craft.  You wrote to specifications and a deadline.  You bravely shared your writing with the world.  And you have a brand new story that is now yours to expand beyond 100 words if you like and maybe submit at some point to a magazine or as a PB manuscript.  So bravo to everyone who entered!

Now.  Onto the judging criteria which were as follows:
1. Kid-appeal! – These stories are intended for a young audience, so entries that were well-written but lacked child-friendliness did not make the cut.
2.  Halloweeniness – the rules stated a Halloween story, so entries that failed to mention anything Halloween-y did not make the cut even if they were well-written.
3. Quality of story – the rules stated that entries were to tell a story, so if they appeared to be more of a description or mood piece, they didn’t make the cut.  We looked for a character and a true story arc.
4. Quality of Writing: we took note of spelling, grammar, punctuation etc.  In addition, for the rhymers, we looked at rhyme and meter (for which we are sticklers!)  We also looked at overall writing quality and use of language.
5. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.

A surprising number of this year’s entries were amazingly written… but failed to really tell a story!  They were more descriptions, lists, or mood pieces.  So as awesome as they were, we had to make some very hard calls.

Without further ado, I present to you the 2015 Halloweensie Contest Finalists.  A mix of poetry and prose, stories for younger readers and slightly older (but still kid) readers, funny, spooky, and cute.  Please read through them carefully, take your time, think it over, and vote for your favorite.  To help with objectivity, finalists are listed by title only, not by author.

And I’d like to be very clear about the voting process.  You are MOST welcome to share a link to this post on FB, twitter, or wherever you like to hang out, and encourage people to come read ALL the finalists and vote for the one they think is best.  Please do that.  The more people who read and enjoy these stories the better, and the more objective votes we get the better.  HOWEVER (and I want to be very clear on this) please do not ask people to vote for a specific number or title, or for the story about the pumpkin ballerina or whatever.  Trolling for votes or trying to influence the outcome is counter to the spirit of this competition which is supposed to be based on merit.  I thank you in advance for respecting this.

#1.  Leila’s First Halloween

Tears puddle in Leila’s dark eyes. Tomorrow is the Halloween costume parade at her new school.
“Costumes cost money,” Mama sighs. “I can’t buy something you wear once for this strange holiday. Any extra money must be sent to our sisters and brothers in Aleppo.”
Halloween haunts Leila’s thoughts. A stomach ache? Mama never lets her miss school. A costume from Teacher’s bin? Her classmates will laugh.
“I know!” she cries, grabbing a navy pullover and red leggings.
As her classmates don costumes, Leila asks Teacher for 50 stars and white tape.
“I’m an American now, an American flag!”

#2 Pirate Prepares For Halloween
Pirate wonders what to wear.
Knitted cap with dreadlocked hair?
Striped pajamas? Bandoleer?
Same old shorts she’s worn all year?
Black bandana? New tattoo?
She can’t dress like pirates do!
But a costume would delight
on this dark and haunted night.
Zombie? Werewolf? Ninja? Cat?
Too cliché, she can’t wear that.
Pirate wants to go disguised,
but her friends should be surprised.
Pirate gathers what she needs:
old bandana, borrowed beads,
Jolly Roger, tattered lace.
Then she snips and sews with grace.
When her tutu is all set.
Sauté, plié, pirouette.
Pirate plans a dance routine
to perform on Halloween.
#3 Spooky Spies
He focused a triangle on the approaching costumed family.
“That Jack-O-Lantern is watching me,” said Franz.
“Don’t be silly,” said his mother, “It’s just a pumpkin.”
“It winked at me!” yelped Tess, “Creepy, haunted pumpkin!”
“Impossible,” scoffed their mother, ”On to next house!”
Hours later, after the last trick-or-treater had gone home,
a lone man waltzed down the dark street.
“Report, Jack-O,” he murmured.
“Evening, sir. I have your list. 100 kids said trick-or-treat. 95 kids said thank you. Five kids took their candy and ran,” reported Jack-O-Lantern.
“Excellent.” said the man, “See you next October.”
“Goodnight, Santa,” replied Jack-O-Lantern.
#4 Nothing To Wear
It was Halloween day,
soon to be night.
Where darkness would lurk,
between Halloween lights.
But Harry and Ava
had nothing to wear.
No colourful costume,
to give folks a scare.
So off they both set,
to “Costumes’R’us”.
Hitching a ride, on the
666 bus.
They said to the driver,
“Your costume is cool.
Totally haunting,
just like a ghoul”
He smiled and he nodded
“it’s Costumes’R’us”
then he drove them both there,
and they jumped off the bus.
But the shop sign said “closed”,
How could that be?
Then the driver and bus,
disappeared from the street.
#5 Grow-A-Ghoul
“Grow-a-Ghoul in 31 days. Guaranteed to be a hit on Halloween. Keep your Ghoul in a dark closet, and feed them a cup of fruit punch every day,” read Meredith.
“Oh goody,” said Ethan, “I can’t wait to scare the pants off Franz Findley.
“My ghoul is going to haunt the whole town,” boasted Sarah.
On October 31st, the ghouls floated out of the closet.
“WOOOOOOO,” wailed Meredith’s ghoul.
“AAAHHHHOOOOO,” moaned Ethan’s ghoul.
“Let’s be best friends! We can hold hands and wear matching princess costumes!” exclaimed Sarah’s ghoul.
“Oh dear,” said Sarah, “My ghoul is broken.”
#6 The Unicorn Ate My Candy Corn: A Halloween Tall Tale
My costume’s crumpled in a heap,
My candy’s in the pail.
Blinking eyes, I’m close to sleep
Until I hear a wail.
And then a snort. And clacking feet.
I think my room is haunted.
A voice neighed out, “I NEED A TREAT!”
I ask what kind it wanted.
“The sweetest treat, shaped like my horn.
With bands of orange and yellow.
I’m craving all your candy corn!”
I hear the creature bellow.
My room is dark, but now I see
Four legs, a mane. . . a horn?
Who ate the treats? It wasn’t me.
I blame the unicorn.
#7 Paisley The Ghostling
Paisley loved Halloween.
What other day could a ghostling wear a costume, trick-or-treat, and play in the
dark?
Paisley wished she could join the fun, but she had scare duty like all the other ghostlings.
Boo-hoo. What’s a ghost to do?
An idea came as quick as a spook.
She’d wear a costume and haunt the kids trick-or-treating.
Paisley dressed as broccoli.
Vegetables were sure to bring a fright.
Paisley yelled, “Eat your vegetables!”
All the kids screamed.
Paisley had a spooktacular time.
Next year she will go as parsnip.
#8 A Meaty Trick-or-Treat
Once upon a Trick or Treat,
T. Rex set out to get some meat.
He and friends went door to door,
Until their bags could hold no more.
“T” raced home past ghosts and clowns,
Costumed pets, and haunted frowns.
When safely home, he dumped his treats:
Frog legs, pork, and scrumptious meats,
Gizzards, ribs, roast beef, and turkey,
White meat, dark meat, Jamaican jerky!
Then “T” saw something quite bizarre…
A package labeled, “CHOCOLATE BAR.”
He grabbed it, halved it, took a bite,
But something simply wasn’t right.
He stuffed some bacon in between,
And CHOMPED his Halloween Supreme!
#9 An Alien Goes Trick-or-Treating
Allen the Alien has landed on Earth on a cold, dark October night.
“Cool costume!” shouts a princess.
“Take me to your leader,” quips a vampire.
“Beep. Boop. Bop,” greets a robot.
Allen is confused.
“Where did his mother find that outfit?” remarks a witch dragging along a little ghost.
The Earthlings are playing dress up!
Allen puts on his costume – jeans, t-shirt, cap, sneakers. Aliens love to dress up as Earthlings.
Allen follows four ninja turtles to a haunted house.
“Trick or Treat!”
“Poor kid doesn’t have a costume,” whispers the ogre handing out candy.
Allen smiles.
#10 Spider’s Halloween Debut
Spider spun her sticky web
and scrutinized the scene below.
A ghoulish ghost and ghastly witch
were putting on a scary show
to entertain a costumed crew
who bravely watched the chilling sight.
The audience heard gruesome groans
and shivered in the cold, dark night.
Spider itched to join the fun,
to haunt, to scare, to steal the show.
She dropped a line and skittered down,
but no one looked… so she let go
and landed on the witch’s neck.
Spider scampered, spider crawled,
She heard a screech! She heard a howl!

Creepy spider spooked them all.
#11 The Haunting

Tonight when children go to bed,
I’ll be that thing that they all dread.
I’ll creep into their darkened room,
A spirit from the grave exhumed.
For this is Halloween tonight,
When even darkness shakes with fright,
But I’ll be laughing with delight
When frightened children bolt upright!
What’s that in the children’s room?
A gang of youngsters in costume!
They’re waiting for me in the dark,
A clown, a monster,
…is that a shark?
Now it’s me who shakes with fright!
The children laughing with delight,
I bolt back to my burial site,
I won’t be haunting them tonight!

#12 The Teensy-Weensy Witch

On Halloween night: October thirty-one,
A teensy-weensy witch shrieked “Let’s have fun!”
She packed her tiny spell book in her pointy purple hat,
Put on her witch’s costume, grabbed her broomstick and her cat.
They left the tiny house in the thickening gloom,
And zoomed in the air on her itsy-bitsy broom.
Out of the dark came a haunting “Whoooooo…
Watch out witches we’re after you!”
The witch gave a wobble, the broomstick took a crash,
Landing in a puddle with one ginormous splash!!!!!
DAGNABIT YOU GHOSTS OUT IN THE BLACK!!
Next Halloween I’ll get you back!!!

#13 Goodnight Halloween

In the dark gray room
Lay a tattered costume
A dim glow-stick
And a bent witch broom
And the smell of
Fresh chocolate’s sugar perfume
And there were three little ghosts
Haunting a house
And a pair of black cats
With a little toy mouse
And a sad saggy pumpkin, flame guttered out
Goodnight room
Goodnight broom
Goodnight sweets I can’t consume
Goodnight mouse
Goodnight cat
Goodnight house and witch’s hat
Goodnight glowstick
Goodnight ghosts
Goodnight pumpkin-love you most
Goodnight socks and tired feet
Goodnight Halloween
Goodnight trick or treat

Now that you’ve had a chance to read through the finalists, please vote for the entry you feel deserves to win in the poll below by 5PM EST Wednesday November 4.


Tune in Thursday November 5 to see THE WINNERS!!!

Thank you all so much for taking the time to write (if you did), read, and vote!  These contests simply wouldn’t be what they are without all of you!
I can’t wait to see who the winners will be!
Tune in Thursday… same bat time, same bat station 🙂

(And we will have a regularly scheduled Would You Read It on Wednesday too!)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to lie on the couch and eat bonbons all day.

Okay.

Not really.

I’m actually driving to Vermont as we speak and will be in the car all day, so forgive me if I don’t reply to your blog comments until later!

But don’t worry – I have plenty of miniature Halloween chocolate bars to keep my sustained whilst I drive… and A Clash Of Kings on audible to listen to (yes, I’m officially hooked on the Game of Thrones series! :))

Have a marvelous Monday everyone!!!