The 2nd Annual Pretty Much World Famous Illustration Contest For Children’s Illustrators!!!

WOO HOO!  The day has finally arrived!  It’s time for . . .

The 2nd Annual Pretty Much World Famous
Illustration Contest for Children’s Illustrators!

The ContestDraw/Paint/Create a children’s picture book illustration (no text required – art only) the topic for which shall be


Above all things, these illustrations are meant to evoke story, so it is crucial that they present at least one character, a setting, and ideally hint at/suggest some kind of plot or conflict idea.

Illustrations should be 8×10, horizontal or vertical, any medium, posted in jpg at least 72 px.  Illustrators may enter more than one entry if they’re feeling ambitious 🙂
Post:  Your entry should be posted on your blog between right now this very second and Friday June 26 at 9 PM EDT (contest deadline!)  Please add your post-specific link to the link list below which will remain up all week so that people will be able to come visit and enjoy your amazing artwork.  If you don’t have a blog but would like to enter, you will be able to copy and paste your entry into the comments below.  (If anyone has trouble commenting, which unfortunately happens, you may email me and I’ll post your entry for you!)

Judging:  entries will be judged by multi-talented, award-winning author/illustrators Iza Trapani, author and illustrator of over 20 gorgeous picture books, and Lisa Thiesing, author and illustrator of 40 beautiful and fun picture books and early readers!   Judging criteria to include:

 – does the illustration evoke a sense of story,
 – is the picture readable to a young audience,
 – how well does it show the character(s) and
 – is/are the character(s) appealing (character development),
 – originality,
 – skill.

They will narrow down the entrants to 6 finalists (or possibly a couple more or less depending on the number of entries :)) which will be posted here on Monday June 29 for you to vote on for a winner.  The vote will be closed at 5PM EST on Thursday July 2 and the winner will be announced on Friday July 3… along with something for the writers in our audience, so stay tuned! 🙂

The Prizes!:  There will definitely be a 1st prize.  Whether we give prizes for 1st only, 1st-3rd, or 1st-6th will depend on how many entries we get.  We need at least 12 entries to place through 3rd, and at least 20 to place through 6th.

We’ve got some great prizes lined up including a chance to take Mark Mitchell’s fantastic Make Your Marks And Splashes Online Children’s Book Illustration Class (a $249 value, but really priceless!)  This class is packed with video lessons on the topics of drawing, painting, and children’s book illustration and video interviews with children’s illustrators. It also includes three months of online group critique sessions (2 sessions per month, at this point) with Mark and guest instructors, so the winner could also get the equivalent of a portfolio critique if she/he participated in all six of the sessions.  You can read all about it here:

Additional prizes will include:

 – a Wacon Intuos Pen and Touch Small Tablet (see details HERE)

 – a $50 gift certificate to Dick Blick Art Materials (which is online)

 – choices of the following books:
      – Writing With Pictures by Uri Shulevitz

  – a Canson sketch pad and a small set of Derwent or Faber Castell colored pencils

and of course the bragging rights to having won or placed in a Pretty Much World Famous Contest! 🙂

So ready, set, GO! artists!  We can’t wait to see what you’ve created!  We’re ready to be inspired! 🙂

Remember, add your post-specific blog link to the link list below or email your illustration to me for posting here!

Below are 9 entires (so far) in the post, and the link list is down below them.

Entry from Tina Marantette:

illustration copyright Tina Marantette 2015

Entry #1 from Kristeen Mathews: discovery on the farm

illustration copyright Kristeen Mathews 2015

Entry #2 from Kristeen Mathews: discovery in a book

illustration copyright Kristeen Mathews 2015

Entry #3 from Kristeen Mathews: magic discovery

illustration copyright Kristeen Mathews 2015

Entry from Julie Abery

illustration copyright Julie Abery 2015

Entry from Michelle Todd

illustration copyright Michelle Todd 2015

Entry from Abigail Hicks

illustration copyright Abigail Hicks 2015

Entry from Beth Gallagher

illustration copyright Beth Gallagher 2015

Entry from Meredith Pinkstone

illustration copyright Meredith Pinkstone 2015

Entry from Dyann Joyce

illustration copyright Dyann Joyce 2015

Entry #1 from Susan Klein

illustration copyright Susan Klein 2015

Entry #2 from Susan Klein

illustration copyright Susan Klein 2015

Entry #3 from Susan Klein

illustration copyright Susan Klein 2015

Guest Post From Author Amy Dixon! (And A Giveaway!!!)

Happy Monday Everyone!

Boy did I wrestle with this post.

As you know, today is our day for a guest post from Amy Dixon, author of MARATHON MOUSE.  (And did I mention there’s a giveaway?!!)

It was also supposed to be the day I posted the Halloweensie Contest Finalists (of which there are a lot more than 3 because at final count we had 38 entries and 3 finalists was simply not a number I could get down to with so many fantastic stories!!!)

I actually started writing the post thinking I’d put everything in.

But by the time I got to the end of Amy’s part, I knew it wasn’t going to work.  Wonderful as you all are, I felt it was just too much to ask you to go on from Amy’s post to the contest finalists – it was getting VERY long.  So since today is her scheduled day, I hope you will all thoroughly enjoy her post, which is full of inspiring words for writers!  I will post the Halloweensie Contest finalists in a separate post either later on today or tomorrow (which I realize is not a normal posting day for me) – feel free to tell me in the comments which you’d prefer!

So without further ado, heeeeerrrre’s AMY!

Amy Dixon

When I was growing up, some of my favorite books involved one Miss Ramona Quimby. I’m sure I related to her trials as the little sister, and to her attempts to prove herself worthy of admiration and acceptance. I will say though, that Ramona went to much greater lengths to gain such admiration. I never accidentally cracked a raw egg on my head, or wore a Chiquita banana sticker on my face in order to be a part of the latest fad. But I was always delighted by her antics, and always wished, in spite of what seemed like constant embarrassment, that I could be more like her. What perhaps now I would categorize as impulsiveness, I then regarded as bravery. Ramona was brave. I wanted to be brave, too.
It was my affection for Ramona that made the nickname I earned on the soccer field when I was 10 a little more palatable. My sister and I both played on a team called The Golden Touch. I wasn’t a flashy player. I don’t think I ever saved or scored a goal. But our coach would put me in the midfield, point out one of our opponents and say, “Don’t you let her get by you.” I took his charge seriously. I followed that player around on the field like a stray puppy who was once given a scrap and was hoping for more. I would not leave her alone for a second. And so, on the soccer field, I became Amy the Pest.
When I started writing for children six years ago, I had no idea the tenacity that would be required to make things happen in this business. It definitely called for a bit of…pesty-ness.  Not a bombard-agents-and-editors-with-e-mails-and-phone-calls-till-your-name-is-engraved-on-their-list-of-psycho-writers kind of pesty-ness. But a persistent, persevering, resilient kind of pesty-ness. A pesty-ness that revises the same manuscript 27 times until it is just perfect…and then starts from scratch because an editor thinks it would work better in third person.  A pesty-ness that takes in each painful rejection and yet still finds a way to send the story back out again. A pesty-ness that makes us certain those rejections will be fun to share later in a “look how many times my amazing, award-winning story was scoffed at before it sold!” presentation.
And so, 20 years after my days as a half-back for the Golden Touch, Amy the Pest was resurrected. I wrote. I revised. I critiqued. I conferenced. I submitted. I was rejected. I revised some more. I submitted some more. I was rejected some more. I buzzed in the ear of the publishing world, and was swatted away again and again.
But like Ramona and her questions about Steam Shovels and their bathroom habits, I wouldn’t go away. I believed in my work. I had critique partners who believed in my work. And somewhere in there, somewhere in between growing as a writer and learning the business of publishing, I became brave. Brave enough to send out MARATHON MOUSE, even after getting some discouraging editor feedback. (So…all that happens in this book is…he runs? Am I missing something?) Brave enough to get a publisher’s offer on MARATHON MOUSE, and ask the editor for 2 weeks to follow-up with agents before saying yes. Brave enough to now say out loud, “I am a writer.”
Get your copy today! 🙂
So here I am…Amy Dixon, Age 37. Here to encourage you to channel your inner Ramona. Release your pesty-ness.  Learn to be brave. You will grow as a writer, even if, every once in a while, you end up with a little raw egg on your head.

Wasn’t that just terrific?  Thank you so much for those inspiring words, Amy!

I will tell you all that I have read MARATHON MOUSE and will be posting it this Friday as my Perfect Picture Book – it’s fantastic and I highly recommend it and you should all find any excuse you can to buy it! 🙂

In the meantime, one lucky, lucky reader is going to win a signed copy, because Amy is just that wonderful!  All you have to do is leave a comment telling about something you accomplished (like a marathon :))  For example, I could say that once I was Sneezy in our third grade play of Blanche Neige – and if you’ve ever tried to sneeze in French you will know just what an accomplishment that was!  But I realize it’s Monday morning and many of you may not be fully caffeinated yet, so if you can’t remember anything you’ve accomplished at this hour you can just write why you’d like the book 🙂

Stay tuned for the Halloweensie Contest Finalists and don’t forget to let me know if you have a preference for later today or tomorrow.  The post is already written because it used to be half of this one 🙂

Have a lovely Monday 🙂

Fun Friday Photo

So today’s the day Catherine and I are starting our new Fun Friday Photo (maybe that should be Foto :)) Fextravaganza (because there’s no word I can think of that means extravaganza and starts with F – at least not on this rainy morning!  Feel free to make suggestions.  My brain is sluggish before coffee, breakfast and sunshine.)

This week’s theme is CONFUSION.  Here’s my entry 🙂

courtesy google images

If you’d like to play along, post a photo with your interpretation of confusion and then put your link in the comments below and/or over at Catherine’s so we can all visit your blog and enjoy and be inspired by your choices!  Who knows what great stories may be written today based on these pictures 🙂

After that, if you haven’t had a chance to comment on this week’s Would You Read It, please go here and share your expertise 🙂

Catherine and I hope you have fun with the photos fotos!  Have a great weekend!

P.S.  Ooh!  How about this one:  Fun Friday Foto Feature!  Hmmm…. where’s my coffee 🙂

This Pony Needs A Story!

Sometimes inspiration just hits you over the head…
Check out this video of a boy and his pony.  The pony has so much personality (and he’s SO NAUGHTY!) that he practically begs to have a story written about him.
Bearing in mind that no one ever got hurt, and that this pony was much-beloved, watch and enjoy 🙂  (My favorite part is when the pony lies down and rolls!)  Then if you’re inspired, write the first sentence of a pony story in the comments!
And lest you think he was always this bad, he does have a good side 🙂  There are related videos about the pony being good and the bond between the boy and the pony.  They are quite long, so I didn’t include them, but if you love horses, please watch them.  Very sweet 🙂

How Younique – Challenge #1!

First things first… there are only a couple hours left to bid on my books at Write Hope if any of you happen to be interested…

Now, onto today’s topic: uniqueness (which doesn’t quite sound like a real word…)

When I go on school visits, I’m always telling kids about the importance of their voices – because everyone is different, everyone’s experiences and how they experience them are different, and no two people will tell a story the same way.  But I think it would be fun to see how true that really is….

So.  I’m hoping at least some of you are like me and can’t resist a challenge 🙂

I will give you a sentence to complete.  (Actually, in the interest of encouraging more people to try it, I’ll give you a couple to choose from – please feel free to do more than one!)  I hope lots of people will give it a try.  I won’t post your responses until tomorrow and then we can see how different they all are!  (Really, we’re like scientists here!)

1.  I never expected that one day I’d open my closet and find…
2.  It was obviously going to be an unusual day when my mom came into the bedroom and said…
3.  He was afraid, but he called upon all the courage he had as…

Tomorrow I will give you three words and see how different the sentences you come up with are (Challenge #2.)  And Wednesday we will take cliche’s and try to make them new (Challenge #3.)

Please join in if you can.  We are conducting important research for the benefit of kids’ education 🙂  I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with!  And what better way to take a little break from Monday’s work?  Who knows, by finishing the sentence, you may come up with a story starter for yourself!  (Or when I post the responses tomorrow, you might find a story starter in someone else’s sentence!)

P.S.  Due to an underwhelming response on Monday (*cough*) I’m going to leave this post up for another day in the hopes that I might get a few more participants, and do the 2nd and 3rd Challenges later in the week.  Please join the fun, the excitement, the ground-breaking scientific discovery!

25-27 Hours

I’ve decided 24 hours are not enough for a day.  I need more like 25-27.  There’s simply too much to stuff into 24.  (Herein lies the reason that I’m a bit behind on my blog schedule…!)  I’m hoping to get an entry in to the 2nd Crusader Challenge because it looks fun, but I’m currently drowning in work and promotional postcards.  Where is my personal secretary when I need him?  (Oh, right… with my personal trainer, personal chef, personal chauffeur, and personal masseuse – in my personal good imagination!)

So in the interest of time management (not my strongest skill) today’s post is pretty simple – just a little something I wanted to share.

When I do school visits, one of the things I tell the kids is that each of their voices is important.  Each person has things to say that no one else can say in quite the same way.  Each person’s view of the world is unique.  And whether they share that view through writing, art, dance, music, or any other medium, it is theirs and theirs alone.

Yesterday, my husband showed me a quote from Martha Graham, and it turns out she says essentially the same thing (in her own way :)) and she’s somebody famous 🙂

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open". from The Life and Work of Martha Graham

I find these words inspiring, comforting, empowering.  I hope you do, too.  Are there certain quotes that you find uplifting?  Please share!

Mutton Busting and Another Award!

It’s still February, still winter, and there’s all kinds of ice, sleet, and freezing rain falling out of the sky.  Obviously, we need some amusement.  SO….

Today’s post is not strictly about writing or really anything to do with it except maybe inspiration 🙂 but it is amusing.

Everyone’s heard of rodeos.  Most of us have probably been to at least one in our lifetime.  If so, you’ve seen bronc busting and bull riding.  But the other day my friend, Clare, told me about a new twist that just proves people will do anything!

Apparently, future bull and bronc riders have found a way to break into the game at an early age.

Mutton busting!

5 year old kids don helmets and protective vests (actually, they don’t always – sometimes just a cowboy hat), grab onto the back of a sheep, and hang on for dear life!  Really, they’re very determined.

If you don’t believe me, check out this video:

I wish I’d known about this when I was 5.  It looks like fun… although maybe not for the sheep 🙂

So, like I said, not much to do with writing, but seriously, there has GOT to be a story in there somewhere!

And now, I am so honored to have received another blogging award from my new friend Alison over at Alison Pearce Stevens!  Isn’t it nice?

As part of the award, I must list 7 things about me.  So…

1.  I love all animals, but horses and dogs are my favorite.
2.  I went on a roller coaster in Amsterdam when I was 7 and it cured me of EVER wanting to get on a roller coaster again!  … but I love bumper cars 🙂
3.  My first car was a cream-colored Chevette Scooter named Rover.  (How many of you name your cars?  It’s par for the course with me… after Rover came Skippy, then the Mouse Mobile, so named because mice were constantly nesting in the engine and it did NOT smell good!  My current car, as my devoted followers will already know, is called the Dog Mobile because really, part of my job description is chauffeur, and my dogs ride shotgun :))
4.  I love oatmeal raisin cookies and good chick flicks, separately or together 🙂
5.  I am a closet Grey’s Anatomy fan – well, I guess not anymore!
6.  My favorite color is blue – any shade.  Yellow and pink are tied for second.
7.  If I could meet a celebrity from history, I would be very tempted to pick Man O’ War or Secretariat, even though I know I should choose someone like Martin Luther King Jr.!

And now, I would like to pass this award on to some new blogging friends:

Becky at What’s Your Thought On That
Kari Marie at Writing By Heart
E.J. Wesley at The Open Vein
L.A. Colvin at First Draft on Life, Literature and Lunacy
and really, this list could go on for a long time, so I’ll stop there!

Getting Started

First things first:  here’s a link to the CLN annotated list of ALA winners from yesterday, in case you haven’t seen it yet.  There are many books here that I’m looking forward to reading, especially the Michael Printz winner and honor books!

Second things second: yes, I have finished the new book trailer for April Fool, Phyllis! but no, it isn’t up yet because there is a sticky part that isn’t playing correctly and I can’t figure out why.  If there are any technological geniuses out there who understand the nuances of imovie please feel free to share your expertise in the comments and up your karma quotient for the day 🙂

Now, on to today’s important topic: getting started.

I told you I was taking a writing course.  It officially began yesterday.  My assignment for the week is to either rewrite a scene from something I’ve already written, or write something new.  I think I’m going to go for option B – write something new.

Which leads me to “getting started.”

There are a lot of “getting started” moments in a writer’s day.  There’s getting yourself started – not so easy at 5:30 AM when it’s dark and 9 degrees… again… 🙂  There’s getting the coffee maker started – that one is easy 🙂  There’s getting the Dog Mobile started to meet the school bus – always tricky because a) the Dog Mobile is unpredictable and cranky and b) we live 6/10 of a mile from the bus stop (so no visual contact), the bus driver is unpredictable and cranky, and when it suits her (like yesterday) she leaves without us…  This in turn can affect getting the work day started by as much as an hour and a half.

Then there’s getting the coffee maker started again in order to fuel getting work started which involves
     a) computer on, butt in chair
     b) a strict self-command to stop checking email and stop reading other people’s interesting blogs and get inspired for the day, and
     c) actually getting started on writing, which involves either getting started from where I left off yesterday or getting started from scratch on something new.  (BTW, I think they call it “starting from scratch” because of the amount of time spent staring into space scratching your head (literally or metaphorically) while you try to think up something to write :))

For many writers, the blank page is intimidating.  Luckily, I am under strict orders from myself to “be inspired at 9 o’clock every morning” (see yesterday’s post:)) so I have no excuse!  I confess, though, that on many days I am not that inspired at 9:01…  When that happens, I just write.  Anything that comes into my head.  It’s like priming the pump.  If I can just get the words flowing, I have a hope of directing them where I want them to go.  Eventually.  Some days it works out, others I do a lot of deleting.  But as David Eddings said, “A writer’s apprenticeship usually involves writing a million words (which are then discarded) before he’s almost ready to begin.”  This helps me convince myself that no writing is wasted – it takes a long time to get to a million words!

Today, for my course, I’m going to get started on something new.  I wonder what it will be?  I’m pretty interested to find out!  I hope it’s good!

What are your “getting started” moments?  Which are hard and which are easy?  How do you deal with the hard ones?

Writing Inspiration

Some call it inspiration.

Other’s call it the muse.

Still other’s might say it’s a caffeine and chocolate overload 🙂

But whatever its name, it is a writer’s best friend.

Where writing is concerned, there are few things to equal the euphoria of a great idea, the feeling that you have something so wonderful to express that your fingers can’t fly across the keyboard fast enough.  Those moments when words and ideas flow effortlessly are pinnacles of the writing life, something we, as writers, look forward to and hope for every day.

The problem is (at least in my experience!) those moments are few and far between.

If I personally waited for inspiration to strike, I might only write once or twice a year 🙂

Therefore, I go by the words of Peter DeVries:  “I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired to write at 9 o’clock every morning.”  Words to live by!

So it’s 9 o’clock, and here I am, ready to make my own inspiration for the day.  But today I have a little boost and I will share it with you!  It’s award day!  At 10:45 EST, the ALA will announce the Newbery, Caldecott, Michael Printz, Coretta Scott King, and numerous other awards.  It’s a chance to see, and be inspired by, the best in children’s books.


So tune in, see who the winners are, be inspired by success and great writing, and then sit down at your own keyboard or notebook and make some magic.  Who knows?  The words we write today might be the award winners of the future!

After the awards are posted, comment below on your favorites!