Would You Read It Wednesday – The 18th Pitch and The Winner!

I know.

You stayed up all night watching the minutes tick past, waiting for this post to be up so you could find out who won the Thanksgiving Contest and share your thoughts on this week’s Would You Read It pitch since skipping last week sent you into withdrawal 🙂

And we’ll get to both of those things in one second…

First, I have to say that I am such a complete space cadet that I forgot to mention Monday that I was being interviewed on Julie Hedlund’s blog for her How I Got My Agent series.  I know many of you are Julie’s devoted followers and have already read it, but if you haven’t please pop over and visit.  Julie writes an awesome blog at Write Up My Life and I think you’ll find her How I Got My Agent series (although not necessarily my part in it :)) very illuminating and helpful!  Thanks, Julie, for inviting me to take part and sorry I forgot to mention it Monday!

Second, I have just realized that tomorrow marks my first blogiversary.  I can’t believe it’s been a year!  I should probably be doing something wildly and crazily amazing to celebrate, but I’m fresh out of ideas at the moment.  If any of you have suggestions, feel free to share! 🙂  But I want to thank everyone for being so wonderfully supportive. I have so enjoyed getting to know so many people who are both talented and nice! 🙂  I think, at the very least, this calls for some celebratory cake!  Please help yourself to a slice, because cake definitely counts as a healthy breakfast – milk (calcium), eggs (protein), wheat (grains)… need I say more?

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Now on to all that excitement you stayed up all night waiting for!

I want to thank each and every person who submitted an entry to the Thanksgiving Contest as well as everyone who took time to read and vote.  I think I speak for all of us when I say we so enjoyed reading everyone’s stories and they were all so wonderful.  As you know, my assistant judge and I had a terrible time narrowing down the finalists, but we did at last and now your votes have spoken.

Drum roll, please!


The winner of the Thanksgiving Contest, with a delightful, creative, and original story, is


(That’s entry #2!)  Congratulations, Penny!  You have officially knocked our socks off 🙂  Please email me (susanna [at] susannahill [dot] com) or use the handy Email Me button on the right hand side of the blog and let me know if you’d prefer the $15 Amazon Gift Card or the hardcover copy of Balloons Over Broadway!

And now, on to Would You Read It!

This week’s pitch comes to us from the lovely Ashley who, until October of last year, considered herself a person who didn’t like to write but has now discovered she loves it!

Working Title:  Prelude To An Apocalypse
Age/Genre:  YA Literature
The Pitch:  Jack wakes up in the hospital to find a mysterious man offering to take her in, to teach her everything she needs to know about being a Wizard, but something deep inside tells her she can’t trust him.

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 Ashley 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.

Ashley is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!

Please join us Friday for Perfect Picture Books, and I hope everyone is hard at work on their Holiday Contest entries!  Who knew practicing our craft could be so companionable and fun with such great prizes? 🙂

Thanksgiving Contest Finalists and More Fun To Come!

Happy Monday everyone!  We’ve got all kinds of fun in store today, but first I have to share something totally off topic that made my day 🙂

Isn’t that just the nicest thing? 🙂

OK.  Now on to today’s important business!

I had no idea what I was letting myself in for when I started the Thanksgiving Contest.


To begin with, there were more than twice as many entries as for the Halloweensie Contest – 19 all together in case you were wondering (the 20th was in there just for fun, but because the author is related to the judges it could not in fairness be considered :))

To top that off, you are all so creative and talented!  I could have found a reason to make any of the entries a finalist.  My assistant judge and I couldn’t even come to a consensus on which 3 it should be, so in the end, as senior judge, I made the call.  I just want you all to know it was really hard, and I wish I could give everyone the prize!

Entries were judged on appropriateness as a children’s story, originality, and Thanksgiving-ness (that is too a word!)

So without further ado, here are the 4 finalists because I just couldn’t decide between 2 of them and make it 3, so I’m cheating and leaving it up to you guys 🙂  They will be identified by number only.  Please vote for your favorite!


They were set to go to Grandma’s
For their big Thanksgiving feast,
But the blizzard came in fast
Growling, howling like a beast –
Hurled itself around the house
Rattling windows, banging doors.
They laid a fire in the hearth
Against the blizzard’s wicked roars.
They couldn’t roast a turkey.
Electricity went out.
They ate tuna for their meat,
For their veggie – sauerkraut.
They wrapped themselves in blankets
Lit some candles, played some gin.
Dessert was pumpkin out of cans
With some cinnamon stirred in.
They started telling stories
Scary, funny, tried and true
Til the fire turned to embers
And the clock struck half past two.
They stoked the fire to blazing,
Snuggled close and rested heads.
That fire was so darned cozy
That they did not miss their beds.
They formed a sleeping circle
With the dog curled up inside.
Slept so soundly through the night,
They did not hear the storm subside.
They woke up the next morning
To a dazzling, blinding light.
Snow had piled up to the rafters,
And the world was frosted white.
They threw on coats and snowsuits
Raced out straight into the snow.
Threw some snowballs, built a snowman
Came back in with cheeks aglow.
They sat sipping some hot chocolate
When they heard the doorbell ring.
Behind the door was Grandma
With a giant turkey wing!
That Thanksgiving sure was different.
Many folks would call it lame.
But they made the most of family
And were thankful just the same.


“They were supposed to go to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving, but the blizzard came in fast.
The weatherman said, “It’s best to stay inside until this storm is past…
In fact don’t heat the oven. Make sandwiches instead
With pumpkin flavored jelly spread on a piece of bread.”
That’s when I said with a look of great suspicion,
“That funny looking weatherman knows nothing of tradition.”
And what is that he’s wearing? A faux-feather suit!
And that…That’s a waddle dangling down from his snoot!
“DAD! Call the station! Quick! This guy is a fraud!
The whole blizzard thing…it’s just a big facade.”
So, as they snatched Mr. Gobble right off the TV station,
We loaded up and headed out for Thanksgiving vacation.
“Grandma we’re coming. There’s really not a blizzard.

But you can’t blame a turkey when he tries to save his gizzard.”


They were supposed to go to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving, but the blizzard came in fast.  The wind howled.  The tree creaked.
Papa stockpiled wood inside the burrow.  He stomped his feet and bolted the door.
Papa looked at his shivering brood of three.  “I know you are disappointed, but we are safer in our burrow.”
“What about Grandma’s acorn pie, ” asked Sammy.  His pudgy cheeks quivered and is large glossy eyes brimmed with tears.
“We have plenty of nuts, berries, fruit, seeds and grains to feast upon,” said Mama.  “Why don’t you do your chores.  Be thankful that we’re together.”
Sammy, Teddy and Rose tidied up their nests and swept the burrow.  Sammy wondered what they could do to make Thanksgiving special.
Then Sammy spied a twig resting against the wall inside the burrow.
“Hey Teddy and Rose, I have an idea,” said Sammy.  The three siblings huddled and whispered.  Rose jumped up and down.   The rest of the morning they worked in a corner of the burrow on their idea.
Mama worked all morning preparing their feast.  Papa tended to the fire so that the burrow remained warm.
Sammy carefully placed their centerpiece on the table.
“It’s beautiful!”  Mama gasped.
“It’s our thankful tree,” beamed Sammy.  Tied to the branches were acorns, pine cones, and dried leaves bearing the names, Mama, Papa, Grandma, Sammy, Teddy and Rose.
They heard a rustle in the tunnel and a voice called out,  “Acorn pie anyone?”
“Grandma,”  they chirped.  “We’re thankful you’re here!”


We should have gone to Grandma’s but the blizzard came in fast.
The snow banks drifted deeper and we knew that they would last.
We thought of Grandma’s turkey and prize winning pumpkin pie.
Could we miss her fancy feast? Oh no! We had to try!
Dad shook his head. “Our tire tread won’t get us out of here.
We need some transportation with snow blizzard traction gear.”
From the barn we pulled an old toboggan, bent and beat.
We lashed some rope onto the front and pulled it to the street.
The horse, the cow, the dog, the cat – we tied them to the sled.
Then gooped their feet with peanut butter, honey and some bread.
We hopped aboard and held on tight when Dad shouted, “Now, MUSH!”
Whoosh! We sailed across the snow and slid along the slush.
The icy snow was blinding, but we thought we headed east.
Our rag-tag team was working hard to get us to our feast.
On and on we traveled, til our teeth were blue with frost.
Finally little Suzie cried, “Oh Dad, I think we’re lost!”
Then up ahead we saw a twinkling light among the trees.
It wasn’t Grandma’s house but we must stop or else we’d freeze.
We would have gone to Grandma’s but the blizzard came in quick.
Who knew that was the year we’d have Thanksgiving with St. Nick!

With seriously honorable mention to runners-up Erik and Abby who nearly caused some heated hot chocolate slinging between the judges over whether to include or not!

See how hard this is?  I can’t wait to see what you vote for!  Polls close Tuesday November 29 at 11:59PM EST so I can announce the winner on Wednesday, so please vote ASAP!

<a href=”http://polldaddy.com/poll/5707967/”>Thanksgiving Contest</a>
Now, on to that surprise I promised 🙂

The response to the Thanksgiving Contest was so enthusiastic, and I think we all had such a good time, writing our stories and reading everyone else’s, and there was such a sense of fun and community, that I have decided to hold a Holiday Contest!  YES!  IT’S TRUE!  I’m announcing it now to give you all plenty of time to get your stories written before the holiday rush.  Here are the entry requirements:

Write your own version of Clement C. Moore’s traditional poem, ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas!  Entries must be at least 12 lines/3 stanzas, not to exceed 40 lines/10 stanzas (although I realize the original is 56 lines/14 stanzas, but I’ll have to read them all during the week before Christmas :))  Entries may refer to any winter holiday you celebrate (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc.) or to any combination of winter holidays, or no holiday – just a good winter-time story if you’re not comfortable with a holiday.  I chose a rhyming challenge because so many people seem keen on it, but if the idea of rhyme strikes fear and loathing into your heart, you may write a prose version not to exceed 350 words 🙂

Entries must be posted on your blogs, or copied and pasted into the comments on my blog between Monday December 19 and Thursday December 22.

3 finalists will be chosen (hopefully really 3 next time :)) for you to vote on Monday December 26.  The winner will receive their choice of a $15 Amazon gift card (to buy themselves whatever book they really wanted and didn’t get as a holiday gift :)) or the 2012 Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market!

I hope you’re all as excited as I am about the Holiday Contest!  And please, don’t forget to vote for your favorite Thanksgiving entry by tomorrow night!

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Mole Music

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

The Thanksgiving Contest is now officially closed.  We got WAY more entries than for the Halloweensie Contest, and they’re all so imaginative and fun that my assistant judge and I are going to have our work cut out for us selecting three finalists.  But never fear – we will do it even if we have to print them out, throw them on the living room floor and see which three the dogs step on first 🙂  The finalists will be up for you to vote on Monday.  And now for Perfect Picture Books (and I’m obviously behind this morning because I see at least three people have already posted theirs :))

Mole Music
written and illustrated by David McPhail
Henry Holt & Co, March 1999, Fiction
Suitable for:  Preschool – Grade 2 (ages 4-8)
Themes/Topics:  how music makes us feel, power of music to harmonize and heal, practice makes perfect, sometimes we don’t even realize how our actions may effect others.
Opening and brief synopsis:  “Mole lived all alone underground.  He spent his days digging tunnels.  At night he ate his supper in front of the TV and then went to bed.  Mole liked his life, but lately he had begun to feel there was something missing.”  Mole longs to create beautiful music, but little does he know the effect his music will have on others.
Links to resources:  This story is perfect for a discussion of how music makes us feel, the power of music to harmonize and heal, as well as the idea that it takes practice to become good at something.  Activity GuideDiscussion questionsSupplemental Lesson Plan (Film)
Why I Like This Book:  One story is told in words, but there is a whole other story shown in the illustrations.  Mole works hard learning to play the violin.  He does it for himself, with no thought of trying to impress anyone.  He achieves his goal  – and so much more without ever being aware of it.  His simple goodness and desire to make something beautiful bring more beauty to the world than he knows.
For more books with resources please visit Perfect Picture Books!

And now, so that you don’t all go into a depression because Uncle Spike finished ALL the pumpkin pie and little Jimmy made the most awful grape juice stain on your favorite table cloth and how will you ever get it out and it’s Black Friday and you have so much shopping to do and the mall is a horror at this time of year etc, I will lift your spirits by telling you that on Monday – yes, only a couple days away! – I will have a fun little surprise for you.  I hope you’ll like it!  So keep your chin up as you jockey for parking spaces and plow through the crowds – more fun is coming 🙂

Have a happy weekend!

(Please add you Perfect Picture Books to the link list below.)

Oh The Excitement! – Thanksgiving Contest!

Hurray, hurray!  Today’s the day!

The Thanksgiving Contest is officially open!  Post your 250 (or fewer) word kids’ Thanksgiving story, beginning with “They were supposed to go to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving, but the blizzard came in fast…” (poetry or prose is fine, and the opening phrase counts toward the total word count) and add your link to the link list.  We’ll all have a great time visiting and reading your stories!  (Note that if you choose to write in poetry/rhyme, you have permission to tweak the opening sentence to fit your meter/rhyme scheme, or you can begin with that sentence and then continue in rhyme.  And if you’d like to participate but don’t have a blog, just copy and paste your story into the comments and make sure I have a way to contact you!)

The contest is open from now until the end of Thanksgiving Day, and this post with the link list will remain up during that time.  (You will recall that the powers that be (me) decided not to run Would You Read It this week because we will all be too busy cooking, traveling and visiting to give it the attention it deserves, so there will not be a new post on Wednesday.)  Once the link list closes, my assistant judge and I will select three finalists, who will be posted next Monday Nov. 28 for you to vote on.  The winner of the contest will receive their choice of a $15 Amazon gift card or a hardcover copy of Melissa Sweet’s new picture book, Balloons Over Broadway in time for the holidays!

Here’s my totally wacky just for fun sample (250 on the nose!) 🙂  You’ll just have to imagine the pictures… 🙂

The Bloopers Thanksgiving
They were supposed to go to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving, but the blizzard came in fast.
“Our bicycle built for five won’t make it through this snow,” said Dad.  “It’s time for Plan B.”
“Thanksgiving won’t be the same without Grandma and Grandpa,” cried Bridget, Babs, and Ben.
“Now, now,” said Mom.  “We’ll still have fun.  Go and suit up for our happy day.”
Bridget, Babs, and Ben raced off to don their favorite finery.
“Bikini, tankini, and trunks!” said Dad.  “How festive!”
“Your bunny suit looks great, too, Dad,” said Bridget, Babs, and Ben.
Bridget, Babs, and Ben put their colored eggs under the Thanksgiving Tree and hung their American flags by the coat rack with care.  They made cookies in the shape of four-leaf clovers.  They helped Mom carve a scary face into a giant rutabaga and they stuck it on top of the June Pole in their living room and danced around it to welcome spring, which was just 5 short months away.
Then, though the blizzard blustered and blew, the whole family bellied up to the barbeque pit to enjoy their feast of baked beans, beef du jour, berry juice with baby blue umbrellas, and bananas flambé.
“Children,” said Dad, “Didn’t Mom barbeque beautifully?”
“Thamsgfh Mohsdf!” said Bridget, Babs, and Ben whose mouths were brimful of barbequed banana and beans. 
At bedtime, Bridget, Babs, and Ben snuggled into their bathtub.

“Plan B was fun after all,” said Bridget, and they stayed up all night playing Battleship.

I can’t wait to read all of your stories!!!  Readers, please check the comments section below.  Some people are entering their stories there!

And don’t forget to tune in Friday for Perfect Picture Book Friday, entering it’s second week!

H A P P Y   T H A N K S G I V I N G   E V E R Y O N E!!!

Perfect Picture Book Fridays Begins! – Llama Llama Misses Mama

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood!  I’m off to a school visit this morning and….!

Welcome to the new feature – Perfect Picture Book Fridays!  I’m so excited about this!  I’m hoping it will become a really great resource for parents, teachers, homeschoolers, writers, and gift-givers 🙂  Here and on all the linked blogs, you will find highly recommended picture books along with fantastic ideas for how you can use them at home and in the classroom, often including links to classroom guides and activity pages, hopefully making life easier for parents and teachers and giving writers great examples of craft to study.  The books will be archived in the Perfect Picture Books tab above, organized alphabetically by age and subject, making it easy to find an age-appropriate book on a given topic for home, classroom, or gift.

(For those of you posting your own Perfect Picture Book, please add your link to the link list at the bottom so people can come over and find your recommendations and the resources you’re offering!  For details on how to post, please click here.)

Without further ado, let’s jump into our very first entry 🙂  There are so many wonderful books out there it was hard to choose, but we’ve got to start somewhere 🙂

Llama Llama Misses Mama
written and illustrated by Anna Dewdney
Viking Juvenile, March 2009, Fiction
Suitable for:  Preschool – Kindergarten (ages 3-6)
Themes/Topics:  first day of school, separation, missing a loved one.
Opening and brief synopsis:  “Llama Llama, warm in bed.  Wakey, wakey, sleepyhead!  Llama school begins today!  Time to learn and time to play!”  Llama Llama is excited for his first day of school, but when it’s time for Mama to leave, Llama Llama doesn’t feel so sure.
Links to resources:  Activity Kit, Llama Llama in the classroom, Same and Different Activity (click on “assets” then pdf)
Why I Like This Book:  Llama Llama’s uncertainty and sadness over Mama leaving him at school are portrayed genuinely, and the story is told with such warmth and reassurance that children experiencing separation anxiety of their own are sure to feel comforted.  School is shown to be happy, engaging place.
For more books with resources please visit Perfect Picture Books!

I’m excited for Monday, the opening day of our Thanksgiving week contest!  I hope you’ve all got your stories ready to go (or will have them ready after the weekend :))  I can’t wait to read them!!!

Before we go, here’s our Farewell Fun Friday Foto.  Our final theme is THANKSGIVING, so here’s mine:

my Thanksgiving 🙂

Now, whether you’re looking for something fun to read with your child, a great book to add into a lesson plan, the perfect gift for your niece, or a shining example of picture book writing craft, click on the links below for some Perfect Picture Books!  I’m off to visit PK-3s!  Have a great weekend 🙂

Fun Friday Foto Fextravaganza, Straight From The Editor #3, and more!

There is just too much fun to be had to stick to a single category!  So get ready to start your day off with a bang 🙂  We will be whooping it up with Fun Friday Foto, Straight From The Editor #3, the Thanksgiving Contest!!!, and a secret!!!!! (I’m not going to manage Warm Fuzzies this week – I’m afraid of scaring you away with too much reading – but feel free to check out the other Warm Fuzzies :))

So let’s get comfy.  This morning I am in the mood for something besides donuts so, in keeping with the season, we will be having pumpkin muffins hot out of the oven.  Please help yourselves 🙂

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Gfyih shuf fgioh mnbysr
Sorry.  I didn’t mean to talk with my mouth full 🙂

Now then.  Let’s start with Fun Friday Foto.  This week’s theme is HIBERNATION, and you’ll note that those of us who have posted so far are all having the same problem – choosing just one!  Here are mine:
This guy is getting ready!
(and yes, I know he looks like me with my muffin :))
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This guy’s thinking of spending the winter here, but he’s afraid you can see him 🙂
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These two are looking cozy and settling down for their long winter’s nap 🙂
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I hope at least one of those gives you a story inspiration!  If it does, please share 🙂  Now hop on over to Catherine’s and Stacy’s and see their hibernation photos, and then if you’d like to post one (remember, kid-friendly) you can put your link in the comments and everyone will come visit you.

Next, it’s time for Straight From The Editor!  As you will recall, our pitch winner for October was Kim.  Readers felt fairly unanimously that her pitch was strong, and it turns out our fabulous editor felt the same way.  Here, once again, is Kim’s pitch:
Working Title:  Henry Hears You
Age/Genre:  YA
The Pitch:  13-year-old boy finds his voice as the new advice columnist for the school newspaper only to discover that some problems don’t have easy solutions when he gets a letter from a kid threatening to kill himself if the gay bashing doesn’t stop.
And here are Erin’s comments:
I definitely want to read this! I am intrigued. The only advice I can offer is to break it up into two sentences like this: 13-year-old boy finds his voice as the new advice columnist for the school newspaper. But he discovers that some problems don¹t have easy solutions when he gets a letter from a kid who threatens to kill himself if the gay bashing doesn¹t stop. It makes it easier to read -- not such a run-on sentence -- and gives it slightly more punch.

I hope you all find this helpful in writing your own pitches!
And now, the moment all you eager writers have been waiting for….  The announcement of the
Thanksgiving Contest!
Write a children’s Thanksgiving story beginning with the sentence:
They were supposed to go to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving, but the blizzard came in fast….
Maximum word length: 250 (but anything less is fine)  Prose or poetry is fine (and if you choose rhyming poetry you have permission to twist that first sentence a bit so it fits your rhyme scheme, or use the first sentence outside the rhyme and then continue in rhyme.)  Remember everything you’ve learned about writing stories for children 🙂  My assistant judge and I are prepared to be dazzled 🙂
Post your story on your blog any time between Monday November 21 and Thursday November 24 and link to the link list.  Or, if you don’t have a blog but would like to enter, just copy and paste your entry into the comments the week of the contest.
Three finalists will be chosen from among the entries and posted here on Friday November 25, and you wonderful readers will get to choose the winner! 🙂
The prize will be your choice of a Thanksgiving picture book (to be selected) or a $15 Amazon gift card – in time for the holidays 🙂
And now for the secret!  I love secrets, don’t you?  They’re so exciting.  I bet right now you’re rubbing your hands together in anticipation and wondering, what could it be?
I’ll tell you on Monday.
I know.  I’m just that mean 🙂
Have a great weekend, and see you Monday!!!