The 2020 Valentiny Writing Contest WINNERS!!!

Darlings!

Do you know what today is?

Of course you do!

That’s why you’re here!

No one wants to miss National Tortilla Chip Day!

Let’s take a poll!

Which is better: potato chips or tortilla chips?

and

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ta-ta.

See you tomorrow for Tuesday Debut.

Thanks for stopping by.

Buh-bye now.

What?

You DIDN’T come to talk about tortilla chips?

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

Ah. . .

. . . I know what it is!

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

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

Valentiny Writing Contest 2019!

 

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

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

As always, I was thrilled to see so many wonderful stories!  (Did I mention there were nearly 150?!)  Really!  It is amazing and inspiring, not to mention VERY entertaining!  There is just so much talent out there amongst you all!  The other judges and I are blown away anew each time!

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

There were, however, many other entries that were outstanding in certain areas even though they might not have qualified all-around for one reason or another, or that the judges couldn’t reach a consensus on.  It is SO HARD! One of our favorite entries – well written and curious – was over the word limit!  Two entries came in after the deadline.  Many other entries were so well written but simply weren’t curious enough, although they were fabulous in other ways!

So my assistant judges and I would like to award recognition and a small prize to the following authors for the following merits:

 

1.  For Honorable Mention In The Competition As A Whole: (entries we truly wrestled with not including in the finalists!)

Ingrid Boydston for What’s Love?

Theresa Kiser for Little Card’s Purpose

Rebecca Loescher for Crabby’s Heart Speaks

Mia Geiger for Secret Stash

 

 

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

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

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

Sarah Meade for Valenturtle

Mary Warth for Mystery Marks

 

3. For Original POV:

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

 

4. For Humor:

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

Katrina Swenson for Cupid’s Love Trials

Jen Bagan for Cupid And Curtis

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

 

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

Jilanne Hoffman for Double-Crossed Hearts

Joy Pitcairn for February 14

 

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

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

 

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

Aundra Tomlins for Better With Bear

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

MaryAnn Cortez for Yeti Wants A Valentine

Sue Lancaster for Shelly & Saul

Claire Lewis for My Piggy Valentine

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

Cindy Williams Schrauben for How To Find Your Valentine

Anne Bromley for A Shelter Dog’s Valentine

Kate Thompson for When Love Gives You Wings

 

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

 

And now…

…the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

The announcement of the WINNERS OF THE 2018 VALENTINY CONTEST as voted on by you, our devoted readers!!!

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

DDDRRRUUUMMM RRROOOLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!

In First Place

Winner of the whole shebang…

who gets first choice of all the prizes…

Nicole Loos Miller
for

Seeds Of Love!!!

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

In Second Place

Kelly Conroy
for
Candy Conundrum

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

In Third Place

Sarah Meade
for

Gibbon’s Valentine’s Surprise

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

In Fourth Place

Nancy Riley
for

Finding A Friend

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

In Fifth Place

Charlotte Sheer
for

Scraps Of Love

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

In Sixth Place

Jean James
for

The Stinky Valentine

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

In Seventh Place…

Marty Bellis
for
Dear Cupid

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

In Eighth Place…

Sara Ackerman
for
I Snorfle You

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

In Ninth Place…

Chelsea Tornetto
for
Sending Love

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

In Tenth Place…

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

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

In Eleventh Place…

Michelle Howell Miller
for
Whose Valentine Could This Be?

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

In Twelfth Place…

Chambrae Griffith
for
Beetle’s Valentine

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

 

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

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

Thank you to everyone who helped make this contest SO MUCH FUN, whether by writing an entry, reading people’s stories, leaving comments for the authors, and/or voting in the finals.  It’s because of all of you that this contest was such a success, so many, many thanks from the bottom of my heart!

Have a marvelous Monday, everyone! 🙂

 

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

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

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

Penny Klostermann

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

495eb-penny      Cooked-Up Fairy Tale

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

Rosie Pova                Sarah's Song

If I Weren't With You Sunday Rain

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

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

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

Ellen Leventhal       Don't Eat The Bluebonnets

Hayfest     Lola Can't Leap

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

Sherry Howard (4)Cover Rock and Roll Woods

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

Lydia Lukidis        No Bears Allowed

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

MPBM

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

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

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

Not Quite Snow White      noah

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

Emily's Idea HEY, HEY, HAY! Cover

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

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

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

What Color Is Night? Caspian Finds A Friend

 

Please join me in thanking these very generous authors and other writing professionals for contributing their books and writing expertise as prizes by visiting their websites and blogs, buying and recommending their books and services to your writer friends and/or friends with kids, writing them nice reviews on Amazon, GoodReads etc if you’ve read and liked their books, and showing your appreciation to them in any way you can! 😊

The 5th Annual Valentiny Contest -FINALISTS!!!

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

It is SO MUCH FUN!

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

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

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

and, “Whose idea was this ANYWAY?!”

and “GAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!”

cd521-surprisedbabytiger

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

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

Ouch!

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

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

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

Valentiny Writing Contest 2019!

~ FINALISTS!!!~

 

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

Before we get to the actual list of finalists, I have a couple things to say.  (I know you’re shocked as I’m normally so spare with my words :))

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

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

Third, before I list the finalists, I want to say again how difficult it was too choose!  There were so many amazing entries.  Really.  I could find at least something terrific about every single one.  The sheer volume of entries meant that many good ones had to be cut.  So if yours didn’t make the final cut please don’t feel bad.  There was a huge amount of competition – about 150 entries of which only 12 made the finals.  Judging, no matter how hard we try to be objective, is always subjective at a certain point – we all have our own preferences for what makes a great story.  And the fact that you didn’t make the final cut DOES NOT mean you didn’t write a great story.  Everyone who plonked their butt in a chair and worked hard to write a story for this contest is a winner!  You showed up.  You did your best work.  You practiced your craft.  You wrote to specifications and a deadline.  You bravely shared your writing with the world.  And you have a brand new story that is now yours to expand beyond 214 words if you like and maybe submit at some point to a magazine or as a PB manuscript.  So bravo to everyone who entered!

Now.  Onto the judging criteria which were as follows:

  1. Kid-appeal/Kid-friendliness – remember, this is a story for kids!
  2. Creativity in using curiosity and success in making us feel the curiosity!
  3. Valentine’s Day appropriateness – this is a VALENTINE story!
  4. Quality of story – we will look for basic story elements and a true story arc
  5. Quality of writing – use and flow of language, correctness of mechanics, excellence of rhyme and meter if you use it.
  6. Originality – surprise us with something new and different! 🙂

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

So without further ado, I present to you the finalists in the 2020 Fifth Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest!  Please read through them carefully, take your time, think it over, and vote for your favorite in the poll below by Saturday February 22 at 5 PM Eastern time.

To help with objectivity, finalists are listed by title only, not by author.

And I’d like to be very clear about the voting process.  You are MOST welcome to share a link to this post on FB, twitter, or wherever you like to hang out, and encourage people to come read ALL the finalists and vote for the one they think is best.  Please do that.  The more people who read and enjoy these stories the better, and the more objective votes we get the better.  HOWEVER (and I want to be very clear on this) please do not tell people you are a finalist.  Please do not ask people to vote for a specific number or title, or for the story about the curious little kitty whose curiosity nearly landed her in the jaws of the big bad wolf or whatever.  Trolling for votes or trying to influence the outcome is counter to the spirit of this competition which is supposed to be based on merit.  We operate on the honor system.  I thank you in advance for respecting this. Your win will mean more if it’s honestly earned.

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

 

1 – Candy Conundrum

I wonder what they taste like.

The Hug Me heart looks good.

My mommy says, “Don’t eat them.”

My tummy says, I should.

I smell True Love and Kiss Me,

then give Be Mine a lick.

I chew up Smile and Soul Mate…Yuck!

I think I might be sick.

I wonder why they make them,

those pretty hearts I ate,

to give to someone that you love

…or someone that you hate.

 

2 – Seeds Of Love

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

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

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

See you soon, little seed.

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

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

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

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

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

From just one seed.

 

3 – The Stinky Valentine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

4 – I Snorfle You

Zingle gripped Mama’s warm green hand.

“I snorfle you,” Mama said.

“Snorfle you too.”

Zingle didn’t like this planet.

Spaceships zoomed on the ground. HONK!

Everyone stared at him—with two eyeballs.

And cold bits of sky fell everywhere.Brrrr.

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

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

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

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

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

Then one day, school looked different.

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

“Glitter. Heart. Valentine.”

“Why?” Zingle asked.

“It means ‘I love you.’”

“I zuv you?”

“Love.”

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

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

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

Zingle read the crooked heart: I snorfle you.

Zingle hugged Lucy. “Snorfle you, too.”

 

5 – Finding A Friend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

6 – Dear Cupid

Dear Cupid,

Just wondering…

How good is your aim?

How often do you practice?

If you miss, do you try again?

How many arrows do you have, anyway?

Do you take requests? From anybody?

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks.

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

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

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

 

7 – Sending Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

8 – Always. Every Day. No Matter What.

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

“MOOOOOOOM,” he called out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

9 – Whose Valentine Could This Be?

Whose Valentine could this be?

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

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

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

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

Whose Valentine could this be?

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

 

10 – Gibbon’s Valentine’s Surprise

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

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

They set down their books.

“I wonder what it is…” Meerkat mused.

“Maybe Valentine’s candy?” Marmoset murmured.

“Or… something… elssssssssse,” Sloth whispered.

First Gibbon grabbed paint and brushes.

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

“Maybe Valentine’s cards?” Marmoset murmured.

“Or… something… elssssssssse,” Sloth whispered.

Next Gibbon gathered wood and his toolbox.

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

“Maybe a valentines mailbox?” Marmoset murmured.

“Or… something… elssssssssse,” Sloth whispered.

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

“I love stories…” Meerkat mused.

“Me too,” Marmoset murmured.

“Oh….yesssssss,” Sloth whispered.

Everyone planned and painted.

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

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

“Maybe the post office?” Marmoset murmured.

“Or… somewhere… elssssssssse,” Sloth whispered.

The three friends waited.

They pulled out paperbacks and read together.

And waited.

On Valentine’s Day Gibbon gathered his friends.

“Surprise!” Gibbon pointed.

“A little library!” Meerkat cried.

The outside:

“Our paintings!” Marmoset cheered.

Inside:

“Bookssssss!” Sloth said with a slow smile.

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

“Thank you!” said Meerkat.

“Thanksssss,” said Sloth.

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

 

11 – Beetle’s Valentine

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

12 – Scraps Of Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

Tune in Monday February 24 to see THE WINNERS!!!

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

 

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

 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to lounge on my chaise and call upon Jacques, my personal masseuse, to give me a one hour foot massage. . . SNORT! As if!  I can’t even say that with a straight face 🙂

Ahem.  Let’s try again.

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

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

Have a thrilling Thursday, everyone!

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

 

Roses are red

Violets are blue

Valentinies rock

And so do YOU!

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

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

Valentiny Writing Contest 2019!

~ for children’s writers~

The Contest:  since writing for children is all about “big emotion for little people” (I forget who said that, but someone did so I put it in quotes!) and Valentines Day is all about emotion, write a Valentines story appropriate for children (children here defined as ages 12 and under) maximum 214 words in which someone feels curious!  Your someone can feel curious themselves or make someone else feel curious.  The curiosity may be about a person, place, thing, quality, idea, event, or about whether something will happen or something is true or real, or anything else under the sun you can think up!  Think beyond the obvious!  Your story can be poetry or prose, sweet, funny, surprising or anything in between, but it will only count for the contest if it includes someone curious (can be the main character but doesn’t have to be) and is 214 words (get it? 2/14 for Valentines Day 🙂  You can go under the word count but not over! (Title is not included in the word count.)  If you are so inclined, you are welcome to enter more than one entry – just remember you’ll be competing against yourself 🙂  No illustration notes please!

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

The Judging: over the next several days, my lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to 6-10 top choices depending on number and quality of entries (hee hee hee – you know how much trouble I have with the narrowing, so we’ll see) which will be posted here and voted on for a winner on Wednesday February 19th (or possibly a day or two later if the judges need extra time.)   The winner will be announced Friday February 21st or Saturday February 22nd depending on judging and voting time needed. (And there will be no Tuesday Debut, WYRI or PPBF that week either so that everyone will have time to read and vote and so that we don’t confuse PPBF with announcing winners.)  The dates of the judging/voting/winner announcements are subject to finagling depending on how much time the judges actually end up needing!

Judging criteria will include:

  1. Kid-appeal/Kid-friendliness – remember, this is a story for kids!
  2. Creativity in using curiosity and success in making us feel the curiosity!
  3. Valentine’s Day appropriateness – this is a VALENTINE story!
  4. Quality of story – we will look for basic story elements and a true story arc
  5. Quality of writing – use and flow of language, correctness of mechanics, excellence of rhyme and meter if you use it.
  6. Originality – surprise us with something new and different! 🙂

The Prizes:  Oh, so many wonderful things to choose from that will be of great help to you in your writing career!!!

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

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

Penny Klostermann

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

495eb-penny      Cooked-Up Fairy Tale

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

Rosie Pova                Sarah's Song

If I Weren't With You Sunday Rain

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

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

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

Ellen Leventhal       Don't Eat The Bluebonnets

Hayfest     Lola Can't Leap

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

Sherry Howard (4)Cover Rock and Roll Woods

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

Lydia Lukidis        No Bears Allowed

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

MPBM

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

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

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

Not Quite Snow White      noah

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

Emily's Idea HEY, HEY, HAY! Cover

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

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

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

What Color Is Night? Caspian Finds A Friend

 

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

 

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

Steel yourself!

A Valentiny Mystery (184 words)

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

What could it be?

“Ribbon? Wagon? Redwood tree?”

Ooh! I love a mystery!

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

What could it be?

“Candy apple? Raspberry?”

Hmm… it’s still a mystery!

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

What could it be?

“A candy heart? A strawberry?”

Hmmm… it’s still a mystery!

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

What could it be?

“A sparkle-sprinkled chocolate cherry?”

Golly! What a mystery!

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

What could it be?

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

I warned you. . . 🙂

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

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

I can’t wait to read all of yours!  I’m SO looking forward to them!  I hope there will be LOTS – the more the merrier!  And you still have until midnight Friday to write, so you have time if you haven’t written yet.  Feel free to spread the word to your writing friends as well.  And your reading friends – parents, teachers, etc.  The more people who read and enjoy your stories, the better!!!

So!

Contest Entrants, remember to add your post-specific link to the list below so we can all come read your awesome stories!  (Post-specific means not your main blog url, but the actual url of the post that has your story in it – otherwise if you post again before the contest ends, your link will take readers… and judges!… to the wrong place!)  Please allow a few minutes and possibly refresh your browser before deciding that your link hasn’t posted and adding it a second time or emailing it to me.

Eager Readers – click on the links in the list to visit the blogs and read the stories.  And be sure to read the 90 fabulous entries posted in the comment section below!!!

Happy Valentines Week, Everyone! 💕

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

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

The Twelve Days Of Valentines…

Let’s talk for a moment about deadlines and time pressure.

Woohoo!  Fun, right???!!! 🙂

Some people feel these are negative things, but I propose we look at them as an opportunity for extraordinary productivity!

(This opportunity for extraordinary productivity arises because I missed my deadline of posting this on Thursday, but we won’t talk about that 🙂 )

So if we’re being completely above board here, it’s not exactly the 12 days of Valentines.

It’s more like we have 12 days until Valentines.

Or, to be more precise, 12 days until the

The 5th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest!!!

Valentiny Writing Contest 2019!

So my gift to you is a nice little 12 day window to get your contest entry written! 🙂

The Contest:  since writing for children is all about “big emotion for little people” (I forget who said that, but someone did so I put it in quotes!) and Valentines Day is all about emotion, write a Valentines story appropriate for children (children here defined as ages 12 and under) maximum 214 words in which someone feels curious!  Your someone can feel curious themselves or make someone else feel curious.  The curiosity may be about a person, place, thing, quality, idea, event, or about whether something will happen or something is true or real, or anything else under the sun you can think up!  Think beyond the obvious!  Your story can be poetry or prose, sweet, funny, surprising or anything in between, but it will only count for the contest if it includes someone curious (can be the main character but doesn’t have to be) and is 214 words (get it? 2/14 for Valentines Day 🙂  You can go under the word count but not over! (Title is not included in the word count.)  If you are so inclined, you are welcome to enter more than one entry – just remember you’ll be competing against yourself 🙂  No illustration notes please!

Post your story on your blog between 12:00 AM EDT Wednesday February 12th and Friday February 14th by 11:59 PM EDT and add your post-specific link to the list that will accompany my February 12th post.  There will be no regularly scheduled posts that week (Tuesday Debut, Would You Read It or PPBF), so the post and the list of links will stay up all week for everyone to enjoy.  If you don’t have a blog and would like to enter, you can simply copy and paste your entry in the comments section of that post once it’s up. (Or, if you have difficulty with the comments, which unfortunately sometimes happens, you may email your entry to me and I’ll post it for you! Please copy and paste your entry with byline into the body of the email – no attachments! And please do not submit emailed entries until the contest begins on Feb. 12!)  Please only post your entry ONCE! Either on your blog and the associated link list, or in the comment section of my post!  Otherwise it gets confusing 🙂

The Judging: over the next several days, my lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to 6-10 top choices depending on number and quality of entries (hee hee hee – you know how much trouble I have with the narrowing, so we’ll see) which will be posted here and voted on for a winner on Wednesday February 19th (or possibly a day or two later if the judges need extra time.)   The winner will be announced Friday February 21st or Saturday February 22nd depending on judging and voting time needed. (And there will be no Tuesday Debut, WYRI or PPBF that week either so that everyone will have time to read and vote and so that we don’t confuse PPBF with announcing winners.)  The dates of the judging/voting/winner announcements are subject to finagling depending on how much time the judges actually end up needing!

Judging criteria will include:

  1. Kid-appeal/Kid-friendliness – remember, this is a story for kids!
  2. Creativity in using curiosity and success in making us feel the curiosity!
  3. Valentine’s Day appropriateness – this is a VALENTINE story!
  4. Quality of story – we will look for basic story elements and a true story arc
  5. Quality of writing – use and flow of language, correctness of mechanics, excellence of rhyme and meter if you use it.
  6. Originality – surprise us with something new and different! 🙂

The Prizes:  I’m still working on prizes, but I wanted to get the contest guidelines up so you’d have time to write.  If anyone has anything fabulous to offer, drop me an email 🙂  But meanwhile, start writing and watch this space for prizes which I will add as I get them organized!

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

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

Penny Klostermann

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

 

495eb-penny      Cooked-Up Fairy Tale

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

Rosie Pova                Sarah's Song

If I Weren't With You Sunday Rain

 

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

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

 

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

Ellen Leventhal       Don't Eat The Bluebonnets

Hayfest     Lola Can't Leap

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

Sherry Howard (4)Cover Rock and Roll Woods

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

Lydia Lukidis        No Bears Allowed

 

An assortment of picture books which have yet to be organized into prize packs 🙂

– a personalized signed copy of A MORNING WITH GRANDPA (Lee&Low Books 2016) by Sylvia Liu

 

MorningWithGrandpa_cover

Lee&Low New Voices Award 2013

– a personalized signed copy of NOT QUITE SNOW WHITE (HarperCollins 2019) by Ashley Franklin

Not Quite Snow White

– a personalized signed copy of EMILY’S IDEA (Sounds True, March 2020) by Christine Evans

Emily's Idea

– a personalized signed copy of QUEEN OF PHYSICS: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom (Sterling Children’s Books 2019) by Teresa Robeson

queen of physics cover

Asian/Pacific American Award Picture Book and ALA Notable Picture Book

– a personalized signed copy of NOAH NOASAURUS (Albert Whitman & Co 2019) by Elaine Kiely Kearns

noah

2 additional picture books (not signed) yet to be identified! 🙂

So you’ve got approximately 12 days to write your entry!  Butt in chair! Chocolate snacks and coffee/tea on your desk!  Brain in gear!  Ready, set, WRITE!  You can do it!!!

I can’t wait to read your stories!!!

2019 Valentiny Contest WINNERS!

Do you know what Thursday is perfect for?

Barely squeaking under the wire of Last Day of February to announce the winners of the 4th Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest for Children’s Writers!!!

valentiny writing contest 2019!

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

As always, I was thrilled to see so many wonderful stories!  (Did I mention there were nearly 170?!)  Really!  It is amazing and inspiring, not to mention VERY entertaining!  There is just so much talent out there amongst you all!  The other judges and I are blown away anew each time!

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

There were, however, many other entries that were outstanding in certain areas even though they might not have qualified all-around for one reason or another, or that the judges couldn’t reach a consensus on.  It is SO HARD! One of our very favorite entries – well written and full of guilt – never mentioned a thing about Valentine’s Day! Many other entries simply weren’t guilty enough, although they were fabulous in other ways!

So my assistant judges and I would like to award recognition and a small prize to the following authors for the following merits:

1.  For Honorable Mention In The Competition As A Whole: (entries we truly wrestled with not including in the finalists!)

Joy Pitcairn for I Didn’t Give Rufus A Valentine

Kalee Gwarjanski for Chocolates For Mom

Mary Vander Plas for Sasquatch: In Search Of A Valentine

Mia Geiger for All Wrapped Up

Lynn Katz for A Little Heart

 

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

Helen Ishmurzin for Mila’s Cookies (we could totally see a kid struggling with that temptation! )

Sherry Peace for The Case Of The Missing Valentine’s Candy (fun kid detective work 🙂 )

Jeannine Pao Brown for Change Of Heart (very believable boy behavior 🙂 )

Sarah Hetu-Radny for A Slippery Situation (no one wants to be in trouble 🙂 )

 

3. For Original/Unique/Entertaining POV:

Megan Hoffman for The Sucker (POV of a Valentine sucker! – well-written!)

Deborah Dolan Hunt for Hillary’s Heart (POV of an actual heart! – loved the health angle)

 

4. For Humor:

Sarah Tobias for A Valentine For Mom

Susie Sawyer for Who Will Be Mine? (also wins for shortest entry with only 36 words! 🙂 )

Lauri Meyers for Don’t Eat Your Valentine (dark humor! 🙂 )

 

5. For Great Depiction of Family:

Scott Kinder for Mom’s Valentine (we found all the characters believable and felt like we were there! 🙂 )

 

6. For Favorite Character: 

Joy Pitcairn for I Ate It… (we LOVED Otto – such a believable guilty dog! 🙂 )

Rachel Hobbs for Valentine Cookie Surprise (we loved Carla – so exuberant! and we can imagine an expanded version of this as a picture book! 🙂 )

 

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

Kelly Conroy for Glitter, Paint, and Glue

Lynn Baldwin for The Year Without Sweethearts

 

8. For Lovely Writing:

Kelly Hughes for Will You Be Mine?

Keely Leim for A Valentine For Papa

 

9. For So Cute!:

Amy Flynn for Tiny Crush

 

10.  For More Appealing For Grown-ups But Well-Written And Enjoyable!
(These entries were terrific but either focused on content we felt was more appropriate for over age 12 or that had humor that we considered funnier for adults than kids)

Emma Wood for No Ordinary Thursday (very sweet, beautifully written, and a believable depiction of husbandly behavior! 🙂 )

 

(And although we’re not awarding prizes for these this time, we always enjoy seeing some of your familiar characters back from other contests for new adventures, including Candice’s Bean and Jilly, Nicole’s Alex and Apple, and Lucretia’s Marvin The Chipmunk 🙂 )

 

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

How To Query An Agent Or Editor: A Children’s Writer’s Insider Guide From Mentors For Rent by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

Getting Published: How To Access Editors: A Children’s Writer’s Insider Guide From Mentors For Rent by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

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

Self-Publish Your Book: A Quick And Easy Step-By-Step Guide (Writing In A Nutshell Series Book 6) by Jessica Bell, OR

The Write Ideas Creative Writer’s Toolkit: A Genre-Spanning Box Set of Writing Prompts And Creative Exercises by Kate Krake

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 Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To City Spaces by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, OR

The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Personal And Natural Places by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, OR

The Ultimate Fiction Thesaurus by Sam Stone, OR

Writing In A Nutshell: Writing Workshops To Improve Your Craft (Writing In A Nutshell Series Book 4) by Jessica Bell, OR

In paperback:

Show And Tell In A Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions From Telling To Showing by Jessica Bell

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

Just For Fun…

Magnetic Poetry – Little Box Of Awesome Kit – Words For Refrigerator (let me know your color choice if you care 🙂 )

 

And now…

…the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

The announcement of the WINNERS OF THE 2018 VALENTINY CONTEST as voted on by you!!!

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…

Chambrae Griffith
for

Love Bug At The Zoo!!!

Congratulations, Chambrae, on an imaginative, entertaining, well-written poem that made us feel the chaos ensuing from your MC’s guilty behavior! 🙂

In Second Place

Jennifer Broedel
for
Buffa-lonely Love Day

Congratulations, Jennifer, on an entry we loved for your MC’s very believable and understandable grumpiness leading to bad behavior and guilt!  You get to pick your prize after Chambrae.

In Third Place

Anne Sawan
for

A Box Full Of Love

Congratulations, Anne!  You had us laughing over your “chip off the old block” guilt 🙂  You get to pick your prize after Chambrae and Jennifer.

In Fourth Place

Colleen Murphy
for

Mother Knows Best

Congratulations, Colleen, on a delightfully believable story of guilt in perfect rhyme!  You get to pick your prize after Chambrae, Jennifer, and Anne!

In Fifth Place

Tiffany Dickinson
for

Heart Socks For The Win

Congratulations, Tiffany, on your heart-warming story. We felt Alex’s guilt and appreciated her empathy!   You get to pick after Chambrae, Jennifer, Anne, and Colleen!

In Sixth Place

Rose Cappelli
for

The Queen Of Hearts

Congratulations, Rose!  You really made us feel Meg wrestling with her guilt!  I’m sure you get the idea of how the prize picking goes by now 🙂

In Seventh Place…

Katrina Swenson
for
Chadwick The Zombie Cooks Up A Valentine

Congratulations, Katrina!  You won us over with your zombie sweet-maker the same way he won over his fellow zombies 🙂  You get to pick next 🙂

In Eighth Place…

Marty Bellis
for
Guess Who?

Congratulations, Marty!  You captured a child’s good intentions and not-so-good execution perfectly 🙂  You get to pick after Katrina 🙂

In Ninth Place… a tie!

Joyce Schriebman                                                Jill Lambert
for                                                                           for
The Valentine’s Day Mess & Cure                        The Missing Pupcake

Congratulations to both of you on very humorous entries!  You get to pick after Marty 🙂 (And since you tied, we’ll work it out…)

All the winners should email me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com with the subject heading Prize Winner so we can work out details for you to receive your prizes!  (The sooner the better!)  And for your convenience, the whole prize list is included at the bottom of this post.  Jose and Beth, if you’d like to choose a prize from the Honorable Mention selection of prizes above you are most welcome to!

Congratulations again to all our winners – it was a stiff competition!! – and congratulations to EVERYONE who wrote and entered a story in the contest.  You all deserve a huge round of applause and a gigantic chocolate heart… or lots of little chocolate hearts… or both… really, you can never have too much chocolate 🙂

Thank you to everyone who helped make this contest SO MUCH FUN, whether by writing an entry, reading people’s stories, leaving comments for the authors, and/or voting in the finals.  It’s because of all of you that this contest was such a success, so many, many thanks from the bottom of my heart!

Have a marvelous Monday, everyone! 🙂

 

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

“Skip The Slushpile” AND get a Query Letter Critique from Charlotte Wenger, associate editor at Page Street Kids, the picture book division of Page Street Publishing. She earned her Master of Arts in Children’s Literature from Simmons University (then College) and is a board member of the Mazza Museum’s National Advisory Board of Visitors. She enjoys working with debut picture book authors and illustrators and is excited about the 19 Page Street Kids picture books pubbing in 2019.

 
Find Charlotte on Twitter at @WilbursBF_Char, and learn more about Page Street Kids via www.pagestreetpublishing.com, Twitter: @PageStreetKids, and Instagram: pagestreetkids.

Charlotte will read the winner’s picture book manuscript of choice, then send an email letting you know she’s read your story and including one thing you did well and one thing you might work on to improve the manuscript.  In addition, she will give you a query letter critique.  Like all editors, she has a hectic schedule, so she will aim to fulfill the prize within 2 months of receiving the manuscript.

Picture Book Manuscript Critique by the incredibly talented, multi-published author/illustrator Iza Trapani!

Iza 2014  Old MacDonald

Picture Book Manuscript Critique by the Queen of KidLit411 herself, Elaine Kiely Kearns, author of Noah Noasaurus, forthcoming April 1, 2019 from Albert Whitman!

elaine  noah

– Top Ten Reasons for Rejectiona 52 minute webinar from Alayne Kay Christian, author of Butterfly Kisses (picture book) and the Sienna The Cowgirl Fairy series (chapter books), and Content and Developmental Editor of Blue Whale Press.

Alayne butterfly kisses

Webinar Description: If you want tips on some corrective action that you might take to improve your chances of submission success, and/or if you would like to deepen your understanding of plot and arc, this webinar is for you.

(And if you’re interested in seeing what else Alayne has to offer, like her Writing For Children Webinars and Courses page on FB and keep an eye out for upcoming offerings!)

 

15-30 Minute Your Questions Answered Phone Call – with Ryan Sias, author/illustrator of Balloon Toons: Zoe And Robot, Let’s Pretend, Sniff Sniff!, and the Woof And Quack beginning reader series (Green Light Readers), and the Super Doodle Series. He has worked in animation, film, and television, including Sesame Street 🙂

Do you have questions about writing, revising, submitting, whether or not to try for an agent, what happens after the sale, or anything else publishing industry related?  If so, this is your chance to ask away and get answers from a professional!

85044-ryan_headshot  SniffSniffcover-300x300  woof and quack snowy doodle

 

Query Letter Critique by Heather Ayris Burnell, creator of the Sub It Club and author of Bedtime Monster, Kick! Jump! Chop! The Adventures Of The Ninjabread Man, and the Sparkly New Friends early chapter book series from Scholastic!

heather burnell  Kick Jump Chop

2-Pack of Personalized Signed Picture Books from amazing author Melissa StollerScarlet’s Magic Paintbrush and Ready, Set, Gorilla!

Picture2  Picture1 gorilla

The Writer’s Tool Box: Creative Games And Exercises for Inspiring The “Write” Side Of Your BrainAND a $10 Amazon Gift Card

writer's toolbox

Children’s Writer’s And Illustrator’s Market 2019 – by Robert Lee Brewer AND a $10 Amazon Gift Card (2 available)

Children's Writer's Guide 2019

I can’t thank these authors 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 4th Annual Valentiny Contest FINALISTS!!!

So, I’m noticing a trend here.

This is at least the second year in a row when my best laid plans for getting the Valentiny judging done have found themselves up the creek without a paddle and no help in sight!

What is it about February?!

Once again, Judge #1 ended up with a whole lot of extra family stuff – some expected, some not…plus unexpected work…

…and Judge #2 had a ton of actual job-related work that had to be attended to.

(Judge #3 was awesome in every way and is probably the only reason the judging ever got finished! 🙂 )

But at this rate, we may have to start running the Valentiny Contest in July! 🙂

Add to that that apparently “guilt” was a tough topic! and we were seriously up against it!!!

Nearly all the entries fell into one of 5 categories:

– MC unintentionally makes a V-Day related mess

– MC accidentally ends up eating all the chocolates intended as a gift

– number of Valentines for class comes up short by one/one “mean” child is skipped on purpose

– MC didn’t make/purchase Valentines (either because V-Day is stupid or MC didn’t get around to it)

– a guilty dog is involved 🙂

I’m not sure we’ve ever had a contest where the entries could be so uniformly categorized.  This is not to say, of course, that ALL the entries fell into those categories – they did not! – or that there weren’t some very well written entries – there were! – or that the stories weren’t original – but it was interesting that the topic of guilt seemed to be harder than some others to come up with wide variety for.

Anyway, after much agonizing, torment, and second-guessing, we have come up with a list of finalists that we felt did the all-around best job of meeting all the judging criteria.  No doubt there will be some you’re surprised not to see – there were some very well written ones that did not make the cut, mostly because the guilt wasn’t strong enough. But we did the best we could!

So, at long last, and with sincere apologies for keeping you waiting 5 extra days, let’s have a look at….

The 4th Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest!!!

valentiny writing contest 2019!

~ FINALISTS!!!~

Before we get to the actual list of finalists, I have a couple things to say.  (I know you’re shocked as I’m normally so spare with my words :))

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

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

Third, before I list the finalists, I want to say again how difficult it was too choose!  There were so many amazing entries.  Really.  I could find at least something terrific about every single one.  The sheer volume of entries meant that many good ones had to be cut.  So if yours didn’t make the final cut please don’t feel bad.  There was a huge amount of competition – about 170 entries of which only 12 made the finals.  Judging, no matter how hard we try to be objective, is always subjective at a certain point – we all have our own preferences for what makes a great story.  And the fact that you didn’t make the final cut DOES NOT mean you didn’t write a great story.  Everyone who plonked their butt in a chair and worked hard to write a story for this contest is a winner!  You showed up.  You did your best work.  You practiced your craft.  You wrote to specifications and a deadline.  You bravely shared your writing with the world.  And you have a brand new story that is now yours to expand beyond 214 words if you like and maybe submit at some point to a magazine or as a PB manuscript.  So bravo to everyone who entered!

Now.  Onto the judging criteria which were as follows:

  1. Kid-appeal/Kid-friendliness – remember, this is a story for kids!
  2. Creativity in using guilt and success in making us feel the guilt! (Not enough just to use the word guilt!)
  3. Valentine’s Day appropriateness – this is a VALENTINE story and as such must feel like it is connected to Valentine’s Day/has something to do with it being Valentine’s!
  4. Quality of story – we will look for basic story elements and a true story arc
  5. Quality of writing – use and flow of language, correctness of mechanics
  6. Originality – surprise us with something new and different! 🙂

We really tried to choose stories that did the best job of fulfilling ALL the judging criteria.  There were some truly wonderful stories that didn’t have much to do with Valentines Day even if Valentine’s Day was mentioned in passing – they just didn’t seem connected to Valentines – or that didn’t seem to really showcase guilt although they may have used the word “guilt”, or that didn’t seem particularly kid-oriented even though they were very creative and well-written, or that really had us…until the last line or two when things sadly fell apart.  We tried our best to select finalists that checked all the boxes.

So without further ado, I present to you the finalists in the 2019 Fourth Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest!  Please read through them carefully, take your time, think it over, and vote for your favorite in the poll below by Wednesday February 27 at 12 PM (noon) Eastern time.  I apologize for the fact that since I’m late posting the finalists, there will be a Tuesday Debut post on Tuesday and a WYRI post on Wednesday, so this post with the finalists and the poll will drop down the blog list – but it will still be there and the poll will be open for voting until midday Wednesday!

To help with objectivity, finalists are listed by title only, not by author.

And I’d like to be very clear about the voting process.  You are MOST welcome to share a link to this post on FB, twitter, or wherever you like to hang out, and encourage people to come read ALL the finalists and vote for the one they think is best.  Please do that.  The more people who read and enjoy these stories the better, and the more objective votes we get the better.  HOWEVER (and I want to be very clear on this) please do not tell people you are a finalist.  Please do not ask people to vote for a specific number or title, or for the story about the tap-dancing troll who felt guilty for waking up the baby billy goat or whatever.  Trolling for votes or trying to influence the outcome is counter to the spirit of this competition which is supposed to be based on merit.  We operate on the honor system.  I thank you in advance for respecting this. Your win will mean more if it’s honestly earned.

Here are the 2019 Valentiny Contest Finalists!!! Some poetry, some prose, some for younger readers, some for older (but still kid) readers, all fabulous 🙂

#1 – The Valentine’s Day Mess & Cure

Dear Mom and Dad,

When you wake up,
you’ll see your tea and coffee cup.
(Don’t worry, ‘cause the broom worked well for cleaning up the plate that fell.) 

I made you toast with jam and butter, wiped the crumbs but left some clutter.
(Couldn’t get some sticky spots off counters, tables, chairs, and pots.)

A napkin holds a chocolate heart that you can simply break apart.
(Yes, there were two, but I concede, how much dark chocolate does one need?) 

This card is trimmed in frilly lace to put a smile upon your face.
(Oh, by the way, the sewing kit? It now needs straightening up a bit.) 

I hope your Valentine’s Day fun is nicer ‘cause of what I’ve done
(and sort of wondering if you might, push back my time for bed tonight?)

XOXOXOXOXOXO 

P.S. Uh-oh…I’m feeling bad. I wanted you to be so glad
but went about it like a jerk and caused you both a lot of work.
I wasn’t such a thoughtful kid. I should have cared—not like I did.
When you wake up, let’s make a plan, and I’ll correct what goofs I can.

With Love and Kisses,

You Know Who (I love you both a bunch, I DO!)

 

#2 – The Queen Of Hearts

Meg didn’t care about candy hearts or lacy cards. Tomorrow was the Valentine’s play!

All she wanted was to be the Queen of Hearts.

All she wanted was to wear the golden crown with the red sequins.

All she wanted was to win the role from Leah and Carly.

“I can’t decide,” said Mrs. Clark. “You would all make exquisite queens.” Then she wrote each girl’s name on a strip of paper and placed them in a basket.  “I’ll pick one of you tomorrow.”

The bell rang. Meg lingered.

No one will know.
I want it more than they do.
 Just this once.

Meg wrote her name on two more paper strips. Carefully, she replaced the names of her friends with her own in Mrs. Clark’s basket. She could almost feel the crown on her head as she skipped home.

At dinner, Meg couldn’t eat.

She tried rehearsing, but couldn’t remember her lines.

She went to bed early, but couldn’t sleep.

Her heart hurt.

When Meg arrived at school the next day, she was surprised to see a lacy, red-sequined Valentine on her desk.

Good luck to all of us today!
Love,
Leah and Carly

 Meg’s eyes filled with tears.

“Mrs. Clark,” she said, “I have something to tell you.”

 

#3 – Mother Knows Best

“Here, let me do the dishes Mom.”

“But you can’t reach the sink.”

“Then let me take the garbage out. I’m strong enough…I think.”

“Dad took the trash out yesterday. Son, what is up with you?”

“Um, nothing. Can’t I want to help?”

“Not when you never do.”

“I hope you liked the Valentine I worked so hard to make.

I cut a billion tiny hearts; I thought my hands would break!”

“I think I told you twenty times how much I loved your card.

Max, if you really want to help, then play out in the yard.”

“A great idea! While I’m out I’ll do some helpful deeds –

like rake the leaves or mow the grass or even pull some weeds.”

“It’s winter – there’s no grass to cut and no leaves anywhere!

Now Maxwell Walter Anderson, you sit down in that chair

and do not move a muscle ‘till you’re ready to confess.”

“Mom,

…if I’ve done something awful will you love my any less?”

“Of course I won’t! Now come on dear, just tell me what you’ve done.”

“You know your Truffles Daddy bought?

I only left you one.”

 

#4 – Single… Double… TRIPLE GUILTY!

Valentine’s Day tomorrow! Tony could hardly wait. Ms. Flinker was throwing an old-fashioned Valentine’s party with balloons and cupcakes, and a Valentine’s Box for each of them, so all the kids in the class could put in cards.

Tony dumped out his box of SuperZoomer Valentines. Uh-oh. 20 cards per box. 21 kids in his class.

He giggled. He wouldn’t give nasty Lisa one. She said he was too little for Kindergarten. She called him Tiny, even when he yelled MY NAME IS TONY!

On Valentine’s Day, a SuperZoomer Valentine superzoomed into nearly all the Valentine Boxes lined up along the front table. Nobody noticed that Tony didn’t put one in Lisa’s box. His stomach did, though. GUILTY, it told him.

They ate their cupcakes. They drank red juice. Then it was time for the Valentines. The first one out of his box was from – LISA! Oh no. His stomach said DOUBLE GUILTY. The Valentine said, “Tony – I’m sorry. Can we be friends?”

TRIPLE GUILTY said his stomach. He ran to the back of the room. Red construction paper. Markers. SuperZoomer fast, he made a Valentine.

“Lisa, my card for you wouldn’t fit in the box.”

She looked. “To my new friend. Happy VALENTINY Day!”

 

#5 – The Missing Pupcake

Brayden loved both of his dogs just the same.
They weren’t alike–one was wild, one was tame.
Mona made mischief, she didn’t know, “NO!”
Lisa obeyed because Brayden said so.

Brayden created some Valentine treats,
a doggy dessert made with eggs, oats, and beets.
The piping hot pupcakes were spread out to cool
all over the counter, but underneath—DROOL!

“Let’s grab a pupcake while Brayden is gone,”
Mona said. “I’m too short! Let me climb on.”
Lisa looked back toward the door with remorse.
Mona whined, “Help me out! You be my horse!”

Lisa stood steady while she climbed aboard.
Mona stretched upward, then seized her reward,
nearly inhaled the first pupcake she saw,
leaped down from Lisa’s back, “Got it! Hurrah!”

Lisa slunk out of the kitchen to hide.
She acted guilty, but Mona felt pride.
Brayden came in, heard their skittering feet,
glanced at the counter, saw one missing treat.

“Mona and Lisa!” he cried in dismay.
“I baked those pupcakes for Valentine’s Day.
Which of you took it? It’s time to confess!”
Lisa looked hangdog, her eyes blinked distress.

Brayden inspected them, solving the puzzle.
Mona had cake crumbs all over her muzzle.
“Mona, you’re busted! Now you go to bed!”
Then Brayden gave Lisa two pupcakes instead.

 

#6 – Cupid’s Last Card

Hands off, it’s mine.

I know what you’re thinking. He’s Cupid. He’s supposed to give out Valentine’s cards. It’s his job.

Well, maybe you’re right, but has anyone ever thought about me? Don’t I deserve some attention too?

It’s not easy flying around delivering all those chocolates and stuffed pandas, you know.

So I’m keeping the card.

Yes, I know it’s supposed to be yours. You’re my last delivery. But let’s just forget about that, okay? I’ll make it up next year. You’ll get a REALLY BIG stuffed panda.

Don’t look at me like that.

I’m sure you’re a nice kid. Eat all your veggies? Brush your teeth every night? That’s great.

But the card’s mine.

What’s that? No one else has given you a card? Well…

Phew. Kinda warm in here.

I’m sure you’re mistaken. Check your mailbox again.

Still nothing? Well…

How about we split it? I’ll take half and you’ll…

Oh, don’t cry.

I can’t stand seeing nice kids cry. If you start then I’m…

WHO’S CUTTING THOSE ONIONS?

How about borrowing it…? No?

Sniffing it…? No?

How about… uh…

OH, I CAN’T STAND IT! Here, take it! Just take it! I hope you’re happy now! And furthermore–

Huh? What’s that?

Oh. Thanks. Thanks, kid.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too.

 

#7 – Chadwick The Zombie Cooks Up A Valentine

Chadwick the zombie was often alone,
feeling quite lonesome and blue.
While all of his peers nibbled brains, eyes, and ears,
Chadwick baked bread and cooked stew.

“Nobody gets me,” young Chadwick complained.
“But next week is Valentine’s Day!
Instead of fresh hearts I’ll bring raspberry tarts,
That should bring new friends my way!”

Valentine’s came and his classmates gave out
boxes of brains and warm bile.
Chadwick left sweets at the kids’ assigned seats
then waited to see them all smile. 

“Ew!” “What is this?” “Who’d bring sweets to a party?”
Chadwick felt tears in his eyes.
His classmates went still when they saw those tears spill,
ashamed as they heard his soft cries.

Norbert, a boy in the back of the class
squeamishly reached for his treat.
He screwed up his face, then he took a small taste…
and smiled! “This is good! Let’s all eat!”

Zombies were gobbling those tarts in a flash.
“Chadwick, good job!” “Crust has flake!”
Chadwick then heard these delectable words:
“Hey, could you teach us to bake?”

Chadwick the zombie was often with pals,
smiling for hours on end.
Blending and stirring, kneading and whirring,
mixing up fun with his friends.

 

#8 – A Box Full Of Love

Max gave the heart shaped box a big shake.
Empty.
How could all of the candy be gone? He meant to eat only one piece but it had tasted so good…
“Hola, Max,” said Papi. “What is that in your hand?”
“Nothing,” sighed Max. “It was going to be a Valentine’s Day gift for Mama but, I ate all the candy so now it’s just an empty box.”
Papi opened the box. “This box is not empty,’ he said.
“Yes, it is,” said Max.
“No,” said Papi. “You thought of Mama and wanted to make her happy and that is what love is, thinking about others and wanting to make them happy. So you see, this box is full of love. Now how about we go to the kitchen and make Mama some special Valentine’s Day cookies? You get the flour and I’ll get the eggs and sugar.”
On the kitchen counter Max noticed another heart shaped box.
“What is that?” he asked
“That?’ said Papi, furiously mixing the eggs and sugar together. “Ahhh…That is another box of love for Mama.”
Max smiled. “You ate all the candy too, didn’t you Papi?”
“Si,” said Papi. “Now, hand me the flour so we can finish these cookies before Mama gets home. Rapido!”

#9 – Buffa-lonely Love Day

At the zoo, it’s party time:
zebras clamor, monkeys climb.
Elephants hang decorations—
time for Love Day celebrations.

Sending cards, they’re all gung-ho…
all except for Buffalo.

Looking for her valentine…
Doesn’t find one!
“So what?! FINE!”

Scrunched-up nose and pouted lips,
tucks her hooves into her hips.

“Such a wild, rambunctious crowd,
much too lively, much too loud.
Had enough of this commotion.
Too much lovey-dove emotion.”

Quick, she trots around the zoo,
making others cranky too.

Creeps up to the three baboons…
POP! There go their three balloons.

Finds two penguins on the ice…
steals their heart-shaped pebbles (twice).

One bear’s heart cake—Where’d it go?
Who would smash it?
“Buffalo!”

Party ruined: roars and growls.
Buffalo just sits and scowls.

Buffa-lonely, all alone.
“Still no cards, still on my own.
Wrecked their party, made them mad.
What a rotten day I’ve had.”

Maybe if she sent a letter…
she might feel a little better.

“Sorry that I wrecked your bash,
and tossed your goodies in the trash…
See, I found it pretty hard
when all but me received a card.”

Party mix-up, at the zoo…
“You got no card? We never knew!”
“Buffalo, look here and see:
your valentine fell in this tree!”

Buffalo is so excited!
Party re-do… All invited!

 

#10 –  Guess Who?

Who made their bed and fed the cat?
Almost.

Who cleaned up when the milk went splat?
Well, close.

Who carried out the trash with care?
Oops, whoa!

Who fixed the baby’s messy hair?
Oh no.

Who put a drawing at your place?
Rub, scrub.

Who found a flower for your favorite vase?
Mop slop.

Who saved a foil wrapped chocolate kiss?
Yum, yum.

And set it where you couldn’t miss?
“Dear Mum”

I guess you figured out it’s me.

I’m guilty, as no doubt, you see.

I tried to think of something good

but it didn’t turn out quite as it should. 

My valentine surprise is done.

With hugs and kisses from your son.

 

#11 – Heart Socks For The Win

Alex clutched her rainbow wallet. Inside the dollar store, she headed for the clothing aisle.

Her eyes widened. Perfect! Just what she wanted for the Valentine’s party. She gazed at the socks with rainbow-colored hearts. Her own heart raced.

A smaller girl stopped beside her. Through thick glasses, she peered at the heart socks. “Ooh! I’m gonna ask Grandma to buy them with my birthday dollar.” Alex heard the girl’s loose shoes slapping away.

“I saw them first!” Alex grabbed the socks, pressing them to her body. Head down, she marched to the check-out. The clerk gave her change from her $10. Alex barely mumbled “Thank you.”

On Valentine’s Day, she shoved the socks in her backpack. “I’ll put them on later,” she thought.

At school, the gym was open. A little girl with glasses cartwheeled in circles. Alex’s guilty heart did a somersault. She knew what she must do.

Walking quickly to the shoes lining the wall, she knelt and set a heart sock in each of two old sneakers.

Without the socks, the party was just okay. But Alex’s heart soared when she ran to the bus. On a playground swing, a pair of little legs covered in hearts the color of the rainbow flew high.

 

#12 – Love Bug At The Zoo

I’m know I’m just small, but I must confess,
I am the love bug who caused this huge mess.
I shouldn’t have gone out on Valentine’s Day,
I infected the zoo, I got carried away.
I’m sorry my nibbles caused such a commotion
My bites are much stronger than any love potion.
Now Monkey is gaga and Parrot is squawking
“I love you, I love you…” she doesn’t quit talking.
Poor Panda is spellbound, and Seal is lovesick,
and Frog is enamored with bright red lipstick.
The meercats are staring, with googley-eyes,
at Penguin, who suddenly really loves fries.
Giraffe has gone ape, and Ape is obsessed,
he keeps blowing kisses and pounding his chest.
Lion’s in love, and Emu is entranced
by Flamingo’s new fondness for ballroom style dance.
Bear is bewitched, and so is Baboon.
Zebra saw Peacock and started to swoon.
Peacock keeps prancing to get Snakes attention
But Snake has been charmed, and there’s more I won’t mention.
The bites will wear off, they’ll be fine before morning,
But watch out for love bugs, we strike without warning!

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

Please vote for your favorite in the poll below by Wednesday February 27 at 12 PM (noon) Eastern time.

Tune in Thursday February 28 to see THE WINNERS!!!

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

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

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to lie on the couch, wrap a hot towel around my head, and get a nap 🙂 after all that reading and agonizing and negotiating.

Okay.

Not really.

I will actually be taking my dad’s car to get a recalled part replaced and frantically trying to catch up on things I shoved to the back burner whilst reading Valentiny stories in the dealership waiting room where they will hopefully have a Keurig!

Have a wonderful Sunday everyone!!! . . . now that it’s basically Monday 🙂

Oh, Guilty Heart! – The 4th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest!

Roses are red

Violets are blue

Valentinies rock

And so do YOU!

Hang onto your chocolate everyone!  It’s time for . . .

The 4th Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest!!!

valentiny writing contest 2019!

~ for children’s writers~

The Contest:  since writing for children is all about “big emotion for little people” (I forget who said that, but someone did so I put it in quotes!) and Valentines Day is all about emotion, write a Valentines story appropriate for children (children here defined as ages 12 and under) maximum 214 words in which someone feels guilty!  Your someone can feel guilty themselves or make someone else feel guilty.  They may feel guilty for good reason, or just because they think they should!  Your story can be poetry or prose, sweet, funny, surprising or anything in between, but it will only count for the contest if it includes someone guilty (can be the main character but doesn’t have to be) and is 214 words (get it? 2/14 for Valentines Day 🙂  You can go under the word count but not over! (Title is not included in the word count.)  If you are so inclined, you are welcome to enter more than one entry – just remember you’ll be competing against yourself 🙂  No illustration notes please!

Post your story on your blog between right now this very second and tomorrow Thursday February 14th by 11:59 PM EDT and add your post-specific link to the list below.  There will be no Would You Read It or PPBF for the duration of the contest so this post and the list of links will stay up all week for everyone to enjoy. If you would like to enter but don’t have a blog you are welcome to paste your entry in the comment section below (please be sure to include your byline so that if your posting handle is writesbynightlight1 or something I’ll be able to tell who you are!)  If anyone has trouble commenting, which unfortunately happens, please email your entry to me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com and I’ll post your entry for you. But please don’t send attachments!  Just copy and paste your story including byline into the email.  Also, please only post your entry once – either in the comment section of my blog or on the link list or by emailing me and asking me to post it.  Multiple postings of the same entry get confusing. 🙂
P.S.  Although I try to stay glued to my computer 24/7 I am sometimes forced to leave my desk.  If you haven’t commented on my blog before, your comment won’t show up until I approve it.  It may take a little while if I’m away from my desk.  Likewise, if you send me an entry to post, I promise I will do it as soon as I can!

The Judging: over the next several days, my lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to 6-10 top choices depending on number and quality of entries (hee hee hee – you know how much trouble I have with the narrowing, so we’ll see) which will be posted here and voted on for a winner on Wednesday February 20th (or possibly a day or two later if the judges need extra time.)   The winner will be announced Friday February 22nd or Saturday February 23rd depending on judging and voting time needed.  The dates of the judging/voting/winner announcements are subject to finagling depending on how much time the judges actually end up needing!

Judging criteria will include:

  1. Kid-appeal/Kid-friendliness – remember, this is a story for kids!
  2. Creativity in using guilt and success in making us feel the guilt!
  3. Valentine’s Day appropriateness – this is a VALENTINE story!
  4. Quality of story – we will look for basic story elements and a true story arc
  5. Quality of writing – use and flow of language, correctness of mechanics, excellence of rhyme and meter if you use it.
  6. Originality – surprise us with something new and different! 🙂

The Prizes:  Oh, the awesomeness!  Such great prizes to motivate you!  With thanks to all who donated!

“Skip The Slushpile” AND get a Query Letter Critique from Charlotte Wenger, associate editor at Page Street Kids, the picture book division of Page Street Publishing. She earned her Master of Arts in Children’s Literature from Simmons University (then College) and is a board member of the Mazza Museum’s National Advisory Board of Visitors. She enjoys working with debut picture book authors and illustrators and is excited about the 19 Page Street Kids picture books pubbing in 2019.

 
Find Charlotte on Twitter at @WilbursBF_Char, and learn more about Page Street Kids via www.pagestreetpublishing.com, Twitter: @PageStreetKids, and Instagram: pagestreetkids.

Charlotte will read the winner’s picture book manuscript of choice, then send an email letting you know she’s read your story and including one thing you did well and one thing you might work on to improve the manuscript.  In addition, she will give you a query letter critique.  Like all editors, she has a hectic schedule, so she will aim to fulfill the prize within 2 months of receiving the manuscript.

Picture Book Manuscript Critique by the incredibly talented, multi-published author/illustrator Iza Trapani!

Iza 2014  Old MacDonald

Picture Book Manuscript Critique by the Queen of KidLit411 herself, Elaine Kiely Kearns, author of Noah Noasaurus, forthcoming April 1, 2019 from Albert Whitman!

elaine  noah

– Top Ten Reasons for Rejectiona 52 minute webinar from Alayne Kay Christian, author of Butterfly Kisses (picture book) and the Sienna The Cowgirl Fairy series (chapter books), and Content and Developmental Editor of Blue Whale Press.

Alayne butterfly kisses

Webinar Description: If you want tips on some corrective action that you might take to improve your chances of submission success, and/or if you would like to deepen your understanding of plot and arc, this webinar is for you.

(And if you’re interested in seeing what else Alayne has to offer, like her Writing For Children Webinars and Courses page on FB and keep an eye out for upcoming offerings!)

 

15-30 Minute Your Questions Answered Phone Call – with Ryan Sias, author/illustrator of Balloon Toons: Zoe And Robot, Let’s Pretend, Sniff Sniff!, and the Woof And Quack beginning reader series (Green Light Readers), and the Super Doodle Series. He has worked in animation, film, and television, including Sesame Street 🙂

Do you have questions about writing, revising, submitting, whether or not to try for an agent, what happens after the sale, or anything else publishing industry related?  If so, this is your chance to ask away and get answers from a professional!

85044-ryan_headshot  SniffSniffcover-300x300  woof and quack snowy doodle

 

Query Letter Critique by Heather Ayris Burnell, creator of the Sub It Club and author of Bedtime Monster, Kick! Jump! Chop! The Adventures Of The Ninjabread Man, and the Sparkly New Friends early chapter book series from Scholastic!

heather burnell  Kick Jump Chop

2-Pack of Personalized Signed Picture Books from amazing author Melissa StollerScarlet’s Magic Paintbrush and Ready, Set, Gorilla!

Picture2  Picture1 gorilla

The Writer’s Tool Box: Creative Games And Exercises for Inspiring The “Write” Side Of Your BrainAND a $10 Amazon Gift Card

writer's toolbox

Children’s Writer’s And Illustrator’s Market 2019 – by Robert Lee Brewer AND a $10 Amazon Gift Card (2 available)

Children's Writer's Guide 2019

I can’t thank these authors 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!

Now.

The time has come for my sample.

It could have really benefited from the 65 words I had to cut out of it to make the 214 word limit! I’m warning you now – have some chocolate handy to help ease the pain of reading it 🙂

Valentine Fair and Square (214 words)

Flora and Miles liked all the same things.

Climbing trees.

Fishing.

Baseball.

And peanut butter ice cream with marshmallow sauce.

Unfortunately, Miles didn’t know Flora existed.

But Flora had a plan.

For days she toiled, making the Best Valentine Ever.

Valentines morning, she put her valentine on Miles’s desk.

Miles would notice her now!

But then Isabella put hers on top!

It was HUGE.

It was FANCY.

It came with a whole box of candy.

DISASTER!

There was only one thing to do.

When Isabella wasn’t looking, Flora grabbed the huge, fancy, pink valentine and hid it behind the bookshelf.

During Attendance, Flora’s middle felt pinchy.

She hadn’t stolen it, she told herself.  She’d only moved it!

But during the Pledge, her heart felt twingy.

She so wanted Miles to like her. He had to like her valentine most!

But by Morning Announcements Flora’s thoughts were poking her in the brain.  Sharply.

Isabella probably worked as hard on her valentine as Flora had.

Flora flooded with guilt.

She didn’t want to hurt Isabella.

She didn’t want Miles to like her when she’d been deceitful.

So she put Isabella’s valentine back.

“Hey!” said Miles, holding up a valentine.  “This is the Best Valentine Ever!”

It wasn’t fancy pink.

It was a climbing-tree-fishing-peanut-butter-cup-and-mini-marshmallow-covered baseball-glove heart.

Flora’s.

Alrighty then!

I feel GUILTY for writing such drivel 🙂  But surely you are all feeling a surge of confidence, emboldened to share your stories, now that I have posted this travesty for all the world to see!  Never let it be said that I’m not willing to make a fool of myself for you, my friends!  🙂

I can’t wait to read all of yours!  I’m SO looking forward to them!  I hope there will be LOTS – the more the merrier!  And you still have until midnight tomorrow to write, so you have time if you haven’t written yet.  Feel free to spread the word to your writing friends as well.  And your reading friends – parents, teachers, etc.  The more people who read and enjoy your stories, the better!!!

So!

Contest Entrants, remember to add your post-specific link to the list below so we can all come read your awesome stories!  (Post-specific means not your main blog url, but the actual url of the post that has your story in it – otherwise if you post again before the contest ends, your link will take readers… and judges!… to the wrong place!)  Please allow a few minutes and possibly refresh your browser before deciding that your link hasn’t posted and adding it a second time or emailing it to me.

Eager Readers – click on the links in the list to visit the blogs and read the stories.  And be sure to read the 92 fabulous entries posted in the comment section below!!!

Happy Valentines Week, Everyone! ❤

Scroll through the comments to find these wonderful stories!

  1. Valentine’s Day Confession – Juli
  2. Prince Froggie Went A’ Courtin’ – Sherry
  3. Valentine’s Remorsel – Joel
  4. Sophie Builds A Bridge – Corine
  5. Charity’s Chocolate Bath – Johanna
  6. Candy Hearts – Glenda
  7. Cupid’s Valentine Scrabble – Jill
  8. Momo On Valentine’s Day – Shariffa
  9. A Valentine’s Party At School – Anneberly
  10. Secret Mission Valentine – Ramona
  11. It Wasn’t Me! – Susan
  12. The Little Piggies Celebrate Valentines Day – Sarah
  13. Messy Valentines – Sarah
  14. Wilfred’s Valentine’s Day – Cheryl
  15. A Box Full Of Love – Anne
  16. No Sweethearts – Marcia
  17. The Missing Pupcake – Jill
  18. Cupid And Bob – Jessica
  19. The Important Pink Washcloth – Marcia
  20. Valentine’s Day Smiles – Katie
  21. A Penny For His Thoughts – Charlene
  22. The Girl With The Dragon Choo-Choo – Anne
  23. Where Does Love Go? – Aixa
  24. The Sucker – Megan
  25. I Was Wrong – Nina
  26. Alex & Apple Solve The Case – Nicole
  27. Tamu, The Thieving Cat (Paka Mwizi)! – Ketan
  28. Late Night Snack – Mary
  29. A Way With Words – Susan
  30. A Spiny Valentiny – Rachel
  31. Love Bug At The Zoo – Chambrae
  32. Stan’s First Valentine’s Day – Jessica
  33. Tom’s Dad – ???
  34. The Lovebird’s Valentiny Ball – Barbara
  35. Love LOVES Love – Rebecca
  36. Sasquatch: In Search Of A Valentine – Mary
  37. The Case Of The Missing Valentine’s Candy – Sherry
  38. My Muddy Valentine – Jennifer
  39. Sometimes To Always – Jan
  40. The Heart-Shaped Balloon – Amy
  41. Tater Tot Tilly’s Valentine Treat – Kim
  42. No Ordinary Thursday – Emma
  43. Alma’s GREEN Valentine – Amy
  44. Ahava’s School Valentine Surprise – Amy
  45. An ImPURRfect Valentine Surprise – Deborah
  46. Last Valentine’s – Tonya
  47. Vivi’s Heart – Pai
  48. A Valentine For Papa – Keely
  49. A Valentine Party To Remember – Judy
  50. A Valentine For Prince Donald – Jim
  51. Tiny Crush – Amy
  52. The Valentine’s Day Mess & Cure – Joyce
  53. Hillary’s Heart – Deborah
  54. The Perfect Valentine – Susie
  55. Change Of Heart – Jeannine
  56. The Presents – Kirsten
  57. Teacher Valentine – Rosemary
  58. Happy Valentine’s Day To Everyone – Michele
  59. Conversation Smarts – Lauren
  60. Twenty Chocolate Kisses – Patricia
  61. A Little Heart – Lynn
  62. Guess Who? – Marty
  63. Big Sister For The Day – Alison
  64. Puneet’s Valentine Birthday – Johannah
  65. Ella And Emma And The Valentine Verdict – Cindy
  66. A Valentine For Valentina – Lara
  67. The (Not So) Great Revenge – Darcee
  68. The Glass Heart – Gabriella
  69. All Wrapped Up – Mia
  70. A Valentine’s Day Breakfast “Trip” – Susan
  71. Raisins Or Frosting – Ashely
  72. Buffa-lonely Love Day – Jennifer
  73. Bookworm’s Valentine – Dee
  74. The Saga Of Cupid – Linda
  75. Celebrate Every Day With A Poem – Kathy
  76. Puppies Can’t Eat Chocolate – Jan
  77. Something Special – Deb
  78. Spoon In Hand – DL
  79. The Unkeepable Promise – Juliana
  80. Guilty As Charged – Michelle
  81. Valentines For All – Marjorie
  82. Mom’s Valentine – Scott
  83. How It All Began – Linda
  84. The Coconut Covered Chocolates – Carmen
  85. Valentine Dilemma – Ranessa
  86. Who Will Be Mine? – Susie
  87. Blue Whale’s Big Heart – Susan
  88. Chadwick The Zombie Cooks Up A Valentine – Katrina
  89. Noses Are Red – JC
  90. The Tattle Tale – Karen
  91. An Extra Special Valentine – Margaret
  92. Operation Chocolate Hearts – Lucretia

What’s Short And Sweet And Read All Over?

I know!

It’s Sunday evening!

You’ve spent the afternoon baking princess cookies and building the world’s most awesome train track around the entire living room with the littles and now it’s time for pajamas and bed!

What on earth am I doing bugging you at this hour?!

Well, I’ll tell you 🙂

I’m trying to give you enough time to cogitate and write! 🙂

Three years ago, a bunch of folks asked for a contest to cheer them out of the winter doldrums!

The result?

The First Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest!

(Valentiny because, like the Halloweensie Contest, it’s not very long and it’s for little people 🙂 )

We had so much fun that we went ahead with the 2nd and 3rd Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contests and now it’s kind of a tradition!  I mean, no one wants to get bested by a doldrum 🙂

So here we are!  The reason I’m interrupting your Sunday!

Announcing . . .

The 4th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest!!!

 

valentiny writing contest 2019!

~ for children’s writers~

The Contest:  since writing for children is all about “big emotion for little people” (I forget who said that, but someone did so I put it in quotes!) and Valentines Day is all about emotion, write a Valentines story appropriate for children (children here defined as ages 12 and under) maximum 214 words in which someone feels guilty!  Your someone can feel guilty themselves or make someone else feel guilty.  They may feel guilty for good reason, or just because they think they should!  Your story can be poetry or prose, sweet, funny, surprising or anything in between, but it will only count for the contest if it includes someone guilty (can be the main character but doesn’t have to be) and is 214 words (get it? 2/14 for Valentines Day 🙂  You can go under the word count but not over! (Title is not included in the word count.)  If you are so inclined, you are welcome to enter more than one entry – just remember you’ll be competing against yourself 🙂  No illustration notes please!

Post your story on your blog between 12:00 AM EDT Wednesday February 13th and Thursday February 14th by 11:59 PM EDT and add your post-specific link to the list that will accompany my February 13th post.  There will be no Would You Read It that week, and no PPBF, so the post and the list of links will stay up all week for everyone to enjoy.  If you don’t have a blog and would like to enter, you can simply copy and paste your entry in the comments section of that post once it’s up. (Or, if you have difficulty with the comments, which unfortunately sometimes happens, you may email your entry to me and I’ll post it for you! Please copy and paste your entry into the body of the email – no attachments! And please do not submit emailed entries until the contest begins on Feb. 13!)  Please only post your entry ONCE! Either on your blog and the associated link list, or in the comment section of my post!  Otherwise it gets confusing 🙂

The Judging: over the next several days, my lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to 6-10 top choices depending on number and quality of entries (hee hee hee – you know how much trouble I have with the narrowing, so we’ll see) which will be posted here and voted on for a winner on Wednesday February 20th (or possibly a day or two later if the judges need extra time.)   The winner will be announced Friday February 22nd or Saturday February 23rd depending on judging and voting time needed. (And there will be no WYRI or PPBF that week either so that everyone will have time to read and vote and so that we don’t confuse PPBF with announcing winners.)  The dates of the judging/voting/winner announcements are subject to finagling depending on how much time the judges actually end up needing!

Judging criteria will include:

  1. Kid-appeal/Kid-friendliness – remember, this is a story for kids!
  2. Creativity in using guilt and success in making us feel the guilt!
  3. Valentine’s Day appropriateness – this is a VALENTINE story!
  4. Quality of story – we will look for basic story elements and a true story arc
  5. Quality of writing – use and flow of language, correctness of mechanics, excellence of rhyme and meter if you use it.
  6. Originality – surprise us with something new and different! 🙂

The Prizes:  As usual I’m still working on prizes.  If anyone has anything fabulous to offer, drop me an email 🙂  But meanwhile, here are some of the awesome prizes just waiting to be won!

“Skip The Slushpile” AND get a Query Letter Critique from Charlotte Wenger, associate editor at Page Street Kids, the picture book division of Page Street Publishing. She earned her Master of Arts in Children’s Literature from Simmons University (then College) and is a board member of the Mazza Museum’s National Advisory Board of Visitors. She enjoys working with debut picture book authors and illustrators and is excited about the 19 Page Street Kids picture books pubbing in 2019.

 
Find Charlotte on Twitter at @WilbursBF_Char, and learn more about Page Street Kids via www.pagestreetpublishing.com, Twitter: @PageStreetKids, and Instagram: pagestreetkids.

 

Charlotte will read the winner’s picture book manuscript of choice, then send an email letting you know she’s read your story and including one thing you did well and one thing you might work on to improve the manuscript.  In addition, she will give you a query letter critique.  Like all editors, she has a hectic schedule, so she will aim to fulfill the prize within 2 months of receiving the manuscript.

Picture Book Manuscript Critique by the incredibly talented, multi-published author/illustrator Iza Trapani!

Iza 2014  Old MacDonald

Picture Book Manuscript Critique by the Queen of KidLit411 herself, Elaine Kiely Kearns, author of Noah Noasaurus, forthcoming April 1, 2019 from Albert Whitman!

elaine  noah

– Top Ten Reasons for Rejectiona 52 minute webinar from Alayne Kay Christian, author of Butterfly Kisses (picture book) and the Sienna The Cowgirl Fairy series (chapter books), and Content and Developmental Editor of Blue Whale Press.

Webinar Description: If you want tips on some corrective action that you might take to improve your chances of submission success, and/or if you would like to deepen your understanding of plot and arc, this webinar is for you.

(And if you’re interested in seeing what else Alayne has to offer, like her Writing For Children Webinars and Courses page on FB and keep an eye out for upcoming offerings!)

 

15-30 Minute Your Questions Answered Phone Call – with Ryan Sias, author/illustrator of Balloon Toons: Zoe And Robot, Let’s Pretend, Sniff Sniff!, and the Woof And Quack beginning reader series (Green Light Readers), and the Super Doodle Series. He has worked in animation, film, and television, including Sesame Street 🙂

Do you have questions about writing, revising, submitting, whether or not to try for an agent, what happens after the sale, or anything else publishing industry related?  If so, this is your chance to ask away and get answers from a professional!

85044-ryan_headshot  SniffSniffcover-300x300  woof and quack snowy doodle

Query Letter Critique by Heather Ayris Burnell, creator of the Sub It Club and author of Bedtime Monster, Kick! Jump! Chop! The Adventures Of The Ninjabread Man, and the Sparkly New Friends early chapter book series from Scholastic!

heather burnell  Kick Jump Chop

2-Pack of Personalized Signed Picture Books from amazing author Melissa StollerScarlet’s Magic Paintbrush and Ready, Set, Gorilla!

Picture2  Picture1 gorilla

…and more good stuff coming!

I can’t thank these authors 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!

Now then!  Aren’t you feeling inspired to write the best Valentiny Story you can so you can win one of these awesome prizes?

Get a nice cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows and whipped cream (fuel, people, your brain needs fuel to write and chocolate is the best!), bring it over to your comfiest writing spot, settle in with some kind of writing implement and a cozy throw to keep you warm, and rev those writing engines!

Ready, set, WRITE!

I so look forward to reading your stories in a couple weeks!!! 🙂

2018 Valentiny Contest WINNERS!!!

“The time has come!” the walrus said, “to announce the winners of the 3rd Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest!!!”

Valentiny Writing Contest 2018

Okay.

Maybe that’s not exactly what the walrus said.

I believe he rambled on for a bit about shoes and ships and sealing wax, cabbages and walrus colorkings, why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings…

But I’m pretty sure he was getting around to the Valentiny Contest 🙂

 

 

Anyway…

I know none of you slept for the entire weekend, on tenterhooks (whatever those are… probably something the walrus was also getting around to discussing! 🙂 ) over who the winners would be!

And I’m sure you all rushed to your computers at the earliest possible moment this morning, disregarding bed head and whether or not you had packed the little darlings’ lunches yet, in order to see the results!

So I won’t make you wait another moment!

Well, maybe just one. . .

. . .since as usual I have a couple things to say first… 🙂

As always, I was thrilled to see so many wonderful stories!  (Did I mention there were 160?!)  Really!  It is amazing and inspiring, not to mention VERY entertaining!  There is just so much talent out there amongst you all!  The other judges and I are blown away anew each time!

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

There were, however, many other entries that were outstanding in certain areas even though they might not have qualified all-around for one reason or another, or that the judges couldn’t reach a consensus on.

So my assistant judges and I would like to award recognition and a small prize to the following authors for the following merits:

1.  For Honorable Mention In The Competition As A Whole: (entries we truly wrestled with not including in the finalists!)

Teresa M.I. Shaefer for A Valentine For Maia

Colleen Murphy for He Thought He Could

Laurie Batzel for The Blue Valentine

Jean James for The Princess Frog

David McMullin for Steve

Carolyn Leiloglou for Won’t You Be My ValenSPINE?

 

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

Greg Bray for A Squirrelly Valentine (also funny 🙂 )

Jilanne Hoffman for The Best Valentine’s Day Party Ever

Nina Nolan for Bunny Hugs

 

3. For Excellence In Evoking Powerful Emotion:

Jenna Waldman for Grandpa’s Roses

Amy Frost Davidson for Not Alone

 

4. For Original/Unique/Entertaining POV:

Liz Tipping for The Happy Little Paper (piece of paper – also nice kid appeal)

Matthew Lasley for Puppy Love (excellent job making Jed seem like a dog! 🙂 )

Laura Sealey for A Card With A Heart (card and envelope love story)

Franziska Macur for The Heart Of The Heart

M.S. Nass for Rose And Tulip

Sara Gentry for This Will Be The Year (Gerald turned out to be a gerbil! 🙂 )

 

5. For Humor:

Christine Rodenbour for Sweet Love

 

6. For Favorite Character: 

Rebekah Hoeft for Grumpily Yours (we loved both Vern AND Miss Springtide! 🙂 )

Leah Kolidas for Max’s First Valentine (we loved Max and especially Lulu!)

Katrina Swenson for Grumble’s Best Valentine’s Day Ever (gotta love a troll valentine story 🙂 )

 

7. For Conveying A Great Message:

Mishka Jaeger for Happy Thursday

Ariane Peveto for Special Delivery

 

8. For Beautiful Use of Language:

Alayne Christian for Ladybug Love

 

9.  For More Appealing For Grown-ups But Well-Written And Enjoyable!
(These entries were terrific but either focused on content we felt was more appropriate for over age 12 or that had humor that we considered funnier for adults than kids)

Susan Schade for Valenswine (funny 🙂 )

Susie Sawyer for Valentine For Mom (also funny! 🙂 )

Ryan Roberts for Upside Down Valentine’s Day

 

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

How To Query An Agent Or Editor: A Children’s Writer’s Insider Guide From Mentors For Rent by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

Getting Published: How To Access Editors: A Children’s Writer’s Insider Guide From Mentors For Rent by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

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

Self-Publish Your Book: A Quick And Easy Step-By-Step Guide (Writing In A Nutshell Series Book 6) by Jessica Bell, OR

The Write Ideas Creative Writer’s Toolkit: A Genre-Spanning Box Set of Writing Prompts And Creative Exercises by Kate Krake

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 Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To City Spaces by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, OR

The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Personal And Natural Places by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, OR

The Ultimate Fiction Thesaurus by Sam Stone, OR

Writing In A Nutshell: Writing Workshops To Improve Your Craft (Writing In A Nutshell Series Book 4) by Jessica Bell, OR

In paperback:

Show And Tell In A Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions From Telling To Showing by Jessica Bell

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

Just For Fun…

2018 Pocket Calendar (Kittens) OR

2018 Pocket Calendar (Puppies) OR

Magnetic Poetry – Little Box Of Awesome Kit – Words For Refrigerator (let me know your color choice if you care 🙂 )

And now…

…the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

The announcement of the WINNERS OF THE 2018 VALENTINY CONTEST as voted on by you!!!

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…

Mary Warth
for

Red!!!

Congratulations, Mary, on a fabulously written poem that made us feel your character’s hope and embarrassment superbly, was very realistically kid, and was clearly very popular!!! 🙂

In Second Place

Meg Mahoney
for
Valentine Handyman

Congratulations, Meg, on an entry we loved for your MC’s amusingly earnest innocence and sweet desire to help his mom.  Beautifully done!  You get to pick your prize after Mary.

In Third Place

Rachel Dutton
for

Heart-Shaped Butt

Congratulations, Rachel!  You had us rolling on the floor 🙂  You get to pick your prize after Mary and Meg.

In Fourth Place

Stephanie Williams
for

A Valentine For Leaf

Congratulations, Stephanie, on a lovely entry with a unique POV!  You get to pick your prize after Mary, Meg, and Rachel!

In Fifth Place

Lynne Marie
for

A Valentine’s Day For Milton Monster

Congratulations, Lynne, on an all-around well-written and fun entry with great kid appeal!  You get to pick after Mary, Meg, Rachel, and Stephanie!

In Sixth Place

Gabi Snyder
for

The Valentine’s Rooster

Congratulations, Gabi!  You tugged on our heartstrings with your unique spin on a Valentine’s Day pet adoption!  I’m sure you get the idea of how the prize picking goes by now 🙂

In Seventh Place…

Nancy Riley
for
Antsy Valentines

Congratulations, Nancy!  You wrote a fun story with a perfect last line 🙂  You get to pick next 🙂

In Eighth Place…

Becky Shillington
for
Hoping For Snow

Congratulations, Becky!  You captured hoping for a snow day perfectly 🙂  You get to pick after Nancy 🙂

In Ninth Place

Leigh Anne Carter
for
Timberdoodle Valentine

Congratulations, Leigh Anne, on a beautifully written, evocative (and educational!) entry!  You get to pick after Becky 🙂

In Tenth Place

Judy Sobanski
for
Mums The Worm

Congratulations, Judy!  We just loved Wendell and Juanita and the clever way they managed to express their love 🙂  You get to pick after Leigh Anne!

All the winners should email me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com with the subject heading Prize Winner so we can work out details for you to receive your prizes!  (The sooner the better!)  And for your convenience, the whole prize list is included at the bottom of this post.  Carol Ann and Beth, if you’d like to choose a prize from the Honorable Mention selection of prizes you are most welcome to!

Congratulations again to all our winners – it was a stiff competition!! – and congratulations to EVERYONE who wrote and entered a story in the contest.  You all deserve a huge round of applause and a gigantic chocolate heart… or lots of little chocolate hearts… or both… really, you can never have too much chocolate 🙂

Thank you to everyone who helped make this contest SO MUCH FUN, whether by writing an entry, reading people’s stories, leaving comments for the authors, and/or voting in the finals.  It’s because of all of you that this contest was such a success, so many, many thanks from the bottom of my heart!

Have a marvelous Monday, everyone! 🙂

 

The Prizes:

– a PB manuscript read and critique from Nikki Garcia, assistant editor at Little, Brown!

Nikki-Garcia

Nikki Garcia

– a PB manuscript read and phone call critique with Nicole Otto, assistant editor at MacMillan Children’s Publishing!

Nicole Otto

Nicole Otto

– a PB manuscript critique from the superb multi-published award-winning author/illustrator Iza Trapani

Iza 2014          Old MacDonald
Iza Trapani was born in Poland and moved to the US at age seven.  Her relatives gave her a large Mother Goose Treasury, and she began learning English through those rhymes.  Little did she know that someday her dream would come true and she would become a children’s book author and illustrator.
    Iza’s best selling nursery rhyme extensions, including The Itsy Bitsy Spider, Shoo Fly and Row, Row Row Your Boat are widely used in schools and libraries across the U.S. and abroad. Old MacDonald Had a…Zoo?  is Iza’s latest release. She is currently at work on her 27th picture book, as well as a childhood memoir.
You can learn more about Iza and her books at:

http://izatrapani.com/blog
Facebook
Twitter

– a PB manuscript critique (ms not to exceed 800 words please) along with a follow-up phone call if the author is interested from the lovely and talented Katey Howes, author of Grandmother Thorn (Ripple Grove Press 2017) and Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe (Sterling Children’s Books 2018)

KathrynHeadshots-20 (2)               Magnolia Mudd cover art

– a PB manuscript critique from the fantastic Lynne Marie, author of Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten – illustrated by Anne Kennedy (Scholastic, 2011), Hedgehog’s 100th Day of School – illustrated by Lorna Hussey (Scholastic, January 2017), The Star of the Christmas Play — illustrated by Lorna Hussey (Sparkhouse Family, 2018) and Moldilocks and the 3 Scares (Sterling, pending) . Her stories, poems, folk tales and crafts have appeared in many magazine markets, including Family Fun, Highlights, High Five, Spider, Baby Bug and more. She was a first-round panelis for 2016 Cybils Awards and again, in 2017. In addition, she’s an on-staff writer for Jon and Laura Bard’s Children’s Book Insider and a book reviewer. She lives on a lake in South Florida with her daughter and Anakin, their little Schipperke, as well as several resident water birds. She has offers both critiques and mentorships for writers. You can learn more about her at www.LiterallyLynneMarie.com

Lynne          HH100th

– a PB manuscript critique (non-rhyming please) from the wonderful and amazing Melissa Stoller, author of The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection: Return To Coney Island (Spork 2017)

Melissa Stoller               Return To Coney Island

– a signed copy of Charlie Takes His Shot: How Charlie Sifford Broke The Color Barrier In Golf (Albert Whitman 2018) from fabulous author Nancy Churnin accompanied by a terrific Teacher’s Guide (created by Marcie Colleen)

Nancy Churnin               Charlie Takes His Shot

– a signed copy of Twinderella from Corey Rosen Schwartz AND a signed copy of The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection: Return To Coney Island from Melissa Stoller

Twinderella          Return To Coney Island

– a copy of Laura Purdie Salas’s brand new book Making A Living Writing Books For Kids

Making A Living

– a copy of the 2018 Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market (it’s only February – still very useful!)

Children's Writer's & Illustrators 2018

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 3rd Annual Valentiny Contest FINALISTS!!!

So, there we were.

A group of esteemed judges gathered around our computers, armed to the teeth with cafe au lait and heart-shaped double chocolate brownies, chatting away about entries, extremely hopeful that we would reach a unanimous decision on the Valentiny finalists in a timely fashion…

…except Judge #1 ended up with a whole lot of extra family stuff – some expected, some not…

…Judge #2 had sudden unexpected actual job-related work that had to be attended to (since getting fired would adversely affect their ability to pay the rent)…

…and Judge #3 has a new puppy and is therefore suffering from extreme sleep deprivation! 🙂

Judge #4 was the only one showing up to get the job done!

As a group, we were less available, organized (and awake 🙂 ) then we’d intended!

Add to that the fact that you guys wrote such overall great entries that you threw us into a total tailspin over narrowing the field and it’s no wonder it took us so long to come up with a list of finalists!  It is possible that some of us (who shall not be mentioned!) are still arguing over the finalist decision, feeling that there were other deserving entries that could have been included!

But at a certain point (preferably before the 4th of July) decisions have to be made and finalists have to be posted.

So here we are on Wednesday evening instead of Monday morning.

But we’re here!  That’s the main thing, right?

And it is my pleasure to present to you . . .

The 3rd Annual Valentiny Writing Contest

Valentiny Writing Contest 2018

FINALISTS!!!

And may I just say, once again, 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!  Agony!

Before we get to the actual list of finalists, I have a couple things to say.  (I know you’re shocked as I’m normally so spare with my words :))

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

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

Third, before I list the finalists, I want to say again how difficult it was too choose!  There were so many amazing entries.  Really.  I could find at least something terrific about every single one.  The sheer volume of entries meant that many good ones had to be cut.  So if yours didn’t make the final cut please don’t feel bad.  There was a huge amount of competition.  Judging, no matter how hard we try to be objective, is always subjective at a certain point – we all have our own preferences for what makes a great story.  And the fact that you didn’t make the final cut DOES NOT mean you didn’t write a great story.  Everyone who plonked their butt in a chair and worked hard to write a story for this contest is a winner!  You showed up.  You did your best work.  You practiced your craft.  You wrote to specifications and a deadline.  You bravely shared your writing with the world.  And you have a brand new story that is now yours to expand beyond 214 words if you like and maybe submit at some point to a magazine or as a PB manuscript.  So bravo to everyone who entered!

Now.  Onto the judging criteria which were as follows:

  1. Kid-appeal/Kid-friendliness – remember, this is a story for kids!
  2. Creativity in using hopefulness and success in making us feel the hope! (Not enough just to use the word hope!)
  3. Valentine’s Day appropriateness – this is a VALENTINE story and as such must feel like it is connected to Valentine’s Day/has something to do with it being Valentine’s!
  4. Quality of story – we will look for basic story elements and a true story arc
  5. Quality of writing – use and flow of language, correctness of mechanics
  6. Originality – surprise us with something new and different! 🙂

We really tried to choose stories that did the best job of fulfilling ALL the judging criteria.  There were some truly wonderful stories that didn’t have much to do with Valentines Day even if Valentine’s Days was mentioned in passing – they just didn’t seem connected to Valentines – or that didn’t seem to really showcase hope although they may have used the word “hope”, or that didn’t seem particularly kid-oriented even though they were very creative and well-written, or that really had us…until the last line or two when things sadly fell apart.  We tried our best to select finalists that checked all the boxes.

So without further ado, I present to you the finalists in the 2018 Third Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest!  Please read through them carefully, take your time, think it over, and vote for your favorite in the poll below by Sunday February 25 at 12 PM (noon) Eastern time.

To help with objectivity, finalists are listed by title only, not by author.

And I’d like to be very clear about the voting process.  You are MOST welcome to share a link to this post on FB, twitter, or wherever you like to hang out, and encourage people to come read ALL the finalists and vote for the one they think is best.  Please do that.  The more people who read and enjoy these stories the better, and the more objective votes we get the better.  HOWEVER (and I want to be very clear on this) please do not ask people to vote for a specific number or title, or for the story about the littlest velociraptor  with the biggest hopeful heart 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  A Valentine for Leaf

Leaf had been dangling alone from a branch all winter. He watched his friends get called down to the earth one by one. He trembled in the wind, hoping for his chance. Would the earth ever call him down?

“I can’t believe I’m still up here. I hope Earth wants me at all,” he thought with a frown.

Leaf spotted children on their way to school. They held paper hearts and cards. “Happy Valentine’s Day!” they shouted to the mailman across the street.

“Valentine’s Day? We’re half way through February!” Leaf imagined all the leaves snuggling with the earth, whispering sweet nothings to one another. He was losing hope.

He pitied himself for the next few hours. Suddenly, he felt a breeze. And then a snap! Leaf was floating down. He was being called!

Leaf smiled as he picked a spot to land. “What’s that? A heart? A Valentine just for me!”

Sure enough, there was a gray heart moving across the earth below Leaf. The heart got smaller and smaller until he landed right on top of it.

“Oh, Earth! What a special Valentine you gave me! You do want me after all!” Leaf closed his eyes and nuzzled the Earth in a big hug. “I never gave up hope! Happy Valentine’s Day.”

#2 The Valentine’s Rooster

At the animal shelter, Rooster trembled.

His Valentine’s wish was for someone to take him home and love him.

On the inside, Rooster was as soft and cuddly as a chick.

But when people stopped at Rooster’s cage, they only saw his outside.

“He was a fighting rooster.”

“Looks mean.”

“Ugly.”

Rooster’s heart sank. Maybe he was unlovable.

The day before Valentine’s Day, a girl stopped at Rooster’s cage. “He’s trembling. Why is he all alone?”

“He’d peck another animal,” answered a man.

Rooster slumped. He would always be alone.

“Could a person hold him?” she asked.

Maybe I can be loveable. I’ll show her!

Rooster cocked his head and cooed.

Only his coo came out as “BAWK!”

“See?” said the man. “Ornery.”

“I’m not sure…” said the girl.

Then the girl went away, and night came.

Long. Dark. Lonely.

But a peck of hope had lodged in Rooster’s heart.

In the morning, the girl returned. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Rooster!”

The girl stroked his neck, and Rooster almost stopped trembling.

“Ahh,” she said. “You’re a lover, not a fighter.”

Rooster snuggled into the girl’s arms.

She rocked him and sang, “Rock-a-bye Rooster…”

He trilled softly and closed his eyes.

“You’re going home with me,” she whispered.

And Rooster lived happily, and cuddly, ever after.

#3 Valentine Handyman

 

Mom’s been quiet since Grampa died. Sometimes I see tears on her cheeks.

Dad says she’ll be ok, but that her heart is broken.

I know that it must be serious because I know hearts are important. I wonder if it hurts.

At school we decorated paper Valentine’s hearts. Mine ripped when I was cutting it out and I was mad that it was ruined. Miss Kelly taped it together but it’s not the same.

I bring Mom some tape.

She smiles, but she’s just not the same either.

I bring her a Band-Aid. Band-Aids make my cuts feel better.

Maybe it’s broken enough to need super glue.

Maybe a hammer and nails. Or a screwdriver. Or a drill.

I don’t know how to fix a heart.

As I’m falling asleep I see my Valentine heart poking out of my backpack. When I tiptoe into Mom and Dad’s room to leave it for Mom, I find her sitting on the edge of the bed. I crawl up beside her and I hand her my heart. I climb into her lap and listen to stories about Grampa. When we snuggle I know her heart is less broken because I can hear it working: tha-thump, tha-thump. Maybe it was the tape?

#4 The Hope Of Spring

Little Miss Bright-eyes Chickaree

hopped out of her nest in the cottonwood tree.

She was kind of hoping it would soon be spring

And all the birds would start to sing.

 

The sky would be blue, the sun would shine

And she would dance with her Valentine.

 

But Jack Frost nipped her nose and her toes

She snuffled and sneezed and her whiskers froze.

“I’m sure spring will soon be here,” she said

as she popped back into her cosy bed.

 

A day or two later she looked out again.

This time she was soaked by the icy rain.

“Forget about spring,” cried the squirrel next door.

“Winter will stay for evermore!”

 

Poor little Bright-eyes Chickaree,

hid in her nest in the cottonwood tree.

The world was wintry, cold and grey,

But surely spring would arrive one day!

On Valentine’s morning she opened her eyes

And goodness gracious, what a surprise!

 

Squirrel Bushtail was there at her door,

With a posy of flowers clasped in his paw.

“Oh, Miss Bright-eyes, look what I found.

“Snowdrops poking their heads through the ground.

“When these brave little flowers start to appear

“We can be sure that spring is almost here!”

 

“The sky will be blue, the sun will shine,

“And I’ll dance with you, sweet Valentine!

 

#5  A VALENTINE’S DAY FOR MILTON MONSTER 

“Go on ahead, Matilda,” Milton prodded.

“What are you up to?” asked his sister.

“Searching for worms,” said Milton.

Alone, he emptied his backpack. Hopefully, I’ll get others to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Even if I need to sway them one monster at a time.

He counted supplies.

Chocolate candy

Fuzzy lovey

Red roses

Mushy card

Check!

He placed the gifts, then peeked from behind a tombstone.

Myrtle Magog stopped, read and ran. AHHHHHHHHHH!!!

Milton wilted.

He sifted through the toppled trinkets.

Too sweet?

Too fluffy?

Too rosy?

Too mushy?

With a heavy heart, he headed to school.

“I saw what you’re up to,” said Matilda. “Holidays are for humans. No monster eats chocolate hearts. YUK!”

“Thanks for the idea!” Milton exclaimed.

“Oh, no!” said Matilda.

Hope soaring, Milton raced off.

He dug and dipped.

He snipped and sewed.

He ruined and rhymed.

After school, Matilda found several items by her cubby:

Chocolate-covered worms,

a zombie doll,

a thorn bouquet and

a card:

Candy is rotten,

Presents are worse.

To my great horror,

I’m writing in verse.

Be my Malentine!

Slugs and Hisses,

Milton

“So maybe  Malentine’s Day isn’t the worst idea ever.” Matilda took a bite of her chocolate-covered worms. “Yum, not bad.”

Milton smiled from his hiding spot. One monster at a time…

 

#6  HOPING FOR SNOW

When Dad says, “There’s a chance of snow!”

I dance around and whoop and cheer.

But just as I begin to hope,

I think, “We never get snow here.”

 

My Valentines are neatly stacked.

I’ve made each friend a special treat.

So if it doesn’t snow tonight,

at least school will be fun and sweet!

 

When Mom and Dad tuck me in bed,

I toss and turn and sigh all night.

As minutes tick-tock off my clock,

I peek outside and look for white.

 

Then suddenly, tomorrow’s here.

Mom sings, “It’s time to rise and shine!”

I look outside again. No snow.

But here’s a lovely Valentine!

 

At school, my friends have sleepy eyes;

it looks like no one slept last night.

“No snow—no FAIR,” they all complain.

“There goes our epic snowball fight!”

 

“Cheer up!” I say. “It STILL might snow—

the news guy said so on TV.”

I hand each friend an envelope.

“Now here’s a special treat from me!”

 

They open up their Valentines

and smile when they see what’s inside:

a cookie heart for everyone

and heart-shaped snowflakes made with pride.

 

“Let’s find some string and hang these up.

We’ll make it snow ourselves,” I say.

But as we work, I look outside.

“It’s snowing now for real! HOORAY!”

 

#7 Heart-Shaped Butt

“Help!” hollered Hen, “I must make a valentine for Cow, so she’ll love me and let me ride around on her magnificent horns. But look at this place! There’s not a speck of glitter or a scrap of ribbon! No red paper, no glue!”

“How about a feed sack and string?” Suggested Cat.

“UGH,” moped Hen. “Those horns deserve fabulous, not feed sack.”

“Scratch a heart in the dirt!”

“Dirt?! She’ll walk right through it and break my heart.”

“Heart-shaped haystack?”

No, no, no, Hen moaned hopelessly.

“Well,” Cat said, “even if you can’t make a valentine, you still have the biggest butt in the whole barn. It’s fantabulous! It’s glorious! It’s the fluffiest butt ever!”

Hen sighed, comforted. She did have the fluffiest butt.

A red feather fell from the rafters, one of Hen’s own.

She shoved her butt in Cat’s face. “My butt! Is it heart-shaped?”

“Um…kinda?”

Hen primped and preened and braided all night.

She waited on the fence for the sun to rise. As Cow came over the hill, Hen presented the prettiest, poofiest, floofiest valentine the farm had ever seen.

“Will you be my valentine?”

Cow swooned. She’d been feeling so unappreciated.

Hen perched her glorious behind on Cows magnificent horns, and off they went, best friends forever.

#8  Red

She read my face,

with just one look.

My bright red face-

an open book!

Red cheeks

Red chin

Red neck

Red nose.

She read my face

And now she knows.

I sent the card,

without my name.

but now my face

takes all the blame.

Red hearts

Red paint

Red “X”

Red “O”s

She read them all

And now she knows.

I hope that what my good friend read,

will please, please stay inside her head!

She gave a nod, a smile, a wink.

My bright red face cooled down to pink.

#9 MUMS THE WORM

Wendell Worm squiggled up to the Valentine’s Day cards.

A sign said, SOLD OUT!

“Oh NO!” thought Wendell. “How will I let Juanita Worm know I want her to be my Valentine?
Worms don’t talk. We can only think.
I have no feet so I can’t dance to show my feelings.
I have no hands to write down a love poem.
I hope I can think of some way to let Juanita know I want her for my Valentine!”

Wendell thought and thought. Before long he was all twisted up into a knot. That’s when he came up with his plan.

Soon, Juanita came inching up the sidewalk.

“Here goes,” thought Wendell.

He turned and squirmed until from one end to his other end he formed a heart.

When Juanita saw what Wendell did she thought, “That’s the sweetest thing any worm has ever done!”

She stretched herself straight across the heart to show Wendell that Cupid’s arrow had struck her, too. She loved Wendell!

Together, Wendell and Juanita wriggled off to spend the rest of their lives together digging in the earth.

Sometimes, on rainy days, whenever they get washed up onto the sidewalk, Wendell twists himself into a heart and Juanita stretches herself into an arrow…just to show their squirmy, wormy love.

#10  Timberdoodle Valentine

“I hope the Timberdoodle finds his Valentine,” I say.

We are going to watch the birds in the field that gets smaller every year. It’s Valentine’s Day.

“We have to be there before sunrise,” Mom says. “That’s when the Timberdoodles show off their sky dance.”

Quietly, we walk along the path. No one else is awake.

The tall grass tickles my hands. I see lights beside the field.

“It used to be very dark here in the mornings. Those houses are new,” Mom whispers, worried. “The birds need lots of land to survive.”

Will the Timberdoodle be able to find his Valentine?

“Let’s listen,” she whispers. “He will dance, and she will watch.”

We wait in the cold dark. And wait. And wait.

My ears hope to hear. My eyes hope to see.

“Peent!…Peent!…Peent!” a bird calls from the dark grass.

“It’s them! They’re here!” I whisper. Will he dance?

SWISH. I see him lift from the ground, and my heart soars with him. He flies high over our heads.

I hear his wings twittering like music. His sky dance makes a big circle, and he lands.

“Did he find his Valentine?” I ask.

“Peent!” the Timberdoodle calls again. Two dark shapes waddle away.

“I think he did!” Mom answers.

The sun wakes up.

#11  Antsy Valentines

“Oh no!” Mason stared at the calendar on the anthill wall. “Valentine’s Day and I didn’t get a gift for Abeegail. She’ll be stinging mad if I show up empty-legged,” he moaned. “I hope I find something on the way to school!”

He searched the meadow for clover, Abeegail’s favorite flower. Nothing, only dead grass and crunchy leaves. He checked the flower shop, but they didn’t sell clover. Losing hope, Mason walked on in the cold February wind. “My feelers are going to freeze and fall off.” He scurried across the playground, staring up at the giant humans on their way to school.

Plop! Clickity plop! Candies tumbled from a girl’s backpack. One crashed in front of him and he smacked into it. His six legs tangled together. He stared at the purple candy. “This is perfect!” he exclaimed. Mason grabbed the treat and dashed to his classroom.

“There you are,” said Abeegail, buzzing over to him. “I was getting antsy waiting for you,” she giggled. “Get it? Ant-sy?” She handed him a tiny jar, “Honey from my beehive.”

“Thanks,” said Mason, blushing. “Happy Valentine’s Day,” he said, handing her his gift. “Hope you like it.”

“I love it,” cried Abeegail, as she read the words on the purple candy heart. “Bee Mine.”

#12  A Fur-Ever Valentine

Cleo licked her paw and smoothed her fur for the tenth time. She wasn’t a kitten anymore, but it could still happen.
A family with three loud little boys passed by the banner reading “Adopt a Valentine”. Cleo shrunk back against the wall. Not them.
She returned the stare of a round lady with thick glasses. The lady smelled like so many other cats it made Cleo’s fur stand up a little. No way.
Cleo batted at the shiny red hearts taped to her fence and waited.
“Awww, look. She’s playing with the decorations!” The little girl was barely big enough to bend over the fence, but she smelled good. Maybe?
The girl held out her hand and waited for her. Cleo liked that.
“The sign says that her name is Cleo,” said the girl’s mother.
The little girl smiled. “Hi, Cleo! I’m Molly. You’re a pretty kitty,”
That was a good start. Cleo walked over to the edge of the pen and gave Molly’s hand a little bump. “She’s friendly,” Molly said, petting Cleo’s back.
“Can we take her home, Mommy?”
Cleo wrapped herself tightly around Molly’s arm and rubbed her nose against her hand.
Molly’s mother laughed. “I think that’s a yes, sweetie.”
Cleo purred. She was going to her fur-ever home.

 

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

Please vote for your favorite in the poll below by Sunday February 25 at 12 PM (noon) Eastern time.

Tune in Monday February 26 to see THE WINNERS!!!

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

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

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to lie on the couch and eat bonbons to recover from all that reading and agonizing and negotiating.

Okay.

Not really.

I will actually be frantically trying to catch up on things I shoved to the back burner whilst reading Valentiny stories… but I could probably manage a few bonbons at least 🙂

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! . . . now that it’s basically Thursday 🙂