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.


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!!!!!!!!”


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!


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!


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.

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

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,
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

4 –

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.


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?

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.


“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.


– 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!!!


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. Signed Sealed Delivered – Delia Black
  22. A Shelter Dog’s Valentine – Anne Bromley
  23. The Curious Concoction – Stacey Miller
  24. Crabby’s Heart Speaks – Rebecca Loescher
  25. Valentine Clue – Alicia Fadgen
  26. Cupid’s Confusion – Alicia Fadgen
  27. Cupid’s World – Alicia Fadgen
  28. The Perfect Valentine – Maryna Doughty
  29. Jigna’s Valentine – Gabrielle Cardwell
  30. Moe’s Valentine’s Day Discovery – Kelsey Gross
  31. The Rose Thief – Margaret Aitken
  32. The Egg – Rebecca Woodall
  33. How Do You Write A Poem? – Belen Medina Cabot
  34. Missing Hearts – Bru Benson
  35. An Antique Valentine – Abbi Lee
  36. My Piggy Valentine – Claire Lewis
  37. Romeo And Jellyette – Kristy Roser Nuttall
  38. The Lost Valentine – Ellie Langford
  39. Mia Flying Heart Girl – Lily Erlic
  40. Squirrel’s Surprise – Darci Nielson
  41. Sylvia’s Special Valentine – Vanessa Cicarelli
  42. This Arrow Is Narrow – Linda Staszak
  43. Valentine’s Day Is Gross – Ranessa Doucet
  44. The Art Of The Heart – Wikki Krawczyk
  45. Valentine Equation – Claire Bobrow
  46. Cupid’s Diary – Ketan Ram
  47. Valentine Broccoli? – Susan Drew
  48. The Upside-Down Heart – Mary Munson
  49. Who Could It Be From? – Ashley Congdon
  50. The Curious Case Of The Valentine Gift – Heather Kauffman
  51. My Heart’s Wish – Melissa Stiveson
  52. The Unquestionable Valentine– Deborah Boerema
  53. Whose Valentine Could This Be? – Michelle Howell Miller
  54. Mailbox – Amy Flynn
  55. I Miss You – Jarmila Kurucova
  56. What Is That? – Jyoti Gopal
  57. Katerina The Caterpillar Solves A Conundrum – Dina Towbin
  58. Beetle’s Valentine – Chambrae Griffith
  59. Scales Of Love – Caroline Perry
  60. Cupid And Curtis – Jen Bagan
  61. What If…? – Susie Sawyer
  62. A Valentine Surprise – Corine Timmer
  63. Where Is Love? – Emmie R Werner
  64. Will She Or Won’t She? – Elizabeth Volkmann
  65. Mystery Marks – Mary Warth
  66. Roosters And Roses – Paul Kurtz
  67. Computer Bugs – Paul Kurtz
  68. Boys – Yecchh! – Donna Kurtz
  69. Eight Legs Of Love – Donna Kurtz
  70. Secret Stash – Mia Geiger
  71. The Curious Kitten – Elsie Duffany
  72. What’s Love? – Ingrid Boydston
  73. An Unexpected Valentine – Michelle S. Kennedy
  74. How To Find Your Valentine – Cindy Williams Schrauben
  75. Peck! – Andrea MacDonald
  76. The Mailbox Mouse – Roo Parkin
  77. Pandora’s Peek-Not Pact – Jenny Buchet
  78. Dear Cupid – Marty Bellis
  79. Curious Kip – Kirsten Pendreigh
  80. Bernard And Robin: One Adventure, Two Friends – Susan Twiggs
  81. Scraps Of Love – Charlotte Sheer
  82. When Love Gives You Wings – Kate Thompson
  83. What If . . . A Valentine’s Story – Kelly Pope Adamson
  84. Cookie Memories – Judy Sobanski
  85. Wanted – Jill Lambert
  86. Always. Every day. No matter what. – JC Kelly
  87. Ophelia Divine – Sofia Dibble
  88. Bee My Perfect Valentine – Kelly Pope Adamson
  89. Joy Finds Love – Olivia Rehfield

. . . BOO!!! Announcing the 9th Annual Halloweensie Writing Contest!!!

It was a dark and stormy night!

Ghostly shadows lurked among the grave stones…

…and from the mist-shrouded forest a ghastly voice shrieked, “BOO!!!!”

Please ignore the fact that it’s morning and the kitchen smells comfortingly of fresh coffee and toast with strawberry jam and the only sound is your preschooler singing the alphabet song.  We’re setting a mood here! 🙂

And I bet you can guess why!

Because it’s time to announce the rules for. . .



~ for children’s writers ~


The Contest: write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (children here defined as 12 and under) (title not included in the 100 words), using the words potion, cobweb, and trick.  Your story can be scary, funny, sweet, or anything in between, poetry or prose, but it will only count for the contest if it includes those 3 words and is 100 words (you can go under, but not over!)  Get it?  Halloweensie – because it’s not very long and it’s for little people 🙂  (And yes, I know 100 words is short, but that’s part of the fun and the challenge!  We got over 235 fantastic entries last year, so I know you can do it!)  Also, you may use the words in any form – e.g. potions, cobwebbed, trickery, whathaveyou 🙂  NO ILLUSTRATION NOTES PLEASE! (And yes, you may submit more than one entry if you’re so inclined 🙂 )

Post: your story on your blog between 12:00 AM EDT Monday October 28th and Thursday October 31st by 11:59 PM EDT and add your post-specific link to the list that will accompany my special October 28th post.  There will be no Tuesday Debut, Perfect Picture Book or Would You Read It posts for the duration of the contest so the links will stay up for everyone to visit and 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 my October 28th post once it’s up (please include your byline if your posting handle is something like MamaWritesByNightlight so I can identify you.)  If you have difficulty posting in the comments, which unfortunately sometimes happens, you may email your entry to me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com and I’ll post it for you.  Please place your entry in the body of the email including your title and byline at the top – NO ATTACHMENTS!  And please do not submit entries before the start of the contest!

The Judging: in a grueling marathon over the following days, my devoted assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to 3 top choices (hee hee hee – you know how much trouble I have with only 3, so we’ll see) which will be posted here and voted on for a winner on Monday November 5th (if the judging takes longer than we expect if could be later…but we will do our best!)  The winner will be announced on Tuesday November 5th (good lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise 🙂 ) If we get more than 25 entries, I will post 6 finalists and give prizes for 1st – 3rd.  If by some chance we get the kind of turnout we’ve had the past couple years, I may post as many as 10-12 finalists and I’ll probably end up giving everyone a prize 🙂  But we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it!

Judging criteria will be as follows:

  • 1. Kid-appeal! – These stories are intended for a young audience (ages 12 and under), so we’re looking for stories that children will enjoy and relate to.
  • 2.  Halloweeniness – the rules state a Halloween story, so it must be crystal clear that the story is about Halloween, not just some random spooky night.
  • 3. Quality of story – entries must tell a story, including a main character of some kind and a true story arc even if it’s tiny 🙂  Entries must not be merely descriptions or mood pieces.
  • 4. Quality of Writing: check your spelling, grammar, punctuation etc.  If you’re going to rhyme, give us your best 🙂  Overall writing quality and use of language are also important.
  • 5. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.

The Prizes:  SO AMAZING! What a generous community we have to donate so much awesomeness!!! 🙂

Go Directly To Go! Skip The Slushpile at Blue Whale Press and Get Your PB Manuscript Directly On The Editor’s Desk!!!

Submit your picture book manuscript directly to editor Alayne Christian for her consideration and critique. Helpful feedback is a certainty, publication could be a possibility!

blue whale logo

Who Will Will You Cover Reveal Official  thumbnail_randall-randall-cover-ISBN9780981493879-highres

Blue Whale Press is an SCBWI PAL publisher of children’s books that focuses on stories involving themes of friendship and/or personal challenge. Most often, stories are selected for publishing due to their inherent educational or moral value. But as a general rule, a good dose of humor or a tug at the heart doesn’t hurt their chances of being published either. While a few chapter books and a middle grade are on their list, their focus is picture books. As a boutique publisher who doesn’t mind taking risks, Blue Whale Press considers itself to be a launch pad for authors and illustrators hoping to establish themselves.

For more info:

Hone Your Skills with the Lyrical Language Lab Rhyme & Meter Self Study Crash Course (11 Lessons) from accomplished writer and poet Renee LaTulippe


This option contains all the same lessons as Module 1 of Renee’s fully guided course, including all supplemental materials, downloads, and audio/video components. This is the option to choose if you need to build a strong foundation in the mechanics of rhyming picture books and poetry. The major focus is on the four main types of meter and how to use mixed and varied meter. Other topics include rhythm, cadence, breath, scansion, rhyme, sound devices, figurative language, imagery, and diction.
You also have the opportunity to submit two of your assignments to Renee for feedback, and have email access to ask questions about the lessons as you complete them. Although lessons will arrive every other day, you are free to complete them at your own pace.
See the course description above for more information.

For more info: (scroll down)

Picture Book Manuscript Critique (Rhyming, Non-Rhyming, Fiction, or Nonfiction – Vivian is open to any type of picture book critique) from Vivian Kirkfield author of SWEET DREAMS, SARAH (Creston Books, 2019), PIPPA’S PASSOVER PLATE (Holiday House, 2019), FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN (Pomegranate 2019), MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD (Little Bee, January 14, 2020), and more…

Sweet Dreams Cover Template Revised Screen Shot 2018-12-05 at 10.39.16 PM

Nonfiction Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Christine Evans, author of EVELYN THE ADVENTUROUS ENTOMOLOGIST (Innovation Press, September 2019)

Evelyn cover Christine Evans

Rhyming Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Carrie Finison, author of DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS and DON’T HUG DOUG, forthcoming from Putnam in August 2020 and Spring 2021.


Picture Book Manuscript Critique (non-rhyming please) from Janet Johnson author of HELP WANTED, MUST LOVE BOOKS (Capstone, March 2020) as well as the MG novel THE LAST GREAT ADVENTURE OF THE PB & J SOCIETY (Capstone 2016)

must love books JanetJohnson.AuthorPic

Fiction OR Nonfiction Picture Book Manuscript Critique (non-rhyming please) from Darshana Khiani, author of HOW TO WEAR A SARI forthcoming from HMH/Versify, Spring 2021

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Picture Book Manuscript Critique (non-rhyming please) from Gabi Snyder, author of TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE, forthcoming from Abrams Appleseed, May 2020 and LISTEN, forthcoming from S&S/Wiseman, Spring 2021

twodogsonatrike_cov gabi-snyder-profile-pic

Query Letter Critique from Dee Romito, author of PIES FROM NOWHERE: HOW GEORGIA GILMORE SUSTAINED THE MONTGOMERY BUS BOYCOTT (Little Bee Books, 2018) as well as several middle grade books.

pies from nowhere dee romito

Book Bundle #1 – Nonfiction
Signed Copies of WAITING FOR PUMPSIE (Charlesbridge, 2017) and THE BOO-BOOS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD (Charlesbridge, 2018) by Barry Wittenstein

waiting-for-pumpsie boo boos barry-wittenstein-photo

Book Bundle #2  – Board Books
Personalized Signed Copies of LITTLE TIGER and LITTLE PANDA (both Amicus Ink, 2019) by Julie Abery

Little Tiger Cover Little Panda Cover julie abery

Book Bundle #3  – Holiday Books
Personalized signed copy of NOT SO SCARY, JERRY (Spork, 2017) by Shelley Kinder

Personalized signed copy of THE QUEEN AND THE FIRST CHRISTMAS TREE (Albert Whitman, 2018) by Nancy Churnin

Jerry  The Queen and the First Christmas Tree

shelley-kinder_orig .         nancy churnin

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, Amazon, B&N or anywhere else if you like them, recommending them for school visits, or supporting them in any other way you can dream up 🙂

Now!  Lay in a good chocolate supply (no better time than right before Halloween for THAT!)! Butt In Chair! Pencils, pens, or keyboards ready! Fire up the old idea generator!  And write those prize-winning stories!!!

I can’t wait to read them!!! 🙂