Look What’s Coming! The 4th of July Secret Mystery Writing Contest!

It’s that time again!!!  Writing Contest time!!!  Yippee-aye-oh-hurray!!!

I know none of you got a wink of sleep this weekend, waiting for the contest announcement, so I won’t keep you waiting another second 🙂  (Plus, I want to give you all plenty of time to get your entries written in case you have plans during Fourth of July week… write now, you’ll be all ready to go and can settle in when you have a few minutes here and there to read all the wonderful entries as they come in with your kids and families! :))

The Fourth Of July Secret Mystery Writing Contest!

The Contest:  Write a children’s story, in poetry or prosemaximum 400 words about the 4th of July in which a secret is revealed or a mystery is solved!

You may choose any 4th of July setting you like: country, city or small town, sleepaway camp or vacation, with family or friends or all alone, at a parade, a picnic, a fireworks show or a bonfire, in the middle of the woods or in a country where the locals don’t celebrate 4th of July.  Your secret or mystery doesn’t have to be anything earth-shattering.  It could be who took Granny’s award-winning Fourth of July cherry pie?  Or what did Robin tell Sarah who told Olivia who told Gracie about Anna in cabin 7?  Or where did the flags for the parade disappear to?  Or why doesn’t Becky Sue want to go to the fireworks show? Or what Old Mrs. Hootenspiegal knows about the mayor!  Just as long as a secret or mystery of some kind is revealed or solved by the end.

Post:  Your entry should be posted on your blog between Monday July 1 at 12:01 AM EDT and Friday July 5 at 11:59 PM EDT, and your post-specific link should be added to the link list on the official Fourth Of July Secret Mystery Contest post which will go up on my blog on Monday July 1 and remain up through Sunday July 7 (no Would You Read It on Wednesday July 3… and although the post will remain up through Sunday to give everyone plenty of time to read, the entry list will be closed at midnight Friday so we have time to judge).  If you don’t have a blog but would like to enter, please copy and paste your entry into the comments on my July 1st post by midnight Friday July 5th.  (If anyone has trouble commenting, which unfortunately happens, please email me and I’ll post your entry for you!)

The Judging:  My lovely assistant and I will narrow down the entrants to five (or possibly a couple more :)) finalists which will be posted here on Monday July 8 for you to vote on for a winner.  The vote will be closed at 6 PM EDT on Thursday July 11 and the winner will be announced on Friday July 12.

The Prizes!:  The first place winner will receive (I am not making this up!) a picture book manuscript critique from Simone Kaplan!!!!!  Yes, THE Simone Kaplan!!!  I wish I knew how to put that up in lights and make it all sparkly! 🙂  Simone Kaplan has been editing children’s books and magazines for over 20 years.  She was an editor at Henry Holt and Company, and then a Senior Editor at HarperCollins.  More recently she has worked as a consultant to various authors, illustrators, and publishing houses.  She also runs a wonderful website called Picture Book People (where you can sign up for her free newsletter among other things.)  A prize like this makes me wish I could compete in my own contest! 🙂

If we get more than 15 entries, we will place through 3rd.  If we get more than 25 entires we will place through 5th.  Additional prizes will include critiques, gift certificates and signed books.  (Details to come.)

So put on those thinking caps and start bouncing those ideas off the wall!  Your story could win you a fabulous prize, but win or not, you can be certain your stories will be read with appreciation by LOTS of readers! 🙂

Have a marvelous Monday everyone! 🙂

The In Just Spring Contest!!!

The In Just Spring Contest!

Hurray!  It’s here!!  The In Just Spring Contest!!!  And so timely, because I’m really ready for spring and it doesn’t seem to be obliging just yet 🙂

The Contest:  Write a children’s story, in poetry or prosemaximum 350 words.

The story must be about something that really says “SPRING” to you – something that really makes you feel that spring is here!  It can be nature oriented – the robins or geese returning, eggs hatching, flowers blooming, baby animals being born, bears waking up, sunshine or rain, etc.  It can be holiday oriented – St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, April Fools’ Day etc.  It can be school oriented – the spring pageant, spring vacation, the spring talent show.  It can be activity oriented – picnics, bike riding, baseball – anything at all that makes you think spring.

The only other requirement is that the last line must be “[Character Name] knew Spring was really here!” or “[Character Name] knew Spring was here at last!”  (You can also write in first person if you want – e.g. I knew Spring was really here…. and present tense is fine too.)  I’ve given the rhymers amongst you a choice… but if you can’t make either option work with your rhyme scheme you have permission to tweak it slightly as long as the essential meaning stays the same.

Post:  Your entry should be posted on your blog between Friday March 15 at 12:01 AM EDT and Monday March 18 at 11:59 PM EDT, and your post-specific link should be added to the link list on this post which will remain up through Tuesday March 19 (no new post on Monday March 18).  If you don’t have a blog but would like to enter, please copy and paste your entry into the comments here.  (If anyone has trouble commenting, which unfortunately happens, please email me and I’ll post your entry for you!)

The Judge:  My lovely assistant and I will narrow down the entrants to five finalists (or possibly a couple more if we get a lot of entries :)) which will be posted here on Wednesday March 20 (no WYRI that day) for you to vote on for a winner.  The vote will be closed at midnight March 23 and the winner will be announced on Monday March 25.

The Prizes!:
The First Place Winner will get the chance to put one of his/her picture book manuscripts in the hands of editor Laura Galvin of KidsBooks for a read and comments! (and who knows? she might love it! :))

If we get more than 20 entries, prizes will be give through 3rd place.  2nd Place will receive a $25 Amazon gift certificate, and 3rd place will receive his/her choice of the craft books listed below.

Should the winner happen not to be a picture book writer or for some reason not want to show his/her work to an actual real live editor at an actual real live publishing house, he/she will receive a $25 gift certificate to Amazon and a choice of Writing Picture Books: A Hands On Guide From Story Creation To Publication by Ann Whitford Paul, Writing With Pictures: How To Write And Illustrate Children’s Books by Uri Shulevitz, How To Write A Children’s Book And Get It Published by Barbara Seuling, The Writer’s Guide To Crafting Stories For Children by Nancy Lamb, or 2013 Children’s Writers And Illustrators Market by Chuck Sambuchino, and the editor prize will go to the highest placed finisher who wants it.

Here is my sample, squeezing in just under the wire at 348 words:

That’s Better

     As soon as the hockey rink opened in November, Charlie shot out the door with Dad to go skating.

     “Hold it, mister!” said Mom.

     Charlie skidded to a stop.

     Mom pulled a hat down over his ears.  She wound a scarf around his neck.  She slid mittens on his hands.  “That’s better.”

     Charlie didn’t think so.  “I itch,” he complained.

     Mom shrugged.  “No warm clothes, no skating.”

     That was a no-brainer.  Hat, scarf, and mittens stayed on, and Dad and Charlie went to the rink.

     When the first snow fell in December, Charlie raced outside to build a snowman.

     “Hold it, mister!” said Mom.

     Mom pulled the hat over his ears, wound the scarf around his neck, and slid the mittens on his hands.  Then she zipped him into his winter jacket and stuffed his feet in clunky boots.  “That’s better.”

     Charlie didn’t think so.  “I’m hot,” he complained.

     “You won’t be when you get outside,” said Mom.  “Now scoot.”

     Charlie scooted.

     In January, when the deep cold gave the snow a perfect icy crust, Charlie sped out to sled.
     “Hold it, mister!” said Mom.
     Out came the hat, the scarf, the mittens, and the boots, but this time Mom bundled him into his snowsuit.  “That’s better.”
     “Mo-om,” said Charlie.  “I can’t even walk!”
     “You can stay in and help me fold laundry,” Mom offered.
     “Hmmm,” said Charlie, “maybe I can walk,” and out the door he shuffled.
     All through February and March, for tobogganing, fort-building, and snowball-fighting, Charlie could not get out the door without every inch covered in warm clothes.
     “I’m tired of winter,” he said.
     Then the days got longer.  The sun got warmer.  The snow melted, and one day there were robins on the lawn.
     Charlie opened the door and the air was soft and warm.
     “Hold it, mister!” said Mom.
     “Please, Mom,” begged Charlie.  “I don’t want all those clothes.”
     Mom smiled.  She put his baseball cap on his head and handed him his ball and glove.
     “That’s better!” said Charlie.  He hugged her and laughed.  “Now I know spring is really here!”

Now.  I KNOW you can all do better than THAT – talk about circling the drain! – so take heart and get those stories posted!  I can’t wait to read them! 🙂  Don’t forget to add your post-specific link to the list below so that we can all come read your stories and feel like spring is coming!  The list will stay up through midnight Tuesday March 19.

Good luck! 🙂
And please remember to check the comment section!  There are already entries there from Linda, Jill, Pat, Marie-Therese, Nancy C, Jenny, Doris, Nancy M, Kimberly, and Lizzie.  (You may have to scroll down aways…)

Would You Read It Wednesday #63 – Scooter Annie Braves The Hill (PB), Straight From The Editor #13, AND The Halloweensie Contest!!!

Holy Jack-O-Lanterns Batman!

Why didn’t anyone remind me that I forgot to post the Halloweensie Contest Rules on Monday???!!!  Now we’ve got a gigantic post for today!  So that’s it.  No chitchat!  We’re getting right down to business!

First things first.  It’s Would You Read It Wednesday, so grab your Something Chocolate!  Care to join me for some chocolate cheesecake?

Chocolate Cheesecake… YUM!!!
Photo copyright Stacy Jensen 2012 used by permission

You know, usually I can rationalize the chocolate into some form of acceptable breakfast, but this one eludes me.  Just enjoy 🙂

Now then.  Straight From The Editor for the September Pitch Pick, which you will recall was won by the lovely Elizabeth with her pitch for Buff The Magic Dragon.

Buff The Magic Dragon
Picture Book, ages 4-8
The Pitch: Buff the Magic Dragon is afraid of EVERYTHING. But when his magic trick-gone-wrong lands the baby Princess Ponypants in the tentacles of Captain Meanie Bones Jones, Buff must swallow his fear to save her. 

Here are editor Erin Molta’s comments:

This is cute. I think it would work better if instead of saying “swallow his fear” you say, “overcome his fear”. Because when swallow is used it’s almost always about swallowing one’s pride and I think you’d rather have the connotation being strong. Then I think you might want to be a tad more specific about what fear he is overcoming. I know he’s afraid of everything but if he is to rescue Princess Ponypants(cute name!) from Captain Meanie Bones Jones, he’ll need to face that fear directly. So perhaps Buff must overcome his fear of  . . . eight-legged purple sea monsters or his fear of water in order to do battle with the Captain . . .

I don’t know about you, but I always find Erin’s thoughts very helpful!

Moving right along, we have today’s pitch from Carrie who blogs over at Story Patch and who, if you’ve spent any time around here at all, you will recognize as the pitch doctor 🙂  She has an uncanny ability to take any pitch, keep what’s best, and fix what needs help.  But it’s always a different matter when it comes to your own work, isn’t it?  So today she’s asking for your help.  Let’s see if she needs any 🙂

Working Title: Scooter Annie Braves The Hill
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-8)
The Pitch: When Annie gets a new scooter, she can’t wait to ride. She loves swooping down her driveway and gliding along the sidewalk. But if Annie wants to ride in the neighborhood parade, she must find a way to conquer her fears and tackle the biggest hill in town.

So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Carrie improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However, I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)
Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on the Would You Read It tab in the bar above.  There are openings in January, so you have time to polish 🙂 for a chance for it to be read by editor Erin Molta!
Carrie is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  And I am looking forward to presenting The Halloweensie Contest!!!

Are you ready?

What is that noise in the dark of night?

It’s coming closer…

…and closer…

*dramatic Hollywood scream*  AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

It’s the (2nd Annual!) HALLOWEENSIE CONTEST!!!!!

courtesy google images

The Contest:  write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (title not included in the 100 words), using the words witchbat, and “trick-or-treat.   Your story can be scary, funny 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 🙂

Post your story on your blog on Wednesday October 31 and link up here (and I’m really hoping we don’t get 2 feet of snow that knocks out the power and the internet this year!!!)  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 the Wednesday October 31 official contest blog post that will go up here.

The Judge: my lovely assistant and I will narrow down the entrants to three (hee hee hee – you know how much trouble I have with only 3, so we’ll see) top choices which will be posted here and voted on for a winner.

The Prize:  Okay.  Seriously?  I think this is a good prize 🙂  The winner will receive 5 (that’s FIVE!) brand new picture books personalized and signed by the authors!  These 5 awesome books are: PUZZLED BY PINK by Sarah Frances Hardy, THE MONSTER WHO LOST HIS MEAN by Tiffany Strelitz Haber, THE THREE NINJA PIGS by Corey Rosen Schwartz, MARATHON MOUSE by Amy Dixon, and FLAP! by Alison Hertz.  Great to keep for your own collection or to give to little ones in your life as holiday gifts 🙂

Doesn’t that sound like fun?  Last year this was the very first writing contest I ever had on my blog, and I think we got 8 entries.  I’m really really hoping we get lots more this year – it’s fun, it’s not too long (one might even call it short and sweet :)), it has to do with Halloween, which makes you think of candy, which is pretty much synonymous with chocolate… – so really, what could be better? 🙂

So get those thinking caps on – you’ve got a whole week to come up with a 100 word kids’ Halloween story! (and I’ve already given your three of the words 🙂 witchbat, and “trick-or-treat“) – and, since I went and distracted you with the contest, everyone please remember to leave your thoughts on Carrie’s pitch!

Have a lovely Wednesday, my friends 🙂

Summer Short And Sweets – Week 8 The Final Week!

I can’t believe it.  Didn’t we just start Summer Short & Sweets?  And here we are, August 24th, purple loosestrife blooming, lots of kids already back in school – although not mine – and this is our last official day of SS&S!

badge created by Loni Edwards
Before you get too sad, though, let me tell you that, due to popular demand, we will be continuing Short & Sweets in some incarnation on alternate Mondays henceforth… or once school starts, anyway 🙂  I’m thinking around September 10…
Meanwhile, we have today.  And today is SO exciting!  I’ve been planning it for 2 whole months and trying to keep it a secret and let me tell you, it’s been excruciating!!!
For today’s Short & Sweet we have a picture prompt, and not just any picture prompt.  This one was painted specially for the occasion by the incredibly talented Heather Newman, whom many of you know from 12×12 and/or her blog, Heather Newman Illustrations.  Heather is an amazing artist, writer, homeschooler, cowherd, and Phyllis hostess.  She also just opened her Etsy Shop and I encourage everyone to go have a look at all her wonderful offerings.  Please also feel free to leave compliments on her painting in the comments once you’ve seen the prompt if you are not left completely speechless with awe 🙂
Are you ready???
Your challenge for today is to take a good look at the picture below.
Image copyright Heather Newman 2012
Woweekazowee!  That is some picture isn’t it?
Now, in the comments, you may write your choice of the following:
1.  A pitch for a children’s story, any level (please specify PB (picture book), ER (early reader), CB (chapter book), MG (middle grade), or YA (young adult)) based on the picture, in the manner of Short & Sweet Week 6
2.  The first 50-100 words (or more or less – whatever gets the creative juices flowing) of a children’s story, any level, (please specify PB, ER, CB, MG, YA) based on the picture.
3.  The last 50-100 words (again, more or less is fine – whatever works for you :)) of a children’s story, any level (please specify PB, ER, CB, MG, YA) based on the picture.
4.  Choose a character (there are at least 10 possibilities!) from the picture and introduce us to him or her – who he/she is, where he/she came from, how he/she got into this situation – a character sketch of sorts.
5.  Choose a character and give us a one paragraph synopsis of the story told by the picture from his/her point of view.
6.  The title of the story told by this picture – give us a good one! 🙂 (and again please specify level)
7.  A poem following the rules from Short & Sweet Week 3 based in some way on this picture.
One added thing for you to think about:  next Friday, August 31, will be our Summer Writing Contest!!!  (I know!  The mind reels at the excitement!!!)  And guess what?  It will be based on this picture!  So any of you who would like to enter the contest can get a head start on your thinking this week by participating in the Short & Sweet.  Just so you know, the contest will be for a children’s story of 250 words or less based on the picture and incorporating the some special key words, but I’m not telling those yet 🙂  Full details of the contest will be posted Monday.
Now then, back to the matter at hand – today’s Short & Sweet.  Pick whichever of the 7 options above inspires you most.  I’m hoping with 7 options and that amazing picture you will find something inspiring 🙂
Here is a small sample from moi (and when I say small, I mean what with all the traveling I totally ran out of time, so talk about off the top of your head! :)):
#1 (a pitch for MG)
Grenadier, who would carry his knight anywhere, must cross the moat to save Cythrigg, the last dragon of Cyfarr, but finds he is unable to penetrate the magical fire surrounding Castlewellyn.
#6  (a possible title for a PB)
Bathtime For Balkazar
#7 (a poem)
I am a raven
Black as moonless night
With powerful secrets
Watching, waiting
For the prophesied moment
Spying on the forbidden castle
Holding the truth close
Keeping safe the golden key until,
As from the mists of Avalon, a new prince rises.
I am a raven.
Happy Writing, everyone!  I can’t wait to see what you all come up with!  As usual I’m sure we’ll all have story ideas coming faster then we can write them down sparked by our own responses to the exercise as well as everyone else’s.

Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday for Oh Susanna and the contest announcement!

Happy Valentines Day! – The Contest Finalists!

So I had this brilliant idea.

Have a Valentines Contest, I thought to myself.  It’ll be fun.  People are pretty busy with all their various pursuits.  You’ll probably only get about 3 entries – if you’re lucky to get that many – so say you’ll pick 3 finalists and you’re golden!

(Note to self – have you noticed that your brilliant ideas don’t always work out as planned?)



My plan seems to have gone awry.

Did I mention there were 30 entries???  That’s THIRTY!

And they were SO GOOD!

So I have done the best I can.  I have narrowed it to 6.  And a couple honorable mentions.  And a separate division for under 10.  And now it’s up to you, my dear readers, to read the 6 finalists and vote for your favorite by noon on Thursday.  We will see who comes out on top!

But before I unveil the top 6, I just want to say that I’m thrilled we got so many entries, and I was so impressed by the quality of everyone’s stories and poems!  What a talented bunch you all are!  I had so much fun hopping from blog to blog and reading your wonderful work!  It was dreadful having to pluck you off, one by one!  I had to get very nit-picky and really focus on the contest guidelines – appropriateness/appeal for children being the deciding factor in several cases of brilliant writing that didn’t make the final cut.  So you all deserve a huge pat on the back and many boxes of Valentine chocolates 🙂  Give yourselves a round of applause!

Now.  Here are our finalists, posted by entry only, no names.  Please have a look and then vote for your favorite!

#1 Love Has No Point

Bill P. Porcupine had a  love. Not just any love, mind you, it was the greatest love of all, but it was also a secret love.
“Oh, how I love her!” Bill sighed to himself.
Every day when Bill walked home from school he stopped by the gift shop where she worked. He tried to impress her by making his quills stand on end so he would look bigger, but she never noticed him. He’d then go home and cry.
“Boo hoo,” Bill sobbed.
“What’s the matter Bill?” asked his Mom.
“I’m in love mom, but she doesn’t know I exist,” said Bill.
“There, there,  it’ll be OK,” his mom said gently.
“She is so beautifully round. Her skin is smooth and rosy. When she moves, she floats like her feet never touch the ground,” Bill whimpered.
“I think you should just tell her,” Bill’s mom suggested.
The next day, Bill marched to the gift shop with one thing on his mind. He shoved the shop door open, walked straight up to her, threw his arms open to hug her and said, “I love…”
She was gone, except for the bits of pink rubber stuck to Bill.

#2  Oops! Excuse Me!

On her way to school, Porcupine was certain nobody would be her Valentine.  She waddled along, head down, when — oomph!
“Oops, excuse me,” said Porcupine. “Ugh!  What smells?”
“Me. Sorry. Happens when I’m startled.”
“Oh no!  You’re that stinky skunk!  Now you’ve made me stinky.”
“You’re that prickly porcupine!  You gave me an owie.”
Porcupine sighed. “Who would ever be our Valentines?”
As they dillydallied toward school, Skunk stopped to sniff flowers.  Porcupine stuck a puffy one on a quill behind her ear. 
They exchanged looks. 
Porcupine grabbed one for each quill.  Skunk scooted around on them, scenting his bottom. 
Porcupine giggled. “You look funny!”
“So do you.”  They both collapsed in laughter.
 “ACHOO!” said Porcupine.  Quills popped out.  “ACHOO!” said Skunk.  Stink squirted. 
They exchanged glances, and then, started shoving flowers into their noses. 
“No more,” said Skunk, exhausted.
“Enough! “ agreed Porcupine.  “You know, I like you just the way you are.”
Skunk said, “Same here.  Will you be my valentine?”
“Will you be mine?” asked Porcupine.
The new friends scampered off to school.
Of course, it wasn’t perfect.
“Oops, excuse me!”  Giggle.
“Oops, excuse me!”  Giggle, giggle.
But it was close.

#3  Scully And Penny: Love Stinks!

“I’ll never find love,” worried Scully the Skunk.
He was a looker–but this skunk-hunk stunk!
Yet he was determined, that whiff-and-sniff guy
“I might as well ask the next girl who comes by…..”
So when Polly the Poodle wagged by looking fine,
He forced back some fumes and asked, “Will you be mine?!!”
“Oh Scully, my nose…it is sharp as a nail!
It just wouldn’t work with your stinky-stink tail.”
“You’re probably right” – Scully Skunk gave her that.
And as soon as he spoke, he spotted a cat.
It was Kitty LaPretty; she stretched out her spine.
He squeezed back some stench and asked, “Will you be mine?”
“Oh Scully, my nose…it is keen as my ears,
“I just couldn’t stand smelling skunk-funk for years.”
“You’re probably right” – not the first time he’d heard,
Then all of a sudden, down fluttered a bird.
It was Penny the Parrot, bird-beauty divine,
He sucked in his stink and asked, “Will you be mine?”
“Well, of course, handsome Scully—been hoping you’d ask.”
“I’ve searched for so long – finding love’s a real task.
“And please don’t you worry, this will work out well…
My peepers see more than my sniffer can smell.”

#4 Underwater Bliss

A shark saw his mark when he spied a wee fish,
‘I’ll have her for my dinner. She’ll make a tasty dish.’
But as the shark gave chase, the stronger his emotion
Changed from one of hunger, to love and pure devotion.
‘Look at how she swims. She darts with style and grace.’
Each swish of her tail, made his ol’ heart race.
‘Your eyes are round and beautiful, your scales are just divine.
I promise not to eat you, if you promise to be mine.’
The fish, who’d tired of swimming, succumbed to his charm.
And as the shark promised, she never came to harm.
But she’s ever so careful when she gives her love a kiss,
Lest those razor sharp teeth of his accidentally miss.

#5  Frankenstein Valentine

Won’t you be my Valentine?
And say, “I love you, Frankenstein?”
Love my ragged, jagged hair?
Love my bloodshot, frightening stare?
Won’t you be my Valentine?
And say, “I love you, Frankenstein?”
Love my grisly, garish grin?
Love my lumpy, warty skin?
Won’t you be my Valentine?
And say, “I love you, Frankenstein?”
Love my stitched-up, crooked scar?
Love my brain from Victor’s jar?
Won’t you be my Valentine?
And say, “I love you, Frankenstein?”
Love my garbled, boorish talk?
Love my lumbering, stilted walk?
Yes, it’s your chance, my Valentine
to be my Mrs. Frankenstein.
You say that you will NOT be my mine?
Will NOT love this Frankenstein?
Then…just forget this love-fest scene
I’m heading back to Halloween!

#6  Whom Do I Love?

Whom do I love?
Quizzed the cloud-covered moon.
I love the dish that ran off with the spoon.
Whom do I love?
Posed the run-away dish.
I love the silvery stream-swimming fish.
Whom do I love?
Slurped the shimmering trout.
I love the rock-hopping toad that jumped out.
Whom do I love?
Croaked the hip-hopping toad.
I love the waddling duck on the road.
Whom do I love?
Quacked the web-footed duck.
I love the pig on the rusty farm truck.
Whom do I love?
Oinked the curly-tailed pig.
I love the floppy-eared dog that can dig.
Whom do I love?
Barked the diggity-dog.
I love the bee in the hollowed-out log.
Whom do I love?
Buzzed the bumblely-bee.
I love the mouse that lives under the tree.
Whom do I love?
Squeaked the scurrying mouse.
I love the curly-haired boy in that house.
Whom do I love?
Asked the sweet little lad.
I love my momma and I love my dad.

The poll is below.  Please vote for your choice of winner!

<a href=”http://polldaddy.com/poll/5941172/”>Valentines Contest</a>
The poll closes at noon EST on Thursday February 16 so I can announce the winner Friday!

I’d also like to give Honorable Mention to Heather for Daisy Loves Fred, and Eric for Puffy Pancho and Pretty Paulita: The Perfect Penguin Pair.

And a tie in the (hastily added) junior division (under 10 years old) between Isabella for Puppy & Kitten Love and Gabby for How Miss Mouse Became A Door Mouse will result in a prize each which I have yet to determine 🙂

Congratulations to everyone for excellent entries!  Now go ahead and vote!  We will all be waiting anxiously for your choice of winner!  Thank you all for sharing your wonderful writing!

Valentines Day Contest!!!

Throw pink confetti!  Open the chocolates!  It’s here!  It’s here!


And do you know why I’m so excited?

It’s not because I’m about to publicly humiliate myself with my sample entry.  (Although I suppose that does beg for a certain amount of excitement.)

It’s because I’m going to get to read all of your FABULOUS entries!!!

At least I hope I am.  Was anyone able (or willing?) to write one?

We shall see…

For any who may not have heard yet and who might like to join us in our contest, all the info is HERE.  (Please scroll down below the slugs, and please note the word count, slightly raised from the original.)

Meanwhile, for your roll-on-the-floor-and-possibly-die-laughing-at-me pleasure, here is my sample:

Fishing Valentine

So it’s Valentines Day and we’re in the Secret Clubhouse.
We is me, my little brother Ty, and our dog, Leroy.
Not Bronwyn.
I’m boss of the club because I can talk.
Ty and Leroy are perfect sidekicks because they can’t.
Bronwyn wore a dress to school today.  Traitor.
“Here’s the problem,” I tell them.  “Valentines Day is so full of silly it ruins the only decent girls.”
“Lala,” says Ty.
“Exactly,” I say.  “Pink overload.  It’s probably poisonous.”
Ty and Leroy do not disagree.
“Luckily, I have a plan.”
Here it is:
1. Cancel Valentines Day.
I am a master of simplicity.
Someone bangs on the clubhouse roof.
It’s Bronwyn.
“Go away!” I say.
Ty eats some dirt.  Leroy wags his tail.  Traitor.
“I’ve got worms,” says Bronwyn.  “Want to do some Valentine fishing?”
Fishing Valentine?
Maybe her mother made her wear that dress.  “Okay,” I say.
As we head for the fishing hole, I make up a Valentine for her.

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Girls are gross
Except for you.

Yikes!  Looks like the pink poisoned me, too!

SO.  After that, I think everyone should feel pret-ty confident they can do better!  I had trouble getting an idea I could squeeze into such a low word count.  This was 22,067 words at the outset.  (Well.  I may be exaggerating a little :))

This time I am remembering the link list on the first try (yay me!) so get your entry-specific links right on there so we can all come applaud your genius!  I can’t wait to read everyone’s stories!!!

Remember, this post will stay up until Monday evening, and you have until 5PM EST Monday to post your link.  Then we’ll have a special post Tuesday with the finalists for you to vote.


(Oh, and P.S. I am being featured today, February 11, on Kai Strand’s blog, on the topic of industry love!  Should you care to pop over and have a look, I wrote about my indie :))

Also, please check the comments – there are at least 2 entries posted there, one under jrzoch and one under my name due to posting trouble.

Happy 2012!

Happy New Year Everyone!

google images

I hope you all had as wild a party as we did New Year’s Eve to ring in 2012!  Want to hear how wild it was?

Alright, then, I’ll tell you, but you might want to sit down first.  When we go wild on Blueberry Hill we pull out all the stops.

Okay.  Ready?

We played dominoes, Scrabble, and hearts in the glow of the fire and the Christmas tree lights.  We ate homemade brownies (not at the table!) and got crumbs on the rug.  At midnight we popped open a bottle of bubbly (Sparkling Cider – Stop & Shop’s Finest!) and toasted the New Year and each other.  Then we all went to bed.  The dogs slept through the entire thing.

Wild.  Times.

I told you 🙂

I hope 2012 will be full of all good things for all of you!

Now then.  Even though you are probably still recovering from your much-wilder-than-mine celebrating, I have four things of import to mention today.  I will try to be brief, but you know me…

First, I want to thank Saba for bestowing the Superstar Blog Award upon me.  I was so honored to receive this lovely award for the first time!  In addition to thanking Saba, I am also supposed to pass the award along to 5 other deserving bloggers.  But you are all so amazing and wonderful and deserving that I can’t possibly pick just 5!!!  So my New Year’s present to you is that you may take this award if you feel it fits you as long as you pass it along to other deserving bloggers.  Look how pretty 🙂

Second, I have a very important question.  I’d love a show of hands on this.  In the form of please vote below 🙂

Here’s the question:  I’ve been having so much fun with the writing contests, getting to know everyone and reading all your awesome work.  Would you like to continue with writing contests once a month as we have done for October, November and December?  If so, I would be happy to run them!  But if that sounds like more work than fun and you don’t want to do it so often or at all, it’s best if I know 🙂  So please let your voice be heard below:

<a href=”http://polldaddy.com/poll/5804602/”>Contests? Yes Or No?</a>

I will leave this poll up until Wednesday or Thursday, depending on response time, so I can tell you Wednesday or Friday whether there will be a contest this month or not 🙂

Third, I am participating in Julie Hedlund’s 12X12 in 2012 Challenge.  (Note the gorgeous new badge in the sidebar!)  I know quite a few of you are doing this as well, and I’m very excited about being part of such an enthusiastic, supportive community.  Here’s hoping we all accomplish great things in 2012!

Last but not least, as you know, anyone who posts Perfect Picture Books is eligible for the random (and when I say random, I do mean random – you never know what might end up in the goody bag!) end-of-the-month drawing for a prize.  You get one entry for every book you post during the month (so in December, some people got 4 or 5 entries!)  I load all the entries into random.org and let it pick the winner.  Last month (November) it was Stacy.  December’s winner is Clar!!!  Clar, please contact me and let me know which prize you’d like.  This month’s goody bag contains a $10 Amazon gift certificate, a signed copy of Freight Train Trip by Yours Truly, a paperback copy of The Land Of Painted Caves by Jean Auel (which has nothing to do with children’s books but I received one for Christmas and I already have the hardcover so it’s up for grabs :)) and a hardcover copy of Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel – you may take your pick of one of those lovely items!  The rest of you, who knows what will be in the goody bag for January?  You could be the lucky winner just by posting excellent Perfect Picture Books on Fridays!  Thank you all so much for participating!

Okay.  Those are my four things of import.  Happy New Year Everyone, and see you Wednesday as we get back on track with Would You Read It!

Thanksgiving Contest Finalists and More Fun To Come!

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

Isn’t that just the nicest thing? 🙂

OK.  Now on to today’s important business!

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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breaking Into Writing

Yesterday’s post included a potential writing opportunity, which got me to thinking about breaking into writing…

From time to time, (like last Friday) I post about some of the things that writers struggle with from the point of view of someone who is published because that’s where I’m fortunate enough to be coming from.

This does not mean that I’ve forgotten how it felt to be hoping to get published.  (Honestly?  I still hope that every day and it’s not much different!)

But worrying about sales figures, or about whether people are reading and liking your books is what my husband refers to as “dilemmas of the privileged.”  I know there are tons of great writers out there, quite probably better writers than I am, who are still waiting for that first call from a publisher, who dream of  seeing their book on a library or bookstore shelf, and who would love to be obsessively checking their rankings on Amazon.  I used to be one.  And even though I’ve got a few books out, I’m still one.

Because if you’re a writer, one article or magazine story or book is never enough.  You’re always writing, always wanting to share your stories, always hoping to publish something new that will make that possible.  There is no finish line.  I know a lot of writers, and none of them have written and published one book and then said, “OK.  That’s it.  I’m done.”

But the road to publication is a hard one.  It involves talent and persistence and just plain luck – I’ve had stories turned down because the editor accepted something similar just the week before.  It can take a LO-OOO-NG time.  Not only that, but the fact that you manage to get published once doesn’t necessarily (or even probably) mean that you will get published again, or that it will be any easier.

So what (besides writing, of course) do you do while you’re waiting to get published for the first (or subsequent) time?

Yoga?  Not for me.  I’m too impatient!

Housecleaning?  Um, I think we’ve established the fact that housecleaning is not my activity of choice 🙂

Bake?  Fun, but potential side effects (can you say hippo?)

So, would you like to know my little secret?

Writing contests!

I love them.  They give you practice with deadlines and word counts and subject matter – at conforming to an editor’s preferences or requirements.  They are fun.  From many, you will get feedback about your work which can be very helpful in making that story, and/or your writing in general, better.  Should you happen to win or place, you get money (sometimes quite a bit) and prestige – you can say “Story A won the Writer’s Writing Contest!” which might potentially help you sell Story A to a publisher.  And there are even some contests where the winner is awarded publication by major publishing houses.  These are opportunities to get your manuscript in front of an editor when you might otherwise need an agent to do so.

I hate sitting around waiting (yeah, back to that impatience :))  Sending a manuscript to a contest makes me feel like I’m doing something constructive, and gives me something extra to hope for and look forward to… After all, Story A could win the Writer’s Writing Contest…!  And the more you submit, the more hope you have of success – don’t you think?  I haven’t done a writing contest in quite a while, and I think it’s time to get back in the game!

If you’re interested, here are a few you can check out:

Children’s Writer Contests
Delacorte Press Contest For A First YA Novel
Highlights Fiction Contest
Southwest Writers Contest
Writer’s Digest Contests

There are LOTS more!  Please feel free to post your favorites in the comments if you’re a contest junkie too 🙂

So what are you waiting for?  The deadline for Highlights is Monday and first prize is $1000!  Spruce up an old story or write a new one.  Send it in and see what happens.

Most of all, have fun and good luck 🙂