The 2014 Holiday Contest WINNERS!!!

Happy Friday, Everyone!
Yes, yes!  I know what day it is!
Normally, I would tease you for a while and pretend I didn’t know what brought you to this neck of the woods or what you were after, but not today.
Nope.
Today I’m going to get straight to the point.
No beating around the bush.
Nosirree Bob!
I’m going to give you what you came for . . .
. . .  just as soon as we come up with an answer to that eternal burning question: whose idea was tinsel anyway and does anyone actually use it?
Because seriously, that stuff is as bad as Easter grass!  It gets everywhere!
In your hair!  In the carpet!  On the dogs…
And who has the patience to separate it out into single strands to drape artfully over the limbs of your Christmas tree?  (And let’s face it, it does not have the same effect if you just glob it on in clumps…!)
And we’re not even going to TALK about if you have cats!  By golly!  That’s just a disaster waiting to happen!
You’re all writers!  Let your imagination run amok with the idea of cats, tinsel, Christmas trees…
Yikes!  Truly, I shudder to think!
So anyway, where was I?
Oh, yes!
I was not beating around the bush.
I wonder what bush it is that I’m not beating around?
Is it the same as the bush in “Here we go ’round the mulberry bush?”
Or maybe the bush that a bird in the hand is worth two birds in?
I’m guessing if there are two birds they are turtle doves, because that’s how the song goes.  You know, “On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me two turtle doves…”  Yeah.  Like that.
Except not a partridge, because he was in a pear tree and we are certainly not beating around the pear tree!
Boy!  All this not beating around things is making me a little dizzy!
So maybe I’ll stop and just tell you about

The 4th Annual Holiday Contest!!!

WINNERS!!!

🙂

I was once again thrilled to see so many wonderful stories!  Really!  It is amazing and inspiring, not to mention VERY entertaining!  There is just so much talent out there amongst you all!

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 on Tuesday 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.

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:
     Leslie Tribble for The Perfect Christmas Tree
     Anne Bromley for Christmas Eve At Gate 25   
     Lauri Meyers for Jimmy Cantore Steals Christmas

2. For Fabulous Fun Kid-Friendly Stories (That Sadly Fell Short On The Weather Element But Were Too Good Not To Recognize!):
     Stacy Jensen for How Do I Fix This?
     Bridget Magee for Dear Santa
     Margaret Greanias for A Little Christmas Wish
     Pam Vaughan for My Snowman Is Sick
     Jim Jones for Snowflake…A Christmas Tail

3. For We-Loved-It-But-Thought-The Humor-Was-A-Little-Too-Grown-Up 🙂
      (and seriously, these were terrific entries, well written and funny!)
     Mike Allegra for Carbon Christmas
     Heather Preusser for Dreaming Of A White Christmas  
     Kristen Foote for Polar Warming
     Hilary (Swann?) for No Sweat Santa
     Kathy Halsey for Whether Or Not To Ho-Ho-Ho
  
4. For Sweet Stories That Exemplified Christmas Spirit:
     Sharon Wilson for A Little Christmas Miracle
     Patricia Corcoran for The Christmas Miracle
     Sally Suehler for Just Ice And Snow
   
5. For Fantastic Word Play:
     Amy Ozay for Rain, dear

6.  For Best First Line:
     James Lloyd for Pablo’s First Christmas
   
7. For Best-Written Original Point Of View:
     Carol Lescinski for The Best Christmas (excellent stuffed dog POV!)
     Summer Hinderer for The Snow Miracle (POV of gingerbread people in Gingerbreadville!)

8. For Best Action Story:
     Caren Cantrell for Northern Exposure

and

9.  The Keep Up The Great Writing Award goes to:
     Ms. Leach’s First Grade for Hopeful Christmas Eve
     And first graders, your special prize will be Happily Ever Madlibs and Once Upon A Madlibs, which we hope you will enjoy doing as a class on days when you can’t go out for recess or something 🙂 as well as 2 StoryWorld Create-A-Story Kits: Quests And Adventures and Fairy Magic which can be used in lots of fun ways to inspire writing and storytelling (and for even more fun you can pull cards from both decks to expand possibilities!)  Thank you for writing another wonderful story for all of us to enjoy!

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)

For Kindle:

Picture Books: The Write Way by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard OR

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

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 Ultimate Fiction Thesaurus by Sam Stone OR

In paperback:
Show & Tell In A Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions From Telling To Showing by Jessica Bell OR

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

And now…

…the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

The announcement of the WINNERS OF THE 2014 HOLIDAY 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…
Randi Sonenshine
for The Rumbledy Jumbledy Holiday Feast!!!
Congratulations, Randi, on a fabulous and fun entry that was clearly very popular!!! 🙂
In Second Place
Elaine Kiely Kearns
for ‘Twas The Stormy Night Before Christmas
Congratulations, Elaine!!  You get first choice of the prizes that are left after Randy makes her choice.
In Third Place
Katey Howes
for Snow Swirls
Congratulations, Katey!  You get first choice of the prizes that are left after Randy and Elaine choose theirs.
In Fourth Place
Julie Abery
for Santa’s Satnav
Congratulations, Julie!  You get to pick after Randy, Elaine and Katey.
In Fifth Place
Anika Denise
for Little Christmas, BIG SNOW
Congratulations, Anika!  You get to pick after Randy, Elaine, Katey, and Julie.
In Sixth Place
Bronwyn Deaver
for Jack Quits
Congratulations, Bronwyn!  I’m sure you get the idea of how the prize picking goes by now 🙂
In Seventh Place
Sylvia Liu
for Polar Woes
Congratulations, Sylvia!  You get to pick next 🙂
In Eighth Place
Amelia Shearer
for The Night The Sun Stayed Up
Congratulations, Amelia!  You get to pick a prize after Sylvia!
In Ninth Place, we have a tie! between
Johnell DeWitt                      and                      Teresa Robeson
for A Djiboutian Christmas                              Sandstorm Santa
Congratulations, Johnell and Teresa!  You get to pick next!
In Eleventh Place
Kirsten Bock
for Hurricane Coal
And in Twelfth Place, rounding out the top dozen of these amazing finalists and the 100 Holiday Contest Entries for 2014…
Carol Ann Martin
for Wish You’d Been Here

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!  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, a tinsel parade (clumpy or stringy, however you like it :)), and a large amount of Figgy Pudding (which truthfully I don’t know what that is, but apparently it’s something we all want some of :))

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!

As I… hmm… maybe didn’t mention…?, I’m taking a little blogging break so I can spend time with my family – I’ve got cookies to bake, Christmas presents to shop for and wrap, and my sister and her family are arriving form Georgia on Monday! 🙂 –  so I will see you all in a couple weeks – most probably Wednesday January 7th for Would You Read It unless I have something really important to impart on Monday the 5th… but I’m not really foreseeing that 🙂

So now, I want to wish you all a happy and healthy holiday filled with love, laughter, joy, and family, and a happy, healthy and successful new year!  It is a pleasure and a privilege to get to spend time with you all, and I’m happy and grateful to know each and every one of you!

Looking forward to all the things we’ll do in 2015!

Happy Holidays, and all best wishes for a wonderful New Year!!!

Love,
Susanna


The Prizes!!!
– A picture book manuscript read and critique by Shari Dash Greenspan, Editor of the multi-award winning Flashlight Press!  I encourage you to sign up for their newsletter HERE!
 – A picture book manuscript read and critique by Jennifer Mattson, Agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency!
 – Enrollment in Renee LaTulippe‘s highly praised and recommended Lyrical Language Lab Course (in a month to be mutually agreed upon by the winner and Renee) ($249 value!)
 – Enrollment in Jon Bard and Laura Backes’s fantastic Kindle Kids Mastery Course ($197 value!)
 – A website or blog design or redesign by Arturo Alviar.  Arturo will design (or redesign if you already have one that needs updating or a new look) a website or blog for the winner of this prize. The site will be built on WordPress so that after he is done designing it, the winner can manage it themselves with ease. Arturo will include a Home/Welcome page, an About Me/Bio page, a Works/Books/Gallery section, and a Contact section (4 pages total), as well as a blog section if the winner would like to have that integrated with the new site. Different organizations can also be made, for example if the winner would like a “Services” section with separate “School Visits” and “Critiques” pages, or a “Works” section divided into “Black and White” and “Color” illustration galleries. The winner can choose any of the WordPress themes (if they choose one that isn’t free, the cost of the theme will be covered by them), or have Arturo choose a theme based on their vision, and Arturo will modify it based on their color and layout preferences (some themes will have more constraints than others). Arturo can also design a personalized banner or header image to customize the website.  If you already have a website and/or blog and prefer a redesign to update, refresh, or just redecorate, Arturo is willing to work with Blogger, Wix, Drupal, and WordPress.
 – Enrollment in Making Picture Book Magic (my online picture book writing class – in March or a later month to be mutually agreed upon by the winner and me)
 – A picture book manuscript critique by fabulous author Amy Dixon, author of MARATHON MOUSE and the forthcoming SOPHIE’S ANIMAL PARADE.
– A picture book manuscript critique from Katy Duffield, author of more than 20 books for children including Farmer McPeepers And His Missing Milk Cows (Cooper Square Publishing 2003) and upcoming titles Loud Lula (Two Lions) illustrated by Mike Boldt and Aliens Get the Sniffles, Too (Candlewick) illustrated by K.G. Campbell.
 – A picture book manuscript critique (rhyme or prose) from Penny Parker Klostermann who, after extensive experience critiquing for writing partners, members of various kid lit groups, and clients of Erin Murphy Literary Agency, is opening her own critique service!!!
Penny Parker Klostermann writes picture books and poetry. Her debut book, THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT, is coming from Random House Children’s, August 2015. Penny is represented by Tricia Lawrence of Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Click HERE to learn more about her critique service. 
 – 2015 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market, a signed copy of Boy And Poi Poi Puppy by Linda Boyden, and a $25 Amazon Gift Card.
 – a pack of Deb Lund’s amazing Fiction Magic Cards
 – another pack of Deb Lund’s amazing Fiction Magic Cards

The 4th Annual Holiday Contest Finalists – Vote For Your Favorite!!!

The 4th Annual Holiday Contest!!!
FINALISTS!!!

Look what I’ve done to you!
You’re mere shadows of your former selves!
Bad enough that I always make you wait the weekend to find out who the contest finalists are, but this time I made you wait a WHOLE EXTRA DAY!
What with the nerves and anticipation and all, I know you haven’t eaten. . .
. . . or slept. . .
. . . or showered. . . !
(That was maybe taking things a little too far… It wasn’t like I was going to suddenly post while you were shampooing!)
I’m sorry to have done that to you, truly I am.  In addition to what is always a Herculean task – choosing just a few finalists from such an array of wonderful stories and talented writers – it has been a difficult week on Blueberry Hill, so I apologize for the extra day.
But at long last, the waiting is over!
Almost 🙂
Because as always, we must begin with a few words from the people in charge around here.
First, I want to thank EVERYONE who found time in their busy holiday season schedule to write an entry for this contest – all 100 of you!  The overall quality of the entries was absolutely amazing!  There were no easy cuts.  My assistant judges and I found something to like in every story and hated having to cut anyone!

Second, I want to thank EVERYONE who took the time to go around to as many of the 63 different blogs as you could, as well as the 37 entries posted in the comments here, and read and leave supportive comments for the writers who worked so hard on these stories.  In this business where rejection is a common and unavoidable part of the process, it means a great deal to writers to know that their work was read and enjoyed, and to receive a few kind words about their writing.  It is one of the best things about this community – that people are so generous and kind to each other.

Third, before I list the finalists, I want to say again how really difficult it was to choose.  There were so many fabulous entries.  The sheer volume meant that many great stories 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.  You bravely shared your writing with the world.  And you have a brand new story that is now yours to hone and tweak if you like and maybe submit at some point to a magazine or as a PB manuscript.  So bravo to everyone who entered!

Finally, I’d like to be very clear about the voting process.  Due to the large number of entries, there are 12 finalists listed below.  I have deliberately listed them by title only, so as to help with objectivity.  Please read through them and choose the one you feel is best and vote.  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 Mrs. Claus and the Force 10 gale 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.

Now, without further ado, here are your finalists.  There is a mix of poetry and prose, funny, cute, and poignant – quite a spread!

Remember that the judging criteria were:

1. Kid-appeal! – These stories are intended for a young audience, so entries that were well-written but lacked child-friendliness or whose humor or content felt more appropriate for an older or adult audience did not make the cut.
2.  Creativity of weather use in plot – the rules stated that wild weather must impact the holidays, so if weather appeared to be an afterthought or failed to convincingly impact the holidays in some way they did not make the cut even if they were well-written.
3. Quality of story – the rules stated that entries were to tell a story, so if they appeared to be more of a description or mood piece, they didn’t make the cut.  We looked for a true story arc.
4. Quality of writing – use of language, correctness of tense, spelling and grammar, quality of rhyme and meter for the poetry entries, and overall impression of writing were factored in.
5. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.

We cut 88 entries to leave you with these 12.  It was very hard!  We did the best we could.  A few writers were, sadly, just a tad over the word count.  There were at least 5 entries the judges loved that 
didn’t make the finals because, in spite of being great stories, the weather was extremely peripheral or barely mentioned or didn’t seem to affect the holidays.  And there were a number of stories where the judges loved the concept, but the rhyme needed too much work to make the finals.  In any case, I hope you’ll all find at least one of your favorites on the list below.

#1 A Djiboutian Christmas

On Christmas Eve the desert wind howled and growled. Beth growled back.
“I want to go to our old home and build a snowman with Nana.”
“Sweetheart,” said Mom. “We can have Christmas in Djibouti too.”
“I hate Djibouti! It’s too hot for snow and too hot for Santa.”
“Santa will find us,” said Mom.
“But what if Santa’s reindeers get hot and can’t fly? The only animals here are scruffy goats who climb trees and stinky dogs who live by the ocean. Santa can’t use climbing goats or soggy dogs to fly his sleigh.”
“Santa won’t come at all if you’re not asleep.”
“I don’t care if Santa comes,” huffed Beth. “Even Santa can’t make it snow in the desert!”
Mom sighed and pulled one of two dangling strings. The light went out, but the fan stayed on. 
“Maybe Santa will surprise you.”
Beth grumbled as Mom closed the door, but the whir of the fan and the chick-chick-tap of sand caroled a desert lullaby.
All night the wind howled. All night the sand blew and in the morning…  
Beth’s mom shook her awake.
“I’m waking you up on Christmas Day,” she laughed. “I think Santa heard you. Look out the window.”
Beth pushed aside her curtains. She could barely see her scraggly yard. Drifts of creamy sand frosted the walls like gingerbread icing.
“It’s a desert snow!” Beth squealed. 
Dad held up a box dotted with prancing reindeer. “I think you should open this present first.”
Beth tore the wrapping off a new pail and shovel. She hugged her dad, slipped on her sandals and pushed her way out the door. 
All morning Beth packed pail-loads of sand. All morning she molded and adorned until finally…
“I’m done,” she shouted. “Santa didn’t bring me snow for snowman, but he did bring me sand for a sandman.”

A baseball-cap-wearing, carrot-nosed sandman grinned at Beth, and the desert wind blew in to say, “Merry Christmas.”

#2 Polar Woes

The icy water sloshed under the door of Santa’s workshop. Adelaide lifted her felt boot, soaked with melted snow.
Santa bustled in, pulling his beard in all directions. “Jumping Jingle Bells! The ice caps are melting fast. The reindeer can’t handle the knee-deep slush. The sleigh won’t slide without ice.” He slumped in a chair that creaked mightily in protest and buried his face in his hands.
Adelaide frowned. The whole world depended on his deliveries in three days. She set some magic mops to work. Would there even be a workshop next year? The elves already had to move to houses on stilts, and just yesterday, she woke to find a polar bear snuggling at her feet.
“I’ll think of something, Santa,” Adelaide said. The water swirled around her toes. The shadows swam and her reflection danced.
“Yes. I’ve got it!” She grabbed a bullhorn. “All elves to your stations. We have an emergency order to fulfill.”
She flung a swath of blueprint paper onto the worktable. She scribbled. She calculated. She measured and she drew.
She thrust the newly minted schematic to the chief engineer. “Make this happen.”
As hammering filled the workshop, she logged onto her laptop. She typed the addresses of her far-flung friends. She tapped her missive and hit “Send.” She drummed her fingers and waited for the . . .
           Ding.
Adelaide read the response and smiled wide. “Santa, take a break. I’ve got this covered.”
Santa was already snoring in his corner recliner.
            Three days later, Adelaide paced back and forth. Where were they?
            She opened the door to peer out at the sloshy, slushy mess.
And then they came.
            In waddled the eight.
“Buenas noches,” they said.
            They nodded in approval at the contraption before them, loaded with presents.
            Adelaide roused Santa from his Christmas Eve nap.
            And into the night they went. “Now, Diego! Now, Dona! Now Pablo and Viviana! On Carlos! On Marta! On Sergio and Eliana!”

            Adelaide’s penguin friends swam the amphibious sleigh into the sparkling night.

#3 The Rumbledy Jumbledy Holiday Feast

The last week of school before winter vacation
Miss Chipper’s class planned a unique celebration.
“C’mon,” said Miss Chipper. “With your help, I bet –
we’ll make this a party we’ll never forget!”
Ricardo piped up from the very last row,
“Why don’t we watch Rudolph and sing about snow?”
“Or maybe make gingerbread houses,” said Lee.
and string up some popcorn to hang on the tree.”
“But those are the same things we do every year.
There’s nothing unique about that!” said Jahir. 
“I got it!” cried Rachel. “Why don’t we include
“our family’s traditional holiday foods?”
“Super-fantabulous!” Miss Chipper sang.
“Our first international winter shebang!”
The next several days all the children were busy –
They fried, fricasseed and sautéed themselves dizzy!
At last the day came; they set up their displays
with casseroles, baskets, and platters and trays.
“Bravo!” said Miss Chipper. “This feast looks delicious!
Now tell me about all these wonderful dishes!”
Imani presented a round flattened bread.
“We call it Chapati in Kenya,” she said.
Jose brought pasteles, a savory pastry –
In warm Puerto Rico, considered quite tasty.
Mei-Lin made some dumplings to bring New Year’s luck
prepared with fresh chickens she helped her mom pluck.
When all had presented, they lined up to eat,
but just then a tremor rose up from their feet.
The ground shook and shifted; it shimmied and shivered.
It wiggled and wobbled and trembled and quivered!
Miss Chipper was heard above all of the shaking:
“Take cover, my dears, ‘til the classroom stops quaking!”
The chairs began sliding, colliding, and bumping!
On top of the table the dumplings were jumping!
The rice balls were bouncing; they fell to the floor.
They whizzed passed the children then flew out the door.
Latkes were launched in an eastward direction;
They toppled a chocolaty Belgian confection.
A baklava rocket whooshed into the air,
and landed in Annabel Sanderson’s hair.
At last it was over; they rose to their feet.
The table still held plenty goodies to eat.
“Wahoo!” said Miss Chipper. “Time to dig in.

Let the rumbledy jumbledy feasting begin!”

#4 Jack Quits

Dear Santa,
I quit. I’m tired of the complaints about the cold. Forward my mail to Hawaii.
Respectfully,
Jack Frost

Dear Jack,
Christmas is almost here. No snow means no Reindeer Games – it’s too muddy and warm. Mrs. Claus says there’s a palm tree outside! I’m afraid to
look.
Love,
Santa

Dear Santa,
Aren’t palm trees beautiful? I’m diggin’ the heat!
Warmly,
Jack

Dear Jack,
Seriously, Christmas is coming and I’m not getting fat! It’s a sauna here! I’m sweating out all of my jolly roundness.
Come back,
Santa

Dear Santa,
Eat cookies! They’ll fatten you up! You should see me – I’m eating vegetables from my garden and I feel so good! Have you ever been in the ocean? It’s so
refreshing!
Surf’s up,
Jack

Dear Jack,
There’s no air conditioning here. The elves can’t work in these conditions! It’s simply too hot in my workshop. They might go on strike.
Please help,
Santa
P.S. I can’t make cookies – the butter keeps melting!

Dear Santa,
Tell the elves to take off those warm sweater things. Gotten any funny wish-lists from kids? Good golly some of those are funny!
Ha ha,
Jack

Dear Jack,
You know what kids are wishing for now? Snow, ice and green Christmas trees! I can’t make that stuff. They miss you, Jack!
Love,
Santa

Dear Santa,
I’m sure the kids don’t miss me that much. Now they don’t have to find their hats and gloves. It really is a pain to keep track of those things.
Best,
Jack

Dear Jack,
All of the m ail I’m getting is really for you, so I am sending it along. All thirty huge bags full. Hope this proves that kids want you back.
Hurry home,
Santa

Dear Santa,
You win. I suppose I need to help the kids. I’ll be home on the next cool breeze.
I’m not really cut out for surfing anyway.
On my way,
Jack

Dear Jack,
Merry Christmas. Enjoy your gift!
Love,
Santa

Dear Santa,
Thanks for the palm tree. The Christmas lights and ornaments are a special touch.
Merry Christmas,

Jack


#5 Wish You’d Been There

So, this is Christmas, Joe.  How do you like it so far? Wish you’d been here last year. That was some Christmas, for sure.
On Christmas Eve, Holly and I were supposed to be in a play. She was an angel with silver wings.  I was a sheep in Gran’s rug.
We were getting ready when Mom called out, “It’s time! Come on quick, let’s go!”
Dad grabbed his phone and called up Gran and next thing we were off in the car. We roared down the road, but then, gurloop, gurloomph, we were swallowed by a thick fog.
 “Keep going! Keep going!” shouted Mom.
“Keep going to where?  asked Dad. “We’re lost and I can’t see a thing.”
“Well I can see lights up ahead,” Holly said. “All golden and fuzzy and blurred.”
Then we heard the sound of voices. All is calm, they sang … all is bright.”
“That could be angels,” said Holly. “They’re sure to be out tonight.”
Well all wasn’t calm inside our car and all wasn’t bright outside. Dad wound down his window. “Is there anybody there?” he cried. “We need to get to Saint Mary’s and we need to get there fast!”
The fog swirled in at the window, but a whiskery face appeared, too. “Sure, just follow our lanterns. We’re going to the same place as you.”
So we followed the lanterns through the fog and we followed the carollers’ song. Slowly, slowly, until at last, dozens of lights shone out.
“St Mary’s, yeah! We made it!” cried Dad.
“But only just,” said Mom.
Gran was waiting for us inside. Mom and Dad were whisked away. Everything was warm and shiny bright, the carollers stood round the tree. Gran gave a hug to Holly and me. “Happy Christmas, darlings,” she said.
 “An angel and a sheep!” someone laughed. “Just what we needed tonight!”

I wish you had been here last year, Joe. Boy, was that an exciting night? But I guess you were here, little brother. It was the night that you were born.

#6 ‘Twas The Stormy Night Before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas and out on the street,

the snow was still piling and mixing with sleet.
My siblings all blubbered and cried in despair,
“How can Saint Nicholas fly through this air?”
The wind was so wicked, the rain turned to ice,
Dad struggled to shovel the walk and failed twice.
Mom bundled inside her wool mittens and cap
and yelled at poor Dad for attempting to nap.
The fire had dwindled, the power was out,
I walked around saying, “Don’t cry and don’t pout”
Life is too grueling without any power-
the water’s so cold that we can’t even shower!
Then all of a sudden we heard a small noise —
had Santa arrived with all of our toys?
I ran to the window and threw up the sash,
(secretly hoping he brought me some cash)
but what to my wondering eyes should appear?
This was no Santa, no magic reindeer!`
Just a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew right away, it was Snow-Plow guy, Nick.
Faster than sleigh rides, he plowed all the snow,
and just as he turned and got ready to go,
we heard a small ding, then a buzz and a beep!
The power came on- I wanted to weep!
On laptop! On lights! On Christmas tree, too!
On microwave — please now, let’s warm up that stew!
Now Santa could land his red sleigh in our road,
and without any trouble, go in our abode.
And as I turned into my bed for the night,

“Merry Christmas,” I whispered. “Thank goodness for light!”

#7 Snow Swirls

A narrow ribbon of light jolted Snowbear out of a deep sleep.
“Penny!” he called in an urgent whisper. “Wake up! It’s almost time.”
Penny Penguin’s dazzling green eyes snapped open. The light spread further, sparkling brightly on the thick layer of white crystals at her feet.
“I’m so excited,” she giggled. “Hang on!”
Suddenly, all light disappeared. Trees shuddered. Snow slid. Penny and Snowbear braced themselves as their entire world began to shift.
CLUMP
BUMP BUMP
THUMP!
The animals felt as much as heard the sounds as their forest, pond, earth and sky
bounced,
jolted,
and at last came to a stop.
“Wheeee!” Penny squealed in delight. “Nothing beats the annual earthquake!”
“I don’t know, Penny,” Snowbear answered. “I think the snow swirls are even more fun.”
“You could be right,” Penny cheerfully agreed. “I think we’re about to find out!”
This time, daylight broke all at once, almost blinding the two friends. It reflected from sparkling snow over, under, around and even on them.
Two shadows in the shape of giant hands cut across the shimmering sky. Penguin and polar bear laughed with joy as their world tipped and rose, snow sliding into deep piles.
A familiar voice rang out, loud as thunder across the sky. “Mommy! Daddy! I found them! I found the box with Penny and Snowbear! Here they are! Here they are!”
“Well, what are you waiting for?” another voice answered. “Give them a snow storm, honey!”
“A snow SWIRL, Mommy,” the first voice insisted. “They like when I call it a snow swirl.”
With that, the child lifted his snowglobe high and whirled it round and round. Penny and Snowbear watched the glistening flakes spin and dance in ever-faster spirals. They felt earth and sky tip and twirl, delighting in movement and light after a long season of darkness and stillness.
As the snow settled and the world grew still, Penny and Snowbear looked far out into the sky, beyond the edge of their world. Multicolored stars twinkled, distant bells rang, laughter filled the heavens.

It was the most wonderful time of the year.

#8 Little Christmas, BIG SNOW

This is my island.
It has white sand beaches, and water that sparkles like a blue-green jewel.
But no snow.
I sit on the porch while Mami is in the kitchen, preparing a feast for Nochebuena—Christmas Eve.
I think about snow, and wonder what it looks like, falling from the sky.
I imagine my island covered in a soft, white blanket, icicles dangling from the palm trees, instead of coconuts.
And I make a wish.
To catch a snowflake on my tongue—on my island.
Mami is making arroz con gandules and platanos and pasteles.
I help Mami tie the brown paper and banana leaf with string, like a tiny, delicious present.
I am lucky. On my island, Nochebuena is just the beginning of twelve days of celebration—
twelve days of music and food and gifts and family.
Snow would make it even better. Just a little—enough to make a snow ball.
I say goodnight to the white scoop of moon in the sky and think,
What does snow look like falling into the ocean? Can snowflakes land on sand?
When I wake up, everything looks like it always does.
No snow.
For ten nights straight, I make my wish.
But each morning, my island looks the same.
On the eleventh night, my scoop of moon is full and round in the sky.
I ask the Three Kings, and the moon, to grant my wish, but it’s hard to believe they will.
When I awake on Little Christmas, the light from my window fills the room with a flat blue, instead of yellow-gold.
I peel back the curtain.
My island is blanketed in white, fluffy snow. Enough to make a hundred snowballs!
I wrap up in a thick blanket, put on my tall rubber boots and run outside.
The snow goes crunch-crunch beneath my feet.
I turn my face to the sky, and catch one perfect snowflake on my tongue.
“Está navando!” says Mami.
“En Puerto Rico!” says Papi.

I tell them, I wished to catch a snowflake, and it came true.

#9 Santa’s Satnav

‘Twas the week before Christmas and in the North Pole,
Santa’s list was still short by ten thousand or so!
Letters from children so beautifully written,
With wishes for scooters and fluffy white kittens,
Were stuck at the post office tied in a sack,
Some children will not have a gift to unwrap!!
An elf called on Santa, had he heard the news?
Post vans were stuck, mail was not getting through.
The snow had been falling for many a week,
They said on the radio as much as six feet!
The fog and the ice storm had grounded all flights,
The Polar Express had no power for lights!
Santa declared he would fly into town
And try out the Santa-nav on the way down!
They harnessed the reindeer, programmed in directions,
The elves looked around in a final inspection.
“Up” called out Santa “Up, up and away!”
With a flick of the reins they were soon on their way.
The littlest elf who’d been loading the sack,
Popped up behind Santa quite taken aback!
“Ho, ho, ho little Jack” called out Santa with glee
“What are you doing up here with me?”
“In one mile…” said Santa-nav “left at the star”
But snow swirled around and they couldn’t see far!
Jack looked on worried, and Santa just blustered
“But Madam, I can’t see the stars, not a cluster!”
Grim as a blizzard! Jack heard a bell sound,
Gave a tug on the reins and he turned them around.
“Whoa” cried out Santa and straightened his hat,
“I hear the town bells…Good job little Jack!”
Down flew the sleigh with a bang and a clatter!
“You have arrived” the Santa-nav chattered!
They bundled the letters in Santa’s big sack,
“Christmas un-cancelled! Thank you, little Jack!”
“Up” called out Santa “Up, up and away!”
The Santa-nav off, Rudolph’s nose led the way!
The elves loaded presents for all girls and boys
And on Christmas Eve he delivered the toys,
With Santa-nav jingling all through the flight!!

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

#10 The Night The Sun Stayed Up

Wren loved Christmas. She loved the smell of the pine tree where her family made their Chri stmas nest. She loved the taste of the berries on their holly wreath. And she loved to listen for the jingle of Santa’s sleigh bells in the darkness of Christmas Eve.
All day on Christmas Eve, Wren’s family was busy getting ready for Santa. They hung their tiny stockings. A plate of nutty cookies sat out for Santa, and Wren wrapped special gifts for her Mama and Daddy.
Once everything was in it’s place, Wren’s family gathered together to watch the sun fall asleep into nighttime.
They waited …
and waited …
and waited …
but this year, the sun did not go down.
“Something is wrong” Wren chirped to her mother. “The sun shouldn’t still be awake!”
And before Mama could raise a wing, off Wren darted, high into the sky to investigate.
The sun was much too hot for little Wren, so she flew towards the moon, who she found waiting, quite impatiently, behind a cloud.
“What is wrong with the sun??” Moon whispered from behind white fluffs. “I can’t come out until she goes to sleep! I would call to her, but she’s too far to hear me. If I don’t come out soon, Santa’s reindeer won’t take off for their Christmas Eve deliveries!”
No Christmas? Wren had to get that sun to sleep!
“Don’t worry,” she told Moon. “I may be small, but my voice is big, and I know just what to do!”
Perching in the highest tree she could find, Wren took a deep breath and began to sing the sweetest, strongest lullaby she knew. Her voice carried far above the clouds, drifting up to the drowsy sun.
Wren sang and sang. Sun’s eyes began to droop, and she slowly fell lower and lower in the sky, until at last she dipped behind the hill to sleep.

Moon peeked out, ready to light up the night sky. As Wren fluttered quietly back towards her nest, she listened for the sound of sleigh bells. Christmas was coming.

#11 Hurricane Coal

Exhausted from scraping and shoveling snow,
old Santa moved south to a beachfront condo.
He shipped all the elves and the reindeer FedEx,
then chilled by the sea at his brand new address.
When Christmas arrived, he was ready to ride.
The toys had been crafted and lined up poolside.
Each gift had a label with boys and girls’ names.
So Santa would know who received toys and games.
Just then the wind howled, tipping each little elf.
Fat rain soaked the reindeer and Santa himself.
A hurricane swept through their outdoor workshop. 
They tumbled and bumbled with no way to stop.
The presents, they scattered, the labels detached.
‘Til each banged up gift sat completely unmatched.
At last it was quiet, the rain slowed to drips.
The elves dislodged antlers and untangled gifts.
Sighed Santa, “there’s no time for sorting this mess.”
“Let’s load up the presents. We’ll just have to guess.”
Next morning, the wee ones jumped out of their beds
with hopes in each heartbeat and dreams in their heads.
They opened their presents then quickly exhaled.
Did Santa not get the fine letters they’d mailed?
“Skis?” said Malia, in sunny Kawaii.
With no snow in sight, she kept wondering, “why?”
“Whoopie!” cried her grampy with one in each hand.
“These crutches are perfect for getting ‘cross sand.”
Way up in Alaska, Koyuk did not see
the reason a surfboard was under his tree.
His sister, she snatched it and then promptly made
a reinforced snow fort, a fierce barricade.
Each boy and each girl saw their gifts with new eyes.
Their swimsuits as snow-flingers, scarves as neckties.
Old Santa and crew raced right back to the Pole.
Still cold, but much better than Hurricane Coal.
And nobody minded his mixed up night shift.

‘Cause they were enjoying each repurposed gift.

#12 Sandstorm Santa


Marco sped home from school on his hoverbike. Every so often, he stopped and peered out the glass walls of the passageways at the pale orange sky of Mars.
The apartment door hissed open. “Mom, Dad,” he called. “I’m home! What does the weather report say?”
Mom looked at the holoscreen. “Looks like a sandstorm is coming.” She turned to Marco. “Don’t get your hopes up about SANTA. It might be too rough to land here.”
“SANTA has been through worse weather than this, Mom,” said Marco.
Dad agreed. “SANTA will make it,” he said. But they knew that sandstorms on Mars can be so bad, sometimes everything was shut down.
Marco kept looking out the windows as he ate dinner. The sky was now a burnt orange color. Small swirls formed and danced, then joined to become bigger whorls. Marco pressed his ear to the window and thought he could hear the howl of the winds.
“Is SANTA on schedule?” Marco asked when he was getting ready for bed.
Mom checked the computer. “Yes, honey,” she said. “But you need to go to bed.”
After Dad and Mom tucked him in and darkened the tint on his window, Marco continued to stare outside. He wasn’t so sure anymore that SANTA would make it. The red dust churned around the buildings wildly. It was like they were inside of a snow-globe filled with sand.
Suddenly, he heard a roar so faint he might have imagined it. He rushed to the window, breathing little round patches of fog on it.
There, braving the storm, was SANTA! SANTA descended and docked at the loading bay. People scurried to and from the tunnel leading to the dock, looking like tiny elves. Marco knew the present he’d been waiting for from his grandparents on Earth had been delivered.

As SANTA rose into the sky, the words on its side came into view: Special Aeronautic New Transportation Association – S.A.N.T.A. Marco waved as it cruised close by. The pilot, in his red uniform and white beard, waved back!

*  *  *  *  *  

PHEW!  Now that you’ve had a chance to read through the finalists, please vote below for the one you think deserves to win by Thursday December 18 at 5 PM EST.  Winners of all kinds will be announced on Friday December 19!  I know.  That gives you a little less voting time than usual (because I took up an extra day with judging) but I want to be able to announce the winners on Friday so we can then all go off happily to our holiday celebrations 🙂

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!
Tune in Friday (no PPBF!)… same bat time, same bat station 🙂

Ho! Ho! Ho! The 4th Annual Holiday Contest Is Here!

WOO HOO!!!  Let the joyous news be spread!  It’s time for. . .

The 4th Annual Holiday Contest!!!!
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

Oh the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
And since we’ve no place to go
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!


The Contest:  Write a children’s story (children here defined as approximately age 12 and under) in which wild weather impacts the holidays!  Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever you celebrate, but is not to exceed 350 words (I know!  So much freedom after the Halloweensie Contest :))  (It can be as short as you like, but no more than 350!  Title not included in word count.)  Any kind of weather will do: sun, rain, sleet, heatwave, blizzard, tsunami, monsoon, hurricane, hail, tornado, etc!  Weather may be atypical for your setting (rain in Maine, frost in Florida), it may be extreme (blizzard instead of regular snow, drought instead of lush greenery), or it may be unheard of (spring flowers in Antarctica, snow in the Sahara, bathing suit weather at the North Pole), but whatever you choose, make us feel the impact on the holidays!  The wild weather may be a hindrance, a wish-come-true, a threat, a pleasant surprise, etc.  The field is wide open!  Have fun!  The wilder and wackier the better!  No illustration notes please. (And yes, if you feel compelled to submit more than one entry you may, just remember you’re competing against yourself!)
Post:  Your entry should be posted on your blog between right now this very second and Friday December 12 at 11:59 PM EST, and your post-specific link should be added to the link list below.  This post will remain up through Sunday December 14 (no WYRI or PPBF this week) so there will be plenty of time for everyone to post their entries and visit each other and enjoy all the other entries.  If you don’t have a blog but would like to enter, please copy and paste your entry into the comment section below.  (If anyone has trouble commenting, which unfortunately happens, please email me and I’ll post your entry for you!)
The Judging:  My lovely assistant(s) and I will narrow down the entrants to 10-12 finalists (depending on the number of entries) which will be posted here on either Monday December 15 or Tuesday December 16 (depending on the number of entries :)) for you to vote on for a winner.  The vote will be closed on Thursday December 18 at 5 PM EST and the winners will be announced on Friday December 19.  Whoever gets the most votes will be first and so on down to tenth place.  Judging criteria will be kid appeal/kid-friendliness, creativity of weather use in plot, quality of story, quality of writing, and originality.
The Prizes!:  In the spirit of the holidays, winners will be named for 1st – 10th place.  In addition to the incredible fame of being able to say you won (or placed in) the Pretty Much World Famous 4th Annual Holiday Contest, the following AMAZING prizes will be awarded: (items in color are links for more info!)

 – A picture book manuscript read and critique by Shari Dash Greenspan, Editor of the multi-award winning Flashlight Press!  I encourage you to sign up for their newsletter HERE!
 – A picture book manuscript read and critique by Jennifer Mattson, Agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency!
 – Enrollment in Renee LaTulippe‘s highly praised and recommended Lyrical Language Lab Course (in a month to be mutually agreed upon by the winner and Renee) ($249 value!)
 – Enrollment in Jon Bard and Laura Backes’s fantastic Kindle Kids Mastery Course ($197 value!)
 – A website or blog design or redesign by Arturo Alviar.  Arturo will design (or redesign if you already have one that needs updating or a new look) a website or blog for the winner of this prize. The site will be built on WordPress so that after he is done designing it, the winner can manage it themselves with ease. Arturo will include a Home/Welcome page, an About Me/Bio page, a Works/Books/Gallery section, and a Contact section (4 pages total), as well as a blog section if the winner would like to have that integrated with the new site. Different organizations can also be made, for example if the winner would like a “Services” section with separate “School Visits” and “Critiques” pages, or a “Works” section divided into “Black and White” and “Color” illustration galleries. The winner can choose any of the WordPress themes (if they choose one that isn’t free, the cost of the theme will be covered by them), or have Arturo choose a theme based on their vision, and Arturo will modify it based on their color and layout preferences (some themes will have more constraints than others). Arturo can also design a personalized banner or header image to customize the website.  If you already have a website and/or blog and prefer a redesign to update, refresh, or just redecorate, Arturo is willing to work with Blogger, Wix, Drupal, and WordPress.
 – Enrollment in Making Picture Book Magic (my online picture book writing class – in March or a later month to be mutually agreed upon by the winner and me)
 – A picture book manuscript critique by fabulous author Amy Dixon, author of MARATHON MOUSE and the forthcoming SOPHIE’S ANIMAL PARADE.

– A picture book manuscript critique from Katy Duffield, author of more than 20 books for children including Farmer McPeepers And His Missing Milk Cows (Cooper Square Publishing 2003) and upcoming titles Loud Lula (Two Lions) illustrated by Mike Boldt and Aliens Get the Sniffles, Too (Candlewick) illustrated by K.G. Campbell.
 – A picture book manuscript critique (rhyme or prose) from Penny Parker Klostermann who, after extensive experience critiquing for writing partners, members of various kid lit groups, and clients of Erin Murphy Literary Agency, is opening her own critique service!!!
Penny Parker Klostermann writes picture books and poetry. Her debut book, THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT, is coming from Random House Children’s, August 2015. Penny is represented by Tricia Lawrence of Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Click HERE to learn more about her critique service. 

 – 2015 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market, a signed copy of Boy And Poi Poi Puppy by Linda Boyden, and a $25 Amazon Gift Card.
 – a pack of Deb Lund’s amazing Fiction Magic Cards
 – another pack of Deb Lund’s amazing Fiction Magic Cards

The Contest Winner will have first choice of the prizes.  2nd place will have next choice of what’s left and so on.  (I’m doing it this way in the hopes that no one will get something they already have and also because I think all the prizes are fabulous and I wouldn’t want to make anyone feel less valued by giving them as 6th place as opposed to 1st.)

So let’s get the Holiday Party started! 🙂

I want to warn you in advance that this may actually be the worst story I’ve ever written – embarrassing for me, but very comforting for anyone who is worried about the quality of their story – I can say with complete confidence that ANYTHING you write will be better than this sample! 🙂

Almost Not Christmas
(332 words)

Three days before Christmas a southerly breeze
Heated the earth to one hundred degrees!
“My goodness!” said Santa.  “This just isn’t cool!”
And he sent all his reindeer to chill in the pool.

The heat wave refused to let go of its grip
In time for his once-a-year Christmas Eve trip.
So as Santa took off for his round-the-world flight
He clucked to his team and sang into the night:
“Now Dasher! Now Dancer! Now Prancer and Vixen!
On Comet! On Cupid! On Donder and Blitzen!
Let’s hope we can get all our Christmas chores done
Without melting like popsicles left in the sun!”

But HEAT didn’t trouble St. Nick as he drove.
As his journey continued, the temperature dove.
And YOU know what happens when warm and cold meet –
— Fog tiptoes in on its little cat feet!

At dawn Christmas morning young children stopped short
When they heard this unthinkable Special Report:
“This just in! Here’s the hot-off-the-presses news scoop!
Santa is lost in that murky pea soup!”

Santa lost? When he’d battled that wild weather night
To ensure each child’s Christmas was merry and bright?
From North Pole to South, from New York to Japan
Christmas morn was abandoned to think up a plan.

In pajamas or nightgowns, in socks or bare feet,
Kids spilled from warm houses and met in the street.
“Santa comes through for us year after year.
It’s our turn to give him some Christmastime cheer!”

Puerto Toro* to Nunavuk* in a straight line
They climbed to their roofs with whatever would shine.
They lit up a beacon as bright as could be
With candles and glowsticks and lights from their tree.
An arrow of light that would gleam through the gloam
So Santa could finally find his way home.

“It’s official!” the newsfolk were happy to say.
“St. Nick made it back with his reindeer and sleigh!”
At last, filled with joy, kids began to unwrap
And Santa? He took a long afternoon nap!

*In case you’re wondering, Puerto Toro, Chile is the nearest settlement to the South Pole, and Alert, Nunavuk is the nearest to the North Pole 🙂

I have another equally bad half-finished story in prose that I might swap out for this one at some point during the week if I just can’t stand it any more 🙂

So now!  Is everyone filled with confidence about their entries?  I certainly hope so after that display!  Never let it be said that I’m not willing to make a fool of myself for you guys 🙂  It just proves how much I love you 🙂

I can’t wait to read all of your (much better!) stories!  I hope there will be a lot – the more the merrier!  And there are still 4+ days to write, so you have time if you haven’t written yet and want to join the fun.  Feel free to spread the word to your writing friends as well.

Remember to put your post-specific link (not your general blog link or people will find the wrong page if you post again before the contest is over) in the list below!

Don’t miss the 37 fabulous entries in the comment section! Click on the names or titles to go to the story.  Please note that it takes a minute to load.  And please also note that clicking on these links will allow you to read the story and leave your own comment, but not see previous comments left on that story… I don’t know why… so if you want to see all the comments left on the story, you’ll have to scroll through the whole comment section.

Melissa – On Top Of Hot Cocoa
Suzannah – The Christmas Storm
Kimberly – We Knit You A Merry Christmas
Anne – Christmas Eve At Gate 25
Rosa – My Unicorns Fought The Mean Storm
Gina – A Christmas Prayer
Kristen – Maple Syrup Meltdown
Zainab – Abe’s Cloud
Bronwyn – Jack Quits
Julie – Santa’s Satnav
Kristen – Polar Warming
Jim – Snowflake: A Christmas Tail
Laura – Mordecai’s Hanukkah Miracle
Sharon – Boomer’s First White Christmas
Rachel – A Christmas Miracle
Carol – The Best Christmas
Hilary – No Sweat Santa
Amy – Rain, dear
Tracie – The Under The Weather Weatherman
Kirsten – Hurricane Coal
Anne – What Will Santa Do?
Pam – My Snowman Is Sick
Carol Ann – Wish You’d Been Here
Nina – Only Mermaids Can Find A Christmas Tree In The Sea
Sharon – A Little Christmas Miracle
Ruth – Harry And Genie
Marty – Countdown To Midnight
Rene – Best Christmas Ever!
Angela – A Snowy Night
Patricia – The Christmas Miracle
Susan – Libby’s Blizzard Gift
Charlotte – Hanukkah At Gramma Golda’s House
Kim – The Great Sleigh Ride
Heather – Dreaming Of A White Christmas
Summer – The Snow Miracle
Amelia – The Night The Sun Stayed Up
Sally – Just Ice And Snow

Whistle A Happy Tune

Good Monday, All!

So nice of you to pop by!

Remember on Friday I told you I had exciting news to share?

I’m guessing that’s why you’re here.

Because of the exciting news I promised.

I said, “Come on over as soon as you wake up!”

And look!  Here you are!

You’re so wonderful 🙂

Okay!

Exciting news!

Guess what I did?

No, really!  Guess!

Never mind.  I’ll tell you.

I made up a song!

Yep!

It’s true!

Want to hear it?

Well, not actually hear it – I didn’t have time to make a video or a recording – but hear it in the sense that I can tell you the tune and the words and you can imagine me singing it to you…

Yes?  Are you ready?

Okay.  The tune is “The Bear Went Over The Mountain” (because I live on a mountain, as you may recall, and I saw a bear a little over a week ago, which you may also recall.)

Ready?

OH. . . !!!!!!!
The dog went over the mountain
The dog went over the mountain
The dog went over the mounTAIN….
Because she saw a bear!
WOOF!

Thank you.  Thank you very much!

So, what do you think?

Are you amazed?

I’m pretty amazed with myself, I have to tell you.  It’s not every day someone writes a song like that!  (Hey!  Did someone say, “Thank goodness!”?  I heard that!  Keep it nice, people.  We can’t all be as musically gifted as I am, but that’s no reason to unleash the green-eyed monster!)

So I can now add “Songwriter” to my resume!

Happy sigh 🙂

Alrighty.  See you on Wednesday for Would You Read It.

Unless you’ve got nothing to do right now. . .
. . . and you’re feeling reluctant to leave because you enjoyed my song so much that you want to hear it again. . .
. . . and you’re also thinking that maybe… just MAYBE… you’d like to hear about. . .
(Oh, golly!  That was fun while it lasted! Hehehe!). . .

The 4th Annual Holiday Contest!!!!
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

Oh the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
And since we’ve no place to go
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!


The Contest:  Write a children’s story (children here defined as approximately age 12 and under) in which wild weather impacts the holidays!  Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever you celebrate, but is not to exceed 350 words (I know!  So much freedom after the Halloweensie Contest :))  (It can be as short as you like, but no more than 350!)  Any kind of weather will do: sun, rain, sleet, heatwave, blizzard, tsunami, monsoon, hurricane, hail, tornado, etc!  Weather may be atypical for your setting (rain in Maine, frost in Florida), it may be extreme (blizzard instead of regular snow, drought instead of lush greenery), or it may be unheard of (spring flowers in Antarctica, snow in the Sahara, bathing suit weather at the North Pole), but whatever you choose, make us feel the impact on the holidays!  The wild weather may be a hindrance, a wish-come-true, a threat, a pleasant surprise, etc.  The field is wide open!  Have fun!  The wilder and wackier the better!  No illustration notes please. (And yes, if you feel compelled to submit more than one entry you may, just remember you’re competing against yourself!)
Post:  Your entry should be posted on your blog between Monday December 8 and Friday December 12 at 11:59 PM EST, and your post-specific link should be added to the link list on the official holiday contest post which will go up on my blog on Monday December 8 and remain up through Sunday December 14 (no WYRI or PPBF during that week.)  If you don’t have a blog but would like to enter, please copy and paste your entry into the comments on my December 8th post.  (If anyone has trouble commenting, which unfortunately happens, please email me and I’ll post your entry for you!)
The Judging:  My lovely assistant(s) and I will narrow down the entrants to 10-12 finalists (depending on the number of entries) which will be posted here on either Monday December 15 or Tuesday December 16 (depending on the number of entries :)) for you to vote on for a winner.  The vote will be closed on Thursday December 18 at 5 PM EST and the winners will be announced on Friday December 19.  Whoever gets the most votes will be first and so on down to tenth place.  Judging criteria will be kid appeal/kid-friendliness, creativity of weather use in plot, quality of story, quality of writing, and originality.
The Prizes!:  Well, I hope these prizes are going to knock your socks off!!!  In the spirit of the holidays, winners will be named for 1st – 10th place.  In addition to the incredible fame of being able to say you won (or placed in) the Pretty Much World Famous 4th Annual Holiday Contest, the following AMAZING prizes will be awarded: (items in color are links for more info!)

 – A picture book manuscript read and critique by Shari Dash Greenspan, Editor of the multi-award winning Flashlight Press!  I encourage you to sign up for their newsletter HERE!
 – A picture book manuscript read and critique by Jennifer Mattson, Agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency!
 – Enrollment in Renee LaTulippe‘s highly praised and recommended Lyrical Language Lab Course (in a month to be mutually agreed upon by the winner and Renee) ($249 value!)
 – Enrollment in Jon Bard and Laura Backes’s fantastic Kindle Kids Mastery Course ($197 value!)
 – Enrollment in Making Picture Book Magic (my online picture book writing class – in March or a later month to be mutually agreed upon by the winner and me)
 – A picture book manuscript critique by fabulous author Amy Dixon, author of MARATHON MOUSE and the forthcoming SOPHIE’S ANIMAL PARADE.
 – (Hopefully) 2 or 3 PB MS Critiques from other fabulous authors – TBA
 – 2015 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market, a signed copy of Boy And Poi Poi Puppy by Linda Boyden, and a $25 Amazon Gift Card.
 – a pack of Deb Lund’s amazing Fiction Magic Cards
 – another pack of Deb Lund’s amazing Fiction Magic Cards

I can’t thank these editors, agents, authors, and other industry professionals enough for their incredible generosity!  Please visit their sites, spread the word of their classes, buy and recommend their books to your friends with kids, and show your appreciation to them in any way you can!

And now!  Sharpen those pencils!  Top off those coffee mugs!  Get those derrieres in your chairs!  And start writing those prize-winning entries!!!

I can’t wait for the festivities to begin! 🙂

The 2014 Halloweensie Contest Finalists – VOTE For Your Favorite!!!

Holy Jack-O-Lanterns, Batman!

Look at me!  A mere shadow of my former self!

A pumpkin who has fallen off her creaky broomstick!

Wrung out and harrowed after an entire weekend of trying to decide how to rank the incredible entries y’all submitted for Halloweensie 2014.  What a job!!!

It’s a miracle I’m even here to tell the tale!

Thank goodness for the sustaining chocolate provided (via Face Book) by Joanna and Kathy 🙂  Thank you both, from the bottom of my chocolate-loving heart!  (And no, they did not receive “special consideration” for their entries as a result – they are both just lovely people who didn’t want me or my assistant judges to keel over :))

And speaking of the assistant judges, I had to call in a fourth!  I’m not kidding!

Because here’s the deal: we had the biggest turn out we’ve ever had in terms of number of entries – 132! – and the overall quality of the entries was fantastic.  Really, it is readily apparent that the quality of entries in these contests is improving every time.  This means there are fewer standouts, almost none that are easy to cut, and there a LOT of pretty good ones that we have to get very nit-picky over!  It is agony, I tell you!

Before we get to the actual list of finalists, I have a couple things to say.  (I know you’re shocked :))

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 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 100 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! – These stories are intended for a young audience, so entries that were well-written but lacked child-friendliness did not make the cut.
2.  Halloweeniness – the rules stated a Halloween story, so entries that failed to mention anything Halloween-y did not make the cut even if they were well-written.
3. Quality of story – the rules stated that entries were to tell a story, so if they appeared to be more of a description or mood piece, they didn’t make the cut.  We looked for a true story arc.
4. Quality of Writing: we took note of spelling, grammar, punctuation etc.  In addition, for the rhymers, we looked at rhyme and meter (for which we are sticklers!)  We also looked at overall writing quality and use of language.
5. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.

This time around, 5 entries sadly had to be cut because of rule problems: one was 3 words over the word limit (I counted 6 times, by hand and with Microsoft Word’s word count tool, because it was otherwise a strong entry! but 131 other people managed to stay at 100 or under so I had to be strict!); two used “broom” but not “broomstick“; and 2 did not use “creak” in any form.  (And yes, I checked the word count on all 132 entries and made sure the required words were present.)

After that, the going really got tough.  Some of the stronger stories were written in rhyme where the meter didn’t work as well as it needed to.  Some of the most beautiful rhyming entries with great use of language were more mood pieces than stories.  So we had to make some very hard calls.

Without further ado, I present to you the 2014 Halloweensie Contest Finalists.  A baker’s dozen – 13 for Halloween! 🙂  A mix of poetry and prose, stories for younger readers and slightly older (but still kid) readers, funny, spooky, and cute.  Please read through them carefully, take your time, think it over, and vote for your favorite.  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 pumpkin ballerina 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 Halloween SMS (Short Messaging Scariness)

Halloween SMS

#2 Creaky Cackle

Ever since Winnie Witch crashed into a creek, her cackle was creaky. 
Ah ha ha…hack…cough, cough…
Hallowe’en hijinks were hindered.
Broomstick in hand, she wobbled into the witch doctor’s office.
“Whoa,” said the doctor as she peered into Winnie’s mouth. “It looks like you’ve got a frog in your throat.”
“Chew this pumpkin lozenge,” the doctor decreed.
“Yuck,” Winnie gagged. Splutter, cough, cough…
Out bounded a bullfrog.
“Ba–ruump,” protested the frog and hopped off.
Ahhh ha ha ha ha…Winnie Witch whooped.
“Stay out of creeks,” the doctor yelled as Winnie Witch bounded off on her broomstick.

#3 Full Moon Rising

Full moon rising in the sky,
Owls are hooting, bats fly by.
Mummies moaning in the night,
Goblins groaning give you fright.
Milo walking down the path,
Up the steps, he hurries fast.
Floorboards creaking,
Milo’s sneaking,
Across the moonlit porch.
Past the pumpkin,
Past the cat,
Past the broomstick,
Past the rat.
To the door where spiders lay,
Waiting for their cowering prey.
Milo hears a frightening sound.
He doesn’t even turn around.
Glowing eyes behind him stare.
Ring the doorbell, if you dare!
Door creaks open.
Better not run.
Trick or Treat!
Now, let’s have some fun!

#4 Home Alone Halloween
I came home from school very excited. Halloween, my favorite day of the year.

I almost trip over the sixteen pumpkins on the porch.
With a creak, I swing the door open while calling out, “Mom?”  No answer.
The aroma of bat stew fills the house.
She’s not in the dungeon, or napping in her coffin. She must be here somewhere.
I look throughout the house, running from room to room.
Suddenly it hits me.
I fling open the broom closet. Empty. Even her broomstick is gone.
“Of course,” I said, hitting my forehead and smiling. “She is working tonight!”

#5 Sulky Spider’s Spooky Webs

Sulky Spider planned a scheme 
For making trick or treaters scream.
Spider silk began to spin
A Jack ‘o Web with wicked grin.
“Pretty pumpkin,” cowgirls said. 
“Pretty?” Sulky hung her head.
“A webby ghost will do the trick!”
She spun a spooky ghoul up quick.
Pirates shouted, “Ghosts are neat!” 
She gobbled up her web. “Defeat.”
   
Spinnerets began to twitch.
“A warty-broomstick-riding-witch!”
A princess cooed, “That witch is sweet.”
She stomped all eight offended feet.
“I need a buggy snack,” she frowned.  
Sticky thread went round and round.
She didn’t hear the stairway creak.
“A spiderweb!” they hollered, “Eek!”


#6 This Year’s Halloween Mascot

“Me!”
“No, me!”
Witch School should have been brimming with excitement. But everyone was sick of hearing Broomstick and Pumpkin argue over who should be Halloween mascot.
“No one flies higher,” said Broomstick.
“No Jack-O-Lantern shines brighter,” said Pumpkin.
Black cats cowered, paws over ears. Cauldrons bubbled their disapproval.
C-r-e-e-e-e-a-k– the courtyard door opened to an assembly of witches.
“The time has come,” Head Mistress said. “The night awaits my decision.”
“This year’s mascot shines the brightest…” (Pumpkin’s head swelled.)
“…and flies the highest.” (Broomstick’s spirits soared.)
“Our Halloween mascot is…”
“… the Moon,” who silently took a bow.


#7 Halloween Chase

The pumpkins were glowing, but I still couldn’t see
There was someone or something coming for me
I glanced over my shoulder when I heard the stair creak
My heart leapt from my chest and my legs became weak
I gasped when I saw her, all ghoulish and green
She was staring right at me, eyes angry and mean
Her broomstick was poised to crash down on my head
I wished I could fly, but my feet felt like lead
My fists began swinging, I was ready to fight
My sister took off her mask and just laughed with delight!


#8 Halloween Hide-and-Go-Seek
It’s Halloween! It’s dark, it’s spooky, it’s perfect for a game of Halloween Hide-and-Go-Seek!
Blurp! Bloop! Blub!
Are you in the cauldron?
No, just some toadstool stew.
Rustle! Swish! Swoosh!
Are you in the closet?
No, just an old broomstick.
Creak! Crack! Bang!
Are you behind the curtains?
No, it’s just the wind blowing the windows open and closed.
Scritch! Scratch! Raow!
Are you behind the chair?
No, just the cat settling down.
Giggle, Giggle
Are you upstairs?
Sssshhhhhhh!
Are you in the bedroom?
Hmmmmm.
Boo!
There are my little pumpkins!
You’ve had your trick, now how about your treat?

#9 The Shadow

Once upon a pumpkin moon
a rocker creaked,
the wind sighed, Soon….A Shadow stole across the lawn
and stopped upon the stair.
Ghosts and goblins roamed the streets.
They rang each bell
for tricks or treats.
As they approached they didn’t see
the Shadow waiting there.
Through the dark the children stepped,
not knowing where
the Shadow crept.
They stumbled over Shadow and
their screeches pierced the air.
Broomstick tail puffed wide with fright,
poor Shadow fled
into the night.
On Halloween a small black cat
should NOT sit on the stair!

#10 Halloween In A Box

“Skeleton!! It’s here!” Witch cackled. “Halloween in a Box! I ordered it on the Making Potions and Brew Magic website. ‘Fun Guaranteed!’”
Witch looked inside. “Pumpkin centerpiece? Broomstick garland?? Party plates??? That’s it????” She flopped onto the floor and wailed, “My party is ruined!”
Skeleton picked up the box. “I’ll be back.”
Skeleton returned with the box. “Open it.”
Witch lifted the flaps. Out jumped Black Cat, Ghost, Monster from Under-the-Bed, Zombie, his mother Mummy, and Hairy Spider.
“Now THAT’S a Halloween in a Box!” Witch screeched.
“Fun Guaranteed!” Skeleton said, dancing a creaky jig.
#11 Devious Dads And Halloween
Devious Dads and Halloween
Pumpkin creations
Under the stars,
Mama carves goblins,
Papa carves cars.
Kids from our condo,
Itching for treats,
Navigate hallways
            Bound for the streets.
            Roger plays Batdude.
            Orville’s a ghost.
            Omar rocks Elvis,
            Milly is toast.
            Sam’s owl is skittish,
            Tim acts the clown.
            Ike rides a broomstick,
            Cruising our town.
            Kids in cool costumes
Creep through the night,
Rack up the candy,
Eat just a bite.
After, in jammies,
Kids hide the rest,
Eager to keep
Dads far from the best!
#12 Snack-O’-Lantern
“Nibbles,” sighed Chester Cat. “You’re supposed to carve a pumpkin.”
“They’re too big,” the guinea pig replied. “So I am carving a Halloween-o Jalapeño. Scary, huh? Does it make you want to run away?”
“No,” Chester sniffed. “That wouldn’t make anyone run away.”
They heard the creak of floorboards and the clatter of the broomstick Buster used for fetch.
“I bet it’ll make Buster run.”
“No way.”
“Let’s see,” Nibbles challenged. Then he shouted. “BUSTER! SNAAACK!”
Buster galloped in. He gobbled the jalapeño.
His eyes sprang open.
Yelping, he dashed to his water dish.
“Told you he’d run,” Nibbles giggled.
#13 Snip, Snap, Crack
In a deep dark corner, an old lady sits.
She cackles, and snarls, and frantically knits.
Click clack go her needles.
Snip snap go her bones,
As she rocks and she creaks
and her kitty cat moans.
She conjures up spiders, and pumpkins, and ghosts
All spun from her yarn –
“I’m so wicked!” she boasts.
Don’t dare approach her,
She’s all trick and no treat.
What are you doing??
Come hither, my sweet.
Get away from that broomstick! Skedaddle! Shoo!
You’re tiptoeing closer??
Snip
Snap
Crack
BOO!


Now that you’ve had a chance to read through the finalists, please vote for the entry you feel deserves to win in the poll below by 5PM EST Wednesday November 5.

Tune in Thursday November 6 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!
Tune in Thursday… same bat time, same bat station 🙂

(And we will have a regularly scheduled Would You Read It on Wednesday too!)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take a nap.

Okay.

Not really.

I’m SO not a napper.

But I might eat some leftover Halloween candy 🙂

Have a marvelous Monday! 🙂

The 4th Annual Halloweensie Writing Contest – aahhhrrrooooOOOOO!!!!

Tiger eye and mandrake root!  It’s finally time for

The 4th Annual HALLOWEENSIE CONTEST!!!!!
aahhhrrrooooOOOOO!!!!

courtesy google images

The Contest:  write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (title not included in the 100 words), using the words pumpkinbroomstick, and creak.   Your story can be poetry or prose, scary, funny or anything in between, 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 nearly 80 fantastic entries last year so I know you can do it!)  Also, you may use the words in any form – e.g. creak, creaky, creaks, creaking, creaked.  No illustration notes please!

Post your story on your blog between right now this very second and Friday October 31st by 11:59 PM EDT and add your post-specific link to the list below.  There will be no Would You Read It Wednesday or Perfect Picture Book Friday this week, so this post and the list of links will stay up all week for everyone to enjoy.  (I hope you will all visit each other! :))  If you don’t have a blog and would like to enter, you can simply copy and paste your entry in the comments section below. (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!)

The Judging: in a grueling, marathon weekend, my lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to 3 top choices (hee hee hee – okay, who are we kidding? :)) which will be posted here and voted on for a winner on Monday November 3rd.  The winner will be announced in a special Thursday post on November 6th.  If we get more than 20 entries, I will post 6 finalists and give prizes for 1st through 3rd.  If by some chance we get the kind of turn out we did last year, all bets are off.  I may post as many as 10 finalists and I’ll probably end up giving everyone a prize 🙂  But we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it 🙂

The Prizes:  we’ve got some seriously amazing prizes! (words in color are links to more info)

– Julie Hedlund‘s fantastic new course How To Make Money As An Author, interesting, educational and suitable for writers at any stage of their career

 – a 2015 membership to Children’s Book Insider, an absolutely fabulous resource for kid lit writers of all kinds, generously offered by Jon Bard and Laura Backes

 – a picture book manuscript critique from the renowned Alayne Christian (prose only, 800 words or less)
Alayne Kay Christian is an award winning author of BUTTERFLY KISSES FOR GRANDMA AND GRANDPA. She is represented by Erzsi Deak of Hen&Ink Literary Studio. To read more about Alayne, her critique service, and her books visit her websites and blog.

– a picture book manuscript critique (rhyme or prose) from Penny Parker Klostermann who, after extensive experience critiquing for writing partners, members of various kid lit groups, and clients of Erin Murphy Literary Agency, is opening her own critique service!!!

Penny Parker Klostermann writes picture books and poetry. Her debut book, THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT, is coming from Random House Children’s, August 2015. Penny is represented by Tricia Lawrence of Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Click HERE to learn more about her critique service. 

 – a picture book manuscript critique by Tracey M. Cox!  Tracey offers a full critique on a fiction PB, 800 words or less, which will include overall impression and line-by-line on a prose only pb ms.  She will also include thoughts and marketing ideas that she thinks about and if she can think of references, she’ll add them also.  Tracey M. Cox has been writing professionally since 2000 and is an author of 6 picture books.  She is an active member in the children’s literature community and explores how to self-market on little to no budget.

Website: www.traceymcox.com
Blog: www.traceymcox.wordpress.com


 – an e-pub or PDF copy (winner’s choice) of Linda Ashman‘s Nuts And Bolts Guide To Writing Picture Books

 – a personalized signed copy of I WANNA GO HOME by Karen Kaufman Orloff, the latest in the brilliant PB series that began with I WANNA IGUANA. (Reviewed HERE for PPBF)

 – a personalized signed copy of I AM COW HEAR ME MOO by Jill Esbaum (reviewed for Perfect Picture Books HERE and HERE – yep, it’s so popular it got reviewed for PPBF twice :))

 – a personalized signed copy of NINJA RED RIDING HOOD by Corey Rosen Schwartz, the riveting follow-up to THE THREE NINJA PIGS.  (Reviewed HERE for PPBF)

 – a PDF copy of Ryan Sias’s A Spooky-Doodle E-Book“doodle pages, drawing lessons and writing prompts inspire kids to invent their own stories, characters and artwork.”

Please join me again 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, or supporting them in any other way you can dream up 🙂

Now then.  Time for my sample entry which I provide because I would never ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do myself.  Also, in case anyone is worried about the quality of their entry they have only to read my foolish attempts to be filled with confidence that their’s is MUCH better!  I have to confess, I was really down to the wire this year (my schedule is a little bit nuts!), so, ahem, yeah.. I’ll be proofreading after I post since I’m out of time 🙂  (And I usually do one rhyme and one prose, but I don’t have a prose one this year… yet… if I have time maybe I’ll write one and add it during the week :))

So without further ado:

A Halloween Dare (100 words)
Haggie Witch just had to go

Haggie, as illustrated by the fabulously talented
Julie Rowan-Zoch
click for PORTFOLIODIGITALSKETCHBOOK

To the Broomstick Rodeo
And prove she had the skill and pluck
To ride a broomstick bronco’s buck.
Her sister said she’d fall headlong.
Haggie vowed to prove her wrong!
Haggie’s heart quailed in her chest
But she had to face this test.
The gate sprang open with a creak
Out shot Haggie like a streak.
The broomstick bronco pitched and rolled,
Lunged and plunged quite uncontrolled!
But Haggie rode that fireball
Just like a pro and did not fall.
“I win, Sis, you can’t deny

you owe me a pumpkin pie!”

Pirate Ploy (100 words)

Halloween
A pumpkin moon
A ghostly ship
A still lagoon
Tattered sails
Like swirling mist
Ancient rigging
Creaks and twists
Skull and crossbones
Striking fear
Warning sailors
Far and near
Captain Jack
Comes thump-a-peg
Limping on
His broomstickleg
“Steady mates,”
breathes Captain Jack,
“Mustn’t blow
our sneak attack!”
Silently
The ghost ship glides
Closer . . .
Closer . . .
On the tides
Guided through
The murky blue
By the ghastly
Skeleton crew
Stealthily
it comes abreast
Lurking
uninvited guest
Nearing windows
warm with light
no idea
of their plight.
Captain Jack
deceit complete

shouts, “Mrs. Johnson! Trick-or-treat!”

Everyone feeling better about their stories now?  I should certainly HOPE so! 🙂

I can’t wait to read all of yours!  I’m so looking forward to them!  I hope there will be a lot – the more the merrier!  And there are still 4 days to write, so you have time if you haven’t written yet.  Feel free to spread the word to your writing friends as well.

Remember to put your post-specific link (not your general blog link or people will find the wrong page if you post again before the contest is over) in the list below!

Happy Writing and Happy Halloween!!! 🙂

There are already 57 entries in the comment section below that you won’t want to miss! (names are links):
Barbara – The Trick Or Treat Troll
Eric – Witch Poem
Lata – Halloween Colors
Nomie – Mabel’s Spooky Soiree
Tracie – The Misspelled Witch
Rachel K – A Home On Halloween
Suzy – Witch In My Hamper
Sarah C – The Moon Is Up!
Angela B – A Messy Halloween
Sue – Untitled
Kimberly C – First Flight Of Halloween
Ann – Off To See The Wizard
Susan – The Contest
Michelle V – The Halloween Sneer
Ashley – Pumpkin’s Plight
Abigail – Maddie’s First Broomstick
Jim – Jack
Melissa – Pumpkin’s Patch
Pia – The Green Witch’s Brew
Kathleen – The Littlest Pumpkin
Lori D – The Trick Or Treat Bag
Debbie – Halloween In A Box
Sharalyn – The Witch And The Pumpkin Contests
Jaymie – No Tricks, Just Treats
Jenifer – Broomstick Ball
Ellen – Emma’s Evening Ride
Beth – Halloween Night
Anne – What’s That?
Brandie – No Ordinary Witch
Marty – Winnie’s Spell
Michelle B – This Year’s Halloween Mascot
Jessica – Spooky Sharing
Alistair – The Raven And The Pumpkin
Kirsten – Family Re-BOO-nion
Jodi – Halloween Hide-And-Go-Seek
Anne B – The Pumpkin Patch Scarecrow
Carol – Halloween Night
Nicole – Black At Night
Hope – In The Wee Hours Of Halloween
Maggie – Arabella The Witch
Gina – Halloween Chase
Kelly – The Pumpkin King
Mandy – On This Night
Eric – The Scarecrow
Cat – Etty Bitty Belina
Julie A – Orinda Owl’s First Halloween
Donna R – The Witches’ Gathering
Kathy – Who Is It?
Robin – Kitchin-nastic Trick Or Treats
Sandy – Pete’s Pumpkins
Judy – Halloween Parade
Merry – Witch School
Victoria – Creaks
Amelia – Full Moon Rising
Colleen – Tell It To The Ghosts
Sydney – Midnight Critters
Stefanie – Monsters Rock

About That Exciting Announcement I Promised Last Week

Happy Monday, everyone!

I hope you all had a lovely weekend!

Last week I told you I had something exciting to tell you today and I do!

Are you ready?

dddddrrrrruuuuummmmmrrrrrooooollllllllll!!!!!

This week . . .

. . .

. . . Stop & Shop bath tissue is on sale for $.75 off!!!

I know!  It’s not every day you get such incredible news!

So bring the van and load up, alrighty?  I knew you’d want to know!

Okey-dokey, then.

Thanks for stopping by.

I hope you all have a Marvelous Monday 🙂

See you on Wednesday for Would You Read It.

Bye.

Buh-bye now.

Bye! 🙂

Oh, but wait.  I guess there was one more thing. . .

Apparently I’m becoming very nice in my old age, because here it is, only October 6, with a full 3 weeks to go, and I’m announcing. . .

DUHN DUHN DUHN. . . !

The 4th Annual HALLOWEENSIE CONTEST!!!!!
That’s right!  It’s about that time!


courtesy google images

The Contest:  write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (title not included in the 100 words), using the words pumpkin, broomstick, and creak.   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 (you can count candy corn as one word) 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 nearly 80 fantastic entries last year so I know you can do it!)  Also, you may use the words in any form – e.g. creak, creaky, creaks, creaking, creaked, pumpkiny, broomsticks, whathaveyou 🙂  No illustration notes please!

Post your story on your blog between 12:00 AM EDT Monday October 27th and Friday October 31st by 11:59 PM EDT and add your post-specific link to the list that will accompany my October 27th 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!)

The Judging: in a grueling, marathon weekend, my lovely 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 3rd.  The winner will be announced in a special Thursday post on November 6th.  If we get more than 20 entries, I will post 6 finalists and give prizes for 1st through 3rd.  If by some chance we get the kind of turn out we did last year, all bets are off.  I may post as many as 10 finalists and I’ll probably end up giving everyone a prize 🙂  But we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it 🙂

The Prizes:  yeah… I’m still working on the prizes 🙂  Feel free to chime in in the comments if there’s something you’d particularly like to win! 🙂  But prizes will include:
 – Julie Hedlund‘s fantastic new course How To Make Money As An Author, interesting, educational and suitable for writers at any stage of their career,
 – a 2015 membership to Children’s Book Insider, an absolutely fabulous resource for kid lit writers of all kinds generously offered by Jon Bard and Laura Backes,
 – a picture book manuscript critique from the renowned Alayne Christian (prose only, 800 words or less),
Alayne Kay Christian is an award winning author of BUTTERFLY KISSES FOR GRANDMA AND GRANDPA. She is represented by Erzsi Deak of Hen&Ink Literary Studio. To read more about Alayne, her critique service, and her books visit her websites and blog.
 – an e-pub or PDF copy (winner’s choice) of Linda Ashman‘s Nuts And Bolts Guide To Writing Picture Books.
 – a PDF copy of Ryan Sias’s A Spooky-Doodle E-Book, “doodle pages, drawing lessons and writing prompts inspire kids to invent their own stories, characters and artwork.” 

Plus whatever else I dream up in the meantime 🙂

I hope those fantabulous prizes fill you with enthusiasm for the contest!

So sharpen your pencils!

Get your butt in that chair!

See what amazing, knock-your-socks-off story you can dream up!

It’s a chance to hone your writing skills, practice your craft, write to specifications and a deadline, win amazing prizes, AND get to read and enjoy the wonderful stories written by all your fellows 🙂

Many thanks to Julie, Jon and Laura, Alayne, Linda, and Ryan for their very generous prize offerings!

I literally cannot wait to read your stories!!! 🙂

Now, for real, have a Marvelous Monday everyone! 🙂

Would You Read It Wednesday #129 – Roy G. Biv And The Amazing Castle Moat (PB)

Sometimes a box arrives on your doorstep.

If it looks like this

you know it is a very very good kind of box!!!

When you open it, you’ll see this

and then this

and then this

and finally – squeeeeeeee! –

SOMETHING CHOCOLATE!!!

Please, help yourselves!

And thank you, Kirsten, for your very thoughtful gift!  I’d like to say there were some left, but that would just be lying 🙂  I can say in complete truthfulness, however, that they were delicious!!! 🙂

Now that we are all happily munching on the proverbial bonbons, let’s have a round of applause (because it would be impolite to yell “Congratulations!” with a mouth full of Godiva chocolate truffles!) for the winner of the March Pitch Pick which is. . .

Ann!
with her pitch for Sk8r Boy!!!

Congratulations, Ann!  Your pitch has been sent to editor Erin Molta for her thoughts.  I’m sure you’ll hear from her shortly.

And congratulations to our other brave pitchers who also did a terrific job!  I hope you all gained from the Would You Read It experience, and I also hope you’ll take a few extra congratulatory truffles 🙂  Best of luck with your stories!

Now then.  Onward!

Today’s pitch comes to us from Charlotte who says, “When I was a little girl, a childless older couple who lived across the street gave me an oversized picture book, written in wonderful rhyming couplets.  More than a half century later, I can still recite the entire story of “The Children That Lived in a Shoe” from memory, as I visualize the pictures of the cherub-like little ones going about their daily routines. I still love this book.  Twenty-first century children deserve access to their own favorite stories that will endure for them throughout their lifetimes. I keep this in mind when I work on my PB manuscripts.

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Roy G. Biv And The Amazing Castle Moat
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 5-8)
The Pitch: Sophie senses there’s magic in the world of nature, while Sam is more of a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of kid. She likes building fairy houses but agrees to help her brother construct his sand fortress.  When a sudden summer rainstorm spares their beach castle, the overflowing moat delivers a surprise visitor, Roy G. Biv.  Sam thinks someone is playing a trick on him when he hears the guest’s voice share a rhyming, rhythmic poem about the rainbow’s colors. Sophie is delighted at how Sam finds out that Roy G. Biv is not only rather magical, but is also real.

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 Charlotte 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 July so you’ve got a little time to polish up your pitches and send yours for your chance to be read by editor Erin Molta!

Charlotte is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to the upcoming Illustrators Contest which is barely a week away now!  It will open on Thursday April 24th!  I am really, really hoping that at least a few people will enter, because I would so love to see how they bring the amazing March Madness Writing Contest winners’ ideas to life!  Please feel free to spread the word to all your illustrator friends and join me in looking forward to visiting some new blogs, getting to know some fabulously talented new people, and seeing some amazing art!!!

In the hope that you CAN actually teach an old dog new tricks, let’s try this and see if it works.  At all.  For anyone! 🙂

Tweet: Children’s illustrator contest opens April 24! Great prizes! @SusannaLHill #illustration #kidlitart

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 🙂

Would You Read It Wednesday #128 – Sammy Dougie Foxtrot: Look, Smile, Roar (PB) PLUS Straight From The Editor PLUS the March Pitch Pick

My goodness we have a busy day today!

Good thing I gave you Monday off to rest up 🙂

First up, we have Straight From The Editor for Kristine, the February Pitch Winner.  You will recall her pitch:

Working Title: THE STEM GIRLS TAKE OFF
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 5-8)
The Pitch: Sophia wants to win the school science fair, but when her project won’t cooperate, she uses perseverance and teamwork to bring home the goal, proving that every girl can be a STEM girl.

Here are editor Erin Molta’s comments:

This is a great premise and goodness knows, we definitely need more books about girls succeeding in science, technology, engineering and math. However, in order for this to catch an editor’s eye, you need to put a little more spark into it. It’s very generic right now. What is her science project? How was it not cooperating? Was she snubbed because she was a girl and had something to prove? It seems to infer that, but the focus in your pitch is on perseverance and teamwork, whereas it should be more specific. Think of the one thing that she did to get everyone to help her OR why her project was failing and base your pitch around that. And if there’s humor—see if you can get that in, too.

As always, I find Erin’s comments so helpful and insightful!

Now, after all that education, we should probably have a snack 🙂  Something Chocolate anyone?  I’m in a cupcake mood. And this one is kind of cheerful and spring-like as well as luscious and chocolate, don’t you think? 🙂

Scrumptious! 🙂

Now that we’re all fortified, let’s take a look at the awesome pitches from March and see which lucky writer is going to get her pitch reviewed by Erin.

#1 Karen – Puddles And Rainbows (PB ages 4-6)
Growing up is hard, but learning to rain might just prove harder. Either way, this Little Cloud needs plenty of patience and determination. A colorful discovery makes it all worthwhile.

#2 Ann – Sk8r Boy (PB ages 5-8)
Peter wants to be an ice skater but can’t because he’s homeless, and he doesn’t have the money for a pair of skates. But when there’s a poetry contest at school with a small cash prize, he may be able to make his smooth words glide and spin so that he can buy the skates and win his classmates’ respect.

#3 Beth – Martin’s Perfect Web (PB ages 5-7)
In a quest to build a perfect web, a fussy spider confronts his biggest fears through an unlikely friendship with an inquisitive dragon.  Laurent the dragon takes Martin on a wild ride on his tail.  No one is more surprised at the ending than this stubborn intractable spider who finally learns how to relax, and enjoy the simple process of creating.

Please vote for the pitch you feel most deserves a read by editor Erin Molta in the poll below by Sunday April 13 at 5PM EDT.

Many thanks!!!

Today’s pitch comes to us from Morgan who says. “I am an aspiring children’s book writer, a licensed school psychologist, and a mother of two boys (ages 1 1/2 and 3), with another on the way. Reading and writing emotional literacy is my passion. I also enjoy writing social stories and making reward charts for fun!” 

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Sammy Dougie Foxtrot: Look, Smile, Roar
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-8)
The Pitch: Boogie along with Sammy Dougie Foxtrot and his trusted lion, PJ, on their courageous playground adventure. When PJ gets stuck in a sycamore tree, Sammy is scared: “The kind of scared when brakes on a truck screech, it’s dirt dumps, and it is as stiff as stabilizer legs.”Sammy discovers the true meaning of courage: that one can feel scared and brave at the same time. Even though the children at the playground look different, Sammy looks, smiles, and roars, bravely asking for their help. Find out if Sammy and the playground crew can work together to rescue PJ. “Look, Smile, Roar” enhances 4 to 8 year olds emotional literacy through the use of their imaginations. While entertaining, Sammy and PJ also emphasize tolerance and acceptance to promote early intervention. Oh, and I forgot to mention, they love to have fun! 

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 Morgan 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 July so you’ve got a little time to polish up your pitches and send yours for your chance to be read by editor Erin Molta!

Morgan is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to the upcoming Illustrators Contest!  I really am!  Of course, we might not have any entries, but if we DO, think how awesome they will be!  I can’t wait to see what our talented friends come up with to bring the March Madness Contest Winners’ stories to life!  I have to learn how to do those convenient “tweet this” thingies – then I could helpfully put one here and make it so easy for all you guys to spread the word. I’ll add it to my to-do list. . . which is exceedingly long. . . so don’t hold your breath for convenient tweet thingies 🙂

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone! 🙂

Would You Read It Wednesday # 127 – Dead Trees Don’t Need Water (PB)

Happy Wednesday Everyone!

And Happy Children’s Book Day!

(It’s also National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day – very kid-friendly, but maybe not great to mix with books :))

I’m happy to report that it is officially April here on Blueberry Hill… probably wherever you are too 🙂

It is a well-known fact that April is the best month of the year, due to April Fool, Phyllis (and also April Fools Day :)), Earth Day, Arbor Day, usually Easter (which I know is not technically about chocolate but still…), Blah Blah Blah Day (which we certainly couldn’t do without!), the fact that it is National Welding Month (and you all know what a big part of my life welding is… not :)) and the celebrity birthdays of certain pretty-much-famous people who shall remain nameless 🙂

Plus, it has such a pretty sound.  April.  So pleasing to the ear.

Really.  What’s not to love about April? 🙂

But let’s hearken back to the bygone days of February and March for one second.

Due to the March Madness Writing Contest preempting WYRI last week, I didn’t get to announce the winner of the February Pitch Pick, so. . .

prup prup-pr prup-prup pr prup!

(that was a trumpet call in case you didn’t quite catch it)

. . . the February Pitch Pick Winner was Kristine with her pitch for The STEM Girls Take Off!  Congratulations, Kristine!  Your pitch has been sent to editor Erin Molta for her thoughts, and I’m sure you will hear from her shortly 🙂

Congratulations also to our other brave pitchers, all of whom had wonderful story ideas and well-written pitches!  Good luck to all of you with your stories!

Now.  How about Something Chocolate?  These are festive and spring-like and practically totally healthy since they are mostly strawberry and only part chocolate 🙂

Help yourselves 🙂

Today’s pitch comes to us from Frances, who says, “I began writing children’s stories many, many years ago, but I got sidetracked by needing to make a living!  Now that my son has started college, I feel I have the time to devote myself to my passion for children’s literature once again.  I have an MFA in Creative Writing, and I have been writing and editing professionally for about 30 years.  I currently work as a freelance editor and am a member of SCBWI, Children’s Books Insider, and Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Forum.”

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Dead Trees Don’t Need Water
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-8)
The Pitch: Peter wants to be friends with Asbury the tree, but when he finds out that Asbury will be cut down, he comes up with a plan to save Asbury.  In the process Peter  discovers a very special gift that he and Asbury can share forever.  

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 Frances 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 July so you’ve got a little time to polish up your pitches and send yours for your chance to be read by editor Erin Molta!

Frances is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to all the awesomeness that is April!  I expect robins on my lawn and hyacinth blossoms beside the mudroom porch any second now! (Not because it’s likely, just because I’m ready :))

Have a wonderful Wednesday, everyone! 🙂