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


Roses are red

Violets are blue

Valentinies rock

And so do YOU!

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

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

Valentiny Writing Contest 2019!

~ for children’s writers~

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

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

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

Judging criteria will include:

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

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

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

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

Penny Klostermann

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

495eb-penny      Cooked-Up Fairy Tale

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

Rosie Pova                Sarah's Song

If I Weren't With You Sunday Rain

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

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

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

Ellen Leventhal       Don't Eat The Bluebonnets

Hayfest     Lola Can't Leap

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

Sherry Howard (4)Cover Rock and Roll Woods

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

Lydia Lukidis        No Bears Allowed

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


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

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

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

Not Quite Snow White      noah

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

Emily's Idea HEY, HEY, HAY! Cover

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

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

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

What Color Is Night? Caspian Finds A Friend


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


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

Steel yourself!

A Valentiny Mystery (184 words)

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

What could it be?

“Ribbon? Wagon? Redwood tree?”

Ooh! I love a mystery!

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

What could it be?

“Candy apple? Raspberry?”

Hmm… it’s still a mystery!

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

What could it be?

“A candy heart? A strawberry?”

Hmmm… it’s still a mystery!

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

What could it be?

“A sparkle-sprinkled chocolate cherry?”

Golly! What a mystery!

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

What could it be?

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

I warned you. . . 🙂

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

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

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


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

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

Happy Valentines Week, Everyone! 💕

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

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

Perfect Picture Book Friday – A Leaf Can Be PLUS The Giveaway Winner!

Greetings, favorite folks!

Before we get to our Perfect Picture Book today, I’d like to take a quick second to announce the winner of a signed copy of Sylvia Liu’s Perfect Picture Book from last week – A Morning With Grandpa!  Many thanks to all of you who visited and commented, sharing your favorite exercise and/or way to relax.  Your names were all randomly randomized in the randomizer, and the winner is:

(drum roll please…!!!)


Congratulations, Leslie!  Please email me (susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com) so I can organize with Sylvia to get your book to you!

Now then.  I confess life got the better of me this week, so I’m sharing a book today that I’ve shared before… but it’s very appropriate for spring and May and the emerald green all around 🙂


Title:  A Leaf Can Be

Written By: Laura Purdie Salas

Illustrated By: Violetta Dabija

Millbrook Press, February 2012, Fiction based on fact

Suitable For: ages 3-8

Themes/Topics: nature, seasons, poetry

Opening:  “A leaf is a leaf

It bursts out each spring

when sunny days linger

and orioles sing.

A leaf can be a…

soft cradle

water ladle

Sun taker

Food maker…”

Brief Synopsis: a simple rhyming story that shows all the many things a leaf can be.

Links To Resources: the back of the book has lots of facts about leaves, showing how they can be all the things mentioned in the book.  There is also a small glossary.  Take a walk and see how many different kinds of leaves you can find.  What could your leaves be used for?  Leaf Activities.  What else can you look at in different ways?

Why I Like This Book:  The quietness of this book encourages children to really think about all the different things leaves can be and in turn encourages children to stretch their imaginations about how other everyday objects might be used in different ways.  The poetry is gentle with pretty images.  The information in the back adds a lot to the learning potential of the book.  And the art in this book is absolutely luminous.  It just glows.  It is the perfect art for the text making for an altogether magical reading experience.

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF folks, please add your titles and post-specific links (and any other info you feel like filling out 🙂 ) to the form below so we can all come see your inspiring picks for this week!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!!!

Perfect Picture Book Friday – A Morning With Grandpa PLUS A Giveaway!!!

I am beyond thrilled to be sharing today’s Perfect Picture Book!

First off, it’s a lovely book that celebrates both the loving relationship between a grandfather and his granddaughter and the importance of mindfulness and the mind/body connection.

Second, it was written by my friend, author and illustrator Sylvia Liu,and is her debut picture book as an author, and it is always wonderful when a Perfect Picture Book has been written by a friend!

Third, it comes with special treats! 🙂

Treat #1 is that Sylvia is joining us today to personally provide the “Resource” section of the post.   She is going to explain in detail how  you can expand on her picture book at home and in the classroom!

Treat #2 is that she is giving away a copy of her book to one lucky winner!

So let’s begin by meeting her!  Hi, Sylvia!

Sylvia Liu pic © K Woodard Photography

Sylvia Liu, author of Morning With Grandpa, also a talented illustrator, and also the co-creator of the not-to-be-missed website Kidlit411 (Photo Credit – Copyright K. Woodard Photography)

Sylvia Liu is an environmental lawyer turned children’s author and illustrator. A MORNING WITH GRANDPA is her debut picture book as an author. She is inspired by oceans, aliens, cephalopods, and more. She lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia, with her husband and their two daughters. Visit her online at enjoyingplanetearth.com.

And now, it is my great pleasure to introduce you to her Perfect Picture Book: A Morning With Grandpa!


Title:  A Morning With Grandpa

Written By: Sylvia Liu

Illustrated By: Christina Forshay

Lee & Low Books, April 2016, Fiction

Suitable For Ages: 5-8

Themes/Topics: relationships (grandparent/grandchild), mindfulness, tai chi, yoga

Opening: “Mei Mei watched Grandpa dance slowly among the flowers in the garden.  He moved like a giant bird stalking through a marsh.  His arms swayed like reeds in the wind.

‘What are you doing, Gong Gong?’ asked Mei Mei.

‘I am practicing tai chi,” said gong Gong.  “This form is called White Crane Spreading Its Wings.’

Brief Synopsis: (from the publisher) Mei Mei learns tai chi from Gong Gong and teaches him yoga. While their styles are different, they enjoy their time together.

Links To Resources:  Today’s resources are detailed below in a special note from author Sylvia Liu.

The Benefits of Tai Chi and Yoga for Kids By Sylvia Liu

As stressed out and busy adults, we know the value of taking a moment out of our hectic days to calm our minds, meditate, or just breathe. Mindfulness relaxes, de-stresses, builds immunity, and promotes mental and physical health.

Tai chi and yoga are mind-body practices from Asia (tai chi originated in China and yoga in India) that promote health through body movement, breathing, and mindfulness. Meditation and qi gong are others.

When I wrote A MORNING WITH GRANDPA, my goal was to share a fun grandparent and grandchild story involving tai chi or qi gong to introduce children to these lesser known practices. I have since learned that children benefit from these practices in so many ways:

  1. Learning mental stillness helps counteract the sensory overload that comes from 24/7 entertainment, excessive screen time, and over scheduled lives.
  1. Tai chi and yoga instill discipline, concentration, and body awareness.
  1. Tai chi and yoga provide physical exercise and challenges in a non competitive way. Yoga increases strength, flexibility, and coordination.
  1. Both tai chi and yoga are rooted in natural forms and poses. Practicing these disciplines help children connect with nature.
  1. The calming, concentration, discipline, and self-confidence that develop with these practices can reduce symptoms of ADHD.
  1. Purposeful movement and concentration help put children in a learning state of mind.

Teachers and parents, when you read A MORNING WITH GRANDPA with your students and children, here are a few activities you can try that are fun and provide stress relief (for you and the kids):

Belly Breathing

Have you ever noticed a baby breathing? Their bellies go up and down, naturally breathing in a way that provides the most oxygen to their bodies.

Breathing to your diaphragm or belly is an integral part of these practices. For this exercise, sit comfortably. Breathe through your nose and slowly fill up with air, directing the air to your belly. Your belly should expand slightly. As you breathe out, empty your lungs first and then your belly. Do a slow count while breathing in (maybe to 3 at first, but later you can count to 5 or more) and breathe out to the same count.

Touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth as you do this breathing exercise.

Relaxation Breathing

 I learned this from yoga: if you exhale for a longer time than you inhale, your body will automatically relax. This is because it causes your vagus nerve to send a signal to your brain to turn up your parasympathetic nervous system, which controls rest, relaxation, and digestion. (If you take a quick, short breath, you generate the opposite response, signaling your sympathetic system to pumps up your heart rate and get your adrenaline going for a “fight or flight” response).

Inhale to a count of two, hold for a count of one, and then exhale gently counting to four, and hold for a count of one.

Try the Poses

Look up tai chi or yoga poses on YouTube or check out the back matter in the book and give some a try.

Thanks, Susanna, for letting me stop by your site as part of the blog tour for A MORNING WITH GRANDPA!

(Thank YOU so much for joining us, Sylvia, and for offering the giveaway!!! 🙂 )

Further Reading:

The Benefits of Yoga for Kids

Say Yes to Yoga for Kids with Attention Deficit

Studies on Tai Chi Show Many Benefits for Children

A Simple Breathing Exercise to Calm the Mind & Body

Why I Like This Book:  In today’s busy world where so much of our time is spent indoors staring at screens, a book that celebrates physical movement, mindfulness, and being outdoors in nature is so welcome!  And what a wonderful and inspiring role model for young readers!  I think many kids will be up on their feet trying out the tai chi forms and yoga poses demonstrated by Gong Gong and Mei Mei 🙂  I like that both adult and child have something to offer the other, something to teach and something to learn, and that they take each other seriously and are willing to try each other’s activities.  I also think it’s wonderful that Gong Gong accepts that Mei Mei is trying, even though her exuberance might not be quite the way tai chi is usually performed, and doesn’t chide or discourage her, and that she in turn treats him with the same respect when his older body has a hard time with poses that she is strong and flexible enough to manage easily.  The descriptions of the forms are written in lovely, evocative language.  The art is also lovely, making the garden look bright and appealing and making the forms and poses look like fun 🙂  This book won the New Voices Award and it’s no mystery why – it’s a delightful book that I hope you’ll enjoy as much as I do!

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

Now for the GIVEAWAY!!!  One lucky person will win a copy of A Morning With Grandpa!  Just leave us a comment below by Tuesday May 3 at 5 PM EDT telling us about your favorite exercise (no that was not intended to be an oxymoron 🙂 ) and/or way to relax!  Names will be tossed in the Randomizer and a random name will be selected at random and announced randomly on Wednesday or Friday 🙂

PPBF folks, please add your titles and post-specific links (and any other info you feel like filling out 🙂 ) to the form below so we can all come see your delightful picks for this week!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!!!