Wheee-hee-hee! Witches In The Air! – Announcing The Guidelines For The 11th Annual Halloweensie Writing Contest!

So, I know it’s Monday and I don’t usually post on Mondays.

But this is a special Monday.

A Monday I post on almost every year (except when I’m really behind schedule and end up on a random Thursday…😊)

And you know what I’m about to say, right?

Of course you do!

This isn’t your first trip around the blog! (See what I did there?)

So. . . .

. . .it’s time for our annual history lesson!

On this day in 1492 (well, ok, not actually THIS day because who really knows whether it was the 2nd Monday of October or perhaps a random Thursday?), good ole Chris Columbus, your friend and mine (we can call him Chris because we’re buddies), sailed the ocean blue (although, if we’re being accurate, while the Mediterranean is most certainly blue, the Atlantic, is just as often gray or green) and got credit for discovering America (even though it might actually have been Irish monks, the Vikings, or China), resulting in us getting to skip school and work on the 2nd Monday in October every year (which circles back to why we are friends!)

Across the wild ocean he sailed with the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria (the boat he was actually on), sporting (most likely) breeches, a doublet, stockings, shoes, and a short cloak. (I know he’s often pictured with a foofy hat, but really, that would be so impractical in the wild ocean winds, so let’s nix the hat.)

But do you know who doesn’t nix the hat?



You hardly ever see a witch without a hat. It’s an essential part of their look.

And what, pray tell, I hear you asking, do witches have to do with Columbus?

Absolutely nothing!

But they have everything to do with

The 11th Annual Halloweensie Writing Contest!!!

~ for children’s writers ~

So! Are you ready?

THE CONTEST: write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (children here defined as 12 and under) (title not included in word count) using the words glow-in-the-dark, goosebumps, and goodies.

  • Your story can be poetry or prose, scary, funny, sweet, or anything in between, but it will only count for the contest if it includes those 3 words and is 100 words. Get it? Halloweensie – because it’s not very long and it’s for little people 😊
  • You can go under the word count but not over!
  • Title is not included in the word count.
  • Also, being super clear for this year, glow-in-the-dark counts as 1 word (even though it looks like 4 😊)
  • You may use the words in any form i.e. glowed-in-the-dark, goosebumpley, goody (“Oh, goody!”, goody-two-shoes etc.), whathaveyou 😊
  • You are welcome to enter more than one entry – just remember you’ll be competing against yourself 😊
  • No illustration notes please!

And yes, I know 100 words is short, but that’s part of the fun and the challenge! We got just shy of 300 fantastic entries last year, so I know you can do it!

POST: your story in the comment section of the Official Contest Post between 12AM Eastern Friday October 29th (the day the official contest post will go up here) and Sunday October 31st at Midnight – the witching hour! (see, there are those witches again 😊)

  • For those of you who would also like to post on your blogs, please feel free to do so! You are welcome to include the link to your blog with your entry in the comment section of the Official Contest Post so that people can come visit your blog, but all entries must be posted in the comment section of the Official Contest Post between 12 AM Eastern Friday October 29th and Sunday October 31st at Midnight.
  • If you have difficulty posting your entry to the comments, which unfortunately sometimes happens, you may email your entry to me and I’ll post it for you! [susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com Please place your entry in the body of the email including your title and byline at the top NO ATTACHMENTS! and please do not submit any entries before the official opening of the contest at 12AM Friday October 29th. They will not be accepted.
  • I know how hard you all work on your entries, and how anxious you are to get them posted, but please try to be a little patient if your entry doesn’t show up immediately. Many comments have to be manually approved, and it sometimes takes me a little while to post entries that come in by email. I promise I will get to everything as soon as I can. I try never to leave my desk during contests, but sometimes it’s unavoidable 😊

THE JUDGING: in a grueling marathon over the following days, my devoted assistants and I will read and re-read and narrow down the entries to a finalist field of about 12 which will be posted here for you to vote on I hope by Friday November 5th (though if the judging takes longer than expected it might be a little later – we will do our best!) The winner will be announced Monday November 8th (good lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise 😊)

Judging criteria will be as follows:

  • 1. Kid-appeal! – These stories are intended for a young audience (ages 12 and under), so we’re looking for stories that children will enjoy and relate to.
  • 2.  Halloweeniness – the rules state a Halloween story, so it must be crystal clear that the story is about Halloween, not just some random spooky night.
  • 3. Use of all 3 required words and whether you came it at 100 words or less.
  • 4. Quality of story – entries must tell a story, including a main character of some kind and a true story arc even if it’s tiny 😊  Entries must not be merely descriptions or mood pieces.
  • 5. Quality of Writing: check your spelling, grammar, punctuation etc.  If you’re going to rhyme, give us your best 😊  Use and flow of language, correctness of mechanics, excellence of rhyme and meter if you use it, PROOFREADING!
  • 6. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.
  • 7. How well you followed the Submission Guidelines – agents and editors expect professionalism. This is a chance to practice making sure you read and follow specified guidelines. If you don’t follow agent and editor submission guidelines, they won’t even read your submission.

THE PRIZES: So amazing! What wonderful, generous people we have in our kidlit community! Just wait til you see what you can win! (This list is still under construction, so there may be changes…!) (And in the interest of getting this posted I’m merely listing the prizes tonight – I will add details ASAP!)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique by Dawn Young, author of THE NIGHT BAAFORE CHRISTMAS (WorthyKids, 2019), COUNTING ELEPHANTS (Running Press Kids, 2020), THE NIGHT BAAFORE EASTER (WorthyKids, 2021), THE NIGHT BAAFORE THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL (WorthyKids, 2021), and the brand new ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS (WorthyKids, October 19, 2021)!

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (nonrhyming) by Janie Reinart, author of WHEN WATER MAKES MUD: A STORY OF REFUGEE CHILDREN (Blue Whale Press, 2021)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (biography) by Lindsey McDivitt, author of NATURE’S FRIEND: THE GWEN FROSTIC STORY (Sleeping Bear Press, 2018), TRUTH AND HONOR: THE PRESIDENT FORD STORY (Sleeping Bear Press, 2020), and A PLAN FOR THE PEOPLE: NELSON MANDELA’S HOPE FOR HIS NATION (Eerdman’s Books For Young Readers, 2021)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique by Kenda Henthorn

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (rhyming or lyrical) by Randi Sonenshine

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique by Danielle Dufayet

⭐️ Storyboard Notebook – a great way to draft your picture books!

⭐️ Personalized signed copy of ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS by Dawn Young

⭐️ Personalized signed copy of BRANCHES OF HOPE by Ann Magee

⭐️ Personalized signed copy of MIMIC MAKERS by Kristen Nordstrom

⭐️ Personalized signed copy of A PLAN FOR THE PEOPLE by Lindsey McDivitt

⭐️ Personalized signed copy of THE NEST THAT WREN BUILT by Randi Sonenshine

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 birthday, holiday or other gift purchases, rating and/or reviewing their books on GoodReads, Amazon, B&N, or anywhere else if you like them, recommending them for school and library visits, and supporting them in any other way you can dream up! 😊

Now!  Lay in a good chocolate supply (no better time than right before Halloween for THAT!)! Butt In Chair! Pencils, pens, or keyboards ready! Put on your pointy black thinking cap (you know, to get in that Halloween mood 🧙🏿‍♀️ 😊!)  And write those prize-winning stories!!!

I can’t wait to read them!!! 😊

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Ann Magee!


After a little hiatus in which we didn’t have any Tuesday Debut-ers, we’re back today with a beautiful, inspiring book by the lovely and talented Ann Magee! Her book actually comes out next week, so you’re getting a sneak preview and you can pre-order your copy from one of the links below 😊

by Ann Magee
illustrated by Nicole Wong
Charlesbridge Publishing
May 18, 2021
Text is nonfiction, illustrations are of fictional family, ages 4-8.

Intertwined stories—one in words and one in pictures—show how the Survivor Tree’s strength echoed the hope of a nation after harrowing events in New York City in 2001.

SUSANNA: Welcome, Ann! We are so thrilled to have you here with us today to tell us about your journey to publication with this very special book! Where did the idea for this book come from?

ANN: My children and I visited the 9/11 Memorial Museum in 2016 where I read a booklet about the story of the Survivor Tree in the gift shop. I immediately thought it would make a lovely picture book—a hopeful story born from a tragic event in history. It’s a story I wish I had known when my children were young and learning about the events of 9/11.

SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?

ANN: It took about six months to write the book after several months of research. (I was working part-time then). A lot of my “writing” happens in my head first. I’m very visual, which is definitely helpful in writing picture books.

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

ANN: When I draft a picture book manuscript, I write the beginning and the end first, like bookends, so I know the shape of the story. I outlined the story and wrote about 15 drafts. I was writing the true story of the tree’s journey, and in my mind, I visualized the story of a little girl growing up alongside the tree’s recovery, much like my own little girl was doing at the time.

Ann’s writing buddies, Gretchen and Ripley 😊

SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?

ANN: I shared this manuscript with several critique partners along the way as well as getting a paid critique from an editor at a SCBWI event. I was confident in my vision for this story, so I took the advice that matched that vision and discarded others’ (like the editor who advised I should add a fictional character to the text).

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

ANN: I am unagented. I submitted this manuscript to Yolanda Scott at Charlesbridge on the last possible day for submissions (end of December 2017) after an online-type of conference over the summer 2017.

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”?  (Best moment ever! 😊)

ANN: In June 2018, I got an email from Karen Boss at Charlesbridge asking if the manuscript was still available. I screamed, then responded, “Yes, yes it is.” She offered for it in July. At this time, Carole Boston Weatherford was exploring a role as literary agent and had offered to represent another of my manuscripts earlier that year. I asked if she would represent this one for me as well as I had no experience negotiating contracts, etc. and she said she would.

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

ANN: My husband and I went out to a nice dinner to celebrate my signing my first book contract!

SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?

ANN: This is my first book deal and Charlesbridge is a smaller house, so I expected the advance would be on the lower end of 2K-3K. Royalty—5% on hardcover, 3% on paperback, 20 author copies, and Newbery/Caldecott stipulations were also included in the contract.

SUSANNA: Can you tell us a little about the editorial process?

ANN: I felt very comfortable from the beginning of our book-making journey that this important story was in caring, loving hands at Charlesbridge.

We went through three rounds of revisions with a specific focus each time. The first round focused on ‘big picture’ ideas—clarifying the text storyline and the wordless storyline (in the illustrations), looking at the pagination or pacing of the story, and creating a strong ending that tied with the 20th anniversary.

The second round of revisions included more work on the ending and changing the title since another book had just been announced with the title Survivor Tree, which had been my title, too. (I was a bit upset about this at first, but I’m glad now because the new title Branches of Hope encompasses the book’s message so much better.)
There were a few minor tweaks for the last round. We also discussed choices for illustrators and what style goes with our vision for the ‘feel’ of the story.

SUSANNA: What was your experience of the illustration process like?

ANN: The illustration process went very smoothly. Luckily, the team at Charlesbridge, the illustrator Nicole Wong, and I had similar visions for this project. I was informed at each step along the way—I saw the sketches, received digital files throughout the process. When I had questions or concerns about the art, they were valued and discussed. I received color proof pages in the mail for me to check for errors before it went to print.

text copyright Ann Magee 2021, illustration copyright Nicole Wong 2021, Charlesbridge

In terms of art notes, I included just a few with my manuscript upon submission to inform the illustrator of a specific setting for some scenes since the story is a true story. For example, at the end Tears rained down, down, down, the Illos. Note reads: reflection pools.

text copyright Ann Magee 2021, illustration copyright Nicole Wong 2021, Charlesbridge
(this one is Ann’s favorite – isn’t it wonderful?!)

As we developed the wordless parallel story for the illustrations, more Illustration notes were needed so Nicole could know what the storyline was, but she had the space to make each scene her own. For example, Nicole knew that the family should be shown having a picnic near the Twin Towers in the front pages of the book before the story begins but illustrating the pears on the picnic blanket was all her—and I love it!

text copyright Ann Magee 2021, illustration copyright Nicole Wong 2021, Charlesbridge

SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc? What was that like?

ANN: I did not see the advance review from PW, but my editor and marketing director did give me the good news of our Kirkus Star a week or two before it went public. I was able to read the review when they emailed me the good news. Karen emailed me the SJL review at the end of April. We are very happy with the book’s reviews so far!

SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?

ANN: It took 2 ½ years to finally hold the first copy in my hands, but not much was done for the first year as Charlesbridge wasn’t ready to work on the project yet.  The initial print run is 6,000 copies.

SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?

ANN: At my request, my two-person marketing team at Charlesbridge (and the design department) created a postcard and bookmark for me to print. They have also arranged several bookstore readings and other possible events that will take place nearer to September. They plan to include the book in Charlesbridge’s virtual exhibits, book buzzes and chats. They will reach out to newspapers who are bound to do stories nearer to the anniversary date.

SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.

ANN: I’ve reached out to several local bookstores and will be doing a book launch at Words Matter Bookstore in Pitman NJ on the weekend after my release date. I’ll do a reading and a craft related to the book.

Also, Tamara Girardi has included BRANCHES OF HOPE in her 12 Months of Books Challenge.

In the upcoming months, I’ll be featured on Kathy Teaman’s blog and Kidlit 411’s blog.

SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?

ANN: I started writing seriously in January 2013 when I joined Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 Writing Challenge. I spent that first year just immersing myself in learning, taking classes, going to conferences, etc. I sold my first book 5 ½ years later.

SUSANNA: I remember having you in my class in early 2014 😊 What is the most important/helpful thing you learned on your way to publication? (Or what is your most helpful piece of advice for up and coming writers?)

ANN: I can’t stress enough how important it is to surround yourself with likeminded people, people who are also traveling the same path. Sharing advice or traversing bumps in the road together is so important in an endeavor that feels very solitary most of the time. I’m so grateful for my critique partners!

Also, I think as a writer, you need to care about the story you’re telling—it has to REALLY matter to you in order for that passion to shine through in the manuscript.

Author Ann Magee

Website: annmagee.net
Twitter: @ann_ammwrite
Instagram: ammwrite

SUSANNA: Thank you so much, Ann, for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers! We all so appreciate you sharing your experience and wish you the best of luck with this and future titles!

ANN: Thank you so much, Susanna, for having me on your blog and for sharing my journey with my debut book. It means so much!

Readers, if you have questions for Ann, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!

You may purchase Ann’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)


We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 😊

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job (self pub)

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

Ciara O’Neal – Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone (self pub)

Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)

Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)

Kirsten Larson – Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents An Airplane

Valerie Bolling – Let’s Dance!

Janet Johnson – Help Wanted: Must Love Books

Susi Schaefer – Cat Ladies

Heather Kinser – Small Matters: The Hidden Power of the Unseen

Kelly Carey – How Long Is Forever?

Mary Wagley Copp – Wherever I Go

Nell Cross Beckerman – Down Under The Pier

Claire Noland – Evie’s Field Day: More Than One Way To Win

Sharon Giltrow – Bedtime, Daddy!

Gabi Snyder – Two Dogs On A Trike

Sarah Kurpiel – Lone Wolf

Vicky Fang – Invent-a-Pet

Lisa Katzenberger – National Regular Average Ordinary Day

Pam Webb – Someday We Will

Abi Cushman – Soaked!

Teresa Krager – Before Your Birth Day

Lindsay H. Metcalf – Beatrix Potter, Scientist

Nancy Roe Pimm – Fly, Girl, Fly! Shaesta Waiz Soars Around The World

Jolene Gutiérrez – Mac And Cheese And The Personal Space Invader

Julie Rowan-Zoch – Louis (picture book illustration debut!)

Janie Emaus – Latkes For Santa

Amy Mucha – A Girl’s Bill Of Rights

Hope Lim – I Am A Bird

Melanie Ellsworth – Hip,Hip…Beret!

Rebecca Kraft Rector – Squish Squash Squished

Gnome Road Publishing (publishing house debut)

Sue Heavenrich – 13 Ways To Eat A Fly

Julie Rowan-Zoch – I’m A Hare So There (author/illustrator debut)

Nancy Derey Riley – Curiosity’s Discovery (author/illustrator self-published debut)

Moni Ritchie Hadley – The Star Festival

Sita Singh – Birds Of A Feather