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

The Tuesday Debut Debut – Presenting Christy Mihaly!

Hey, Hey, Hay!  Welcome to Tuesday Debuts!

In this new series, we’re going to get all the juicy details from first-time picture book authors about how they went from pre-published to published.  I hope it will be interesting, informative, and inspirational for all of us – published and yet-to-be-published alike.  It’s always fun to hear the story behind the story, and there is always so much we can learn from each other!  I hope you’ll get a sense of the hands-on publishing process and that the information shared here might help you in your own journey by giving you tips or even giving you inspiration from another author’s process to spark new work of your own!

So!  Without further ado…

Introducing Christy’s first picture book:

Hey, Hey, Hay! (A Tale of Bales and the Machines That Make Them)
By Christy Mihaly, illustrated by Joe Cepeda
Holiday House, August 14, 2018
Informational picture book
4-8 years

HEY, HEY, HAY! Cover
In this joyful rhyming story, a farm girl brings the reader along as she and her mother make hay. She introduces each of the machines they use to cut, dry, and bale the grass, as they “store summer in a bale.”

And now, introducing Christy!


Chirsty Mihaly, debut picture book author, canoeing (which may or may not have anything to do with either haying or writing but is still beautiful and fun 🙂 )


SLH: Welcome, Christy!  Thank you so much for joining us today, and for being the guinea pig for this new series – so brave of you!  There will be extra chocolate in your Christmas stocking 🙂  Let’s start from the beginning.  Where did the idea for this book come from?

CM: The idea for this book showed up right under my nose, in the summer of 2014. I was working on a couple of picture book biographies (which are still unpublished) when my family moved to a new home surrounded by hayfields. The process of turning grass into hay was beautiful and fascinating. The scent of new-mown grass filled the air and the rhythm of the machines (mower, tedder, baler, hay!) got into my head. Then these lines started running around in my mind: “Listen and I’ll tell the tale of storing summer in a bale.”


Haying in action! The inspiration for this book!

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

CM: I wrote the first draft—which was basically a poem—over several weeks of on-and-off writing. It was short, sweet, and rhyming. But it wasn’t very good. Revising and polishing (with some sitting and stewing) took about seven months more.

SLH: Did you go through many revisions?

CM: Yes. I began with a poem called “Haying Time.” At first it didn’t occur to me that this could constitute a book. Then, when I realized that haymaking had picture book potential, I put on my nonfiction-writer hat. I could not find another book for kids about how hay is made. I researched all about hay and hayfields and haying technology and the history of hay. I wrote a manuscript with layered text and all kinds of sidebars (Monet painted famous pictures of haystacks! In the old days, people used scythes!) and footnotes. Eventually my critique partners convinced me to simplify (thank goodness) back down to a straightforward rhyming story.

I made many changes in the words of the text. How’s this for a sample stanza of the original poem: “The baler forms it into bales/While I keep watch, in case it fails.”


There’s one revision I’m particularly happy that I made: in the original version, the child narrator helped Dad with the haying; I changed it to helping Mom. Because many farmers are women.


interior spread showing Farmer Mom 🙂


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

CM: I had been submitting other manuscripts, so I should have known, but I was so excited to send this one out that I made the mistake of submitting it too soon. And it was rejected.

After that, I took a break from it. Then I signed up for an online writing course and brought the HAY manuscript to the class for a critique. My classmates and instructor confirmed that it had potential, and they suggested ways to make it snappier. After about 5 months of revisions, I knew it was really ready to submit.

SLH: When and how did you submit?

CM: I give credit to my writing buddies for what finally happened with HAY. At the urging of several critique partners, I applied to the Falling Leaves writing conference, which was new to me. For the editor’s one-on-one critique, I submitted a different nonfiction manuscript, which I’d been working on forever. I was accepted to the conference, and my assigned editor loved that manuscript (though it’s unpublished still). She didn’t like HAY at all—she doesn’t do rhyming books.

But! Another editor at Falling Leaves that year was Grace Maccarone, executive editor at Holiday House. I was impressed with her; she seemed calm and wise and funny. Based on what she said she was seeking (and that she liked rhyme), I thought HAY might be a good fit for her. However, (see #4 above), I needed to revise first.

I reviewed other Holiday House books and saw that many were related to farming and food. That seemed like a good sign. So about four months after meeting Grace, I emailed my revised manuscript, now called “Mower, Tedder, Baler—Hay!” to her. I mentioned that we’d met at Falling Leaves, I cited other farm-related books from Holiday House, and I crossed my fingers.

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

CM: So … I have learned that this part is unusual (though remember HAY had been through prior rejections and revisions). I emailed the manuscript to Grace on a Friday. The following Monday, she emailed back. She said she thought HAY was “adorable” and that she’d share it with her colleagues at their next editorial meeting! [We interrupt this program to say how awesome is THAT?!  We all dream of a response like that, and speaking for myself, I’ve never gotten a positive reply in 3 days!  WOW! 🙂 ]

Of course, I didn’t know when that was going to be, and I was too nervous to ask, so I just waited. And waited. And waited. Two weeks later, Grace emailed again with an offer to publish the book.

dog bale

Christy’s dog, wildly excited about the book sale, pointing out a round bale in the field

SLH: How did you celebrate signing your contract?  (If you care to share 🙂 )

CM: I believe it was a quiet celebration at home. I may have been in shock.

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

CM: I had no idea what to expect. I remember mostly the excitement of an offer. One thing that sticks in my mind is that it took much longer than I’d anticipated to receive the contract. The document didn’t arrive until several months after the offer (and negotiation), which I hadn’t realized was normal.

I didn’t have an agent, so I found a knowledgeable lawyer (referred by another writer I met at Falling Leaves) to help review the offer and contract—I think the cost was about $250 and it was well worth it. It was reassuring to have an experienced person evaluate the offer. She said the basics (advance, royalties, etc.) were good, and we just negotiated to improve little things like getting more author copies of the book.

Aside from SLH: for the curious, I usually get 10-20 author copies of my books, and 5% is a pretty standard royalty percentage for authors (may be different for illustrators or author/illustrators) on hard covers from traditional trade publishers although there is variation on both those things.

SLH: Tell us about the editorial process?

CM: I generally enjoy working with editors. With HAY, it was great. It was clear that Grace cared about the book as much as I did.

One editorial discussion we had was about switchel, the traditional haymakers’ drink. In the initial offer, Grace indicated that her colleagues had an issue with my use of the term switchel. They thought it was too obscure – kids wouldn’t know it. (Of course they wouldn’t! That was the point.) I argued that kids would enjoy learning this fun new word.

Eventually, in the final edits, switchel stayed. It helped that there’s a company in Brooklyn, NY, that makes and bottles switchel. We included “switchel” as a term in the book’s glossary of haymaking terms, and also added a recipe so families could make their own switchel. Win-win!

SLH: Tell us about your experience of the illustration process?

CM: About six months after we signed the contract, I went to the SCBWI conference in New York, and Grace invited me to meet her in her office on Madison Avenue. (Squeee!) She took me to lunch, where she told me she’d signed Joe Cepeda to illustrate HAY. I was excited because I knew his work – he is very well established, a great artist, and in fact had illustrated a friend’s picture book years before.

After that, there was more than a year of waiting for Joe to complete the art. When she received his illustrations, Grace worked on the layout of the book. She sent me a pdf of the first pass: scans of Joe’s paintings, with the text laid out page by page, and post-its and mark-ups with questions and notes. Woo! It was a thrill to see that. I loved the vision that Joe brought to the book. He took this little Vermont story and made it universal, painting a beautiful farm that could be in the Midwest or the west as easily as in the east. I’m especially thrilled that he portrayed my first-person narrator as a girl.


Grace’s office with HAY underway

With the layout, Grace sent a mark-up of my text, with suggested revisions. After that, we had several phone conversations to go over questions. We adjusted a few lines to make the words consistent with the illustrations. Because it’s a rhyming book, those small revisions can be tricky. I provided Grace with alternatives for substitute couplets that might work, and she selected her favorite.

Then, Grace and the designers adjusted the page breaks, the end papers, the design and location of the glossary and the recipe, the dedication – all those little things that are so important in the book’s look and feel. Grace sent me updated pdf’s showing these steps. We made sure the illustrations accurately portrayed the haying process. Finally it was out of my hands and I could (try to) relax in the knowledge that our book was going to be gorgeous.

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

CM: Yes! Grace (and the publicity folks at Holiday House, who are also lovely) forwarded me advance copies of the Kirkus and SLJ reviews. I was really nervous about reviews, and very relieved when the reviewers “got” my book and wrote about it positively. Whew.

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

CM: Two years and 10 months.

Aside from SLH: I’ve had picture books come together in as short as just over a year to as long as one that’s been in process for 6 years and isn’t out yet, but I think 2 – 2.5 years is pretty average… in so far as anything in this business is average 🙂


SLH: If your book has been out for at least one statement cycle, has it earned out yet?

CM: Oh, now you are making me nervous.

SLH: That was a trick question for you because your book just came out today!  I just wanted to see if you were paying attention 🙂  Get back to us in 6-12 months 🙂

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

CM: As a committed introvert, I find all of this outside my comfort zone. But because this is my first trade book I resolved to learn what I needed to learn, and do what I needed to do, to promote it. I joined the “Epic Eighteen” gang, a group of debut picture book writers and illustrators whose first books are scheduled for 2018 release (many thanks to Hannah Holt and friends). This has been an incredibly helpful source of information-sharing and support through a shared Facebook page, a mutual blog, and some in-person meetings.

Leading up to the book’s release, I sent many emails to the very helpful publicity folks at Holiday House. They answered my clueless questions and explained how this stressful process works. They sent out hundreds of advance copies to reviewers, and submitted my book to book festivals, etc. They also explained that the writer is generally responsible for the rest of the promotional tasks.

I set up a pre-order campaign with my local indie bookstore, Bear Pond Books. Folks who place advance orders online from Bear Pond receive a discount and special gift, and once the book is out I sign the books, with a personalization if requested, and Bear Pond ships them out.

I also ordered postcards, bookmarks, and bookplates (to personalize books for people that buy their own elsewhere) using art from the book. (The author pays for these.) Preparing for readings at bookstores and libraries, I developed book-specific crafts and hay-related activities to engage the kids. To practice reading my book to kids, I read an advance copy to a local first grade class (and got some helpful feedback). And I read it to my 2-year-old grandson, who is too young for the book but who loved the tractor pictures and thereafter greeted me by saying “Nana! Book! Hey, Hey, Hay!!!”


Future hay-er, Christy’s grandson 🙂

I arranged with some fabulous kidlit bloggers to do interviews and posts for a blog around the release. And I scheduled a bunch of HAY events: a reading and hay activities at a farm, library story times, bookstore readings, an appearance at university book festival, another at an arts festival in a small town . . . and we’ll see how all that goes!


reading to first-graders

Things I didn’t do (because you can’t do everything): a book trailer, stickers, and tattoos. Oh, and a huge launch party. I decided a small celebration is more my speed.

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

CM: Short answer: almost four years.

More info: I started putting serious energy into writing for kids in the fall of 2011. I focused on magazine submissions, and was thrilled to see my first story published in an (unpaid) online magazine in 2012. As I learned more about the magazine market, I sent out queries and more submissions and started selling articles.

And it turned out that HAY was not my first published book, although it is my first trade book. In 2015 I began writing books for the educational market on a work-for-hire basis, and I’ve now published 7 in that market.

SLH: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?

CM: I think of myself as a nonfiction writer, so it’s ironic that HAY, a book featuring a fictional narrator, is my first published picture book. It’s informational of course (back matter!), but fiction. I’m glad that when this unexpected idea came wafting over the hayfields to find me, even though was so unlike the historical stories I thought I was meant to tell, I ran with it.

SLH:  Christy, thank you so much for kicking off our new series so fabulously!  I know I speak for all of us when I wish you the very best with your book!  For those who would like to support Christy, please shop for her book at your favorite bookseller, make sure your local library has a copy (you can request they get one if they don’t already have it), read her book and post reviews on GoodReads and any online bookstore you frequent, or share a nice review on your blog or FB page, donate a copy to your child’s school library, consider as a gift to a young reader in your life, stand on a street corner and wave flyers, or anything else you can think of! 🙂

If you’d like to know more about Christy or be in touch with her online, you can find her here:

Website: www.christymihaly.com.Chris closeup

Twitter: @CMwriter4kids

Instagram: @Christy Mihaly

Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/christymihaly/

Blogging at GROG: https://groggorg.blogspot.com/

Thanks again to Christy for participating, and to all of you for reading!  If you have any questions for Christy, please use the comment section below!

P.S. We started Tuesday Debuts today even though many of us (myself included) are technically on Summer Blogcation because today is the day of Christy’s book release.  The series will continue with regularity in September.  We’re just whetting your appetite 🙂