The Nina, The Pinta, and the Guidelines for the 8th Annual Halloweensie Contest!!!

Happy Columbus Day, Everyone!

As usual on this day, it’s time for a special message from our sponsors.

Remember how on a dark and stormy night in 1492 (I think it was Thursday) our good ole buddy Chris, involved in a heated discussion with his crew about what the 5 Little Pumpkins were doing on a gate in the first place instead of being home in bed where they belonged, accidentally sailed the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria into an island in the Bahamas for which he was credited with discovering America even though he missed the entire coast from Maine to the Florida Keys?  (And incidentally never figured out why the 5 Little Pumpkins were on that gate.  I don’t think Thursdays are his day.)

Anyway, the point is, thanks to his navigational shortcomings, we all have the day off!

And what better way to celebrate poor navigation skills and a day off than by warming up our writing utensils and setting forth to win a contest?

That’s right! (Or should I say, that’s write?!)

(Yeah.  Okay.  Sorry 🙂 )


In case you haven’t guessed…

It’s time to announce the guidelines for…



~ for children’s writers ~


The Contest: write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (children here defined as 12 and under) (title not included in the 100 words), using the words shiver, cauldron, and howl.  Your story can be scary, funny, sweet, or anything in between, poetry or prose, but it will only count for the contest if it includes those 3 words and is 100 words (you can go under, but not over!)  Get it?  Halloweensie – because it’s not very long and it’s for little people 🙂  (And yes, I know 100 words is short, but that’s part of the fun and the challenge!  We got 235 fantastic entries last year, so I know you can do it!)  Also, you may use the words in any form – e.g. shivered, shivery, cauldrons, howled, howling, whathaveyou 🙂  NO ILLUSTRATION NOTES PLEASE! (And yes, you may submit more than one entry if you’re so inclined 🙂 )

Post: your story on your blog between 12:00 AM EDT Saturday October 27th and Wednesday October 31st by 11:59 PM EDT and add your post-specific link to the list that will accompany my special October 27th post.  There will be no Perfect Picture Book or Would You Read It posts for the duration of the contest so the links will stay up for everyone to visit and 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 my October 27th post once it’s up (please include your byline if your posting handle is something like AwesomeWriter92 so I can identify you.)  If you have difficulty posting in the comments, which unfortunately sometimes happens, you may email your entry to me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com and I’ll post it for you.  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 entries before the start of the contest!

The Judging: in a grueling marathon over the following days, my devoted 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 5th (if the judging takes longer than we expect if could be later…but we will do our best!)  The winner will be announced on Thursday November 8th (good lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise 🙂 ) If we get more than 25 entries, I will post 6 finalists and give prizes for 1st – 3rd.  If by some chance we get the kind of turnout we’ve had the past couple years, I may post as many as 10-12 finalists and I’ll probably end up giving everyone a prize 🙂  But we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it!

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. 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.
  • 4. Quality of Writing: check your spelling, grammar, punctuation etc.  If you’re going to rhyme, give us your best 🙂  Overall writing quality and use of language are also important.
  • 5. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.

The Prizes:  as usual, 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! 🙂  Or if you have something awesome to offer!  I’d be very grateful if anyone could put me in touch with an agent or editor who would be willing to be the big prize because I’m not having good luck with that so far!!!  But for starters, prizes will include:

– several picture book manuscript critiques from amazing critiquers (details to come – I need to spread my generous volunteers out over 3 contests, so, planning…)

 – 2-Pack of Personalized Signed Picture Books by the lovely and talented Tania Guarino, author of MEET THE QUACKERS (Spork, 2017) and GARDEN PARTY: A COUNTING ADVENTURE (Spork, 2018)
tania-guarino_1_orig Quackers Garden Party

– a personalized signed copy of NOT SO SCARY JERRY by the wonderful and gifted Shelley Kinder

shelley-kinder_orig   Jerry

– Bundle Of Books – assorted PBs, MGs, YAs (details to come) – generously donated by KidLit411

– an e-pub or PDF copy (winner’s choice) of Linda Ashman‘s Nuts And Bolts Guide To Writing Picture Books. OR paperback of Ann Whitford Paul’s Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication.


Plus stay tuned because other great stuff is coming! 🙂

I hope those fantabulous prizes will at least whet your appetite for the contest!

Many, many thanks to Tania, KidLit411, and the PB MS critiquers for their very generous prize offerings!

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 🙂

I am SO looking forward to seeing what you all come up with!!!

Have a Marvelous Monday everyone! 🙂

The 2016 Halloweensie Contest Finalists!



Snooze button.

It’s Monday.


Wait!  It’s Monday?!

Oh my gosh!

Get out of bed!


Stupid bed covers!

Oh my goodness!  What time is it?

Good gracious!  Is it late?

Wait.  If the clocks turned back yesterday does that mean it’s an hour earlier than it was? or an hour later?  Whose idea was daylight savings time anyway?  All it does is confuse things!  Where are my pants?!  I’m moving to Arizona (where they are intelligent enough NOT to go on daylight savings!) as soon as I get untangled from the bed covers and stop tripping over my own feet!

This is what happens!!!  Long days and late nights of poring over entries, reading and re-reading, analyzing, weighing, comparing, contrasting, gnashing teeth, rending garments, and consuming large amounts of chocolate TAKE THEIR TOLL!

And now, here we are, very possibly both late and pant-less but who can tell because we don’t live in Arizona?!

On the off chance, however, that you’re interested in the results regardless of the time or the pants, get ready for the 2016 Halloweensie Writing Contest Finalists!

We had the biggest turn out we’ve ever had in terms of number of entries – 150! – and the overall quality of the entries was fantastic.  Every contest I am thrilled to see that the quality of the entries has gone up yet another notch.  This means there are fewer obvious standouts, almost none that are easy to cut, and there a LOT of very 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 character and 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.

A surprising number of this year’s entries were amazingly written… but in spite of the warning, still failed to really tell a story.  They were more descriptions, lists, or mood pieces.  So as awesome as they were, we had to make some very hard calls.  A couple were too adult.  Some, because of the cruelly limiting word count were a little hard to follow.  Some of the rhyming ones we really liked were too off-meter to make the cut.  Some entries were just so close, but missed out because of one relatively small thing!

But, without further ado, I present to you the 2016 Halloweensie Contest Finalists.  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.

So here we go!

#1  Night Fright

“Ah, perfect,” Webster the spider said as he put on his vampire costume. “This will scare everyone.”

Unfortunately, he didn’t scare anyone at all.

“Not a single scream,” he complained.

Luckily, he had backup costumes.

Now he’d be a ghost!

“Not a single scream.”

How about a mummy?

“Not a single scream.”


“Not a single scream!”

Webster gave up and went home. If you couldn’t be scary on Halloween, what’s the point?

As Webster sat in the moonlight, everything started to shake.

“AAAAH! A SPIDER!” someone yelled as they walked through his web.

Webster smiled.

#2  Tree’s Halloween Costume

Halloween’s here. Kids trick-or-treat.
Witches, monsters, and ghosts fill the street.
Gnarly tree watches jealously,
wishing it could dress up. But tree’s a tree.

A Princess parades in satiny gown.
Gracing her head is a sparkly crown.
Tree has a crown but will never be
a Halloween princess. Tree’s a tree.

Two dressed as dogs bark and chase
one costume cat all over the place.
Tree has bark but, unfortunately,
can’t dress as a dog. Tree’s a tree.

Clouds disperse, revealing the moon.
Light shines down and very soon
tree’s shadow creeps, bigger and wider,
forming a black Halloween spider.

#3  The Dare

Jake paused before the ramshackle house. No ghosts or spiders decorated the porch. No light shone for trick-or-treaters. But there was no way he could back out now.

Breathing raggedly, he followed his shadow to the door and knocked.

The door opened. A stooped old woman stood in the moonlight. Witch? Or not? His heart beat witchwitchwitchwitchwitch…

“I’m afraid I haven’t any candy, young man.”

Not witch! He knew it!

Jake thought fast. “I have lots.” He held out his bag. “Would you like some of mine?”

“I’d love some,” she cackled, her gnarled hand tangling with his. “Come in.”

#4  The Witch’s Broom

The wicked witch she had an itch
to ride upon her broom.
She gazed into her crystal ball
and searched through every room.
She questioned “Boney” skeleton,
each spider, ghost and goon.
She even quizzed an alien
whose homeland was the moon.
Her broom was nowhere to be found.
The witch began to cry,
“With such a snag, seems this old hag
is never going to fly!”
Then wily witch, she improvised,
you really should have seen her.
That wicked witch, she pulled a switch
and rode the vacuum cleaner!

#5  Candy Korn

“Now this is more like it,” said Rolo. “A bowl with a view!”
“No, it’s bad! I heard about this,” said Twizzler. “They call it… Halloween.”
“Sounds fun!” said Airhead.
“It’s a once-a-year candy MASSACRE, Airhead!” said Twizzler. “First, we’re moved to a bowl under the moon, then a bag decorated with ghosts and spiders, then there’s jiggling and jostling…”
“See? Sounds fun!” insisted Airhead.
“Shh!” said Rolo.
“One by one we disappear,” said Twizzler. “With only our clothes left behind!”
“Spooky!” said Rolo.
Twizzler continued, “It’ll be okay unless we hear…”

#6  Spider and Ghost

On a moonless Halloween night,
Spider and Ghost clashed in a fight.
“My loudest boo,” Ghost declared.
“Causes thousands to be scared.”
“I’m clearly the scariest!” Spider screamed.
“A nightmare children have often dreamed.
Ghost boos flew with yowls and bangs.
Spider showed her venomous fangs.
Behind a tombstone, a monster rose,
with a bolted neck and ghoulish nose.
“You’re the scariest?” the creature chuckled.
As he stepped forward, their bravery buckled.
Spider’s legs shook, while Ghost shivered.
Feeling a fear they never delivered.
Spider and Ghost raced off in fright,
Knowing neither of them was right.

#7   Moon’s Halloween Surprise

In the middle of the night, Spider and Ghost prepared for Halloween.
Moon dropped down to join them.
“I’m going to make the biggest web ever,” Spider said.
“I’ll make the scariest sounds ever,” bragged Ghost.
Moon stayed silent. What could she do except hang in the sky?
The next day, while the children got ready,
Spider weaved.
Ghost practiced.
The sun went down, shadows lengthened, and Moon got an idea.
Halloween night,
Spider’s web was amazing.
Ghost’s sounds frightened.
But when Moon slid behind earth’s shadow,
Turning the night dark,
Everyone agreed, it was the best Halloween surprise ever.

#8  Little Miss Zombie

Little Miss Zombie
said “What a quandary!”
Eating her full-moon stew.
Along came ghost spider,
who sat down beside her,
hollering, “What will we do?!”

“Stay calm and be cool.
Don’t slobber or drool.
Remember they think it’s a game.
They wear costumes for fun;
take them off when they’re done.
They don’t know we are always the same.”

“We don’t have a choice
So lower your voice.
We’ll just give them candy to eat.
We can’t make a scene
for tonight’s Halloween!”
“Here they come! Open up…”

#9  Little Witch’s Holiday

Little Witch loved this time of year.
She loved the bright glow of the moon over the swirling leaves.
And how the air smelled like smoke.
“My favorite holiday is tomorrow! I have much to do!”
Little Witch’s friends knew not to interfere.
Spider watched her gather pumpkins.
Ghost watched her unload sweet treats.
Cat watched her sweep her front steps.
Finally, Little Witch was ready.
The doorbell rang and she peeked out the window.
Her friends were dressed up and waiting on her doorstep.
She smiled. It was time.
Little Witch threw open her door and shouted,
“Happy Thanksgiving!”

#10  Spider’s Trick or Treat

The Itsy-Bitsy Spider walked up the moonlit street,
knocked on a door and hoped for something sweet.
Out popped a ghost, scared Spider off her feet.
Guess the Itsy-Bitsy Spider forgot it’s TRICK or Treat!

#11  Itsy and Bitsy’s Halloween Treat

Itsy and Bitsy scurried down the path and scuttled up separate trees. Working together, they spun a giant web that shimmered in the moonlight.
“I think it’s our best yet,” said Itsy.
“Quick! They’re coming!” said Bitsy.
They lowered themselves into position as doorbells dinged in the distance. Soon, they spied three little ghosts skipping toward them.
“Boo!” yelled Itsy.
“Trick or Treat!” yelled Bitsy.
“Spider!” yelled the ghosts.
The buckets flew up, the candy fell down, and all three ghosts raced back to town.
“Happy Halloween!” said the spiders as they climbed on their web to feast.

#12  The Spider’s Treat

Samuel scanned the starry night.
He spied the silver moon,
lighting bright the ghostly night.
Halloween comes soon!

With all his spider heart he wished
to stop the trick-or-treaters
from tramping up his quiet street.
Those noisy candy eaters!

On Halloween, one giddy witch
swung wild her candy bucket.
Sweet treats flew straight for Samuel’s web.
Three pieces neatly struck it!

While tidying up his tangled web,
one foot touched chocolate candy.
With one sweet lick, the spider said,
“This holiday tastes dandy!

*                    *                    *                    *                    *                    *                     *

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 9.

Tune in Thursday November 10 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 🙂

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to lie on the couch and eat bonbons all day.


Not really.

I have to catch up with students, critique work, and stuff with a deadline!

But there might still be chocolate involved 🙂

Have a marvelous Monday everyone!!!  And make sure you VOTE!  It will warm you up for that other vote tomorrow 🙂


Perfect Picture Book Friday – The Spooky Wheels On The Bus

It’s Friday!  It’s Friday!  The weekend awaits! 🙂

So what are y’all doing this weekend?

Apple picking? Visiting Granny? Washing the dog? Baking pumpkin-related items? Putting finishing touches on costumes? Making sure every flavor in the bag of fun-size candy is as delicious as the manufacturers purport them to be?

That was a test!

The correct answer is “writing my Halloweensie Contest entry!”

Anyone who answered correctly may have one of these 🙂  You have earned it!  (And you’ll need it to give yourself time to write 🙂 )


Just a quick housekeeping item (since we’re on the subject of not doing any 🙂 ) which is that next Friday, October 28, there will be no PPBF because we will be all caught up in the excitement of the ongoing Halloweensie Contest which opens Thursday October 27!!!  So instead of posting favorite picture books next week, we will enjoy reading all the contest entries!!!  I seriously can’t wait!!! (PPBF will return on Friday November 11 – I think…!)

Now!  Onto today’s Perfect Picture Book, just in time for Halloween 🙂


Title: The Spooky Wheels On The Bus

Written By: J. Elizabeth Mills

Illustrated By: Ben Mantle

Cartwheel Books, July 2010, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 3-5

Themes/Topics: holidays (halloween), concepts (counting)

Opening: “One spooky bus goes RATTLE and SHAKE,
One spooky bus goes RATTLE and SHAKE
All through the town.

Brief Synopsis: (From Amazon) “Count from One Spooky Bus up to Ten Goofy Ghosts as this Halloween ride races through town picking up a few unsuspecting passengers along the way.”

Links To Resources: Kids’ Halloween Crafts of all kinds!; Kid-friendly Halloween recipes; make up your own Wheels On The Bus song about Halloween, your birthday, or any other holiday!

Why I Like This Book: You can’t really go wrong with a fun Halloween-themed version of this popular song.  Kids can enjoy it as a story, or sing along with it.  In addition to being a story/song with an entertaining cast of Halloween characters, it is a counting book – great for youngest picture book enthusiasts.  The art is bright and warm, colorful and inviting, showing witches and ghosts and spiders in a way that is friendly and engaging and not at all scary.  The town looks like a cozy place to go trick-or-treating.  All-around Halloween fun!


text copyright J. Elizabeth Mills 2010, illustration copyright Ben Mantle 2010

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 🙂

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 what fabulous picture books you’ve chosen to share this week!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!!! 🙂

Would You Read It Wednesday #229 – Pochon’s Monster (PB)

Happy Wednesday, Folks!

As we are all picture book folk, immersed in the world of That-Which-Matters-To-Kids, I’m sure you all woke up this morning with only one thought on your minds:

Today is Take Your Teddy Bear To Work Day!

A lot of us, being writers, or work-at-home parents, are not going to supply much of an outing for our teddy bears.

(And I’m guessing it’s pretty unlikely that anyone besides a preschool or kindergarten teacher would actually consider leaving the house with a teddy bear :)… but I mention the whole Take Your Teddy Bear To Work idea because I think there’s a picture book in it somewhere… from the teddy bear’s POV!)

Of course, some of us (that would be me) never actually had a teddy bear.  I had a camel I was fond of.  He has no hair now.  And a Snoopy with an engineer hat and overalls.  Alas…he has no clothes or hair now…  But no actual bear.  (There’s probably a whole nother story idea in that…! 🙂 )

So on this Take Your Teddy Bear To Work Day I’m bringing my Brown Bear – not that coming to work is any big deal for her.  She does it every single day 🙂  The chair in my office that I recently had reupholstered has somehow become hers… I could probably have really skipped that reupholstering! 🙂


As you can see, she is wide awake and on the job – a tremendous aid to my writing efforts 🙂

Did/do you have a teddy bear or stand-in?  Will you take it to work?  If so, what job will you take it to?  I’m serious – there may be a future picture book in this! 🙂

Okay, so now that I’m feeling like I had an underprivileged childhood because I never had an actual teddy bear, I believe it’s time for Something Chocolate!

How do you feel about Cookie Dough Brownies?

I knew you’d be fans!  I mean, it’s a brownie AND a (sort of) cookie with oodles of chocolatey goodness… how can you go wrong?! 🙂

Now.  Onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Greg, whom you will remember from his pitch back in the summer for The Bath Of Least Resistance.  Greg (clearly a kindred spirit!) says, “If I didn’t have to work for a living I’d be writing, eating chocolate and writing about eating chocolate.  For fun I play hockey, geocache, cook, and chase around my son.”

Find him on the web at

Here is his pitch:

Working Title: Pochon’s Monster

Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-10)

The Pitch:

A sock stealing monster made of socks?” Viola couldn’t believe the story she heard at a slumber about Pochon’s Monster was true.

Viola sets out to find the monster and get her socks back. With an act of kindness, she gets the monster to relinquish what it has taken.

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 Greg improve his 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 Would You Read It in the dropdown under For Writers in the bar above.  There are openings in November, so you could get your pitch up pretty soon for some helpful feedback and have a chance to have it read by editor Erin Molta!

Greg is looking forward to your thoughts on his pitch!  I am looking forward to the upcoming 6th Annual Halloweensie Writing Contest, which I’m hoping you all saw the announcement for on Monday!  Here’s the LINK in case you missed it.  And there’s already a prize update – one lucky winner will have the opportunity for a read and critique from editor Marilyn Brigham of Two Lions!  And KidLit 411 is contributing a bundle of picture books!  And more stuff is rolling in, so stay tuned!

Have a wonderful start-looking-forward-to-Halloweensie Wednesday everyone!!! 🙂