The 2019 Holiday Contest WINNERS!!!



          🎄             ⭐️             ✡️             ❄️             🕎             ☃️             🎄


Well, hello there, my little cupcakes!

It’s Thursday, so you know what that means!

For starters, it means you’re a little confused!

This is the second time this week you’ve come to visit on a day I don’t post!

But that is delightful in every way because I am ALWAYS glad to see you!

And as it turns out, I kind of thought you might wander in, so I made you something.

Yes! I really did!

All by myself!

It IS the holiday baking season after all . . .

. . . which got me to thinking, wouldn’t we all like to know what kind of holiday cookie we are?

I mean, I know wondering about that keeps me up at night. . . !😊

The rest of the world may be busy figuring out their elf names or their reindeer names, but that is so last year.

You are so special that you are the ONLY people IN THE WOLRD who get to discover what kind of cookie you are!  Check it out!

What Kind Of Holiday Cookie Are You_

And now you know how I spend my time – thinking up cookie flavors and types, randomizing the lists, and employing canva to make festive charts.  No wonder I haven’t vacuumed😊

Allow me to introduce myself:  Chocolate Chip Crinkle Cookie!!!  (which I think describes me to a T since I love chocolate and I am quite crinkly-looking now that I’m more than half a century old!😊)

So now that you all know what kind of cookie you are (please feel free to share in the comments!) you can all go off happily to your holiday whirlwind of shopping and wrapping and cooking and baking and traveling or tidying depending whether your visiting or hosting and etc, etc, etc!

Bon voyage!

See you next year!



                       ❄️                                                              ❄️



                         ❄️                                           ❄️





You’re still here?

Not that I mind, but . . .

. . . was there something you wanted?

Besides your cookie name?

It’s almost as if you’re hanging around . . .

. . . waiting for something . . .

. . . like . . .

. . . maybe . . .

. . . to find out who won



~ for children’s writers ~


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

But as you well know by now, with large entry numbers, all of high quality, come hard choices.  My assistant judges and I worked hard to winnow the total down to a manageable number of finalists that we felt were truly all-around deserving of that distinction, and those were the ones we presented to you on Monday for your vote.

There were, however, a few entries that barely missed being finalists, and many other entries that were outstanding in certain areas even though they might not have qualified all-around for one reason or another, or that the judges couldn’t reach a consensus on.

So my assistant judges and I would like to award recognition and a small prize to the following authors for the following merits:

1.  For Honorable Mention In The Competition As A Whole: (entries we truly wrestled with not including in the finalists!)

Carmen Castillo Gilbert for Andres SAVES la Navidad (beautifully written with a natural interweaving of Spanish vocabulary and a lovely depiction of a grandmother/grandson relationship)

Colleen Murphy for The Recipe (beautifully written and poignant – a tug-on-the-heartstrings story with a hopeful ending)

Janet Smart for Ho! Ho! Ho! Yum! (fun and kid-friendly with a delightfully conscientious mouse 🙂 )

Sarah Meade for Claire’s Big Christmas Trip (we could imagine her special outing to New York City perfectly!)

Maria Antonia for Last Christmas Cookie (great portrayal of sibling interaction and a nicely executed twist ending!)

Lori Sheroan for Watch And Learn (an entry we loved for its beautiful setting and wonderful characterization done in very few words as well as its Appalachian folk tale flavor)

Deb Sullivan for A Great Treat (energetic, kid-friendly and fun!)

Kathy Halsey for Likin’ Lichen . . . Or Marshmallows? (fun and believably kid – favorite line: “Their eyes – how they twinkled. Their noses – So hairy. Their antlers – so tall and a teensy bit scary.” 🙂 )

Katrina Swenson for The Great Cookie Escape (original, creative and entertaining Point of View (the cookies!) very well written!)

Kelly Pope Adamson for Recipe For A Snowman (very creative – who knew you could make a snowman without snow?!)


2. For Fun, Well-Written Twists on Familiar Tales:

Brenda Covert for A Surprise For General Gingerbread (well written and fun, not exactly based on the tale, but the main character is technically a Gingerbread Man 🙂 )

Jill Lambert for Even Trolls Deserve A Treat (a kind-hearted twist on The Three Billy Goats Gruff)

Angela Verges for Cora’s Christmas Cookies (a cute twist on The Little Red Hen)

Stacey Miller for A Fairy Tale Treat (a twist on Hansel And Gretel with a touch of the The Three Little Pigs thrown in – favorite line: “A book of 101 Things To Make With A Turnip” 🙂 )



3. For Top Of The Naughty List:

Sarah Hetu-Radny for A Trickster’s Treat (that Ellery was up to every kind of no-good! – good job with character!)


4. For Poetic Writing and Original Format:

Tracy Curran for The Choice Of A Tree (lovely language, poignant story which she somehow wrote in the shape of a Christmas tree!)


5. For Excellence In Representing A Different Holiday Tradition: (not already in the Finals or All-Around HM)

Jyoti Rajan Gopal for Luscious Laddoos: A Sweet Story (wonderfully descriptive and mouth-watering!)



6. For Best Entry Based On A True Story:

Pat Finnegan for A Taste Of Peace (based on the Christmas Eve truce in hostilities on the Western Front)



Congratulations to all of you for fantastic elements of your stories!  You may all email me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com subject line Prize Winner to collect your award badge and prize, which is five dollars in a format that can be emailed for you to put toward something you’d like at a large online store (and I’m being cryptic because when I did this for Halloweensie I got a ton of problematic spam mail because of the way I worded the post, but hopefully you can figure it out.  The store starts with the letter A 🙂 )


And now…

…the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

The announcement of the WINNERS OF THE 2019 HOLIDAY CONTEST as voted on by you, our esteemed readers!!!



In First Place

Winner of the whole shebang…

who gets first choice of all the prizes…

Rebecca Gardyn Levington

The Greatest Latke Topping!!!

Congratulations, Rebecca, on a fun, kid-friendly story written in spot-on rhyme with a delightfully humorous ending that was clearly very popular with a LOT of readers!!!  It ain’t over til Ketchup comes to the table! 🙂

In Second Place

Laurie Carmody
All I Want For Christmas

Congratulations, Laurie, on a fun, kid-friendly entry that made us laugh at yet another use for the poor. much-maligned fruit cake 🙂  You get to pick your prize after Rebecca.

In Third Place

Kelly Kandra Hughes

Christmas Peach Pie

Congratulations, Kelly, on an entry that made us long for peach pie and admire your little main character for being willing to embrace the naughty list to get that pie! 🙂  You get to pick your prize after Rebecca and Laurie.

In Fourth Place

Sue Lancaster
Grandpa Ted’s Garden Shed

Congratulations, Sue, on a fun story about a holiday treat that wasn’t food!!! with a great ending that left us wondering what exactly Grandpa gets up to in his spare time… 🙂  You get to pick your prize after Rebecca, Laurie, and Kelly!

In Fifth Place… a tie! between

Kailei Pew                                                                                      Anne Lipton
for                                                                                                       for
       A Christmas Treat For Mama                                                         Vinarterta With Amma

Congratulations, Kelly, on a sweet story that embraced the true spirit of the season, and Congratulations, Anne, on a beautifully-written story full of lovely language that introduced us to a different holiday tradition!  Great job both of you!  You get to pick your prizes after Rebecca, Laurie, Kelly, and Sue… and we may have to negotiate a little (which is why I try to avoid ties, but when they happen they happen!)

In Seventh Place…

Lara Elliot
Gingerbread Family

Congratulations, Lara!  We loved how Isabel found a way to make the best of things, not only saving the cookies but celebrating each member of the family for their uniqueness!  I’m sure you get the idea of how the prize picking goes by now 🙂

In Eighth Place…

Gabrielle Cardwell
Biscuit’s Christmas Treat

Congratulations, Gabrielle!  We loved that your story celebrated a dog’s POV of a Christmas walk through the neighborhood, and we felt like we knew Biscuit!  You get to pick after Lara 🙂

In Ninth Place

Tracy Curran
The Gingerbread Sleigh

Congratulations, Tracy, on your mouth-watering entry written in excellent rhyme with a wonderful ending!  You get to pick after Gabrielle 🙂

In Tenth Place

Brenda Whitehead
Christmas Eve Treats

Congratulations, Brenda, on a lovely entry that celebrated the love between a grandmother and granddaughter and came around to such a sweet ending where their roles were reversed.  You get to pick your prize after Tracy!

In Eleventh Place

Deborah Bence Boerema
Christmas Kitchen Chaos

Congratulations, Deborah, on an entry that perfectly portrayed the way things seem to go in the kitchen this time of year with a lovely ending that showed it’s the who not the what that matters!  You get to pick after Brenda!

All the winners should email me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com with the subject heading Prize Winner so we can work out details for you to receive your prizes!  (The sooner the better!)  And for your convenience, the whole prize list is included at the bottom of this post.

Congratulations again to all our winners – it was a stiff competition!! – and congratulations to EVERYONE who wrote and entered a story in the contest.  You all deserve a huge round of applause and a Holiday Treat (see what I did there?  🙂 )

Thank you to everyone who helped make this contest SO MUCH FUN, whether by writing an entry, reading people’s stories, leaving comments for the authors, and/or voting in the finals, or by donating a prize.  It’s because of all of you that this contest was such a success, so many, many thanks from the bottom of my heart!

As I… hmm… maybe didn’t mention…? but seem to do every year so you’re probably not surprised, I’m taking a little blogging break so I can spend time with my family – I’ve got children to fetch, cookies to bake, Christmas presents to shop for and wrap, and my sister and her family arriving from Georgia! 🙂  So I will see you all in a couple weeks – most probably the first week of January 🙂

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

Looking forward to all the things we’ll do in 2020!

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

Screen Shot 2017-12-18 at 4.46.14 PM




The Prizes!:  OMG! So much awesomeness!!!


Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Children’s Literary Agent Melissa Richeson of Apokedak Literary!!! Melissa will read and give a written critique of your picture book manuscript plus a 10 minute phone call to talk!!!

MG/YA First 1500 Words Critique from Children’s Literary Agent Melissa Richeson of Apokedak Literary!!! Melissa will read and give a written critique of the first 1500 words of your MG or YA manuscript!!!

Melissa Richeson

Literary Agent Melissa Richeson

Melissa is currently looking to build her client list and is focusing on children’s book authors—picture books through young adult. She’s drawn to witty wording and whimsical design for picture books, humor and quick pacing for chapter books, charming mysteries or magic in middle grade, and fresh, character-driven stories in young adult. She’s not the best fit for horror, high fantasy, or graphic violence of any kind




Art of Arc Writing Course from writer and editor Alayne Kay Christian!

Art of ArcArt of Arc is an independent-study picture book writing course. Most stories have some sort of arc. Many successful picture books are built around an arc. Understanding story and character arcs will help give your story order and the tension that will energize it from the beginning to the end. This energy will not only drive your protagonist forward – it will also drive readers to turn pages and keep reading.

The purpose of this course is to deepen your understanding of picture books written with a classic arc and to introduce you to many other picture books structures. The course also addresses a number of common issues that weaken a story and common writing mistakes that authors make.

Picture Book Manuscript Critique (rhyming or non-rhyming) from Penny Parker Klostermann, talented author of THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT (Random House 2015) and A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE (Random House 2017)

fb844-penny 495eb-penny A Cooked Up Fairy Tale

Rhyming Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Dawn Young, author of THE NIGHT BAAFORE CHRISTMAS (WorthyKids 2019)

Young headshot hi res for blog - jacket

Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Melissa Stoller, author of SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH (Spork 2018), READY, SET, GORILLA! (Spork 2018), and THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION (chapter books) (Spork 2017)

Picture2 Picture1 gorilla

Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Julie Abery, author of LITTLE TIGER and LITTLE PANDA (Amicus Ink 2019) and the forthcoming YUSRA SWIMS (Creative Editions February 2020) and LITTLE MONKEY and LITTLE HIPPO (Amicus Ink February 2020)

julie abery Yusra Swims

Little Tiger Cover Little Panda Cover Little Monkey Little Hippo

Book Bundle #1 – Nonfiction

Signed Copies of multiple star- and award-winning picture books




barry-wittenstein-photo Sonny's Bridge A Place To Land


Book Bundle #2 – Two By Tara Plus One

Personalized, signed copies of OPERATION PHOTOBOMB (Albert Whitman 2019) and I USED TO BE FAMOUS (Albert Whitman 2019) by Tara Luebbe

Tara Luebbe Operation Photobomb I Used To Be Famous

and a personalized signed copy of MOTHER TERESA: THE LITTLE PENCIL IN GOD’S HAND (Spork 2019) by Patricia Saunders

patricia-saunders_orig  Mother Teresa cover

Children's Writers And Illustrators 2020

(Charlesbridge 2019)

Making A Living Writing Books For Kids: Tips, Techniques, and Tales from a Working Children’s Author – by Laura Purdie Salas

Making A Living

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! 😊

Monday Funday Short & Sweet

Hey Everyone!

Isn’t it great to be back in the swing of things?

Well, almost back in the swing… since I didn’t realize until about midnight that today was the 3rd Monday of the month already which means it’s a Short & Sweet day! 🙂

SS Spring Badge Susanna Hill - Final Small

badge created by Loni Edwards

But since we’re all just starting into the new school year – not just as writers, but many of us as teachers and students as well – I thought it was important to have our beginning-of-the-week (and school year!) inspirational writing prompt.

I hope you’ll enjoy today’s as much as I do! 🙂


Here’s what to do – and your answers can relate to yourself, one of your children, or a character in a story you’re writing… or maybe you’ll create a character for a story you haven’t written yet!  Whoever you choose to write about, hopefully it will end up inspiring story from somewhere!

Okay!  Write each of the following on a piece of paper (or a word doc or whatever)

  1.  a specific ordinary item from your childhood home (e.g. clothespins, books, embroidered doilies)
  2. two product names from your childhood/past (e.g. Clorox, vinegar, Tide)
  3. a phrase describing your childhood home (e.g. dirt under the back porch, slamming screen door, shingles red as sunset)
  4. adjective, adjective, sensory detail relating to the phrase in #3 (e.g. black, glistening, it tasted like beetles)
  5. a plant, flower, tree or natural item from your childhood home (e.g. the forsythia bush, Dutch elm)
  6. description of item in #5 (e.g. whose long gone limbs I remember as if they were my own)
  7. family tradition and family trait (e.g. fudge and eyeglasses, easter eggs and hair in braids)
  8. 2 names of family members (e.g. Imogene and Esther; can also be something like Grammy or Dad)
  9. description of family tendency and another description of family tendency (e.g. know-it-alls and pass-it-ons)
  10. something you were told as a child and something else you were told as a child (e.g. Perk up! and Pipe down!)
  11. 2 representations of religion or lack of (e.g. he restoreth my soul with a cottonball lamb and ten verses I can say myself)
  12. place of birth and family ancestry (e.g. Artemus and Billie’s Branch)
  13. 2 food items that represent your family  (e.g. fried corn and strong coffee)
  14. specific family story about a specific person and detail (e.g. the finger my grandfather lost to the auger)
  15. another detail of another family member (e.g. the eye my father shut to keep his sight)
  16. location of family pictures, mementoes, archives (e.g. under my bed was a dress box spilling old pictures)
  17. line explaining the importance of family items (e.g. those moments snapped before I budded, leaf fall from the family tree)

Now, take everything you wrote and turn it into an I Am From poem by filling in the blanks: (the numbers from above are in parentheses below the lines) (and don’t worry!  there are examples of finished poems below to help you get the idea! 🙂 )

I am from ______________________________
#1 (specific ordinary item)
From ________________________ and __________________________
#2  (product name)                      #2  (product name)
I am from the ______________________________________________
#3 (home description)
___________________ , _________________ , ________________________________
#4 (adjective)              #4 (adjective)           #4 (sensory detail)
I am from _________________________________________ ,
#5  (plant, flower, natural item)
#6   (description of above item)
I’m from ____________________________ and ______________________________
#7  (family tradition)                         #7   (family trait)
From ______________________________ and _________________________
#8  (name of family member)            #8   (another family name)
I’m from the ____________________________ and ______________________
#9 (description of family tendency)           #9 (another one)
From _________________________________ and ________________________
#10 (something you were told as a child)                #10 (another)
I’m from ___________________________ , __________________________________
#11 (representation of religion or lack of), (further description)
I’m from _______________________________________________
#12 (place of birth and family ancestry)
______________________________________ , ________________________________
#13 (a food item that represents your family)      (another one)
From the ______________________________________________________________
#14 (specific family story about a specific person and detail)
The _________________________________________________________
#15 (another detail of another family member)
#16 (location of family pictures, mementos, archives)
#17 (line explaining the importance of family items)

And for examples of finished poems:

Screen Shot 2017-09-17 at 10.40.34 PM

So try your own!  Have fun with it!  See how poetic and evocative you can make it and share it in the comments below for all of us to enjoy!  Remember, it can be about your own self, your child, or a character from a story you’re working on!

I hope it will give you some inspiration!

(And I will try to add in my own sample this morning, but as I mentioned I wasn’t quite in the swing of things and it’s way too late for me to pull that off now!  We’re talking wee hours 🙂 )

Have a marvelous Monday, everyone!


Monday Funday Short & Sweet – June

It’s the third Monday of the month, and you know what that means!


Well, no, not donuts… although that is a good guess and given the “sweet” in today’s activity maybe we should have donuts…

So, ok, donuts:

dark chocolate creme donut

But what I was actually referring to, you incorrigible donut hounds 🙂 , is Monday Funday Short & Sweets!

SS Spring Badge Susanna Hill - Final Small

badge created by Loni Edwards

Nothing like a little warm-up writing fun to kick off the day and the week, don’t you think?  Who knows what great story idea we might spark from this!


Today’s Short & Sweet will work best if you don’t peek.  I’m not quite sure how to accomplish that on a blog post, so let’s go on the honor system – no scrolling down yet!

First, pick a number from 1 – 10.  Got it?  Write it down.

Now pick a number from 1 – 10 again and write that down.

Now do it again.

And now one last time.

(BTW, it’s okay if you pick the same number more than once.  If you want to make it really random you can roll a pair of dice and just discard any 11s or 12s you get.  Or take an Ace through 10 out of a deck of cards and randomly choose cards to see what numbers you get.)

Hopefully you now have 4 numbers between 1 and 10 written down.  (For example, I have 5, 9, 3, and 2.)

Now.  Use your first number to select from this list:


  1. a boy who comes from the Land of Nod
  2. a guinea pig who always carries a lucky penny
  3. a princess who is mischievous
  4. a knight who hates to get wet
  5. a dinosaur who is forgetful
  6. a king who loves licorice
  7. a witch who loves to whistle
  8. a monster who is shy
  9. a robot who is to curious
  10. a cowboy who loves bugs


Use your second number to select from this list:


  1. outer space
  2. a birthday party
  3. the shore of Lake Chaubunagungamaug
  4. a city sidewalk
  5. the edge of a meadow
  6. zoo
  7. the soda fountain
  8. lighthouse
  9. circus
  10. campsite


Use your third number to select from this list:


  1. nap time
  2. June twilight
  3. just after losing first tooth
  4. during a blizzard
  5. snack time
  6. after losing the big game
  7. first light of morning
  8. the day before Halloween
  9. the first really hot day of summer
  10. moments before the school play


Use your last number to select from this list:


  1. someone’s feelings have been hurt
  2. someone is having a bad day
  3. someone had a fight with a friend
  4. someone is stuck or trapped somewhere
  5. someone is lonely
  6. someone can’t climb to the treehouse
  7. someone wishes s/he were bigger
  8. someone is moving away
  9. someone is being chased by an animal
  10. someone broke his/her big toe

You should now have a randomly selected character, setting, time, and situation/challenge – everything you need to prompt a story!

In the comments below, list the 4 you got and write 50-100 words of whatever story they suggest to you!  Don’t agonize!  Don’t over-think!  We’re all among friends.  Just write!  All we’re doing here is priming the pump.  If all you can squeeze out is 50 rusty words, that’s fine!  You wrote 50 words in the middle of your hectic, busy day!  But maybe, just maybe, 25-50 more will trickle out a little less rusty, and maybe after you’ve written your 50-100 here you’ll find you’ve got a gush of clear water rushing forth and a whole  new story will well up and land on your list of accomplishments for today!

Oh, and if you find it’s too hard to include all 4, it’s okay to just use 1, 2, or 3 of the prompts you picked – the exercise is just to get ideas and words flowing 🙂

Here’s my example in case you don’t quite get it:
The numbers I chose were 5, 9, 3, and 2, so I get

Character #5 – a dinosaur who is forgetful
Setting #9 – circus
Time #3 – just after losing first tooth
and Situation/Challenge #2 – someone is having a bad day

Given these prompts, I might write the following 50-100 words:

So far, Reinhold was not having a good day.

He was last to the breakfast table so all the Frosted Flakes were gone.

His favorite blue-sequined tight-rope walking outfit was in the wash, so he had to go to practice wearing the stupid red and green striped one that made him look like a triceratops-shaped elf.

Worst of all (and the reason he had been late to breakfast) he had lost his first tooth.

This should have been a good thing.  He had been looking forward to this moment for months, ever since Jiminy had lost his first tooth…and then Alvin…and then Sparky.

He had begun to worry that maybe his baby teeth were going to stick in there forever.  Maybe he’d never lose a tooth!

But now he had.

And he hadn’t just lost it.  He had LOST it.


Tonight the Tooth Fairy would come to the rainbow-colored circus tent where Reinhold was supposed to be sleeping soundly.

She would look under his pillow for his first baby triceratop tooth.

And she would find . . .


Because Reinhold could not remember where he had put it!


Okay.  So I went a little over with 188 words 🙂  But I hope you’ll get carried away too!

See how easy?

Ready, Set, WRITE!!!

I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Have a marvelous Monday, everyone!!! 🙂




Monday Funday Short & Sweet

Hey, Everybody!

Do you know what day it is?

If you said the third Monday of the month, Monday Funday, the day Short & Sweets returns to a blog near you (er… this one! 🙂 ) then you win the penny prize!

SS Spring Badge Susanna Hill - Final Small

badge created by Loni Edwards

The object of Short & Sweets is to jump start our writing, whether it’s Monday morning or any other time of the week.  Short & Sweets are fun little exercises we can do together and share to get the writing sparks flying!  We will all inspire each other’s creativity.

I’ll supply a challenge.  You put your response in the comments.  Then scroll through and see how everybody else responded.  Maybe whatever you thought up won’t spark a story idea for you, but maybe someone else’s response will!  (And don’t worry – everything will be vague enough that there’s no way 2 people will ever write the same story off the same prompt.  It just doesn’t work that way :))

So are you ready?

Pull up a chair amongst your friends here, help yourself to a breakfasty snack, and let’s get writing!

coffeetea bagels

Here’s today’s challenge: (we’re going nice and simple to ease you in… 🙂 )

Write the opening sentence of a picture book.

The sentence should introduce the main character and the story problem.

For example:  Ava had a hard time falling asleep.

Easy peasy, right?!

Let’s see how many opening sentences we can generate!  Feel free to share more than one!

I’ll start.

Jasmine Bloom had the worst superhero power ever!

Now you go…!

I can’t wait to see what opening sentences you come up with!

Happy writing everyone!  Have a marvelous Monday! 🙂