Tuesday Debut – Presenting Jenna Waldman!

It’s time for the first Tuesday Debut for August!

I hope you’re all enjoying it from your shady hammocks with a glass of lemonade or iced tea! If you happen to be at the beach, keep your eyes peeled for sharkbots 😊 because today’s debut-ess is the one and only Jenna Waldman who has kindly come to tell us all about how her SHARKBOT SHALOM wound up at your local bookstore! 😊

SHARKBOT SHALOM
Written by Jenna Waldman
Illustrated by Sharon Davey
Apples & Honey Press
August 1, 2021
Fiction, Ages 2-5.

Time is running out before Shabbat, and so is Sharkbot’s charge. He’s already at charge level TEN . . . NINE . . . EIGHT. . . . Count down with this cheerful shark robot as he sets the table, stirs the seaweed soup, and braids kelp into challah loaves. A Shabbat recharge is just what Sharkbot needs. But will he be ready in time?

SUSANNA: Hi, Jenna! So great to have you with us today!

JENNA: Hi, Susanna, It’s fantastic to be visiting with you!

SUSANNA: Let’s start at the beginning. Where did the idea for this book come from?

JENNA: The idea for Sharkbot Shalom came from my pun loving mind one morning while herding my two boys in the car for school. “Shabbat shalom” is the typical Shabbat greeting (it’s also a song), but my kids loved sharks and robots—so the title was born. And yes, I did sing it to them, much to their dismay… I torture them with a lot of silly songs, it helps me brainstorm ideas!

I recently looked back at the original brainstorm I had for the book. I had Sharkbot rushing back home for Shabbat from a space adventure before his charge ran out. But I prefered the idea of Sharkbot preparing the meal himself, and using other ocean imagery and characters—it felt more natural.

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

JENNA: After coming up with the concept, it came together pretty quickly! I wrote a brief plot at the top of the document to keep me focused, and made a long list of ocean words for reference. I knew I had to move the countdown from 10-1, and conclude with the Shabbat meal. So, I wrote out the numbers (10-1) and paired them with potential rhymes. Then I filled in the couplets while making sure the story moved along. In the end, I didn’t want every couplet to end with the number, so I used the numbers to refer to things other than his charge: “The starfish waves five arms, “hello””, “Two candlesticks of coral pink”, etc. For this book, it really helped to create a “skeleton” and fill in the “meat”.

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

JENNA: Sharkbot Shalom was unusual in that it didn’t take many revisions. But! It’s also not a typical PB structure, the plot is simple, and it relies heavily on the counting hook. So, while there are many layers, it was fairly fully formed early on. Larry’s Latkes, on the other hand, took A LOT of revisions!

Speaking of revisions, I am forever grateful for my CP’s help—having your CP’s eyes on your work is invaluable. I’m also a member of Poet’s Garage, a group of incredibly talented poets. If you rhyme, working with people who do it better than you helps you to grow, and makes your work stronger.

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

JENNA: Remember those CP’s I mentioned? They will often let you know when your manuscript is ready! I also had a gut feeling, and felt like the hooks helped make it a solid, and marketable piece.

But sometimes, your CP’s and gut will tell you your manuscript is ready, and you still get rejections! It can take a lot of revisions and submissions until the right pair of eyes reads your work—keep chocolate handy (for the rejections…and maybe your gut is just telling you you’re hungry!)

SUSANNA: Really there is no moment when chocolate isn’t helpful for something 😊 When and how did you submit?

JENNA: I sent it to Apples & Honey Press, who had recently bought Larry’s Latkes. I sent them Sharkbot Shalom in January, and received the offer in February. This is an unusually fast turnaround!  Originally, Larry’s Latkes was going to be my debut, but Sharkbot stole its spot. (I hope they’re still friends!) Larry’s Latkes had done a lot of the work for Sharkbot. I had the connection to editors at Apples & Honey Press already, and that’s why I decided to send it to them first—and you know the rest!

I didn’t have an agent when I sold Larry’s Latkes or Sharkbot Shalom. I was a very reluctant query-er! It felt overwhelming to make a spreadsheet (shudder) and I kept feeling like my best work was still yet to come, and I should wait. True story—when I finally put together a spreadsheet of agents/publishers, I was approached by my now agent (Joyce Sweeney) through my participation in the #PBChat Mentorship Showcase. So maybe, just maybe, tackling that spreadsheet let the universe know I was ready.

SUSANNA: Maybe so! It sounds very possible to me. When did you get “the call”?  (Best moment ever! 😊)

JENNA: It went like this: manuscript sent, 1/12/20; received email with interest, 2/20/20; phone call with offer, 2/26/20; contract signed, 3/15/20. Again, it was super fast, and super unusual. Larry’s Latkes went through more of the typical publishing acrobatics, and then had its debut glory stolen!


SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

JENNA: Well, we all remember what was happening in the beginning of 2020? Two days before I signed the contract for Sharkbot, my boys’ schools were shut down. To be honest, I don’t remember celebrating. We were too deep in survival mode. I looked back at the emails my editor and I exchanged at the time, and we were checking in with each other, and asking about family. There were a lot of mixed emotions, that’s for sure. But if you look back at all the chocolate and cookies I ate during 2020, maybe I was celebrating all year! (Oy vey…) I’ll be making up for the missed celebration on Sharkbot’s Book Birthday with a day at the beach, and a nice meal.

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

JENNA: The contract was the same terms as Larry’s Latkes, so it wasn’t much of a surprise. My editor also shared the terms when we had the phone call, so I knew what to expect. I had my husband, who is an attorney, review the contracts. He made some suggested changes, but luckily, they were minor.

Apples & Honey Press is a small publisher, so I wasn’t expecting a large advance, and they have the typical 5% royalties. The contract included 10 author copies, but I wish I had asked for more. I have a third book coming out in ‘23 and I asked for 20 author copies, which they approved. You can always ask!

The final “work” deadline was written in the contract as well, but my editor has always been flexible with deadlines on edits when it’s been necessary (ie I’m going out of town, or another conflict) although I usually end up finishing edits early. It’s a good idea to have open communication with your editor, and ask if you need something, they’re people too!

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

JENNA: I adore my editor at Apples & Honey Press! It’s been a lot of fun to work with her on our (now three) books. There were several rounds of revisions for Sharkbot. The story stayed the same, but there wording was refined. For example—how did I not realize I said “ocean” in the first two stanzas?! Thank you, editor, for catching that!

The Shabbat meal included wine, and I was wondering if they would ask me to change it to, I dunno, underwater-grape juice? But thankfully we were in agreement that Sharkbot and his buddies were most definitely of legal drinking age.

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

JENNA: I feel lucky that Apples & Honey shared illustrations with me at several different stages. They shared the illustrator’s name before signing her (although I’m unsure what would have happened if I had said “no”—luckily, I loved her work!). I was able to share any comments I had with my editor, but there weren’t many.

The vision I had of sharkbot was nothing like Sharon Davey’s interpretation. (Her’s is FAR better!) I had visualized him as an upright robot (for Dr Who fans, think “dalek”, but not a diabolical murdering machine). Sharon also made the most gorgeous home for her endearing sharkbot character and his friends. I love the color palette, and his eyebrows!

text copyright Jenna Waldman 2021, illustration copyright Sharon Davey 2021, Apples & Honey Press

Sharon lives in the UK,  and we did not communicate directly about our book. We worked with the editors as our go-between. But we’ve connected on social media, and she is lovely.

I really didn’t have any artnotes for this manuscript, other than that Sharkbot’s charge visibly decreases with each number (10-1). I was very curious about how Sharon was going to illustrate this, and she resolved it really well.

text copyright Jenna Waldman 2021, illustration copyright Sharon Davey 2021, Apples & Honey Press

In my two other Apples & Honey books, I was actually asked for more art notes so they had a better sense of my vision. After everything I’ve heard, this really surprised me. I don’t know if the notes were shared with the illustrator, or if the editors merely passed my thoughts along verbally—or not at all. 

Here’s a little secret fact in the Sharkbot illustration: Sharkbot lives at “55 Sandy Drive”. My childhood home was number 55. A little shout out to my youth!

SUSANNA: I love that little personal touch! So fun! Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc? What was that like?

JENNA: So far, I’ve only seen a review from Kirkus, and—I still don’t understand what they are saying. Not that I argue they made a misjudgment, I just didn’t understand: “A guidebook for those who believe “think like a Jewish robotic shark” is good advice.” But it probably makes as much sense as a robotic shark celebrating Shabbat with his ocean friends! I’ll just shrug and keep on writing.

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

JENNA: Oh goodness! Well, 2/20/20 was the phone call offer, and on 4/8/21 I received an early copy my editor sent me. (See my stop motion video on Twitter showing the opening of the package). But I didn’t receive my author copies until this July.

I don’t know the print run from Apples & Honey, I should ask! But PJ Library will be sending out 30,400 copies of Sharkbot this Fall, I’m so excited!

PJ Library sends children, ages 0-9, free age appropriate books that speak to Jewish values, and traditions. We’ve received PJ Library books since my youngest was in preschool, about 6 years. Apples & Honey Press submits all of their picture books for consideration to PJ Library. I am so honored that they decided to include both Sharkbot Shalom and Larry’s Latkes in their program. Both books will be sent to five year olds this fall. The acceptance to the program happened before the initial print run at Apples & Honey Press. I actually had sent Larry’s Latkes directly to PJ Library (they are open for unsolicited submissions) at the same time I had sent it to Apples & Honey. They initially rejected it, but A&H said that they will often change their minds once they see it come together with the art—I’m so happy they did! 

SUSANNA: That is really fabulous! How wonderful that your books will go out to so many kids this fall! What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?

JENNA: Again, it’s a small publisher, and they don’t do a lot of marketing/publicity. But they submit books for reviews, and advertise via their own website and social media, and get the book situated on Amazon and in local indies. They offered to host a virtual event, but I don’t have anything planned with them as of yet. They also send bookmarks and bookplates.

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

JENNA: I’m in a fantastic promo group called Picture Book Playground. It’s a group of 22 picture book creators, and their support has been invaluable! From helping to publicize our books on social media, to advice on a variety of topics, to emotional support for the ups and downs of publishing—I really appreciate them.

I have also created promotional stop motion videos for Sharkbot. You can find them on Twitter: @SarafinaDesign (my handle is a remnant of my old greeting card business). They were so much fun to make! I invited kids to draw what they imagined a “sharkbot” to look like, and it culminated in the cover reveal.

On August 1st with the PJ Library of Silicon Valley, we’ll be meeting at Natural Bridges Beach in Santa Cruz for songs, playing in the sun, learning about tidepools, and….the debut reading of Sharkbot Shalom! For the event I’ve made Sharkbot party hats, and little swag bags. Before I even signed my first book contract I was already looking up swag!

Along with more blog visits, I also have some bookstore visits in the future.

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

JENNA: When I was pregnant with my first son, I used to meet a friend in coffee shops and we’d work on our own projects. She’s an amazing fantasy writer, and I was working on my greeting cards. In 2016, I was no longer feeling invested in my greeting card business (by then I had a second kid and no time). I wanted to focus on writing, and I asked my friend for advice in finding a writer’s group. On her recommendation, I joined Inked Voices for a while, and that led to 12×12 in 2017. I signed Larry’s Latkes around Thanksgiving in 2019, so it took almost exactly 3 years.

But, one of my dreams is to write AND illustrate a book…we’ll see how many years that takes…

SUSANNA: 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?)

JENNA: Oh hey, remember those CP’s I mentioned back in question 3 and 4, get yourself some of those! I’ve met them through 12×12, Twitter, my promo group, my agency, and more. They are out there, find them.

I’ve also said this on other occasions: spend time with kids! They are not only idea factories, and unfiltered commentators, but they are your target market. Well, parents are doing the buying, but are parents as much fun as a room full of 5 year olds?!

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

JENNA: It is most certainly a collaboration! From the author, to illustrator, editors, copyeditors, book designers, there are so many moving parts that work in the book making machine. Since I had an art background, it was a practice in relinquishing control, and making room for the other parts to turn. This doesn’t mean that you can’t comment on something that doesn’t feel right to you! But, perhaps, by stepping back and making space—you will end up with something amazing you never would have created on your own. For example, my editor is the one who suggested a relaxation exercise for the end of Sharkbot. It hadn’t even crossed my mind—but I love how it complements the book.

Also, I was motivated to write Sharkbot after selling Larry’s Latkes, and having the attention of Apples & Honey Press. I wouldn’t have written Larry’s Latkes if it weren’t for Susunna Hill’s Holiday contest in 2018. Contests are a fantastic way to find prompts and motivation (gotta love deadlines!), connect with the community, and another way to…find those CP’s I keep talking about ; D

Author Jenna Waldman

Jenna Waldman is the author of the forthcoming picture books, LARRY’S LATKES and SHARKBOT SHALOM. They will both be released in 2021 by Apples & Honey Press. Jenna is originally from Rhode Island, but now lives in the SF Bay Area. She shares her home with her husband, their two boys, and two felines. Jenna is represented by Joyce Sweeney of The Seymour Agency.

www.jennawaldman.com
Twitter: @sarafinadesign
Instagram: jennawaldmanauthor

JENNA: Thank you SO much Susanna!!! I wouldn’t be here without you, literally!

SUSANNA: Aw, shucks, Jenna! You’re kind to say so, but I’m quite sure your talent and dedication would have won out with or without me! 😊 Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers! We so appreciate it, and wish you all the best of luck with this and future titles!

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

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

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

Ann Magee – Branches Of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree

Amanda Davis – 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag (nonfiction)

Jennifer Buchet – Little Medusa’s Hair Do-lemma

Michelle Vattula – The Stalking Seagulls

Christine Van Zandt – A Brief History Of Underpants (nonfiction)

Candice Marley Conner – Sassafras And Her Teeny Tiny Tail

Ashley Belote – Frankenslime

Becky Scharnhorst – My School Stinks!

Darshana Khiani – How To Wear A Sari

Ana Siqueira – Bella’s Recipe For Success

Kate Allen Fox – Pando: A Living Wonder Of Trees (nonfiction)

The 2021 Valentiny Contest WINNERS!!!

Rise and shine, my friends!

I know it’s Monday.

I know it’s freezing cold and snowing… AGAIN!

I know someone in your house probably snagged the last Poptart and you’re stuck eating All-Bran for breakfast. . .on a frigid Monday morning. . .in the snow!

But.

BUT!

I am about to cast a ray of sunshine into your freezing, snowy, All-Bran-y, Monday morning!

Yes!

It’s true!

Here comes sunshine and heart-warming happiness because I am going to SING YOU A SONG! 🎶🎵🎶


🎶How much are those Poptarts in the window,
So sugary sweet and divine?
I’m brave, but not brave enough to offer
All-Bran to my sweet Valentine!🎶

No?

Ok, how about

🎶Oh, my darling,
Oh, my darling,
Oh, my darling, Valentine!
I will give you all my Poptarts
If you promise to be mine!🎶

Oh no, wait! I’ve got it!

🎶I’m a little Poptart filled with jam
Some say I’m sweet and it’s true! I am!
But my Valentiny also true –
No one else is sweet as you!🎶

I don’t know what’s happening here.

Apparently someone (who is not a good singer) has Poptarts on the brain.

Who could that be?

But never mind, because GUESS WHAT?

It’s time to announce the WINNERS of

The 6th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest

~ for children’s writers ~

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 so many! As always, I was thrilled to see so many wonderful stories!  It is amazing and inspiring, not to mention VERY entertaining!  There is just so much talent out there amongst you all!  The other judges and I are blown away anew each time!

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, 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.  We chose 14 finalists, and around 35 Honorable Mentions which we also loved, and even with those 49 total there were over 200 entries we couldn’t list! So if yours didn’t make the final cut please don’t feel bad.  You’re in good company! 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 214 words if you like and maybe submit at some point to a magazine or as a PB manuscript.  So bravo to everyone who entered!

Because it was such a hard choice, and there were so many wonderful stories, before we get to the winners, my assistant judges and I would like to award bragging rights, 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!)

Elizabeth Volkmann for Class List

Melissa Trempe for The Most Terrible, Awful, Icky Valentine Ever

David McMullin for Brave Brave Brave (also funny 😊)

Laken Slate for The Brave Little Conversation Heart

M.R. Haqq for Soon

Mia Geiger for Peanut’s Brave Valentine’s Day

Ashlee Hashman for The Wildflower

Lindsey Hobson for U R Brave

Audrey Day-Williams for Legendary Valentine

Sara Ackerman for Arrrrr Is For Valentine

Amy Leskowski for A One-of-a-Kind, Just-in-Case, Not-at-All-Pink Valentine’s Day

Donna Kurtz for The Owl and the Kitty-Kat

2. For Great Kid Appeal: (not already mentioned in the finals or other categories)

Una Belle Townsend for Six Secret Valentines

Jan Suhr for The Lost Valentine

Kaylee Gwarjanski for Mission: Cancel Cupid Call

Gregory E. Bray for A Valentine’s Day Quest in the Land of Moore

Elizabeth Muster for W-R-I-T-E For Each Other

3. For Original POV:

Molly Ippolito for Cardamom’s Courage (POV of cardamom)

Rozana Rajkumari for Lemon-Tine (POV of a lemon)

4. For Humor:

Kelly Conroy for The Monster’s Valentine Buffet (dark 😊)

Catherine J Lee for The Valentine on My Shoe

Karyn Curtis for The Valentine’s Quest

Tracy Curran for The Wibbler (also great POV – jelly!)

5. For Well-Written, Fun Story With Great Sibling Interaction:

Brenda Whitehead for Step-Brother Battle

Shannon Howarth Nelson for Super Brothers

Danielle S. Hammelef for Scaredy-Cat

6. For Beautiful Writing:

Ciara N M Greenwalt for The Gift Tree

Sandhya Acharya for Sarla Asks A Question

Jyoti Rajan Gopal for A Cocoon of Love

Amy Flynn for Tilly’s Great Big Heart

7. For Best Short Valentiny Story:

P. J. Purtee for A Simple Valentine

8. For Sweet Valentiny:

Kelly Swemba for Brave For Gigi

Anne Bromley for Caleb’s Heart

Carmen Castillo Gilbert for Roses From Valentina

9. Best Story From A Young Writer:

Sophia Zafra for Bravery Is From The Heart

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 😊) I know it’s not much, but hopefully it will come in handy for something!

And now…

…the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

The announcement of the WINNERS OF THE 2021 VALENTINY CONTEST as voted on by you, our devoted readers!!!

rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat

DDDRRRUUUMMM RRROOOLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!

In First Place

Winner of the whole shebang…

who gets first choice of all the prizes…

Sarah McDermott
for

Lemur in Love!!!

Congratulations, Sarah! We had such fun reading this aloud! Terrific job 😊

In Second Place

Sarah Meade
for
Jana’s Valentine Visit

Congratulations, Sarah!  So believable! You get to pick your prize after Sarah.

In Third Place

Nancy Derey Riley
for
Percy’s Valentine

Congratulations, Nancy!  What a perfectly rhymed and timely story! You get to pick your prize after Sarah and Sarah.

In Fourth Place

Jessica Hinrichs
for
Valentine’s Gotcha Day

Congratulations, Jessica!  So sweet! You get to pick your prize after Sarah, Sarah, and Nancy!

In Fifth Place

Carrie Boone
for
The Ballad of Bad Bart

Congratulations, Carrie!  What a Valentine bargain! You get to pick after Sarah, Sarah, Nancy, and Jessica!

In Sixth Place...

Nicole Loos Miller
for
Stella & Hank

Congratulations, Nicole!  You must have a cat and a dog to write them so well! I’m sure you get the idea of how the prize picking goes by now 😊

In Seventh Place…

Paul Kurtz
for
Someone Special!

Congratulations, Paul!  You made us laugh   You get to pick next 😊

In Eighth Place…

Chambrae Griffith
for
Octopus Hugs

Congratulations, Chambrae!  Happy ending for shark 😊 You get to pick after Paul 😊

In Ninth Place…

Janie Reinart
for
Untangled Valentines

Congratulations, Janie!  So beautifully written!  You get to pick after Chambrae!

In Tenth Place…

Anne Lipton
for
Most Valuable Valentine

Congratulations, Anne!  You did a masterful job of turning history and racial justice into a Valentiny story! And in rhyme! You get to pick after Janie!

In Eleventh Place…

Katie Brandyberry
for
Valentine Delivery

Congratulations, Katie! We could just see the picture book your little mail truck would make! You get to pick after Anne 😊

In Twelfth Place…

Lauri C. Meyers
for
Charmadillo

Congratulations, Lauri! You had us at the title! And we laughed at the ending 😊 You get to pick your prize after Katie.

In Thirteenth Place…

Judy Sobanski
for
Brave Little Friends

Congratulations, Judy! Little Racoon was certainly very brave! 😊 You get to pick after Lauri!

In Fourteenth Place…

Samantha Haas
for
Valentine’s Day Rocks

Congratulations, Samantha! We loved Marjorie for her kindness and understanding, and Roger for bravely (and intelligently) coming up with valentines that worked for him!

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 gigantic chocolate heart… or lots of little chocolate hearts… or both… really, you can never have too much chocolate 😊 . (Or, can I interest you in a Poptart? Maybe a chocolate Poptart… 😊 )

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.  It’s because of all of you that this contest was such a success, so many, many thanks from the bottom of my heart!

Have a marvelous Monday, everyone! 😊

The Prizes:  Swoonworthy!

Hannah VanVels – Agent, Belcastro Agency – PB MS Critique

Hannah will offer one lucky winner a PB MS critique. The winner may submit fiction or nonfiction, rhyme or prose – Hannah is open to anything!

(from Belcastro Agency’s website)

Winner’s choice of Renee LaTulippe‘s Lyrical Language Lab Intensive Rhyme & Meter Self Study Course OR a one-hour ZOOM consultation with Renee to get feedback on a manuscript of your choice, ask questions about writing in rhyme/lyrical prose, or spend however you like!

Renee LaTulippe

Picture Book Manuscript Critique (Rhyme or Prose, Fiction) from Dawn Young, author of THE NIGHT BAAFORE CHRISTMAS (WorthyKids 2019), COUNTING ELEPHANTS (Running Press Kids, March 2020), and THE NIGHT BAAFORE EASTER (WorthyKids January 26, 2021)

Dawn Young

Picture Book Manuscript Critique (fiction) from Kirsti Call author of The Raindrop Who Couldn’t Fall (Mazo Publishing, January 2019),  Mootilda’s Bad Mood (Little Bee, September 2020), as well as COW SAYS MEOW (HMH) and COLD TURKEY (Little Brown) which will release in 2021.

Kirsti Call

Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Melissa Stoller, author of SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH (Spork 2018), READY, SET, GORILLA! (Spork 2018), THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION (chapter books) (Spork 2017), and SADIE’S SHABBAT STORIES (Spork, October 2020)

Melissa Stoller

Picture Book Manuscript Critique (non-rhyming, fiction) from Becky Scharnhorst, author of the forthcoming MY SCHOOL STINKS! (Philomel Books, July 6, 2021)

Becky Scharnhorst

Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Ellen Leventhal, author of A Flood Of Kindness (WorthyKids April 2021), DON’T EAT THE BLUEBONNETS (Spork 2017), LOLA CAN’T LEAP (Spork 2018), and HAYFEST A HOLIDAY QUEST (ABCs Press 2010)

Ellen Leventhal

Picture Book Manuscript Critique (non-rhyming, fiction, fewer than 800 words) from Rebecca Kraft Rector, author of SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED (Nancy Paulsen Books, February 16, 2021) (which means it’s coming out in the middle of our contest!😊) and the forthcoming LITTLE RED (Aladdin, Simon & Schuster, Spring 2022) and TRIA AND THE GREAT STAR RESCUE (Delacorte/Random House)

Rebecca Kraft Rector

Picture Book Manuscript Critique (nonfiction PB or rhyming PB) from Julie Abery, author of LITTLE TIGER and LITTLE PANDA (Amicus Ink 2019), YUSRA SWIMS (Creative Editions February 2020), LITTLE MONKEY and LITTLE HIPPO (Amicus Ink February 2020), THE OLD MAN AND THE PENGUIN (Kids Can Press, December 2020), and the forthcoming LITTLE PENGUIN and LITTLE ZEBRA (Amicus Ink, March 2, 2021) and SAKIMOTO’S SWIM CLUB (Kids Can Press, May 4, 2021)

Julie Abery


A Picture Book Manuscript Critique by gifted author and former Holiday Contest prize winner, Jenna Waldman, author of the forthcoming Larry’s Latkes (October 2021) (originally written for the Holiday Contest!) and Shark-bot Shalom (August 2021) She is on twitter at @SarafinaDesign

Author Jenna Waldman

– Either a signed copy of WHEN A TREE GROWS OR a Picture Book Manuscript Critique – winner’s choice! – from Cathy Ballou Mealey, author of WHEN A TREE GROWS (Sterling April 2019) and the forthcoming SLOTH AND SQUIRREL IN A PICKLE (Kids Can Press, May 4, 2021)

– a personalized signed copy of SUNDAY RAIN from author Rosie Pova PLUS a personalized signed copy of DEAR GRANDMA from Yours Truly.

– a personalized signed copy of DON’T HUG DOUG: (He Doesn’t Like It) from author Carrie Finison PLUS a personalized signed copy of CURIOSITY’S DISCOVERY from author/illustrator Nancy Derey Riley!

– a personalized signed copy of The Night Baafore Easter from author Dawn Young PLUS a personalized signed copy of Hop To It: Poems To Get You Moving from poet Sarah Meade!

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! 😊

Be Brave, My Heart! – The 6th Annual Valentiny Contest Is Here!!!

[For those trying to post, you must click on the Blog Post Title to get on the blog post page and access the comments]

Roses are red

Violets are blue

Valentinies rock

And so do YOU!

Like galloping hooves, our brave hearts are pounding with excitement and anticipation (or maybe trepidation!) because it’s time for. . .

The 6th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest

~ 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 brave!

  • They can be brave about asking someone to be their Valentine, of course, but they can also do something brave to get a Valentine (the person or the gift), or do something brave to help a friend. They could be brave about giving something up, or brave about asking someone they’re not sure they like to be their Valentine just to be nice. . . sky’s the limit!  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 brave (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.
  • You are welcome to enter more than one entry – just remember you’ll be competing against yourself 😊
  • No illustration notes please!

Post your story in the comment section below (preferred) or on your own blog between right now this very second and Sunday February 14th by 11:59 PM EDT. If you only post on your own blog, add your post-specific link to the form list at the bottom of the post.  This post with all the entries in the comment section and the list of links for those who prefer to post on their own blogs will stay up all week for everyone to enjoy. 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

We discussed changing the entry posting. The majority voted to have all the entries in one place here in the comment section, so we’re going to give that a try. But there were some who wanted to continue blog-hopping, so I’m going to include a link list for them at the bottom of the post. For those who are willing to post in the comment section but also plan to post on their own blogs, you are most welcome to post the link to your blog in your posted entry here (see example below.) That way people can come visit you if they want to but can also read most of the entries in one place on my blog if they prefer. It is certainly easier for the judges to have as many entries as possible in one place. We’ll try it this way one time and see how it works. We can always go back to the old system 😊

(So a sample entry might look like this:
ENTRY TITLE – word count
Author Name
(link to your own contest entry blog post if you have one and would like to share it)

Amazing wonderful Valentiny Contest story.😊

Dudley’s Brave Valentine – 212 words
by Violet Hill
http://bit.ly/3aOxhZm

It was almost Valentines Day and Dudley’s heart had sunk to somewhere near his big toenail.
(etc etc amazing story continues)

I know how hard you all work on your entries and how anxious you are to be sure your entry is posted, but please try to be a little bit patient if you’re waiting for your entry to show up in the comments or on the list of entries. I try never to get up from my desk during contests but sometimes it’s unavoidable. 😊

The Judging: over the next several days, my lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to 12 top choices which will be posted here and voted on for a winner on Thursday February 18th (or possibly a day or two later if the judges need extra time.)   The winner will be announced Monday February 22nd depending on judging and voting time needed.  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 bravery and success in making us feel the bravery!
  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, PROOFREADING!
  6. Originality – surprise us with something new and different! 😊
  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:  Talk about a pounding heart! Just look at these fabulous prizes!

Hannah VanVels – Agent, Belcastro Agency – PB MS Critique

Hannah will offer one lucky winner a PB MS critique. The winner may submit fiction or nonfiction, rhyme or prose – Hannah is open to anything!

(from Belcastro Agency’s website)

Winner’s choice of Renee LaTulippe‘s Lyrical Language Lab Intensive Rhyme & Meter Self Study Course OR a one-hour ZOOM consultation with Renee to get feedback on a manuscript of your choice, ask questions about writing in rhyme/lyrical prose, or spend however you like!

Renee LaTulippe

Picture Book Manuscript Critique (Rhyme or Prose, Fiction) from Dawn Young, author of THE NIGHT BAAFORE CHRISTMAS (WorthyKids 2019), COUNTING ELEPHANTS (Running Press Kids, March 2020), and THE NIGHT BAAFORE EASTER (WorthyKids January 26, 2021)

Dawn Young

Picture Book Manuscript Critique (fiction) from Kirsti Call author of The Raindrop Who Couldn’t Fall (Mazo Publishing, January 2019),  Mootilda’s Bad Mood (Little Bee, September 2020), as well as COW SAYS MEOW (HMH) and COLD TURKEY (Little Brown) which will release in 2021.

Kirsti Call

Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Melissa Stoller, author of SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH (Spork 2018), READY, SET, GORILLA! (Spork 2018), THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION (chapter books) (Spork 2017), and SADIE’S SHABBAT STORIES (Spork, October 2020)

Melissa Stoller

Picture Book Manuscript Critique (non-rhyming, fiction) from Becky Scharnhorst, author of the forthcoming MY SCHOOL STINKS! (Philomel Books, July 6, 2021)

Becky Scharnhorst

Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Ellen Leventhal, author of A Flood Of Kindness (WorthyKids April 2021), DON’T EAT THE BLUEBONNETS (Spork 2017), LOLA CAN’T LEAP (Spork 2018), and HAYFEST A HOLIDAY QUEST (ABCs Press 2010)

Ellen Leventhal

Picture Book Manuscript Critique (non-rhyming, fiction, fewer than 800 words) from Rebecca Kraft Rector, author of SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED (Nancy Paulsen Books, February 16, 2021) (which means it’s coming out in the middle of our contest!😊) and the forthcoming LITTLE RED (Aladdin, Simon & Schuster, Spring 2022) and TRIA AND THE GREAT STAR RESCUE (Delacorte/Random House)

Rebecca Kraft Rector

Picture Book Manuscript Critique (nonfiction PB or rhyming PB) from Julie Abery, author of LITTLE TIGER and LITTLE PANDA (Amicus Ink 2019), YUSRA SWIMS (Creative Editions February 2020), LITTLE MONKEY and LITTLE HIPPO (Amicus Ink February 2020), THE OLD MAN AND THE PENGUIN (Kids Can Press, December 2020), and the forthcoming LITTLE PENGUIN and LITTLE ZEBRA (Amicus Ink, March 2, 2021) and SAKIMOTO’S SWIM CLUB (Kids Can Press, May 4, 2021)

Julie Abery


A Picture Book Manuscript Critique by gifted author and former Holiday Contest prize winner, Jenna Waldman, author of the forthcoming Larry’s Latkes (October 2021) (originally written for the Holiday Contest!) and Shark-bot Shalom (August 2021) She is on twitter at @SarafinaDesign

Author Jenna Waldman

– Either a signed copy of WHEN A TREE GROWS OR a Picture Book Manuscript Critique – winner’s choice! – from Cathy Ballou Mealey, author of WHEN A TREE GROWS (Sterling April 2019) and the forthcoming SLOTH AND SQUIRREL IN A PICKLE (Kids Can Press, May 4, 2021)

– a personalized signed copy of SUNDAY RAIN from author Rosie Pova PLUS a personalized signed copy of DEAR GRANDMA from Yours Truly.

– a personalized signed copy of DON’T HUG DOUG: (He Doesn’t Like It) from author Carrie Finison PLUS a personalized signed copy of CURIOSITY’S DISCOVERY from author/illustrator Nancy Derey Riley!

– a personalized signed copy of The Night Baafore Easter from author Dawn Young PLUS a personalized signed copy of Hop To It: Poems To Get You Moving from poet Sarah Meade!

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! Put your heart into it and bravely post your entries!

I can’t wait to read your stories!!!

Eager Readers: Check out the comment section for all the fabulous entries, and the link list at the end to visit the blogs of the authors who wanted to post on their own home turf 😊

ENTRIES IN THE COMMENT SECTION: (all entries are linked)

  1. Not “IT” – Danielle Sharkan
  2. A Goosely Valentine – Danielle Sharkan
  3. Charlie and Sienna – A Friendship Story – Laura Roettiger
  4. Most Valuable Valentine – Anne Lipton
  5. A Valentine’s Day Quest in the Land of Moore – Gregory Bray
  6. Red-Green Valentine’s Day – Stephanie Amargi
  7. A One-of-a-Kind, Just-in-Case, Not-at-All-Pink Valentine’s Day – Amy Leskowski
  8. Love Is Stronger – Teresa Traver
  9. Valentine’s Gotcha Day – Jessica Hinrichs
  10. Carmela’s Valentines – Lu Pierro
  11. Bee Brave – Gennie Gorback
  12. Crushed – Corine Timmer
  13. Too Chicken – Sue Lancaster
  14. Shelly and the Path of Peril – Sue Lancaster
  15. Brave Hearts – Jamie Donahoe
  16. Step-Brother Battle – Brenda Whitehead
  17. I Woof You – Debra Daugherty
  18. My Valenchicken – Glenda Roberson
  19. A Neighborly Valentine – Meg King-Sloan
  20. U R Brave – Lindsey Hobson
  21. If I Were Brave – Rose Cappelli
  22. Elonso’s Best Valentine’s Day Ever – Susan Drew
  23. Dibble and Wiscowski: “A Cookie Valentine” – Bru Benson
  24. One Brave Balloon – Susan Schade
  25. The Wibbler – Tracy Curran
  26. Brave Bonnie – Shannon VanStraten-Sundlass
  27. Cupid, Junior – Linda Staszak
  28. A Valentine Visit – Julie Maria
  29. Cupid: The Love Fairy – Rachel Shupin
  30. Be Brave On Valentine’s Day – Sara Kruger
  31. Operation Moonbeam – Simon Yeend
  32. A Valentine Rose – Daryl Gottier
  33. The Ballad of Bad Bart – Carrie Boone
  34. The Brave Little Seed – Michelle S. Kennedy
  35. Something I Want To Say – Jeny Morales
  36. Stella & Sparky And The Last Valentine – Patricia Nozell
  37. Stella & Hank – Nicole Loos Miller
  38. Untangled Valentines – Janie Reinart
  39. The Wildflower – Ashlee Hashman
  40. The Color of Love – Allison Strick
  41. Puppy Love – Deb Buschman
  42. Super Brothers – Shannon Howarth Nelsen
  43. Brave For Gigi – Kelly Swemba
  44. Wannabe my Valentine – Cynthia Stacey
  45. Cupix – Bridget Magee
  46. U To The Rescue – Amy Heath
  47. Blob’s Valentine’s Wish – Deb Sullivan
  48. Violet & The Valentine’s Vampire – Sarah Meade
  49. Jana’s Valentine’s Visit – Sarah Meade
  50. Mole & Miss Vole on Valentine’s Day – Sarah Meade
  51. A Valentine’s Mouse In Our House – Elizabeth Meyer Zu Heringdorf (2 entries in one comment)
  52. Will you be my ninja – Elizabeth Meyer Zu Heringdorf (2 entries in one comment)
  53. Grouchy Grover – Rebekah Hoeft
  54. Brave In A Cave – Cedar Pruitt
  55. Cardy’s Valentine Story In All Its Glory – Sally Yorke-Viney
  56. My Kind of Valentine! – Megan France
  57. Lavender Buzz – Vicky Langdon
  58. Love Sick – Abi Island
  59. Be Brave! – Lisa M. Clewner-Newman
  60. I’m Not Afraid – Patricia J. Franz
  61. The Girl With The Candyfloss Hair – Simon Yeend
  62. Valentine’s Day on Halloween Hill – Abby Wooldridge
  63. W-R-I-T-E For Each Other – Elizabeth Muster
  64. Olive You Forever – Ann Ferrello
  65. The Pink Pro – Kelsey Gross
  66. Brave Brave Brave – David McMullin
  67. The Witch of Valentine Lane – Marietta Apollonio
  68. Gordon’s One-Footed Hop – Kelsey Gross
  69. Charmadillo – Lauri C. Meyers
  70. “Soon” – M.R. Haqq
  71. More Than Cookies – Halley M. Cormack, LCSW
  72. Fishing For Love: A DIARY – Amy Olsen
  73. The Lost Valentine – Jeannette Suhr
  74. Brave New Friends – Dawn Young
  75. Scaredy-Cat – Danielle S. Hammelef
  76. Hard To Love – Robin Currie
  77. Brave Hearts – Susan Klaren
  78. Across The Road – Rachel Dutton
  79. Knight of Hearts – Ellen Crosby
  80. Tootsee Tulip Bulb’s Love-Treat – Judy Caldwell Hughes
  81. Brave in the Basement – Jessica Whipple
  82. Caleb’s Heart – Anne Bromley
  83. Corn Dogs on the Corner – Colleen Dougherty
  84. Brave Heart – Rebecca Gardyn Levington
  85. Knock, Knock, Knock – Marty Findley
  86. Villain-tine’s Day – Laura Bower
  87. Take A Deep Breath – Elyse Trevers
  88. Only Three Words – B. A. Schlosser Hill
  89. A Stolen Valentine – Martha Holguin
  90. Class List – Elizabeth Volkmann
  91. Cards and Cookies – Jennifer Reichow
  92. Chalk Tears – Judy Brewer
  93. Nurse A Broken Heart – E. Elle Bea
  94. Bravely Soldier On – E. Elle Bea
  95. New Kid Blues – Darcee A. Freier
  96. Valentine’s Recitation – Keely Leim
  97. Mama Love. Dada Love. – Nancy M. Tichenor
  98. A Valentine’s Treasure – Ingrid Boydston
  99. An Itsy Bitsy Valentine – Maria Antonia
  100. Dino & Gigi – Carolina Bottino (Nina K. Brown)
  101. Hearts Trail – Carolina Bottino (Nina K. Brown)
  102. The Giant’s Valentine – Sheila M. Hausbeck
  103. The Loneliness Street – Nina K. Brown
  104. Brave Little Valentine – Charlotte Dixon
  105. Playdate – Margaret Aitken
  106. Octopus Hugs – Chambrae Griffith
  107. Conversation Heart Courage – Becky Kimbrough
  108. My Friend Nate – Karima Davis
  109. Jojo’s Valentine – Sarah Hawklyn
  110. “I Like You A Lot” – Julie Schnieders
  111. Unconventional Friendship – Sarah Hawklyn
  112. The Flavors of the Heart – Armineh Manookian
  113. The Candybot – Ellen Seal
  114. An Otter Love Story – Kristy Roser Nuttall
  115. Floret And The Fondue – Ashley Sierra
  116. Be Brave, Be Kind, My Valentine – Susan E. Schipper
  117. Cupid’s Booty Camp For BabyBoo – Ally Enz
  118. Playing To Win – Norah Colvin
  119. Super Special Valentine – Aundra Tomlins
  120. A Brave Change of Heart – Amy Nicolai
  121. Sarla Asks A Question – Sandhya Acharya
  122. A Trail of Ketchup and Mustard – MeiLin Chan
  123. Juliet and Romeo: Verona’s Valentine’s Celebration – Cristina Raymer
  124. A Little Atom – Isabel Cruz Rodriguez
  125. Oscar Octopus Plants A Garden – Isabel Cruz Rodriquez
  126. My Bestest Friend – Roberta Abussi
  127. My Every-Day-Valentine – Roberta Abussi
  128. Sarah’s Valentines – Rachel Zimmerman Brachman
  129. Lemur In Love – Sarah McDermott
  130. A Cocoon of Love – Jyoti Rajan Gopal
  131. Eggbert – Charlie Bown
  132. A Valentine For Mom – Patricia Martin
  133. Becca’s Brave Hearts – Marty Bellis
  134. Little Truck’s Daring Delivery – Kristin Kolp
  135. The Valentine On My Shoe – Catherine J. Lee
  136. No More Pink – Robin Currie
  137. Shiny Sharp Scissors – Katie Fischer
  138. Valentine Love Languages – Jaymie Dean
  139. Val & Jack – Karen Keesling
  140. Brave Heart – Tonnye Fletcher
  141. Valentine Delivery – Katie Brandyberry
  142. Apple Pie: Valentine’s Day Treat – Sarah Skolfield
  143. Brave Little Friends – Judy Sobanski
  144. Lone’s Very First Day – Jennifer Reinharz
  145. The Monster’s Valentine Buffet – Kelly Conroy
  146. Freddie Frog’s Valentine – Lindsey Hobson
  147. A Simple Valentine – P. J. Purtee
  148. The Wonky Heart – Stacy Burch
  149. Roses From Valentina – Carmen Castillo Gilbert
  150. A Natural Valentine’s Day – Sharon McCarthy
  151. Miss Hedgehog’s Valentine Mission – Amy LaMae Brewer
  152. Blown Away – Diana Webb
  153. Zooming Valentine’s Day – Susan VandeWeghe
  154. Snack Attack – Melisa Wrex
  155. Heart Hands – Sarah Heaton
  156. Bigfoot’s Valentine – Kirsten Leestma
  157. Geronimo! – Lydia Loeber
  158. The Most Terrible, Awful, Icky Valentine Ever – Melissa Trempe
  159. Babies Share Bedrooms – Kristi Newsome
  160. 214 St. Valentine Way – Tracy Anderson Martin
  161. Six Secret Valentines – Una Belle Townsend
  162. The Bees and the Birdss – Paul Kurtz
  163. Someone Special! – Paul Kurtz
  164. Zombie My Valentine – Donna Kurtz
  165. The Owl and the Kitty-Kat – Donna Kurtz
  166. No Pictures! – Diane S. Scotti
  167. Blue Flower – Mary Warth
  168. New Line Valentine – Marcia Parks
  169. Leo Lionhearted – Jill Lambert
  170. Bravery Is From The Heart – Sophia Zafra
  171. A Heavenly Visit – Deborah Dolan Hunt
  172. The Bird And The Cat – Beth Winslow
  173. THE Valentine Question – Kate Rehill
  174. How To Be Valentines (With A Boa Constrictor) – Mary Noon
  175. Desi’s Daring Delivery – Darci Nielson
  176. New Best Friend – Sherri T. Mercer
  177. The Gift Tree – Ciara N M Greenwalt
  178. One Shot – Dazzle Ng
  179. Fuzzy Bum – Stacey Miller
  180. Arrrrr Is For Valentine – Sara Ackerman
  181. Valentine’s Day Rocks – Samantha Haas
  182. Cyrus The Bold – Patricia Corcoran
  183. Saying What I Really Mean – Nina Nolan
  184. Mr. Grumpy’s Valentine – Anne Sawan
  185. Heart Shaped Everything – Rathi Munukur
  186. You Can Do This Jonathan! – Martina Palkovicova
  187. Caveman Valentine – Jennifer Lowe
  188. Percy’s Valentine – Nancy Derey Riley
  189. Brave Hearts – Mary Rudzinski
  190. Legendary Valentine – Audrey Day-Williams
  191. In Front Behind – Diana Webb
  192. A Punny Valentine – Linda Staszak
  193. Love is an Ocean Away – Kimiko Wadriski Lumsden
  194. Valentine’s Day Rescue – Brigid Finucane
  195. Mission: Cancel Cupid Call – Kalee Gwarjanski
  196. The Valentine’s Quest – Karyn Curtis
  197. Seeking Courage – Bonnie Kelso
  198. Valentina and Valentino – Claire Lewis
  199. Will You Bee My Valentine – Ranessa Doucet
  200. A Valentine Ski – Clara MacClarald
  201. Dance Like An Eagle – Jyothi Nookula
  202. A Gift For Abuelo – JC Kelly
  203. My Tummy Valentine – Janice Kay Alexander
  204. Elijah and the Valentine – Susan Twiggs
  205. Assortment Phobia – JC Kelly
  206. A Beastly Valentine – Steve Jankousky
  207. A Valentiny for ME! – Karima Davis
  208. Friendship Cake – Dea Lenihan
  209. Be My Valentine – Liz Kehrli
  210. Love Story – Liz Kehrli
  211. Love Birds – Lisa Lee Furness
  212. Mr. Grumpy – Mary A. Zychowicz
  213. Feep and Meep – Echo Roben
  214. The Cave of Utter Darkness – Bill Canterbury
  215. Yellow Like A Mango – Imelda Taylor
  216. Melanie’s Back! – Shari Della Penna
  217. All About Heart – Anna Lunt
  218. Tilly’s Great Big Heart – Amy Flynn
  219. Insiya’s Valentine – Aditya Simha
  220. Corazon Does Not Cliff Jump – Kate Rehill
  221. We’re Still Brave! – Kelly Coutsoubos
  222. The Cupcake Who Dared To Be Different – Susanne Whitehouse
  223. Lucy’s Brave Lifelines – Karen A. Kelly

This form ONLY for people who prefer to post on their own blogs and are ONLY posting their entries on their own blogs!

Eh, What’s Up Doc? Announcing The Guidelines For The 6th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest!!!

Knock, knock!

Who’s there?

Atlas.

Atlas who?

Atlas, it’s Valentines Day!

Ok, well, it’s not quite Valentines. . .

How about this one?

Knock, knock!

Who’s there?

Iguana.

Iguana who?

Iguana hold your hand!

Ok 😊 I’ll stop 😊 Because what iguana do really is let you know that it’s time to fire up those brain cells and write your entry for. . .

The 6th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest

~ 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 brave!  They can be brave about asking someone to be their Valentine, of course, but they can also do something brave to get a Valentine (the person or the gift), or do something brave to help a friend. They could be brave about giving something up, or brave about asking someone they’re not sure about for some reason to be nice. . . sky’s the limit!  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 brave (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 12:00 AM EDT Friday February 12th and Sunday February 14th by 11:59 PM EDT and add your post-specific link to the list that will accompany my February 12th post.  There will be no regularly scheduled posts that week (Tuesday Debut, Would You Read It or PPBF), so the post and the list of links will stay up all week for everyone to 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 that post once it’s up. (Or, if you have difficulty with the comments, which unfortunately sometimes happens, you may email your entry to me and I’ll post it for you! Although I have a question I’d love addressed in the comments: would it be easier for everyone to post their entry in the comment section of my blog so everything is all together? I know it means no blog-hopping, but do you guys think it would be simpler? Or do you prefer the opportunity to visit new blogs?

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 Thursday February 19th (or possibly a day or two later if the judges need extra time.)   The winner will be announced Monday February 22nd depending on judging and voting time needed.  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 bravery and success in making us feel the bravery!
  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, PROOFREADING!
  6. Originality – surprise us with something new and different! 😊
  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.

The Prizes:  I’m still working on prizes (aren’t I always 😊), but I wanted to get the contest guidelines up so you’d have time to write.  If anyone has anything fabulous to offer, drop me an email 😊  But meanwhile, start writing and watch this space for prizes which I will add as I get them organized!

Hannah VanVels – Agent, Belcastro Agency – PB MS Critique

Hannah will offer one lucky winner a PB MS critique. The winner may submit fiction or nonfiction, rhyme or prose – Hannah is open to anything!

(from Belcastro Agency’s website)

Winner’s choice of Renee LaTulippe‘s Lyrical Language Lab Intensive Rhyme & Meter Self Study Course OR a one-hour ZOOM consultation with Renee to get feedback on a manuscript of your choice, ask questions about writing in rhyme/lyrical prose, or spend however you like!

Renee LaTulippe

Picture Book Manuscript Critique (Rhyme or Prose, Fiction) from Dawn Young, author of THE NIGHT BAAFORE CHRISTMAS (WorthyKids 2019), COUNTING ELEPHANTS (Running Press Kids, March 2020), and THE NIGHT BAAFORE EASTER (WorthyKids January 26, 2021)

Dawn Young

Kirsti Call – Picture Book Manuscript Critique (fiction) from Kirsti Call author of The Raindrop Who Couldn’t Fall (Mazo Publishing, January 2019),  Mootilda’s Bad Mood (Little Bee, September 2020), as well as COW SAYS MEOW (HMH) and COLD TURKEY (Little Brown) which will release in 2021.

Kirsti Call

Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Melissa Stoller, author of SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH (Spork 2018), READY, SET, GORILLA! (Spork 2018), THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION (chapter books) (Spork 2017), and SADIE’S SHABBAT STORIES (Spork, October 2020)

Melissa Stoller

– Picture Book Manuscript Critique (non-rhyming, fiction) from Becky Scharnhorst, author of the forthcoming MY SCHOOL STINKS! (Philomel Books, July 6, 2021)

Becky Scharnhorst

Ellen Leventhal – Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Ellen Leventhal, author of A Flood Of Kindness (WorthyKids April 2021), DON’T EAT THE BLUEBONNETS (Spork 2017), LOLA CAN’T LEAP (Spork 2018), and HAYFEST A HOLIDAY QUEST (ABCs Press 2010)

Ellen Leventhal

– Picture Book Manuscript Critique (non-rhyming, fiction, fewer than 800 words) from Rebecca Kraft Rector, author of SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED (Nancy Paulsen Books, February 16, 2021) (which means it’s coming out in the middle of our contest!😊) and the forthcoming LITTLE RED (Aladdin, Simon & Schuster, Spring 2022) and TRIA AND THE GREAT STAR RESCUE (Delacorte/Random House)

Rebecca Kraft Rector

Picture Book Manuscript Critique (nonfiction PB or rhyming PB) from Julie Abery, author of LITTLE TIGER and LITTLE PANDA (Amicus Ink 2019), YUSRA SWIMS (Creative Editions February 2020), LITTLE MONKEY and LITTLE HIPPO (Amicus Ink February 2020), THE OLD MAN AND THE PENGUIN (Kids Can Press, December 2020), and the forthcoming LITTLE PENGUIN and LITTLE ZEBRA (Amicus Ink, March 2, 2021) and SAKIMOTO’S SWIM CLUB (Kids Can Press, May 4, 2021)

Julie Abery


A Picture Book Manuscript Critique by gifted author and former Holiday Contest prize winner, Jenna Waldman, author of the forthcoming Larry’s Latkes (October 2021) (originally written for the Holiday Contest!) and Shark-bot Shalom (August 2021) She is on twitter at @SarafinaDesign

Author Jenna Waldman

– Either a signed copy of WHEN A TREE GROWS OR a Picture Book Manuscript Critique – winner’s choice! – from Cathy Ballou Mealey, author of WHEN A TREE GROWS (Sterling April 2019) and the forthcoming SLOTH AND SQUIRREL IN A PICKLE (Kids Can Press, May 4, 2021)

Rosie Pova – personalized signed copy of SUNDAY RAIN

– a personalized signed copy of DON’T HUG DOUG: (He Doesn’t Like It) by Carrie Finison PLUS a personalized signed copy of CURIOSITY’S DISCOVERY by Nancy Derey Riley!

Dawn Young – personalized signed copy of The Night Baafore Easter

So you’ve got nearly 3 weeks to write your entry!  Butt in chair! Valentine Chocolate and coffee/tea on your desk!  Brain in gear!  Ready, set, WRITE!  Be Brave! You can do it!!!

I can’t wait to read your stories!!!

The 2020 Holiday Contest WINNERS!!!

Well hi there, my little snowflakes!

You’re just in time for some high jinx and shenanigans!

I’m always on the lookout for those fun holiday quizzes, but let’s face it: we’ve done Elf Names, and Reindeer Names, and that pretty much covers the available options. Last year I made up a What Kind of Christmas Cookie are you quiz. . . which was entertaining. . . but now we’ve done that too.

So this year I’ve decided to combine holiday quiz tomfoolery with writing prompt/idea generation! Try out this one!

I will not even try to deny that some of these combinations work better than others 😊 But I don’t mind if you cheat a little and use the first letter of your middle or last name or the month your pet iguana was born to get a better result 😊

My Holiday Picture Book Title is The Littlest Cookie (or, because there’s an alternative on that one, The Biggest Cookie, which is probably more appropriate!) But I think I could write either of those stories and have fun doing it! I might add in a type of cookie. . . The Littlest Sugar Cookie or The Biggest Peppermint Supreme Cookie. Or I might expand one way or the other: The Teeniest Tiniest Itty Bittiest Cookie or The Most Gigantic Christmas Cookie of All Time! But have a go and see what you get and share your title in the comments if you want to!

Wasn’t that fun?

Don’t you feel like you just got a little surprise holiday gift?

I bet those writerly brain cells are already humming!

So you’re welcome, and I won’t keep you from getting words on the page!

Go forth! Write! Create!

And enjoy your holidays!

Merry Christmas!

Happy Hanukkah!

Wondrous Solstice!

Happy New Year!

Etc. etc.!

See you in 2021!

Uh. . .

Were you expecting something else?

I already gave you your next picture book idea AND JOY!

What more could you want?

Oh, silly me.

There I go again, just completely forgetting the only reason you came to see me today!

I guess, now that you mention it, it IS time to find out who won

THE 10TH ANNUAL HOLIDAY CONTEST!!!

~ 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 (ahem, okay, technically it was Tuesday 😊) 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, a lovely badge, 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!)

Kaitlyn Sikes for ‘Twas A Cold Winter Solstice (beautifully written!)

Jessica Hinrichs for The Merry Melody Farm (also great for younger readers!)

Randi Lynn Mrvos for Four Things (also wonderful kid voice!)

Jilanne Hoffman for Promises Are For. . . (a poignant exploration of promises dishonored and promises kept)

Deborah Clayton for The Song of the Stable Mouse (a sweet, kid-friendly retelling of the Christmas story from the POV of a little mouse, nicely written!)

Elyse Trevers for Baia’s Bags of Blessings (a timely story of generosity and spreading the joy of Chanukah even in difficult times)

Laurie Carmody for The Holiday Henchman (a glimpse of Christmas from the naughty side that kids will enjoy)

Linda Schueler for Planting Smiles (a believable story of reluctance turning to understanding)

Patricia Nozell for Star (a miniature horse with a big heart who finds her own way to shine)

Cathrene Valente Youngquist for The Toymaker and the Christmas Tomte (told like a folk or fairy tale)

Mary Vander Plas for Oy to the World: An Ode to 2020 (so fitting!)

Shannon Howarth Nelsen for Christmas Bread (so evocatively written we could almost smell the bread)

2. For Make This A Picture Book! 😊

Ashlee Hashman for Gingerbread Construction Crew

3. For Great Depiction of Sibling Relationships

Pamela Love for Angel’s A

Melissa Trempe for Operation Christmas Distraction

Cynthia Stacey for The Christmas Tree

4. For Great For Younger Readers

Kirsten LeestmaDecember 21st

Larissa ElliottChristmas Good

5. For Great Kid Appeal

Ellen Turcio for A Super Scooper

Stacey Miller for A Cranky Christmas

6. For Inventive Re-Telling

Lauri C. Meyers for Gingerbread Girl To The Rescue (a new version of The Gingerbread Man)

7. For Great Ending

Gabrielle Cardwell for Decorating The Tree

Ashley Bray for Noella

8. For Wonderful Stories Celebrating Other Lands/Holidays/Cultures/Customs

Shariffa Keshavje for Holiday Helpers

Rachel Hobbs for The Day of the Three Kings – Argentina

Linda HofkeNot Counting On Sweet Treats This Year

Kathryn RammellA Swedish Pageant And The Mystery of the Missing Meatballs

9. For Unique Point of View

Megan and Rob Hunnicut for Sugar’s Spin (POV of the chosen cookie!)

10. For Humor 🤣

Bill Canterbury for Princess Oblivious

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 ten dollars for category 1 – Honorable Mention in the Competition as a Whole – and five dollars for all the other categories, 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 2020 HOLIDAY CONTEST as voted on by you, our esteemed readers!!!

rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat

DDDRRRUUUMMM RRROOOLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!

In First Place

Winner of the whole shebang…

who gets first choice of all the prizes…

Dana Marie Miroballi
for

Christmasaurus Hex!!!

Congratulations, Dana, on a fun, kid-friendly, delightfully humorous story that was clearly very popular with a LOT of readers!!!

In Second Place

Rebecca Gardyn Levington
for
A Spark of Friendship

Congratulations, Rebecca, on bringing the Shamash to life in spot-on rhyme!  You get to pick your prize after Dana.

In Third Place

Molly Ippolito
for
Firling’s Friend

Congratulations, Molly, on a sweet entry that made us hope that Firling wouldn’t be left out!  You get to pick your prize after Dana and Rebecca.

In Fourth Place

Julie Abery
for
Waddle Santa Do This Christmas?

Congratulations, Julie, on a delightful, original story about penguins pitching in!!!  You get to pick your prize after Dana, Rebecca, and Molly!

In Fifth Place

Allison Strick
for
Let It Grow! Let It Grow! Let It Grow!
       

Congratulations, Allison, on a very well written, creative, original take on green gifts! So clever!  You get to pick your prize after Dana, Rebecca, Molly, and Julie!

In Sixth Place

Kelsey Gross
for
The Solstice Tree

What a lovely story, Kelsey, where all the forest truly helped out! Nicely done! You get to pick your prize after Dana, Rebecca, Molly, Julie, and Allison!

In Seventh Place

Kristy Roser Nuttall
for
The Twelve Sleighs of Christmas

Congratulations, Kristy!  We loved how the elves helped Santa out of his fix by turning one sleigh into twelve!   I’m sure you get the idea of how the prize picking goes by now 😊

In Eighth Place

Natasha Zimmers
for
The Christmas Owl

Such beautiful writing, Natasha!  You evoked the peace of the snowy woods, made us feel the tension of the situation, and taught us something about owls as a bonus!  You get to pick after Kristy 😊

In Ninth Place

Laura Bower
for
The SleighAwake Band

Congratulations, Laura, on your entertaining entry written in excellent rhyme!  Who would have thought Santa had a band along with him to keep him from falling asleep? You get to pick after Natasha 😊

In Tenth Place

Chelsea Tornetto
for
The Christmas Corgi

Congratulations, Chelsea, on an adorable entry that made us all want a Christmas corgi! You get to pick your prize after Laura!

In Eleventh Place

Kelly Swemba
for
Christmas Impossible: An Unquiet Night

Congratulations, Kelly, on a delightfully fun and kid-friendly entry that saw the elves helping out in true squirrel control fashion!  You get to pick after Chelsea!

In Twelfth Place

Marty Findley
for
Not Too Little

Congratulations. Marty, on a wonderfully relatable story that celebrates every child who has ever wanted to help and been made to feel that he or she isn’t ready for that yet! You get to pick after Kelly!

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 shower of holiday confetti!

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. Although it will be a bit different than in other years, it’s still holiday time 😊   So I will see you all in a couple weeks – most probably the first week of January 😊

Before we part company, 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 2021!

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!!!

A Picture Book Manuscript Read and Critique by Agent Kaitlyn Sanchez of Olswanger Literary! Although she is currently closed to submissions (making this prize EXTRA special!) a look at her wish list will give you an idea of what she likes.

Agent Kaitlyn Sanchez

A 12×12 Silver Membership (valued at $177 but worth so much more!) generously donated by author and 12×12 founder and queen, Julie Hedlund! 12×12 is a fantastic, educational, supportive community with TONS to offer its members, including interesting and informational webinars of all kinds, access to forums and critiques, and the chance to submit to agents. If you’re not familiar with it, you can learn all about it HERE. Julie is the author of A Troop Is A Group of Monkeys (Little Bahalia Publishing, 2013), My Love For You Is The Sun (Little Bahalia Publishing, 2014), and the forthcoming Over, Bear! Under, Where? (Philomel Books, Fall 2021)

Julie Hedlund
Photo credit Kim Huggins

A Picture Book Manuscript Read and On The Spot Critique by prolific author Laura Purdie Salas! Laura offers a 50-minute on on-the-spot critique via Zoom for one picture book manuscript of up to 600 words (fiction or nonfiction, rhyming or prose or poetry). She will read it out loud to the writer and then do a critique right then and answer questions. Laura is a writer of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, prose, her own submissions and work for hire – she’s done it all! She is also the author of a number of fantastic books for writers which are often given as prizes here. Some of her books include A Leaf Can Be (Millbrook Press 2012), Clover Kitty Goes To Kittygarten (Two Lions 2020), Snowman – Cold = Puddle (Charlesbridge 2019), If You Were The Moon (Millbrook Press 2017), Making A Living Writing Books For Kids (CreateSpace 2017), and Picture Books The Write Way (CreateSpace 2014)

Rate Your Story owner, Picture Book Mechanic, and author Lynne Marie is offering 4 amazing prizes!

A 1/2 hour Zoom Session Picture Book Manuscript Consultation/Critique from ThePictureBookMechanic.com

Another 1/2 hour Zoom Session Picture Book Manuscript Consultation/Critique from ThePictureBookMechanic.com

A Rate Your Story Speedpass from RateYourStory.org

[From the Rate Your Story site] “A SPEED PASS allows a Non-Member to submit to Rate Your Story, as well as a Member to submit additional items to best serve the rating and feedback needs of our writing community.

We have a variety of Speedpass options, including pitches, query letters, art or a single manuscript at any time for a rating + guaranteed comments*, and it will be returned in less than 7 days’ time. Should you require a faster turnaround, fast pass options may be purchased to facilitate that.” 

Another Rate Your Story Speedpass from RateYourStory.org

Lynne Marie is the accomplished author of Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten – art by Anne Kennedy (Scholastic 2011), Hedgehog’s 100th Day of School – art by Lorna Hussey (Scholastic 2017), The Star of the Christmas Play — art by Lorna Hussey (Beaming Books 2018), Moldilocks and the 3 Scares — art by David Rodriguez Lorenzo (Sterling 2019 and Scholastic 2019)  and  Let’s Eat! Mealtime Around the World — art by Parwinder Singh (Beaming Books 2019) and two others forthcoming.


A Picture Book Manuscript Critique (fiction, rhyme or prose) by accomplished author Laura Sassi, author of Goodnight, Ark (Zonderkidz 2014) , Goodnight, Manger (Zonderkidz 2015), Diva Delores And The Opera House Mouse (Sterling 2018), Love Is Kind (Zonderkidz 2018), and the forthcoming Little Ewe: The Story of One Lost Sheep (Beaming Books, February 2021)

A Picture Book Manuscript Critique by talented author Sandra Sutter, whose delightful books include The REAL Farmer In The Dell (Clearfork Publishing/Spork, March 2019) and Stan’s Frightful Halloween (Clearfork Publishing/Spork, September 2020)


A Picture Book Manuscript Critique by gifted author and former Holiday Contest prize winner, Jenna Waldman, author of the forthcoming Larry’s Latkes (October 2021) (originally written for the Holiday Contest!) and Shark-bot Shalom (August 2021) She is on twitter at @SarafinaDesign

Author Jenna Waldman


Personalized, signed copies of For Spacious Skies (Albert Whitman, April 2020) and The Queen And The First Christmas Tree (Albert Whitman, October 2018) by award-winning author Nancy Churnin.



Personalized, signed copies of The Night Baafore Christmas (WorthyKids 2019) by Dawn Young and Louis (HMH Books For Young Readers 2020) by Tom Lichtenheld, illustrated by Julie Rowan-Zoch. The Night Baafore Christmas will be signed by Dawn, the author. Louis will be signed by Julie, the illustrator.



Two Picture Books (TBD) donated by Darshana Khiani, whose own picture book How To Wear A Sari is forthcoming from Versify in June 2021.


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, Amazon, B&N, or anywhere else if you like them, and supporting them in any other way you can dream up! 😊

Ho! Ho! Ho! The 10th Annual Holiday Contest Is HERE!

⭐️Deck the Halls! ⭐️ Light the menorah! ⭐️ Fill the Kikombe cha Umoja! ⭐️

It’s time for . . .

THE 10TH ANNUAL HOLIDAY CONTEST!!!

~ for children’s writers ~

The Contest:  Write a children’s holiday story (children here defined as age 12 and under) about a Holiday Helper!

Your helper can be one helper, or a pair, or a group or a bevy or a herd of helpers. Your helpers can be children, animals, elves, aliens, unicorns, fairies . . . whatever your heart desires. He/she/they can help bake, decorate, shovel snow, wrap gifts, clean the house, entertain guests, feed the hungry, comfort the lonely, bring the holiday spirit to those who have lost it – sky’s the limit 😊 But the focus of the story must be on helping – not just a brief mention in passing that Marla helped Dad set the table in the middle of a story about her frustration at not getting the starring role in the school holiday pageant.

Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, New Year’s or whatever you celebrate during the Holiday Season, but is not to exceed 250 words (I know! So much freedom after the Halloweensie Contest 😊 )  (It can be as short as you like (the judges will be grateful 😊 , you are welcome and encouraged to write shorter, but no more than 250!  Title not included in word count.)  The field is wide open!  Have fun!  The more creative the better!  No illustration notes please. (And yes, if you feel compelled to submit more than one entry you may, just remember you’re competing against yourself!)

Post:  Your entry should be posted between right now this very second and Wednesday December 9th at 11:59 PM EST, in ONE of the following three ways:

  1. Post your entry on your own blog and enter your post-specific link (not your main blog URL) to the link list below, OR
  2. Paste your entry in the comment section below (please include your byline since if your posting handle is something like MamaWritesByNightlight I will have no idea who you are 😊), OR
  3. If you have trouble pasting your entry in the comment section for any reason (which unfortunately does happen!) you can email it to me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com and I will post it for you. If you email it, please copy and paste your entry into the body of the email NO ATTACHMENTS – they will not be opened. Please include your title and byline at the top of your entry. (And since there have been many questions about this byline means who it’s by, for example, The Hanukkah Helper by Janie Simcox.)

Please submit your entry only ONCE! If you add it to the blog link list, and the comments, and email me to post it, things get very confusing!  I try to stay as glued to my desk as possible, but sometimes I have to get up so if I don’t respond to your email or approve your post immediately, don’t panic!  I’ll get to it as soon as I can!

There will be no regular posts (Tuesday Debut, Would You Read It, or Perfect Picture Book) for the duration of the contest so this post with the links and comments will stay up for everyone to visit and enjoy until I post the finalists. 

The Judging:  My lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to approximately 10 finalists (depending on the number of entries – if we get a lower turnout we’ll post fewer finalists, a higher turnout possibly one or two more.)  In the interest of finishing up the contest in a timely fashion so everyone can go about their holidays, we will do our best to post the finalists here by Monday December 14th for you to vote on for a winner.  The vote will be closed on Wednesday December 16th at 5 PM EST.  Whoever gets the most votes will be first and so on down to tenth place (or wherever we place to), and the winners will be announced on Thursday December 17th. (These dates are subject to adjustment if it takes the judges longer than we anticipate to get the judging completed.)

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.  Holiday Helpers! – the rules state a Holiday Helper story, so it must be crystal clear that the story is about someone helping someone else in some way during Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, New Year’s, or whatever seasonal winter holiday you choose.  The story must center on helping  – the help must not be just an offhand mention/reference in a story about something else.
  • 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.
  • 6. PLEASE FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS! Large numbers of entries make it easy to cut entries that haven’t been entered as we asked.

The Prizes!:  The prize list is completely and totally awesome! Read! Covet! Write your best! 😊

A Picture Book Manuscript Read and Critique by Agent Kaitlyn Sanchez of Olswanger Literary! Although she is currently closed to submissions (making this prize EXTRA special!) a look at her wish list will give you an idea of what she likes.

Agent Kaitlyn Sanchez

A 12×12 Silver Membership (valued at $177 but worth so much more!) generously donated by author and 12×12 founder and queen, Julie Hedlund! 12×12 is a fantastic, educational, supportive community with TONS to offer its members, including interesting and informational webinars of all kinds, access to forums and critiques, and the chance to submit to agents. If you’re not familiar with it, you can learn all about it HERE. Julie is the author of A Troop Is A Group of Monkeys (Little Bahalia Publishing, 2013), My Love For You Is The Sun (Little Bahalia Publishing, 2014), and the forthcoming Over, Bear! Under, Where? (Philomel Books, Fall 2021)

Julie Hedlund
Photo credit Kim Huggins

A Picture Book Manuscript Read and On The Spot Critique by prolific author Laura Purdie Salas! Laura offers a 50-minute on on-the-spot critique via Zoom for one picture book manuscript of up to 600 words (fiction or nonfiction, rhyming or prose or poetry). She will read it out loud to the writer and then do a critique right then and answer questions. Laura is a writer of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, prose, her own submissions and work for hire – she’s done it all! She is also the author of a number of fantastic books for writers which are often given as prizes here. Some of her books include A Leaf Can Be (Millbrook Press 2012), Clover Kitty Goes To Kittygarten (Two Lions 2020), Snowman – Cold = Puddle (Charlesbridge 2019), If You Were The Moon (Millbrook Press 2017), Making A Living Writing Books For Kids (CreateSpace 2017), and Picture Books The Write Way (CreateSpace 2014)

Rate Your Story owner, Picture Book Mechanic, and author Lynne Marie is offering 4 amazing prizes!

A 1/2 hour Zoom Session Picture Book Manuscript Consultation/Critique from ThePictureBookMechanic.com

Another 1/2 hour Zoom Session Picture Book Manuscript Consultation/Critique from ThePictureBookMechanic.com

A Rate Your Story Speedpass from RateYourStory.org

[From the Rate Your Story site] “A SPEED PASS allows a Non-Member to submit to Rate Your Story, as well as a Member to submit additional items to best serve the rating and feedback needs of our writing community.

We have a variety of Speedpass options, including pitches, query letters, art or a single manuscript at any time for a rating + guaranteed comments*, and it will be returned in less than 7 days’ time. Should you require a faster turnaround, fast pass options may be purchased to facilitate that.” 

Another Rate Your Story Speedpass from RateYourStory.org

Lynne Marie is the accomplished author of Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten – art by Anne Kennedy (Scholastic 2011), Hedgehog’s 100th Day of School – art by Lorna Hussey (Scholastic 2017), The Star of the Christmas Play — art by Lorna Hussey (Beaming Books 2018), Moldilocks and the 3 Scares — art by David Rodriguez Lorenzo (Sterling 2019 and Scholastic 2019)  and  Let’s Eat! Mealtime Around the World — art by Parwinder Singh (Beaming Books 2019) and two others forthcoming.


A Picture Book Manuscript Critique (fiction, rhyme or prose) by accomplished author Laura Sassi, author of Goodnight, Ark (Zonderkidz 2014) , Goodnight, Manger (Zonderkidz 2015), Diva Delores And The Opera House Mouse (Sterling 2018), Love Is Kind (Zonderkidz 2018), and the forthcoming Little Ewe: The Story of One Lost Sheep (Beaming Books, February 2021)

A Picture Book Manuscript Critique by talented author Sandra Sutter, whose delightful books include The REAL Farmer In The Dell (Clearfork Publishing/Spork, March 2019) and Stan’s Frightful Halloween (Clearfork Publishing/Spork, September 2020)


A Picture Book Manuscript Critique by gifted author and former Holiday Contest prize winner, Jenna Waldman, author of the forthcoming Larry’s Latkes (October 2021) (originally written for the Holiday Contest!) and Shark-bot Shalom (August 2021) She is on twitter at @SarafinaDesign

Author Jenna Waldman


Personalized, signed copies of For Spacious Skies (Albert Whitman, April 2020) and The Queen And The First Christmas Tree (Albert Whitman, October 2018) by award-winning author Nancy Churnin.



Personalized, signed copies of The Night Baafore Christmas (WorthyKids 2019) by Dawn Young and Louis (HMH Books For Young Readers 2020) by Tom Lichtenheld, illustrated by Julie Rowan-Zoch. The Night Baafore Christmas will be signed by Dawn, the author. Louis will be signed by Julie, the illustrator.



Two Picture Books (TBD) donated by Darshana Khiani, whose own picture book How To Wear A Sari is forthcoming from Versify in June 2021.


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, Amazon, B&N, or anywhere else if you like them, and supporting them in any other way you can dream up! 😊

This is the part in the proceedings where I would normally post my sample to entertain and encourage you. Ahem. Seems I’ve been a little over-scheduled with life lately, and my sample isn’t quite finished. . . If I can get it done whilst running the contest I’ll pop it in here. If not, you guys have the hang of these contest by now and you don’t really need my example! 😊

I know you guys are going to come up with great stories, and I’m so looking forward to reading them all! 😊

***UPDATE 12/8/20*** – I’m late adding this in and it would have benefited greatly from more time to work and a slightly longer word count, but. . .

A Little Christmas Joy (249 words)

Cara longed to play in the snow.
She wanted to open her mouth and feel the cold snowflakes melt on her tongue.
She wanted to lie on her back and make snow angels.
But Cara wasn’t allowed outside alone, and everyone was busy inside because it was Christmas Eve.
“So many presents to wrap!” Mom said.
“I’ll help!” said Cara.
She handed Mom scissors and tape, and pressed her finger to the crossed ribbon so Mom could tie a snug bow.
“This tree needs decorating!” said Dad.
“I’ll help!” said Cara.
She hung pepperminty candy canes from the fragrant-needled boughs wherever she felt spaces.
“So much cookie dough to bake!” said Cara’s big sister.
“I’ll help!” said Cara.  She grinned and scooped a fingerful of dough from the bowl into her mouth.
The whole day passed, and Cara never got to play in the snow.
She carefully placed cookies and milk on the hearth for Santa, along with apples for the reindeer.
When Santa arrived, he saw everything Cara had helped with – the presents, the tree, the cookies – and her snow boots waiting hopefully by the back door.
He smiled and whispered, “You help everyone else.  It’s time you got a little special help yourself.”
When Cara awoke, her gift was beside her.  A wet nose, a wagging tail, and a note in Braille on her collar that read: Hi Cara!  I’m Joy, your Guiding Eyes. I can’t wait to take you out to play in the snow!

*** There you have it 😊 ***

With so many great prizes up for grabs I hope there will be a lot of entries – the more the merrier!  And you’ve still got a couple days to write, so you can squeeze in under the wire 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 google form 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!)

Eager Readers – just go along the list of links, click on them, and enjoy the stories! And don’t miss the fabulous entries that are posted in the comments below!  The titles are listed and linked just below the link list at the bottom of the post and will take you directly to the stories!


Happy Writing and Happy Holidays!!!🎄⭐️ ✡️❄️☃️🕎

Don’t miss the 119!!! fabulous entries that are posted in the comments below!  The titles are linked and will take you directly to the stories!

  1. Ivy’s Christmas Wish – Anne Reilly
  2. Decorating The Tree – Gabrielle Cardwell
  3. Not Too Little – Marty Findley
  4. Christmas AngelBrenda Whitehead
  5. Decorations DeputyNicola Thackrey
  6. A Super ScooperEllen Turcio
  7. A Cranky ChristmasStacey Miller
  8. Sylvia KittySusan Drew
  9. Bug Academy Christmas Pageant Kathiann Weatherbee
  10. Calma The Llama Mattie Noall
  11. Don’t Let The Cat Help Decorate The TreeLu Pierro
  12. BigFoot’s SurpriseNatalie Cohn
  13. A Fine IdeaJill Proctor
  14. Holly The Holiday HelperAshley Congdon
  15. Ollie’s Christmas VisitsMarilyn Wolpin
  16. A Dust Bunny’s ChristmasMarty Bellis
  17. Naserian – A Maasai The Holiday HelperKetan Ram
  18. Who Will Do It? (April Helps Out)Elizabeth Westra
  19. Bambini ChristmasMartha Holguin
  20. Holiday HelpersShariffa Keshavjee
  21. A Servant’s HeartEllen Crosby
  22. Snail’s Starry NightBecky Loescher
  23. Sandy Claws’ HelpersSusan E. Schipper
  24. Dear SantaDawn Young
  25. Christmas NeighborLinda Staszak
  26. Sugar’s SpinMegan & Rob Hunnicut
  27. Elf And The PixiesVicky Langdon
  28. The Signed ConfessionCristina Raymer
  29. The Reverse Advent CalendarAnne Lipton
  30. Holiday Helper ExtraordinaireSusan Summers
  31. Home For ChristmasP. J. Purtee
  32. Three Christmas CamelsDeb Robertson
  33. Reindeer ShoesKatherine Rahoy
  34. A Little Holiday HelpNina Nolan
  35. Christmas Is For EveryoneGerry Lynne Baker
  36. The Best Christmas HelperJean Hall
  37. Gingerbread Construction CrewAshlee Hashman
  38. A Swedish Pageant And The Mystery Of The Missing MeatballsKathryn Rammell
  39. Christmas SmilesAlli Strauss
  40. A Hanukah DetourSandra Budiansky
  41. The Oldest ElfJim Chaize
  42. Santa’s HelpersE. Elle Bea
  43. La Navidad I’ll Never ForgetCarmen Gilbert
  44. I’m Helping For The Holidays (No, You’re Not)Krista Harrington
  45. Have A New Year!Karen Keesling
  46. Not Too Small At AllSarah Hawklyn
  47. To Celebrate We Mix It UpSarah Hawklyn
  48. Christmas GiftsDonna Kurtz
  49. Colin’s Christmas TreatSally Yorke Viney
  50. App-y Christmas!Paul Kurtz
  51. Santa’s Elves Need Helpers Too Katie Brandyberry
  52. The Red CabooseStephanie Cullen
  53. Christmas In GermanyElizabeth Meyer Zu Heringdorf
  54. Leo And The Tree LadyAnn Malaspina
  55. The Sleigh-Awake BandLaura Bower
  56. Baba’s Christmas WishTaylor Gardner
  57. A Dear, Dear BoyDarcee A. Freier
  58. Changing The WorldKathleen Campbell
  59. The Christmas Cookie CatastropheLynn Camacho
  60. Grandma’s Christmas Helper, A COVID Alphabet StorySarah Hetu-Radny
  61. Baia’s Bags Of BlessingsElyse Trevers
  62. Chanukah HelpersMarla Yablon
  63. The Farmyard NativityKrystal Snead
  64. Sprinkles For SantaCindy Sommer
  65. The Crocheted StarBeverly Warren
  66. The Toymaker And The Christmas TomteCathrene Valente Youngquist
  67. New Year’s CheerMia Geiger
  68. Santa’s Surprise HelperLiz Kehrli
  69. Holiday Helpers Galore! Isabel Cruz Rodgriguez
  70. Nothing To GiveMaria Marianayagam
  71. Oy To The World: An Ode To 2020Mary Vander Plas
  72. Gingerbread CommotionJC Kelly
  73. Hummus For SantaLeila Boukarim
  74. Island Santa – Anne Sawan
  75. Samosas For Santa Namita Moolani Mehra
  76. Beaver’s GiftDeb Buschman
  77. Let It Grow! Let It Grow! Let It Grow!Allison Strick
  78. Star Light, Star BrightEstelle Grace Tudor
  79. Candy And Cain’s Big JobBecky Kimbrough
  80. Santa KnowsDiane Hanington
  81. The Best Christmas EverDiane Hanington
  82. Little LightPatti Tomarelli
  83. Runny-Nosed RudolphSarah Hetu-Radny
  84. Ask SantaJennifer Reichow
  85. Not Counting On Sweet Treats This YearLinda Hofke
  86. The Runaway Reindeer Caroline Perry
  87. Flossy’s Fairy Fail Laura Howard
  88. The Christmas TreeCynthia Stacey
  89. The Greatest GiftLisa Khan
  90. Adorable, Not AbominableKimberly Lee
  91. Maya’s LightKaryn Curtis
  92. Tiffani And The Talking TreeCourtney Ryan
  93. Santa’s HelpersMeghan Wallace
  94. Missing MagicDarci Nielson
  95. One Cold ChristmasToni Hawks Floyd
  96. Merry MarsmasMegan Walvoord
  97. Me Do It! Simon Yeend
  98. ‘Twas A Night On A FarmPenelope McNally
  99. Winter Welcome Jessica Whipple
  100. A Not-So-Helpful Helper Liv Gehlbach
  101. The Kindness CrewMichelle S. Kennedy
  102. Christmas For The Birds Elizabeth Volkmann
  103. Christmas ShelterRita Russell
  104. Princess ObliviousBill Canterbury
  105. A Forest ChristmasBarbara Keevil Parker
  106. Little Donkey, The Christmas HelperJacqui Boulter
  107. Cam’s ChristmasAnn Gray
  108. Santa’s Helper Mary Rudzinski
  109. “For The Girl Who Has Everything”Bill Canterbury
  110. Buon The ChristmouseGeorgette Kaftan
  111. Great Aunt MaccaBeaDanielle Sharkan
  112. Blue and Boots and the Christmas SpiritKatie Schwartz
  113. Santa’s SlumberJennifer Lowe
  114. The Holiday Helper ThingCindy L. Jeklin
  115. Holiday HelpersBonnie Anderson
  116. GRA’MERE’S COOKIESLoren Hackney

Guess What? It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Contest Time!

‘Twas nearly Thanksgiving
When here on my site
I realized you guys needed
Guidelines to write
For the annual Holiday Contest. I know!
I’ve left you with only fourteen days to go!
So put on your thinking cap! Warm up your pen!
For Holiday Contest – numéro TEN!

Okay.

Clement C. Moore I may not be. . . 😊

I mean, if I’m going to be honest about it, I’m not really sure what a sugarplum even is. . . !

Let’s just put dancing fruits right out of our heads for a moment because I have big news!

Huge Excitement!

SOMETHING TO TWIRL YOUR TINSEL FOR!

The guidelines for . . .

THE 10TH ANNUAL HOLIDAY CONTEST!!!

~ for children’s writers ~

The Contest:  Write a children’s holiday story (children here defined as age 12 and under) about a Holiday Helper!

Your helper can be one helper, or a pair, or a group or a bevy or a herd of helpers. Your helpers can be children, animals, elves, aliens, unicorns, fairies . . . whatever your heart desires. He/she/they can help bake, decorate, shovel snow, wrap gifts, clean the house, entertain guests, feed the hungry, comfort the lonely, bring the holiday spirit to those who have lost it – sky’s the limit 😊 But the focus of the story must be on helping – not just a brief mention in passing that Marla helped Dad set the table in the middle of a story about her frustration at not getting the starring role in the school holiday pageant.

Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, New Year’s or whatever you celebrate during the Holiday Season, but is not to exceed 250 words (I know! So much freedom after the Halloweensie Contest 😊 )  (It can be as short as you like (the judges will be grateful 😊 , you are welcome and encouraged to write shorter, but no more than 250!  Title not included in word count.)  The field is wide open!  Have fun!  The more creative the better!  No illustration notes please. (And yes, if you feel compelled to submit more than one entry you may, just remember you’re competing against yourself!)

Post:  Your entry should be posted on your blog between 12:01 AM EST Monday December 7th and Wednesday December 9th at 11:59 PM EST, and your post-specific link should be added to the link list on the official holiday contest post which will go up on my blog on Monday December 7th and remain up for your reading pleasure until I post the finalists.  There will be no regular posts (Tuesday Debut, Would You Read It, or Perfect Picture Book) for the duration of the contest so the links will stay up for everyone to visit and enjoy.  If you would like to enter but don’t have a blog you are welcome to paste your entry in the comment section of my December 7th post when it goes up.  If you have trouble commenting, you can email me.  (We’ll go over this part in more detail on the December 7th post! 😊 )

The Judging:  My lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to approximately 10 finalists (depending on the number of entries and final number of prizes – if we get a lower turnout we’ll post fewer finalists, a higher turnout possibly one or two more.)  In the interest of finishing up the contest in a timely fashion so everyone can go about their holidays, we will do our best to post the finalists here by Monday December 14th for you to vote on for a winner.  The vote will be closed on Wednesday December 16th at 5 PM EST.  Whoever gets the most votes will be first and so on down to tenth place (or wherever we place to), and the winners will be announced on Thursday December 17th. (These dates are subject to adjustment if it takes the judges longer than we anticipate to get the judging completed.)

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.  Holiday Helpers! – the rules state a Holiday Helper story, so it must be crystal clear that the story is about someone helping someone else in some way during Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, New Year’s, or whatever seasonal winter holiday you choose.  The story must center on helping  – the help must not be just an offhand mention/reference in a story about something else.
  • 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.
  • 6. PLEASE FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS! Large numbers of entries make it easy to cut entries that haven’t been entered as we asked.

The Prizes!:  The prize list is under construction. . .  But I wanted to get the guidelines up so you guys would have as much time as possible to work on your stories!  Stay tuned for an updated list at some point 😊

A Picture Book Manuscript Read and Critique by Agent Kaitlyn Sanchez of Olswanger Literary! Although she is currently closed to submissions (making this prize EXTRA special!) a look at her wish list will give you an idea of what she likes.

Agent Kaitlyn Sanchez

A 12×12 Silver Membership (valued at $177 but worth so much more!) generously donated by author and 12×12 founder and queen, Julie Hedlund! 12×12 is a fantastic, educational, supportive community with TONS to offer its members, including interesting and informational webinars of all kinds, access to forums and critiques, and the chance to submit to agents. If you’re not familiar with it, you can learn all about it HERE. Julie is the author of A Troop Is A Group of Monkeys (Little Bahalia Publishing, 2013), My Love For You Is The Sun (Little Bahalia Publishing, 2014), and the forthcoming Over, Bear! Under, Where? (Philomel Books, Fall 2021)

Julie Hedlund
Photo credit Kim Huggins

Rate Your Story owner, Picture Book Mechanic, and author Lynne Marie is offering 4 amazing prizes!

A 1/2 hour Zoom Session Picture Book Manuscript Consultation/Critique from ThePictureBookMechanic.com

Another 1/2 hour Zoom Session Picture Book Manuscript Consultation/Critique from ThePictureBookMechanic.com

A Rate Your Story Speedpass from RateYourStory.org

[From the Rate Your Story site] “A SPEED PASS allows a Non-Member to submit to Rate Your Story, as well as a Member to submit additional items to best serve the rating and feedback needs of our writing community.

We have a variety of Speedpass options, including pitches, query letters, art or a single manuscript at any time for a rating + guaranteed comments*, and it will be returned in less than 7 days’ time. Should you require a faster turnaround, fast pass options may be purchased to facilitate that.” 

Another Rate Your Story Speedpass from RateYourStory.org

Lynne Marie is the accomplished author of Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten – art by Anne Kennedy (Scholastic 2011), Hedgehog’s 100th Day of School – art by Lorna Hussey (Scholastic 2017), The Star of the Christmas Play — art by Lorna Hussey (Beaming Books 2018), Moldilocks and the 3 Scares — art by David Rodriguez Lorenzo (Sterling 2019 and Scholastic 2019)  and  Let’s Eat! Mealtime Around the World — art by Parwinder Singh (Beaming Books 2019) and two others forthcoming.


A Picture Book Manuscript Critique (fiction, rhyme or prose) by accomplished author Laura Sassi, author of Goodnight, Ark (Zonderkidz 2014) , Goodnight, Manger (Zonderkidz 2015), Diva Delores And The Opera House Mouse (Sterling 2018), Love Is Kind (Zonderkidz 2018), and the forthcoming Little Ewe: The Story of One Lost Sheep (Beaming Books, February 2021)

A Picture Book Manuscript Critique by talented author Sandra Sutter, whose delightful books include The REAL Farmer In The Dell (Clearfork Publishing/Spork, March 2019) and Stan’s Frightful Halloween (Clearfork Publishing/Spork, September 2020)


A Picture Book Manuscript Critique by gifted author and former Holiday Contest prize winner, Jenna Waldman, author of the forthcoming Larry’s Latkes (October 2021) (originally written for the Holiday Contest!) and Shark-bot Shalom (August 2021)

Personalized, signed copies of For Spacious Skies (Albert Whitman, April 2020) and The Queen And The First Christmas Tree (Albert Whitman, October 2018) by award-winning author Nancy Churnin.


Two Picture Books (TBD) donated by Darshana Khiani, whose own picture book How To Wear A Sari is forthcoming from Versify in June 2021.

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! 😊

So there you have it!  Fire up those brain cells!  Grab a cup of hot chocolate, plonk your tiny hiney into a comfy chair, and get to writing your potentially prize-winning Holiday Helper story!!! You have 14 full days!  (And remember, I’m being a helper because deadlines are great for creativity and productivity!)  So what if you’re in charge of Thanksgiving dinner this week! Your little cherubs can model helpfulness and serve as inspiration for your contest entry by peeling potatoes, making up the bed in the spare room for Great Auntie Brunhilda, bathing the cats, and whatever other little chores need doing! You’ll have plenty of time to write! 😊

On your mark…

…get set…

…GO!

I am SO looking forward to getting to read all your stories!!!

In this unusual year, when people have been isolated and separated and lots of folks are more than ever in need of holiday cheer, lending a helping hand seemed like a nice topic. I hope you’ll all have fun with it!

Have a marvelous Monday, everyone! 😊