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, Amazone, 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. Sinclair The Flying Squirrel’s Christmas CleanupHilary Margitich
  45. Father Christmas And Father TimeHilary Margitich
  46. I’m Helping For The Holidays (No, You’re Not)Krista Harrington
  47. Have A New Year!Karen Keesling
  48. Not Too Small At AllSarah Hawklyn
  49. To Celebrate We Mix It UpSarah Hawklyn
  50. Christmas GiftsDonna Kurtz
  51. Colin’s Christmas TreatSally Yorke Viney
  52. App-y Christmas!Paul Kurtz
  53. Santa’s Elves Need Helpers Too Katie Brandyberry
  54. The Red CabooseStephanie Cullen
  55. Christmas In GermanyElizabeth Meyer Zu Heringdorf
  56. Leo And The Tree LadyAnn Malaspina
  57. The Sleigh-Awake BandLaura Bower
  58. Baba’s Christmas WishTaylor Gardner
  59. A Dear, Dear BoyDarcee A. Freier
  60. Changing The WorldKathleen Campbell
  61. The Christmas Cookie CatastropheLynn Camacho
  62. Grandma’s Christmas Helper, A COVID Alphabet StorySarah Hetu-Radny
  63. Baia’s Bags Of BlessingsElyse Trevers
  64. Chanukah HelpersMarla Yablon
  65. The Farmyard NativityKrystal Snead
  66. Sprinkles For SantaCindy Sommer
  67. The Crocheted StarBeverly Warren
  68. The Toymaker And The Christmas TomteCathrene Valente Youngquist
  69. New Year’s CheerMia Geiger
  70. Santa’s Surprise HelperLiz Kehrli
  71. Holiday Helpers Galore! Isabel Cruz Rodgriguez
  72. Nothing To GiveMaria Marianayagam
  73. Holiday Helpers To The RescueSusan R. Waide
  74. Oy To The World: An Ode To 2020Mary Vander Plas
  75. Gingerbread CommotionJC Kelly
  76. Hummus For SantaLeila Boukarim
  77. Island Santa – Anne Sawan
  78. Samosas For Santa Namita Moolani Mehra
  79. Beaver’s GiftDeb Buschman
  80. Let It Grow! Let It Grow! Let It Grow!Allison Strick
  81. Star Light, Star BrightEstelle Grace Tudor
  82. Candy And Cain’s Big JobBecky Kimbrough
  83. Santa KnowsDiane Hanington
  84. The Best Christmas EverDiane Hanington
  85. Little LightPatti Tomarelli
  86. Runny-Nosed RudolphSarah Hetu-Radny
  87. Ask SantaJennifer Reichow
  88. Not Counting On Sweet Treats This YearLinda Hofke
  89. The Runaway Reindeer Caroline Perry
  90. Flossy’s Fairy Fail Laura Howard
  91. The Christmas TreeCynthia Stacey
  92. The Greatest GiftLisa Khan
  93. Adorable, Not AbominableKimberly Lee
  94. Maya’s LightKaryn Curtis
  95. Tiffani And The Talking TreeCourtney Ryan
  96. Santa’s HelpersMeghan Wallace
  97. Missing MagicDarci Nielson
  98. One Cold ChristmasToni Hawks Floyd
  99. Merry MarsmasMegan Walvoord
  100. Me Do It! Simon Yeend
  101. ‘Twas A Night On A FarmPenelope McNally
  102. Winter Welcome Jessica Whipple
  103. A Not-So-Helpful Helper Liv Gehlbach
  104. The Kindness CrewMichelle S. Kennedy
  105. Christmas For The Birds Elizabeth Volkmann
  106. Christmas ShelterRita Russell
  107. Princess ObliviousBill Canterbury
  108. A Forest ChristmasBarbara Keevil Parker
  109. Little Donkey, The Christmas HelperJacqui Boulter
  110. Cam’s ChristmasAnn Gray
  111. Santa’s Helper Mary Rudzinski
  112. “For The Girl Who Has Everything”Bill Canterbury
  113. Buon The ChristmouseGeorgette Kaftan
  114. Great Aunt MaccaBeaDanielle Sharkan
  115. Blue and Boots and the Christmas SpiritKatie Schwartz
  116. Santa’s SlumberJennifer Lowe
  117. The Holiday Helper ThingCindy L. Jeklin
  118. Holiday HelpersBonnie Anderson
  119. GRA’MERE’S COOKIESLoren Hackney

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Illustrator Julie Rowan-Zoch!

Howdy, y’all!

Get ready for something special!

I am SO excited about today’s debut-ess I can hardly sit still enough to type! 😊

For starters, she is a dear friend and a totally awesome person!

She is also one of those people who has really worked hard to earn her place as a published author and illustrator, committing in every way to improving and perfecting her craft.

To top it off, she is the first person to appear on this series as a debut illustrator! Although she is also an author and will be featured here again in March when her debut as an author is released, this picture book features Tom Lichtenheld’s words and her amazing art. Given that Tom himself is well known as an illustrator, you know it’s some kind of special deal that he and his publisher chose someone else to illustrate this book.

And today is this book’s actual birthday! 🎂🎉🎈🧁

So without further ado, I have the very great pleasure of introducing you to my talented friend, Julie Rowan-Zoch and her debut-as-an-illustrator picture book, LOUIS!

LOUIS
By Tom Lichtenheld
Illustrated by Julie Rowan-Zoch
HMH
Oct.6, 2020
Fiction
Age: 4-7

Synopsis: Louis the bear has had enough. From day one, life has been one indignity after another. If he’s not being used as a hankie, he’s being hung out to dry—literally. (No one likes clothespins used on their ears!)

This teddy is sneaking away just as soon as he can. Then again, no use running off in the rain . . .or during a show-and-tell routine. Maybe Louis has something to lose, after all.

JULIE: Hello, Susanna! Thanks for having me to introduce my picture book illustration debut today!

SUSANNA: Hi Julie! Are you kidding? I’m delighted!!! Thank you for being our first ever illustrator debut-ess! Having never illustrated a book myself and only seen the process from the writer’s side, I am eager to hear about how an illustrator takes an author’s text and turns it into a picture book. How were you approached to participate in this project?

JULIE: Via my agent, HMH sent me the manuscript and asked if I would be willing to send preliminary sketches, should I want to be considered as the illustrator. That was late in 2017, and after sending off the images we got a quick reply – I got lucky but the book would not release until Fall 2020.

SUSANNA: What did communication look like with your editor and/or art director concerning the book?

JULIE: From start to finish, all communication was conducted via email. I did get to meet both of them once in real life though!

SUSANNA: Where do you begin? How do you approach it? 

JULIE: Shortly after signing the contract I asked for a more concrete timeline because I work better under a little pressure. I began sending the editor and art director sketches for Louis, a teddy bear and the main character. I sent 3 or 4 different bears knowing I had to be happy with whichever one they chose The only change they asked to make was to use the coloring from one bear, but the shape /line from another! Once I had the bear, and subsequently the boy and his sister, I began creating sketches for the dummy. The mother, bus driver, other toy animals were all developed as I went along with the dummy.

SUSANNA: Were art notes passed on to you via the editor?

JULIE: I believe there were two or three art notes/suggestions included in the manuscript, but I’ll admit I ignored them and allowed the images to appear as I read the text again. After delivering the full dummy, the editor asked if I might revisit one of the art notes, and I did, and we are all happy with the results!

SUSANNA: How long did it take to illustrate the book?

JULIE: I read the manuscript and completed the requested sketches in November 2017. I believe I signed the contract in January 2018. I delivered the first character sketches in early May. Did you notice the huge gap there? That’s because the team was focussed on other work, and final art would not be due until July 2019! After I delivered the sketch dummy, and again after adding color, a lot of revision work began, mostly with notes from the AD [art director], but she worked closely with the editor in giving me comments and/or suggestions. I was always assured I could keep any art elements the way I liked it if I didn’t agree with their suggestions, but I also made constructive arguments if I did want to keep something – as did they if opinions differed! I really enjoyed the collaboration! I think it was around February of 2019 that we wrapped up the dummy revision work and 4+ months later I handed in final art. The decision to include endpapers and a case cover came later, as did a small amount of text revision, which required some illustration changes.

[dummy sketch – the final is quite different]

SUSANNA: What materials, media did you use to create the artwork? Please describe the process.

JULIE: I created everything from dummy sketches to final art in Procreate on the iPad. I used to use the iPencil to draw directly onto the tablet, but while waiting for the stylus to recharge I started using my fingers – and haven’t looked back! Just like traditional work, I lay down my linework first then apply color in different layers. The resolution needed for printing is pretty high, and the higher the resolution the less layers are made available for each file. I struggle with keeping the look of a character consistent, so using layers to drop in a sketch for reference is an advantage. And of course the elements in layers help immensely with revision work! I chose my palette early on and believe I changed just one color for vibrancy after the cover design was finalized. I sent the final files in Photoshop format directly from the iPad to the publisher. On that same day my mother had an accident which required me to fly out that night. Having created everything on the iPad allowed me to make further corrections in the final art from a hospital waiting room – how lucky was that!?!

SUSANNA: Did you have any say in text placement or font choices?

JULIE: I was not given any sort of design instructions or text guidelines before handing in the dummy, so I “wrote” the text into the dummy by hand. Then the AD suggested we collaborate and create a font based off of my handwriting! So I wrote out many pangrams (sentences including all 26 letters of the alphabet) using templates she provided to maintain consistent letter height.

[pangram image]

SUSANNA: What about book dimensions and paper choices?

JULIE: With no pre-stated design guidelines I was able to choose the format myself, which is square. Based off of (one of many!) discussions I’ve had with one of my local children’s librarians, I decided on a square book that allows for a wide spread when opened. (Vicky taught me not to move the book while reading to kids, not to pan from side to side, as the children need the time to focus and absorb the image. If they can’t see from their seated position they should move, or the reader should move back, to accommodate.) After the final work was submitted I was sent single spreads in different papers. One important aspect to me is how rich black looks in a print. In October 2019 I was sent color proofs of the whole book and I think there where maybe two places where 2 color corrections needed to be made, and a “big” correction for the placement of the patch on Louis’ leg on the back cover. 

SUSANNA: What things can writers do to make mss more interesting/engaging/appealing/easy-to-work-with for illustrators?

JULIE: I’m sure you’ve all heard this before, but leave room! Good writing will allow the illustrator to envision images while reading At this stage it is not yet meant for the consumer/reader. I realize this is no easy task, especially since the manuscript must go through the agent and the editor before it reaches the illustrator, but these are all professionals who work with this very unique, collaborative art form. Trust that they can “see” what isn’t in the text. Yes, there will be exceptions for image suggestions that might be necessary to understand the text, but these too should be as shapeless and colorless as possible. 

SUSANNA: How does contract payment work for illustrators?

JULIE: The illustrator receives 1/2 the advance upon signing the contract, and the other 1/2 upon receipt of the final artwork. The same applies to author-illustrators.

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

JULIE: I am lucky to be able to celebrate publishing milestones with my dear friend and fellow picture book junkie, Julie Hedlund. We meet halfway between our homes at a restaurant that features cheese! I hope we can do that again soon. I also got the fun idea to have a ring made by my friend’s daughter, and if it’s ready soon I will share a photo of the final piece with you.

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

JULIE: I admit I did not give much consideration to the details of a contract before the offer, but I was quite pleased. The rights have also been sold to a publisher in Japan and Israel, and that was something I did not expect so soon. 

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

JULIE: I was lucky to know a couple of other authors through the 12×12 Picture Book Challenge whose debut books were to release in 2020, and joined in on the effort with more authors and illustrators for group promotion and marketing efforts, called The Soaring 20’s. Now I would say we are in it for group support and encouragement efforts, as almost all of us will debut in Corona-Time. Gah! I contacted people like yourself to be featured in an interview or article on their blogs or podcasts. After my editor shared reviews with me, and I in turn shared them with my  Soaring 20’s friends because I was so excited about good reviews, they pointed out that I should make “quote cards”, little graphics tailored for social media with blurbs from the reviews. I contacted my AD in order to incorporate the font she created,  and I shared them on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. I am in the process of creating resource materials for teachers/parents, and activity sheets are available on the HMH page already – HERE. HMH also ran a giveaway on Twitter for Int’l Teddy Bear Day (9/9), and will do another one on 10/16 for Take Your Teddy to Work/School day. I’m doing a joint outdoor signing event with my critique partner, Beth Anderson as her book, “SMELLY” KELLY releases next week, on 10/13. Fingers crossed for sunny weather!

did you know you could make teddy bears out of towels? 😊

SUSANNA: How many copies did your house do for first printing?

JULIE: I believe it’s 40K. 

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

JULIE: Yes. A unique thing about this book is that I was chosen to illustrate for an illustrator! And a famous one at that! I was surprised from the get-go and didn’t find the courage to ask until I had the opportunity to meet my editor in person. She told me Tom wanted to see what the process would be like! That’s it! But with that in mind I was worried that my work would be looked at with more scrutiny as people would wonder “Why?”. The good reviews put my worries to rest, but also the support and enthusiasm I received from the editor, art director, and design team (I got to meet them as well!) throughout the entire process.

SUSANNA: Julie, thank you so much for joining us today and giving us such an enlightening glimpse of the creation of your debut picture book from the illustrator’s perspective. I learned a lot, and I’m sure everyone else did too! I know I speak for everyone when I wish you all the best of luck with this and future titles! I expect my copy of LOUIS in the mail today, and I can’t wait to read I’M A HARE, SO THERE when it comes out in March!

Illustrator (and soon to be author) Julie Rowan-Zoch

Face Book https://www.facebook.com/ArtistJulieRowanZoch
Twitter @JulieRowanZoch
Instagram @jrzoch
Blog

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

You may purchase Julie’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