Extra! Extra! Saturday Evening Post!!!

Okay, my pretties.

I don’t know who has been monkeying with the time-space continuum (and I am sorry to say that is definite Naughty List behavior!!!), but somehow we’ve gotten into THIS week when I need us to still be in LAST week.

I’m going to have to put things back to normal so all my posts and contests etc. work out right, because what we’ve got here is a snowball rolling out of control that’s going to bowl us right over.  (We are not even going to discuss that I’m still working my way through prize distribution for the Halloweensie Contest which should have been finished 3 weeks ago! 🙂 )

Just hang on a sec while I hitch this sleigh flown by 8 tiny reindeer, with menorah running lights, a New Year’s blowout horn, and a Solstice candy holding Kikombe cha Umoja on the dash, to 21 gigawatts of electricity and take us. . .

. . . Back to Last Week!

Ah, that’s better!

Lucky I’m good at such a variety of tasks, isn’t it?  Not just anyone could have turned a fancy-schmancy variety holiday sleigh into a time machine and solved this knotty little problem!

No need to thank me.  It’s the least I can do.

Now when this post goes up you’ll have more time to write your entries!

Because it’s time to put on your Elf Thinking Cap, fire up your writing implements, and write your way to fame and fortune in . . .



~ for children’s writers ~


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

Your treat can be any kind of treat – a delectable holiday food specialty – Grandma’s Sugar Cookie Reindeer, or the Brown Family Gingerbread House; an event or experience that is a treat – the town Holiday Parade, attending the Nutcracker Ballet, or getting to light a candle on the menorah; making a treat for someone else – baking peppermint crunch brownies for the residents of a local shelter, or doing something special for a favorite teacher or neighbor – sky’s the limit 🙂

Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever you celebrate, 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 9 and Wednesday December 11 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 9 and remain up for your reading pleasure until I post the finalists.  There will be no regular posts (Tuesday Debuts, Perfect Picture Book, or Would You Read It) 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 9th 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 9th post! 🙂 )


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 16 for you to vote on for a winner.  The vote will be closed on Wednesday December 18 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 19.

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 Treat! – the rules state a Holiday Treat story, so it must be crystal clear that the story is about a treat of some kind that is specific to Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or whatever you celebrate.  The story must center on the treat  – the treat 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.


The Prizes!:  The prize list is not quite complete. . .  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 🙂


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

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

Melissa Richeson

Literary Agent Melissa Richeson


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



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

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


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

Young headshot hi res for blog - jacket


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

Picture2 Picture1 gorilla


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

julie abery Yusra Swims

Little Tiger Cover Little Panda Cover Little Monkey Little Hippo


Book Bundle #1 – Nonfiction

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




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


Book Bundle #2 – Two By Tara

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

Tara Luebbe Operation Photobomb I Used To Be Famous

Children's Writers And Illustrators 2020

(Charlesbridge 2019)

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

Making A Living


Please join me in thanking these very generous authors and other writing professionals for contributing their books and writing expertise as prizes by visiting their websites and blogs, considering their books and services for holiday or other gift purchases, rating and/or reviewing their books on GoodReads, Amazone, B&N, or anywhere else if you like them, and supporting them in any other way you can dream up! 🙂


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 Treat story!!! You have 10 full days!  (Sorry it isn’t more – blame it on the joker who tinkered with the space-time continuum 🙂 – but look at the bright side – deadlines are great for creativity and productivity!  Your house doesn’t need to be cleaned this week, your children can eat raisin bran for dinner for a few days, and let’s be honest – no one’s concentrating on getting homework done or practicing their trombone at this time of year anyway, so you’ll have plenty of time to write! 🙂 )

On your mark…

…get set…


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

Have a great rest of the weekend! 🙂


2019 Valentiny Contest WINNERS!

Do you know what Thursday is perfect for?

Barely squeaking under the wire of Last Day of February to announce the winners of the 4th Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest for Children’s Writers!!!

valentiny writing contest 2019!

. . .but first a few words from our sponsor (me) which I know shocks you (not!) 🙂

As always, I was thrilled to see so many wonderful stories!  (Did I mention there were nearly 170?!)  Really!  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!

But 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 last week for your vote.

There were, however, 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.  It is SO HARD! One of our very favorite entries – well written and full of guilt – never mentioned a thing about Valentine’s Day! Many other entries simply weren’t guilty enough, although they were fabulous in other ways!

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

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

Joy Pitcairn for I Didn’t Give Rufus A Valentine

Kalee Gwarjanski for Chocolates For Mom

Mary Vander Plas for Sasquatch: In Search Of A Valentine

Mia Geiger for All Wrapped Up

Lynn Katz for A Little Heart


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

Helen Ishmurzin for Mila’s Cookies (we could totally see a kid struggling with that temptation! )

Sherry Peace for The Case Of The Missing Valentine’s Candy (fun kid detective work 🙂 )

Jeannine Pao Brown for Change Of Heart (very believable boy behavior 🙂 )

Sarah Hetu-Radny for A Slippery Situation (no one wants to be in trouble 🙂 )


3. For Original/Unique/Entertaining POV:

Megan Hoffman for The Sucker (POV of a Valentine sucker! – well-written!)

Deborah Dolan Hunt for Hillary’s Heart (POV of an actual heart! – loved the health angle)


4. For Humor:

Sarah Tobias for A Valentine For Mom

Susie Sawyer for Who Will Be Mine? (also wins for shortest entry with only 36 words! 🙂 )

Lauri Meyers for Don’t Eat Your Valentine (dark humor! 🙂 )


5. For Great Depiction of Family:

Scott Kinder for Mom’s Valentine (we found all the characters believable and felt like we were there! 🙂 )


6. For Favorite Character: 

Joy Pitcairn for I Ate It… (we LOVED Otto – such a believable guilty dog! 🙂 )

Rachel Hobbs for Valentine Cookie Surprise (we loved Carla – so exuberant! and we can imagine an expanded version of this as a picture book! 🙂 )


7. For We Loved It But Not Guilty Enough!:

Kelly Conroy for Glitter, Paint, and Glue

Lynn Baldwin for The Year Without Sweethearts


8. For Lovely Writing:

Kelly Hughes for Will You Be Mine?

Keely Leim for A Valentine For Papa


9. For So Cute!:

Amy Flynn for Tiny Crush


10.  For More Appealing For Grown-ups But Well-Written And Enjoyable!
(These entries were terrific but either focused on content we felt was more appropriate for over age 12 or that had humor that we considered funnier for adults than kids)

Emma Wood for No Ordinary Thursday (very sweet, beautifully written, and a believable depiction of husbandly behavior! 🙂 )


(And although we’re not awarding prizes for these this time, we always enjoy seeing some of your familiar characters back from other contests for new adventures, including Candice’s Bean and Jilly, Nicole’s Alex and Apple, and Lucretia’s Marvin The Chipmunk 🙂 )


Congratulations to all of you for fantastic elements of your stories!  You may all email me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com to collect your prize, which is your choice of one of the following: (the titles are all links so you can go see what they’re about) (and if you request a paperback, please include your snail mail address!)

For Kindle:

Picture Books: The Write Way by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

Rhyming Picture Books: The Write Way by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

How To Query An Agent Or Editor: A Children’s Writer’s Insider Guide From Mentors For Rent by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

Getting Published: How To Access Editors: A Children’s Writer’s Insider Guide From Mentors For Rent by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

The Easy Way To Write Picture Books That Sell by Robyn Parnell OR

Self-Publish Your Book: A Quick And Easy Step-By-Step Guide (Writing In A Nutshell Series Book 6) by Jessica Bell, OR

The Write Ideas Creative Writer’s Toolkit: A Genre-Spanning Box Set of Writing Prompts And Creative Exercises by Kate Krake

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi , OR

The Postitive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Attributes by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, OR

The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Flaws by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, OR

The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To City Spaces by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, OR

The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Personal And Natural Places by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, OR

The Ultimate Fiction Thesaurus by Sam Stone, OR

Writing In A Nutshell: Writing Workshops To Improve Your Craft (Writing In A Nutshell Series Book 4) by Jessica Bell, OR

In paperback:

Show And Tell In A Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions From Telling To Showing by Jessica Bell

The Six Senses In A Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions From Bleak To Bold Narrative by Jessica Bell OR

Adverbs And Cliches In A Nutshell: Demonstrated Subversions Of Adverbs & Cliches Into Gourmet Imagery by Jessica Bell OR

Creating Extraordinary Characters by Angela Hunt, OR

Evoking Emotion by Angela Hunt, OR

Picture Books: The Write Way by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

Rhyming Picture Books: The Write Way by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard

Just For Fun…

Magnetic Poetry – Little Box Of Awesome Kit – Words For Refrigerator (let me know your color choice if you care 🙂 )


And now…

…the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

The announcement of the WINNERS OF THE 2018 VALENTINY CONTEST as voted on by you!!!



In First Place

Winner of the whole shebang…

who gets first choice of all the prizes…

Chambrae Griffith

Love Bug At The Zoo!!!

Congratulations, Chambrae, on an imaginative, entertaining, well-written poem that made us feel the chaos ensuing from your MC’s guilty behavior! 🙂

In Second Place

Jennifer Broedel
Buffa-lonely Love Day

Congratulations, Jennifer, on an entry we loved for your MC’s very believable and understandable grumpiness leading to bad behavior and guilt!  You get to pick your prize after Chambrae.

In Third Place

Anne Sawan

A Box Full Of Love

Congratulations, Anne!  You had us laughing over your “chip off the old block” guilt 🙂  You get to pick your prize after Chambrae and Jennifer.

In Fourth Place

Colleen Murphy

Mother Knows Best

Congratulations, Colleen, on a delightfully believable story of guilt in perfect rhyme!  You get to pick your prize after Chambrae, Jennifer, and Anne!

In Fifth Place

Tiffany Dickinson

Heart Socks For The Win

Congratulations, Tiffany, on your heart-warming story. We felt Alex’s guilt and appreciated her empathy!   You get to pick after Chambrae, Jennifer, Anne, and Colleen!

In Sixth Place

Rose Cappelli

The Queen Of Hearts

Congratulations, Rose!  You really made us feel Meg wrestling with her guilt!  I’m sure you get the idea of how the prize picking goes by now 🙂

In Seventh Place…

Katrina Swenson
Chadwick The Zombie Cooks Up A Valentine

Congratulations, Katrina!  You won us over with your zombie sweet-maker the same way he won over his fellow zombies 🙂  You get to pick next 🙂

In Eighth Place…

Marty Bellis
Guess Who?

Congratulations, Marty!  You captured a child’s good intentions and not-so-good execution perfectly 🙂  You get to pick after Katrina 🙂

In Ninth Place… a tie!

Joyce Schriebman                                                Jill Lambert
for                                                                           for
The Valentine’s Day Mess & Cure                        The Missing Pupcake

Congratulations to both of you on very humorous entries!  You get to pick after Marty 🙂 (And since you tied, we’ll work it out…)

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.  Jose and Beth, if you’d like to choose a prize from the Honorable Mention selection of prizes above you are most welcome to!

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 🙂

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:  Oh, the awesomeness!  With thanks to all who donated!

“Skip The Slushpile” AND get a Query Letter Critique from Charlotte Wenger, associate editor at Page Street Kids, the picture book division of Page Street Publishing. She earned her Master of Arts in Children’s Literature from Simmons University (then College) and is a board member of the Mazza Museum’s National Advisory Board of Visitors. She enjoys working with debut picture book authors and illustrators and is excited about the 19 Page Street Kids picture books pubbing in 2019.

Find Charlotte on Twitter at @WilbursBF_Char, and learn more about Page Street Kids via www.pagestreetpublishing.com, Twitter: @PageStreetKids, and Instagram: pagestreetkids.

Charlotte will read the winner’s picture book manuscript of choice, then send an email letting you know she’s read your story and including one thing you did well and one thing you might work on to improve the manuscript.  In addition, she will give you a query letter critique.  Like all editors, she has a hectic schedule, so she will aim to fulfill the prize within 2 months of receiving the manuscript.

Picture Book Manuscript Critique by the incredibly talented, multi-published author/illustrator Iza Trapani!

Iza 2014  Old MacDonald

Picture Book Manuscript Critique by the Queen of KidLit411 herself, Elaine Kiely Kearns, author of Noah Noasaurus, forthcoming April 1, 2019 from Albert Whitman!

elaine  noah

– Top Ten Reasons for Rejectiona 52 minute webinar from Alayne Kay Christian, author of Butterfly Kisses (picture book) and the Sienna The Cowgirl Fairy series (chapter books), and Content and Developmental Editor of Blue Whale Press.

Alayne butterfly kisses

Webinar Description: If you want tips on some corrective action that you might take to improve your chances of submission success, and/or if you would like to deepen your understanding of plot and arc, this webinar is for you.

(And if you’re interested in seeing what else Alayne has to offer, like her Writing For Children Webinars and Courses page on FB and keep an eye out for upcoming offerings!)


15-30 Minute Your Questions Answered Phone Call – with Ryan Sias, author/illustrator of Balloon Toons: Zoe And Robot, Let’s Pretend, Sniff Sniff!, and the Woof And Quack beginning reader series (Green Light Readers), and the Super Doodle Series. He has worked in animation, film, and television, including Sesame Street 🙂

Do you have questions about writing, revising, submitting, whether or not to try for an agent, what happens after the sale, or anything else publishing industry related?  If so, this is your chance to ask away and get answers from a professional!

85044-ryan_headshot  SniffSniffcover-300x300  woof and quack snowy doodle


Query Letter Critique by Heather Ayris Burnell, creator of the Sub It Club and author of Bedtime Monster, Kick! Jump! Chop! The Adventures Of The Ninjabread Man, and the Sparkly New Friends early chapter book series from Scholastic!

heather burnell  Kick Jump Chop

2-Pack of Personalized Signed Picture Books from amazing author Melissa StollerScarlet’s Magic Paintbrush and Ready, Set, Gorilla!

Picture2  Picture1 gorilla

The Writer’s Tool Box: Creative Games And Exercises for Inspiring The “Write” Side Of Your BrainAND a $10 Amazon Gift Card

writer's toolbox

Children’s Writer’s And Illustrator’s Market 2019 – by Robert Lee Brewer AND a $10 Amazon Gift Card (2 available)

Children's Writer's Guide 2019

I can’t thank these authors enough for their incredible generosity!  Please visit their sites, buy and recommend their books and services to your writer friends and/or friends with kids, write them nice reviews on Amazon, GoodReads etc if you’ve read and liked their books, and show your appreciation to them in any way you can!


Tuesday Debut – Presenting Melissa Stoller!

Hello, Everyone, and welcome to another exciting episode of Tuesday Debut!

First, just a quick note: The Halloweensie Contest finalists will be announced for your reading and voting pleasure on Thursday.  Since I wasn’t able to get them up before the weekend, and I already had today’s Tuesday Debut and tomorrow’s Would You Read It scheduled, I thought it was best just to wait until Thursday when we could have an uninterrupted stretch of days for reading and voting.  The winners will be announced on Monday.  I’m sorry to have kept you all waiting so long, and truly appreciate your patience.  The judging was extremely difficult, and kept getting interrupted with family stuff and work deadlines and other things of that nature which have a tendency to suddenly appear out of nowhere when you’re trying to get something done!  If by some chance you’ve been under a rock and not seen the Halloweensie Contest entries, hop on over and have a look – well over 200 amazing stories await your enjoyment!

Now then, allow me to introduce today’s Debutess, Melissa Stoller!  She shares her first picture book with us, but has a series of chapter books already to her credit (The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection: Return to Coney Island and The Liberty Bell Train Ride) as well as another picture book forthcoming any minute (Ready, Set, GOrilla!)

MELISSA: I’m so happy to be included in your new blog series, Susanna! You know I am a huge fan of your Making Picture Book Magic course and of your books!

SUSANNA: I am thrilled to have you, Melissa, and you are very sweet to say such nice things.  There will be a little extra something chocolate for you in your holiday celebrations this year 🙂 Now then, let’s have a look at your beautiful debut picture book!!!

Written by Melissa Stoller
Illustrated by Sandie Sonke
Clear Fork Publishing/Spork
October 16, 2018
Fiction, Picture Book
Ages 4-8


Scarlet paints perfect pictures with her magic paintbrush until the brush is lost, and she fears she’ll never be able to paint again. When the brush is found, will Scarlet’s own magical creativity emerge?


SUSANNA: LOVE that gorgeous cover! 🙂 Where did the idea for this book come from?

MELISSA: The idea for SCARLET came to me when I was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City gazing at my favorite Impressionist paintings. Standing in front of a Monet canvas, I wondered what it would be like to have a magic paintbrush and paint like Monet. Over time, I thought of other questions: Would the brush would help me paint everything perfectly? What would happen if I lost the brush and then found it later? And what would I do if I wanted to paint something and the brush wouldn’t let me? These questions became the basis for my story.


Melissa at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in front of a Monet


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

MELISSA: It took several months to write this story. My mother is always my first reader! And then my children and husband weigh in as well. I have trusted critique partners who helped me dig in through multiple drafts to focus on the theme and underlying layers. And I also had a professional critique as well. Through it all, I kept refining and shaping the story.


SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

MELISSA: I like to write in many drafts, making large and small changes as I go along, so my work always has many iterations.


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

MELISSA: I knew my manuscript was ready when my critique partners all came back saying “this one is done!”


SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

MELISSA: My publisher Callie Metler-Smith from Clear Fork Publishing was already publishing my chapter book series, The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection. Turns out Callie and I both love Impressionist paintings so I pitched her my art history-based idea and that manuscript became a book!


SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

MELISSA: I definitely celebrated with my family and there were lots of smiles and tears of gratitude!


Melissa’s dog Molly who sits patiently next to her when she works (and was no doubt part of the celebrations! 🙂 )


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

MELISSA: This was my second contract with Clear Fork so I knew what to expect.


SUSANNA: Tell us about the editorial process…

MELISSA: Mira Reisberg is editor/art director at Clear Fork/Spork. I know Mira well from many Children’s Book Academy courses and I was thrilled that she loved the manuscript and would be editing and art directing. We did several critiques and Mira offered many excellent suggestions during the editorial process. And I know that she worked closely with Sandie Sonke on the art. I am so proud of the final book!


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

MELISSA: Mira selected the amazing artist Sandie Sonke as the book’s illustrator. I couldn’t be happier with this collaboration. Sandie’s vision surpassed my expectations. I just love all the details she added in the illustrations and I love the expressions on Scarlet, the magic paintbrush, and the adorable animals. One benefit to working with a small publisher is being involved throughout the process. Mira and Callie consulted me about the illustrations and I saw the art at various stages which was very exciting.



SUSANNA: Did you include any art notes with your manuscript?

MELISSA: I didn’t include art notes with this manuscript. In fact, Sandie created a cute story line with the dog appearing in many illustrations that I had not even contemplated. I do include art notes in other manuscripts if they are integral to an understanding of the story.


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

MELISSA: I signed the contract in November 2016 and the release date is October 2018.


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

MELISSA: I am in the process of having a book trailer produced, and I have lots of swag including bookmarks, stickers, postcards, magnets, and a t-shirt. Kids love swag! I’m also having an educator guide created for teachers and librarians by Deb Gonzalez.


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

MELISSA: I started on this KidLit writing journey in 1997 when my oldest daughter was one! Seriously! I joined SCBWI that year and attended many workshops. And I have a file drawer full of rejections. After that initial burst, I worked on many other writing projects, including parenting articles and a parent-child book club resource book. About five years ago I got immersed again in writing for children. I started taking more classes and joined several critique groups. I started submitting picture books and ultimately signed my first contract for my chapter book series. My next picture book is Ready, Set, Gorilla!, illustrated by the very talented Sandy Steen Bartholomew.

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

MELISSA: It’s so amazing to hold the finished book in my hands! My message to pre-published writers is to keep going. Work hard; study your craft through in person or online courses (like Susanna’s Making Picture Book Magic which I took twice!); attend conferences; participate in writing challenges and workshops; make connections with other creatives; establish relationships with trusted critique partners; and just write and submit!

I’m so happy to be featured on your blog, Susanna! Thanks, again for chatting!



Melissa Stoller, Children’s Author

Find Melissa online at:


Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Melissa!  We are all very grateful for your time and expertise and wish you the very best success with ALL your books!

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

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


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

– 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