Ho! Ho! Ho! The 11th Annual Holiday Contest Is HERE!!!

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

It’s time for . . .

The 11th Annual Holiday Writing Contest

~ for children’s writers ~

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

Your contest can be anything you want! Baking, wrapping, decorating (tree or home), raising money or collecting gifts for those in need, ice skating, sledding, caroling, fancy dress, snowman or fort building. . . sky’s the limit! But it must be about a holiday contest!

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 Thursday December 9th at 11:59 PM EST, and must be posted below in the comment section of this post. All entries should include a title, byline (people always ask what this is – it means who the entry was written by, so, by Suzy Q. Writer or whoever 😊) and word count. You are welcome to also post your entries on your own blogs and include your blog address with your entry here if you’d like to encourage people to come visit your blog, but your entry must be posted in the comment section of this post or it will not be counted because we won’t see it. This post will 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 everyone will have plenty of time to visit and enjoy.  If you have trouble commenting, you can email your entry to me and I will post it for you. Please copy and paste your entry with word count and byline into the body of the email NO ATTACHMENTS please.

The Judging: My lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to approximately 12 finalists.  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 Tuesday December 14th for you to vote on for a winner.  (But it almost always seems to end up taking us longer. . . so it might be a day or two later.) The vote will be closed on Thursday December 16th at 5 PM EST.  Whoever gets the most votes will be first and so on down to twelfth place (or wherever we place to), and the winners will be announced on Friday 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 Contest! – the rules state a Holiday Contest story, so it must be crystal clear that the story is about a contest that in some way relates to Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, New Year’s, or whatever seasonal winter holiday you choose.  The story must center on the contest  – the contest 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. Please proofread!
  • 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!: Oh! Such wonderful prizes! All I can say is, how lucky are we to be part of such a talented and generous community that offers such amazing prizes!

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! 😊

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (Rhyming or Non-rhyming, Fiction or Nonfiction) with written feedback AND a 30-minute Zoom Chat with children’s author Vivian Kirkfield, author of PIPPA’S PASSOVER PLATE (Holiday House, 2019), SWEET DREAMS, SARAH (Creston Books, 2019), FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN (Pomegranate, 2019), MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: THE INSPIRING FRIENDSHIP OF ELLA FITZGERALD AND MARILYN MONROE (Little Bee Books, 2020), FROM HERE TO THERE: INVENTIONS THAT CHANGED THE WAY THE WORLD MOVES (Clarion Books, 2021), and SHOW ME HOW! BUILD YOUR CHILD’S SELF-ESTEEM THROUGH READING, CRAFTING AND COOKING (MoneyPenny Press Ltd, 2010)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (Rhyming or Non-rhyming, Fiction or Nonfiction) with a recording of first read-through by children’s author and poet Sarah Meade, contributor to HOP TO IT: POEMS TO GET YOU MOVING (Pomelo Books, 2020!

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique/Zoom Chat (Non-rhyming) from children’s author Janie Reinart, author of WHEN WATER MAKES MUD: A STORY OF REFUGEE CHILDREN (Blue Whale Press, 2021)!

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (Rhyming) PLUS Zoom Chat from developmental editor Lou Piccolo! Lou studied English Literature, creative writing and teaching at university in South Africa. After working as an EFL teacher in France for twenty years, she studied proofreading and editing before becoming a developmental editor of children’s and young adult’s literature for independent authors. She is a graduate of Renee LaTulippe’s Lyrical Language Lab – Punching Up Prose With Poetry course and Making Picture Book Magic, the in-house writer for Editions Entrefilet’s language-learning magazine ‘Go English Kids’ for children of 8-12 in France, and a traditionally published author of MG and YA fiction with Burlington Books.

Developmental Editor, Lou Piccolo

⭐️ Connecting With School Librarians! Fabulous Opportunity for published or soon to be published authors! Winner’s Choice of either a Zoom or phone chat about how to connect with school librarians and get their ear or an Ask Me Anything Zoom or phone chat about K-8th grade author visits from a librarian’s POV from Kathy Halsey. Kathy Halsey is Storyteller Academy’s Community Manager and Ambassador. She enjoys writing picture books, humor, and nonfiction. Kathy’s active in SCBWI and blogs with other kid lit writers on the GROG. She serves on the Choose to Read Ohio Advisory Council and speaks at educational and literary conferences. Kathy’s a former K-12 school librarian and children’s bookseller. She writes monthly author studies for the Reading for Research Month along with Keila Dawson.

Writer, librarian, bookseller, blogger Kathy Halsey

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (Rhyme or Prose, fiction only) from children’s author Shelley Kinder! Shelley is the author of NOT SO SCARY JERRY (Spork 2017), THE MASTERPIECE (Spork 2018) and GOD AND ME AND THE SEA (Kregel Children’s Books, May 17, 2022)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (written) PLUS 15 minute Zoom Chat (no nonfiction) from Cindy Williams Schrauben author of THIS COULD BE YOU (Cardinal Rule Press, April 1, 2022)!

⭐️ Zoom Visit to a classroom or to kids at home by children’s author Ellen Leventhal! Ellen is the author of DON’T EAT THE BLUEBONNETS (Spork, 2017), LOLA CAN’T LEAP (Spork, 2018), HAYFEST: A HOLIDAY QUEST (ABCs Press, 2010), and A FLOOD OF KINDNESS (WorthyKids, 2021)

Author, Ellen Leventhal

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Heather Gale, author of HO’ONANI: HULA WARRIOR (Tundra Books, 2019) which was one of the New York Public Library’s Best Books for Kids 2019, one of the Ontario Library Association’s 2019 Top Ten Titles, Featured on the 2020 Rainbow Book List, Featured on the 2020 Rise: A Feminist Book Project List, and received a Booklist Starred Review!

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Maria Marshall! Maria is a children’s author, blogger, and poet passionate about making nature fun for children. She’s a judge for the Cybils Awards and the #50PreciousWords competition. Four of her poems are published in The Best Of Today’s Little Ditty anthologies. When not writing, critiquing, or reading, she bird watches, travels the world, bakes, and hikes. The Picture Book Buzz  Website  Facebook  Twitter  Instagram

Maria Marshall

⭐️ A Reversible Handmade Christmas Stocking or Other Winter or Holiday-Themed Gift Bag from Karen Gebbia PLUS a Personalized Signed Copy of CURIOSITY’S DISCOVERY by Nancy Derey Riley to fill it!

⭐️ Personalized Signed Copy of either QUEEN OF PHYSICS:How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom (Sterling Children’s Books 2019) or TWO BICYCLES IN BEIJING (Albert Whitman 2020) (Winner’s Choice!) by Teresa Robeson

PLUS!!!

a Personalized Signed Copy of either LISTEN (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books 2021) or TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE (Harry N. Abrams 2020) (Winner’s Choice!) by Gabi Snyder

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⭐️ Personalized Signed Copy of THE QUEEN AND THE FIRST CHRISTMAS TREE: Queen Charlotte’s Gift to England (Albert Whitman 2018) by Nancy Churnin PLUS a Digital Copy of THE STAR IN THE CHRISTMAS PLAY (Beaming Books 2018) by Lynne Marie

⭐️ Personalized Signed Copy of MY SCHOOL STINKS! (Philomel July 2021) by Becky Scharnhorst PLUS a Kindle or Audiobook Copy of either FUNNY JIMMY (AuthorHouse 2011) or THE HAUNTED HOUSE OF RIDDLES (Avid Readers Publishing Group 2011) (Winner’s Choice!) by Vanessa Rose Lee

⭐️ Winner’s Choice of 2 of the following 4 picture books, kindly donated by Dee Knabb!

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 you MUST post your entry in the comment section below and include title, byline, and word count.

Eager Readers – just go along the list of links below, click on them (they’ll take you directly to whichever story you click on), and enjoy the stories!

So let the Holiday Contest begin!

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

I can’t wait to read your entries!!!

THE ENTRIES!

  1. It Takes A Forest – Lucretia Schafroth
  2. The Kelpie Challenge – Bonnie Kelso
  3. The Cookies Of Holiday Hollow – Royal Baysinger
  4. Elf Off The Shelf – Anne Lipton
  5. The Trolls: A Winter Tale – Royal Baysinger
  6. Upon A Winter Solstice – Royal Baysinger
  7. So You Think You Can Prance – Amy Leskowski
  8. The Festive Flying Race – Nicola Beach
  9. Birdie’s Song – Beth Stillborn
  10. The Holiday Homework – Sue Lancaster
  11. How Tiny Won A Seat On Santa’s Sleigh – Elizabeth Westra
  12. The Claus’ Candy Cane Contest – Susan Schipper
  13. He Knows If You’ve Been Bad Or Good – Colleen Murphy
  14. Olive, The Other Reindeer – Lindsay Moretti
  15. Go Green For Christmas – Margaret Zotkiewicz
  16. Tree Number Nine – Lindsey Hobson
  17. Christmas Boots – P.J. Purtee
  18. Ellarose’s Sweater – Marta Cutler
  19. A Fourth Grader’s Poster Problem – Jennifer Vose
  20. A Buggie Tradition – Kay Inglis
  21. Kendy And The Solstice Solo Show – Sarah Meade
  22. Elsie And The Christmas Comedy Contest – Sarah Meade
  23. The Better Elf On The Shelf – Molly Ippolito
  24. Ernie And The Science Fair – Deborah Foster
  25. Mr. Tweedy’s Christmas Trees – Colleen Fogarty
  26. Best Wrapped Surprise – Sara Dean
  27. Christmas Eve Ride Along Contest – Dawn Young
  28. The Christmas Tree Contest – Dorothy K. Kohrherr
  29. Alfredo Learns The Secret Of Greatness – Joan Leotta
  30. The Pretty Ugly Sweater – Pamela Swanson
  31. Jamie’s Holiday Surprise – Diana Sussman
  32. Katie’s Snow Creation – Marty B.
  33. The Tasty Treat Christmas Contest – Katie Brandyberry
  34. Santa’s Secret Contest – Linda Staszak
  35. Phoebe’s Snowperson – Kelly Clasen
  36. THAT’S Not A Christmas Cookie! – Vanessa Konoval
  37. Candy Pies – Sharon McCarthy
  38. Solstice Skaters – Allison Strick
  39. The Best Gift Ever – Pen Avey
  40. The Most Christmassy House – Jen MacGregor
  41. Candy Caribou – Steena Hernandez
  42. A Christmas Pickle Story – Daniella Kaufman-Schloss
  43. Shining Star – Sarah Hawklyn
  44. Grumpy Snow Pants – Stephanie Maksymiw
  45. The Best Reading Contest Of Winter, 1959 – Beth Schmelzer
  46. Playground Games – Colleen Dougherty
  47. Simply The Best – Nicole Loos Miller
  48. Bear’s Christmas Cookie – Marta Cutler
  49. Happy Everything! – Laura Barens
  50. Dancing With The Elves – Jill Lambert
  51. A Creature Was Stirring – Judy Sobanski
  52. The Monster On Christmas Eve – Elizabeth Meyer zu Heringdorf
  53. What Christmas Means To Me – Marty Findley
  54. A Miscalculation – Emily Durant
  55. Lily And The Winter Festival – Karen J Moore
  56. 2021 Monkey Merry Xmas – Shariffa Keshavjee
  57. The Ginger Friend House – Kelly Swemba
  58. Gingerbread House Extravaganza – Elaine D’Alessandro
  59. Parol: This Little Star Of Mine – Lynn Grace Wong
  60. Christmas Song – YauMei Chiang
  61. Reindeer Games – Tiffany Hanson
  62. The Cookie Contest Caper – Kelsey E. Gross
  63. The Clean-Out-The-Clutter Contest – Sarah Demarest Guthrie
  64. The Contest – Amanda Sherlock
  65. Asher’s Chanukiah – Dina Silverberg
  66. Best Hanukkah Ever! – Paul Kurtz
  67. Cinder-Latke – Paul Kurtz
  68. Bunny Claus – Donna Kurtz
  69. Jangle Shells – Donna Kurtz
  70. Spin – Cheryl Simon
  71. Fantastical Fairytown Christmas Snowflake Contest – Ellen Crosby
  72. The Winning Recipe – Judy Abelove Shemtob
  73. The Greatest Display Of All – Barbara Kimmel
  74. Sparky’s Wish – Ingrid Boydston
  75. The Night After Christmas – Abby N. Wooldridge
  76. The Claus’s Hawaiian Vacation – C. S. Boyll
  77. Gifts For Grandma – Cindy Sommer
  78. Keep Christmas Coming – Jeannette Suhr
  79. The Most Special Ornament – Timothy Hicks
  80. Santa’s Workshop Winners – Polly Owen
  81. Elfie Selfie Contest – Stephanie Henson
  82. The Great Holiday Bake Off – Jamie Donahoe
  83. Laughing All The Way – Sarah Hetu
  84. A Sack Full Of Presents – Patricia Nozell
  85. Fairy Tale Houses – Jim Chaize
  86. Christmas…By A Nose – Jesse Anna Bornemann
  87. Reindeer Sing…Are You Listening? – Katie Schwartz
  88. Christmas Carrots – Vashti Verbowski
  89. Being Santa Lucia – Cindy Greene
  90. Nun, Gimel, Hei, Shin – Who Will Win? – Stephanie Wildman
  91. ANDRÉS BLUE RIBBON – Carmen Castillo Gilbert
  92. The Chubby Bunny Champion – Alicia Meyers
  93. Up And Away! – Kristy Roser Nuttall
  94. Christmas Isn’t – Ingrid Boydston
  95. The Christmas Pirate – Julianna Kurtz
  96. Maryam’s Happy Persian Christmas – Shadi Kafi
  97. The Most Beautiful Snowflake Of All – Cassie Silva
  98. Fire And Ice – Jyn Hall
  99. The Santa Spectacle – Mary Cathering Amadu
  100. A Jarring Contest – Bru Benson
  101. Everything – Sandhya Acharya
  102. Similarity Despite Diversity – Eva Felder
  103. O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree – Becky Goodman
  104. Solstice Wars! – Phoebe Browning
  105. Gingerbread Surprise – JC Kelly
  106. Squirrels Christmas – Charlotte Boyer
  107. The Holiday Contest – Denise Seidman
  108. The Witch’s Gingerbread House – Lauri Meyers
  109. Elf Rivalry – Michelle S. Kennedy
  110. Dream Big, Little Pip! – Sally Yorke-Viney
  111. An Extraordinary Elf – Becky Kimbrough
  112. Jasmine Jingletoes And The Christmas Stocking Contest – Brenda Covert
  113. Let There Be (MORE!) Lights – Judy Carey Nevin
  114. Laughing All The Way – Samantha Gassman

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Becky Scharnhorst!

Ladies and Gentleman!

Welcome to the greatest show on earth: TUESDAY DEBUT!

*cheers!*
*applause!*
*confetti!*

Today it is my pleasure to introduce the lovely and talented Becky Scharnhorst – mom, hiker, dog lover, ice cream enthusiast, Making Picture Book Magic graduate, friend of bears, and writer – and her fabulous debut picture book, MY SCHOOL STINKS! whose book birthday is TODAY!

My School Stinks!
Written by Becky Scharnhorst
Illustrated by Julia Patton
Published by Philomel Books
Date of Release July 6, 2021
Fiction
Ages 4-8

Not even deep breaths and happy thoughts can calm Stuart’s nerves after he finds himself in a new school with classmates who are REAL animals. Told through journal entries, this hilarious back-to-school story proves friends can come in all shapes, sizes, and species.

SUSANNA: Welcome, Becky! We are so thrilled to have your here with us today! Where did the idea for this book come from?

BECKY: As someone who has struggled with anxiety, I tend to catastrophize everything. Even though things rarely turn out to be as scary as I imagine, there are still times when it’s hard to calm my anxious thoughts. I wanted to address that in a humorous way. When I wrote this manuscript, I lived at a camp in the middle of a forest in Northeast Pennsylvania where wild animal sightings were a regular occurrence. Watching my children’s fear over backyard bear sightings turn into excitement was what inspired me to plop Stuart into a classroom full of wild animals.

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

BECKY: The short answer is it took me 6 weeks to write this version, but the idea started in 2016 when I wrote a rough draft of a manuscript for an upcoming workshop at the Highlights Foundation. It also was a story about a young boy who ended up at a school for wild animals, but nothing else was the same. The first night of the workshop, the leaders challenged us to rewrite the beginning of our story with a different format, setting, or POV. I changed the setting from a school to a camp and I wrote it in letters home rather than 3rd POV. I loved the change so much that when I went back to my room later, I rewrote the entire thing! For the next two years, this manuscript was a camp story. After I met my editor Cheryl Eissing through the Rutgers One-on-One Plus conference, it went through a couple rounds of revisions before she took it to her team at Philomel in July of 2018. They loved it but thought the camp setting was too niche, so they asked me to change it to a school setting! My School Stinks is nothing like the original school story, and in fact, more closely resembles the camp manuscript.

Becky’s writing space (her favorite for summer time)

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

BECKY: Again, it’s complicated! I think I have over 70 versions of the camp story on my computer, which is the story that got the attention of my editor and helped land me my agent. But My School Stinks only went through a handful of revisions. So, it depends on how you look at it. I believe the only reason I was able to write My School Stinks so quickly is because I spent two years with these characters in a camp setting.

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

BECKY: To be honest, I had a hard time knowing when this manuscript was ready to send back to my editor. After two years of working on it, I was attached to the camp version which made it difficult to be objective. I relied solely on my critique partners to tell me when it was ready. In fact, I didn’t even show my agent after I signed with him. It had been a few months, so I assumed Cheryl was no longer interested. It wasn’t until Cheryl reached out with a few edits that I finally showed James. He called immediately to tell me he loved it, so I read it again for the first time in months. It was only then I realized I liked it just as much as the camp version.

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

BECKY: I did not submit this manuscript to anyone except Cheryl, and I did not have an agent when I sent it to her. She had specifically requested the rewrite, so this manuscript was an exclusive submission to her. By the time she made the offer, I did have an agent which was great because he was able to handle the contract negotiations.  

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”?  (Best moment ever! 😊)

BECKY: I had just run into the grocery store to buy some cheese, but the kids wanted to wait in the car. When I returned, they said I had gotten a couple calls from New York, but they accidentally hung up on whoever had called! I suspected it might have been my agent, so I checked my email. Sure enough, there was a message from James saying he had tried to call. I apologized for the chaos, and he called back right away to share the good news.

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

BECKY: By the time James called back, we had pulled into the parking lot of a local custard place. After all the screaming, jumping, and hugging, we celebrated with giant bowls of custard.

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

BECKY: I was happy to have an agent by the time Cheryl made her offer because I didn’t know what to expect in terms of an advance, royalties, or author copies. I do think Cheryl’s offer was in line with typical offers for debut authors from bigger publishing houses, and I was happy with what my agent negotiated for me. I was especially excited to get 30 author copies!

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

BECKY: By the time Cheryl made the offer, we had already gone through one round of revisions on the school version so there were barely any changes after that. Cheryl had a great vision for this story and almost every one of her ideas resonated with me. I’m extremely grateful to have her as my editor because I feel like she understands what I’m trying to do, and her suggestions always make my writing better.

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

BECKY: I was lucky enough to be involved from the very beginning. Cheryl recommended a few illustrators, and I was thrilled when Julia Patton signed on. I absolutely adore her work! Cheryl shared the cover, sketches, and final art at different points in the process and always asked for feedback. However, my reply emails were usually just filled with joyous interjections and far too many exclamation points.

text copyright Becky Scharnhorst 2021, illustration copyright Julia Patton 2021, Philomel

SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc? What was that like?

BECKY: My editor shared reviews from Kirkus and Booklist with me, and I was happy to see both were positive.

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

BECKY: It took about 27 months. I think 2 years is typical, but because My School Stinks is a school story, they wanted it to come out in the summer which made the wait a little longer.

SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?

BECKY: My publisher sent pitches for My School Stinks to national and regional media, as well as major trade publications including Kirkus and Booklist.

Becky’s backyard bear sighting. . . inspiration for the next picture book? 😊

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

BECKY: One of the most fun and helpful things I’ve done is to join a promo group called Picture Book Playground. We help promote each other’s books on social media, write reviews, and do library requests. In addition to sharing news about My School Stinks on Twitter and Instagram, I set up a few guest blog posts, and I ordered bookmarks and notebooks to be used for giveaways and pre-orders. I also planned an in-person book launch event at Lion’s Mouth Bookstore in Green Bay, and I’m doing a couple library events for our Summer Reading Program. Finally, I plan on adding some teacher and parent resources to my website by the end of summer.

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

BECKY: I think I wrote my first manuscript in 2014, but I didn’t get serious about writing until after I attended the Highlight’s Workshop in 2016. I got my first offer in February of 2019, so about 5 years total.

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?)

BECKY: I think one of the most important things this story taught me is to not be afraid to try something new. I did not find the voice for this manuscript until I rewrote it as a camp story. Even though it didn’t end up as a camp story, the process of rewriting it taught me a lot about my characters. Also, find an awesome critique group!  It’s nearly impossible to be objective about your own writing, especially when you’ve been working on something for a long time. Fresh eyes are critical to the writing process.

SUSANNA: If your book has been out for at least one statement cycle, has it earned out yet?)

BECKY: My book comes out today, so it hasn’t earned out quite yet. But wouldn’t it be great if it did?

SUSANNA: That would be awesome! We’ll all do what we can to keep those copies flying off the shelves! 😊 Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series, Becky, and for paying it forward to other writers! We so appreciate your time and expertise and wish you all the best of luck with this and future titles!

Author Becky Scharnhorst

Website: https://beckyscharnhorst.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/beckyscharn

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/beckyscharn/

Becky grew up in Northeast Wisconsin and spent most of her childhood playing in lakes and reading books. Shortly after receiving a BA from Luther College, Becky spent a year working as a children’s bookseller at Barnes & Noble. She soon discovered she enjoyed reading picture books more than anything else. Much, much more.

Now Becky spends her days writing children’s books and working at her local library. Her debut picture book My School Stinks will be published by Philomel Books in 2021, followed by This Field Trip Stinks (2022) and How to Get Your Octopus to School (2023). When she’s not reading or writing, Becky can be found hiking through the woods with her dogs, losing a game of monopoly to her kids, or biking to the local ice cream shop. She currently lives in Central Wisconsin with her husband, two kids, and a few too many pets.

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

You may purchase Becky’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

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!