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!!!

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…

Chambrae Griffith
for

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
for
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
for

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
for

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
for

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
for

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
for
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
for
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!

 

The 4th Annual Valentiny Contest FINALISTS!!!

So, I’m noticing a trend here.

This is at least the second year in a row when my best laid plans for getting the Valentiny judging done have found themselves up the creek without a paddle and no help in sight!

What is it about February?!

Once again, Judge #1 ended up with a whole lot of extra family stuff – some expected, some not…plus unexpected work…

…and Judge #2 had a ton of actual job-related work that had to be attended to.

(Judge #3 was awesome in every way and is probably the only reason the judging ever got finished! 🙂 )

But at this rate, we may have to start running the Valentiny Contest in July! 🙂

Add to that that apparently “guilt” was a tough topic! and we were seriously up against it!!!

Nearly all the entries fell into one of 5 categories:

– MC unintentionally makes a V-Day related mess

– MC accidentally ends up eating all the chocolates intended as a gift

– number of Valentines for class comes up short by one/one “mean” child is skipped on purpose

– MC didn’t make/purchase Valentines (either because V-Day is stupid or MC didn’t get around to it)

– a guilty dog is involved 🙂

I’m not sure we’ve ever had a contest where the entries could be so uniformly categorized.  This is not to say, of course, that ALL the entries fell into those categories – they did not! – or that there weren’t some very well written entries – there were! – or that the stories weren’t original – but it was interesting that the topic of guilt seemed to be harder than some others to come up with wide variety for.

Anyway, after much agonizing, torment, and second-guessing, we have come up with a list of finalists that we felt did the all-around best job of meeting all the judging criteria.  No doubt there will be some you’re surprised not to see – there were some very well written ones that did not make the cut, mostly because the guilt wasn’t strong enough. But we did the best we could!

So, at long last, and with sincere apologies for keeping you waiting 5 extra days, let’s have a look at….

The 4th Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest!!!

valentiny writing contest 2019!

~ FINALISTS!!!~

Before we get to the actual list of finalists, I have a couple things to say.  (I know you’re shocked as I’m normally so spare with my words :))

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!

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, before I list the finalists, 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.  So if yours didn’t make the final cut please don’t feel bad.  There was a huge amount of competition – about 170 entries of which only 12 made the finals.  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!

Now.  Onto the judging criteria which were as follows:

  1. Kid-appeal/Kid-friendliness – remember, this is a story for kids!
  2. Creativity in using guilt and success in making us feel the guilt! (Not enough just to use the word guilt!)
  3. Valentine’s Day appropriateness – this is a VALENTINE story and as such must feel like it is connected to Valentine’s Day/has something to do with it being Valentine’s!
  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
  6. Originality – surprise us with something new and different! 🙂

We really tried to choose stories that did the best job of fulfilling ALL the judging criteria.  There were some truly wonderful stories that didn’t have much to do with Valentines Day even if Valentine’s Day was mentioned in passing – they just didn’t seem connected to Valentines – or that didn’t seem to really showcase guilt although they may have used the word “guilt”, or that didn’t seem particularly kid-oriented even though they were very creative and well-written, or that really had us…until the last line or two when things sadly fell apart.  We tried our best to select finalists that checked all the boxes.

So without further ado, I present to you the finalists in the 2019 Fourth Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest!  Please read through them carefully, take your time, think it over, and vote for your favorite in the poll below by Wednesday February 27 at 12 PM (noon) Eastern time.  I apologize for the fact that since I’m late posting the finalists, there will be a Tuesday Debut post on Tuesday and a WYRI post on Wednesday, so this post with the finalists and the poll will drop down the blog list – but it will still be there and the poll will be open for voting until midday Wednesday!

To help with objectivity, finalists are listed by title only, not by author.

And I’d like to be very clear about the voting process.  You are MOST welcome to share a link to this post on FB, twitter, or wherever you like to hang out, and encourage people to come read ALL the finalists and vote for the one they think is best.  Please do that.  The more people who read and enjoy these stories the better, and the more objective votes we get the better.  HOWEVER (and I want to be very clear on this) please do not tell people you are a finalist.  Please do not ask people to vote for a specific number or title, or for the story about the tap-dancing troll who felt guilty for waking up the baby billy goat or whatever.  Trolling for votes or trying to influence the outcome is counter to the spirit of this competition which is supposed to be based on merit.  We operate on the honor system.  I thank you in advance for respecting this. Your win will mean more if it’s honestly earned.

Here are the 2019 Valentiny Contest Finalists!!! Some poetry, some prose, some for younger readers, some for older (but still kid) readers, all fabulous 🙂

#1 – The Valentine’s Day Mess & Cure

Dear Mom and Dad,

When you wake up,
you’ll see your tea and coffee cup.
(Don’t worry, ‘cause the broom worked well for cleaning up the plate that fell.) 

I made you toast with jam and butter, wiped the crumbs but left some clutter.
(Couldn’t get some sticky spots off counters, tables, chairs, and pots.)

A napkin holds a chocolate heart that you can simply break apart.
(Yes, there were two, but I concede, how much dark chocolate does one need?) 

This card is trimmed in frilly lace to put a smile upon your face.
(Oh, by the way, the sewing kit? It now needs straightening up a bit.) 

I hope your Valentine’s Day fun is nicer ‘cause of what I’ve done
(and sort of wondering if you might, push back my time for bed tonight?)

XOXOXOXOXOXO 

P.S. Uh-oh…I’m feeling bad. I wanted you to be so glad
but went about it like a jerk and caused you both a lot of work.
I wasn’t such a thoughtful kid. I should have cared—not like I did.
When you wake up, let’s make a plan, and I’ll correct what goofs I can.

With Love and Kisses,

You Know Who (I love you both a bunch, I DO!)

 

#2 – The Queen Of Hearts

Meg didn’t care about candy hearts or lacy cards. Tomorrow was the Valentine’s play!

All she wanted was to be the Queen of Hearts.

All she wanted was to wear the golden crown with the red sequins.

All she wanted was to win the role from Leah and Carly.

“I can’t decide,” said Mrs. Clark. “You would all make exquisite queens.” Then she wrote each girl’s name on a strip of paper and placed them in a basket.  “I’ll pick one of you tomorrow.”

The bell rang. Meg lingered.

No one will know.
I want it more than they do.
 Just this once.

Meg wrote her name on two more paper strips. Carefully, she replaced the names of her friends with her own in Mrs. Clark’s basket. She could almost feel the crown on her head as she skipped home.

At dinner, Meg couldn’t eat.

She tried rehearsing, but couldn’t remember her lines.

She went to bed early, but couldn’t sleep.

Her heart hurt.

When Meg arrived at school the next day, she was surprised to see a lacy, red-sequined Valentine on her desk.

Good luck to all of us today!
Love,
Leah and Carly

 Meg’s eyes filled with tears.

“Mrs. Clark,” she said, “I have something to tell you.”

 

#3 – Mother Knows Best

“Here, let me do the dishes Mom.”

“But you can’t reach the sink.”

“Then let me take the garbage out. I’m strong enough…I think.”

“Dad took the trash out yesterday. Son, what is up with you?”

“Um, nothing. Can’t I want to help?”

“Not when you never do.”

“I hope you liked the Valentine I worked so hard to make.

I cut a billion tiny hearts; I thought my hands would break!”

“I think I told you twenty times how much I loved your card.

Max, if you really want to help, then play out in the yard.”

“A great idea! While I’m out I’ll do some helpful deeds –

like rake the leaves or mow the grass or even pull some weeds.”

“It’s winter – there’s no grass to cut and no leaves anywhere!

Now Maxwell Walter Anderson, you sit down in that chair

and do not move a muscle ‘till you’re ready to confess.”

“Mom,

…if I’ve done something awful will you love my any less?”

“Of course I won’t! Now come on dear, just tell me what you’ve done.”

“You know your Truffles Daddy bought?

I only left you one.”

 

#4 – Single… Double… TRIPLE GUILTY!

Valentine’s Day tomorrow! Tony could hardly wait. Ms. Flinker was throwing an old-fashioned Valentine’s party with balloons and cupcakes, and a Valentine’s Box for each of them, so all the kids in the class could put in cards.

Tony dumped out his box of SuperZoomer Valentines. Uh-oh. 20 cards per box. 21 kids in his class.

He giggled. He wouldn’t give nasty Lisa one. She said he was too little for Kindergarten. She called him Tiny, even when he yelled MY NAME IS TONY!

On Valentine’s Day, a SuperZoomer Valentine superzoomed into nearly all the Valentine Boxes lined up along the front table. Nobody noticed that Tony didn’t put one in Lisa’s box. His stomach did, though. GUILTY, it told him.

They ate their cupcakes. They drank red juice. Then it was time for the Valentines. The first one out of his box was from – LISA! Oh no. His stomach said DOUBLE GUILTY. The Valentine said, “Tony – I’m sorry. Can we be friends?”

TRIPLE GUILTY said his stomach. He ran to the back of the room. Red construction paper. Markers. SuperZoomer fast, he made a Valentine.

“Lisa, my card for you wouldn’t fit in the box.”

She looked. “To my new friend. Happy VALENTINY Day!”

 

#5 – The Missing Pupcake

Brayden loved both of his dogs just the same.
They weren’t alike–one was wild, one was tame.
Mona made mischief, she didn’t know, “NO!”
Lisa obeyed because Brayden said so.

Brayden created some Valentine treats,
a doggy dessert made with eggs, oats, and beets.
The piping hot pupcakes were spread out to cool
all over the counter, but underneath—DROOL!

“Let’s grab a pupcake while Brayden is gone,”
Mona said. “I’m too short! Let me climb on.”
Lisa looked back toward the door with remorse.
Mona whined, “Help me out! You be my horse!”

Lisa stood steady while she climbed aboard.
Mona stretched upward, then seized her reward,
nearly inhaled the first pupcake she saw,
leaped down from Lisa’s back, “Got it! Hurrah!”

Lisa slunk out of the kitchen to hide.
She acted guilty, but Mona felt pride.
Brayden came in, heard their skittering feet,
glanced at the counter, saw one missing treat.

“Mona and Lisa!” he cried in dismay.
“I baked those pupcakes for Valentine’s Day.
Which of you took it? It’s time to confess!”
Lisa looked hangdog, her eyes blinked distress.

Brayden inspected them, solving the puzzle.
Mona had cake crumbs all over her muzzle.
“Mona, you’re busted! Now you go to bed!”
Then Brayden gave Lisa two pupcakes instead.

 

#6 – Cupid’s Last Card

Hands off, it’s mine.

I know what you’re thinking. He’s Cupid. He’s supposed to give out Valentine’s cards. It’s his job.

Well, maybe you’re right, but has anyone ever thought about me? Don’t I deserve some attention too?

It’s not easy flying around delivering all those chocolates and stuffed pandas, you know.

So I’m keeping the card.

Yes, I know it’s supposed to be yours. You’re my last delivery. But let’s just forget about that, okay? I’ll make it up next year. You’ll get a REALLY BIG stuffed panda.

Don’t look at me like that.

I’m sure you’re a nice kid. Eat all your veggies? Brush your teeth every night? That’s great.

But the card’s mine.

What’s that? No one else has given you a card? Well…

Phew. Kinda warm in here.

I’m sure you’re mistaken. Check your mailbox again.

Still nothing? Well…

How about we split it? I’ll take half and you’ll…

Oh, don’t cry.

I can’t stand seeing nice kids cry. If you start then I’m…

WHO’S CUTTING THOSE ONIONS?

How about borrowing it…? No?

Sniffing it…? No?

How about… uh…

OH, I CAN’T STAND IT! Here, take it! Just take it! I hope you’re happy now! And furthermore–

Huh? What’s that?

Oh. Thanks. Thanks, kid.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too.

 

#7 – Chadwick The Zombie Cooks Up A Valentine

Chadwick the zombie was often alone,
feeling quite lonesome and blue.
While all of his peers nibbled brains, eyes, and ears,
Chadwick baked bread and cooked stew.

“Nobody gets me,” young Chadwick complained.
“But next week is Valentine’s Day!
Instead of fresh hearts I’ll bring raspberry tarts,
That should bring new friends my way!”

Valentine’s came and his classmates gave out
boxes of brains and warm bile.
Chadwick left sweets at the kids’ assigned seats
then waited to see them all smile. 

“Ew!” “What is this?” “Who’d bring sweets to a party?”
Chadwick felt tears in his eyes.
His classmates went still when they saw those tears spill,
ashamed as they heard his soft cries.

Norbert, a boy in the back of the class
squeamishly reached for his treat.
He screwed up his face, then he took a small taste…
and smiled! “This is good! Let’s all eat!”

Zombies were gobbling those tarts in a flash.
“Chadwick, good job!” “Crust has flake!”
Chadwick then heard these delectable words:
“Hey, could you teach us to bake?”

Chadwick the zombie was often with pals,
smiling for hours on end.
Blending and stirring, kneading and whirring,
mixing up fun with his friends.

 

#8 – A Box Full Of Love

Max gave the heart shaped box a big shake.
Empty.
How could all of the candy be gone? He meant to eat only one piece but it had tasted so good…
“Hola, Max,” said Papi. “What is that in your hand?”
“Nothing,” sighed Max. “It was going to be a Valentine’s Day gift for Mama but, I ate all the candy so now it’s just an empty box.”
Papi opened the box. “This box is not empty,’ he said.
“Yes, it is,” said Max.
“No,” said Papi. “You thought of Mama and wanted to make her happy and that is what love is, thinking about others and wanting to make them happy. So you see, this box is full of love. Now how about we go to the kitchen and make Mama some special Valentine’s Day cookies? You get the flour and I’ll get the eggs and sugar.”
On the kitchen counter Max noticed another heart shaped box.
“What is that?” he asked
“That?’ said Papi, furiously mixing the eggs and sugar together. “Ahhh…That is another box of love for Mama.”
Max smiled. “You ate all the candy too, didn’t you Papi?”
“Si,” said Papi. “Now, hand me the flour so we can finish these cookies before Mama gets home. Rapido!”

#9 – Buffa-lonely Love Day

At the zoo, it’s party time:
zebras clamor, monkeys climb.
Elephants hang decorations—
time for Love Day celebrations.

Sending cards, they’re all gung-ho…
all except for Buffalo.

Looking for her valentine…
Doesn’t find one!
“So what?! FINE!”

Scrunched-up nose and pouted lips,
tucks her hooves into her hips.

“Such a wild, rambunctious crowd,
much too lively, much too loud.
Had enough of this commotion.
Too much lovey-dove emotion.”

Quick, she trots around the zoo,
making others cranky too.

Creeps up to the three baboons…
POP! There go their three balloons.

Finds two penguins on the ice…
steals their heart-shaped pebbles (twice).

One bear’s heart cake—Where’d it go?
Who would smash it?
“Buffalo!”

Party ruined: roars and growls.
Buffalo just sits and scowls.

Buffa-lonely, all alone.
“Still no cards, still on my own.
Wrecked their party, made them mad.
What a rotten day I’ve had.”

Maybe if she sent a letter…
she might feel a little better.

“Sorry that I wrecked your bash,
and tossed your goodies in the trash…
See, I found it pretty hard
when all but me received a card.”

Party mix-up, at the zoo…
“You got no card? We never knew!”
“Buffalo, look here and see:
your valentine fell in this tree!”

Buffalo is so excited!
Party re-do… All invited!

 

#10 –  Guess Who?

Who made their bed and fed the cat?
Almost.

Who cleaned up when the milk went splat?
Well, close.

Who carried out the trash with care?
Oops, whoa!

Who fixed the baby’s messy hair?
Oh no.

Who put a drawing at your place?
Rub, scrub.

Who found a flower for your favorite vase?
Mop slop.

Who saved a foil wrapped chocolate kiss?
Yum, yum.

And set it where you couldn’t miss?
“Dear Mum”

I guess you figured out it’s me.

I’m guilty, as no doubt, you see.

I tried to think of something good

but it didn’t turn out quite as it should. 

My valentine surprise is done.

With hugs and kisses from your son.

 

#11 – Heart Socks For The Win

Alex clutched her rainbow wallet. Inside the dollar store, she headed for the clothing aisle.

Her eyes widened. Perfect! Just what she wanted for the Valentine’s party. She gazed at the socks with rainbow-colored hearts. Her own heart raced.

A smaller girl stopped beside her. Through thick glasses, she peered at the heart socks. “Ooh! I’m gonna ask Grandma to buy them with my birthday dollar.” Alex heard the girl’s loose shoes slapping away.

“I saw them first!” Alex grabbed the socks, pressing them to her body. Head down, she marched to the check-out. The clerk gave her change from her $10. Alex barely mumbled “Thank you.”

On Valentine’s Day, she shoved the socks in her backpack. “I’ll put them on later,” she thought.

At school, the gym was open. A little girl with glasses cartwheeled in circles. Alex’s guilty heart did a somersault. She knew what she must do.

Walking quickly to the shoes lining the wall, she knelt and set a heart sock in each of two old sneakers.

Without the socks, the party was just okay. But Alex’s heart soared when she ran to the bus. On a playground swing, a pair of little legs covered in hearts the color of the rainbow flew high.

 

#12 – Love Bug At The Zoo

I’m know I’m just small, but I must confess,
I am the love bug who caused this huge mess.
I shouldn’t have gone out on Valentine’s Day,
I infected the zoo, I got carried away.
I’m sorry my nibbles caused such a commotion
My bites are much stronger than any love potion.
Now Monkey is gaga and Parrot is squawking
“I love you, I love you…” she doesn’t quit talking.
Poor Panda is spellbound, and Seal is lovesick,
and Frog is enamored with bright red lipstick.
The meercats are staring, with googley-eyes,
at Penguin, who suddenly really loves fries.
Giraffe has gone ape, and Ape is obsessed,
he keeps blowing kisses and pounding his chest.
Lion’s in love, and Emu is entranced
by Flamingo’s new fondness for ballroom style dance.
Bear is bewitched, and so is Baboon.
Zebra saw Peacock and started to swoon.
Peacock keeps prancing to get Snakes attention
But Snake has been charmed, and there’s more I won’t mention.
The bites will wear off, they’ll be fine before morning,
But watch out for love bugs, we strike without warning!

Wow!  Those were impressive, weren’t they?  Good luck picking! 🙂

Please vote for your favorite in the poll below by Wednesday February 27 at 12 PM (noon) Eastern time.

Tune in Thursday February 28 to see THE WINNERS!!!

Thank you all so much for taking the time to write (if you did), read, and vote!  These contests simply wouldn’t be what they are without all of you!

I can’t wait to see who the winners will be!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to lie on the couch, wrap a hot towel around my head, and get a nap 🙂 after all that reading and agonizing and negotiating.

Okay.

Not really.

I will actually be taking my dad’s car to get a recalled part replaced and frantically trying to catch up on things I shoved to the back burner whilst reading Valentiny stories in the dealership waiting room where they will hopefully have a Keurig!

Have a wonderful Sunday everyone!!! . . . now that it’s basically Monday 🙂

Oh, Guilty Heart! – The 4th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest!

Roses are red

Violets are blue

Valentinies rock

And so do YOU!

Hang onto your chocolate everyone!  It’s time for . . .

The 4th Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest!!!

valentiny writing contest 2019!

~ 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 guilty!  Your someone can feel guilty themselves or make someone else feel guilty.  They may feel guilty for good reason, or just because they think they should!  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 guilty (can be the main character but doesn’t have to be) and is 214 words (get it? 2/14 for Valentines Day 🙂  You can go under the word count but not over! (Title is not included in the word count.)  If you are so inclined, you are welcome to enter more than one entry – just remember you’ll be competing against yourself 🙂  No illustration notes please!

Post your story on your blog between right now this very second and tomorrow Thursday February 14th by 11:59 PM EDT and add your post-specific link to the list below.  There will be no Would You Read It or PPBF for the duration of the contest so this post and the list of links will stay up all week for everyone to enjoy. If you would like to enter but don’t have a blog you are welcome to paste your entry in the comment section below (please be sure to include your byline so that if your posting handle is writesbynightlight1 or something I’ll be able to tell who you are!)  If anyone has trouble commenting, which unfortunately happens, please email your entry to me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com and I’ll post your entry for you. But please don’t send attachments!  Just copy and paste your story including byline into the email.  Also, please only post your entry once – either in the comment section of my blog or on the link list or by emailing me and asking me to post it.  Multiple postings of the same entry get confusing. 🙂
P.S.  Although I try to stay glued to my computer 24/7 I am sometimes forced to leave my desk.  If you haven’t commented on my blog before, your comment won’t show up until I approve it.  It may take a little while if I’m away from my desk.  Likewise, if you send me an entry to post, I promise I will do it as soon as I can!

The Judging: over the next several days, my lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to 6-10 top choices depending on number and quality of entries (hee hee hee – you know how much trouble I have with the narrowing, so we’ll see) which will be posted here and voted on for a winner on Wednesday February 20th (or possibly a day or two later if the judges need extra time.)   The winner will be announced Friday February 22nd or Saturday February 23rd 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 guilt and success in making us feel the guilt!
  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.
  6. Originality – surprise us with something new and different! 🙂

The Prizes:  Oh, the awesomeness!  Such great prizes to motivate you!  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!

Now.

The time has come for my sample.

It could have really benefited from the 65 words I had to cut out of it to make the 214 word limit! I’m warning you now – have some chocolate handy to help ease the pain of reading it 🙂

Valentine Fair and Square (214 words)

Flora and Miles liked all the same things.

Climbing trees.

Fishing.

Baseball.

And peanut butter ice cream with marshmallow sauce.

Unfortunately, Miles didn’t know Flora existed.

But Flora had a plan.

For days she toiled, making the Best Valentine Ever.

Valentines morning, she put her valentine on Miles’s desk.

Miles would notice her now!

But then Isabella put hers on top!

It was HUGE.

It was FANCY.

It came with a whole box of candy.

DISASTER!

There was only one thing to do.

When Isabella wasn’t looking, Flora grabbed the huge, fancy, pink valentine and hid it behind the bookshelf.

During Attendance, Flora’s middle felt pinchy.

She hadn’t stolen it, she told herself.  She’d only moved it!

But during the Pledge, her heart felt twingy.

She so wanted Miles to like her. He had to like her valentine most!

But by Morning Announcements Flora’s thoughts were poking her in the brain.  Sharply.

Isabella probably worked as hard on her valentine as Flora had.

Flora flooded with guilt.

She didn’t want to hurt Isabella.

She didn’t want Miles to like her when she’d been deceitful.

So she put Isabella’s valentine back.

“Hey!” said Miles, holding up a valentine.  “This is the Best Valentine Ever!”

It wasn’t fancy pink.

It was a climbing-tree-fishing-peanut-butter-cup-and-mini-marshmallow-covered baseball-glove heart.

Flora’s.

Alrighty then!

I feel GUILTY for writing such drivel 🙂  But surely you are all feeling a surge of confidence, emboldened to share your stories, now that I have posted this travesty for all the world to see!  Never let it be said that I’m not willing to make a fool of myself for you, my friends!  🙂

I can’t wait to read all of yours!  I’m SO looking forward to them!  I hope there will be LOTS – the more the merrier!  And you still have until midnight tomorrow to write, so you have time 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!!!

So!

Contest Entrants, remember to add your post-specific link to the list below so we can all come read your awesome stories!  (Post-specific means not your main blog url, but the actual url of the post that has your story in it – otherwise if you post again before the contest ends, your link will take readers… and judges!… to the wrong place!)  Please allow a few minutes and possibly refresh your browser before deciding that your link hasn’t posted and adding it a second time or emailing it to me.

Eager Readers – click on the links in the list to visit the blogs and read the stories.  And be sure to read the 92 fabulous entries posted in the comment section below!!!

Happy Valentines Week, Everyone! ❤

Scroll through the comments to find these wonderful stories!

  1. Valentine’s Day Confession – Juli
  2. Prince Froggie Went A’ Courtin’ – Sherry
  3. Valentine’s Remorsel – Joel
  4. Sophie Builds A Bridge – Corine
  5. Charity’s Chocolate Bath – Johanna
  6. Candy Hearts – Glenda
  7. Cupid’s Valentine Scrabble – Jill
  8. Momo On Valentine’s Day – Shariffa
  9. A Valentine’s Party At School – Anneberly
  10. Secret Mission Valentine – Ramona
  11. It Wasn’t Me! – Susan
  12. The Little Piggies Celebrate Valentines Day – Sarah
  13. Messy Valentines – Sarah
  14. Wilfred’s Valentine’s Day – Cheryl
  15. A Box Full Of Love – Anne
  16. No Sweethearts – Marcia
  17. The Missing Pupcake – Jill
  18. Cupid And Bob – Jessica
  19. The Important Pink Washcloth – Marcia
  20. Valentine’s Day Smiles – Katie
  21. A Penny For His Thoughts – Charlene
  22. The Girl With The Dragon Choo-Choo – Anne
  23. Where Does Love Go? – Aixa
  24. The Sucker – Megan
  25. I Was Wrong – Nina
  26. Alex & Apple Solve The Case – Nicole
  27. Tamu, The Thieving Cat (Paka Mwizi)! – Ketan
  28. Late Night Snack – Mary
  29. A Way With Words – Susan
  30. A Spiny Valentiny – Rachel
  31. Love Bug At The Zoo – Chambrae
  32. Stan’s First Valentine’s Day – Jessica
  33. Tom’s Dad – ???
  34. The Lovebird’s Valentiny Ball – Barbara
  35. Love LOVES Love – Rebecca
  36. Sasquatch: In Search Of A Valentine – Mary
  37. The Case Of The Missing Valentine’s Candy – Sherry
  38. My Muddy Valentine – Jennifer
  39. Sometimes To Always – Jan
  40. The Heart-Shaped Balloon – Amy
  41. Tater Tot Tilly’s Valentine Treat – Kim
  42. No Ordinary Thursday – Emma
  43. Alma’s GREEN Valentine – Amy
  44. Ahava’s School Valentine Surprise – Amy
  45. An ImPURRfect Valentine Surprise – Deborah
  46. Last Valentine’s – Tonya
  47. Vivi’s Heart – Pai
  48. A Valentine For Papa – Keely
  49. A Valentine Party To Remember – Judy
  50. A Valentine For Prince Donald – Jim
  51. Tiny Crush – Amy
  52. The Valentine’s Day Mess & Cure – Joyce
  53. Hillary’s Heart – Deborah
  54. The Perfect Valentine – Susie
  55. Change Of Heart – Jeannine
  56. The Presents – Kirsten
  57. Teacher Valentine – Rosemary
  58. Happy Valentine’s Day To Everyone – Michele
  59. Conversation Smarts – Lauren
  60. Twenty Chocolate Kisses – Patricia
  61. A Little Heart – Lynn
  62. Guess Who? – Marty
  63. Big Sister For The Day – Alison
  64. Puneet’s Valentine Birthday – Johannah
  65. Ella And Emma And The Valentine Verdict – Cindy
  66. A Valentine For Valentina – Lara
  67. The (Not So) Great Revenge – Darcee
  68. The Glass Heart – Gabriella
  69. All Wrapped Up – Mia
  70. A Valentine’s Day Breakfast “Trip” – Susan
  71. Raisins Or Frosting – Ashely
  72. Buffa-lonely Love Day – Jennifer
  73. Bookworm’s Valentine – Dee
  74. The Saga Of Cupid – Linda
  75. Celebrate Every Day With A Poem – Kathy
  76. Puppies Can’t Eat Chocolate – Jan
  77. Something Special – Deb
  78. Spoon In Hand – DL
  79. The Unkeepable Promise – Juliana
  80. Guilty As Charged – Michelle
  81. Valentines For All – Marjorie
  82. Mom’s Valentine – Scott
  83. How It All Began – Linda
  84. The Coconut Covered Chocolates – Carmen
  85. Valentine Dilemma – Ranessa
  86. Who Will Be Mine? – Susie
  87. Blue Whale’s Big Heart – Susan
  88. Chadwick The Zombie Cooks Up A Valentine – Katrina
  89. Noses Are Red – JC
  90. The Tattle Tale – Karen
  91. An Extra Special Valentine – Margaret
  92. Operation Chocolate Hearts – Lucretia

What’s Short And Sweet And Read All Over?

I know!

It’s Sunday evening!

You’ve spent the afternoon baking princess cookies and building the world’s most awesome train track around the entire living room with the littles and now it’s time for pajamas and bed!

What on earth am I doing bugging you at this hour?!

Well, I’ll tell you 🙂

I’m trying to give you enough time to cogitate and write! 🙂

Three years ago, a bunch of folks asked for a contest to cheer them out of the winter doldrums!

The result?

The First Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest!

(Valentiny because, like the Halloweensie Contest, it’s not very long and it’s for little people 🙂 )

We had so much fun that we went ahead with the 2nd and 3rd Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contests and now it’s kind of a tradition!  I mean, no one wants to get bested by a doldrum 🙂

So here we are!  The reason I’m interrupting your Sunday!

Announcing . . .

The 4th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest!!!

 

valentiny writing contest 2019!

~ 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 guilty!  Your someone can feel guilty themselves or make someone else feel guilty.  They may feel guilty for good reason, or just because they think they should!  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 guilty (can be the main character but doesn’t have to be) and is 214 words (get it? 2/14 for Valentines Day 🙂  You can go under the word count but not over! (Title is not included in the word count.)  If you are so inclined, you are welcome to enter more than one entry – just remember you’ll be competing against yourself 🙂  No illustration notes please!

Post your story on your blog between 12:00 AM EDT Wednesday February 13th and Thursday February 14th by 11:59 PM EDT and add your post-specific link to the list that will accompany my February 13th post.  There will be no Would You Read It that week, and no PPBF, so the post and the list of links will stay up all week for everyone to enjoy.  If you don’t have a blog and would like to enter, you can simply copy and paste your entry in the comments section of that post once it’s up. (Or, if you have difficulty with the comments, which unfortunately sometimes happens, you may email your entry to me and I’ll post it for you! Please copy and paste your entry into the body of the email – no attachments! And please do not submit emailed entries until the contest begins on Feb. 13!)  Please only post your entry ONCE! Either on your blog and the associated link list, or in the comment section of my post!  Otherwise it gets confusing 🙂

The Judging: over the next several days, my lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to 6-10 top choices depending on number and quality of entries (hee hee hee – you know how much trouble I have with the narrowing, so we’ll see) which will be posted here and voted on for a winner on Wednesday February 20th (or possibly a day or two later if the judges need extra time.)   The winner will be announced Friday February 22nd or Saturday February 23rd depending on judging and voting time needed. (And there will be no WYRI or PPBF that week either so that everyone will have time to read and vote and so that we don’t confuse PPBF with announcing winners.)  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 guilt and success in making us feel the guilt!
  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.
  6. Originality – surprise us with something new and different! 🙂

The Prizes:  As usual I’m still working on prizes.  If anyone has anything fabulous to offer, drop me an email 🙂  But meanwhile, here are some of the awesome prizes just waiting to be won!

“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.

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

…and more good stuff coming!

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!

Now then!  Aren’t you feeling inspired to write the best Valentiny Story you can so you can win one of these awesome prizes?

Get a nice cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows and whipped cream (fuel, people, your brain needs fuel to write and chocolate is the best!), bring it over to your comfiest writing spot, settle in with some kind of writing implement and a cozy throw to keep you warm, and rev those writing engines!

Ready, set, WRITE!

I so look forward to reading your stories in a couple weeks!!! 🙂

2018 Holiday Contest WINNERS!!!

So darlings, it’s Wednesday, and you know what that means, right?

 

Yes!

 

It means that today is the day…

 

…for us to FINALLY find out…

 

…the thing that kept us up all night in anticipation…

 

…what our reindeer names are!

According to the Elf On The Shelf Site (a character I confess I find a bit creepy and don’t really get!) my reindeer name is Cocoa Wonderland.

I don’t know about you, but that seems like a bit of a mouthful to me…

On Dasher, on Dancer,
On Prancer and Vixen,
On Comet, on Cocoa Wonderland,
On Donner and Blitzen…

I don’t know…

When in doubt, try another site! So I took the MagiQuiz… and now my name is Mistletoe!

Pretty, but…

Since I’m a writer, and here in the land of writers we love the Rule Of Three, I thought I’d better check one more option… and there I struck gold, the best of the best, the cream of the crop, the pick of the litter, my True Reindeer Name (which I might have to give to my car after Christmas 🙂 )

Are you ready?

(I am not making this up…!)

My reindeer name is…

 

…wait for it…

 

Salla Shinyhooves The Speeder!

 

Really!  That’s what it is!

Okay.  Technically even longer than Cocoa Wonderland, but I can’t resist 🙂

Let’s try it out!

On Dasher, on Dancer,
On Prancer and Vixen,
On Comet, on Cupid,
On Donner and Salla Shinyhooves The Speeder!

*** moment of appreciative silence***

I just don’t think it gets any better than that 🙂

I wonder what YOUR reindeer names are…???!!! 🙂

But okay, okay.  Enough reindeer games.  You may all address me as Salla Shinyhooves The Speeder from now until Christmas (don’t even think about nicknaming it down to Salla or Shiny or Speedy!) and we will devote ourselves to the business at hand…

Hot chocolate…

…and…

…the wrap up of…

THE 8TH ANNUAL HOLIDAY CONTEST!!!

Super Santa.png

~for children’s writers~

 

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

But as you well know by now, with large entry numbers, all of high quality, come hard choices.  My assistant judges and I worked hard to winnow the total down to a manageable number of finalists that we felt were truly all-around deserving of that distinction, and those were the ones we presented to you on (yes it was still even if barely) Saturday 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.

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!)

Teresa Traver for Ten Chocolate Coins (an entry we loved for the writing and kid-friendliness)

Judy Sobanski for Ozzie Owl To The Rescue (an entertaining, well-written rhyme with some great lines – “directional expertise”, “Santa switching to cruise control”, and “To OWL a great night!” 🙂 )

Angela Hawkins for Burro’s Christmas Wish (a well-written story with a great twist ending!)

Sue Heavenrich for Moose Is A Hero! (how can you not love a moose with X-ray goggles and a decoder ring determined to be a hero even if others say he can’t be?!)

Lisa Lee Furness for Come Back, Santa (wonderfully relatable kid character, plenty of humor – loved those reindeer names 🙂 – and heart!)

Barbara Gruener for A Recipe For Hope (a tale of true heroism, kindness, and Christmas spirit beautifully written for kids)

Liz Tipping for Happy Rose For Christmas (a beautifully written story about one child noticing and caring about the need of another)

Johanna Speizer for The 12 Days Of Christmas With Noni (a lovely twist on Secret Santas)

 

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

Stacy Jensen for Penguin’s Quest For Answers: Saves Christmas (which could also have been in a category for Favorite Character – Penguin is something else! We loved this one, Stacy 🙂 )

Stuart Carruthers for How I Saved Christmas Dinner (believable, imaginative kid character and there’s a dragon involved – what kid wouldn’t love that?! 🙂 )

 

3. For Excellence In Representing A Different Holiday Tradition:

Mary Ann Cortez for The Burro’s Blanket(finally a story about Las Posadas! 🙂 )

 

4. For Beautifully Written Spiritual Story:

Michelle Kennedy for The Christmas Prayer (such a lovely expression of what the world needs, and beautiful last line: “Whatever you do, let love be the reason.”)

 

5. For Best Entry Based On A True Story:

Matthew Lasley for Delivery (we loved that this actually happened and could imagine it as a picture book with a little more detail and emotional resonance than 250 words allowed for!)

 

6. For Best, Most Original Setting:

Shariffa Keshavjee for Momo The Xmas Hero (set in Nairobi, Kenya, with a wonderful folk tale feel to the writing)

 

 

7.  For Humor Funnier For Grown-ups But Well-Written And Enjoyable!

Darcee A. Freier for The Cookie Defenders

Julie Abery for The Holiday Show

(both of which were delightful and oh-so-believable! but for which we felt adults would be more amused by the humor than kids would)

 

8. For Incredibly Original And Different (but the math vocab was a little over our heads 🙂 ):

Mishka Jaeger for Christmas-Shaped

 

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 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…

2019 Pocket Calendar (Kittens) OR

2019 Pocket Calendar (Puppies) OR

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 HOLIDAY CONTEST as voted on by you, our esteemed readers!!!

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

DDDRRRUUUMMM RRROOOLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!

In First Place

Winner of the whole shebang…

who gets first choice of all the prizes…

John McGranaghan
for

Christmas In The Park!!!

Congratulations, John, on a beautifully written, poignant entry with carefully chosen details and a lovely message that clearly struck an emotional chord with a LOT of readers!!! 🙂

In Second Place

Jennifer Broedel
for
Nippynose Flu

Congratulations, Jennifer, on an entry we loved for its fun story, rollicking rhyme, clever solution to a knotty (I just can’t say snotty 🙂 ) problem, and chicken soup with snowballs!    Apparently you’re a writer to watch – 2nd in last year’s Holiday Contest, 1st in this year’s Halloweensie Contest, and now 2nd again in the Holiday Contest!  You get to pick your prize after John.

In Third Place

Jill Lambert
for

Christmas Scent-sation

Congratulations, Jill, on a delightfully fun, kid-friendly entry in wonderful rhyme!  How can you not love firefighters and Stan the wildlife control guy saving toys for tots from a skunk soaking? 🙂  You get to pick your prize after John and Jennifer.

In Fourth Place… a TIE!!! between

Patricia Nozell             and            Jenna Waldman
for                                                 for
Hester Saves Christmas                   Larry’s Latkes

Congratulations, Patricia, on a most entertaining and humorous entry about determination and working hard to achieve your goals – hurray for Hester the cow!  And congratulations, Jenna, on a most original story – latke-eating gators – who’d have thought?! – in perfect rhyme with fabulous language!  You two get to pick your prizes after John, Jennifer, and Jill!  I guess we may have to negotiate a little…

 

In Sixth Place

Nicole Loos Miller
for

Alex & Apple

Congratulations, Nicole!  We loved the whole “Santa stakeout/witnessing of a crime!” and Alex’s MacGyver-like ability to make use of things to hand to save the day!  You get to pick after John, Jennifer, Jill, Patricia, and Jenna!

In Seventh Place…

Vivian Kirkfield
for
A New York Hero

Congratulations, Vivian!  We loved the authentic historical immigrant-new-to-New York feel of your story, the coziness of Rachel’s store, the believability of a child suffering stares and glares and wrinkled noses, and the heroism of offering help even after being treated unkindly! I’m sure you get the idea of how the prize picking goes by now 🙂

In Eighth Place…

Beverly Warren
for
A Special Nest

Congratulations, Bev!  We loved your original and very accessible take on the baby in the manger, your earnest, formal yet affectionate Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow who worked so hard to accomplish their important task, and the tiny sprinkling of humor woven in.  You get to pick after Vivian 🙂

In Ninth Place… ANOTHER TIE!!! between

Laura Bower             and            Connie Bergstein Dow
for                                                     for
The Christmas Pick-Up                     Sparkle The Snowflake

Congratulations, Laura, on your big-hearted, helpful truck entry, and to you, Connie, on your beautifully written dance of the snowflakes that made us long for a white Christmas!  You two get to pick after Beverly :). And again, we may need to negotiate a little…

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

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

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

As I… hmm… maybe didn’t mention…? but seem to do every year so you’re probably not surprised, I’m taking a little blogging break so I can spend time with my family – I’ve got children to fetch, cookies to bake, Christmas presents to shop for and wrap, and my sister and her family just arrived from Georgia! 🙂   And, I’ve been so busy I haven’t put up my holiday decorations or gotten a tree yet, can you believe it?!  So I will see you all in a couple weeks – most probably the first week of January 🙂

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

Looking forward to all the things we’ll do in 2019!

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

Screen Shot 2017-12-18 at 4.46.14 PM

 

The Prizes!:

Magic Happens When You Make Every Word Count Writing Mentorship with Author Vivian Kirkfield!

Vivian will:
1. Read through your body of work (3-5 PB mss)
2. Skype chat with you to discuss your dream/vision/direction and her general thoughts about your work.
3. Help you choose which manuscript to move forward with/work on with her.
4. Critique that ms and then set up a Skype chat to go over it.
5. Help craft a cover letter and pitch for your ms which will then serve as a template for you as you move forward with your other work.

This is a truly amazing opportunity to work one-on-one with a talented author and critiquer to get you submission-ready for an editor or agent!

Screen Shot 2018-12-05 at 10.39.16 PM

Vivian Kirkfield

Writer for children – reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. She’s got a bucket list that contains many more than five words – but she’s already ticked off skydiving, parasailing and banana-boat riding. When she is not looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books that she hopes will encourage young kids to become lovers of books and reading. She is the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate(Holiday House, Feb 2019); Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book(PomegranateKids, March 2019); Sweet Dreams, Sarah(Creston Books, May 2019); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books, Spring 2020); From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall 2020). You can visit Vivian on her website, Picture Books Help Kids Soar, where she hosts the #50PreciousWords Writing Challenge every March. Or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter,Pinterest,Instagram, Linkedin, and just about anywhere people are playing with picture books.

cover on amazon   four otters cover amazon   sweet-dreams-new-on-amazon

A Rhyming Picture Book Manuscript Critique by prolific author Diana Murray!

diana-murray  One Snowy Day

A Non-Rhyming Picture Book Manuscript Critique by talented author Amy Dixon!

amy-dixon  Maurice

A 2-Pack of Personalized, Signed Picture Books by Tara LuebbeI Am Famous and Shark Nate-O

Tara Luebbe Shark Nate-O I Am Famous

a spot in my online picture book writing class Making Picture Book Magic (in any month mutually agreed upon by the winner and me)

MPBM

Children’s Writer’s And Illustrator’s Market 2019 – by Robert Lee Brewer AND a $25 Amazon Gift Card (2 available)

Children's Writer's Guide 2019

– Yes You Can Learn How To Write Beginning Readers And Chapter Books – by Nancy I. Sanders AND a $25 Amazon Gift Card
nancy sanders 2
laura salas educational market
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, Amazon, B&N or anywhere else if you like them, or supporting them in any other way you can dream up 🙂

The 2018 Holiday Contest FINALISTS!!!

So, a little over three weeks ago the person who runs this popsicle stand was ruminating on possible themes for the Holiday Contest.

She consulted her fellow judges.

They mulled over mischief, magic, misunderstandings, miracles, mayhem, and more.

And then somebody (who shall be nameless!) (Judge #2!) suggested heroes!

“Great idea!” the rest of the knuckleheads agreed.

And so Holiday Heroes it was!

Now I ask you.

What the flingin’-flangin’-fiction-factory were we thinking???!!!

Fast forward through three days of fabulous authors posting fantastic entries – each one better than the last – to The Moment Of Judgment!

And what happened during The Moment of Judgment?

Which was supposed to take a couple days?

And be completely finished by Thursday evening so the finalists could be posted on Friday?

Well, I’ll tell you…

Judge #1 said a hero was someone who was admired for achievements and noble qualities.  Judge #2 said, well, yes, but also a hero was an illustrious warrior or at least had to show great courage.  Judge #3 said, well, yes, but just plain kindness could count as heroism even if it didn’t accomplish much or require a great deal of courage because on its own it is noble. Judge #1 and Judge #2 said kindness alone wasn’t necessarily heroism.  After some discussion, Judge #2 and Judge #3 agreed that some level of courage ought to be involved because that makes everything more heroic.  To which Judge #1 countered that courage means different things to different people, as does heroism…

I’m sure you see where I’m going with this…

Hence, many days, Many pots of coffee and MANY pounds of chocolate later, we have agreed on one thing: we were nuts to pick heroism! 🙂

After much impassioned arguing civilized discussion (which included hardly any injuries  and a bare minimum of bandages, splints, antibiotic ointment, sterile cotton, and tetanus boosters) we have arrived at 10 finalists.

No problem. At all! 🙂

We did the best we could to choose stories that showed true heroism, and were kid-friendly and well-written.

Narrowing the field to 10 was excruciatingly difficult.  We could SO easily have posted an additional 10… and even then there would have been a whole bunch of others we would have wanted to include as well!

You guys write great stories.

But 10 it is.  We have 10 prizes, and 10 seemed like the most number it was fair to ask you to read and vote on. So there you have it!

So, just quickly, before I post the actual finalists I want to say three things:

First, 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 many!

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 reiterate 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.  So if yours didn’t make the final cut please don’t feel bad.  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 100 words if you like and maybe submit at some point to a magazine or as a PB manuscript.  A lot of people have successfully done that at this point – we have quite a few books in the world that were born in Halloweensie, Holiday, or Valentiny Contests, plus a chapter book series that came out of the Fractured Fairy Tale Contest one spring!  So bravo to everyone who entered!

You will recall the judging criteria:

1. Kid-appeal! – These stories are intended for a young audience, so entries that were well-written but lacked child-friendliness did not make the cut.  Same for entries where the appeal, humorous or otherwise, seemed more directed toward adult readers than children.

2.  Holiday Heroism! – the rules stated a Holiday Hero story, so entries that failed to mention anything Holiday (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, etc.) or that did not contain a true hero/act of heroism did not make the cut even if they were well-written.

3. Quality of story – the rules stated that entries were to tell a story, so if they appeared to be more of a description or mood piece, they didn’t make the cut.  We looked for a character and a true story arc.

4. Quality of Writing: we took note of spelling, grammar, punctuation etc.  In addition, for the rhymers, we looked at rhyme and meter (for which we are sticklers!)  We also looked at overall writing quality and use of language.

5. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.

 

As I said above, you all did a stellar job – there were no bad stories.  But we had to pick the 10 we thought were the all-around best on all 5 counts listed.

So, without further ado, I present to you the 2018 Holiday Contest Finalists.  A mix of poetry and prose, stories for younger readers and slightly older (but still kid) readers, funny, poignant, and cute.  Please read through them carefully, take your time, think it over, and vote for your favorite.  To help with objectivity, finalists are listed by title only, not by author.

And I’d like to be very clear about the voting process.  You are MOST welcome to share a link to this post on FB, twitter, or wherever you like to hang out, and encourage people to come read ALL the finalists and vote for the one they think is best.  Please do that.  The more people who read and enjoy these stories the better, and the more objective votes we get the better.  HOWEVER (and I want to be very clear on this) please do not identify yourself as a finalist on social media, please do not ask people to vote for a specific number or title, and please do not ask people to vote for the story about the sumo wrestling reindeer to the rescue or whatever.  Trolling for votes or trying to influence the outcome is counter to the spirit of this competition which is supposed to be based on merit.  I thank you in advance for respecting this.

So here we go!

#1 –  CHRISTMAS IN THE PARK

Momma says, “It’s time to go.”

But I don’t want to go.
The park is cold.

“Time to go,” says Daddy.

I want to stay home
and make my Christmas list.

“People are waiting,” says Daddy.

I grab my coat,
cross my arms,
and sit in the back seat.

The food trays are warm.
They smell yummy.

The city lights shine bright.
But the park is dark.

It is supper time.
People start to gather.

I grab a big spoon,
and start serving.
They thank me.

Momma tells me to say,
“You’re welcome. Enjoy the meal.”

Millie squeezes my cheeks.
Her hands are scratchy,
not soft like Momma’s.

Momma and I bring food
to the lady in the bushes.
Her hair is messy.
She does not talk,
but she takes the food.

Abraham tells Daddy
the library won’t let him
take out any books.
He has no address.

Jimmy tells me
he sleeps under the stars
like a cowboy.
But it’s not like the movies.

I play checkers with Patrick.
He promises to
teach me how to play chess.

Will pulls out a
crumpled copybook.
He reads his poems.

When I ask why we come,
Daddy says,
“It’s good to help people.”

Momma says,
“People helped us.”

It is time to go.
I wave good bye.

On the way home
I start my Christmas List.

Millie – hand lotion
Lady in the bushes – hair brush
Abraham – books
Jimmy – tent
Patrick – chessboard
Will – notebook.

 

#2 – THE CHRISTMAS PICK-UP

With a sack full of gifts and some fresh fallen snow,
Santa started his journey with “Ho, Ho, Ho, Ho!”
The sleigh chugged along like a train on a track.
It was all going smoothly until he heard CRACK!
Underneath the soft snow was a pond filled with ice.
Santa grabbed for his list (both the naughty and nice).
He wrangled his sack and held all the toys tight,
and the nine deer pulled hard, using all of their might.
But the sleigh wouldn’t budge. It was sunken and stuck.
Just then, through the woods, came an old pick-up truck.
“Hi Santa, I’m Rusty. I heard your deer yelp.
I see you’re in trouble, so I’m here to help!”
Rusty revved up his engine. His wheels found their groove.
Then he heard Santa shout, “The sleigh’s starting to move!”
CRICK, CRACK went the ice. But with one final push,
Santa’s sleigh was on track with a SWOOSH and a WHOOSH!
There was no time to stop. He flew high in the sky,
and shouted to Rusty with twinkling eyes,
“You saved Christmas for all of the good girls and boys.
Thanks to you they’ll be getting their trinkets and toys.”
Rusty woke Christmas morning and found a wrapped gift,
with a note from the big guy, “Thank you for the lift.”
What came on the next line made him start to tear,
“I’ll pay you a visit the same time next year.”

 

#3 – ALEX & APPLE SAVE CHRISTMAS

Alex watched in wide-eyed horror as Papa ate the cookie meant for Santa before heading to bed. 

Ducking back behind the couch, Alex lamented that the Santa-stakeout had instead led to witnessing a crime! And now, it was up to Alex to replace the cookie before Santa arrived and decided the Yusef family belonged on the Naughty List! 

Alex groaned. Apple, feline best friend extraordinaire, meowed in sympathy. 

Where to get a cookie now? The whole family had come over earlier in the day to bake and decorate but everyone had taken cookies home! The cookie left out for Santa was the last one in the whole apartment. 

Alex took a deep breath. “No time for pity parties.” Apple twitched her tail in agreement. 

Alex and Apple padded ever so quietly into the kitchen, picked the least-squeaky chair and stealthily pushed it to the kitchen counter. They took stock of their supplies:
– Open tub of white frosting
– 1 slightly burnt gingerbread woman (behind the coffee maker)
– 3 Graham crackers
– 4 Cinnamon candies

Alex looked at Apple. Apple looked at Alex. Oh yes, they could save Christmas. 

“Oh Alex,” sighed Mama, waking Alex with a start. “Did you sleep behind the couch all night?”

Without answering, Alex and Apple rushed to the tree. Their Christmas-race-car (with cinnamon wheels and a slightly burnt driver) had a large bite taken out of it and a note laying next to it. 

The most creative treat I’ve enjoyed all night. Nice save. Love, Santa

 

#4 – A CHRISTMAS SCENT-SATION

Two weeks before Christmas,
way out in the shed,
presents were stockpiled
and wrapped, green and red.

Behind the brick firehouse
was joy, guaranteed,
collected each Christmas
for families in need.

The firefighters planned
to deliver the gifts
the very next day
when they finished their shifts.

Then what did their
sensitive noses detect,
but a strong scent of skunk–
all the gifts had been wrecked!

A skunk made his burrow
out under the shed,
then an unwelcome
possum crawled in it instead.

Well, what would you think
that striped stinker should do?
He blasted the possum
with skunk musk—P-U!

And of course all the presents
soaked up the foul odor
as it seeped through the floorboards–
that furry exploder!

Now what could be done
to remove the aroma,
without putting everyone
into a coma? 

“I’ll call my friend, Stan,”
the chief told the crew,
“He’s in wildlife control,
so he’ll know what to do.”

Stan was there in a flash
in his van full of tricks,
“I’ll fill up my fogger
with a mystery mix.

It’s my favorite concoction
for skunk residue.”
Then he put on a gas mask,
his coveralls, too.

Stan fogged and he fumed
till the stink disappeared.
They delivered the packages,
all the kids cheered:

“Hooray for old Stan,
he’s a Christmas scent-sation!
He rescued our presents
from contamination!”

And they heard the skunk mumble
as he slunk out of sight,
“Guess I’ll find a new burrow.
Merry Christmas! Good night!”

 

#5 – HESTER SAVES CHRISTMAS

Hester loved jingling bells, the scent of sparkling pine trees, and the promise of present-filled stockings hung by Farmer O’Neill’s chimney. She especially loved stories of Santa and his reindeer.

“Mama, can I can pull Santa’s sleigh next year?” Hester asked.

“Flying reindeer pull Santa’s sleigh, Hester. And everyone knows Highland Cows can’t fly.”

But I can dream, thought Hester. And practice.

She hopped over heather and thistles.

“Ouch!”

She jumped across rocky streams…almost.

            SPLASH!

She trotted uphill, leapt, and…

tumbled down a steep slope.

            Moooo…

Hester kept trying…

and trying…

and trying…

but not quite succeeding.

As Christmas drew near, Hester turned her nose from pine trees and looked away from the chimney. She hung her shaggy head. Large tears fell, freezing like a glistening beard.

“A blizzard,” sighed Farmer O’Neill on Christmas Eve. “No presents tomorrow. Santa’s reindeer can’t fly through this mess. Into the barn, girls.”

All but one shuffled into the warm barn.

Hester trudged through deep snowdrifts. She shivered in the blustery wind and slipped on icy paths until…

She heard a faint jingle-jingle. She scrambled and spied…

Santa in his sleigh with eight grounded reindeer stuck in a snow pile.

Hester pulled, tugged and led the reindeer, sleigh and Santa along the snowy trail.

The next morning, presents filled stockings.  Laughter rang like jingling bells across the farm.

“Merry Christmas, Hester,” Farmer O’Neill said.  “Wake up! Somehow Santa came!”

Hester yawned and wondered,

Can a cow hide Easter eggs?

 

#6 – NIPPYNOSE FLU

The night before Christmas, with no time to spare,
unparalleled storms spilled a chill in the air.

Amid all the bustle, two tinkering elves
coughed at each other and startled themselves.
The shivering, sneezes, and sniffles spread quick,
till every last elf in the workshop was sick.

The presents piled up, and the reindeer weren’t fed,
the list wasn’t checked, and the room filled with dread.
“Is everyone sick now? Is no one immune?
We need to do something, or get some help soon!”

Plain out of time, and with so much to do,
Christmas was threatened by Nippynose Flu!

“The snowmen can help us guys, all isn’t lost,”
said Tinselbelle, wiping her nose clean of frost.
As soon as the snowmen got wind of the fuss,
they hollered “Don’t worry, just leave it to us!
We snowmen enjoy a good frigid-frost chill,
we can’t catch a flu and we never get ill.”

So while all the elves were reclining in bed,
the snowmen saved Christmas, and worked in their stead.
Where elves had been chilly and starting to freeze,
the snowmen breezed through all the work with great ease.

They finished the wrapping and loaded the sleigh,
happy to help Santa off on his way.

To top it all off, they brought soup to the elves…
“We hope you enjoy it, we made it ourselves.
Our Nana’s own recipe: my, it tastes nice!
Chicken with snowballs, but we held the ice.”

 

#7 – A SPECIAL NEST

A distant donkey brayed. Mrs. Sparrow awakened. A silvery light flooded the stable.
How peculiar, she thought, and flew outside to find its source. A single star brightened the world below.
Two figures slowly picked their way along the stony path leading to the stable. Mrs. Sparrow flew near.
“Oh my!” she exclaimed, and raced home. “Wake up Mr. Sparrow. We must build a nest.”
“What?” he asked “Are you going to lay eggs?”
“No, Mr. Sparrow. Company is coming. The woman will soon give birth.”
“Where can we build a nest for an enormous egg?” he asked.
“Mr. Sparrow, people don’t lay eggs,” she said. “Quick, help me find a place for the nest.”
They circled the room. He went right, she went left, they collided and tumbled into an empty box.
Mrs. Sparrow chuckled. “The manger! It’s perfect. But where can we find clean straw?”
“I know,” chirped Mr. Sparrow. “The innkeeper put fresh hay behind the stable.”
The two birds gathered strips of hay and packed them snugly, until the silvery light was dimmed
by the couple’s shadowed form.
The man settled his wife beside the manger.
“Do you think it was enough hay, Mrs. Sparrow?”
A baby’s cry rang out in the room.
“Oh yes, Mr. Sparrow,” she answered.
The woman then wrapped her child in cloth and placed him in the manger. Exhausted, she lay down.
Her eyes caught the movement of two small birds huddled in the rafters above, and she smiled at them.

 

#8 – LARRY’S LATKES

 Big Larry ran a latke shop

for tater loving gators.

Hot pancakes, piled on paper plates,

were plopped down by the waiters.

 Applesauce and sour cream

made trails around the plate,

as gators licked their massive lips

with pleasure while they ate.

 Hanukkah was coming fast,

Big Larry’s busy season.

But this year’s business hit a snag,

for one disastrous reason…

 Spud supplies were running dry

from gator tater famine!

But gators need their latkes like

like a bagel needs smoked salmon.

Big Larry sat around his shop,

he moaned and groaned, “oi vey!”

“Our Hanukkah won’t be the same

if spuds don’t come our way.”

He vowed to find an answer fast,

and keep the gators fed!

Potatoes may have gone away,

 what else could work instead?

He tried a carrot pancake but,

it tasted far too sweet.

His hands turned pink, and stained the sink,

when he fried up a beet.

Zucchini was too boring and

the onions were a flop.

A yam, a pear, some camembert,

one more and then he’d stop!

The only thing that he had left:

A teeny tiny dud,

a little sad pathetic orb…

the last remaining spud!

But thinking of his patrons and

a Hanukkah disaster,

He made a dish that was delish,

a gator latke master!

The carrots, beets, zucchini, AND

some onions, yams AND pear.

The teeny, tiny tuber,

AND a dash of camembert!

“A miracle!” Big Larry cried,

“An absolute delight!

Chag sameach, everyone!”

The menorah shimmered bright.  

 

#9 – SPARKLE THE SNOWFLAKE

Everyone knows that no two snowflakes are alike, but Sparkle was extra special.  She shone and shimmered a little brighter than all of the other snowflakes that lived in her cluster of clouds.

Sparkle and her snowflake friends had an important job to do.  They were to fall to earth on Christmas Eve. They would cover the hills and trees, and especially the rooftops of the houses, so that Santa and his reindeer would leave their footprints on the rooftops for children to see on Christmas morning.

The snowflakes were busy the day before Christmas.  They carefully planned their journey from the clouds. They practiced floating and staying together so they could create a beautiful snowfall that evening.

Sparkle and all of the other snowflakes snuggled deep into the billowy clouds to get some rest before the busy night.  Soon, Sparkle woke up and looked around in alarm.  It was almost midnight!  “Wake up!” Sparkle called. Then she soared from cloud to cloud, making sure that every snowflake was ready.

Just in the nick of time, they slipped from the puffy clouds and began to twirl and dance in the chilly night air.  The snowflakes landed gently, and waited silently.  When the sun peeked over the hill, the snowflakes heard children laughing as they ran from their houses and saw the glistening snow.  Little did the children know that the snow that had greeted them this Christmas morning was all thanks to Sparkle, the shiny little snowflake.

 

#10 – A NEW YORK HERO

The sign flashed PIZZA/DELI. Christmas bells jingled as Rachel hurried inside. Shaking off snow, she slipped past cloth-covered tables. Warmed with the heat of a wood-fired oven, the room felt good, but Rachel wondered if this would ever feel like home.

Almost a year ago, Rachel and her family arrived in America. She was grateful to be in a safe place. But everything was different. She was different. Living over the store, Rachel always smelled like pastrami or salami or pepperoni pizza. Kids at school stared and glared and wrinkled their noses. Especially Mia, who lived over the laundromat next door. Mia smelled like flowers and sunshine and spring rain. Rachel sighed. Still, it was Christmas vacation – no stares or glares or wrinkling noses for a whole week.

That night, the wind howled and snow fell. In the morning, silence. Power was out all across the city. But the wood-fired oven burned merrily and Mama lit candles for each table. In the kitchen, Rachel layered pastrami and salami and thought about Mia. Without power, maybe Mia’s family would have no heat. Rachel remembered being cold.

“Can we invite Mia to eat with us?”

“Of course,” Mama replied. “Go ask.”

Soon, Mia and her family trooped in, stamping snow from their boots. Before long, everyone was biting into sandwiches piled high with meats and cheeses.

“Here in New York,” Rachel said, “this sandwich is called a hero.”

“Maybe,” Mia said as she moved closer. “But to me, you are a hero.”

 

Wow! Are your socks knocked off or what?! 🙂

Now that you’ve had a chance to read through the finalists, please vote for the entry you feel deserves to win in the poll below by 5PM EST Tuesday December 18.

 

 

Tune in Wednesday December 19 to see THE WINNERS!!!

Thank you all so much for taking the time to write (if you did), read, and vote!  These contests simply wouldn’t be what they are without all of you!

I can’t wait to see who the winners will be!

Tune in Wednesday… same bat time, same bat station 🙂

Ho! Ho! HO! The Eighth Annual Holiday Contest Is HERE!

Deck the halls!

Light the menorah!

Fill the Kikombe cha Umoja!

It’s time for…

THE 8TH ANNUAL HOLIDAY CONTEST!!!

Super Santa.png

~for children’s writers~

The Contest:  Write a children’s holiday story (children here defined as age 12 and under) about A Holiday Hero!  Your hero’s act of heroism can be on a grand scale or a small one – from saving Christmas to leaving a fresh-baked loaf of Challah bread for a homeless person to something like Gift Of The Magi where two people give up the thing most important to them to be sure someone they love has a good holiday.  Your hero can be obvious or unlikely.  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 right now this very second and Saturday December 8 at 11:59 PM EST, and your post-specific link should be added to the link list below.  This post will 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 below (please be sure to include your byline so that if your posting handle is midnightwriter1 or something I’ll be able to tell who you are!)  If anyone has trouble commenting, which unfortunately happens, please email your entry to me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com and I’ll post your entry for you. But please don’t send attachments!  Just copy and paste your story including byline into the email.  Also, please only post your entry once – either in the comment section of my blog or on the link list or by emailing me and asking me to post it.  Multiple postings of the same entry get confusing.

 

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 Friday December 14 for you to vote on for a winner.  The vote will be closed on Sunday December 16 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 Monday December 17 (how’s that for ambitious?! 🙂 )

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 Heroism! – the rules state a Holiday Hero story, so it must be crystal clear that the story is about Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or whatever you celebrate, and it must contain a hero and act of heroism in some form! 🙂
  • 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!:

Magic Happens When You Make Every Word Count Writing Mentorship with Author Vivian Kirkfield!

Vivian will:
1. Read through your body of work (3-5 PB mss)
2. Skype chat with you to discuss your dream/vision/direction and her general thoughts about your work.
3. Help you choose which manuscript to move forward with/work on with her.
4. Critique that ms and then set up a Skype chat to go over it.
5. Help craft a cover letter and pitch for your ms which will then serve as a template for you as you move forward with your other work.

This is a truly amazing opportunity to work one-on-one with a talented author and critiquer to get you submission-ready for an editor or agent!

Screen Shot 2018-12-05 at 10.39.16 PM

Vivian Kirkfield

Writer for children – reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. She’s got a bucket list that contains many more than five words – but she’s already ticked off skydiving, parasailing and banana-boat riding. When she is not looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books that she hopes will encourage young kids to become lovers of books and reading. She is the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate(Holiday House, Feb 2019); Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book(PomegranateKids, March 2019); Sweet Dreams, Sarah(Creston Books, May 2019); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books, Spring 2020); From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall 2020). You can visit Vivian on her website, Picture Books Help Kids Soar, where she hosts the #50PreciousWords Writing Challenge every March. Or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter,Pinterest,Instagram, Linkedin, and just about anywhere people are playing with picture books.

cover on amazon   four otters cover amazon   sweet-dreams-new-on-amazon

A Rhyming Picture Book Manuscript Critique by prolific author Diana Murray!

diana-murray  One Snowy Day

A Non-Rhyming Picture Book Manuscript Critique by talented author Amy Dixon!

amy-dixon  Maurice

A 2-Pack of Personalized, Signed Picture Books by Tara LuebbeI Am Famous and Shark Nate-O

Tara Luebbe Shark Nate-O I Am Famous

a spot in my online picture book writing class Making Picture Book Magic (in any month mutually agreed upon by the winner and me)

MPBM

Children’s Writer’s And Illustrator’s Market 2019 – by Robert Lee Brewer AND a $25 Amazon Gift Card (2 available)

Children's Writer's Guide 2019

– Yes You Can Learn How To Write Beginning Readers And Chapter Books – by Nancy I. Sanders AND a $25 Amazon Gift Card
nancy sanders 2
laura salas educational market
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, Amazon, B&N or anywhere else if you like them, or supporting them in any other way you can dream up 🙂

 

Now.

 

The time has come for my sample.  I wrote it between midnight and 2 AM, so that’s my excuse for how bad it is and I hope you all appreciate the fact that I am willing to make a complete fool of myself just for you! 🙂  But this should be very comforting because you can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that ANYthing you wrote is better than this! 🙂

So.  Are you ready? (Be forewarned you might need a little chocolate to help you through… I’m going to need a LOT! 🙂  I have taken dreadful writing to a whole new level and should probably write a new sample tomorrow!  Also because this one is a few words over the limit 🙂  )

 

The Christmas Rescue

‘Twas the night before Christmas
The sleigh was packed high.
The team shook their jingle bells
Eager to fly!

Santa and Elsie Elf
Boarded the sleigh
And quick as a wink
They were up and away!

As they soared over rooftops
That glittered with snow
Elsie said,
“Look at that shooting star go!”

Santa leaned forward
And peered through the night.
“That’s no shooting star!
It’s a meteorite!”

“Pretty!” said Elsie.
And Santa said, “Yes…
But it’s going to wreak havoc
With our GPS!”

The NAV screen went blank
A search icon spun round
Because Magnetic North
Could no longer be found!

They tapped at the screen
Turned it off and back on
But it was no use
Their directions were gone!

The meteor’s metal
Messed up Elsie’s phone
So she couldn’t call Tech
At the workshop back home.

“Maybe star navigation?”
said Santa with doubt.
But clouds had moved in
And they blocked the stars out.

“We have no direction
We can’t find our way
To get gifts to good girls and boys
Christmas Day!”

At this precise moment
From out of the blue
A small caped crusader
Flew into their view.

“My goodness!” said Santa.
“Whatever is that?”
The crusader said proudly,
“I’m Super Bat!

I just couldn’t help
Overhearing your plight.
The Bat Squad and I
Can assist you tonight.”

“How?” wondered Elsie.
“Without navigation.”
“No problem,” said Bat,
“we use echolocation!”

With Super Bat skillfully
Guiding the sleigh
The gifts were delivered
By dawn Christmas Day.

“We couldn’t have done this
Without you, you know.”
Santa smiled and said,
“Bat, you’re a Christmas Hero!”

 

So now!  Is everyone filled with confidence about their entries?  I certainly hope so after that display!  Never let it be said that I’m not willing to make a fool of myself for you guys 🙂  It just proves how much I love you 🙂

I can’t wait to read all of your (much better!) stories!  I hope there will be a lot – the more the merrier!  And you still have until Saturday midnight to write, so you have time if you haven’t written yet and want to join the fun.  Feel free to spread the word to your writing friends as well.  If you just want to enjoy reading, that’s great too!  We need all the readers we can get, so feel free to spread the word to parents and teachers!  And what better way to entertain yourself and your kids while waiting for the holiday goodies to bake?  Or get someone to read aloud while everyone else wraps presents 🙂

Rejoice! and let the festivities begin!!! 🙂

Happy Holidays to All! 🙂

 

And don’t miss the additional 49 fabulous entries in the comment section below!
(Titles are not links – sorry! Scroll through comments to view)

  1. The Super-Invisible Snowgirl – Anne L
  2. Toby Saves Christmas – Sherry H
  3. The 12 Days of Christmas With Noni – Johanna
  4. Saint Bernard Savior – Sandra
  5. The Cookie Defenders – Darcee
  6. Nippynose Flu – Jennifer
  7. Santa’s Gift – Barbara
  8. I’m Santa – Sarah
  9. Manger Mayhem – Susan
  10. Cat Called Hero – Lily
  11. All By Myself – Jessica
  12. Surprise On The Sleigh – Sarah
  13. Ozzie Owl To The Rescue – Judy
  14. Come Back Santa – Lisa
  15. Christmas Presence – Angelique
  16. Papa Bear’s Rescue – Dianne
  17. Santa Tryouts – Amy F
  18. Just One Bean – Kristy
  19. Merritt Mouse – Saves Christmas – Patricia
  20. Jesse The Pup Saves Hanukkah – Amy B
  21. Sammy, the Skillet Saves Hanukkah – Amy B
  22. UH-OH. OH NO. HO HO – Jill
  23. The Christmas Boots – Sherry F
  24. Christmas Cookies – Kami
  25. Christmas In The Park – John
  26. A Christmas Scent-sation – Jill
  27. A Christmas Prayer – Michelle
  28. A Special Nest – Beverly
  29. Tent City Christmas – Anne B
  30. Who Was The Real Hero The Night Baby Jesus Was Born? – Carmen
  31. The Cookies That Saved Christmas – Jamie
  32. Fox And The Red Wagon – Kathy
  33. Listen To Libby – Nannette
  34. The Soldier’s Little Girl – Beth
  35. Momo The Xmas Hero – Shariffa
  36. The Santa Kid – Mega
  37. Dasher Saves The Day By Night – Tara
  38. Alex & Apple Save Christmas – Nicole
  39. Sparkle’s Special Christmas Wish – Lucretia
  40. Santa’s Beard – Linda
  41. Christmas Kindness – Beth B
  42. A Neighborly Christmas Eve – Mona
  43. Ellen – Priya
  44. The Christmas Pick-Up – Laura
  45. Christmas-time Tea – Elizabeth
  46. The Holiday Hero – Ranessa
  47. The Little Reindeer – Debora
  48. The Hay – Anna
  49. Happy Rose For Christmas – Liz

A Little Sunday Surprise For YOU!

OHHHHHH!!!!!
Dashing through the snow!
In a one-horse open sleigh!
O’er the fields we go
Laughing all the way
HA HA HA!……

Hi there!

Isn’t this a lovely treat?

Me, interrupting your Thanksgiving Sunday Family Breakfast  with my melodious singing?

(Not to brag, but I’ve been told by QUITE a few people that my voice is unrivaled… 🙂 )

I don’t know about you guys, but at my house there is a method to our madness.

I know.

Hard to believe I have a method for anything 🙂

But it’s true.

No matter how they behave at the mall, what with all the North Pole displays and piped in holiday tunes before trick-or-treating is done, I have a self-imposed rule that there is No Listening To or Singing Of Holiday Music Until Thanksgiving Is Over!

It’s just good sense.

For starters, it’s hard to put much conviction into “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” when orange plastic pumpkins full of candy are still sitting on the kitchen counter!

And imagine how all the turkeys feel when we just gloss over their day as if it doesn’t even matter because we’re so busy looking forward to Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Solstice/whatever?!

I mean, poor turkeys!  They give up a lot for their day!  We can at least not marginalize them by singing “Dreidel dreidel dreidel” while the turkey is front and center on the dining room table!’

But some of you may have noticed that Thanksgiving is now over…

…which means

a) we can holler out a nice loud chorus of Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, and

b)…

B)!…

…It’s time for…

THE 8TH ANNUAL HOLIDAY CONTEST!!!

Super Santa.png

~for children’s writers~

 

The Contest:  Write a children’s holiday story (children here defined as age 12 and under) about A Holiday Hero!  Your hero’s act of heroism can be on a grand scale or a small one – from saving Christmas to leaving a fresh-baked loaf of Challah bread for a homeless person to something like Gift Of The Magi where two people give up the thing most important to them to be sure someone they love has a good holiday.  Your hero can be obvious or unlikely.  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 Thursday December 6 and Saturday December 8 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 Thursday December 6 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 6th 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 6th 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 Friday December 14 for you to vote on for a winner.  The vote will be closed on Sunday December 16 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 Monday December 17.

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 Heroism! – the rules state a Holiday Hero story, so it must be crystal clear that the story is about Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or whatever you celebrate, and it must contain a hero and act of heroism in some form! 🙂
  • 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 almost – 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 🙂

– A Rhyming Picture Book Manuscript Critique by prolific author Diana Murray!

diana-murray  One Snowy Day

– A Non-Rhyming Picture Book Manuscript Critique by talented author Amy Dixon!

amy-dixon  Maurice

– A 2-Pack of Personalized, Signed Picture Books by Tara LuebbeI Am Famous and Shark Nate-O

Tara Luebbe Shark Nate-O I Am Famous

– a spot in my online picture book writing class Making Picture Book Magic (in any month mutually agreed upon by the winner and me)

MPBM

Children’s Writer’s And Illustrator’s Market 2019 – by Robert Lee Brewer (x2)

Children's Writer's Guide 2019

nancy sanders 2
laura salas educational market
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, Amazon, B&N or anywhere else if you like them, or 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 Hero story!!! You have nearly two full weeks!

On your mark…

…get set…

…GO!

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

Have a great rest of the weekend! 🙂

 

The 2018 Halloweensie Contest WINNERS!!!

Somehow it is the 19th of November, and I’m sure you all know what that means!

It’s time to start getting ready for my long winter’s nap!

Yep.  Me and the bears.

Preparations are well underway!  We’re putting on our flannel jammies, getting out the fleece blankets and the down comforters, fluffing up the extra pillows, selecting which books warrant inclusion on the bedside table (or in the extra pile within reach on the floor), making sure the nightlight has a fresh bulb (because no one wants to come briefly to the surface at 1:37 AM on a cold night in January in utter, complete, and total darkness!), and negotiating for space with the dogs.  They are winning.  My portion of the sleeping quarters is currently 2 inches wide…

But we interrupt these proceedings for an important announcement from our sponsor!  Because it’s not quite nap time yet, and I have a sneaking suspicion there’s some interest in what I’m about to say… 🙂

As you are all aware by now, we had an amazing turnout for the Halloweensie Contest – 237 entries!  Golly gee willikers!!!

I was thrilled beyond measure to see so many wonderful stories and meet so many new writers!  And I don’t know about you guys, but the Halloweensie Contest always makes Halloween so much more fun for me!  I mean, fun-sized chocolate is fabulous on its own, but it’s even better with entertaining stories to read! 🙂

With large entry numbers come hard choices, though.  My assistant judges and I worked hard to winnow the total down to a manageable number of finalists that we felt were truly all-around deserving of that distinction, and those were the ones we presented to you on Thursday 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 (one reason being that, at a certain point, we just had to stop adding finalists to the list! :))

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: (all-around well-written stories we loved that just missed the finals for one small reason or another!)

Jenna Waldman for My Best Trick Yet (also great use of language!)

Mia Geiger for Guess Who?

Maile McCarthy for Halloween Banquet

Katie Engen for Pirate’s Halloween Mutiny

Pat Finnegan for Midnight Fright

Nannette Brophy Major for Fright Fight

Jennifer Raudenbush for Little Miss Halloween

Jean James for Tricks On You

 

2. For Best Ending Lines!:

Henry Herz for When Candy Goes Bad

Jim Chaize for Are You Sure?

Susan Valli for Eat Up Your Carrots!

Lauren Neil for Trick-Or-Sweet

 

3.  For Best Descriptive/Mood Piece:

Heather Kinser for Fearsome Brew

MaryLee Flannigan for The Gathering

Sarah Tobias for Dancing With The Night

Mary Ann Cortez for Halloween Party Scene

Laura Bower for The Halloween Ship

 

4.  For Great Use of Language: (not already in the finals)

Diana Gibson for Chef Crone

 

5. For Spookiest Entry: (not already in the finals)

Delfina Salimbene for The Dancing Figurine

Michael Neuenschwander for Full Moon Rising

Ella Hron, age 9, for Untitled

 

6. For Funniest Entry: (not already in the finals)

JC Kelly for No Bones About It

 

7. For Sweetest Entry: (not already in the finals)

Jessica Reiner-Harris for A Calm Halloween

Anne Bromley for Halloween Stew For Two

Joan Leotta for Wolfie’s Pumpkin

 

8.  For Unique Character: (not already in the finals)

Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez for Needed (MC is a lonely umbrella!)

Jill Lambert for The Candivore (MC is The Candivore)

 

9.  For Best Entry In Fewest Words! 🙂 :

Su Moon for Three Pig-Witches (47 words)

Michelle S. Kennedy for Halloween Haiku (11 words)

Anna Hron, age 11, for Untitled (13 words)

 

10. For A Little More Appealing For Grown-ups But Well-Written And Enjoyable!

Sherry Howard for Love Potion Number 9

 

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 prize, which is your choice of one of the following: (the titles are all links so you can go see what they’re about.). If you choose a prize that must be snail mailed, please include your address in your email!

If you are age 11 or under and received Honorable Mention, you may choose any book on Amazon you’d like to read that is under $10 if you prefer that to the prizes listed below 🙂

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: (PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR SNAIL MAIL ADDRESS IN YOUR EMAIL!)

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… (PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR SNAIL MAIL ADDRESS IN YOUR EMAIL!)

Magnetic Poetry – Little Box Of Awesome Kit – Words For Refrigerator

OR

If you already have all these, or can’t decide, or want to build up your wish list fund:

A $5 Amazon Email Gift Certificate

Now then.  A word about the prizes before I announce the winners.

We have 11 fabulous prizes, generously donated by authors and various professionals in the writing field.  My policy is to let the first place winner have first pick of all the prizes, the second place winner have second choice, etc.  That way hopefully nobody gets something they already have, and hopefully everyone gets something that’s valuable to them.  All prizes are listed at the bottom of this post for your convenience in perusing the goodies 🙂 The reason there are 11 prizes for 10 places is because one of them can only go to an unagented unpublished writer and may therefore not qualify depending how things work out…

Now.

Finally!

Onto the moment you’ve all been waiting for. . .

. . . the reason you got out of bed this morning. . .

. . .  in spite of shadows under your bleary eyes. . .

. . . and the candy corn that is stuck in your hair!!!

. . . THE WINNERS OF THE 2018 HALLOWEENSIE CONTEST as chosen by you, our esteemed voters!!!!!

 

In First Place, winner of the whole entire contest and top of the heap who gets first choice of all the prizes…

Jennifer Broedel

for

Stitchy Witchy Brew

Congratulations, Jennifer, on a fabulously written, entertaining entry that was all around well done and clearly very popular with judges and voters alike!!!

In Second Place,

Keatley Eastman

for

Belinda’s Broken Brew

Congratulations, Keatley, on a creative, wonderfully written entry with a great sense of humor! You get first choice of the prizes that are left after Jennifer chooses!

In Third Place,

Susie Sawyer
 for

The Scariest Night Of The Year

 

Congratulations, Susie, on a beautifully written entry with great use of language that we all loved!  You made our hearts pound and included a nice message for kids!  You get first choice of the prizes that are left after Jennifer and Keatley choose!

In Fourth Place,

Kirsten Ealand
for
Halloween Prize

Congratulations, Kirsten, on a fun story with laugh-out-loud ending!  You get to pick a prize after Jennifer, Keatley, and Susie!

In Fifth Place,

Kelly Conroy
for
Witches’ Brew

Congratulations, Kelly, on your delightfully well written entry that cast the spell to begin Halloween!  You get to pick your prize after Jennifer, Keatley, Susie, and Kirsten!

In Sixth Place,

Kalee Gwarjanski

for

Dracula Wants Pie

Congratulations, Kalee, on your fun entry for younger readers! You get to pick your prize after Jennifer, Keatley, Susie, Kirsten, and Kelly!

Now… just to be difficult, there was a 4-way tie for Seventh Place and the remainder of the prizes!  I mention this because technically all four of the following entries received the same number of popular votes and should be thought of as having earned 7th place.  But for the sake of choosing prizes which a 4-way tie makes extremely difficult, the judges put their heads together and placed them 7th-10th. So…

In Seventh Place,

Debbie Day
for
Broken-down Broom

Congratulations, Debbie, who knew broomsticks required gasoline? 🙂 You get to pick your prize after Kelly!

In Eighth Place,

Charlene Taber
for
The “Wolf” At The Door

Congratulations, Charlene, for a beautifully written kid-friendly entry! You get to pick your prize after Debbie!

In Ninth Place,

Jen Bagan
for
Gordie Goblin’s Potion

Congratulations, Jen, on nice use of misdirection and cooking up something in the cauldron that no one else thought of 🙂   You get to pick a prize after Charlene…!

In Tenth Place

Linda Staszak
for
If You Can’t Beat Them…

Congratulations, Linda, on making us laugh at your opening line!  You get to prize pick after Jen.

And, I don’t think I need to remind anyone that in addition to all these fabulous prizes, everyone mentioned on this page has bragging rights as having won or placed in the Pretty Much World Famous Halloweensie Contest!  Not just anyone can say that 🙂

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!  Finalists who did not finish in the top 10 (Jennifer (Potion Commotion), Joy (Next Week), Laura (Monster Vacancy), and Debbie (The Halloween Shack)) may also contact me for their choice of the Kindle or paperback prizes listed above.  If you choose a prize that requires snail mailing, PLEASE include your snail mail address so we don’t have to email back and forth too many times 🙂

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, a confetti parade, and a large amount of chocolate cake 🙂

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

And before we go, I will give you all advance warning so you can start planning a little time into your December schedule…

Assuming you guys are up for it – and you’d better let me know in the comments!!! – the 8th Annual Holiday Writing Contest will be coming up sometime in the neighborhood of December 7 so we can all fully enjoy it and still have time for last minute holiday things.  I will do my best to post the rules well in advance (maybe the Saturday after Thanksgiving, good lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise! 🙂 ) so you all have time to work on your stories!  But please let me know if you feel like it’s too much and you’d rather not do it!

Have a terrific weekend everyone, and thanks again for making the Halloweensie Contest such a wonderful time for all! 🙂

The Prizes:

(NOTE: There are 11 prizes listed for the 10 winners because one of them is only available to an unagented unpublished writer, so may not be applicable to all.)

Skip The Slushpile with Hannah Lambert, Senior Editor at Little Simon!!!

Hannah Lambert            Screen Shot 2018-11-18 at 7.32.05 PM
The lucky winner of this prize will get to place the picture book manuscript of his/her choice directly into editor Hannah Lambert’s hands!  (FYI, Hannah is the editor of all 4 of my books in the WHEN YOUR… series.)  Hannah will read the manuscript and then send you an email to let you know she’s read your story.  She will include a brief mention of something she likes, and something you can work on. (Not a full critique.)  Of course what makes this prize so incredible is that if you send her a really, really good manuscript the dream could come true!  You’re putting your ms directly in front of a senior editor.  This is your chance! – knock her socks off! 🙂  And if your ms isn’t for her at this time, she will still know who you are should she see your work in future.  So good luck to whoever wins this!  Hannah is particularly interested in mss with a very low word count and/or board book potential, and always has an eye out for excellent holiday stories.
(with thanks to Tania Guarino for thinking up the idea of skipping the slush pile!)

PB MS Critique – from Cori Doerrfeld, author/illustrator of The Rabbit Listened, A New York Times Editor’s Choice, An Indie Next List pick, and A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2018, and many other wonderful picture books including Penny Loves Pink, Little Bunny Foo Foo: The Real Story, and Good Dog.

0c24b-cori_bio_pic  Rabbit

PB MS Critique – from Heather Ayris Burnell, author of Bedtime Monster, Kick! Jump! Chop!: The Adventures of the Ninjabread Man, and the forthcoming Unicorn and Yeti books (an Acorn Chapter Book series). Heather is also the founder of SubIt Club

heather burnell  Kick Jump Chop

– PB MS Critique – from Melissa Stoller, author of Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush, Ready, Set, GOrilla, and the Enchanted Snow Globe Collection (a chapter book series)

Picture2     Picture1

15-30 Minute Your Questions Answered Phone Call – with Ryan Sias, author/illustrator of Go Greenie! Are You Eating Something Red?, Go Greenie! Are You Eating Something Green?, Balloon Toons: Zoe And Robot, Let’s Pretend, Sniff Sniff!, and the Woof And Quack beginning reader series (Green Light Readers) 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

Extra Entry into Writing With The Stars – Tara Luebbe (only for unagented, unpublished writer)

screen-shot-2016-12-20-at-10-13-05-pm

“Writing with the Stars is a mentorship opportunity for aspiring picture book writers and illustrators to win a free, three-month mentorship with a published author or author/illustrator. Mentors will help mentees further develop their craft and share invaluable advice and insight into the publishing world.” (~from the website)

Writers are allowed to enter 3 times, but the winner of this prize will get an extra 4th entry to this amazing writing mentorship opportunity!!!

 – 2-Pack of Personalized Signed Picture Books by the lovely and talented Tania Guarino, author of MEET THE QUACKERS (Spork, 2017) and GARDEN PARTY: A COUNTING ADVENTURE (Spork, 2018)
tania-guarino_1_orig Quackers Garden Party

a personalized signed copy of NOT SO SCARY JERRY by the wonderful and gifted Shelley Kinder

shelley-kinder_orig   Jerry

 

 

Surprise Bundle Of Books – assorted PBs, MGs, YAs  – generously donated by Elaine Kiely Kearns and  KidLit411

Yes You Can

 

Making A Living

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

The 2018 Halloweensie Contest FINALISTS (…FINALLY!!!)

DARLINGS!

The day has FINALLY come!

Normally, I’d engage in a bit of tomfoolery to sidetrack you from our mission and make you think I’d forgotten why we were here on a Thursday.

But I have made you wait so long for the finalists that there will be no stalling today!  We shall get right to announcing the finalists and voting!

(Yes, it’s really me writing this post.  I haven’t been abducted by aliens 🙂 )

We had a huge turnout with 237 very high quality entries!  It is wonderful to watch the writers we see coming back contest after contest getting better every time… but boy does it make the judging hard!!! There are fewer obvious standouts, almost none that are easy to cut, and there are a LOT of very good ones that we have to get very nit-picky over!  It is agony, I tell you!

Before we get to the actual list of finalists, I have a couple things to say.  (I know you’re shocked :))

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 many!

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, before I list the finalists, 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.  So if yours didn’t make the final cut please don’t feel bad.  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 100 words if you like and maybe submit at some point to a magazine or as a PB manuscript.  A lot of people have successfully done that at this point – we have quite a few books in the world that were born in Halloweensie, Holiday, or Valentiny Contests!  So bravo to everyone who entered!

Now.  Onto the judging criteria which were as follows:

1. Kid-appeal! – These stories are intended for a young audience, so entries that were well-written but lacked child-friendliness did not make the cut.  Same for entries where the appeal, humorous or otherwise, seemed more directed toward adult readers than children.

2.  Halloweeniness – the rules stated a Halloween story, so entries that failed to mention anything Halloween-y did not make the cut even if they were well-written.

3. Quality of story – the rules stated that entries were to tell a story, so if they appeared to be more of a description or mood piece, they didn’t make the cut.  We looked for a character and a true story arc.

4. Quality of Writing: we took note of spelling, grammar, punctuation etc.  In addition, for the rhymers, we looked at rhyme and meter (for which we are sticklers!)  We also looked at overall writing quality and use of language.

5. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.

A surprising number of this year’s entries were amazingly written… but in spite of the warning, still failed to really tell a story.  This is SO TOUGH in 100 words – I totally get it.  But some people managed better than others.  There were any number of entries that were superbly written that we wanted to choose, but when we got right down to it, there really just wasn’t much story… not compared to some of the other entries that really managed to tell one.  They were more descriptions, lists, or mood pieces.  So as awesome as they were, we had to make some very hard calls.  A couple were too adult.  Some, because of the cruelly limiting word count were a little hard to follow.  Some of the rhyming ones we really liked were too off-meter to make the cut.  Some entries were just so close, but missed out because of one relatively small thing!  GAH!  So hard!

When you read the finalists you will note that almost all of them are in rhyme!  This is partly because those just happened to be the best ones, but also because the entries as a group this year were heavily weighted toward rhyme.

Also worthy of note, we had 4 entries with witches named Wanda in the title, at least 3 entries entitled “Witches’ Brew” (plus one Horrid Witches’ Brew), 2 or 3 entries besides my sample that had hot chocolate in the cauldron, and 2 completely different entries written by different authors called “Potion Commotion”!  The vast majority of witches had “w” names – Wanda, Willa, Winni, Winnifred, etc, though we did have a Gwen and a Belinda and probably some others I’m forgetting right now too 🙂

So, without further ado, I present to you the 2018 Halloweensie Contest Finalists.  A mix of poetry and prose, stories for younger readers and slightly older (but still kid) readers, funny, spooky, and cute.  Please read through them carefully, take your time, think it over, and vote for your favorite.  To help with objectivity, finalists are listed by title only, not by author.

And I’d like to be very clear about the voting process.  You are MOST welcome to share a link to this post on FB, twitter, or wherever you like to hang out, and encourage people to come read ALL the finalists and vote for the one they think is best.  Please do that.  The more people who read and enjoy these stories the better, and the more objective votes we get the better.  HOWEVER (and I want to be very clear on this) please do not ask people to vote for a specific number or title, or for the story about the sombrero-wearing witch or whatever.  Trolling for votes or trying to influence the outcome is counter to the spirit of this competition which is supposed to be based on merit.  I thank you in advance for respecting this.

So here we go!

#1 – Belinda’s Broken Brew

Belinda’s best cauldron went bonkers one night.
All her concoctions were full of…delight?
She dropped in a shiver–out popped a kiss.
She snuck in a slither–out poured some bliss.
In went a howl–out came a grin.
A giggle rang out when a wriggle fell in!
She dribbled in cackles, a moan, and a shrug–
Out sprang some cuddles, a wink, and a hug.
She threw up her hands, no more could be done.
She had to admit, the cauldron had won.
This was a curse, nasty and mean!
Belinda was stuck with a nice Halloween.

 

#2 – Witches’ Brew

The witches convened
in a clearing each fall,
to conjure the trickiest
spell of them all.
They gathered up bats
and black cats
and an owl.
Then sprinkled in shivers
and shrieks
and a howl.
The cauldron grew bubbly,
all spicy and hot,
creating a vapor
that rose from the pot.
The witches fell silent.
Their pointy ears perked
each anxious to hear
if the witches’ brew worked.
Then over the clearing,
came rollicking noise.
Ding-dong.
“Trick or treat!”
sang the sweet girls and boys.
The witches, they cackled.
They’d done their job well,
successfully casting
The Halloween Spell.

 

#3 – Broken-down Broom

While flying away to the Halloween Ball,
Gwen’s broom went CAPUT! and she started to fall.
She dropped with a crash into Skeleton Wood-
the creepiest place in the WHOLE neighborhood.
A shrill, nearby howl made her shiver in fright.
She thought, “Now I might miss the party tonight!”
She pulled out her cauldron and looked all around.
She grabbed molding mushrooms and worms from the ground.
Then just as another shriek echoed unseen,
Gwen whipped up a potion for broom gasoline.
She poured in the mixture and scrambled aboard.
“I’m bound for the ball!” She declared as she soared.

 
#4 – Dracula Wants Pie

Today is the day of the Halloween fair and Dracula is hungry.
His mom offers some of her famous red juice. Dracula shivers, “eewwww. I’m tired of juice, I’m in the mood for something new…”
Pie!
“Get your marshmallows here!” shouts Ghost.
No thanks, Dracula wants pie.
“Cauldron is bubbly, hot and delicious”, tempts Witch.
No thanks. Dracula wants pie.
“Care for a bite, do yooouuu?” howls Werewolf manning the grill.
No thanks. Dracula wants pie.
Only one stand left. Finally, he reaches Pumpkin.
Dracula smiles.
Dracula loves pie.

 

#5 – Stitchy Witchy Brew

Party time looming and closet shelves bare,
Hazel VanBazel howled, “Nothing to wear!”
Flipping through frocks, she fell down in a slump.
“This clothing won’t cut it. I look like a frump!”
She danced to her cauldron with sheets from her bed,
satchels of sequins, and spider-silk thread.
In flurries of fabric, she sang out a spell,
tumbled in buttons, then folded it well.
The pot gave a shiver and spit out a gown,
sure to make Hazel the talk of the town.
She twirled in her tulle and sashayed in her sash,
ready to shine at her Halloween bash!

 

#6 – Potion Commotion

One broom, one flight….one magical Halloween night.
“Swizzle-zee, swizzle-zum, sizzle and simmer till it’s done!”
Tabitha sampled her brew. Something was missing… garlic should do.
SPRINKLE
DASH
MUDDLE…
SPLASH!
The cauldron crashed. The potion pitched. The broom set aflame!
No broom, no flight! One horrid Halloween night.
WAIL
GROWL
MOAN
HOWWLLL!
Tabitha paced. Tabitha pondered.
Tabitha began again.
“Swizzle-zee, swizzle-zum, sizzle and shimmer till it’s done!”
Tabitha sampled her brew. Something was missing… dragon scales would do.
BOOM
CRASH
CRACKLE
BASH!
Tabitha laughed! Tabitha danced! Tabitha shivered with glee!
No broom? Alright! Tabitha soared on dragon wing that Halloween night.

 

#7 – The Scariest Night Of The Year

Painted faces.
Heartbeat races.
Trick-or-treat at spooky places.
Vampires,
villains,
ghosts galore –
follow me from door to door.
Cauldrons bubble.
Werewolves howl.
Ghouls and goblins stalk and prowl.
Caught in cobwebs,
swooping bats,
monsters, mummies, creepy cats!
Shivering!
Quivering!
What’s that slithering?
Witchy fingers, gnarled and withering.
All this spooky, scary, stuff –
Maybe I’m not brave enough!
Hold on.
STOP.
I’ll be just fine.
These spooks are all just friends of mine!
We’re dressed in costumes,
having fun.
Back to normal when we’re done.
I say good bye to all my fright
(but I’m still glad it’s just one night.)

 

#8 – If You Can’t Beat Them… 

Griselda banged on the caldron with an old bone. “Wake up. It’s Halloween.”
Around the graveyard ghosts and goblins stretched and yawned. Scratchy voices that hadn’t been used in a year yowled and howled.
“Here come children. Get ready,” whispered Griselda, shivering with excitement.
They leaped from their hiding places, bloodcurdling screams piercing the night air.
The children laughed.
“Forget them,” said Griselda. “Here come some more.”
Zombies wildly grasped for the children. Ghosts fluttered in their hair.
“Cool costumes,” the children said. “Are you going to the party?”
The creatures looked at each other and shrugged. “Might as well.”

 

#9 – The “Wolf” at the Door

On Halloween a pint-size witch
Went door-to-door without a hitch,
A plastic cauldron in her hand,
Collecting candy, as she’d planned.
But at the last house on the block,
In answer to her timid knock,
She heard a long and mournful howl,
Followed by a fearsome growl!
“Is that a wolf?” the young girl cried
As the front door opened wide.
She shivered as she looked around,
And then she saw ———— a basset hound!
She thanked his owner for the treat,
Then laughed and scampered down the street.

 

#10 – The Halloween Shack

10.1.18
Today,
beyond the woods,
a shack appeared.
“Halloween Goods,” read the sign.

10.5.18
Howling sounds from the shack today.
Gave me shivers!
Should I visit?

10.10.18
Peeked through the window.
Mist spewed from a cauldron.
Almost SURE I saw eyes…

10.18.18
Stepped inside today.
CREEPIEST PLACE EVER.
Skulls, spiderwebs, eerie pictures…
Something whispered, “Welcome,”
and I ran!

10.22.18
Walked past the shack today.
Something watched me from the window.

10.31.18
Trick-or-treated at the shack tonight.
Don’t ask why.
A veiled figure
handed me candy
through the door.

I saw its eyes.

11.1.18
Today,
beyond the woods,
the shack…was gone.

 

#11 – Monster Vacancy

My house lost it’s monster and I’m in a jam.
Halloween’s coming but I have a plan.
I called reinforcements. Demons and pests.
Howling wanted. Please come do your best.
I held my breath on Halloween night.
Only one ghost arrived, glistening white.
I put on the cauldron, set it to brew,
Safely conducted a quick interview.
Though doubtful about her blood-curdling skill,
I hired her instantly paying her bill.
To my satisfaction, my shivering fright,
I’d chosen wisely that October night.
When children approached to say ‘trick-or-treat’
Every kiddo ran screaming straight for the street.

 

#12 – Halloween Prize

Eve’s school gives a Halloween prize
for the costume with the best surprise.
Believe me competition’s hot
But she just might win with the idea she’s got.
With cardboard, scissors, paint and string
Eve could’ve made most anything;
A slime-filled cauldron, a spider-filled hat
But they’d been done so she didn’t make that.
Other outfits make kids shiver or scream
But Eve has gone for a different theme.
She attracts them with creative drama
All dressed up as a cute, little llama.
She may not howl, screech or hit
But they’d better watch out … because she sure can spit.

 

#13 – Gordie Goblin’s Potion

On Halloween morning Gordie Goblin awoke with an ACHOO!
“No!” he moaned. “I must do my fierce and frightening tricks tonight!”
Gordie headed out into the howling wind.
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK
“Winni Witch!” he shouted. “I need a healing potion!”
Winni ushered him in and did a quick examination.
“You need a strong brew indeed.”
Winni lit her cauldron while Gordie studied her shelves.
Cyclops lashes
Bat fur
Werewolf toenails
“Yuck!” he thought with a shiver.
Finally, Winni brought him a steaming goblet.
Gordie braced himself and took a sip.
“It’s … yummy!”
Winni smiled. “Chicken soup works every time!”

 

#14 – Next Week

Three friends marched along in the light of the moon:
One doctor, one witch, and one purple baboon.
They shivered and quivered in fear or in chill.
Each carried a colorful cauldron to fill.
With candy—sweet candy! They’d waited all year.
The night they’d awaited was finally here!
“Hello?”
“TRICK OR TREAT!”
“Dears, I’m sorry to say…
I haven’t got candy to give out today…”
“NO CANDY!” they howled.
“Now, my dears, let me speak…
You’ve come a bit early; I’ll have some next week.”

 

Now that you’ve had a chance to read through the finalists, please vote for the entry you feel deserves to win in the poll below by 12PM EST (Noon) Sunday November 18. (We’re going to skip PPBF to leave the poll post up because of the timing getting messed up by the judging taking so long – sorry about that!)

 

 

Tune in Monday November 19 to see THE WINNERS!!!

Thank you all so much for taking the time to write (if you did), read, and vote!  These contests simply wouldn’t be what they are without all of you!

I can’t wait to see who the winners will be!

Tune in Monday… same bat time, same bat station 🙂