2021 Mix ‘n’ Match Mini Writing Challenge – The End!

We made it, my friends!

7 weeks of writing – check! √√√

And we are going to CELEBRATE!

Dance along with the animal marching band!

Illustration by Dana Atnip 2013, used with permission, all rights reserved

Help yourself to some ice cream. . .

text copyright Susanna Leonard Hill, 2017, illustration copyright Daniel Wiseman 2017, Little Simon

. . . and ask bunny for a balloon – you know you want one! 😊

Now that you are dancing with a balloon while eating ice cream, let’s talk about how amazing you are! 😊 For starters, you are extraordinarily coordinated! 😊

But let’s look at the stats, shall we?

7 weeks of writing!

74 writers who participated in at least one week!

47 writers who completed the whole 7 Week Challenge!

4 writers who wrote 1 or more extra entries – 1 who wrote 5 extras!

some number I didn’t have time to count of writers who participated last year and this year (I’ll have to add that in…!)

394 stories written altogether!

And more than 2200 comments you left for each other to support, encourage, admire, and cheer each other’s efforts!

I mean, that is something to be proud of! You guys all did a fantastic job, writing so many wonderful, entertaining, creative stories filled with humor, heart, cleverness, rhyme, nonfiction elements, and unexpected surprises while simultaneously supporting each other! Way to go!

When any of these stories turn into published picture books, I wish to be informed! 😊

So now it’s time for my favorite thing! Handing out prizes!

Since 47 people completed the challenge and I didn’t have that many prizes, I got creative so everyone who qualified could get a prize.  Of course, you have all already gotten a prize just by writing all these new stories, getting your creativity flowing, getting to read everyone else’s work, and getting to tell people how much you loved their stories while hearing how much they loved yours!  I hope a whole pile of new books will come out of this little fun fest 😊

I put all your names in one hat, and all the prizes in another, and randomly drew a name and a prize to go with it until I ran out.  The prizes are all listed below so you can see them in all their glory and appreciate the talented and generous people who offered them. And then the names of the winners and the prize they won are listed at the bottom. I’m hoping it will be clearer this way then it was last year!

Scroll along and look for your name to see what you won, and then email me using the handy contact form on my website (or my email address if you know it) subject line Prize and I’ll get everything sorted out with the mailing and getting in touch with critiquers and etc and whatnot!

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 gift purchases, rating and/or reviewing their books on GoodReads, Amazone, B&N, or anywhere else if you like them, suggesting them for school visits, and supporting them in any other way you can dream up! 😊

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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is penny-parker-klostermann.jpg

⭐️ 30 Minute Q&A with Penny Klostermann

⭐️ Picture Book MS Critique OR Query Letter Critique (Winner’s Choice) from Jennifer Buchet, debut author of LITTLE MEDUSA’S HAIR DO-LEMMA (Clear Fork/Spork May 11, 2021)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is jennifer-buchet.jpg



⭐️ Picture Book MS Critique from Jen Raudenbush, agented writer of picture books, middle grade, and poetry. (Represented by Natascha Morris of The Tobias Literary Agency)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is jen-raudenbush.jpeg
Jen Raudenbush

⭐️ Picture Book MS Critique OR Query Letter Critique (Winner’s Choice) from the lovely and talented Sara Kruger!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is sara-kruger.jpeg
Sara Kruger

⭐️ 30 minute Zoom chat about anything industry related (manuscript, query letter, best practices for querying) with Becky Scharnhorst, amazing author of MY SCHOOL STINKS (Philomel Books, July 6, 2021)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is becky-scharnhorst-collage.jpeg

⭐️Picture Book Manuscript Critique with Audio Recording by author and poet Sarah Meade Sarah will do a written critique of your manuscript and include an audio recording of her first read-through of the manuscript. The audio recording is to help the author hear how the story flows and/or where a new reader may stumble when reading aloud.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is screen-shot-2021-05-23-at-7.58.46-pm.png

⭐️ Webinar: How To Write Powerful First Pages Like A Pro by author and editor Alayne Kay Christian

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is alayne-kay-christian.jpg

⭐️ A copy of Mary Kole’s Writing Irresistible Kidlit: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grade Writers, donated by Nicole Loos Miller

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is writing-irresistible-kidlit.jpg

⭐️ A personalized signed copy of SASSAFRAS AND HER TEENY TINY TAIL (MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing 2021) by Candice Marley Conner


This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is squarecover.jpg

⭐️ Making Picture Book Magic Self Study Class (any month) (x 3)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is email-header-final-susanna-hill.png

⭐️WHAT’S THE STORY CARDS created by yours truly 😊 Inspiration for writers to download and print. The ultimate mix ‘n’ match. You’ll never be stuck for an idea again! (x 13)

⭐️A copy of A FLOOD OF KINDNESS by Ellen Leventhal

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is a-flood-of-kindness.jpg

⭐️A copy of MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe by Vivian Kirkfield

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is making-their-voices-heard.jpg

⭐️A copy of THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT by Penny Parker Klostermann

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2c5b9-dragon2bcover.jpg

⭐️A copy of SLOTH AND SQUIRREL IN A PICKLE by Cathy Ballou Mealey

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is sloth-cover.jpg

⭐️A copy of BINDU’S BINDIS by Supriya Kelkar

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is bindus-bindis.jpg

⭐️A copy of PHOEBE DUPREE IS COMING TO TEA! by Linda Ashman

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is phoebe-dupree.jpg

⭐️A copy of THE LITTLE KITTEN by Nicola Killen

⭐️ A personalized signed copy of MOON’S FIRST FRIENDS by yours truly

⭐️ A personalized signed copy of MARS’ FIRST FRIENDS by yours truly

⭐️ Magnetic Poetry – Little Box of Happiness (x 3)

Magnetic Poetry - Little Box of Happiness Kit - Words for Refrigerator - Write Poems and Letters on The Fridge - Made in The USA

⭐️Picture Book Writers Rock! Mug for the writing fuel of your choice! 😊 (x 3)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is screen-shot-2021-06-13-at-7.24.55-pm.png

⭐️Writing Journal (with a side of prompts 😊) (x 6)

5358C071-383B-4EF4-ADFD-353F737E23E5_1_201_a
  1. Katie Schwartz – What’s The Story Cards
  2. Bru Benson – Making Picture Book Magic Self Study
  3. Allison Strick – What’s The Story Cards
  4. Jill Lambert – Making Picture Book Magic Self Study
  5. Barbara Farr Renner – What’s The Story Cards
  6. Rose Cappelli – BINDU’S BINDIS
  7. Lauri Meyers – Making Picture Book Magic Self Study
  8. Elizabeth Meyer zu Heringdorf – WRITING IRRESISTIBLE KIDLIT
  9. Ashley Sierra – Zoom Chat with Becky Scharnhorst
  10. Susan E. Schipper – Writing Journal with Prompts
  11. Dawn Young – What’s The Story Cards
  12. Colleen Owen Murphy – SASSAFRAS AND HER TEENY TINY TAIL (personalized and signed)
  13. Amy Leskowski – Picture Book Writers Rock Mug
  14. Sarah Meade – SLOTH AND SQUIRREL IN A PICKLE
  15. Sue Lancaster – Writing Journal with Prompts
  16. Dianne Irving – Writing Journal with Prompts
  17. Deb Buschman – Picture Book Writers Rock Mug
  18. Elenore Byrne – Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Jen Raudenbush
  19. Padgy Soltis – Picture Book Manuscript Critique and Audio Recording from Sarah Meade
  20. Erika Romero – What’s The Story Cards
  21. Robin Currie – MOON’S FIRST FRIENDS (personalized and signed)
  22. Brenna Jeanneret – How To Write Powerful First Pages Like A Pro Webinar
  23. Michelle S. Kennedy – What’s The Story Cards
  24. Nicole Loos Miller – THE LITTLE KITTEN
  25. Marty Bellis – Picture Book Writers Rock Mug
  26. Susan Summers – Writing Journal with Prompts
  27. Sally Yorke-Viney – Magnetic Poetry Little Box of Happiness
  28. Marta Cutler – What’s The Story Cards
  29. JC Kelly – What’s The Story Cards
  30. Sarah Hawklyn – What’s The Story Cards
  31. Ashley B. Pedigo – Magnetic Poetry Little Box of Happiness
  32. Lyn Jekowsky – A FLOOD OF KINDNESS
  33. Jen Subra – Magnetic Poetry Little Box of Happiness
  34. Laura Bower – What’s The Story Cards
  35. Sara Kruger – Writing Journal with Prompts
  36. Bevin Rolfs Spencer – Picture Book Manuscript Critique OR Query Letter Critique from Jenny Buchet
  37. Isabel Cruz Rodriguez – THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT
  38. Lauren Scott – What’s The Story Cards
  39. Linda Schueler – Writing Journal with Prompts
  40. Hannah Roy LaGrone – Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Penny Klostermann
  41. Aly Kenna – PHOEBE DUPREE IS COMING TO TEA!
  42. Marty Findley – Picture Book Manuscript Critique OR Query Letter Critique from Sara Kruger
  43. Mia Geiger – MARS’ FIRST FRIENDS (personalized and signed)
  44. Jeannette Suhr – 30 Minute Q&A with Penny Klostermann
  45. Joyce Uglow – MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD
  46. Erin Cleary – What’s The Story Cards
  47. Deb Sullivan – What’s The Story Cards

Please be a little patient – it’s going to take me awhile to sort out 47 prizes but I will do it as quickly as I can! 😊 And if anyone thinks I screwed up (entirely possibly given the juggling act life is right now 😊) please let me know!!!

I hope you all had as much fun with the Mix ‘n’ Match as I did!

And although I hope to see you here for Tuesday Debuts through August 3, things will quiet down here on the blog for July and August, so have a wonderful, happy, healthy, writing-filled summer everyone!!! 💕

2021 Mix ‘n’ Match Mini Writing Challenge Week #7!

Can you believe it?

We’ve arrived at Week #7!

The last week of the 2021 Mix ‘n’ Match Mini Writing Challenge!

Mix ‘n’ Match Mini is a 7 week writing challenge for anyone who needs a little boost, a little inspiration, or a little encouragement to get writing. . . or maybe just a little fun!

You get to write your own story, enjoy and be entertained by everyone else’s stories, and get yourself in the running for some awesome prizes (please see the end of the blog post for a list of all the prize goodies which continues to grow!)

To be eligible for the prize drawing you must enter all 7 weeks.

For a full description of the challenge, to read the Week #1 entries, or to add your Week #1 entry, please go HERE (Week #1)

To read the Week #2 entries or add your Week #2 entry, please go HERE (Week #2)

To read the Week #3 entries or add your Week #3 entry, please go HERE (Week #3)

To read the Week #4 entries or add your Week #4 entry, please go HERE (Week #4)

To read the Week #5 entries or add your Week #5 entry, please go HERE (Week #5)

To read the Week #6 entries of add your Week #6 entry, please go HERE (Week #6)

Before we get to today’s challenge, one little housekeeping detail:

If you want to qualify for the prize drawing, you must have completed an entry for each of the 7 weeks and posted them on the appropriate week’s post by Saturday June 26th at midnight Eastern time in order to qualify, so that I can post the winners on Monday June 28th! So take note of that deadline – all 7 completed and posted by Saturday June 26th at midnight!

Mix ‘n’ Match Mini Writing Prompt #7 for Week of June 21:

So far we’ve played with character needs/goals, writing a cumulative story, a picture prompt with random words and a secret, turning songs into stories with themes, concept stories in particular settings, and relationships and emotions between characters! 😊 This week, since it’s the last week, it seems fitting that we do something with endings.

But not just anything. . . 😊

Endings do not exist in a vacuum. In order for endings to feel satisfying – make readers, laugh, cry, gasp with amazed delight, or sigh with satisfaction – the ending must feel connected to the beginning.

So. This week, choose a beginning from Column A and an ending from Column B and write a 100 word story for kids that fits between them using a tidbit of onomatopoeia from Column C if you want to (just for fun 😊).

Column A – BeginningsColumn B – EndingsColumn C – Onomatopoeia (optional)
Once upon a time…And that is why she/he tucked it very carefully into her/his pocket.splish, splash, sploosh
When [Character Name] woke up, a thunderstorm was brewing.  “OH, NO!” (or, “HURRAY!”)Then he/she snuggled close and whispered with a smile, “I love you more than marshmallows.”kackata-kack-krack-POP!
It all began when the mermaid’s tail got caught on the handle of [Character Name]’s umbrella.Never let an alligator get in the way of your plans!plink-plank-plunk
She/he wasn’t always a bad piggy.So he/she/they rushed back out of the woods shout-singing Ain’t No Bugs On Us until he/she/they was/were really, truly, sure it was true!slurrrp
There was a sloth who lived all alone.[Character Name] knew summer was here at last!buzzz bzzz-bzzz
[Character Name] was all ready for the beach!Aunt Ruby was right.  It had been a better day!splop
We’re finally on our way! We’re having the best time ever! Until…Inch by inch, step by step, they made it all the way to the tippy top.chirp
Holly, Molly, Ollie, Wally, and Little Boo packed a picnic and set out in search of adventure.And so he/she/they did.bee-beep
On the Fourth of July, Max went into hiding.And they lived happily ever after.murmur
[Character Name] had a problem with watermelon.Shushshush, the waves whispered. Shushshush.hissss

  • Stories can rhyme or not – totally up to you.
  • You can go under or over 100 words if you want to – also totally up to you! – 100 is just a guideline.
  • If you’re deeply inspired by a beginning or ending or some onomatopoeia that isn’t here, go for it! – the purpose here is inspiration and to get you writing! Please just tell us what you’re using at the top of your entry.
  • For simplicity’s sake (and to aid skimming readers who might be interested in a particular thing) please say which column items you’re using at the top of your entry along with your name, title, and word count.
  • I have been so enjoying reading all your amazing stories every week – so many different, creative, delightful, entertaining stories! – that I’m sad this is the last hurrah for this year!

    So come join the fun! Get some writing done! Encourage your kids (or students) to give it a try! Or just have a good time together reading what other folks have written!

    Ready, set, WRITE! 😊

    (And remember, for full details on the 7 week challenge you can check HERE)

    Check Out The Week #7 Stories:

    Beach Baby – Bru Benson

    The Worm’s Halloween Adventure – Marty Findley

    Perfect Piggy – Robin Currie

    Watermelon Woes – Rose Cappelli

    Beach Bound – Sue Lancaster

    The Unexpected Ride – Dawn Young

    Sloth Finds A Friend – Jen Subra

    The Fairy And The Thunderstorm – Erin Cleary

    Will Summer Begin? – Erika Romero

    Max And The Fireworks – Sara Kruger

    Melodia’s “Mis” Adventure – Susan E. Schipper

    Untitled – Lauren Scott

    Max And The Alligator – Marta Cutler

    Duck’s Creek – Bevin Rolfs Spencer

    Sam’s Trouble With Watermelon – Lyn Jekowsky

    Game, Game, Go Away! – Hannah Roy LaGrone

    Watermelon Delight – Jeannette Suhr

    The Fear Of Fireworks – Amy Leskowski

    Merchant Pips – Elenore Byrne

    The Very Slow Sloth – Isabel Cruz Rodriguez

    Sloth And The sUAS (Small Unmanned Aircraft System) – Laura Bower

    Why Piggies Have Curly Tails – Jill Lambert

    Dorothy’s Umbrella – Brenna Jeanneret

    Beach Adventure – Ashley Sierra

    Sloth And Bee – Linda Schueler

    Maddy Wants More, More, More – Sarah Meade

    Climbing Up – Marty Findley

    This Little Piggy – Marty Bellis

    Sloth And The Bees In The Tree – Barbara Renner

    Munch Goes The Pirate – Aly Kenna

    Marianna And The Mermaid – Sally Yorke-Viney

    Undersea Soiree – Nicole Loos Miller

    Ella’s Wild Ride – Michelle S. Kennedy

    A S’more By The Fire – Allison Strick

    The Ant Raid – Deb Sullivan

    A Wagonful Of Trouble – Susan Summers

    A Nap And A Watermelon Field – Jana Mattern

    Rules For A Pig-Perfect Life – Joyce Uglow

    Wanted: ESPR – Colleen Own Murphy

    Not So Bad After All – Elizabeth Meyer zu Heringdorf

    Watermelon Problem – Mia Geiger

    A. Sloth Or Not A. Sloth – Katie Schwartz

    Saltwater Kisses – JC Kelly

    Where There’s A Skate There’s A Way – Sarah Hawklyn

    The Prince And His Alligator – Deb Buschman

    The Lonely Sloth – Ashley B. Pedigo

    Untitled – Lauri Meyers

    Tilly’s Mermaid – Dianne Irving

    Untitled – Padgy Soltis

    PRIZES & PRIZES OF ALL SHAPES AND SIZES!

    When it comes time for prizes, names of all those who complete the challenge will be drawn randomly and matched with prizes drawn randomly until we run out! 😊

    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 gift purchases, rating and/or reviewing their books on GoodReads, Amazone, B&N, or anywhere else if you like them, suggesting them for school visits, and supporting them in any other way you can dream up! 😊

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

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is penny-parker-klostermann.jpg

    ⭐️ 30 Minute Q&A with Penny Klostermann

    ⭐️ Picture Book MS Critique OR Query Letter Critique (Winner’s Choice) from Jennifer Buchet, debut author of LITTLE MEDUSA’S HAIR DO-LEMMA (Clear Fork/Spork May 11, 2021)

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is jennifer-buchet.jpg

    

    ⭐️ Picture Book MS Critique from Jen Raudenbush, agented writer of picture books, middle grade, and poetry. (Represented by Natascha Morris of The Tobias Literary Agency)

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is jen-raudenbush.jpeg
    Jen Raudenbush

    ⭐️ Picture Book MS Critique OR Query Letter Critique (Winner’s Choice) from the lovely and talented Sara Kruger!

    Sara Kruger

    ⭐️ 30 minute Zoom chat about anything industry related (manuscript, query letter, best practices for querying) with Becky Scharnhorst, amazing author of MY SCHOOL STINKS (Philomel Books, July 6, 2021)

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is becky-scharnhorst-collage.jpeg

    ⭐️Picture Book Manuscript Critique with Audio Recording by author and poet Sarah Meade Sarah will do a written critique of your manuscript and include an audio recording of her first read-through of the manuscript. The audio recording is to help the author hear how the story flows and/or where a new reader may stumble when reading aloud.

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is screen-shot-2021-05-23-at-7.58.46-pm.png

    ⭐️ Webinar: How To Write Powerful First Pages Like A Pro by author and editor Alayne Kay Christian

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is alayne-kay-christian.jpg

    ⭐️ A copy of Mary Kole’s Writing Irresistible Kidlit: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grade Writers, donated by Nicole Loos Miller

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is writing-irresistible-kidlit.jpg

    ⭐️ A personalized signed copy of SASSAFRAS AND HER TEENY TINY TAIL (MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing 2021) by Candice Marley Conner
    

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is squarecover.jpg

    ⭐️ Making Picture Book Magic Self Study Class (any month)

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is email-header-final-susanna-hill.png

    ⭐️A copy of A FLOOD OF KINDNESS by Ellen Leventhal

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is a-flood-of-kindness.jpg

    ⭐️A copy of MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe by Vivian Kirkfield

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is making-their-voices-heard.jpg

    ⭐️A copy of THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT by Penny Parker Klostermann

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2c5b9-dragon2bcover.jpg

    ⭐️A copy of SLOTH AND SQUIRREL IN A PICKLE by Cathy Ballou Mealey

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is sloth-cover.jpg

    ⭐️A copy of BINDU’S BINDIS by Supriya Kelkar

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is bindus-bindis.jpg

    ⭐️A copy of PHOEBE DUPREE IS COMING TO TEA! by Linda Ashman

    ⭐️ Magnetic Poetry – Little Box of Happiness

    Magnetic Poetry - Little Box of Happiness Kit - Words for Refrigerator - Write Poems and Letters on The Fridge - Made in The USA

    ⭐️Picture Book Writers Rock! Mug for the writing fuel of your choice! 😊

    ⭐️Writing Journal (with a side of prompts 😊)

    5358C071-383B-4EF4-ADFD-353F737E23E5_1_201_a

    2021 Mix ‘n’ Match Mini Writing Challenge Week #6!

    Look at us! Half way through June and up to Week #6 in our Mix ‘n’ Match Mini Writing Challenge! Can you believe you’ve written at least 5 brand new stories so far (I know some of you are writing more than one per week!) with two weeks of inspiration still to go? Who knows how many new picture books might be getting their start during this challenge!

    So let’s fire up the old brain cells and show Week #6 who’s boss!

    Mix ‘n’ Match Mini is a 7 week writing challenge for anyone who needs a little boost, a little inspiration, or a little encouragement to get writing. . . or maybe just a little fun!

    You get to write your own story, enjoy and be entertained by everyone else’s stories, and get yourself in the running for some awesome prizes (please see the end of the blog post for a list of all the prize goodies which continues to grow!)

    To be eligible for the prize drawing you must enter all 7 weeks.

    For a full description of the challenge, to read the Week #1 entries, or to add your Week #1 entry, please go HERE (Week #1)

    To read the Week #2 entries or add your Week #2 entry, please go HERE (Week #2)

    To read the Week #3 entries or add your Week #3 entry, please go HERE (Week #3)

    To read the Week #4 entries or add your Week #4 entry, please go HERE (Week #4)

    To read the Week #5 entries or add your Week #5 entry, please go HERE (Week #5)

    Mix ‘n’ Match Mini Writing Prompt #6 for Week of June 14:

    So far we’ve played with character needs/goals, writing a cumulative story, a picture prompt with random words and a secret, turning songs into stories with themes, and concept stories in particular settings! 😊 This week, we’re going to explore the importance of relationships and emotion!

    Picture books are often about relationships – parent/child, sibling, friends/enemies, child/pet, grandparent/child, babysitter/child etc. and those relationships can cause emotions or be affected by emotions.

    Choose a main character from Column A, a second character from Column B, and an emotion from Column C and write a 100-word story for kids where the story centers around the emotion between them.  (For example, 2 friends where one is jealous of the other, or a child who feels angry toward his beloved dog for chewing up his prized baseball glove, or a child who feels nervous about visiting her elderly grandmother who is wrinkly and smells like mothballs but whom she is supposed to love.)  Feel free to make “siblings” a dog and a cat, or “friends” a dinosaur and a goat, etc – you don’t have to stick with all human characters – write monsters, fairies, and aliens if you like 😊

    Column A – Character 1 (MC)Column B – Character 2Column C – Emotion
    RosieGrandma or Grandpa (Gran, Grand Dad, Oma, Poppa, etc)awe (looks up to/hero worship)
    TuckPet (any kind – your choice)jealousy
    MaisieFriendanger
    ChipSibling (older, younger, twin, step)sadness
    BentleyMom or Dad or Stepbetrayal
    EsmeBabysitter (any age or gender)boredom
    EnzoDragonworry, anxiety, nervousness
    XanderDinosaurjoy
    DylanFairy Godmotherlove
    AprilEnemypride
    August/Auggie/Gus  resentment

  • Stories can rhyme or not – totally up to you!
  • You can go under or over 100 words if you want to – also totally up to you! – 100 is a guideline
  • If you’re deeply inspired by a name, relationship or emotion that isn’t included you’re welcome to use it, just please say what it is at the top of your entry – the purpose here is inspiration and to get you writing!
  • For simplicity’s sake (and to aid skimming readers who might be interested in a particular thing) please say which relationship and emotion you’re using at the top of your entry along with your name, word count, and title if you have one.
  • I am ready to be bowled over by your creativity and talent! 

    So come join the fun! Get some writing done! Encourage your kids (or students) to give it a try! Or just have a good time together reading what other folks have written!

    Ready, set, WRITE! 😊

    (And remember, for full details on the 7 week challenge you can check HERE)

    Check out the Week #6 stories!

    Gus – Robin Currie

    My Sister’s For Sale – Rose Cappelli

    Esme And Enzo, Aquatic Besties – Candice Marley Conner

    Alice And Ollie – Joyce Uglow

    Enzo The Pelican – Lyn Jekowsky

    Tuck And Pops – Marty Findley

    Anna And Granna – Marty Findley

    Mighty Maisy – Jen Subra

    Dance! Dance! – Leslie Degnan

    Gus Gets A Pet Dragon – Isabel Cruz Rodriguez

    Big Dog – Marty Findley

    Chip Goes Blip – Laura Bower

    My Grandpop Can Fix Anything – Susan Schipper

    The Chosen One – Sue Lancaster

    Fire Circle – Sarah Hawklyn

    The Festival – Erika Romero

    I Have A Poem For You – Padgy Soltis

    A Fork In The Road – Jill Lambert

    Birthday Surprise – Bevin Rolfs Spencer

    How A Radio Flyer Brought Two Unlikely Friends Together – Erin Cleary

    Maisie And Dana – Sarah Meade

    Dylan Loves His Friend – Barbara Renner

    The Tooth Fairy And The Dragon – Aly Kenna

    Grammy’s Twinkles – Dawn Young

    Date Night Betrayal – Allison Strick

    Maise Marigold Mariah Munder Would Not Let Her Face Go Under – Sara Kruger

    Maisie Astounds – Jeannette Suhr

    Dear Tooth Fairy – Nicole Loos Miller

    Creating Joy – Jeannette Suhr

    I Don’t Need A Babysitter – Elizabeth Meyer zu Heringdorf

    According To My Grandma – Marta Cutler

    Bentley’s Bad Behavior – Susan Summers

    A New Day – Mia Geiger

    Rosie’s Great Gramma Mary Onion – Sally Yorke-Viney

    Maisie’s Big Brother – Marty Bellis

    The Fairy Godmother Problem – Ashley Sierra

    The Most(ly) Boring Babysitter – Amy Leskowski

    Love – Lauren Scott

    Maisie’s Surprise – Deb Sullivan

    Little Dragon Worries – Hannah Roy LaGrone

    The Green Dragon – Marta Cutler

    Betrayed – Colleen Owen Murphy

    Hearts More Like Me – Elenore Byrne

    Little Gus Giraffe Goes To Tokyo – Dianne Irving

    I Hate Puppies – Deb Buschman

    Not The Enzo But A Beginning – Bru Benson

    The Great Escape – Katie Schwartz

    Monster And Alien – Brenna Jeanneret

    Late For School – Again – Michelle S. Kennedy

    Xander And The Dinosaurs – Linda Schueler

    Esme And Rex – JC Kelly

    Enzo’s Fire – Ashley B. Pedigo

    Untitled – Lauri Meyers

    PRIZES & PRIZES OF ALL SHAPES AND SIZES!

    When it comes time for prizes, names of all those who complete the challenge will be drawn randomly and matched with prizes drawn randomly until we run out! 😊

    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 gift purchases, rating and/or reviewing their books on GoodReads, Amazone, B&N, or anywhere else if you like them, suggesting them for school visits, and supporting them in any other way you can dream up! 😊

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

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is penny-parker-klostermann.jpg

    ⭐️ 30 Minute Q&A with Penny Klostermann

    ⭐️ Picture Book MS Critique OR Query Letter Critique (Winner’s Choice) from Jennifer Buchet, debut author of LITTLE MEDUSA’S HAIR DO-LEMMA (Clear Fork/Spork May 11, 2021)

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is jennifer-buchet.jpg

    

    ⭐️ Picture Book MS Critique from Jen Raudenbush, agented writer of picture books, middle grade, and poetry. (Represented by Natascha Morris of The Tobias Literary Agency)

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is jen-raudenbush.jpeg
    Jen Raudenbush

    ⭐️ Picture Book MS Critique OR Query Letter Critique (Winner’s Choice) from the lovely and talented Sara Kruger!

    Sara Kruger

    ⭐️ 30 minute Zoom chat about anything industry related (manuscript, query letter, best practices for querying) with Becky Scharnhorst, amazing author of MY SCHOOL STINKS (Philomel Books, July 6, 2021)

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is becky-scharnhorst-collage.jpeg

    ⭐️Picture Book Manuscript Critique with Audio Recording by author and poet Sarah Meade Sarah will do a written critique of your manuscript and include an audio recording of her first read-through of the manuscript. The audio recording is to help the author hear how the story flows and/or where a new reader may stumble when reading aloud.

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is screen-shot-2021-05-23-at-7.58.46-pm.png

    ⭐️ Webinar: How To Write Powerful First Pages Like A Pro by author and editor Alayne Kay Christian

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is alayne-kay-christian.jpg

    ⭐️ A copy of Mary Kole’s Writing Irresistible Kidlit: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grade Writers, donated by Nicole Loos Miller

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is writing-irresistible-kidlit.jpg

    ⭐️ A personalized signed copy of SASSAFRAS AND HER TEENY TINY TAIL (MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing 2021) by Candice Marley Conner
    

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is squarecover.jpg

    ⭐️ Making Picture Book Magic Self Study Class (any month)

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is email-header-final-susanna-hill.png

    ⭐️A copy of A FLOOD OF KINDNESS by Ellen Leventhal

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is a-flood-of-kindness.jpg

    ⭐️A copy of MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe by Vivian Kirkfield

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is making-their-voices-heard.jpg

    ⭐️A copy of THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT by Penny Parker Klostermann

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2c5b9-dragon2bcover.jpg

    ⭐️A copy of SLOTH AND SQUIRREL IN A PICKLE by Cathy Ballou Mealey

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is sloth-cover.jpg

    ⭐️A copy of BINDU’S BINDIS by Supriya Kelkar

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is bindus-bindis.jpg

    ⭐️A copy of PHOEBE DUPREE IS COMING TO TEA! by Linda Ashman

    ⭐️ Magnetic Poetry – Little Box of Happiness

    Magnetic Poetry - Little Box of Happiness Kit - Words for Refrigerator - Write Poems and Letters on The Fridge - Made in The USA

    ⭐️Picture Book Writers Rock! Mug for the writing fuel of your choice! 😊

    2021 Mix ‘n’ Match Mini Writing Challenge Week #5

    It’s a hot, hot Monday in June, so what better way to spend the day then on a cool porch, in a shady hammock, or in the air-conditioned library with an iced beverage, your writing implements, and the prompt for Mix ‘n’ Match Week #5?!

    Mix ‘n’ Match Mini is a 7 week writing challenge for anyone who needs a little boost, a little inspiration, or a little encouragement to get writing. . . or maybe just a little fun!

    You get to write your own story, enjoy and be entertained by everyone else’s stories, and get yourself in the running for some awesome prizes (please see the end of the blog post for a list of all the prize goodies which continues to grow!)

    To be eligible for the prize drawing you must enter all 7 weeks.

    For a full description of the challenge, to read the Week #1 entries, or to add your Week #1 entry, please go HERE (Week #1)

    To read the Week #2 entries or add your Week #2 entry, please go HERE (Week #2)

    To read the Week #3 entries or add your Week #3 entry, please go HERE (Week #3)

    To read the Week #4 entries or add your Week #4 entry, please go HERE (Week #4)

    Mix ‘n’ Match Mini Writing Prompt #5 for Week of June 7:

    So far we’ve played with character needs/goals, writing a cumulative story, a picture prompt with random words and a secret, and turning songs into stories with themes! 😊 This week, we’re going to have fun with concepts!

    Kids have a lot to learn about the world, and picture books can be education disguised as entertainment 😊. Think Z IS FOR MOOSE by Kelly Bingham, MOUSE PAINT by Ellen Stoll Walsh, and ROUND IS A TORTILLA by Roseanne Thong.

    For this week’s challenge, choose a concept from Column A and a setting from Column B and write a 100 word concept story for kids in which you utilize the setting to show your concept.

    Column A – ConceptColumn B – Setting
    ShapesHalloween
    ColorsBeach
    Numbers/CountingFarm
    AlphabetSchool
    TimeCar Trip
    Place/Location (in, on, above, under, around, through, etc.)Circus
    EmotionsCity or Country
    SeasonsAmusement Park or County Fair
    WeatherSupermarket
    • Stories can rhyme or not – totally up to you!
    • You can go under or over 100 words if you want to – also totally up to you! – 100 is a guideline
    • If you’re deeply inspired by a concept or a setting that isn’t included you’re welcome to use it, just please say what it is at the top of your entry – the purpose here is inspiration and to get you writing!
    • For simplicity’s sake (and to aid skimming readers who might be interested in a particular thing) please say which concept and setting you’re using at the top of your entry along with your name, word count, and title if you have one.

    Can’t wait to see what amazing, creative things you guys come up with this week! 

    So come join the fun! Get some writing done! Encourage your kids (or students) to give it a try! Or just have a good time together reading what other folks have written!

    Ready, set, WRITE! 😊

    (And remember, for full details on the 7 week challenge you can check HERE)

    Check out the Week #5 stories!

    F Is For Fish Farm – Candice Marley Conner

    The Reason For Seasons (At The Beach) – Laura Bower

    Go To The Beach And Find. . . – Erika Romero

    Circus Countdown – Sue Lancaster

    ABCs Of Abstract Art – Christine Alemshah

    What Color Is Fall? – Jen Subra

    Toucan Counts His Berries – Marty Findley

    Weather Check – Dawn Young

    The Colors In The Farm – Isabel Cruz Rodriguez

    One Fine Bluebird – Rose Cappelli

    Road Trip! – Erin Cleary

    Wise Willie Wonders Where – Susan Schipper

    On My First Easter Party – Ashley Sierra

    Senses Dance At The Beach – Lyn Jekowsky

    Roller Coaster – Barbara Renner

    Alphabet Road Trip – Aly Kenna

    A Trolley Full Of Feelings – Elenore Byrne

    It’s Time For The State Fair – Joyce Uglow

    They’re Coming! – Jill Lambert

    The Colorful Car Trip – Deb Sullivan

    Are We There Yet? – Marta Cutler

    The Number Line – Colleen Owen Murphy

    Five At The Fair – Bevin Rolfs Spencer

    Are We There Yet? – Leslie Degnan

    A Win At Walmart – Sara Kruger

    Circus Opposites – Lauren Scott

    Runaway Stroller – Allison Strick

    Ghost Crabs At The Beach – Susan Summers

    Ups And Downs – Jeannette Suhr

    Sleepytime ABCs – Elizabeth Meyer zu Heringdorf

    I’ll Grocery Shop For You – Bru Benson

    Weather Or Not – Marta Cutler

    At the Beach – Marty Bellis

    Counting the Colors of Sunset // Contando los colores del atardecer – Hannah Roy LaGrone

    Farm Time – Robin Currie

    Halloween Alphabet – Sally Yorke-Viney

    Alphabet Road Trip – Deb Buschman

    At Grandma’s House – Sarah Meade

    Not The Only One – Amy Leskowski

    Beach Day – Katie Schwartz

    At The Beach – Sarah Hawklyn

    Monday Mornings – Padgy Soltis

    Farm Life – Michelle S. Kennedy

    Seasons Market – Linda Schueler

    Untitled – Lauri Meyers

    Roller Coaster – Nicole Loos Miller

    Ten Little Sea Creatures – Mia Geiger

    Head Down Under And Count To Ten – Dianne Irving

    The Halloween Seasons – Brenna Jeanneret

    “Is It Halloween Yet?” – Ashley B. Pedigo

    I Simply Cannot – JC Kelly

    PRIZES & PRIZES OF ALL SHAPES AND SIZES!

    When it comes time for prizes, names of all those who complete the challenge will be drawn randomly and matched with prizes drawn randomly until we run out! 😊

    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 gift purchases, rating and/or reviewing their books on GoodReads, Amazone, B&N, or anywhere else if you like them, suggesting them for school visits, and supporting them in any other way you can dream up! 😊

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

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is penny-parker-klostermann.jpg

    ⭐️ 30 Minute Q&A with Penny Klostermann

    ⭐️ Picture Book MS Critique OR Query Letter Critique (Winner’s Choice) from Jennifer Buchet, debut author of LITTLE MEDUSA’S HAIR DO-LEMMA (Clear Fork/Spork May 11, 2021)

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is jennifer-buchet.jpg

    

    ⭐️ Picture Book MS Critique from Jen Raudenbush, agented writer of picture books, middle grade, and poetry. (Represented by Natascha Morris of The Tobias Literary Agency)

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is jen-raudenbush.jpeg
    Jen Raudenbush

    ⭐️ 30 minute Zoom chat about anything industry related (manuscript, query letter, best practices for querying) with Becky Scharnhorst, amazing author of MY SCHOOL STINKS (Philomel Books, July 6, 2021)

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is becky-scharnhorst-collage.jpeg

    ⭐️Picture Book Manuscript Critique with Audio Recording by author and poet Sarah Meade Sarah will do a written critique of your manuscript and include an audio recording of her first read-through of the manuscript. The audio recording is to help the author hear how the story flows and/or where a new reader may stumble when reading aloud.

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is screen-shot-2021-05-23-at-7.58.46-pm.png

    ⭐️ Webinar: How To Write Powerful First Pages Like A Pro by author and editor Alayne Kay Christian

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is alayne-kay-christian.jpg

    ⭐️ A copy of Mary Kole’s Writing Irresistible Kidlit: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grade Writers, donated by Nicole Loos Miller

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is writing-irresistible-kidlit.jpg

    ⭐️ A personalized signed copy of SASSAFRAS AND HER TEENY TINY TAIL (MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing 2021) by Candice Marley Conner
    

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is squarecover.jpg

    ⭐️ Making Picture Book Magic Self Study Class (any month)

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is email-header-final-susanna-hill.png

    ⭐️A copy of A FLOOD OF KINDNESS by Ellen Leventhal

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is a-flood-of-kindness.jpg

    ⭐️A copy of MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe by Vivian Kirkfield

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is making-their-voices-heard.jpg

    ⭐️A copy of THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT by Penny Parker Klostermann

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2c5b9-dragon2bcover.jpg

    ⭐️A copy of SLOTH AND SQUIRREL IN A PICKLE by Cathy Ballou Mealey

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is sloth-cover.jpg

    ⭐️A copy of BINDU’S BINDIS by Supriya Kelkar

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is bindus-bindis.jpg

    ⭐️ Magnetic Poetry – Little Box of Happiness

    Magnetic Poetry - Little Box of Happiness Kit - Words for Refrigerator - Write Poems and Letters on The Fridge - Made in The USA

    Here We Go Again! Mix ‘n’ Match Mini Writing Challenge Take 2!

    Good morning, my little chickens!

    Are things feeling a wee bit humdrum?

    Is daily routine getting you down?

    Does this look familiar?

    Just as I suspected!

    It seems we’ve all got a case of the I Haven’t Gone Anywhere Done Anything Seen Anyone For A Year So What The Heck Can I Write About Blues!

    But don’t worry.

    I can fix that! 😊

    All that’s required is a little tomfoolery! A few high jinx and shenanigans to knock the K off of FUNK and get us back to good old F-U-N!

    Who’s with me?

    Give me a woo!

    WOO!

    Give me a hoo!

    HOO!

    What does that spell?

    Well. . . technically it doesn’t actually spell anything, since neither woo nor hoo is a letter, but one way or another it comes out

    WOOHOO!

    Now! Let’s have some fun!

    And fun in this instance is. . .

    another round of the ever-popular, practically world famous

    (Not a contest exactly… no room in the blog calendar, no time for judging, no gigantic prizes on offer…but still (hopefully!) tons of fun!)

    Here’s how it works:

    Starting today, each Monday until June 21st (which makes 7 Mondays total and will get us to the end of the school term) I will post a Mix ‘n’ Match Mini Writing Prompt for a 100 word story.  Post your story in the comment section for that week’s challenge (or if you have trouble posting it, email it to me and I’ll post it for you.)  At the end of the 7 weeks, everyone who has posted one story for each week’s prompt will

    A) have 7 brand new stories to play with!  (Who knows? Your next picture book or even chapter book or longer might be sparked by something you write for the Challenge!)

    B) be able to take credit for entertaining lots of fellow writers and their kids (not to mention you’ll entertain yourself and your own kids!)

    and

    C) qualify to win a prize from the Mix ‘n’ Match Mini Mystery Bag of Marvelous Prizes for Writers! (Last year we managed to scare up enough prizes that all of the approximately 40 people who completed the challenge got something, but we’ll have to see how the available prizes stack up this year – if there aren’t enough for everyone who completes the challenge we’ll have to randomly draw winners until we run out of prizes, but you will still win A and B above!)

    You can compete with yourself to see if you can write all 7 stories!  You can compete with your writing friends to see if you can write more than they do! And if you want to get really competitive, you can all read the stories that are posted and “like” the ones you think are best and see who gets the most “likes” 😊 (If you do that there might be some special prizes…who can tell??? 😊)

    When the going get’s humdrum, children’s writers beat the blues by playing writing games and creating new stories to keep themselves and everyone around them entertained!

    So here we go!

    Mix ‘n’ Match Mini Writing Prompt #1 for Week of May 10:

    Choose a character from Column A and something the character needs from Column B and write a 100 word story for children entitled _____Column A_____ Needs A _____Column B_____ If you wish, you may also select a random item from Column C to include in your story.

    For example: Hermit Crab Needs A Home. (And perhaps you’d include a harmonica somewhere in the story.)

    Or, if something in Column C strikes your fancy you can use that as the thing your character needs, e.g. Hummingbird Needs Help.

    Get the idea?

    Here are the options:

    Column A – CharacterColumn B – Something NeededColumn C – random item
    HedgehogHomeHockey Stick (or Hockey Puck)
    HammerheadHugHorse (or Sea Horse)
    Hermit CrabHintHarmonica
    HummingbirdHobbyHero
    HareHolidayHelp
    Henry or HilaryHatHelicopter

    If a central idea would be helpful to you in your writing, you can focus your story on Mother’s Day, since that is fresh in all our minds this morning 😊, but that is NOT required.

    In an attempt to answer possible questions I will say:

    • you can write as many stories as you want each week
    • you can post them at any time during the week (just make sure they’re on the Monday Mix ‘n’ Match Mini post for the week you’re entering – e.g. below for Week #1))
    • you can play catch up (so if you miss a week you can go back and add to an earlier week if you’re trying to complete the challenge and qualify for prizes as long as all entries are posted on the correct week and are posted no later than Saturday June 26th at midnight Eastern time.)
    • no illustration notes
    • You may go over the word count if you’re on a roll and you wish to (because there is no judging 😊)
    • You may write in poetry or prose

    (This is where the sample I intended to write belongs, but since I haven’t had time to write it yet I’ll have to add it in!)

    And here’s a little sampling of the prizes up for grabs to whet your competitive spirit 😊 MORE TO COME!

    When it comes time for prizes, names of all those who completed the challenge will be drawn randomly and matched with prizes drawn randomly until we run out! 😊

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

    ⭐️ 30 Minute Q&A with Penny Klostermann

    ⭐️ Picture Book MS Critique OR Query Letter Critique (Winner’s Choice) from Jennifer Buchet, debut author of LITTLE MEDUSA’S HAIR DO-LEMMA (Clear Fork/Spork May 11, 2021)

    ⭐️ Picture Book MS Critique from Jen Raudenbush, agented writer of picture books, middle grade, and poetry. (Represented by Natascha Morris of The Tobias Literary Agency)

    ⭐️ 30 minute Zoom chat about anything industry related (manuscript, query letter, best practices for querying) with Becky Scharnhorst, amazing author of MY SCHOOL STINKS (Philomel Books, July 6, 2021)

    ⭐️ Webinar: How To Write Powerful First Pages Like A Pro by author and editor Alayne Kay Christian

    ⭐️ A copy of Mary Kole’s Writing Irresistible Kidlit: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grade Writers, donated by Nicole Loos Miller

    ⭐️ A personalized signed copy of SASSAFRAS AND HER TEENY TINY TAIL (MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing 2021) by Candice Marley Conner

    ⭐️ Making Picture Book Magic Self Study Class (any month)

    ⭐️ Magnetic Poetry – Little Box of Happiness

    Magnetic Poetry - Little Box of Happiness Kit - Words for Refrigerator - Write Poems and Letters on The Fridge - Made in The USA

    Check out the Week 1 Stories!

    Henry Needs A Holiday – Joyce Uglow

    Hank Needs A Hug – Jen Subra

    Hare Needs (To Take) A Hint – Candice Marley Conner

    Hummingbird Needs A Holiday – Laura Bower

    Hummingbird Needs A Hug – Ann Gray

    Humphrey Hummingbird Needs A (New) Hobby – Clearywriter

    Hedgehog Needs A Hobby – Erika

    Hare Needs A Hug – Brenda Whitehead

    Henry Hare Needs A Hat – Marty Bellis

    Henry Needs A Hug – Isabel Cruz Rodriguez

    Hermit Crab Needs A Home – Sarah Hawklyn

    Henry Hedgehog – Michelle S. Kennedy

    Henrietta’s New Home – Rose Cappelli

    Hilary Needs A Hug – Sarah Meade

    Hermy The Hermit Crab’s New Home – Susan E. Schipper

    Helicopter Hummingbird – Linda Schueler

    Untitled – Marta Magellan

    Hilary The Hummingbird – Julie Kurtz

    A Holiday For Mrs. Hare – Judy Sobanski

    Alphonso’s Real Estate: Fashionable Homes For Hermit Crabs – Nicole Loos Miller

    Hyena’s Hiccups – Marla Yablon

    Hermit Crab Needs A Holiday – Carrines Clifton

    Henry Hummingbird Needs A Home – Jennifer Reichow

    Henry’s Discovery – Dawn Young

    Henry Needs Some Luck – Allison Strick

    Henry Needs A Holiday Hero – Ashley Sierra

    Hoglet Hurry Home – Sally Yorke-Viney

    A Hat For Hammerhead – Ashley B. Pedigo

    Hallie Hummingbird Needs A Holiday – Christine Alemshah

    Hudson Hammerhead Needs A Hug – Jeannette Suhr

    Henry Needs A Hobby – Sue Lancaster

    Hare And His Harmonica – Lyn Jekowsky

    Horst Needs A Hug – Elizabeth Meyer Zu Heringdorf

    Hummingbird Needs A Holiday – Sara Kruger

    Hammerhead Needs A Hockey Stick – Les Degnan

    Henry Needs A Hint – Deb Sullivan

    Hare Needs A Hobby – Marta Cutler

    Hare Needs A Holiday – Aly Kenna

    Hilary Needs A Hint – Mia Geiger

    Henry Needs A Hint – Elenore Byrne

    Hare Style – Hannah Roy LaGrone

    Hillary Hare Needs A Holiday – Barbara Farr Renner

    Hammerhead Needs A Holiday – Dianne Irving

    Hilary Needs A Harmonica – MWREX

    Henry Needs A Hug – Val McCammon

    Harry Hammerhead Has A Hard Day – Susan Summers

    A Horse For Hermit Crab – Jill Lambert

    A Home For Hedgehog – Elizabeth Volkmann

    Hare Needs A Home – Jessica Murray

    Hammerhead Needs Help – Katie Schwartz

    Untitled – Lauri Meyers

    Hedgehog Needs A Hat – Candace

    Hedgehog Needs A Home – Summer Hinderer

    Spiny The Hedgehog – Eva Kaman

    Hopping Lonely – Jamie Bills

    Henry Needs A Hint – Lauren Scott

    Hare Needs A Hat – Jana Mattern

    Hilary’s Holiday – Bevin Rolfs Spencer

    Henry Hare’s New Hobby – Bru Benson

    Hedgehog Hugs – Marty Findley

    Hermit Crab Needs A Hat – Lynn Katz

    Henry Hammerhead Needed A Hug – Padgy Soltis

    Hedgehog Hates Hugs – TL Fales

    Hammerhead Needs A Hat – Amy Leskowski

    Mama Hedgehog’s Mother’s Day Holiday – Robin Currie

    Henry Needs A Hero – Colleen Owen Murphy

    Hugo Hammerhead Needs A Hat – Deb Buschman

    Henry Hedgehog Needs A Home – Elizabeth Muster

    Hedgehog Needs A Hint – Brenna Jeanneret

    Hummingbird Needs A Holiday – JC Kelly

    The 2021 Valentiny Contest WINNERS!!!

    Rise and shine, my friends!

    I know it’s Monday.

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

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

    But.

    BUT!

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

    Yes!

    It’s true!

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


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

    No?

    Ok, how about

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

    Oh no, wait! I’ve got it!

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

    I don’t know what’s happening here.

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

    Who could that be?

    But never mind, because GUESS WHAT?

    It’s time to announce the WINNERS of

    The 6th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest

    ~ for children’s writers ~

    First of all, I want to thank EVERYONE who took the time and care to write an entry for this contest.  You all did a fabulous job and provided great enjoyment for so many! As always, I was thrilled to see so many wonderful stories!  It is amazing and inspiring, not to mention VERY entertaining!  There is just so much talent out there amongst you all!  The other judges and I are blown away anew each time!

    Second, I’d also like to thank EVERYONE – writer, reader, or both – who took the time to go around and read as many entries as you could and leave supportive comments.  This means so much to the writers who worked hard on their stories.  It helps them see what they did well, as well as giving them the joy of knowing that their stories were read and enjoyed.  I hope you all got as much delight  and entertainment out of the reading as I did!  Plus, we got to meet quite a few new people which was a wonderful added bonus! 🙂

    Third, I want to say again how difficult it was too choose!  There were so many amazing entries.  Really.  I could find at least something terrific about every single one.  The sheer volume of entries meant that many good ones had to be cut.  We chose 14 finalists, and around 35 Honorable Mentions which we also loved, and even with those 49 total there were over 200 entries we couldn’t list! So if yours didn’t make the final cut please don’t feel bad.  You’re in good company! There was a huge amount of competition.  Judging, no matter how hard we try to be objective, is always subjective at a certain point – we all have our own preferences for what makes a great story.  And the fact that you didn’t make the final cut DOES NOT mean you didn’t write a great story.  Everyone who plonked their butt in a chair and worked hard to write a story for this contest is a winner!  You showed up.  You did your best work.  You practiced your craft.  You wrote to specifications and a deadline.  You bravely shared your writing with the world.  And you have a brand new story that is now yours to expand beyond 214 words if you like and maybe submit at some point to a magazine or as a PB manuscript.  So bravo to everyone who entered!

    Because it was such a hard choice, and there were so many wonderful stories, before we get to the winners, my assistant judges and I would like to award bragging rights, recognition and a small prize to the following authors for the following merits:

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

    Elizabeth Volkmann for Class List

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

    David McMullin for Brave Brave Brave (also funny 😊)

    Laken Slate for The Brave Little Conversation Heart

    M.R. Haqq for Soon

    Mia Geiger for Peanut’s Brave Valentine’s Day

    Ashlee Hashman for The Wildflower

    Lindsey Hobson for U R Brave

    Audrey Day-Williams for Legendary Valentine

    Sara Ackerman for Arrrrr Is For Valentine

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

    Donna Kurtz for The Owl and the Kitty-Kat

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

    Una Belle Townsend for Six Secret Valentines

    Jan Suhr for The Lost Valentine

    Kaylee Gwarjanski for Mission: Cancel Cupid Call

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

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

    3. For Original POV:

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

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

    4. For Humor:

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

    Catherine J Lee for The Valentine on My Shoe

    Karyn Curtis for The Valentine’s Quest

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

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

    Brenda Whitehead for Step-Brother Battle

    Shannon Howarth Nelson for Super Brothers

    Danielle S. Hammelef for Scaredy-Cat

    6. For Beautiful Writing:

    Ciara N M Greenwalt for The Gift Tree

    Sandhya Acharya for Sarla Asks A Question

    Jyoti Rajan Gopal for A Cocoon of Love

    Amy Flynn for Tilly’s Great Big Heart

    7. For Best Short Valentiny Story:

    P. J. Purtee for A Simple Valentine

    8. For Sweet Valentiny:

    Kelly Swemba for Brave For Gigi

    Anne Bromley for Caleb’s Heart

    Carmen Castillo Gilbert for Roses From Valentina

    9. Best Story From A Young Writer:

    Sophia Zafra for Bravery Is From The Heart

    Congratulations to all of you for fantastic elements of your stories!  You may all email me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com subject line Prize Winner to collect your award badge and prize, which is five dollars in a format that can be emailed for you to put toward something you’d like at a large online store (and I’m being cryptic because when I did this for Halloweensie I got a ton of problematic spam mail because of the way I worded the post, but hopefully you can figure it out.  The store starts with the letter A 😊) I know it’s not much, but hopefully it will come in handy for something!

    And now…

    …the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

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

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

    DDDRRRUUUMMM RRROOOLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!

    In First Place

    Winner of the whole shebang…

    who gets first choice of all the prizes…

    Sarah McDermott
    for

    Lemur in Love!!!

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

    In Second Place

    Sarah Meade
    for
    Jana’s Valentine Visit

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

    In Third Place

    Nancy Derey Riley
    for
    Percy’s Valentine

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

    In Fourth Place

    Jessica Hinrichs
    for
    Valentine’s Gotcha Day

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

    In Fifth Place

    Carrie Boone
    for
    The Ballad of Bad Bart

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

    In Sixth Place...

    Nicole Loos Miller
    for
    Stella & Hank

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

    In Seventh Place…

    Paul Kurtz
    for
    Someone Special!

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

    In Eighth Place…

    Chambrae Griffith
    for
    Octopus Hugs

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

    In Ninth Place…

    Janie Reinart
    for
    Untangled Valentines

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

    In Tenth Place…

    Anne Lipton
    for
    Most Valuable Valentine

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

    In Eleventh Place…

    Katie Brandyberry
    for
    Valentine Delivery

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

    In Twelfth Place…

    Lauri C. Meyers
    for
    Charmadillo

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

    In Thirteenth Place…

    Judy Sobanski
    for
    Brave Little Friends

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

    In Fourteenth Place…

    Samantha Haas
    for
    Valentine’s Day Rocks

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

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

    Congratulations again to all our winners – it was a stiff competition!! – and congratulations to EVERYONE who wrote and entered a story in the contest.  You all deserve a huge round of applause and a gigantic chocolate heart… or lots of little chocolate hearts… or both… really, you can never have too much chocolate 😊 . (Or, can I interest you in a Poptart? Maybe a chocolate Poptart… 😊 )

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

    Have a marvelous Monday, everyone! 😊

    The Prizes:  Swoonworthy!

    Hannah VanVels – Agent, Belcastro Agency – PB MS Critique

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

    (from Belcastro Agency’s website)

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

    Renee LaTulippe

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

    Dawn Young

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

    Kirsti Call

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

    Melissa Stoller

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

    Becky Scharnhorst

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

    Ellen Leventhal

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

    Rebecca Kraft Rector

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

    Julie Abery


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

    Author Jenna Waldman

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

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

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

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

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

    The 6th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest FINALISTS!!! – Vote For Your Favorite!!!

    I know, I know!

    You’ve been up all night, wearing holes in your carpet, nibbling your nails to nubbins, refreshing your browser every 10 seconds in case the blog notification you’re waiting for somehow needs a nudge to load, picking the clock up to make sure you read it right because YIKES! how long can it BE until MORNING!

    And when at last it is actually time for that blog post to arrive. . .

    . . .it DOESN’T! (You had to wait until 11 AM!)

    (Gnashing of teeth, tearing of hair, rending of garments, howl of frustration! GAH!!!)

    I know. I understand. I really do.

    Because here, on the other side of the blog post, the other judges and I have spent the past several days (and nights) reading and re-reading 252 amazing, wonderful entries, trying to narrow them down to a mere handful of finalists when there are SO MANY we’d like to choose. It is agony, I tell you, sheer AGONY!

    It makes me realize that apparently I am a glutton for more than chocolate! Who knew? I must also be a glutton for punishment to put myself through this every contest!

    Because every contest you guys amaze me with your talent and creativity. Each time I think I can’t be more impressed with the entry pool, you prove me wrong.

    So. . .

    . . .gnashing of teeth, tearing of hair, rending of garments, howl of frustration! GAH!!! and consumption of a LOT of sustaining chocolate and caffeine 😊

    Because entering a contest is a kind of practice for submitting to agents and editors, I thought you might be interested to see a bit of breakdown so you know what you’re up against when you submit. This contest (popular as it is 😊) got 252 entries this year – a mere drop in the bucket compared to the number of submissions agents and editors get. Approximately 240 entries had to be cut. Only the tiniest percentage of entries make it to the finalist list. It is even more competitive among agents and editors. I do not say this to discourage you! But it does show how important it is to submit your best work. When making a choice, it is much easier to cut the ones that didn’t follow the submission guidelines, weren’t proofread, have subpar writing mechanics with mistakes in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and word usage, or simply don’t feel special enough to stand out from a crowd of excellent entries.

    This contest the entries seemed to fall into topic categories more than usual.

    We had many groups of 2 or 3 entries relating to robots, spiders, bees, lions, seeds/flowers, snails/slugs, color blindness, dragons, and zombies.

    Then we had bigger groups about:

    Birds (4)
    Cats (5)
    Chickens (5) (I think that was because of the bravery theme 😊)
    Grumpy/Scary Neighbor (5)
    Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity (6)
    Fear of Public Speaking (7)
    Nursing Home/Elderly/Ill/Dementia/Dying/Dead Grandparent (8)
    Sick/Injured Child (particularly cancer) ((9)
    Dogs (10)

    (and I don’t claim to have counted exactly right 😊 there may have been a few more in each group)

    I thought it might be helpful to you in your continued writing so see how many writers’ minds go in similar directions in order to help you distinguish your writing from that of others by looking for ways to make those topics fresh and new, and to write them in ways that truly enhance the topic and make it shine so that a judge, agent, or editor can’t get it out of her mind. What (for example) will make your dog story funnier, more heartfelt, more original, more…whatever, than the other X number of dog stories it’s up against?

    Anyway, with apologies for being unable to winnow the finalist pool to 12 and therefore settling on 14 (which is the number of Valentine’s Day after all 😊) (and yes, I will see if I can scare up two more prizes!) I present to you the finalists in the 2021 Sixth 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 Sunday February 21 at 5 PM Eastern time.

    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 brave little alien who faced certain peril at the launch of the Valentine Roboblaster 2000 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.

    So now, here are the 2021 Valentiny Contest Finalists!!! 7 rhyme, 7 prose (total accident!), some for younger readers, some for older (but still kid) readers, some funny, some sweet, some sad, some thought-provoking but all fabulous! 😊

    The 6th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest

    ~ FINALISTS!!! ~

    #1 – Percy’s Valentine

    “Hello NASA, Percy here,
    I’m on approach to Mars.
    I’ve come to meet my valentine
    out here among the stars.”

    Suddenly his dash went dark.
    He lost communication.
    The rover now was on his own
    to reach his destination.

    “The next ten minutes are the worst.
    It’s called the time of terror.
    I’ve calculated all the risks
    and have no room for error.”

    He used an extra thruster burn,
    to slow his rate of speed.
    He changed his orbit, pitch, and slope
    to plot the course he’d need.

    But then alarms began to blare.
    He cried, “I’ve overshot!”
    His heat shields glowed a brilliant white.
    “I’m coming in too hot!”

    With only seconds left to save
    his Valentine’s Day mission,
    he saw “Range Trigger” on a knob,
    “That’s how I change position.”

    He pulled the knob and felt a thunk,
    the parachute deployed.
    The sky crane lowered him to Mars
    beside another droid.

    He smiled at Curiosity.
    “I had to persevere.
    Please say you’ll be my Valentine,
    now that I made it here!”

    “Your entrance was spectacular.
    It won my heart and soul.”
    She said, “We’ll be the best of friends.
    Come on, let’s rock and roll.”

    #2 – Valentine Delivery

    Mail Truck’s engine flutters with nerves. Today is Valentine’s Day and his mailbags are overflowing.

    But… snowflakes swirl and twirl around him. Mail Truck has never driven on snowy, slick roads before.

    Wheels spinning, he begins his route.
    He slips to the left,
    then slides to the right.
    His shocks shake.
    He fogs up in fear.
    He carefully shuffles back and parks.

    The snow will melt tomorrow. I’ll deliver the valentines then, he thinks. I’m sure nobody will mind.

    Across the street, a child darts to her mailbox. She slips in a homemade valentine for pickup. Mail Truck’s tires deflate with guilt.

    Further down, an old lady trudges to her mailbox. Seeing it empty, she wipes away a tear. Watching her, Mail Truck’s lights turn red in shame.

    Determined, Mail Truck fills his tank.
    He turns on his brightest lights.
    His wipers zip back and forth.

    “My job is to deliver the mail – snow or shine!”

    Bravely, he rolls down the street. His heart races as he inches from mailbox to mailbox.

    The child runs outside, yelling “Happy Valentine’s Day, Mail Truck!”

    When the old lady sees her mail delivered, her face lights up.

    On this cold and snowy day, Mail Truck feels warm inside…
    and remembers why he loves his job.

    #3 – Most Valuable Valentine

    This year I’ll make baseball cards instead of valentines,
    to honor a brave player who transcended racial lines.
    Henry Louis Aaron batted well above his weight,
    his legend soaring over those who needled him with hate.

    Henry grew up poor but loved, down south in Mobile Bay.
    Thwacking bottle caps with sticks, he’d pop them far away.
    Though he had no bat or glove, he had great strength within,
    but he was barred from Little League because he had dark skin.

    Henry’s high school had no team, so he went semi-pro.
    When he unspooled his mighty swing, he made the crowd go “Oh!”
    Henry slid into home plate, and he’d sew up the win,
    yet some hotels and restaurants would not let Henry in.

    Henry Aaron never quit, his hopes pinned to his dream,
    working hard to do his best, to always help his team.
    With his eyes glued on the ball, he’d shut out racist jeers,
    and with the cracking of his bat came loud, wholehearted cheers.

    Henry was the Home Run King, a diamond for his court.
    He rose above the foul done him and championed good sport.
    My ball-entines will be a hit, a home run, no debate,
    because they’re threaded through with love and not a stitch of hate.

    #4 – Stella & Hank

    Stella was the perfect cat:
    Gorgeous,
    And charming,
    And oh-so-soft.

    She was loved by all,
    Especially Hank.

    Hank was the perfect dog:
    Huge,
    And drooly,
    And oh-so-playful.

    He was loved by everyone…
    Except Stella.

    Hank tried to win
    Stella’s affection
    With rope-pulls,
    And slobbery bones,
    Even his favorite stuffie.

    But Stella flattened her ears,
    Wrinkled her whiskers,
    And turned her tail.

    When Hank came near,
    Stella’s claws came out.

    When Hank whimpered,
    Stella HISSSSSSSSED.
    When Hank howled a love tune,
    Stella SMACKED.
    And when he tried to give her a bath…
    YIKES!

    Poor Hank.

    Then, one February day,
    Stella
    Went
    Away
    And
    Hank
    Sighed
    And
    Waited
    And
    Sighed
    And
    Waited
    Until…

    She finally came back
    With a big plastic collar
    That went up instead of down.

    Stella was sore,
    And sad,
    And sleepy,
    And it broke Hank’s heart.

    He gathered his courage,
    And his bones,
    And his stuffie.

    He risked a HISS,
    And a SMACK,
    And even a SWIPE,
    To put his offering at her feet.

    Stella opened one eye.
    She considered him closely.
    And
    Scooted
    To
    The
    Right.

    Enough room for a large dog
    (If he stayed very quiet). Hank barely dared to breathe.
    Stella started to purr.
    It was the best Valentine’s ever
    Because he spent it next to her.

    #5 – Octopus Hugs

    Octopus was floating by,
    when a flyer caught his eye.

    Clown fish, dolphins, sting rays, slugs,
    are you good at giving hugs?
    A Valentine’s Day hug contest.
    The prize, a sunken treasure chest!
    Contestants, meet at Aqua Park.
    Test all your hugs on me!
    Love, Shark.

    “A treasure chest? Oh what a prize!”
    But hug a shark, would that be wise?

    With 8 strong arms he’d be the winner,
    or he might wind up— shark’s dinner!

    He squirmed his way to Aqua Park
    to see who dared to hug a shark.

    But not one creature stood in line
    Only shark—who held a sign.

    Hug contest. Enter, please!
    I’ve never had a single squeeze.

    Shark’s head hung low, he looked so blue,
    Octopus knew what to do.

    He swam up slowly feeling wary,
    shark was big, and very scary!

    He stretched his shaking arms out wide,
    and whispered, “Here shark, swim inside.”

    He wrapped shark up, all tight and snug,
    and gave him the most perfect hug.

    “Oh what a hug! The very best!
    You win this sunken treasure chest.”

    But Octopus had fixed his eyes
    on something else, a shark-sized prize!

    “Though the treasure chest looks great,
    I’d rather win— a new best mate!”

    #6 – Untangled Valentines

    This Valentine’s day is
    tangled
    like my hair…
    like
    my
    thoughts.

    One last time,
    I brush
    my bangs.

    Put on
    the gift
    from my sister—
    a new red
    headband.

    She’s been
    in the hospital
    a lot.

    My sister
    worries…
    no one
    will want
    to be her
    valentine.

    My sister
    worries…
    no one
    will think
    she is
    pretty
    anymore.

    Clumps
    of her hair
    fall out—
    rest
    on her pillow.

    Today,
    we leave for
    another
    appointment.

    I promise her
    —cross my heart—
    I will hold
    her hand
    the whole time…

    First,
    they tie her hair
    into ponytails.

    Scissors
    snip,
    snip.

    Then clippers
    buzz,
    buzz.

    My heart beats
    ba-boom,
    ba-boom,
    ba-boom.

    What’s left
    of her soft curls
    fall
    to
    the
    floor.

    I clutch her hand.

    In minutes
    her little head is …
    bald.

    I blink fast.
    Squeeze
    my eyes
    closed.
    And swallow
    hard.

    Her small mouth
    quivers
    into a half smile.
    “Want to rub my head for good luck?”

    I exhale.

    Slowly,
    I take off
    my new headband.

    The words
    untangle
    on
    my
    tongue.

    “Better than that,” I say softly.
    “I’m next.”

    #7 – The Ballad of Bad Bart

    High noon
    Western town
    Bad Bart stares the sheriff down.

    Empty street
    Dusty square
    Tension crackles in the air

    Spurs jangle
    Fingers shake
    Bad Bart’s heart begins to quake.

    Overhead
    Buzzards fly
    Shadows in the clear blue sky.

    Down below
    Bad Bart stands
    Lasso twisting in his hands

    Palms sweaty,
    Mouth dry,
    Bad Bart catches Sheriff’s eye.

    Hesitation –
    Can he do it?
    Deep breath in–nothing to it!

    “Tell me, Sheriff Caroline,
    Will you be my Valentine?”

    Buzzards pause
    Wind stops
    Bad Bart’s stomach flips and flops

    Sheriff frowns
    Seconds drag
    Bart’s high hopes begin to sag

    Sheriff brightens
    Hope revives!
    Bad Bart’s dearest wish survives

    Sheriff says
    to her cowboy
    Words that fill his heart with joy:

    “Put aside your life of crime–
    Then I’ll be your Valentine!”

    #8 – Someone Special!

    “Yoo-hoo, Blowtorch,” Danny calls into the cave.
    A dragon appears. “YAWN! I was napping—what’s up?”

    “Tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day. I want to show someone special I’m brave.” Danny waves a striped bag. “Pretend to fight me and these fireball-jawbreakers are yours.”

    “Ooo—my favorite.”

    Next day—

    “Danny,” Princess Dawn says, “are you sure about this? Your Valentine card, flowers, and candy were plenty.”

    “But I want you to see I’m brave.”

    CLINK—CLANK—CLUNK—

    —rattles Danny’s armor as he approaches the cave.

    “Come out, fiery dragon—brave knight Sir Danny challenges you!”

    Blowtorch appears—

    ROARRRR

    Danny’s silver sword flashes—Blowtorch’s golden claws rip the air.

    “Oh my—” Princess Dawn gasps.

    All day they fight like tigers.

    “OH MY!” Princess Dawn squeals.

    Blowtorch rises onto his back legs, and—

    WHOOSHHH

    —giant flames flare from his nostrils.

    “YYIII!” Danny shrieks.

    The flames melt Danny’s armor and burn away his clothes. Stumbling backward, he sprawls on the ground in his charred, smoking underpants.

    “OHHH! Blowtorch, why did you do that?”

    Blowtorch winks at a dragon with glittering pink scales standing beside Princess Dawn.

    Giggling, she waves her silver claws and flutters her violet eyelashes at him. “My handsome, brave dragon-hero.” Blowtorch sighs and flames flare from his nostrils, forming a heart. “I have someone special too!”

    #9 – Charmadillo

    Charmadillo sniffed the air
    And smelled the lovely Shelly there.
    She snorted dirt while pigging out.
    He loved her soft pink digging snout.

    He should say “hi” or “whatcha eating,”
    But his heart was loudly beating.
    Too shy to speak, he hatched a scheme
    To tell sweet Shelly she’s his dream.

    He would write some words of love
    And pass the note from up above.
    “Your snout is pink, your bands are fine,
    Won’t you be my Valentine?”

    He watched the letter fall below…
    But then his fear began to grow.
    He tried to snatch it back again,
    But it was deep inside her den!

    The situation turned him pale.
    He rolled himself and hugged his tail.
    His armor wasn’t tough enough –
    Inside he felt all squirmy stuff.

    He tried to dig a hole and hide,
    But something stirred from deep inside.
    What if his dreadful doubts were wrong,
    And sharing feelings made him strong?

    He paced nearby for her reply,
    Jumping when he heard her cry:
    “Charmadillo, I can’t read.
    You want a candied centipede?”

    The lunch of termites he prepared
    Showed his love how much he cared.
    She didn’t know the words he wrote,
    But showed her love and… ate the note.

    #10 – Valentine’s Gotcha Day

    Valentine sat in her kennel, nervously thumping her tail against the floor.

    Was today the day? She’d gotten her hopes up before, but everyone always said her fur was too scruffy, her nose was a funny shape, and her size was just too much to love.

    Day after day, she remained at the shelter, watching families adopt her friends and hoping one day it would be her turn too.

    Just then, Valentine’s ears perked up. She heard a girl’s voice. Her heart beat faster as the girl approached.

    “Look, Mommy!” The little girl squealed. “Her fur is red! Her nose is shaped like a heart! And there’s a lot of her to love! She’s perfect.”

    The little girl knelt down and smiled—the prettiest smile Valentine had ever seen.

    Valentine’s eyes pleaded with her. Could this be my Gotcha Day? I’m too scared to even hope. Be brave! She trembled, but she held the little girl’s gaze.

    As if the little girl understood, she reached out her hand and gently whispered, “Sweet Valentine, will you be mine?”

    Will I ever! Valentine’s fears faded in a split-second and she lunged into the little girl’s arms, peppering her face with wet kisses.

    The little girl giggled. “You’re the best Valentine ever!” No, thought Valentine, you are.

    #11 – Lemur In Love

    Trevor is an AYE-AYE and he’s ready for some love.
    But sadly he’s so SHY-SHY, hiding in the leaves above.
    He’s got his eyes on Rita, it feels more than just a whim.
    But what if she won’t love a scruffy GUY-GUY just like him?

    Trevor knows that AYE-AYEs aren’t the handsomest of males.
    He gives a great big SIGH-SIGH as he polishes his nails.
    But maybe looks aren’t everything, he needs to make her see
    The fluffy little TIE-TIE wearing GUY-GUY up the tree.

    Trevor must impress her but an AYE-AYE’s skills are few.
    He gives a mournful CRY-CRY. He just hasn’t got a clue.
    But then a lightbulb moment, Trevor’s great at French cuisine!
    He’ll bake a splendid PIE-PIE, soon she’ll be his jungle queen!

    Trevor looks up HIGH-HIGH where the moon is shining clear.
    He makes his way to Rita, trying hard to show no fear.
    He offers her his PIE-PIE, Rita smiles then takes a bite
    And hearts begin to FLY-FLY on this very special night.

    #12 – Valentine’s Day Rocks

    “Time for show-and-tell!” Ms. Carla announced. “Who wants to share their Valentine’s Day craft first?”

    Arms sprang toward the ceiling like balloons. But Roger’s hands stayed hidden inside his sweatshirt.

    Dylan held up a homemade flower. “I painted pasta for the petals and used a pipe cleaner for the stem.”

    Then Jade chimed in. “Mine is a clothespin butterfly with glitter tissue paper for wings.”

    Roger’s fingers fidgeted inside his pocket while the others went around the circle — each project more colorful than the last.

    Marjorie nudged Roger. “Psst. Your turn.”

    His face turned as red as the rose on his teacher’s desk.

    “Roger, did you forget yours at home?” asked Ms. Carla.

    He cradled something in his palm, weighing what to do next.

    Marjorie leaned over and whispered, “It’s okay. I don’t have craft supplies at my place either.”

    Roger took a deep breath and showed the plain rock to the class. “I read a library book about penguins who give out pebbles like people do with candy when they like somebody.”

    When the students giggled, Marjorie jumped up to distract them with her project: a bent and twisted paperclip.

    “This is my heart,” she beamed. “I’m giving it to the bravest person I know.”

    Roger scooted closer to Marjorie. “Psst. You rock.”

    #13 – Brave Little Friends

    Little raccoon spent all afternoon
    making cards that he’d soon give away.
    For tomorrow at three, the forest would be
    all a twitter for Valentine’s Day.

    He put names on each card and tried very hard
    to make certain that all were included.
    Then Raccoon had a thought that maybe he ought
    to give one to his friend who’s secluded.

    Poor Mr. Bear, was quite unaware
    of the Valentine’s Day celebration.
    He was curled in heap, in a winter deep sleep—
    his annual bear hibernation.

    Little Raccoon arrived around noon
    to deliver the card to Bear’s cave.
    He shivered and shook as he took a quick look;
    he knew that he had to be brave.

    He set the card down by the bear—big and brown,
    then left in a tippy-toed dance.
    His friends all stood near shaking with fear,
    “Why would you take such a chance?”

    “Cause he’s my friend, too, and so wouldn’t you
    like to make a kind gesture toward Bear?”
    The rest found their “brave” and went to the cave
    to leave goodies and cards everywhere.

    When Bear opened his eyes and saw the surprise,
    he knew the exact words to say.
    “Friends…
    I’m very elated to wish you a ‘Belated’ but
    Most Happy Valentine’s Day!”

    #14 – Jana’s Valentine Visit

    Almost there.
    Mom sings along to love songs on the radio as she drives.
    Jana stares down at her sparkly red fingernails.
    They match her Valentine’s Day dress.
    She thinks about last time,
    even though she doesn’t want to.
    How scared she’d been.
    The strange smells,
    scary sounds,
    sad faces.
    Jana shivers.
    She doesn’t want to go back there today.
    When the car stops,
    Jana feels her breath catch.
    “I’m scared,” she whispers.
    “I’ll be with you,” Mom says.
    Jana carries her valentine in shaking hands.
    They step
    up the sidewalk,
    through the sliding doors.
    Inside.
    The strange smells,
    scary sounds,
    sad faces.
    Again.
    Jana swallows.
    She slides behind Mom,
    tries not to breathe,
    or hear,
    or see.
    Outside Gram’s room, they pause.
    “See? You’re OK,” Mom says.
    Jana nods, her face hot.
    She goes to Gram’s bed.
    “Happy Valentine’s Day,” she whispers.
    Gram’s same small smile.
    Jana places the valentine in Gram’s hands.
    “Thank . . . you,” Gram murmurs.
    She grabs Jana’s hand and squeezes.
    Jana gasps.
    “Pretty. . . nails,” Gram whispers.
    Jana smiles. “Sparkly red like valentines. It’s your favorite holiday.”
    Gram nods.
    “Gram?” Jana says. “Want me to paint your nails, too?”
    Gram’s face lights up.
    Jana’s hands don’t shake at all as she begins to paint.


    Please vote for your favorite in the poll below by Sunday February 21 at 5 PM Eastern time.

    Tune in Monday February 22 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’m going to . . .

    ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. . . . 😴 😴 😴

    (right after I see what I can do about 2 more prizes so all these well-deserving finalists get they’re just desserts 😊)

    Have a thrilling Thursday, everyone!

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

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

    Roses are red

    Violets are blue

    Valentinies rock

    And so do YOU!

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

    The 6th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest

    ~ for children’s writers ~

    The Contest:  since writing for children is all about “big emotion for little people” (I forget who said that, but someone did so I put it in quotes!) and Valentines Day is all about emotion, write a Valentines story appropriate for children (children here defined as ages 12 and under) maximum 214 words in which someone feels brave!

    • They can be brave about asking someone to be their Valentine, of course, but they can also do something brave to get a Valentine (the person or the gift), or do something brave to help a friend. They could be brave about giving something up, or brave about asking someone they’re not sure they like to be their Valentine just to be nice. . . sky’s the limit!  Think beyond the obvious!
    • Your story can be poetry or prose, sweet, funny, surprising or anything in between, but it will only count for the contest if it includes someone brave (can be the main character but doesn’t have to be) and is 214 words (get it? 2/14 for Valentines Day 😊
    • You can go under the word count but not over!
    • Title is not included in the word count.
    • You are welcome to enter more than one entry – just remember you’ll be competing against yourself 😊
    • No illustration notes please!

    Post your story in the comment section below (preferred) or on your own blog between right now this very second and Sunday February 14th by 11:59 PM EDT. If you only post on your own blog, add your post-specific link to the form list at the bottom of the post.  This post with all the entries in the comment section and the list of links for those who prefer to post on their own blogs will stay up all week for everyone to enjoy. If you have difficulty posting your entry to the comments, which unfortunately sometimes happens, you may email your entry to me and I’ll post it for you! [susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com

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

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

    Amazing wonderful Valentiny Contest story.😊

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

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

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

    The Judging: over the next several days, my lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to 12 top choices which will be posted here and voted on for a winner on Thursday February 18th (or possibly a day or two later if the judges need extra time.)   The winner will be announced Monday February 22nd depending on judging and voting time needed.  The dates of the judging/voting/winner announcements are subject to finagling depending on how much time the judges actually end up needing!

    Judging criteria will include:

    1. Kid-appeal/Kid-friendliness – remember, this is a story for kids!
    2. Creativity in using bravery and success in making us feel the bravery!
    3. Valentine’s Day appropriateness – this is a VALENTINE story!
    4. Quality of story – we will look for basic story elements and a true story arc
    5. Quality of writing – use and flow of language, correctness of mechanics, excellence of rhyme and meter if you use it, PROOFREADING!
    6. Originality – surprise us with something new and different! 😊
    7. How well you followed the Submission Guidelines – agents and editors expect professionalism. This is a chance to practice making sure you read and follow specified guidelines. If you don’t follow agent and editor submission guidelines they won’t even read your submission.

    The Prizes:  Talk about a pounding heart! Just look at these fabulous prizes!

    Hannah VanVels – Agent, Belcastro Agency – PB MS Critique

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

    (from Belcastro Agency’s website)

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

    Renee LaTulippe

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

    Dawn Young

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

    Kirsti Call

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

    Melissa Stoller

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

    Becky Scharnhorst

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

    Ellen Leventhal

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

    Rebecca Kraft Rector

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

    Julie Abery


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

    Author Jenna Waldman

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

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

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

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

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

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

    I can’t wait to read your stories!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

    It’s time for . . .

    THE 10TH ANNUAL HOLIDAY CONTEST!!!

    ~ for children’s writers ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Judging criteria will be as follows:

    • 1. Kid-appeal! – These stories are intended for a young audience (ages 12 and under), so we’re looking for stories that children will enjoy and relate to.
    • 2.  Holiday Helpers! – the rules state a Holiday Helper story, so it must be crystal clear that the story is about someone helping someone else in some way during Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, New Year’s, or whatever seasonal winter holiday you choose.  The story must center on helping  – the help must not be just an offhand mention/reference in a story about something else.
    • 3. Quality of story – entries must tell a story, including a main character of some kind and a true story arc even if it’s tiny 😊  Entries must not be merely descriptions or mood pieces.
    • 4. Quality of Writing: check your spelling, grammar, punctuation etc.  If you’re going to rhyme, give us your best 😊  Overall writing quality and use of language are also important.
    • 5. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.
    • 6. PLEASE FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS! Large numbers of entries make it easy to cut entries that haven’t been entered as we asked.

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

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

    Agent Kaitlyn Sanchez

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

    Julie Hedlund
    Photo credit Kim Huggins

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

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

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

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

    A Rate Your Story Speedpass from RateYourStory.org

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

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

    Another Rate Your Story Speedpass from RateYourStory.org

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


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

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


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

    Author Jenna Waldman


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



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



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


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

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

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

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

    A Little Christmas Joy (249 words)

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

    *** There you have it 😊 ***

    With so many great prizes up for grabs I hope there will be a lot of entries – the more the merrier!  And you’ve still got a couple days to write, so you can squeeze in under the wire if you haven’t written yet.  Feel free to spread the word to your writing friends as well.  And your reading friends – parents, teachers, etc.  The more people who read and enjoy your stories, the better!!!

    Contest Entrants, remember to add your post-specific link to the google form below so we can all come read your awesome stories!  (Post-specific means not your main blog url, but the actual url of the post that has your story in it – otherwise if you post again before the contest ends, your link will take readers… and judges!… to the wrong place!)

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


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

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

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

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

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

    Okay.

    Clement C. Moore I may not be. . . 😊

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

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

    Huge Excitement!

    SOMETHING TO TWIRL YOUR TINSEL FOR!

    The guidelines for . . .

    THE 10TH ANNUAL HOLIDAY CONTEST!!!

    ~ for children’s writers ~

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

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

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

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

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

    Judging criteria will be as follows:

    • 1. Kid-appeal! – These stories are intended for a young audience (ages 12 and under), so we’re looking for stories that children will enjoy and relate to.
    • 2.  Holiday Helpers! – the rules state a Holiday Helper story, so it must be crystal clear that the story is about someone helping someone else in some way during Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, New Year’s, or whatever seasonal winter holiday you choose.  The story must center on helping  – the help must not be just an offhand mention/reference in a story about something else.
    • 3. Quality of story – entries must tell a story, including a main character of some kind and a true story arc even if it’s tiny 😊  Entries must not be merely descriptions or mood pieces.
    • 4. Quality of Writing: check your spelling, grammar, punctuation etc.  If you’re going to rhyme, give us your best 😊  Overall writing quality and use of language are also important.
    • 5. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.
    • 6. PLEASE FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS! Large numbers of entries make it easy to cut entries that haven’t been entered as we asked.

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

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

    Agent Kaitlyn Sanchez

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

    Julie Hedlund
    Photo credit Kim Huggins

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

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

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

    A Rate Your Story Speedpass from RateYourStory.org

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

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

    Another Rate Your Story Speedpass from RateYourStory.org

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

    On your mark…

    …get set…

    …GO!

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

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

    Have a marvelous Monday, everyone! 😊