The 2021 Holiday Contest Finalists Are HERE! Vote For Your Favorite!!!

Darlings!

This is no time for play!
This is no time for fun!
This is no time for games!
There is voting to be done! (just go with it and pretend voting is only one syllable 😊)
or
There are prizes to be won! (no, that doesn’t work either, although it’s true!)

Maybe we should go with:

Every writer
in Bookville
liked contests a lot. . .
But the judges
who judged all the entries
did NOT!
(although to be fair, we love the contests and we love reading the entries, we just hate having to cut them to get down to 12!)

The point is, we have done our valiant best to come up with 12 finalists (and let me tell you, it was a Herculean task!) and the time has come for you to read the entries that made the finals, choose your favorite, and vote for it!

Normally, I’d waste a little time with tomfoolery, but it’s been a desperate few days (and nights) of entry judging, which means not always paying as close attention to the puppy as I should, which means there is carpet steam-cleaning to be done. (Maybe I should have found a way to finish up my little stanza with that!)

So let’s just get right to it!

I know these entries are a little longer than the Halloweensie ones, so I truly thank you for taking the time to read through them and vote for your favorite. You won’t be sorry. They are all fabulous and I know you’ll enjoy them!

I will say THANK YOU to everyone who wrote an entry, took time to read other people’s entries and leave supportive comments, shared the contest with friends and family so that all our talented writers could get more readers, is taking the time now to read and vote, and who generally helped to make the contest so much fun, but I’m going to skip reiterating the judging criteria (you can check for it HERE) and save all my usual difficulty-of-choosing stuff for the winners post on Friday so you can get right to the entries!

Please read through the following 12 entries and vote for your favorite in the poll below by Thursday December 16 at 7PM Eastern so I can announce the winners on Friday! As always, I encourage you to share today’s link everywhere you want so that as many people as possible can read these stories and vote, but please do not attempt to influence the voting in any way. It is supposed to be based on merit, not on who can get the most people to come vote for their entry because they’re your friends and relations or they owe you for that time you babysat their kids 😊 If you’re a finalist, please don’t broadcast that on social media – just ask people to come read all the entries and vote for their favorite.

So here we go! Your 12 Finalists for

The 11th Annual Holiday Writing Contest

~ for children’s writers ~

1 – Tree of the Year

Deep in the forest,
where giant pines grow,
an eager young sapling
stood covered in snow.

She gleamed in the moonlight.
“I’m shiny and frozen.
Tonight is the contest.
I hope I’ll be chosen!”

The first day of winter,
to spread Christmas cheer,
the humans would vote
on the Tree of the Year.

“Sapling,” said Ancient,
“most victors are tall,
so don’t get your hopes up.
Remember, you’re small.”

Sapling’s thin branches
drooped low at the thought:
Big trees are winners.
Small ones are not.

The ground started thumping
with footsteps and drumming.
“Listen,” said Ancient.
“The humans are coming!”

Down from the village
perched high on a hill,
they marched with their music
and sang of goodwill.

Sapling stood taller.
“It won’t hurt to try.”
She lifted her branches.
“I’ll reach for the sky!”

A girl with a garland
of berries appeared.
She said, “This one’s lovely.”
The villagers cheered.

“Me?” Sapling gasped.
“Is it ME they will choose?”
“I’m frail,” Ancient shivered.
“I’m sure that I’ll lose.”

And Sapling remembered,
though Ancient was tall,
he’d never been voted
the best tree of all.

So Sapling leaned gently
and whispered an oath.
“I’ll root for you, friend.
I’ll hope for us both.”

“Those trees are embracing!”
the little girl said.
“Let’s decorate TWO trees
this Christmas instead.”

The town danced around them.
The verdict was clear.
Sapling and Ancient:
The Trees of the Year!

2 – Phoebe’s Snowperson

Outside the city library, a flier flits in the wind. “Snowperson Contest!” it announces, catching Phoebe’s eye. She reads:

Kids, let’s spread a little cheer
and deck the library halls
with handmade “snow”-people
who won’t melt like snowballs!

The prize? Free popsicles at the pool this summer.

“Yes, please!” Phoebe exclaims.

Phoebe hurries toward home, her imagination firing with every step. What can she use to build a snowman? Perhaps she should create a snowgirl? How much glitter does she have? Is there any white paint in the garage?

“Hi, Mom! Bye, Mom!” Phoebe yells and dashes to her room. It might be December, but she can practically taste the watermelon-cherry-coconut flavors of summertime.

But when Phoebe starts to gather materials, she feels doubtful. She looks at the pillows scattered about and wonders how she’ll make a snowperson that stands up—and stands out.

Phoebe starts to hum an old song about a snowman who came to life. “He had a magical hat!” she recalls and races to her closet.

Then she remembers a story about snowmen’s nighttime adventures and another about a silly snowman in a hot tub. She smiles.

“The snowmen are in my books. What if my books are my snowman?”

Phoebe lays a chapter book flat with the pages facing out. She stacks on a fat collection of fairy tales and then some tattered picture books. Before long, a snowman built out of stories stares back at her.

“Perfection,” Phoebe whispers.

3 – A CHRISTMAS PICKLE STORY

Sentimental ornaments
trim our tree high to low,
but Christmas Eve tradition calls
for one to steal the show.

Dad dons a scruffy Santa hat
and gathers us around.
“I’ve picked the pickle’s hiding spot!
It’s waiting to be found.”

“Dance! Prance! Blitz and dash!
All may search until
the finder claims the first gift and
the title of ‘Big Dill’.”

Grammy prods each shimmery bough.
Mom browses round and through.
Baby pulls off ornaments
(to get a better view).

I snug myself beneath a branch
to peer up from the bottom.
A glint of green. A clumpy curve.
Yes! I think. I got ’em.

I pluck the pickle from its place,
eager to claim my prize,
then notice Dad off to the side
with sparkle in his eyes.

His festive fuss for all of us
makes everybody grin.
It doesn’t seem to bother him
that he will never win.

I put the pickle back, but shift
it where no one will see.
Then grumble, “Oh by golly, there’s
no pickle on this tree!”

“Ho ho, oh? Check near the stump–”
That’s when Dad’s eyes meet mine.
I toss a wink and, in a blink,
Dad’s rummaging through pine.

He tugs back on a tree skirt bump
revealing what I’d done.
The pickle found, I quickly cheer,
“Gosh, Dad, looks like you’ve won!”

He wraps us all up in a hug
and whispers in my ear,
“You can have the first gift because
I’ve got mine right here.”

4 – SIMPLY THE BEST

Christmas was Maise’s favorite time of year.
Awe-inspiring. Wonderful. Magical.
Simply the best.
Maise wanted to be awe-inspiring, wonderful and magical, too.

Maise entered the Gingerbread House Decorating Contest.
Her house had icing and gumdrops!
Sprinkles and sparkles!
It even had an entire reindeer family reunion!
“It’s very…. creative,” said the judges.
But, Catalina won with a classic design.
“Awe-inspiring,” Maise told her.

Maise entered the Holiday Baking Contest.
Peppermint sticks!
Mocha melts!
Orange and ginger shortbread!
“Quite the variety,” observed the judges.
But Lester won with his Yule Log cake.
“Wonderful,” said Maise, licking her lips.

Maise entered the Ice Skating Contest.
Wearing a very sparkly leotard,
she skated forward!
And backward!
She even did a twirl!
But Jozef had a routine that was…well…
“Magical,” admired Maise.

Maise smiled.
She hadn’t won any ribbons but it had still been a delightful day.

“We have one last ribbon to award,” announced the judges.
“The award for the Most Holiday Spirit goes to…
Maise!”
“Awesome,” said Catalina.
“Wonderful,” said Lester.
“Magical,” smiled Jozef.
And to Maise, it was simply the best.

5 – SO YOU THINK YOU CAN PRANCE

“Places, Rudolph. Jump in line.”
(That’s me! Contestant #9.)

“Welcome back to North Pole Live:
‘So You Think You Can Prance,’ season five.
I’m your host, the famous Prancer.
Please welcome back our champion dancer!
He’s shimmied chimneys—Seoul to Atlanta:
the man, the myth, the legend—SANTA!”

Santa’s back? Last season’s best!
His reindeer too? I should’ve guessed.
Dasher coasts. Dancer whirls.
(Prancer hosts.) Vixen twirls.
Comet? She was born a star.
Cupid is on point, so far.
Donner brings the beat, the boom.
Blitzen’s jig ignites the room.
Maybe I’ll sit out this year.
With four left hooves, I’m bottom tier.

Eight contestants soar. I sink.
They float. I flail. They curve. I kink.
They sway. I swoop. They strut. I stop.
They spring. I sprawl. They dip. I drop.
Showing off, they’re busting moves,
I spin and—
SPLAT.
I’ve busted hooves!

“Oh, DEAR!” I hear.
Yes, I’m aware—
my spill was broadcast on the air.
The crimson of my well-known nose
extends until my body glows.
Someone whispers, “not a dancer.”
Reindeer snicker—even Prancer!
“Can klutzy caribous compete?”
My antlers shrink. My legs retreat.

Halfway out the door, I hear,
“Rudolph! I need YOU this year!
Ho-ho-ho! That grit! That glow!
Prancer, change my choreo’:
Substitute those samba mixes.
No more formal foxtrot fixes.
Rudi’s riffs will spark my set—
a glow-in-the-dark-breakdance duet!”

*North Pole Live rewrote its jingle
to feature Ru’ and Kris-Kross-Kringle,
the prime-time prancing pair sensation,
who tours one eve—to every nation.

6 – Cinder-Latke

Cinder-Latke puts down her scrub brush and reads a letter on the kitchen table.

—EVERYONE INVITED TO ROYAL PALACE HANUKKAH PARTY—

—Prince Nudnik Will Wed Latke-Making Contest Winner—

Cinder-Latke sighs. “I wish I could go like Pishka and Kishka, my stepsisters—”

Pink lightning FLASHES—

A puff of smoke morphs into Fairy-Godmother Yenta. “—and you will!”

Yenta waves her wand—

Cinder-Latke rides in a gold carriage wearing a sparkling diamond-studded gown.

“The spell ends at midnight.” Yenta grins. “Have fun!”

At the palace, all the princess-wannabes cook potato-pancakes like crazy.

Finally, Prince Nudnik tastes Cinder-Latke’s latke. “It’s perfection—I love you!”

The tower clock chimes midnight—Cinder-Latke flees.

Next morning, Prince Nudnik searches every house in the kingdom.

“Ugh!” He spits out Pishka’s latke and gags on Kishka’s. “One’s heavier than lead and the other tastes like moldy sweat-socks.”

An irresistible aroma tickles Prince Nudnik’s nose, luring him into the kitchen.

Cinder-Latke flips her latke onto a dish. “I knew you’d come.”

Prince Nudnik, drooling, bites into the latke. “Heavenly—” He sinks to one knee and whips out a ring with a gleaming latke-sized diamond. “Please, be my Latke-Princess!”

Cinder-Latke’s eyelashes flutter. “Sure, why not?”

Cinder-Latke and Prince Nudnik wed on the eighth night of Hanukkah and dance the hora around the menorah.

After the honeymoon, they open a restaurant—

—PRINCESS CINDER-LATKE’S LATKE PALACE—

—and dine on latkes happily ever after!

(Pishka and Kishka become fabulously wealthy businesswomen selling their latkes as cannonballs and bug-repellent.)

7 – Christmas…by a Nose

Newspapers trumpeted!
Radios blared!
Cable news cried in alarm!
BIG CARROT SHORTAGE REPORTED TODAY:
CHAOS ERUPTS ON CLAUS FARM

And, indeed, Claus was troubled.
Perplexed, some might say.
To friends, he appeared worried sick.
(This was Sam Claus, who harvested just up the way
from his jollier brother, Old Nick.)

Christmas was coming,
And, with it, Claus knew,
The first of the season’s big snows.
But if carrots were lacking,
Joy would fade quick…
For no snowman could count on a nose!

Assistance was needed—
“A contest!” Claus thought.
No sense in lazing about.
“A trophy” he called. “To the barnyard friend here
Who can find the best substitute snout!”

“An apple!” said Horse.
(Goat and Donkey agreed.)
“It’s festive and rosy to boot.”
“But it’s round,” Claus reminded,
“And, also, it’s red. A not-at-all carrot-like fruit.”

“Maybe corn?” piped up Chicken.
“Oh, yes!” Pig enthused.
“I’ve got a few corncobs right here.”
“Not bad,” Claus conceded.
“A veggie, it’s true. But we need a good nose, not an ear.”

“’Wait, wait!” squeaked a voice. “Down here, take a look!
May I share my idea with you, please?
You need something pointy and orange-ish, and so…
Why not try wedges of cheese?”

“Yes, CHEESE!” Claus applauded. “A trophy for Mouse!
Or perhaps a large crumb would be better.
And while we’re addressing the subject of snacks:
…do we know if the reindeer like cheddar?”

8 – TREE NUMBER NINE

Sofie could barely contain her excitement. Today was Noel Knob’s first ever Christmas Tree Decorating Contest!

She had been gathering decorations for weeks —

Berries from the holly bush next door.

Strings of garland strung with white, fluffy popcorn.

Bows made from leftover ribbon.

She packed everything in her backpack and headed to the town square. 

There, evergreen trees lined the lawn. The smell of fir, spruce, and pine tickled her nose.

At the sign-in table, Sofie was assigned tree number 9.

She got right to work — a bow here, berries there, garland wrapped around and around, and a big pinecone right on top!

Proudly, she stood beside her tree. But soon her shoulders sagged.

Around her, trees twinkled with tiny lights, dazzled with store-bought decorations, and on top of each tree was a shining star.

She glanced at the ceramic teapot on the prize table and felt her hopes evaporating like steam.

Zipping up her bag, Sofie headed home. 

Behind her, the judges were ready to announce the winners. 

“Third place goes to… Tree 21, for most decorations!”

Everyone clapped. Sofie kept walking.

“Second place goes to… Tree 7 for most sparkly!”

Everyone cheered. Sofie kept walking.

“And first place goes to… Tree 9 for most creative!”

Everyone celebrated. Stunned, Sofie hurried to the stage.

“Which prize would you like?”

“The teapot, please.”

When she got home, Sofie carefully wrapped the teapot in red and green paper. 

Then, she filled out the gift tag —

To Mom
From Sofie
MERRY CHRISTMAS!

9 – A CREATURE WAS STIRRING

Twas the night before Christmas
and all through the house,
Every creature was stirring,
including, Wee Mouse.
Stirring and blending, creating sweet treats
for a contest to see which ones Santa will eat.
“Don’t even bother,” said Pup. “He’ll choose mine.”
“I don’t think so,” purred Kit. “Because mine are divine.”
But Wee Mouse said nothing. Her movements were nimble
as she tossed her ingredients into a thimble.
She had flour in her whiskers, some dough on her nose,
and a drop of molasses had dripped on two toes.
She placed all her cookies in a minuscule sack,
climbed up to the table then…UH OH! Fell back!
The cookies all crumbled except for one bite.
“I’ve barely a taste for Santa tonight!”
Wee Mouse dried her tears, climbed back up to the platter,
feeling her one little morsel must matter.
“It’s totally tiny,” said Pup. “Not ornate.
Santa will think it’s a crumb on the plate.
Mine have fun sprinkles on top of red icing.”
Kit purred, “That brown dot? Well, it’s just not enticing.”
Wee Mouse ignored them and went straight to bed,
exhausted yet hopeful for what lay ahead.
Christmas morning she woke to a gift and a note.
She opened it up to see what Santa wrote:
“Dear Wee Mouse, My thanks for your cookie so sweet.
It was far and away my favorite treat.
And the thing that I think set it so far above
all the rest was your secret ingredient—LOVE!”

10 – BEAR’S CHRISTMAS COOKIE

Of all the holiday traditions, Bear’s favourite was the cookie decorating contest. Hedgehog always won. This year Bear was determined to beat him. He’d been planning his cookie for months.

The animals lined up with their cookies displayed. The crows approached. They were notoriously picky judges. They started with Rabbit.

Rabbit had decorated his cookie with a garden of sugar spun carrots and roses.

Badger had created a glittering forest of silver and gold gumdrops and candy cane stars.

Hedgehog had outdone himself. On his cookie, he’d crafted a miniature ice-rink with tiny skaters, each holding cups of hot cocoa. You could even see the marshmallows.

Bear was last. The Crows approached his cookie. Their black eyes widened. Towering above them was layer upon layer of icing, chocolate, candy cane, marshmallows, toffee, sprinkles, sugar plums, and whipped cream. At the top, they could just make out a Christmas angel spinning in the wind.

“Did I win?” asked Bear.

Suddenly the cookie began to wobble. It leaned one way. It leaned the other.

“Look out!” cried the judges.

SPAAAALOOSH!!!!

Every inch of fur, feathers, and forest was drenched in icing, chocolate, whipped cream, and candy. The angel landed on someone’s head. Badger licked sprinkles off his coat. Rabbit brushed marshmallows from his nose into his mouth. Hedgehog wiped icing out of his eyes. He licked his paws with gusto.

“Actually,” he said, “I think we all won!” And that day they all enjoyed the most glorious candy feast, thanks to Bear.

11 – A Miscalculation

*Attention all children!
Come out in the snow
And bring all your shovels and gear
Join in the sport,
And build your best fort
For the holiday contest this year!*

We dig and we pat
We scoop and we splat
To build the best fortress of all
No torrent of snow,
No, nothing they throw
Will knock down our unyielding wall!

Two towering turrets
Three tactical windows
Four bunkers built into the floor
Snowballs piled high,
Stacked up to the sky
There must be two hundred or more!

We hold up a finger
So that we can tell
Which direction the cold wind is blowing
We take up our stance,
They don’t stand a chance
Let’s get this tournament going!

Whoosh, whoosh, THUD, THUD
Oh no, wait a minute!
We should have seen this from the start
The snowballs we chuck
Don’t have any luck—
Our snow forts are too far apart!

12 – THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS STAR

Last year? Measly fifth. Year before? Pitiful fifteenth.
But THIS year? I’ll capture the winning star for the Interstellar Christmas Tree Contest!
For 11 months, I’ve studied, analyzed, and scrutinized all things stars.
Nothing will stop me. Nothing will slow me down.
NOTH—
“Dagan,” says Mom, “this year, your sister joins.”
“But MO-OM!” I yelp.
“My two star-chasers—or nothing,” Mom says.
Rest of the week, I lecture Daphne on the fine art of star-catching.
For Daphne, my lessons are a fine time to nap.
I demonstrate proper blaze-proof glove attire.
Daphne proves gloves go on ears, too.
We practice swooping and swirling our star nets.
Daphne tangles her net into one big knot.
Sigh.
On Christmas Eve, we load gloves and nets into our Lunar Rocket 3000 and take off.
“Sit still and be quiet,” I say. Daphne’s head droops.
Just past the moon, I spy the perfect star! It glitters and flickers and zooms around our rocket.
But it’s too fast.
Can’t. Quite. Catch. It.
“Dagie!” says Daphne. She shuts her eyes. I do the same. The star thinks we’re napping! It slows down.
Daphne hangs gloves on her ears. The twirling star stops and giggles.
We tie our two nets with a knot. Together, we extend the oversize net and scoop up the twinkling light.
On Christmas morning, we place our winning star atop the Interstellar Christmas Tree.
“Next year,” I say to Daphne, “let’s enter the Christmas Ginger-Planet Contest! Together.”
Daphne’s face beams.
“Merry Christmas, Dagie!”

WOW!

Now YOU get to enjoy the agony of decision as you try to choose which of those amazing entries to vote for!

Please vote for the entry you feel deserves to win in the poll below by 7PM EST Thursday December 16th.

Tune in Friday December 17th to see THE WINNERS!!! – same bat time, same bat station 😊

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 truly cannot wait to see who you choose as the winner!  Good luck!!! 😊

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

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

It’s time for . . .

The 11th Annual Holiday Writing Contest

~ for children’s writers ~

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

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

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

Post:  Your entry should be posted between right now this very second and Thursday December 9th at 11:59 PM EST, and must be posted below in the comment section of this post. All entries should include a title, byline (people always ask what this is – it means who the entry was written by, so, by Suzy Q. Writer or whoever 😊) and word count. You are welcome to also post your entries on your own blogs and include your blog address with your entry here if you’d like to encourage people to come visit your blog, but your entry must be posted in the comment section of this post or it will not be counted because we won’t see it. This post will remain up for your reading pleasure until I post the finalists.  There will be no regular posts (Tuesday Debut, Would You Read It, or Perfect Picture Book) for the duration of the contest so everyone will have plenty of time to visit and enjoy.  If you have trouble commenting, you can email your entry to me and I will post it for you. Please copy and paste your entry with word count and byline into the body of the email NO ATTACHMENTS please.

The Judging: My lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to approximately 12 finalists.  In the interest of finishing up the contest in a timely fashion so everyone can go about their holidays, we will do our best to post the finalists here by Tuesday December 14th for you to vote on for a winner.  (But it almost always seems to end up taking us longer. . . so it might be a day or two later.) The vote will be closed on Thursday December 16th at 5 PM EST.  Whoever gets the most votes will be first and so on down to twelfth place (or wherever we place to), and the winners will be announced on Friday December 17th. (These dates are subject to adjustment if it takes the judges longer than we anticipate to get the judging completed.)

Judging criteria will be as follows:

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

The Prizes!: Oh! Such wonderful prizes! All I can say is, how lucky are we to be part of such a talented and generous community that offers such amazing prizes!

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

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

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

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

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

Developmental Editor, Lou Piccolo

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

Writer, librarian, bookseller, blogger Kathy Halsey

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

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

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

Author, Ellen Leventhal

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

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

Maria Marshall

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

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

PLUS!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So let the Holiday Contest begin!

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

I can’t wait to read your entries!!!

THE ENTRIES!

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

The 2021 Halloweensie Contest WINNERS!!!

Hi Everyone!

Welcome to Perfect Picture Book Friday!

Today’s perfect picture book is called Goosebumps.

Put a piece of pumpkin bread on a plate, pull up a pillow, and let’s peruse this perfect picture book together!

Ready?

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

On Halloween, Gertie McCrackin fluffed up the straw in her broom tail.

“Let’s go, Blinx,” she cackled to her cat. “We’re going to give those kiddies goosebumps tonight!”

Blinx blinked. He didn’t care what they did as long as they went F A S T while they were doing it.

Gertie mounted her broom, adjusted her bulging panniers, and set Blinx up behind her.

“Away we go!” shrieked Gertie. “AH-HAHAHAHAHA!”

Blinx’s yellow eyes glowed in the dark as they took off into the night.

The broomstick zigged and zagged, zipped and zoomed.

The rushing wind blew Blinx’s fur flat, made his eyes squint, and threatened to blow him off the broomstick.

Was there anything better than speed?

They tore across the sky, emptying the panniers onto the kids below – handfuls (and pawfuls) of dust that Gertie’s magic turned to white crystals in the air.

“Ooh, goody!” the kids crowed. “It’s snowing!”

They danced with delight.

Maybe there was one thing better than speed. . . or at least as good as.

“I told you we’d give them goosebumps,” cackled Gertie.

Blinx had goosebumps, too!

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Ah, wasn’t that a perfect picture book?

Alrighty, then.

Thanks for stopping by.

Enjoy your Friday.

Rest up.

Eat some bonbons.

Have a lovely weekend!

Oh, wait!

You guys have got to keep me in line!

I’m not doing Perfect Picture Book Friday today!

So just forget all that stuff above because today is all about. . .

the 2021 11th Annual Pretty Much World Famous Halloweensie Contest WINNERS!

As you are all aware by now, we had an amazing turnout for Halloweensie 2021 – 294!!! entries!

I was thrilled beyond measure to see so many wonderful stories and meet so many new writers!  And I don’t know about you guys, but for me Halloween is all the better for 294 fabulous stories to read by jack -o’ – lantern light! 😊☢️

With large entry numbers come hard choices, though.  My assistant judges and I worked hard to winnow the total down to a manageable number of finalists that we felt were truly all-around deserving of that distinction, and those were the ones we presented to you for your vote.

There were, however, many other entries that were outstanding in certain areas even though they might not have qualified all-around for one reason or another (one reason being that, at a certain point, we just had to stop adding finalists to the list! :))

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

1.  For Honorable Mention In The Competition As A Whole: (all-around well-written stories we loved that just missed the finals for one small reason or another!)

Heather Ferranti Kinser for Mean Halloween

Emily Durant for A Helpful Ghost

Barbara Kimmel for The Perfect Pumpkin

Ellen Seal for Halloween Helpers

Kathleen Lowry for Teal Halloween

Molly Ippolito for Itsy B. Spider

Ann Grilli for Tricky Treat

Melissa-Jane Nguyen for Halloween Bites

Pat Finnegan for Gotcha!


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

Alicia Meyers for How To Steal A Halloween Treat

Amy Leskowski for Warning: May Contain Sugar (great tongue twister!)

Jamie Donahoe for My Word – It’s Halloween! (great alliteration)


3. For Spookiest/Creepy Entry: (not already in the finals)

Denise Seidman for Halloween Scavenger Hunt

Glenda Roberson for The Mansion On Maple

Laura Howard for This Pumpkin’s Not For Picking


4. For Excellent Story Telling From Young Writers!

Ames Jegan (age 11) for Capture The Goodies On Halloween


5. For Great Humor: (not already in the finals)

Krista Harrington for The Greatest Night Of The Year

Barbara DiMarco for Ogre’s Halloween

Nancy Derey Riley for Disguise Surprise

6. For Entries That Were Clever & Fun (not already in the finals)

Susan Summers for A Witchy Potion

Patricia Nozell for Tricky Treat

Bonnie Kelso for All Hallows Eve At The Roller Rink

Alexa Tuttle for You Are What You Eat

Samantha Sinclair for The After Party

7. For Poignant Entries (not already in the finals)

JC Kelly for Can We Please Skip The Costumes?

Corine  Timmer for Rainbow  Bridge

Melissa Miles for Home For Halloween

8. For Nice Message (not already in the finals)

Amy Reitz for Post Halloween Goals

David McMullin for Enough


9. For Great Read For Younger Readers: (not already in the finals)

Kathy Raggio for Pumpkin Train

10. For Unique Concept

Sharon McCarthy for Thank You, Trick-or-Treaters! For Protecting Your Mother

11. For Multiple Well-Written Entries

Sue Ko for It’s Dark In Here, Eyelashes, & Fall

Congratulations to all of you for fantastic elements of your stories!  You may all email me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com or use the handy contact form in the menu bar above, subject line Prize Winner to collect your prize, which is (and I have to be cryptic here because when I said it right out last year I got a LO-HO-HOT! of spam email!) a gift of a number of dollars that is between 4 and 6, for a large and well-known online store that begins with A, which will be presented to you in an email 😊 You can spend it on one of the many Kindle choices listed in previous contests here, or add it to your account for a gift for yourself or someone else, or whatever else you might choose to do! In addition, you will receive a beautiful badge of achievement that you may display on your blog or print out and frame or turn into a flag to carry with you everywhere and wave out the window of your hybrid pumpkin 😊

A word about the prizes before I announce the winners.

We have 13 fabulous prizes, generously donated by authors and various professionals in the writing field.  My policy is to let the first place winner have first pick of all the prizes, the second place winner have second choice, etc.  That way hopefully nobody gets something they already have, and hopefully everyone gets something that’s valuable to them.  All prizes are listed at the bottom of this post for your convenience in perusing the goodies 😊

Now.

Finally!

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

. . . THE WINNERS OF THE 2021 HALLOWEENSIE CONTEST as chosen by you, our esteemed voters!!!!!

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

Mary Catherine Amadu

for

Trick-or-Treat Night Animals!: A Holloween Story

Congratulations, Mary!

In Second Place,

Jen MacGregor

for

Santa’s Halloween

Congratulations, Jen! You get first choice of the prizes that are left after Mary chooses!

In Third Place,

Donna Kurtz
 for
Bunny’s Bored!

Congratulations, Donna! You get first choice of the prizes that are left after Mary and Jen choose!

In Fourth Place,

Ingrid Boydston
for
A Few Of The Scariest Things: A Parody to the tune of My Favorite Things

Congratulations, Ingrid! You get to pick a prize after Mary, Jen, and Donna.

In Fifth Place,

Scott Kinder
for
Jellyfish George’s Halloween

Congratulations, Scott! You get to pick your prize after Mary, Jen, Donna, and Ingrid.

In Sixth Place,

Colleen Murphy
for
How Hannah Saved Halloween

Congratulations, Colleen! You get to pick your prize after Mary, Jen, Donna, Ingrid, and Scott!

In Seventh Place,

Kaye Wright
for
Astronaut Aidan

Congratulations, Kaye! You get to pick your prize after Colleen!

In Eighth Place,

Kristen Littlefield
for
It’s Halloween In Toothytown

Congratulations, Kristen! You get to pick your prize after Kaye!

In Ninth Place,

Reed Hilton-Eddy
for
My Last Trick-or-Treat

Congratulations, Reed!  You get to pick a prize after Kristen…!

In Tenth Place

Kari Ann Gonzalez
for
Kit’s Costume

Congratulations, Kari Ann!  You get to prize pick after Reed!    

In Eleventh Place

Holly Vagley
for
Pumpkin’s Halloween

Congratulations, Holly!  You get to pick a prize after Kari Ann.    

In Twelfth Place

Jennifer Kaap
for
The Witch’s Mistake

Congratulations, Jennifer! You get to pick your prize after Holly!

In Thirteenth Place

Sue Lancaster
for
The Haunted House High Up On The Hill

Congratulations, Sue! You get to pick your prize after Jennifer!

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

All the winners should email me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com or use the handy contact form in the menu above with the subject heading Prize Winner so we can work out details for you to receive your prizes!  If you choose a prize that requires snail mailing, PLEASE include your snail mail address so we don’t have to email back and forth too many times 😊  If you would like a beautiful badge to celebrate your accomplishment, you are most welcome to one! Since everyone’s prize depends on everyone else’s choices, please get in touch as soon as you can.

Congratulations again to all our winners – it was a stiff competition!! – and congratulations to EVERYONE who wrote and entered a story in the contest.  You all deserve a huge round of applause, a confetti parade, and a truckload of  leftover fun-sized chocolate. . . if there is any 😊

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

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

Assuming you guys are up for it – and you’d better let me know in the comments!!! – the 11th Annual Holiday Writing Contest will be coming up sometime in the neighborhood of December 5 so we can all fully enjoy it and still have time for last minute holiday things.  I will do my best to post the rules well in advance (maybe a few days before Thanksgiving, good lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise! 😊 although yikes that’s just around the corner!) so you all have time to work on your stories!  But please let me know if you feel like it’s too much and you’d rather not do it!

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

The Prizes:  SO AMAZING! What a generous community we have to donate so much awesomeness!!! 😊

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique by Dawn Young, author of THE NIGHT BAAFORE CHRISTMAS (WorthyKids, 2019), COUNTING ELEPHANTS (Running Press Kids, 2020), THE NIGHT BAAFORE EASTER (WorthyKids, 2021), THE NIGHT BAAFORE THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL (WorthyKids, 2021), and the brand new ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS (WorthyKids, October 19, 2021)!

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⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (nonrhyming) by Janie Reinart, author of WHEN WATER MAKES MUD: A STORY OF REFUGEE CHILDREN (Blue Whale Press, 2021)

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⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (biography) by Lindsey McDivitt, author of NATURE’S FRIEND: THE GWEN FROSTIC STORY (Sleeping Bear Press, 2018), TRUTH AND HONOR: THE PRESIDENT FORD STORY (Sleeping Bear Press, 2020), and A PLAN FOR THE PEOPLE: NELSON MANDELA’S HOPE FOR HIS NATION (Eerdman’s Books For Young Readers, 2021)

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⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (rhyming or any) or First 10 Pages of a longer MS (winner’s choice) by Kenda Henthorn, author of the forthcoming BAA, BAA TAP SHEEP (Sleeping Bear Press, April 15, 2022)

Kenda works in the aviation industry now so it’s no surprise that her writing inspirations and aspirations are sky-high, too.  She resides in Oklahoma and when the winds aren’t sweepin’ down the plains, Kenda enjoys acting, flying, kayaking and riding horses or her motorcycle.  (Vroom-vroom!)She has served as a Regional Coordinator for the Oklahoma SCBWI and a Best in Rhyme Award committee member and judge.

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⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (rhyming or lyrical) by Randi Sonenshine, author of THE NEST THAT WREN BUILT (Candlewick March 2020) and the forthcoming THE LODGE THAT BEAVER BUILT (Candlewick Fall 2022)

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⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique by Danielle Dufayet, author of YOU ARE YOUR STRONG (Magination Press, March 2019) and FANTASTIC YOU (Magination Press, September 2019)

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⭐️ Storyboard Notebook – a great way to draft your picture books! PLUS a deck of What’s The Story Cards to inspire the drafts! PLUS the Making Picture Book Magic Self Study Course to help you craft your draft!

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⭐️ Personalized signed copy of ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS by Dawn Young PLUS your choice of one of the writing craft books listed below!

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⭐️ Personalized signed copy of BRANCHES OF HOPE: The 9/11 Survivor Tree by Ann Magee PLUS your choice of one of the writing craft books listed below!

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⭐️ Personalized signed copy of MIMIC MAKERS: Biomimicry Inventors Inspired by Nature by Kristen Nordstrom PLUS your choice of one of the writing craft books listed below!

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⭐️ Personalized signed copy of A PLAN FOR THE PEOPLE: Nelson Mandela’s Hope for His Nation by Lindsey McDivitt PLUS your choice of one of the writing craft books listed below!

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⭐️ Personalized signed copy of THE NEST THAT WREN BUILT by Randi Sonenshine PLUS your choice of one of the writing craft books listed below!

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⭐️ Personalized signed copy of 13 WAYS TO EAT A FLY by Sue Heavenrich PLUS your choice of one of the writing craft books listed below!

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⭐️ Winners of the 6 signed picture books above may also receive their choice of any one of the following writing craft books to go along with their picture book:

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Writing Picture Books Revised and Expanded Edition: A Hands-On Guide From Story Creation to Publication by Ann Whitford Paul
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Writing Irresistible Kidlit: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grade Readers by Mary Kole
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The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories For Children by Nancy Lamb
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Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career by Nancy I. Sanders
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Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Beginning Readers and Chapter Books by Nancy I. Sanders
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Making a Living Writing Books for Kids: Tips, Techniques, and Tales from a Working Children’s Author by Laura Purdie Salas

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! 😊

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!