Tuesday Debut – Presenting Rebecca Kraft Rector!

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to another exciting episode of Tuesday Debut!

Today’s debut-ess and I are clearly kindred spirits! Her book is being published by Nancy Paulsen, who has one of my books due out next year, her publication date is one of my daughters’ birthday, and her name is Rebecca, which is my sister’s name! There’s a pretty good chance we are twin princesses separated at birth 😊

So I am delighted to introduce you to Rebecca Kraft Rector and her fun-looking book, Squish Squash Squished! (I don’t have my copy as of the writing of this post but I hope it will be here soon!)

Squish Squash Squished
Written by Rebecca Kraft Rector
Illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte
Published by Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House
February 16, 2021
Fiction, ages 2-6

When Max and Molly complain about being squished in the back seat of their gracious-spacious automobile, Mom invites their animal neighbors to ride along. They’d better figure out what to do before they’re truly SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED!


SUSANNA: Welcome, Rebecca! Thank you so much for joining us today! We’re excited to hear all about how Squish Squash Squished came to be! Where did the idea for this book come from?

REBECCA: Family car rides were a big part of my childhood. But the story was not inspired by us kids being crowded in the back seat, because we were very well behaved. 😊 In fact, SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED grew out of another story I was working on. That story was about the car itself. Gradually I started focusing on the children and adding humor and word play. My most successful stories happen when I’m making myself laugh.

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

REBECCA: I wrote and revised the story with the help of my critique group in about three months. It didn’t sell and I put it away. That was twenty years ago!

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

REBECCA: SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED was revised at least 15 times before it was submitted.

I revise before sharing with critique partners and then I revise again. (and again) When I think a story is finished, I do a few more passes. I use Word to turn the text into a 4 x 8 table. It’s an easy process under Insert/Table/Convert Text to Table. Each cell of the table represents a page of a 32-page book. The table lets me see where page turns will fall, if one page will have more words than another, if I’m repeating things unnecessarily, etc. A new revision tool I use is Read Mode in Word. I can see the text spread across two pages, just like a book. And if I enlarge the font to 18 (or so) it has fewer words on the page, so it reads like a picture book. I also like to change the font size and color of the text. It gives me a totally new perspective on the story.

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

REBECCA: After many revisions and feedback from my critique group, I felt I had a solid story. It made me laugh and the words flowed smoothly when it was read aloud.

Rebecca’s work buddies, Ollie and Opal 😊


SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

REBECCA: My agent submitted the story three times before we parted ways. Then I submitted to publishers that took unsolicited manuscripts. I put the story away when it was rejected and only pulled it out again, almost 20 years later, when I needed a story to work on for a workshop. Cecilia Yung, Art Director at Penguin Random House, saw the story at the workshop (text only since I can’t draw), loved it, and took it to editor/publisher Nancy Paulsen. A week later, I received an email from Nancy offering to publish the story!

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

REBECCA: This was my first picture book contract so I only had a vague idea of what to expect. The advance was divided into two payments—half on signing the contract and half on “delivery and acceptance of the manuscript.” I believe “delivery and acceptance” referred to a revised manuscript after editorial feedback. The number of author copies was negotiated from 10 to 24. The contract’s timeline for publication was 18 months after acceptance of text and illustrations. 18 months seemed a long, but reasonable time to wait. However, the timeline was actually about three and a half years. Publishing is sloooow.

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

REBECCA: The editorial process was wonderful. Nancy was awesome to work with—responsive and open to discussing any questions I had. Yes, I had to make some changes. But she really did listen to my concerns. One example is that she had revised the story so that the animals exited the car in one paragraph—the dogs got out at the puppy school, the ducks got out at the duck pond, and the pigs got out at the market. I really wanted to show the car gradually emptying—the dogs got out but Molly still had two ducks on her head quack-quacking and Max still had a pig on his lap oink-oinking. (Those lines are all paraphrased.) Nancy’s changes were made so that the story would fit into a 32-page picture book. After some discussion, she decided to go with a 40-page picture book so that we could include my original text!

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

REBECCA: I was included in the illustration process from the start. I had input on illustrators and I was able to give feedback on sketches. I hadn’t included any art notes but I had pictures in my head, of course. It took a little time to adjust my vision when I saw the sketches. But they quickly grew on me. I was so lucky that illustrator Dana Wulfekotte came on board to create the world for SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED. She even made some changes based on my suggestions.

text copyright Rebecca Kraft Rector 2021, illustration copyright Dana Wulfekotte 2021, Nancy Paulsen Books

SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc?

REBECCA: Nothing yet.

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

REBECCA: July 2017 to January 2021. Three and a half years.


SUSANNA: What was the initial print run for your book?

REBECCA: 10,000 copies.

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

REBECCA: The associate publicist is pitching widely to national and regional media, targeting trade and book-interest sites, illustrator and educator media, and parenting media.

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

REBECCA: I’m doing blog interviews and I’ve joined a debut picture book group—21 for the Books. It’s been a great, supportive group. We have a blog https://oneforthebooks.wixsite.com/2021 and we create graphics and interviews to publicize each other’s books.

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

REBECCA: It was a long time—at least thirty years.

SUSANNA: What is the most important/helpful thing you learned on your way to publication? (Or what is your most helpful piece of advice for up and coming writers?)

REBECCA: The most important thing I learned was Don’t Give Up! Keep writing and keep trying. This might not be the right time for this story, but who knows? Maybe it’ll sell next year (or twenty years from now).

Author Rebecca Kraft Rector

RebeccaKraftRector.wordpress.com
RebeccaKraftRector on Facebook
RebeccaKRector on Instagram and Twitter


SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to join us today and give us a glimpse of your publication process, Rebecca! It is such a privilege to get to learn from you! I know I speak for everyone when I wish you the very best of luck with this and future titles!

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

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

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 😊

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job (self pub)

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

Ciara O’Neal – Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone (self pub)

Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)

Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)

Kirsten Larson – Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents An Airplane

Valerie Bolling – Let’s Dance!

Janet Johnson – Help Wanted: Must Love Books

Susi Schaefer – Cat Ladies

Heather Kinser – Small Matters: The Hidden Power of the Unseen

Kelly Carey – How Long Is Forever?

Mary Wagley Copp – Wherever I Go

Nell Cross Beckerman – Down Under The Pier

Claire Noland – Evie’s Field Day: More Than One Way To Win

Sharon Giltrow – Bedtime, Daddy!

Gabi Snyder – Two Dogs On A Trike

Sarah Kurpiel – Lone Wolf

Vicky Fang – Invent-a-Pet

Lisa Katzenberger – National Regular Average Ordinary Day

Pam Webb – Someday We Will

Abi Cushman – Soaked!

Teresa Krager – Before Your Birth Day

Lindsay H. Metcalf – Beatrix Potter, Scientist

Nancy Roe Pimm – Fly, Girl, Fly! Shaesta Waiz Soars Around The World

Jolene Gutiérrez – Mac And Cheese And The Personal Space Invader

Julie Rowan-Zoch – Louis (picture book illustration debut!)

Janie Emaus – Latkes For Santa

Amy Mucha – A Girl’s Bill Of Rights

Hope Lim – I Am A Bird

Melanie Ellsworth – Hip,Hip…Beret!

The 2021 Valentiny Contest WINNERS!!!

Rise and shine, my friends!

I know it’s Monday.

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

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

But.

BUT!

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

Yes!

It’s true!

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


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

No?

Ok, how about

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

Oh no, wait! I’ve got it!

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

I don’t know what’s happening here.

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

Who could that be?

But never mind, because GUESS WHAT?

It’s time to announce the WINNERS of

The 6th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest

~ for children’s writers ~

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

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

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

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

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

Elizabeth Volkmann for Class List

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

David McMullin for Brave Brave Brave (also funny 😊)

Laken Slate for The Brave Little Conversation Heart

M.R. Haqq for Soon

Mia Geiger for Peanut’s Brave Valentine’s Day

Ashlee Hashman for The Wildflower

Lindsey Hobson for U R Brave

Audrey Day-Williams for Legendary Valentine

Sara Ackerman for Arrrrr Is For Valentine

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

Donna Kurtz for The Owl and the Kitty-Kat

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

Una Belle Townsend for Six Secret Valentines

Jan Suhr for The Lost Valentine

Kaylee Gwarjanski for Mission: Cancel Cupid Call

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

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

3. For Original POV:

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

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

4. For Humor:

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

Catherine J Lee for The Valentine on My Shoe

Karyn Curtis for The Valentine’s Quest

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

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

Brenda Whitehead for Step-Brother Battle

Shannon Howarth Nelson for Super Brothers

Danielle S. Hammelef for Scaredy-Cat

6. For Beautiful Writing:

Ciara N M Greenwalt for The Gift Tree

Sandhya Acharya for Sarla Asks A Question

Jyoti Rajan Gopal for A Cocoon of Love

Amy Flynn for Tilly’s Great Big Heart

7. For Best Short Valentiny Story:

P. J. Purtee for A Simple Valentine

8. For Sweet Valentiny:

Kelly Swemba for Brave For Gigi

Anne Bromley for Caleb’s Heart

Carmen Castillo Gilbert for Roses From Valentina

9. Best Story From A Young Writer:

Sophia Zafra for Bravery Is From The Heart

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

And now…

…the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

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

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

DDDRRRUUUMMM RRROOOLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!

In First Place

Winner of the whole shebang…

who gets first choice of all the prizes…

Sarah McDermott
for

Lemur in Love!!!

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

In Second Place

Sarah Meade
for
Jana’s Valentine Visit

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

In Third Place

Nancy Derey Riley
for
Percy’s Valentine

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

In Fourth Place

Jessica Hinrichs
for
Valentine’s Gotcha Day

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

In Fifth Place

Carrie Boone
for
The Ballad of Bad Bart

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

In Sixth Place...

Nicole Loos Miller
for
Stella & Hank

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

In Seventh Place…

Paul Kurtz
for
Someone Special!

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

In Eighth Place…

Chambrae Griffith
for
Octopus Hugs

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

In Ninth Place…

Janie Reinart
for
Untangled Valentines

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

In Tenth Place…

Anne Lipton
for
Most Valuable Valentine

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

In Eleventh Place…

Katie Brandyberry
for
Valentine Delivery

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

In Twelfth Place…

Lauri C. Meyers
for
Charmadillo

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

In Thirteenth Place…

Judy Sobanski
for
Brave Little Friends

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

In Fourteenth Place…

Samantha Haas
for
Valentine’s Day Rocks

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

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

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

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

Have a marvelous Monday, everyone! 😊

The Prizes:  Swoonworthy!

Hannah VanVels – Agent, Belcastro Agency – PB MS Critique

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

(from Belcastro Agency’s website)

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

Renee LaTulippe

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

Dawn Young

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

Kirsti Call

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

Melissa Stoller

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

Becky Scharnhorst

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

Ellen Leventhal

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

Rebecca Kraft Rector

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

Julie Abery


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

Author Jenna Waldman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roses are red

Violets are blue

Valentinies rock

And so do YOU!

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

The 6th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest

~ for children’s writers ~

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

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

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

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

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

Amazing wonderful Valentiny Contest story.😊

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

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

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

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

Judging criteria will include:

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

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

Hannah VanVels – Agent, Belcastro Agency – PB MS Critique

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

(from Belcastro Agency’s website)

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

Renee LaTulippe

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

Dawn Young

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

Kirsti Call

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

Melissa Stoller

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

Becky Scharnhorst

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

Ellen Leventhal

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

Rebecca Kraft Rector

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

Julie Abery


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

Author Jenna Waldman

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can’t wait to read your stories!!!

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

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

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

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