With Hopeful Heart! – The 3rd Annual Valentiny Writing Contest!!!

Update February 19 – Sorry folks!  We need more time to make our decisions between all these amazing entries!  I will get the finalists up just as soon as I can!!!

Roses are red

Violets are blue

Valentinies rock

And so do YOU!

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

The Third Annual Pretty Much World Famous
Valentiny Writing Contest!!!

Valentiny Writing Contest 2018

Valen-tiny because the stories are not very long and are written for little people 🙂

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 is hopeful!  Your someone can hope for something good or something bad.  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 hopeful (can be the main character but doesn’t have to be) and is 214 words (get it? 2/14 for Valentines Day 🙂  You can go under the word count but not over! (Title is not included in the word count.)  If you are so inclined, you are welcome to enter more than one entry – just remember you’ll be competing against yourself 🙂  No illustration notes please!

Post your story on your blog between right now this very second and Wednesday February 14th by 11:59 PM EDT and add your post-specific link on the form below.  There will be no Would You Read It or PPBF this week, so the post and the list of links will stay up for everyone to enjoy.  If you don’t have a blog and would like to enter, you can simply copy and paste your entry in the comments section below. (Or, if you have difficulty with the comments, which unfortunately sometimes happens, you may email your entry to me and I’ll post it for you!  susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com ) Please copy and paste your entry into the body of the email – no attachments!  Please only post your entry ONCE! Either on your blog and the associated link list, or in the comment section of my post!  Otherwise it gets confusing 🙂

The Judging: My lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to 6-10 top choices depending on number and quality of entries (hee hee hee – you know how much trouble I have with the narrowing, so we’ll see) which will be posted here and voted on for a winner on Monday February 19th (or possibly Tuesday February 20th if the judges need extra time.)   The winner will be announced by Friday February 23rd. (And there will be no WYRI or PPBF that week either so that everyone will have time to read and vote and so that we don’t confuse PPBF with announcing winners.)  The dates of the judging/voting/winner announcements are subject to finagling depending on how much time the judges actually end up needing!

Judging criteria will include:

  1. Kid-appeal/Kid-friendliness – remember, this is a story for kids!
  2. Creativity in using hopefulness and success in making us feel the hopefulness!
  3. Valentine’s Day appropriateness – this is a VALENTINE story!
  4. Quality of story – we will look for basic story elements and a true story arc
  5. Quality of writing – use and flow of language, correctness of mechanics, excellence of rhyme and meter if you use it.
  6. Originality – surprise us with something new and different! 🙂

The Prizes:  Oh, boy, do we have some GREAT prizes!  I feel certain you are all highly motivated to compete for these!!!

– a PB manuscript read and critique from Nikki Garcia, assistant editor at Little, Brown!


Nikki Garcia

– a PB manuscript read and phone call critique with Nicole Otto, assistant editor at MacMillan Children’s Publishing!

Nicole Otto

Nicole Otto

– a PB manuscript critique from the superb multi-published award-winning author/illustrator Iza Trapani

Iza 2014          Old MacDonald
Iza Trapani was born in Poland and moved to the US at age seven.  Her relatives gave her a large Mother Goose Treasury, and she began learning English through those rhymes.  Little did she know that someday her dream would come true and she would become a children’s book author and illustrator.
    Iza’s best selling nursery rhyme extensions, including The Itsy Bitsy Spider, Shoo Fly and Row, Row Row Your Boat are widely used in schools and libraries across the U.S. and abroad. Old MacDonald Had a…Zoo?  is Iza’s latest release. She is currently at work on her 27th picture book, as well as a childhood memoir.
You can learn more about Iza and her books at:


– a PB manuscript critique (ms not to exceed 800 words please) along with a follow-up phone call if the author is interested from the lovely and talented Katey Howes, author of Grandmother Thorn (Ripple Grove Press 2017) and Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe (Sterling Children’s Books 2018)

KathrynHeadshots-20 (2)               Magnolia Mudd cover art

– a PB manuscript critique from the fantastic Lynne Marie, author of Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten – illustrated by Anne Kennedy (Scholastic, 2011), Hedgehog’s 100th Day of School – illustrated by Lorna Hussey (Scholastic, January 2017), The Star of the Christmas Play — illustrated by Lorna Hussey (Sparkhouse Family, 2018) and Moldilocks and the 3 Scares (Sterling, pending) . Her stories, poems, folk tales and crafts have appeared in many magazine markets, including Family Fun, Highlights, High Five, Spider, Baby Bug and more. She was a first-round panelis for 2016 Cybils Awards and again, in 2017. In addition, she’s an on-staff writer for Jon and Laura Bard’s Children’s Book Insider and a book reviewer. She lives on a lake in South Florida with her daughter and Anakin, their little Schipperke, as well as several resident water birds. She has offers both critiques and mentorships for writers. You can learn more about her at www.LiterallyLynneMarie.com

Lynne          HH100th

– a PB manuscript critique (non-rhyming please) from the wonderful and amazing Melissa Stoller, author of The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection: Return To Coney Island (Spork 2017)

Melissa Stoller               Return To Coney Island

– a signed copy of Charlie Takes His Shot: How Charlie Sifford Broke The Color Barrier In Golf (Albert Whitman 2018) from fabulous author Nancy Churnin accompanied by a terrific Teacher’s Guide (created by Marcie Colleen)

Nancy Churnin               Charlie Takes His Shot

– a signed copy of Twinderella from Corey Rosen Schwartz AND a signed copy of The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection: Return To Coney Island from Melissa Stoller

Twinderella          Return To Coney Island

– a copy of Laura Purdie Salas’s brand new book Making A Living Writing Books For Kids

Making A Living

– a copy of the 2018 Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market (it’s only February – still very useful!)

Children's Writer's & Illustrators 2018

I can’t thank these authors and other industry professionals enough for their incredible generosity!  Please visit their sites, buy and recommend their books and services to your writer friends and/or friends with kids, write them nice reviews on Amazon, GoodReads etc if you’ve read and liked their books, and show your appreciation to them in any way you can!


I’m afraid the time has come for my sample (because I would never ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do myself 🙂 )

Brace yourselves for mediocrity 🙂  (I recommend a large quantity of chocolate to get you through – perhaps a dump truck load or so?) and prepare for the return of Boris and Irma (who appeared in the inaugural Valentiny 🙂 )

A Hopeful Kind Of Valentine
(214 words on the nose!)

Three days before Valentine’s, Irma made her list.

“I will make 32 valentines!” she announced. “How many are you making, Boris?”

“Zero,” said Boris.

“Spoilsport,” said Irma. “I hope Norman’s not a spoilsport.”

Irma cut construction paper.

“Are you making pink hearts or red hearts,” she asked.

“Neither,” said Boris.

“Party pooper,” said Irma. “I hope Norman’s not a party pooper.”

The day before Valentine’s, Irma decorated. Confetti hearts and glitter flew everywhere.

Boris ignored her.

But then she said, “I hope Norman will be my Valentine.” She sounded so wishful that Boris looked at her thoughtfully. He had doubts about Norman.

Boris made a list.

On Valentine’s Day, Irma clutched her valentines. “I hope Norman will give me a valentine,” she told Boris on the school bus.

Boris worried.

Tears rolled silently down Irma’s cheeks all the way home. She went right to her room.

Boris went right to work.

At dinner, Irma sat with her eyes downcast and said nothing.

Although Valentine’s was stupid, Boris didn’t want Irma to be sad.  If only his plan would work.

He set the pink-frosted, heart-shaped chocolate cake he had made in front of Irma.

“It’s not Norman, but Happy Valentine’s Day,” he said.

“It’s perfect,” said Irma, hugging him.

“Yuck,” said Boris, but he smiled.

❤               ❤               ❤               ❤               ❤               ❤               ❤

Everyone feeling better about their stories now?  I should certainly HOPE so! 🙂  After that horror show you can post yours with certainty that yours is better! 🙂

I can’t wait to read all of yours!  I’m SO looking forward to them!  I hope there will be LOTS – the more the merrier!  And there are still nearly 5 days to write, so you have time if you haven’t written yet.  Feel free to spread the word to your writing friends as well.  And your reading friends – parents, teachers, etc.  The more people who read and enjoy your stories, the better!!!  Also, have I mentioned the number of people who have gotten agents or sold manuscripts to editors based on the writing contest entries over the years?  There are quite a few!  One of these days I’ll figure out how many and do a blog post 🙂


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

Eager Readers – click on the links in the list to visit the blogs and read the stories.  And be sure to read the 76 fabulous entries posted in the comment section below!!!

Happy Valentines Week, Everyone! ❤

Scroll through the comments to find these wonderful stories!

  1. Victoria’s Valentine – Susan
  2. Victor’s Valentine’s Day Surprise – Sharmaine
  3. You – Jennifer B
  4. the most amazing fantastic special Valentine ever – Erin
  5. The Lost Dog Dilemma – Chris
  6. Thank You – Katelyn
  7. Positively Paulina – Nancy
  8. A Day In The Life Of Cupid – Marty
  9. Rose And Tulip – M.S.
  10. The Valentine Monster Crash – Megan
  11. Valenswine – Susan
  12. Top Secret Valentine – Marie
  13. Tiny the Pony Wants to be Special – Kaye
  14. Grandma’s Cookies – Deborah
  15. This Will Be The Year – Sara
  16. Who Sent This Valentine? – Marie
  17. Hope In A Jar – Anne
  18. A Fur-Ever Valentine – Beth
  19. A Card With A Heart – Laura
  20. Upside Down Valentine’s Day – Ryan
  21. Not Alone – Amy
  22. Valentine’s Day Strike – Chambrae
  23. I Love Ewe – Kirsten
  24. A Valentine’s Day Adventure – Sarah H
  25. Adeline’s Hope – Carmen
  26. Snowy Owl Valentine Delivery – Kathleen
  27. A Valentine Snowman – Rebecca
  28. The Heart Art Contest – Marie
  29. The Right Valentine – Lauren
  30. The Red Envelope – Karen
  31. First Grade Love – Darcee
  32. Mama’s Purple Heart – Anne B
  33. Valentine’s Day With The Deli Family – Sandra
  34. Valentine-Making Time – Robin
  35. Unexpected Valentine – Brian
  36. The Valentine Tree – Jenny B
  37. Valentine Treat – Judy V
  38. A Purrfect Valentine – Mia
  39. Eliza’s Broken Heart – Anne S
  40. Porcupine’s Gift – Jim
  41. Hope’s Valentine – Nancy R
  42. Yellow And Blue Valentines – Marty
  43. Tootsie The Wonder Dog’s Valentiny Poem – Kathy
  44. Sakie’s Flock – Gayle
  45. Teddy’s Valentine’s Day – Deb
  46. Dear Daughter – Sandra S
  47. Mum’s The Word – Judy S
  48. Hope Floats – Jen B
  49. Charlotte’s New School – M.R.
  50. The Valentine Genie – Anne S
  51. Triple The Love – Brandi
  52. Emily’s Big Idea – Beth
  53. Red – Mary
  54. The Valentine Hat – Gwen
  55. Winston Wins! – Corine
  56. Bamboo Panda’s Special Surprise – Liz
  57. Oh No! Where Did It Go? – Mona
  58. Sweet Love – Christine
  59. You Rock! – Karla
  60. Picture Perfect – Tiffany
  61. Bunny Hugs – Nina
  62. Timberdoodle Valentine – Leigh Anne
  63. Valentine For Mom – Susie
  64. The Muddy Valentine – Karen
  65. Chocolaty Delight – Gina
  66. Valentine Handyman – Meg
  67. Daisy Power – Patricia
  68. Cupid’s Graduation Wish – Lucretia
  69. Huggle And Snug – Stephanie V
  70. My Valentine – Kurt
  71. Cupid’s Candy Craving—Marvin’s Valentine’s Surprise – Lucretia 
  72. A Pirate Valentine – Ingrid
  73. Lily’s Leg – Stephanie K
  74. If I Gave A Witch A Valentine – Amber
  75. Bunnies’ Heart-Shaped Hopes – Jen R
  76. Grumble’s Best Valentine’s Day Ever – Katrina

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Here Comes Valentine Cat

Hurray!  It’s Friday!

That means Perfect Picture Books AND…

…that the Valentiny Writing Contest opens tomorrow!!!

I know we all have tons to do (er… it’s possible some of us may not have even given a moment’s thought to their sample entry yet! 🙂 ), so let’s get right to today’s pick!  I’m sure it’s been done before, but I love it so I’m doing it too 🙂

Valentine Cat

Title: Here Comes Valentine Cat

Written By: Deborah Underwood

Illustrated By: Claudia Rueda

Dial Books for Young Readers, December 2015, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 3-6

Themes/Topics: holidays (Valentines Day), misunderstanding, friendship, humor

Opening: “Hey, Cat!
Any Valentine’s Day plans?”

Brief Synopsis: Cat does NOT like Valentine’s Day. It’s much too mushy, and no way is he making anyone a valentine—especially not his new neighbor, Dog who clearly has no understanding of how to behave!  But maybe it’s Cat who is misunderstanding Dog’s intent!

Links To Resources: make Valentines! 🙂  Use colored construction paper, stickers, glitter and glue, markers and paint, fancy doilies too!  Anything goes!  Write a Valentine poem!  Try starting with “Roses are red, violets are blue” if you need a nudge 🙂

Why I Like This Book:  I love all of Deborah Underwood’s Cat books – they are so funny!  I love Cat’s grumpy personality and sly humor.  And I love Claudia Rueda’s art – especially her skill with facial expression.  This is a story kids will relate to well.  Many kids feel as Cat does that Valentine’s Day is way too mushy 🙂  And haven’t we all been in situations where we misunderstood the actions of others, or had our own behaviors misunderstood?  Cat resolves the problem in this story… but he doesn’t go mushy!  He gets the last word as always 🙂

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 🙂

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF folks, please add your titles and post-specific links (and any other info you feel like filling out 🙂 ) to the form below so we can all come see what fabulous picture books you’ve chosen to share this week!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!!! 🙂

See you tomorrow for the Valentiny Writing Contest!!!