Just When You Thought It Would Never Happen. . . The 2022 Valentiny Contest FINALISTS!!!

At last, my friends, just when you were probably beginning to suspect that the whole “family medical situation” was a cover story and I had actually disappeared to parts unknown having undergone plastic surgery to mask my identity whilst hiding out from the FBI, or gone into witness protection because of my secret past, I have materialized with the Valentiny Contest Finalists!

I know.

My secret past sounds intriguing.

And let me assure you, IT IS!

But it is a story for another day.

Today we need to focus on the finalists and the voting. It would be irresponsible of me to distract you from the task at hand by telling you about my days as an undercover operative, or about rescuing the princess of a country whose name I cannot divulge and restoring the throne and the government of said country, or the fact that my left pinky is registered as a lethal weapon, or any of the other things I did before I reinvented myself as a mild-mannered picture book writer as vanilla as they come. There will be no distractions today. No sirreee, Bob! Not one!

We’re going bare bones.

Here are your finalists. There are 14 because Valentine’s Day is on the 14th of February and I am finally posting finalists on the 14th of March. (Also because we couldn’t decide on only 12 and there were 13 prizes so I’ll just add one 😊)

Please read these amazing stories, choose your favorite, and vote by Wednesday March 16 at 9PM Eastern. Pride. Story. Kids 12 and under. Valentine’s Day.

A word about the voting. You are welcome (and encouraged!) to share today’s post anywhere and everywhere! The more readers and voters we get, the better because all these marvelous stories deserve to be read and enjoyed by as many people as we can get! But the finalists are listed by title only in order to preserve some anonymity so that the voting can be as merit-based and unbiased as possible. Please do not troll for votes. Please do not ask people to vote for entries by number, title, or description (i.e. the one about the lovesick unicorn who wept marshmallow tears 🦄) That goes against the spirit of the contest. Thank you so much in advance!

Now then! Prepare to have your socks knocked off!

#1 – Special Delivery

I am BEAUTIFUL!

Red construction paper hearts inside of pink construction paper hearts and glitter from top to bottom – that’s my front! My back says, “Made with love” and the “o” is a little red heart. Could I be any cuter?

My maker, Ali, is going to give me to someone special, I know it! I am so proud of how I turned out.

Inside, I say the sweetest thing: “Roses have thorns, Violet’s are tiny, but you’re just right, my Valentiney!”

Oh, she’s picking me up! Here we go!

Walking past her best friend? Ok, I was not expecting that. Past Javon? Hmm, he would have been special. Ok, who’s next? Sydney? Aaaand she keeps going.

Where in the world is she taking me?

We stopped. Whose desk is this? The new kid Jasmine?

Hey, her box is covered in glitter like me!

Am I going in? Wheeee, she’s putting me in! I knew she’d pick someone special.

#2 – The Valentine’s Cake

“Today,” said Miss Rabbit, “you’ll each get to make,
a yummy, fantabulous Valentine’s cake.”

Anteater frowned, “But Miss, who are they for?”
“For someone you’ve chosen who makes your heart soar.”

Anteater pondered, while whisks whizzed and whirled.
A someone who’s special, who lights up my world…?

“Eureka!” he cried. “I know just who to choose!”
And grinning, he mixed up a brown cakey ooze.

The ovens all roared as the cakes baked and browned,
til “Quick!” said Miss Rabbit. “Come gather around!”

Anteater’s tummy flipped, what would he see?
He hardly dared look, but then… Wow! Could it be?!

His cake was magnificent, tall, round and wide.
The flips turned to flutters, his chest swelled with pride.

“Such wonderful cakes,” said Miss Rabbit with glee,
“they’ll make someone happy, but who will that be?”

Anteater watched as his friends leapt away,
excited to celebrate Valentine’s Day…

… a fruitcake for Gran Bear, a loafcake for Miss,
and baby Racoon got a cupcake and kiss.

Then Anteater followed, his cake carried high,
to the someone he’d chosen who made his heart fly.

“Excuse me,” he whispered, “I wanted to say,
how special you are. Happy Valentine’s Day!”

The ants scurried out as the cake touched the floor,
and anteater feasted on someone’s galore.

#3 – Flicker’s Valentine

Flicker the dragon stomped past the valentines for sale in town.
“None of these work!” he fumed, but he needed valentines for the valentine party.

He bought chocolate heart valentines.
“Agh!” he cried, “They’re melting!”

He bought paper heart valentines.
“Agh!” he cried, “They’re burning!”

“Besides,” growled Flicker patting them out–he was ashamed so he felt angry–“They aren’t dragony enough!

“The dryad brings heart-shaped willow wreaths, so her valentines are dryad-y.

“The mermaid brings heart-shaped pearls, so her valentines are mermaid-y.”

“Nobody wants melty, singed, dragony valentines. Yuck!”

Just then he spied…
“Marshmallow hearts?”

“Oo!” thought Flicker.

“Is it valentine time?” Flicker gasped rushing into the party.
“Yes,” said the Dryad. “Did you bring some?”

“Yup!” grinned Flicker, “Can I borrow a stick?”

The dryad handed Flicker a slim willow branch from her wreath.

He pushed the heart-shaped marshmallow onto the tip of the stick.

Lifted it up and—Fwoosh!
A beautiful, toasted marshmallow heart.

“Here,” said Flicker, beaming. “A properly dragony valentine. It’s melty. It’s singed! And I made it just for you.”

The dryad popped the toasty treat into her mouth.

“It’s perfect!”

That year and every year after all the magical creatures looked forward to Flicker’s melty, singed marshmallow valentines. And he toasted them up–one by one–with great dragony pride.

#4 – Valentine Wins

Whistle blows,
racers run,
every kid
except for one.

Leo limps
and comes in last.
Kat takes first.
She’s rocket-fast.

Kat sees Leo
limping in.
He does not quit,
though he cannot win.

Kat likes Leo.
He is kind.
He helps with math
when she’s behind.

Teacher says,
“For Valentine’s Day,
let’s show love
in some new way.”

Back at class
it’s time for art.
Leo makes
a bright red heart.

He hands Kat
his Valentine
while all the kids
get back in line.

Whistle blows,
they race again.
Kat starts out
in first, but then…

She runs back
to Leo’s side.
Teacher’s face
lights up with pride.

Kat and Leo
run the race
arm-on-arm
and win tenth place!

Teacher gives them
both a prize:
a bag of mini
chocolate pies.

Walking home
along Pear Street
Kat and Leo
share their treat.

Both of them
know this is true –
fast or smart,
me or you:

It’s fun to win,
or ace a test,
but being someone’s
friend is best.

#5 – A Change Of Heart

Valentine’s Day is Mabel’s least favorite holiday.
The worst thing about Valentine’s Day…
Conversation hearts.
These hearts were bad enough without posters and stickers of them spread all over school.
UR CUTE
Ugh.
BE MINE
Ew.
KISS ME
Barf.
“They’re too lovey-dovey,” Mabel rolled her eyes.
“Agreed. Let’s do something about it,” said Lev.
“I’ve already got a plan!” Mabel smirked.
She filled him in, and they got right to work making a poster.
A CHANGE OF HEART
Conversation hearts are gushy and mushy!
Let go of the old sayings and make way for…
Mindful hearts!
Take some hearts, write your best encouraging sayings, and drop them in the box.
The contest created a flurry.
When they checked the box after school it was overflowing.
Mabel high-fived Lev.
“Let’s do this!”
They pulled the mushy, gushy hearts off the walls and replaced them with the new hearts.
The next day, students and teachers crowded the hallways, reading the hearts aloud.
DON’T QUIT
PROUD OF U
FEAR LESS
BE YOU
“Now that’s a conversation!” said Lev.
Mabel beamed.
Maybe Valentine’s Day isn’t so bad after all, she thought.

#6 – The Perfect Valentine

“It’s Valentine’s!”
said Mrs. Hughes.
“And so I’d like
for you to choose
a person who you
love real hard
to make an extra
special card.”

Cecilia chose her
cousin Sal
and Pablo chose
his closest pal
Patricia who
sat next to Brad,
who chose Brianne,
who chose her dad.

And as for me,
I chose someone
who truly cannot
be outdone.
The brightest bulb,
A-plus! First rate!
The pride of
P.S. 28.

The smartest kid
in all the school.
The fastest in the
swimming pool.
A star in art
and music class,
with talent no one
can surpass.

The bravest kid
in the whole grade
who’s super tough
and not afraid
of roller coasters,
snakes or sharks,
of monsters, bugs,
even the dark.

“Time for lunch!”
Mrs. Hughes said.
“So take your finished
cards and spread
them out to dry
on that shelf next
to all our other
art projects.”

Before I head on
out the door,
I gaze upon
my card once more.
It’s perfect as
I knew it’d be
because this one’s
addressed to me.


“You shouldn’t have!”
I tell myself
and place the card
up on the shelf
with all the other
Valentines
(that just aren’t quite
as good as mine).

#7 – Valentine Delivery – Part II

Last Valentine’s Day, Mail Truck bravely delivered the mail despite slick, snowy roads.
This year, he has a different problem: nothing to deliver!
All packages have been given to bigger, faster trucks.

Disappointed, Mail Truck spins his wheels.
“I’ll do my route anyhow. Maybe there’s mail to pick up!
I’d hate to let the neighbors down, especially on Valentine’s Day!”

As he pulls down 1st Avenue…
THUD! A delivery truck launches boxes into flowerbeds.
Mail Truck’s engine heats up. “That’s not where those belong.”
He shuffles over and carefully places the packages in mailboxes.

On 2nd Avenue…
ZOOM! A delivery truck speeds by.
“Whoa! There are kids around!”
Mail Truck’s blares his horn. “HOOOOOONK! Slow down!”

The delivery truck is busy on 3rd Avenue too.
SPLASH! A package lands right in a puddle.
The delivery truck doesn’t even notice (or care).
Mail Truck’s blinkers turn red. “A wet package will not do.”
He scoots over and dries it off.
As he puts it in the mailbox, a neighbor runs outside with an envelope.

“Ah-ha! Outgoing mail!”
Surprise! The envelope is addressed to him!
It’s his very own Valentine!

Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
We appreciate
All that you do.

Mail Truck wipes away a proud tear and remembers why he LOVES his job.

#8 – Sweet Valentine

The third-grade class all write their names
and doodle heart designs
on baggies colored red and pink
which hold their valentines.

They peek into each other’s bags
and chat about the treats.
Today they’ll exchange cards, but more
importantly eat sweets.

Millie glances nervously
at snacks her classmates bought.
She made cute cards with special notes,
but cards were ALL she brought.

Twenty unique valentines
specifically addressed,
she’d worked so hard creating them
she’d missed what kids like best.

One by one, the class delivers
mail to each other.
Candy wrappers crinkle as they
swap with one another.

Millie’s cards are tossed aside
for lacking sugar loot,
and her (once beaming) confidence
dwindles…dims… goes mute.

But then a nearby classmate shouts,
“Oops! This card fell behind.
No candy? Hmm… this one is from…
Millie!! You’re so kind!”

The whole third-grade then drops their treats
to shuffle through their piles,
and as they read what Millie wrote,
the room fills with sweet smiles.

“She likes the way I heart my i’s.”
“She noticed when I shared.”
“Millie saw I learned to draw!
I thought nobody cared.”

Millie shines as her friends say
they never would have guessed,
that candy’s nice, but feeling proud
is what they all like best.

#9 – V-Day!

When Radney Rat broke up with Vivian Vole on February 13th–
right before her Valentine’s party–
Vivian vented to her best friend, Morley Mouse.
“I’m done with love! The party’s canceled!
No conversation hearts!
No pink balloons!
No valentines whatsoever!”
Morley blinked.
“Absolutely no ooey-gooey or mushy-gushy.” Vivian sighed.
Morley patted her paw. “We could still celebrate . . . SOMETHING.”
He pointed to her calendar.
V-day was scribbled on February 14th.
“V-day?” Vivian mused.
Morley nodded. “Your favorite letter.”
“Morley, you’re a genius!” Vivian cried.
Morley’s ears turned pink with pride.
They called their friends.
No ooey-gooey. No mushy-gushy.
But V things were VERY encouraged!
Morley chopped vegetables.
Vivian placed violets in vases.
They donned new vests.
Would their friends come to a V-day party on Valentine’s Day?
Ding-dong!
They came!
And they delivered:
Vinegar.
A violin.
Vacuum cleaners!
Vanilla ice cream.
Vampire books.
A Venus flytrap!
And a Velveeta volcano!
Guests played volleyball and watched videos.
“Wow,” said Vivian. “This is better than a Valentine’s party! Thanks, Morley.”
Morley’s cheeks turned as pink as his ears with pride . . . and something sweeter.
He smiled. “My favorite V thing is . . . you!”
Vivian beamed at her best friend.
“Strike a pose!” someone called.
“Let’s dance!” Vivian pulled Morley’s paw.
Vivian, Morley, and all their friends vogued.
“Happy V-day!”

#10 – Percy’s Performance

Peacocks lookin’ fancy! (Gasp!)
Peacocks lookin’ fine! (Oh my!)
Tonight’s the night they’ll strut their stuff
and score a Valentine! (Aww!)

The ballroom is aflutter.
The party’s at its peak.
But Percy watches all the others
chatting cheek to beak.

He spent the whole day primping.
He memorized the dance.
Though maybe not the boldest,
Percy thinks he has a chance.

It’s time for the performance.
The ladies have a seat.
The four-piece band begins to play
a fresh and funky beat.

The gents unfurl their plumage.
There’s nothing left to lose.
With puffed-up chests they do their best
and peahens start to choose.

Strut strut strut and flick!
Turn and twist and shout!
All the peacocks are in sync,
but one is standing out.

Percy’s really grooving. (Oof!)
He thinks, “I’m in the zone!” (Watch out!)
But when the music fades away,
he finds himself…alone. (Sniff)

Every other birdie
has found a Valentine.
Percy leaves, his head held high,
but then he hears…
“Be mine?”

It’s shy but lovely Hilda!
She blushes with a smile.
“I don’t care much for dancing, but
I can’t resist your style.”

Percy’s feelin’ awesome. (Yeah!)
Hilda’s at her best. (Mm-hmm!)
Their hearts are full of love and pride, and now
so is their nest! (Cheep cheep!)

#11 – Oog Love Rock

One Valentine’s Day, Cupid set out to help Oog the Caveman find love.

But this was long, long ago, and Cupid was still getting the hang of his bow. He didn’t always hit his target…

His arrow missed Ugga.

It whizzed by Unk.

It flew over Froon.

But then, it struck!

A boulder.

“OOG LOVE ROCK!”

Oog made Valentines for Rock out of moss and bark.

He sang love songs to Rock.

He carried Rock everywhere. “Oog tired!” (Rock was very heavy!)

When spring came, it was time to move to a new cave, far away. Too far for Oog to carry Rock.

But Oog would not leave his beloved Rock behind.

He pressed his shoulder against Rock.

“Oog push!”

But Rock wouldn’t budge.

He made a rope and tied it around Rock.

“Oog pull!”

But the rope wasn’t strong enough.

SNAP!

Oog flipped Rock end over end, but it made him go very,

very,

sloooowwwly.

“Oog never get there!”

Then Oog had an idea.

He chipped and chopped, scraped and smoothed, until…

“Rock roll!”

Oog had invented the wheel!

“Oog proud.”

Cupid was proud too. He might not have been aiming at that boulder, but Oog and Rock were the perfect match.

“Oog love Rock.”

#12 – Showdown In Smoochalot

In the foothills of Smoochalot, Texas
Lived a cowboy called Honey Pie Pete.
He was dashing and thin
With a lopsided grin,
And, true to his name, he was sweet.

“I’m like syrup on biscuits!” he gloated.
“In this town, ain’t nobody sweeter.”
And he may have been right,
Except–one winter night,
He bumped into Sugar Lump Skeeter.

“I’M the sweetest!” ol’ Skeeter cried proudly.
“And that’s the way it’s gonna stay.
If you dare disagree
You can square off with me
In a showdown on Valentine’s Day.”

“What kind of a showdown?” Pete wondered.
“Valentine’s cards!” Skeeter said.
“Make your sweetest design,
And I’ll offer up mine.
We’ll see which one comes out ahead.”

“You got it!” Pete shouted with gusto.
“Can’t see that this breaks any law!”
So, when V Day came ’round,
Both men stood their ground
And hollered out: “3-2-1…DRAW!”

Markers and crayons went flying!
There were stickers and glitter and glue!
When Skeeter was done,
He said, “That was fun!
And, by the way…this card’s for you.”

“Oh, how sweet!” Pete exclaimed without thinking.
In an instant, he realized his sin.
Blushing five shades of pink,
He said with a wink–
“Fair enough, cowboy. You win.”

#13 – Hoppy Belated Valentine

It’s Valentine’s Eve!
There’s love everywhere!
It’s the (second) best holiday to be a hare.
Hoppy hopped as she shopped,
plucking flowers peak bloom,
with a zig and a zag past the folks in the room.

Hoppy was happy!
Her flowers looked great!
A gift for a friend… who is chronically late.
She clutched her bouquet
then bounced on her way
to proudly present them on Valentine’s Day.

When the morning arrived
and the sun rose above,
hopeful Hoppy was eager to soon share her love.
But her pride became guilt,
feeling hours tick by,
as the flowers wilted and the sun left the sky.

On the following day
burrowed deep in her trunk,
mopey Hoppy awoke to a THUNK! THUNK! THUNK! THUNK!
Upside-down from a bough
with a ginormous smile
hung her good friend Slow-Joe with a MUCH LARGER pile.

“…The one gooood thing about beeeing a sloth…
…By theee time I arrrrive everything is half-off…
…That’s twice as much candy for meee and yoooouuu…
…if we celebrate late by a day or twoooo…”

Her smile appeared,
but soon was erased.
She scooted in front of the sad drooping vase.
“…FLOWERRRS ARE PERRRFECT…
…THE FOLLOWING DAAAY!!!
…Beeesides, they taste better when wilted this waaaay!!”

[SLOPPY BITE! SHOVE! CHEW!] “Slow-Joe, I Love you, too!”

#14 – Cupid’s Confidence

My cherub classmates look my way.
I hear them whisper “Cupid … .”
They laugh at something I’ve said wrong.
“That archer sure is—”

NOPE!

Sure, numbers jumble in my mind
because my gears are turning.
I know, though, I’m a gifted chum.
Mistakes mean I’m still learning.

In basketball, my shot gets blocked.
I hear some seraphs snort.
And when my next one nicks the net,
they reason, “Cu’s too—”

NOPE!

So what if I can’t alley-oop
and rebounds find me last?
My layup’s featherlight and suave.
My breakaway is fast!

If teardrops drip, their eyebrows raise.
(I cry when sad AND happy.)
“Wah-wah,” they mock.
“Boo-hoo,” they squawk.
“Oh, Cupid, you’re too—”

NOPE!

They might not fathom feelings now,
but that’s about to change.
My arrow’s primed for Valentine’s.
I’ll keep their hearts in range.

Phew! Do you see how we had such a hard time even getting it down to 14?! Please vote for your favorite in the poll below by Wednesday March 16 at 9PM Eastern! Then go take a nap. That was hard work!

I will do my very best to post the winners before April 14 😊 Shall we say Thursday, Friday or Saturday? I’ll do my best!

Now then, my darlings! Go forth and VOTE! And share the post with everyone you know who might enjoy reading these stories to themselves or their children or their students – the more the merrier! 😊

Sunday Fun – Announcing The Guidelines For The 7th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest!!!

Well, hi there, everyone!

In spite of my tendency to forget what day it is, I do know that today is Sunday. Not a posting day for me.

But let’s face it. It’s freezing cold, there’s snow everywhere, and going outdoors is likely to cause loss of digits or possibly your nose to frostbite. Not only that, it’s still January so the spring light at the end of the tunnel seems far far away!

We definitely need something to energize us (whilst keeping our fingers and toes intact)!

Let’s get the sun shining and our motivation flowing with a nice mug of hot chocolate (preferably topped with whipped cream because why not? 😊) and a writing challenge!

Are you ready to fire up those brain cells?

Because you’ve got two weeks (nothing like a deadline to get you focused on something besides how cold and dark it is!) to write your entry for. . .

The 7th 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 proud!  They can be proud in a good way or a bad way. They can be proud of themselves for asking someone to be their Valentine, or they can be proud of how they asked. They can be proud of a Valentine they make, or a Valentine celebration they plan. They can be proud of giving something up, or proud of asking someone they’re not sure about for some reason in order to be nice. They can be proud of their performance in a Valentines Day play or concert or parade. . . sky’s the limit!  Just make sure it is clearly Valentine-centered! 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 proud (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 in the comment section of my Friday February 11th Post between 12:01 AM EDT Friday February 11th and Sunday February 13th by 11:59 PM EDT.  There will be no regularly scheduled posts for the duration of the contest (Tuesday Debut, Would You Read It, or PPBF), so the post and all of your entries will stay up for everyone to enjoy.  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. But please don’t email your entry before the start of the contest – my inbox is generally overflowing and things may get lost!

The Judging: over the following days, my lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to 6-12 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 Friday February 18th (or possibly a day or two later if the judges need extra time.)   The winner will be announced Monday February 21st 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 pride, and success in making us feel the pride (whether it’s good pride or bad)!
  3. Valentine’s Day appropriateness – this is a VALENTINE story and Valentine’s Day must be central to it!
  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.

The Prizes:  I’m still working on prizes (aren’t I always 😊), but I wanted to get the contest guidelines up so you’d have time to write.  Start writing and watch this space for prizes which I will fancy up and add to as I get them organized!

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Read & Critique from agent Mary Cummings!

⭐️ 1/2 Hour Zoom Picture Book Manuscript Critique or Mentoring Session with author Lynne Marie!

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique from author Penny Parker Klostermann!

⭐️ 30 Minute Zoom Ask Me Anything with author Keila Dawson!

⭐️ Access to author/editor Alayne Kay Christians webinars!

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (fiction) from author Melissa Berger Stoller!

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique from author Rebecca Gardyn Levington!

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (nonrhyming) from author Rebecca Kraft Rector!

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique and Query Letter Critique from author Jessica Stremer!

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique from author Cathy Ballou Mealey!

⭐️ Personalized Signed Copy of KING CAKE BABY by Keila Dawson

⭐️ Personalized Signed Copy of PLANTING FRIENDSHIP: PEACE, SALAAM, SHALOM by Melissa Berger Stoller

⭐️ Personalized Signed Copy of IT’S A MUFFULETTA! IT’S A WHATA? by Patricia Saunders

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. Fishing For Love: A DIARY – Amy Olsen
  73. The Lost Valentine – Jeannette Suhr
  74. Brave New Friends – Dawn Young
  75. Scaredy-Cat – Danielle S. Hammelef
  76. Hard To Love – Robin Currie
  77. Brave Hearts – Susan Klaren
  78. Across The Road – Rachel Dutton
  79. Knight of Hearts – Ellen Crosby
  80. Tootsee Tulip Bulb’s Love-Treat – Judy Caldwell Hughes
  81. Brave in the Basement – Jessica Whipple
  82. Caleb’s Heart – Anne Bromley
  83. Corn Dogs on the Corner – Colleen Dougherty
  84. Brave Heart – Rebecca Gardyn Levington
  85. Knock, Knock, Knock – Marty Findley
  86. Villain-tine’s Day – Laura Bower
  87. Take A Deep Breath – Elyse Trevers
  88. Only Three Words – B. A. Schlosser Hill
  89. A Stolen Valentine – Martha Holguin
  90. Class List – Elizabeth Volkmann
  91. Cards and Cookies – Jennifer Reichow
  92. Chalk Tears – Judy Brewer
  93. Nurse A Broken Heart – E. Elle Bea
  94. Bravely Soldier On – E. Elle Bea
  95. New Kid Blues – Darcee A. Freier
  96. Valentine’s Recitation – Keely Leim
  97. Mama Love. Dada Love. – Nancy M. Tichenor
  98. A Valentine’s Treasure – Ingrid Boydston
  99. An Itsy Bitsy Valentine – Maria Antonia
  100. Dino & Gigi – Carolina Bottino (Nina K. Brown)
  101. Hearts Trail – Carolina Bottino (Nina K. Brown)
  102. The Giant’s Valentine – Sheila M. Hausbeck
  103. The Loneliness Street – Nina K. Brown
  104. Brave Little Valentine – Charlotte Dixon
  105. Playdate – Margaret Aitken
  106. Octopus Hugs – Chambrae Griffith
  107. Conversation Heart Courage – Becky Kimbrough
  108. My Friend Nate – Karima Davis
  109. Jojo’s Valentine – Sarah Hawklyn
  110. “I Like You A Lot” – Julie Schnieders
  111. Unconventional Friendship – Sarah Hawklyn
  112. The Flavors of the Heart – Armineh Manookian
  113. The Candybot – Ellen Seal
  114. An Otter Love Story – Kristy Roser Nuttall
  115. Floret And The Fondue – Ashley Sierra
  116. Be Brave, Be Kind, My Valentine – Susan E. Schipper
  117. Cupid’s Booty Camp For BabyBoo – Ally Enz
  118. Playing To Win – Norah Colvin
  119. Super Special Valentine – Aundra Tomlins
  120. A Brave Change of Heart – Amy Nicolai
  121. Sarla Asks A Question – Sandhya Acharya
  122. A Trail of Ketchup and Mustard – MeiLin Chan
  123. Juliet and Romeo: Verona’s Valentine’s Celebration – Cristina Raymer
  124. A Little Atom – Isabel Cruz Rodriguez
  125. Oscar Octopus Plants A Garden – Isabel Cruz Rodriquez
  126. My Bestest Friend – Roberta Abussi
  127. My Every-Day-Valentine – Roberta Abussi
  128. Sarah’s Valentines – Rachel Zimmerman Brachman
  129. Lemur In Love – Sarah McDermott
  130. A Cocoon of Love – Jyoti Rajan Gopal
  131. Eggbert – Charlie Bown
  132. A Valentine For Mom – Patricia Martin
  133. Becca’s Brave Hearts – Marty Bellis
  134. Little Truck’s Daring Delivery – Kristin Kolp
  135. The Valentine On My Shoe – Catherine J. Lee
  136. No More Pink – Robin Currie
  137. Shiny Sharp Scissors – Katie Fischer
  138. Valentine Love Languages – Jaymie Dean
  139. Val & Jack – Karen Keesling
  140. Brave Heart – Tonnye Fletcher
  141. Valentine Delivery – Katie Brandyberry
  142. Apple Pie: Valentine’s Day Treat – Sarah Skolfield
  143. Brave Little Friends – Judy Sobanski
  144. Lone’s Very First Day – Jennifer Reinharz
  145. The Monster’s Valentine Buffet – Kelly Conroy
  146. Freddie Frog’s Valentine – Lindsey Hobson
  147. A Simple Valentine – P. J. Purtee
  148. The Wonky Heart – Stacy Burch
  149. Roses From Valentina – Carmen Castillo Gilbert
  150. A Natural Valentine’s Day – Sharon McCarthy
  151. Miss Hedgehog’s Valentine Mission – Amy LaMae Brewer
  152. Blown Away – Diana Webb
  153. Zooming Valentine’s Day – Susan VandeWeghe
  154. Snack Attack – Melisa Wrex
  155. Heart Hands – Sarah Heaton
  156. Bigfoot’s Valentine – Kirsten Leestma
  157. Geronimo! – Lydia Loeber
  158. The Most Terrible, Awful, Icky Valentine Ever – Melissa Trempe
  159. Babies Share Bedrooms – Kristi Newsome
  160. 214 St. Valentine Way – Tracy Anderson Martin
  161. Six Secret Valentines – Una Belle Townsend
  162. The Bees and the Birdss – Paul Kurtz
  163. Someone Special! – Paul Kurtz
  164. Zombie My Valentine – Donna Kurtz
  165. The Owl and the Kitty-Kat – Donna Kurtz
  166. No Pictures! – Diane S. Scotti
  167. Blue Flower – Mary Warth
  168. New Line Valentine – Marcia Parks
  169. Leo Lionhearted – Jill Lambert
  170. Bravery Is From The Heart – Sophia Zafra
  171. A Heavenly Visit – Deborah Dolan Hunt
  172. The Bird And The Cat – Beth Winslow
  173. THE Valentine Question – Kate Rehill
  174. How To Be Valentines (With A Boa Constrictor) – Mary Noon
  175. Desi’s Daring Delivery – Darci Nielson
  176. New Best Friend – Sherri T. Mercer
  177. The Gift Tree – Ciara N M Greenwalt
  178. One Shot – Dazzle Ng
  179. Fuzzy Bum – Stacey Miller
  180. Arrrrr Is For Valentine – Sara Ackerman
  181. Valentine’s Day Rocks – Samantha Haas
  182. Cyrus The Bold – Patricia Corcoran
  183. Saying What I Really Mean – Nina Nolan
  184. Mr. Grumpy’s Valentine – Anne Sawan
  185. Heart Shaped Everything – Rathi Munukur
  186. You Can Do This Jonathan! – Martina Palkovicova
  187. Caveman Valentine – Jennifer Lowe
  188. Percy’s Valentine – Nancy Derey Riley
  189. Brave Hearts – Mary Rudzinski
  190. Legendary Valentine – Audrey Day-Williams
  191. In Front Behind – Diana Webb
  192. A Punny Valentine – Linda Staszak
  193. Love is an Ocean Away – Kimiko Wadriski Lumsden
  194. Valentine’s Day Rescue – Brigid Finucane
  195. Mission: Cancel Cupid Call – Kalee Gwarjanski
  196. The Valentine’s Quest – Karyn Curtis
  197. Seeking Courage – Bonnie Kelso
  198. Valentina and Valentino – Claire Lewis
  199. Will You Bee My Valentine – Ranessa Doucet
  200. A Valentine Ski – Clara MacClarald
  201. Dance Like An Eagle – Jyothi Nookula
  202. A Gift For Abuelo – JC Kelly
  203. My Tummy Valentine – Janice Kay Alexander
  204. Elijah and the Valentine – Susan Twiggs
  205. Assortment Phobia – JC Kelly
  206. A Beastly Valentine – Steve Jankousky
  207. A Valentiny for ME! – Karima Davis
  208. Friendship Cake – Dea Lenihan
  209. Be My Valentine – Liz Kehrli
  210. Love Story – Liz Kehrli
  211. Love Birds – Lisa Lee Furness
  212. Mr. Grumpy – Mary A. Zychowicz
  213. Feep and Meep – Echo Roben
  214. The Cave of Utter Darkness – Bill Canterbury
  215. Yellow Like A Mango – Imelda Taylor
  216. Melanie’s Back! – Shari Della Penna
  217. All About Heart – Anna Lunt
  218. Tilly’s Great Big Heart – Amy Flynn
  219. Insiya’s Valentine – Aditya Simha
  220. Corazon Does Not Cliff Jump – Kate Rehill
  221. We’re Still Brave! – Kelly Coutsoubos
  222. The Cupcake Who Dared To Be Different – Susanne Whitehouse
  223. 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!

Eh, What’s Up Doc? Announcing The Guidelines For The 6th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest!!!

Knock, knock!

Who’s there?

Atlas.

Atlas who?

Atlas, it’s Valentines Day!

Ok, well, it’s not quite Valentines. . .

How about this one?

Knock, knock!

Who’s there?

Iguana.

Iguana who?

Iguana hold your hand!

Ok 😊 I’ll stop 😊 Because what iguana do really is let you know that it’s time to fire up those brain cells and write your entry 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 about for some reason 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.)  If you are so inclined, you are welcome to enter more than one entry – just remember you’ll be competing against yourself 🙂  No illustration notes please!

Post your story on your blog between 12:00 AM EDT Friday February 12th and Sunday February 14th by 11:59 PM EDT and add your post-specific link to the list that will accompany my February 12th post.  There will be no regularly scheduled posts that week (Tuesday Debut, Would You Read It or PPBF), so the post and the list of links will stay up all week for everyone to enjoy.  If you don’t have a blog and would like to enter, you can simply copy and paste your entry in the comments section of that post once it’s up. (Or, if you have difficulty with the comments, which unfortunately sometimes happens, you may email your entry to me and I’ll post it for you! Although I have a question I’d love addressed in the comments: would it be easier for everyone to post their entry in the comment section of my blog so everything is all together? I know it means no blog-hopping, but do you guys think it would be simpler? Or do you prefer the opportunity to visit new blogs?

The Judging: over the next several days, my lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to 6-10 top choices depending on number and quality of entries (hee hee hee – you know how much trouble I have with the narrowing, so we’ll see) which will be posted here and voted on for a winner on Thursday February 19th (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.

The Prizes:  I’m still working on prizes (aren’t I always 😊), but I wanted to get the contest guidelines up so you’d have time to write.  If anyone has anything fabulous to offer, drop me an email 😊  But meanwhile, start writing and watch this space for prizes which I will add as I get them organized!

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

Kirsti Call – 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

Ellen Leventhal – 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)

Rosie Pova – personalized signed copy of SUNDAY RAIN

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

Dawn Young – personalized signed copy of The Night Baafore Easter

So you’ve got nearly 3 weeks to write your entry!  Butt in chair! Valentine Chocolate and coffee/tea on your desk!  Brain in gear!  Ready, set, WRITE!  Be Brave! You can do it!!!

I can’t wait to read your stories!!!

The 5th Annual Valentiny Contest -FINALISTS!!!

Every time I run a contest I have a great time reading fabulous entries from writers who have entered my contests before and being dazzled by new writers who are entering for the first time, visiting blogs I’ve been to many times and blogs I’m seeing for the first time, reconnecting with old friends and making new ones, and generally being blown away by the collective talent (and peer support) in the kid lit community.

It is SO MUCH FUN!

And everything is as lovely as lovely can be. . .

. . . right up until I have to choose the finalists!

Then, all of a sudden, I find myself saying, “Why? Why do I do this to myself?”

and, “Whose idea was this ANYWAY?!”

and “GAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!”

cd521-surprisedbabytiger

Because you are all creative geniuses, and your work is spectacular, but there are only 12 prizes.

So somehow the other judges and I have to winnow somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 entries (sometimes more than twice that) down to 12!

Ouch!

Is it any wonder that we are reduced to a state where only a roomful of puppies and chocolate can give us the will to go on? 🙂

But we have made it through and by sheer stubborn determination present to you

The 5th Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest!!!

Valentiny Writing Contest 2019!

~ FINALISTS!!!~

And it turns out, “curiosity” was much harder to incorporate well than I expected it to be!  Some terrifically-written entries missed it altogether, some were more self-examining or kind of wondering than really curious, some had one or two questions included but didn’t give rise to any real curiosity. . .  A curious state of affairs! 🙂

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

First of all, I want to thank EVERYONE who took the time and care to write an entry for this contest.  You all did a fabulous job and provided great enjoyment for so many!

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

Third, before I list the finalists, I want to say again how difficult it was too choose!  There were so many amazing entries.  Really.  I could find at least something terrific about every single one.  The sheer volume of entries meant that many good ones had to be cut.  So if yours didn’t make the final cut please don’t feel bad.  There was a huge amount of competition – about 150 entries of which only 12 made the finals.  Judging, no matter how hard we try to be objective, is always subjective at a certain point – we all have our own preferences for what makes a great story.  And the fact that you didn’t make the final cut DOES NOT mean you didn’t write a great story.  Everyone who plonked their butt in a chair and worked hard to write a story for this contest is a winner!  You showed up.  You did your best work.  You practiced your craft.  You wrote to specifications and a deadline.  You bravely shared your writing with the world.  And you have a brand new story that is now yours to expand beyond 214 words if you like and maybe submit at some point to a magazine or as a PB manuscript.  So bravo to everyone who entered!

Now.  Onto the judging criteria which were as follows:

  1. Kid-appeal/Kid-friendliness – remember, this is a story for kids!
  2. Creativity in using curiosity and success in making us feel the curiosity!
  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! 🙂

We really tried to choose stories that did the best job of fulfilling ALL the judging criteria.  There were some truly wonderful stories that didn’t have much to do with Valentines Day even if Valentine’s Day was mentioned in passing – including a couple that literally didn’t mention it at all – or that didn’t seem to really showcase curiosity although they may have used the word “curiosity” – several of which were very creative and well-written, or that were written in rhyme where the meter was off, or that didn’t seem particularly kid-oriented even though they were wonderful stories, or that really had us…until the last line or two when things sadly fell apart (which I know is often due to the tight word count requirement.)  We tried our best to select finalists that checked all the boxes.

So without further ado, I present to you the finalists in the 2020 Fifth 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 Saturday February 22 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 curious little kitty whose curiosity nearly landed her in the jaws of the big bad wolf 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 2020 Valentiny Contest Finalists!!! Some poetry, some prose, some for younger readers, some for older (but still kid) readers, all fabulous 🙂

1 – Candy Conundrum

I wonder what they taste like.

The Hug Me heart looks good.

My mommy says, “Don’t eat them.”

My tummy says, I should.

I smell True Love and Kiss Me,

then give Be Mine a lick.

I chew up Smile and Soul Mate…Yuck!

I think I might be sick.

I wonder why they make them,

those pretty hearts I ate,

to give to someone that you love

…or someone that you hate.

2 – Seeds Of Love

“The world needs more love,” says Grandma.
She sets a flower pot on the table.
We paint it with hearts for Valentine’s Day.
I don’t know about love, but the world has more color at least.

The seed is tiny, but Grandma says not to underestimate it.
What kind of seed is it?
But she won’t tell me.
“Life is better when there is room for wonder,” she whispers.

Poke. Dig. Poke.
The dark dirt sticks under my fingernails.
Scoop. Scoop. Scoop.
Back over my seed. Like a cozy blanket.

See you soon, little seed.

You are my sunshine, I sing.
My watering can is a gentle rainstorm.
Push. Push. Up!
A tiny bit of green starts to show.
You can do it.

Grow.
Secrets, bunched and waiting on a thin green stem.
Grow.
A little taller each day.
Stretch.

At last!
A tiny star surrounded by pink.
Bright and delicate.
Lovely and strong.

“Who should we give it to?’ Grandma asks.
I want to keep it.
“Love is for sharing,” she insists.
We leave it on our neighbors doorstep.

“We did it,” laughs Grandma.
And she’s right.
I can feel it.
There’s more love now.

From just one seed.

3 – The Stinky Valentine

The box arrived,
we stood and stared.
It smelled so bad,
that no one dared,
to pick it up
or sniff their nose,
the contents likely decomposed.

The box was wrapped
with bows, and hearts,
a Valentine
that smelled like farts!

It was addressed
to our whole family,
posted from
our favorite Grammy.
But why would Grammy
send a cache
that smelled like
weeks old, rotting trash?

I don’t think that’s
a Valentine’s treat,
it smells like Grandpa’s
stinky feet!

Mom called out
for Volunteers,
but we replied
with loud Bronx cheers!

Mom grabbed the box,
and held her nose,
tore off the hearts,
ribbons, and bows.

We all leaned in,
a tight knit squeeze,
and eyed a block
of blue veined cheese!

“Ewww,” we cried!
Quite displeased,
to find this marbled,
Valentine Cheese!

Then “Knock, Knock, Knock”
tapped like a score,
from the knocker
on our door.

Now who is that?
We went to see,
why,
Mr. Mouse’s Family,
who held a box
adorned with hearts,
that smelled divine,
and not like farts.

“I think this box belongs to you!”
It seems the post
mixed-up the two,
and no offense,
but this box reeks
of sickly, sugary,
doughy treats.”

We all laughed,
relieved to find,
a much more palatable
Valentine!

4 –

5 – Finding A Friend

She booted up and rolled outside.
“Today’s a special day.
How can I find a Valentine?
There has to be a way.”

“My mission is to make a friend,”
explained the little rover.
“So, NASA I am signing off.
I’ll call you later—over.”

She rumbled up a Martian hill,
antennas on alert.
She caught a sound, but what she found
was only blowing dirt.

Then suddenly, her radar pinged.
What could that be ahead?
She saw a rover stuck in sand.
Its batteries seemed dead.

“Oh, who are you?” she beeped in code.
“I wonder when you landed?
You couldn’t see the sand is deep?
Is that how you got stranded?”

She stretched her robot arm to him
and scanned his power pack.
“Perhaps a jolt of megavolts
will bring your functions back.”

Her stream of power filled his heart.
In minutes he was ready.
She pressed the button labelled START
and then she told him, “Steady.”

His motors revved and servos whirred.
She helped him from the hole.
“I’m Spirit. Thanks, you rescued me
and won my heart and soul!”

“My name is Curiosity.
I tracked down every sign,
to find a friend—I hope it’s you.
Please be my Valentine?”

6 – Dear Cupid

Dear Cupid,

Just wondering…

How good is your aim?

How often do you practice?

If you miss, do you try again?

How many arrows do you have, anyway?

Do you take requests? From anybody?

Or, are you like Santa? Do I have to have been good?

(I promise to try harder if you help me out.)

Here’s my list of targets. It’s kind of urgent. Let me explain.

  1. Mr. Crabtree. I sorta trampled his prize tomato plants…totally by accident. (He’s a BIG man. It might take two arrows.)
  2. Dad. Minor dent, garage door. Nothing anyone else would notice But he will.
  3. Mrs. Crinkly. Her trellis is trashed. Ball went haywire. Craziest thing. ( I’d like to stay on her good side. She bakes great cookies. And gives you milk, too. Or did. Not sure now. )
  4. Mom. Her fudge cake. I tested it. Delicious. Apparently not for me.

I’m usually a lovable kid, but today’s been an exceptionally bad day.

Thanks.

Your friend, I hope!
Dennis, as in Grateful (no, NOT the menace guy)

P.S. Can you leave me some arrows? For when you’re on vacation?
Thanks again,
Dennis, as in Hopeful (and slightly Hungry)

PPS. I’ll save you some cake and a cookie, if I can.

7 – Sending Love

Today I sent you all my love
Boxed up in bubble wrap.
I wonder how it gets to you
On your side of the map?

Do mailboxes have secret slides
To subway trains below?
That rumble through the tunnels
With their heart-covered cargo?

Do elevators lift my love
To rooftops way up high?
Where helicopters wait
To take it whizzing through the sky?

Do parachutes let my love drift
And land upon a train?
That chugs and chugs its way across
The mountains and the plains?

And when the railroad tracks run out
Does my love take a trip
Across the rolling ocean waves
Aboard a pirate ship?

Do pirates trade my love
For cheesy pizza when they dock?
And does the pizza guy
Drive on his scooter down your block?

And leave my love upon your step
For you to come home to?
I wonder if that’s how my love
Travels from me to you?

No matter how it gets there
In a plane or bus or car,
I’ll keep on sending all my love
From me to where you are!

8 – Always. Every Day. No Matter What.

Johnny’s eyes kept POPPING open.
He couldn’t sleep.

“MOOOOOOOM,” he called out.

Mom cracked open the door and whispered,
“What?” into the darkened room.

Johnny had a really important question
that couldn’t wait till morning.

“Will you always love me? No matter what?”
“Always,” said Mom. “No matter what.”

“Not just on Valentine’s Day?”
“Every day,” said Mom.

“Would you love me if I were a naughty puppy?”
“I’d push you out of trouble’s way with my wet nose.”

“What if I were a scared kitten?”
“I’d lick you until you purred.”

“What if I were a wiggly octopus?”
“I’d wrap my tentacles around you and give you a big squeeze.”

“What if I were a goofy giraffe?”
“I’d twist my neck around yours and kiss the tippy top of your head.”

“Would you still love me if I was a hungry little boy who ate all of my Valentine’s candy before bed?”
“Always,” said mom.

“Would you still love me if I ate… all… of…. your…. Valentine’s chocolates too?”
“Well,”…. said mom, “first I’d nuzzle you with my wet nose, then I’d lick you, then I’d squeeze you with my tentacles, then I’d give you a kiss on the tippy top of your head. And, then I’d say: “I love you, and GOODNIGHT!”

9 – Whose Valentine Could This Be?

Whose Valentine could this be?

Is it yours, fox, down deep in your den?
Is it yours, rooster,
or yours, hen?

Is it yours, hawk, high up in your tree?
Is it yours, cricket,
or yours, bee?

Is it yours, shark, out there in the bay?
Is it yours, turtle,
or yours, ray?

Is it yours, frog, afloat on the lake?
Is it yours, fish,
Or yours, snake?

Whose Valentine could this be?

Why,
there’s one for each of you,
with love, from me.

10 – Gibbon’s Valentine’s Surprise

Meerkat, Marmoset, and Sloth were sharing stories when Gibbon burst in.

“I’m making a Valentine’s surprise, and I need your help!”

They set down their books.

“I wonder what it is…” Meerkat mused.

“Maybe Valentine’s candy?” Marmoset murmured.

“Or… something… elssssssssse,” Sloth whispered.

First Gibbon grabbed paint and brushes.

“I wonder what he’s going to paint…” Meerkat mused.

“Maybe Valentine’s cards?” Marmoset murmured.

“Or… something… elssssssssse,” Sloth whispered.

Next Gibbon gathered wood and his toolbox.

“I wonder what he’s going to make…” Meerkat mused.

“Maybe a valentines mailbox?” Marmoset murmured.

“Or… something… elssssssssse,” Sloth whispered.

“Paint something you love on your pieces of wood,” Gibbon instructed.

“I love stories…” Meerkat mused.

“Me too,” Marmoset murmured.

“Oh….yesssssss,” Sloth whispered.

Everyone planned and painted.

“Perfect! Thanks!” Gibbon gathered everything and gamboled off.

“I wonder where he’s going…” Meerkat mused.

“Maybe the post office?” Marmoset murmured.

“Or… somewhere… elssssssssse,” Sloth whispered.

The three friends waited.

They pulled out paperbacks and read together.

And waited.

On Valentine’s Day Gibbon gathered his friends.

“Surprise!” Gibbon pointed.

“A little library!” Meerkat cried.

The outside:

“Our paintings!” Marmoset cheered.

Inside:

“Bookssssss!” Sloth said with a slow smile.

“Something we all love,” Meerkat mused. “Thank you, Gibbon!”

“Thank you!” said Meerkat.

“Thanksssss,” said Sloth.

Gibbon grinned. “Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!”

11 – Beetle’s Valentine

Beetle bakes a Valentine,
Frosting letters spell, ‘Be mine!’
Picks a rose and ties a bow,
Signs, ‘Love, Beetle— X and O.’

Hopes to woo her with affection,
Scuttles off with his confection.
“Where could Caterpillar be?”
Scours milkweed, checks each tree.

Searches under, searches over,
Every leaf and every clover.
Sits beside her favorite flower,
Waits for hour after hour.

“Is she ever coming back?”
Spots a small, brown hanging sack.
“What is this?” Creeps close to see,
“Caterpillar?” Couldn’t be.

Turns to go, snap, “What’s that sound?”
Startled, Beetle whirls around.
Sack bursts open, color flies.
Beetle can’t believe his eyes.

Caterpillar, fluttering high,
Now a lovely Butterfly!
“Is that Valentine for me?”
Beetle blushes, “Yes siree!”

12 – Scraps Of Love

Jumping out of bed, Sergio announced, “Yay! Recycle day!”

Papa’s bushy brows wrinkled his forehead. “You’re up early for a Saturday! Taking out the green buckets?”

“Yup, but I have to beat the collection truck to everyone’s driveways!”

Sergio slipped a clipboard under his arm, grabbed a pen, and went into the garage. He carried the last bin of moving day packing paper to the curb.

“What do you think that boy’s up to?” Papa asked Curious, their cat, who watched from the windowsill.

Balancing a battered cardboard box on top of his creaking wagon, Sergio stopped at each house on the street.

“#6 Fitzpatrick”, Sergio wrote. “Good stuff!” he exclaimed, dropping a tennis magazine, ticket stubs, and birthday card into the box.

Hearing his enthusiastic outbursts, neighbors peeked outside. They phoned each other, wondering, “What’s he looking for? They seemed all set when we helped them move in!”

At home, Sergio stashed his trash treasures in a closet so Curious couldn’t shred them.

Sergio spent hours shaping cardboard scraps into hearts. Each became the canvas for a paper collage created from each family’s own junk.

On Valentine’s Day, Sergio delivered the personalized artworks to all the neighbors with a note that said, “Thanks for opening your hearts to my family. Your friend, Sergio.”

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

Please vote for your favorite in the poll below by Saturday February 22 at 5PM Eastern time.

Tune in Monday February 24 to see THE WINNERS!!!

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

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

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to lounge on my chaise and call upon Jacques, my personal masseuse, to give me a one hour foot massage. . . SNORT! As if!  I can’t even say that with a straight face 🙂

Ahem.  Let’s try again.

I’m going to go start plowing through the work that built up during all that reading and agonizing and negotiating over Valentiny stories!

Less indulgent, perhaps, but a lot more believable (and true) 🙂

Have a thrilling Thursday, everyone!

What’s In Your Heart? – The 5th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest!!!

Roses are red

Violets are blue

Valentinies rock

And so do YOU!

Hang onto your conversation hearts everyone!  It’s time for . . .

The 5th Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest!!!

Valentiny Writing Contest 2019!

~ for children’s writers~

The Contest:  since writing for children is all about “big emotion for little people” (I forget who said that, but someone did so I put it in quotes!) and Valentines Day is all about emotion, write a Valentines story appropriate for children (children here defined as ages 12 and under) maximum 214 words in which someone feels curious!  Your someone can feel curious themselves or make someone else feel curious.  The curiosity may be about a person, place, thing, quality, idea, event, or about whether something will happen or something is true or real, or anything else under the sun you can think up!  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 curious (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 Friday February 14th by 11:59 PM EDT and add your post-specific link to the list below.  There will be no regularly scheduled posts (Tuesday Debut, Would You Read It or PPBF) for the duration of the contest, so this post and the list of links will stay up all week for everyone to enjoy. If you would like to enter but don’t have a blog you are welcome to paste your entry in the comment section below (please be sure to include your byline so that if your posting handle is writesbynightlight1 or something I’ll be able to tell who you are!)  If anyone has trouble commenting, which unfortunately happens, please email your entry to me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com and I’ll post your entry for you. But please no attachments!  Just copy and paste your story including byline into the email.  Also, please only post your entry once – either in the comment section of my blog or on the link list or by emailing me and asking me to post it.  Multiple postings of the same entry get confusing. 🙂
P.S.  Although I try to stay glued to my computer 24/7 I am sometimes forced to leave my desk.  If you haven’t commented on my blog before, your comment won’t show up until I approve it.  It may take a little while if I’m away from my desk.  Likewise, if you send me an entry to post, I promise I will do it as soon as I can!

The Judging: over the next several days, my lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to 6-10 top choices depending on number and quality of entries (hee hee hee – you know how much trouble I have with the narrowing, so we’ll see) which will be posted here and voted on for a winner on Wednesday February 19th (or possibly a day or two later if the judges need extra time.)   The winner will be announced Friday February 21st or Saturday February 22nd depending on judging and voting time needed. (And there will be no Tuesday Debut, 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 curiosity and success in making us feel the curiosity!
  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, so many wonderful things to choose from that will be of great help to you in your writing career!!!

Penny’s Two Cents – an incredible opportunity for any picture book writer!

Sometimes it’s helpful to chat with a published author about your writing journey. Penny Parker Klostermann is offering her two cents. The prize includes six thirty-minute Skype/Google Hangout sessions with Penny. The sessions can be used anytime during 2020. Ask her anything related to writing for children and getting published. Up to two sessions can be used for general comments on a manuscript (not a full critique). Penny doesn’t claim to have it all figured out, (by any means) but she’s happy to share her two cents based on what she’s learned and continues to learn on her journey as an author.

Penny Klostermann

Penny is the author of THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT (Random House 2015) (now available in board book and with matching pajamas! 🙂 ) and A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE (Random House 2017)

495eb-penny      Cooked-Up Fairy Tale

 – Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Rosie Pova, author of If I Weren’t With You (Spork 2017),  Sarah’s Song (Spork 2017), and the forthcoming Sunday Rain (Lantana Publishing, September 2020)

Rosie Pova                Sarah's Song

If I Weren't With You Sunday Rain

Picture Book Manuscript Critique (rhyming or non-rhyming) from Katey Howes, author of GRANDMOTHER THORN (Ripple Grove Press 2017), MAGNOLIA MUDD AND THE SUPER JUMPTASTIC LAUNCHER DELUXE (Sterling Children’s Books 2018), BE A MAKER (Carolrhoda Books, 2019), and the forthcoming RISSY NO KISSIES (Lerner/Carolrhoda Spring 2021)

KathrynHeadshots-20 (2)               Magnolia Mudd cover art Grandmother Thorn  Be A Maker

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

Ellen Leventhal       Don't Eat The Bluebonnets

Hayfest     Lola Can't Leap

Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Sherry Howard, author of ROCK & ROLL WOODS (Spork 2018)

Sherry Howard (4)Cover Rock and Roll Woods

Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Lydia Lukidis, author of NO BEARS ALLOWED (Blue Whale Press 2019) and many educational titles.

Lydia Lukidis        No Bears Allowed

– a spot in Making Picture Book Magic (Interactive or Self Study version – winner’s choice) – an online picture book writing course from Yours Truly.  If you choose the interactive version, month to be mutually agreed on by me and the winner.

MPBM

– Prize Pack #1 – a personalized signed copy of A MORNING WITH GRANDPA (Lee&Low Books 2016) by Sylvia Liu and the 2020 Guide To Literary Agents (which you may exchange for the Children’s Writer’s And Illustrator’s Market 2020 if you prefer)

MorningWithGrandpa_cover 2020 Guide to Literary Agents
Lee&Low New Voices Award 2013

Picture Book Prize Pack – a personalized signed copy of NOT QUITE SNOW WHITE (HarperCollins 2019) by Ashley Franklin and a personalized signed copy of NOAH NOASAURUS (Albert Whitman & Co 2019) by Elaine Kiely Kearns

Not Quite Snow White      noah

Picture Book Pack From Chris and Chris: a personalized signed copy of EMILY’S IDEA (Sounds True, March 2020) by Christine Evans and a personalized signed copy of HEY, HEY, HAY! A Tale of Bales and the Machines That Make Them (Holiday House 2018) by Christy Mihaly

Emily's Idea HEY, HEY, HAY! Cover

Historical Women Picture Book Pack: a personalized signed copy of QUEEN OF PHYSICS: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom (Sterling Children’s Books 2019) by Teresa Robeson and a personalized signed copy of MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books 2020) by Vivian Kirkfield

queen of physics cover              Making Their Voices Heard
Asian/Pacific American Award Picture
Book and ALA Notable Picture Book

A SURPRISE PACK! – 2 additional picture books (not signed) donated by Darshana Khiani (who will have her own book, How To Wear A Sari, out in Spring 2021!): What Color Is Night? by Grant Snider and Caspian Finds A Friend by Jacqueline Veissid

What Color Is Night? Caspian Finds A Friend

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

And now, lovelies, it is time for my traditional sample entry, since I feel I shouldn’t ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do. . . 🙂

Steel yourself!

A Valentiny Mystery (184 words)

Mama’s working busily
Making something I can’t see.
“What’s that?” I ask her quizzically.
“Try to guess,” she answers me.
“It’s a little mystery.
I’ll give you clues.  Think carefully,
And figure out what it could be!
It’s something red.”

What could it be?

“Ribbon? Wagon? Redwood tree?”

Ooh! I love a mystery!

“It’s something sweet and sugary.
And something red.”

What could it be?

“Candy apple? Raspberry?”

Hmm… it’s still a mystery!

“It’s something heart-shaped perfectly,
And something sweet and sugary.
And something red.”

What could it be?

“A candy heart? A strawberry?”

Hmmm… it’s still a mystery!

“It’s something super sparkly.
And something heart-shaped perfectly.
It’s something sweet and sugary.
And something red.”

What could it be?

“A sparkle-sprinkled chocolate cherry?”

Golly! What a mystery!

By now, it smells deliciously!
I know it’s super sparkly. . .
I know it’s heart-shaped perfectly. . .
I know it’s sweet and sugary. . .
It’s something red. . .

What could it be?

“I’ve got it!” I say gleefully.
“I figured out the mystery!
It’s my Valentiny cookie!”
Made by Mama just for me!

I warned you. . . 🙂

Never let it be said that I’m not willing to embarrass myself for you! 🙂

And now you all hopefully feel filled with confidence in your own entries because certainly they are all FAR better than that!

I can’t wait to read all of yours!  I’m SO looking forward to them!  I hope there will be LOTS – the more the merrier!  And you still have until midnight Friday to write, so you have time if you haven’t written yet.  Feel free to spread the word to your writing friends as well.  And your reading friends – parents, teachers, etc.  The more people who read and enjoy your stories, the better!!!

So!

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

Eager Readers – click on the links in the list to visit the blogs and read the stories.  And be sure to read the 90 fabulous entries posted in the comment section below!!!

Happy Valentines Week, Everyone! 💕

Scroll through the comments to find these wonderful stories! Titles are direct links.

  1. Shelly & Saul – Sue Lancaster
  2. Bags Of Love – Laura Howard
  3. Some Bunny Loves You – Laura Howard
  4. I Don’t Need A Valentine – Deb Buschman
  5. Sending Love – Chelsea Tornetto
  6. My Sunny Valentine – Glenda Roberson
  7. What Makes Your Heart Beat? – Beth Brody
  8. The Perfect Valentine’s Playdate – Deb Sullivan
  9. The Heart – Nina Nolan
  10. Love And My Teddy – Tracy Curran
  11. Crazy, Foolish Love – Tracy Curran
  12. The Chocolate Beast – Megan Walvoord
  13. How To Fix A Broken Heart – Paul Roncone
  14. Little Card’s Purpose – Theresa Kiser
  15. Valentine Story 2020 – Shariffa Keshavjee
  16. A Robot’s Valentine’s Day – Susan Summers
  17. Mystery Valentine – Lindsey Hobson
  18. The Hunter Games – Anne Lipton
  19. Cupid’s Love Trials – Katrina Swenson
  20. Will You Be Mine? – Ryan Roberts
  21. Signed Sealed Delivered – Delia Black
  22. A Shelter Dog’s Valentine – Anne Bromley
  23. The Curious Concoction – Stacey Miller
  24. Crabby’s Heart Speaks – Rebecca Loescher
  25. Valentine Clue – Alicia Fadgen
  26. Cupid’s Confusion – Alicia Fadgen
  27. Cupid’s World – Alicia Fadgen
  28. The Perfect Valentine – Maryna Doughty
  29. Jigna’s Valentine – Gabrielle Cardwell
  30. Moe’s Valentine’s Day Discovery – Kelsey Gross
  31. The Rose Thief – Margaret Aitken
  32. The Egg – Rebecca Woodall
  33. How Do You Write A Poem? – Belen Medina Cabot
  34. Missing Hearts – Bru Benson
  35. An Antique Valentine – Abbi Lee
  36. My Piggy Valentine – Claire Lewis
  37. Romeo And Jellyette – Kristy Roser Nuttall
  38. The Lost Valentine – Ellie Langford
  39. Mia Flying Heart Girl – Lily Erlic
  40. Squirrel’s Surprise – Darci Nielson
  41. Sylvia’s Special Valentine – Vanessa Cicarelli
  42. This Arrow Is Narrow – Linda Staszak
  43. Valentine’s Day Is Gross – Ranessa Doucet
  44. The Art Of The Heart – Wikki Krawczyk
  45. Valentine Equation – Claire Bobrow
  46. Cupid’s Diary – Ketan Ram
  47. Valentine Broccoli? – Susan Drew
  48. The Upside-Down Heart – Mary Munson
  49. Who Could It Be From? – Ashley Congdon
  50. The Curious Case Of The Valentine Gift – Heather Kauffman
  51. My Heart’s Wish – Melissa Stiveson
  52. The Unquestionable Valentine– Deborah Boerema
  53. Whose Valentine Could This Be? – Michelle Howell Miller
  54. Mailbox – Amy Flynn
  55. I Miss You – Jarmila Kurucova
  56. What Is That? – Jyoti Gopal
  57. Katerina The Caterpillar Solves A Conundrum – Dina Towbin
  58. Beetle’s Valentine – Chambrae Griffith
  59. Scales Of Love – Caroline Perry
  60. Cupid And Curtis – Jen Bagan
  61. What If…? – Susie Sawyer
  62. A Valentine Surprise – Corine Timmer
  63. Where Is Love? – Emmie R Werner
  64. Will She Or Won’t She? – Elizabeth Volkmann
  65. Mystery Marks – Mary Warth
  66. Roosters And Roses – Paul Kurtz
  67. Computer Bugs – Paul Kurtz
  68. Boys – Yecchh! – Donna Kurtz
  69. Eight Legs Of Love – Donna Kurtz
  70. Secret Stash – Mia Geiger
  71. The Curious Kitten – Elsie Duffany
  72. What’s Love? – Ingrid Boydston
  73. An Unexpected Valentine – Michelle S. Kennedy
  74. How To Find Your Valentine – Cindy Williams Schrauben
  75. Peck! – Andrea MacDonald
  76. The Mailbox Mouse – Roo Parkin
  77. Pandora’s Peek-Not Pact – Jenny Buchet
  78. Dear Cupid – Marty Bellis
  79. Curious Kip – Kirsten Pendreigh
  80. Bernard And Robin: One Adventure, Two Friends – Susan Twiggs
  81. Scraps Of Love – Charlotte Sheer
  82. When Love Gives You Wings – Kate Thompson
  83. What If . . . A Valentine’s Story – Kelly Pope Adamson
  84. Cookie Memories – Judy Sobanski
  85. Wanted – Jill Lambert
  86. Always. Every day. No matter what. – JC Kelly
  87. Ophelia Divine – Sofia Dibble
  88. Bee My Perfect Valentine – Kelly Pope Adamson
  89. Joy Finds Love – Olivia Rehfield

The Twelve Days Of Valentines…

Let’s talk for a moment about deadlines and time pressure.

Woohoo!  Fun, right???!!! 🙂

Some people feel these are negative things, but I propose we look at them as an opportunity for extraordinary productivity!

(This opportunity for extraordinary productivity arises because I missed my deadline of posting this on Thursday, but we won’t talk about that 🙂 )

So if we’re being completely above board here, it’s not exactly the 12 days of Valentines.

It’s more like we have 12 days until Valentines.

Or, to be more precise, 12 days until the

The 5th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest!!!

Valentiny Writing Contest 2019!

So my gift to you is a nice little 12 day window to get your contest entry written! 🙂

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 curious!  Your someone can feel curious themselves or make someone else feel curious.  The curiosity may be about a person, place, thing, quality, idea, event, or about whether something will happen or something is true or real, or anything else under the sun you can think up!  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 curious (can be the main character but doesn’t have to be) and is 214 words (get it? 2/14 for Valentines Day 🙂  You can go under the word count but not over! (Title is not included in the word count.)  If you are so inclined, you are welcome to enter more than one entry – just remember you’ll be competing against yourself 🙂  No illustration notes please!

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

The Judging: over the next several days, my lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to 6-10 top choices depending on number and quality of entries (hee hee hee – you know how much trouble I have with the narrowing, so we’ll see) which will be posted here and voted on for a winner on Wednesday February 19th (or possibly a day or two later if the judges need extra time.)   The winner will be announced Friday February 21st or Saturday February 22nd depending on judging and voting time needed. (And there will be no Tuesday Debut, 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 curiosity and success in making us feel the curiosity!
  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:  I’m still working on prizes, but I wanted to get the contest guidelines up so you’d have time to write.  If anyone has anything fabulous to offer, drop me an email 🙂  But meanwhile, start writing and watch this space for prizes which I will add as I get them organized!

Penny’s Two Cents – an incredible opportunity for any picture book writer!

Sometimes it’s helpful to chat with a published author about your writing journey. Penny Parker Klostermann is offering her two cents. The prize includes six thirty-minute Skype/Google Hangout sessions with Penny. The sessions can be used anytime during 2020. Ask her anything related to writing for children and getting published. Up to two sessions can be used for general comments on a manuscript (not a full critique). Penny doesn’t claim to have it all figured out, (by any means) but she’s happy to share her two cents based on what she’s learned and continues to learn on her journey as an author.

Penny Klostermann

Penny is the author of THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT (Random House 2015) (now available in board book and with matching pajamas! 🙂 ) and A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE (Random House 2017)

 

495eb-penny      Cooked-Up Fairy Tale

 – Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Rosie Pova, author of If I Weren’t With You (Spork 2017),  Sarah’s Song (Spork 2017), and the forthcoming Sunday Rain (Lantana Publishing, September 2020)

Rosie Pova                Sarah's Song

If I Weren't With You Sunday Rain

 

– Picture Book Manuscript Critique (rhyming or non-rhyming) from Katey Howes, author of GRANDMOTHER THORN (Ripple Grove Press 2017), MAGNOLIA MUDD AND THE SUPER JUMPTASTIC LAUNCHER DELUXE (Sterling Children’s Books 2018), BE A MAKER (Carolrhoda Books, 2019), and the forthcoming RISSY NO KISSIES (Lerner/Carolrhoda Spring 2021)

KathrynHeadshots-20 (2)               Magnolia Mudd cover art Grandmother Thorn  Be A Maker

 

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

Ellen Leventhal       Don't Eat The Bluebonnets

Hayfest     Lola Can't Leap

– Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Sherry Howard, author of ROCK & ROLL WOODS (Spork 2018)

Sherry Howard (4)Cover Rock and Roll Woods

– Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Lydia Lukidis, author of NO BEARS ALLOWED (Blue Whale Press 2019) and many educational titles.

Lydia Lukidis        No Bears Allowed

 

An assortment of picture books which have yet to be organized into prize packs 🙂

– a personalized signed copy of A MORNING WITH GRANDPA (Lee&Low Books 2016) by Sylvia Liu

 

MorningWithGrandpa_cover

Lee&Low New Voices Award 2013

– a personalized signed copy of NOT QUITE SNOW WHITE (HarperCollins 2019) by Ashley Franklin

Not Quite Snow White

– a personalized signed copy of EMILY’S IDEA (Sounds True, March 2020) by Christine Evans

Emily's Idea

– a personalized signed copy of QUEEN OF PHYSICS: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom (Sterling Children’s Books 2019) by Teresa Robeson

queen of physics cover

Asian/Pacific American Award Picture Book and ALA Notable Picture Book

– a personalized signed copy of NOAH NOASAURUS (Albert Whitman & Co 2019) by Elaine Kiely Kearns

noah

2 additional picture books (not signed) yet to be identified! 🙂

So you’ve got approximately 12 days to write your entry!  Butt in chair! Chocolate snacks and coffee/tea on your desk!  Brain in gear!  Ready, set, WRITE!  You can do it!!!

I can’t wait to read your stories!!!

2019 Valentiny Contest WINNERS!

Do you know what Thursday is perfect for?

Barely squeaking under the wire of Last Day of February to announce the winners of the 4th Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest for Children’s Writers!!!

valentiny writing contest 2019!

. . .but first a few words from our sponsor (me) which I know shocks you (not!) 🙂

As always, I was thrilled to see so many wonderful stories!  (Did I mention there were nearly 170?!)  Really!  It is amazing and inspiring, not to mention VERY entertaining!  There is just so much talent out there amongst you all!  The other judges and I are blown away anew each time!

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

There were, however, many other entries that were outstanding in certain areas even though they might not have qualified all-around for one reason or another, or that the judges couldn’t reach a consensus on.  It is SO HARD! One of our very favorite entries – well written and full of guilt – never mentioned a thing about Valentine’s Day! Many other entries simply weren’t guilty enough, although they were fabulous in other ways!

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

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

Joy Pitcairn for I Didn’t Give Rufus A Valentine

Kalee Gwarjanski for Chocolates For Mom

Mary Vander Plas for Sasquatch: In Search Of A Valentine

Mia Geiger for All Wrapped Up

Lynn Katz for A Little Heart

 

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

Helen Ishmurzin for Mila’s Cookies (we could totally see a kid struggling with that temptation! )

Sherry Peace for The Case Of The Missing Valentine’s Candy (fun kid detective work 🙂 )

Jeannine Pao Brown for Change Of Heart (very believable boy behavior 🙂 )

Sarah Hetu-Radny for A Slippery Situation (no one wants to be in trouble 🙂 )

 

3. For Original/Unique/Entertaining POV:

Megan Hoffman for The Sucker (POV of a Valentine sucker! – well-written!)

Deborah Dolan Hunt for Hillary’s Heart (POV of an actual heart! – loved the health angle)

 

4. For Humor:

Sarah Tobias for A Valentine For Mom

Susie Sawyer for Who Will Be Mine? (also wins for shortest entry with only 36 words! 🙂 )

Lauri Meyers for Don’t Eat Your Valentine (dark humor! 🙂 )

 

5. For Great Depiction of Family:

Scott Kinder for Mom’s Valentine (we found all the characters believable and felt like we were there! 🙂 )

 

6. For Favorite Character: 

Joy Pitcairn for I Ate It… (we LOVED Otto – such a believable guilty dog! 🙂 )

Rachel Hobbs for Valentine Cookie Surprise (we loved Carla – so exuberant! and we can imagine an expanded version of this as a picture book! 🙂 )

 

7. For We Loved It But Not Guilty Enough!:

Kelly Conroy for Glitter, Paint, and Glue

Lynn Baldwin for The Year Without Sweethearts

 

8. For Lovely Writing:

Kelly Hughes for Will You Be Mine?

Keely Leim for A Valentine For Papa

 

9. For So Cute!:

Amy Flynn for Tiny Crush

 

10.  For More Appealing For Grown-ups But Well-Written And Enjoyable!
(These entries were terrific but either focused on content we felt was more appropriate for over age 12 or that had humor that we considered funnier for adults than kids)

Emma Wood for No Ordinary Thursday (very sweet, beautifully written, and a believable depiction of husbandly behavior! 🙂 )

 

(And although we’re not awarding prizes for these this time, we always enjoy seeing some of your familiar characters back from other contests for new adventures, including Candice’s Bean and Jilly, Nicole’s Alex and Apple, and Lucretia’s Marvin The Chipmunk 🙂 )

 

Congratulations to all of you for fantastic elements of your stories!  You may all email me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com to collect your prize, which is your choice of one of the following: (the titles are all links so you can go see what they’re about) (and if you request a paperback, please include your snail mail address!)

For Kindle:

Picture Books: The Write Way by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

Rhyming Picture Books: The Write Way by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

How To Query An Agent Or Editor: A Children’s Writer’s Insider Guide From Mentors For Rent by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

Getting Published: How To Access Editors: A Children’s Writer’s Insider Guide From Mentors For Rent by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

The Easy Way To Write Picture Books That Sell by Robyn Parnell OR

Self-Publish Your Book: A Quick And Easy Step-By-Step Guide (Writing In A Nutshell Series Book 6) by Jessica Bell, OR

The Write Ideas Creative Writer’s Toolkit: A Genre-Spanning Box Set of Writing Prompts And Creative Exercises by Kate Krake

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi , OR

The Postitive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Attributes by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, OR

The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Flaws by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, OR

The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To City Spaces by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, OR

The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Personal And Natural Places by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, OR

The Ultimate Fiction Thesaurus by Sam Stone, OR

Writing In A Nutshell: Writing Workshops To Improve Your Craft (Writing In A Nutshell Series Book 4) by Jessica Bell, OR

In paperback:

Show And Tell In A Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions From Telling To Showing by Jessica Bell

The Six Senses In A Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions From Bleak To Bold Narrative by Jessica Bell OR

Adverbs And Cliches In A Nutshell: Demonstrated Subversions Of Adverbs & Cliches Into Gourmet Imagery by Jessica Bell OR

Creating Extraordinary Characters by Angela Hunt, OR

Evoking Emotion by Angela Hunt, OR

Picture Books: The Write Way by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

Rhyming Picture Books: The Write Way by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard

Just For Fun…

Magnetic Poetry – Little Box Of Awesome Kit – Words For Refrigerator (let me know your color choice if you care 🙂 )

 

And now…

…the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

The announcement of the WINNERS OF THE 2018 VALENTINY CONTEST as voted on by you!!!

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

DDDRRRUUUMMM RRROOOLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!

In First Place

Winner of the whole shebang…

who gets first choice of all the prizes…

Chambrae Griffith
for

Love Bug At The Zoo!!!

Congratulations, Chambrae, on an imaginative, entertaining, well-written poem that made us feel the chaos ensuing from your MC’s guilty behavior! 🙂

In Second Place

Jennifer Broedel
for
Buffa-lonely Love Day

Congratulations, Jennifer, on an entry we loved for your MC’s very believable and understandable grumpiness leading to bad behavior and guilt!  You get to pick your prize after Chambrae.

In Third Place

Anne Sawan
for

A Box Full Of Love

Congratulations, Anne!  You had us laughing over your “chip off the old block” guilt 🙂  You get to pick your prize after Chambrae and Jennifer.

In Fourth Place

Colleen Murphy
for

Mother Knows Best

Congratulations, Colleen, on a delightfully believable story of guilt in perfect rhyme!  You get to pick your prize after Chambrae, Jennifer, and Anne!

In Fifth Place

Tiffany Dickinson
for

Heart Socks For The Win

Congratulations, Tiffany, on your heart-warming story. We felt Alex’s guilt and appreciated her empathy!   You get to pick after Chambrae, Jennifer, Anne, and Colleen!

In Sixth Place

Rose Cappelli
for

The Queen Of Hearts

Congratulations, Rose!  You really made us feel Meg wrestling with her guilt!  I’m sure you get the idea of how the prize picking goes by now 🙂

In Seventh Place…

Katrina Swenson
for
Chadwick The Zombie Cooks Up A Valentine

Congratulations, Katrina!  You won us over with your zombie sweet-maker the same way he won over his fellow zombies 🙂  You get to pick next 🙂

In Eighth Place…

Marty Bellis
for
Guess Who?

Congratulations, Marty!  You captured a child’s good intentions and not-so-good execution perfectly 🙂  You get to pick after Katrina 🙂

In Ninth Place… a tie!

Joyce Schriebman                                                Jill Lambert
for                                                                           for
The Valentine’s Day Mess & Cure                        The Missing Pupcake

Congratulations to both of you on very humorous entries!  You get to pick after Marty 🙂 (And since you tied, we’ll work it out…)

All the winners should email me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com with the subject heading Prize Winner so we can work out details for you to receive your prizes!  (The sooner the better!)  And for your convenience, the whole prize list is included at the bottom of this post.  Jose and Beth, if you’d like to choose a prize from the Honorable Mention selection of prizes above you are most welcome to!

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

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

Have a marvelous Monday, everyone! 🙂

 

The Prizes:  Oh, the awesomeness!  With thanks to all who donated!

“Skip The Slushpile” AND get a Query Letter Critique from Charlotte Wenger, associate editor at Page Street Kids, the picture book division of Page Street Publishing. She earned her Master of Arts in Children’s Literature from Simmons University (then College) and is a board member of the Mazza Museum’s National Advisory Board of Visitors. She enjoys working with debut picture book authors and illustrators and is excited about the 19 Page Street Kids picture books pubbing in 2019.

 
Find Charlotte on Twitter at @WilbursBF_Char, and learn more about Page Street Kids via www.pagestreetpublishing.com, Twitter: @PageStreetKids, and Instagram: pagestreetkids.

Charlotte will read the winner’s picture book manuscript of choice, then send an email letting you know she’s read your story and including one thing you did well and one thing you might work on to improve the manuscript.  In addition, she will give you a query letter critique.  Like all editors, she has a hectic schedule, so she will aim to fulfill the prize within 2 months of receiving the manuscript.

Picture Book Manuscript Critique by the incredibly talented, multi-published author/illustrator Iza Trapani!

Iza 2014  Old MacDonald

Picture Book Manuscript Critique by the Queen of KidLit411 herself, Elaine Kiely Kearns, author of Noah Noasaurus, forthcoming April 1, 2019 from Albert Whitman!

elaine  noah

– Top Ten Reasons for Rejectiona 52 minute webinar from Alayne Kay Christian, author of Butterfly Kisses (picture book) and the Sienna The Cowgirl Fairy series (chapter books), and Content and Developmental Editor of Blue Whale Press.

Alayne butterfly kisses

Webinar Description: If you want tips on some corrective action that you might take to improve your chances of submission success, and/or if you would like to deepen your understanding of plot and arc, this webinar is for you.

(And if you’re interested in seeing what else Alayne has to offer, like her Writing For Children Webinars and Courses page on FB and keep an eye out for upcoming offerings!)

 

15-30 Minute Your Questions Answered Phone Call – with Ryan Sias, author/illustrator of Balloon Toons: Zoe And Robot, Let’s Pretend, Sniff Sniff!, and the Woof And Quack beginning reader series (Green Light Readers), and the Super Doodle Series. He has worked in animation, film, and television, including Sesame Street 🙂

Do you have questions about writing, revising, submitting, whether or not to try for an agent, what happens after the sale, or anything else publishing industry related?  If so, this is your chance to ask away and get answers from a professional!

85044-ryan_headshot  SniffSniffcover-300x300  woof and quack snowy doodle

 

Query Letter Critique by Heather Ayris Burnell, creator of the Sub It Club and author of Bedtime Monster, Kick! Jump! Chop! The Adventures Of The Ninjabread Man, and the Sparkly New Friends early chapter book series from Scholastic!

heather burnell  Kick Jump Chop

2-Pack of Personalized Signed Picture Books from amazing author Melissa StollerScarlet’s Magic Paintbrush and Ready, Set, Gorilla!

Picture2  Picture1 gorilla

The Writer’s Tool Box: Creative Games And Exercises for Inspiring The “Write” Side Of Your BrainAND a $10 Amazon Gift Card

writer's toolbox

Children’s Writer’s And Illustrator’s Market 2019 – by Robert Lee Brewer AND a $10 Amazon Gift Card (2 available)

Children's Writer's Guide 2019

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

 

The 4th Annual Valentiny Contest FINALISTS!!!

So, I’m noticing a trend here.

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

What is it about February?!

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

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

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

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

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

Nearly all the entries fell into one of 5 categories:

– MC unintentionally makes a V-Day related mess

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

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

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

– a guilty dog is involved 🙂

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

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

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

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

valentiny writing contest 2019!

~ FINALISTS!!!~

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

First of all, I want to thank EVERYONE who took the time and care to write an entry for this contest.  You all did a fabulous job and provided great enjoyment for so many!

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

Third, before I list the finalists, I want to say again how difficult it was too choose!  There were so many amazing entries.  Really.  I could find at least something terrific about every single one.  The sheer volume of entries meant that many good ones had to be cut.  So if yours didn’t make the final cut please don’t feel bad.  There was a huge amount of competition – about 170 entries of which only 12 made the finals.  Judging, no matter how hard we try to be objective, is always subjective at a certain point – we all have our own preferences for what makes a great story.  And the fact that you didn’t make the final cut DOES NOT mean you didn’t write a great story.  Everyone who plonked their butt in a chair and worked hard to write a story for this contest is a winner!  You showed up.  You did your best work.  You practiced your craft.  You wrote to specifications and a deadline.  You bravely shared your writing with the world.  And you have a brand new story that is now yours to expand beyond 214 words if you like and maybe submit at some point to a magazine or as a PB manuscript.  So bravo to everyone who entered!

Now.  Onto the judging criteria which were as follows:

  1. Kid-appeal/Kid-friendliness – remember, this is a story for kids!
  2. Creativity in using guilt and success in making us feel the guilt! (Not enough just to use the word guilt!)
  3. Valentine’s Day appropriateness – this is a VALENTINE story and as such must feel like it is connected to Valentine’s Day/has something to do with it being Valentine’s!
  4. Quality of story – we will look for basic story elements and a true story arc
  5. Quality of writing – use and flow of language, correctness of mechanics
  6. Originality – surprise us with something new and different! 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

#1 – The Valentine’s Day Mess & Cure

Dear Mom and Dad,

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

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

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

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

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

XOXOXOXOXOXO 

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

With Love and Kisses,

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

 

#2 – The Queen Of Hearts

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

All she wanted was to be the Queen of Hearts.

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

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

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

The bell rang. Meg lingered.

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

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

At dinner, Meg couldn’t eat.

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

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

Her heart hurt.

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

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

 Meg’s eyes filled with tears.

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

 

#3 – Mother Knows Best

“Here, let me do the dishes Mom.”

“But you can’t reach the sink.”

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

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

“Um, nothing. Can’t I want to help?”

“Not when you never do.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now Maxwell Walter Anderson, you sit down in that chair

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

“Mom,

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

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

“You know your Truffles Daddy bought?

I only left you one.”

 

#4 – Single… Double… TRIPLE GUILTY!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

#5 – The Missing Pupcake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

#6 – Cupid’s Last Card

Hands off, it’s mine.

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

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

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

So I’m keeping the card.

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

Don’t look at me like that.

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

But the card’s mine.

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

Phew. Kinda warm in here.

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

Still nothing? Well…

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

Oh, don’t cry.

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

WHO’S CUTTING THOSE ONIONS?

How about borrowing it…? No?

Sniffing it…? No?

How about… uh…

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

Huh? What’s that?

Oh. Thanks. Thanks, kid.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too.

 

#7 – Chadwick The Zombie Cooks Up A Valentine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

#8 – A Box Full Of Love

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

#9 – Buffa-lonely Love Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

#10 –  Guess Who?

Who made their bed and fed the cat?
Almost.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I guess you figured out it’s me.

I’m guilty, as no doubt, you see.

I tried to think of something good

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

My valentine surprise is done.

With hugs and kisses from your son.

 

#11 – Heart Socks For The Win

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

#12 – Love Bug At The Zoo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay.

Not really.

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

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

2018 Valentiny Contest WINNERS!!!

“The time has come!” the walrus said, “to announce the winners of the 3rd Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest!!!”

Valentiny Writing Contest 2018

Okay.

Maybe that’s not exactly what the walrus said.

I believe he rambled on for a bit about shoes and ships and sealing wax, cabbages and walrus colorkings, why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings…

But I’m pretty sure he was getting around to the Valentiny Contest 🙂

 

 

Anyway…

I know none of you slept for the entire weekend, on tenterhooks (whatever those are… probably something the walrus was also getting around to discussing! 🙂 ) over who the winners would be!

And I’m sure you all rushed to your computers at the earliest possible moment this morning, disregarding bed head and whether or not you had packed the little darlings’ lunches yet, in order to see the results!

So I won’t make you wait another moment!

Well, maybe just one. . .

. . .since as usual I have a couple things to say first… 🙂

As always, I was thrilled to see so many wonderful stories!  (Did I mention there were 160?!)  Really!  It is amazing and inspiring, not to mention VERY entertaining!  There is just so much talent out there amongst you all!  The other judges and I are blown away anew each time!

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

There were, however, many other entries that were outstanding in certain areas even though they might not have qualified all-around for one reason or another, or that the judges couldn’t reach a consensus on.

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

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

Teresa M.I. Shaefer for A Valentine For Maia

Colleen Murphy for He Thought He Could

Laurie Batzel for The Blue Valentine

Jean James for The Princess Frog

David McMullin for Steve

Carolyn Leiloglou for Won’t You Be My ValenSPINE?

 

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

Greg Bray for A Squirrelly Valentine (also funny 🙂 )

Jilanne Hoffman for The Best Valentine’s Day Party Ever

Nina Nolan for Bunny Hugs

 

3. For Excellence In Evoking Powerful Emotion:

Jenna Waldman for Grandpa’s Roses

Amy Frost Davidson for Not Alone

 

4. For Original/Unique/Entertaining POV:

Liz Tipping for The Happy Little Paper (piece of paper – also nice kid appeal)

Matthew Lasley for Puppy Love (excellent job making Jed seem like a dog! 🙂 )

Laura Sealey for A Card With A Heart (card and envelope love story)

Franziska Macur for The Heart Of The Heart

M.S. Nass for Rose And Tulip

Sara Gentry for This Will Be The Year (Gerald turned out to be a gerbil! 🙂 )

 

5. For Humor:

Christine Rodenbour for Sweet Love

 

6. For Favorite Character: 

Rebekah Hoeft for Grumpily Yours (we loved both Vern AND Miss Springtide! 🙂 )

Leah Kolidas for Max’s First Valentine (we loved Max and especially Lulu!)

Katrina Swenson for Grumble’s Best Valentine’s Day Ever (gotta love a troll valentine story 🙂 )

 

7. For Conveying A Great Message:

Mishka Jaeger for Happy Thursday

Ariane Peveto for Special Delivery

 

8. For Beautiful Use of Language:

Alayne Christian for Ladybug Love

 

9.  For More Appealing For Grown-ups But Well-Written And Enjoyable!
(These entries were terrific but either focused on content we felt was more appropriate for over age 12 or that had humor that we considered funnier for adults than kids)

Susan Schade for Valenswine (funny 🙂 )

Susie Sawyer for Valentine For Mom (also funny! 🙂 )

Ryan Roberts for Upside Down Valentine’s Day

 

Congratulations to all of you for fantastic elements of your stories!  You may all email me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com to collect your prize, which is your choice of one of the following: (the titles are all links so you can go see what they’re about) (and if you request a paperback, please include your snail mail address!)

For Kindle:

Picture Books: The Write Way by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

Rhyming Picture Books: The Write Way by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

How To Query An Agent Or Editor: A Children’s Writer’s Insider Guide From Mentors For Rent by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

Getting Published: How To Access Editors: A Children’s Writer’s Insider Guide From Mentors For Rent by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

The Easy Way To Write Picture Books That Sell by Robyn Parnell OR

Self-Publish Your Book: A Quick And Easy Step-By-Step Guide (Writing In A Nutshell Series Book 6) by Jessica Bell, OR

The Write Ideas Creative Writer’s Toolkit: A Genre-Spanning Box Set of Writing Prompts And Creative Exercises by Kate Krake

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi , OR

The Postitive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Attributes by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, OR

The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Flaws by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, OR

The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To City Spaces by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, OR

The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Personal And Natural Places by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, OR

The Ultimate Fiction Thesaurus by Sam Stone, OR

Writing In A Nutshell: Writing Workshops To Improve Your Craft (Writing In A Nutshell Series Book 4) by Jessica Bell, OR

In paperback:

Show And Tell In A Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions From Telling To Showing by Jessica Bell

The Six Senses In A Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions From Bleak To Bold Narrative by Jessica Bell OR

Adverbs And Cliches In A Nutshell: Demonstrated Subversions Of Adverbs & Cliches Into Gourmet Imagery by Jessica Bell OR

Creating Extraordinary Characters by Angela Hunt, OR

Evoking Emotion by Angela Hunt, OR

Picture Books: The Write Way by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

Rhyming Picture Books: The Write Way by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard

Just For Fun…

2018 Pocket Calendar (Kittens) OR

2018 Pocket Calendar (Puppies) OR

Magnetic Poetry – Little Box Of Awesome Kit – Words For Refrigerator (let me know your color choice if you care 🙂 )

And now…

…the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

The announcement of the WINNERS OF THE 2018 VALENTINY CONTEST as voted on by you!!!

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

DDDRRRUUUMMM RRROOOLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!

In First Place

Winner of the whole shebang…

who gets first choice of all the prizes…

Mary Warth
for

Red!!!

Congratulations, Mary, on a fabulously written poem that made us feel your character’s hope and embarrassment superbly, was very realistically kid, and was clearly very popular!!! 🙂

In Second Place

Meg Mahoney
for
Valentine Handyman

Congratulations, Meg, on an entry we loved for your MC’s amusingly earnest innocence and sweet desire to help his mom.  Beautifully done!  You get to pick your prize after Mary.

In Third Place

Rachel Dutton
for

Heart-Shaped Butt

Congratulations, Rachel!  You had us rolling on the floor 🙂  You get to pick your prize after Mary and Meg.

In Fourth Place

Stephanie Williams
for

A Valentine For Leaf

Congratulations, Stephanie, on a lovely entry with a unique POV!  You get to pick your prize after Mary, Meg, and Rachel!

In Fifth Place

Lynne Marie
for

A Valentine’s Day For Milton Monster

Congratulations, Lynne, on an all-around well-written and fun entry with great kid appeal!  You get to pick after Mary, Meg, Rachel, and Stephanie!

In Sixth Place

Gabi Snyder
for

The Valentine’s Rooster

Congratulations, Gabi!  You tugged on our heartstrings with your unique spin on a Valentine’s Day pet adoption!  I’m sure you get the idea of how the prize picking goes by now 🙂

In Seventh Place…

Nancy Riley
for
Antsy Valentines

Congratulations, Nancy!  You wrote a fun story with a perfect last line 🙂  You get to pick next 🙂

In Eighth Place…

Becky Shillington
for
Hoping For Snow

Congratulations, Becky!  You captured hoping for a snow day perfectly 🙂  You get to pick after Nancy 🙂

In Ninth Place

Leigh Anne Carter
for
Timberdoodle Valentine

Congratulations, Leigh Anne, on a beautifully written, evocative (and educational!) entry!  You get to pick after Becky 🙂

In Tenth Place

Judy Sobanski
for
Mums The Worm

Congratulations, Judy!  We just loved Wendell and Juanita and the clever way they managed to express their love 🙂  You get to pick after Leigh Anne!

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.  Carol Ann and Beth, if you’d like to choose a prize from the Honorable Mention selection of prizes you are most welcome to!

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

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

Have a marvelous Monday, everyone! 🙂

 

The Prizes:

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

Nikki-Garcia

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:

http://izatrapani.com/blog
Facebook
Twitter

– 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!