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!

The 3rd Annual Valentiny Contest FINALISTS!!!

So, there we were.

A group of esteemed judges gathered around our computers, armed to the teeth with cafe au lait and heart-shaped double chocolate brownies, chatting away about entries, extremely hopeful that we would reach a unanimous decision on the Valentiny finalists in a timely fashion…

…except Judge #1 ended up with a whole lot of extra family stuff – some expected, some not…

…Judge #2 had sudden unexpected actual job-related work that had to be attended to (since getting fired would adversely affect their ability to pay the rent)…

…and Judge #3 has a new puppy and is therefore suffering from extreme sleep deprivation! 🙂

Judge #4 was the only one showing up to get the job done!

As a group, we were less available, organized (and awake 🙂 ) then we’d intended!

Add to that the fact that you guys wrote such overall great entries that you threw us into a total tailspin over narrowing the field and it’s no wonder it took us so long to come up with a list of finalists!  It is possible that some of us (who shall not be mentioned!) are still arguing over the finalist decision, feeling that there were other deserving entries that could have been included!

But at a certain point (preferably before the 4th of July) decisions have to be made and finalists have to be posted.

So here we are on Wednesday evening instead of Monday morning.

But we’re here!  That’s the main thing, right?

And it is my pleasure to present to you . . .

The 3rd Annual Valentiny Writing Contest

Valentiny Writing Contest 2018

FINALISTS!!!

And may I just say, once again, that the quality of entries in these contests is improving every time.  This means there are fewer obvious standouts, almost none that are easy to cut, and there a LOT of very good ones that we have to get very nit-picky over!  It is agony, I tell you!  Agony!

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.  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 hopefulness and success in making us feel the hope! (Not enough just to use the word hope!)
  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 Days was mentioned in passing – they just didn’t seem connected to Valentines – or that didn’t seem to really showcase hope although they may have used the word “hope”, 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 2018 Third Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest!  Please read through them carefully, take your time, think it over, and vote for your favorite in the poll below by Sunday February 25 at 12 PM (noon) 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 ask people to vote for a specific number or title, or for the story about the littlest velociraptor  with the biggest hopeful heart 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.  I thank you in advance for respecting this.

#1  A Valentine for Leaf

Leaf had been dangling alone from a branch all winter. He watched his friends get called down to the earth one by one. He trembled in the wind, hoping for his chance. Would the earth ever call him down?

“I can’t believe I’m still up here. I hope Earth wants me at all,” he thought with a frown.

Leaf spotted children on their way to school. They held paper hearts and cards. “Happy Valentine’s Day!” they shouted to the mailman across the street.

“Valentine’s Day? We’re half way through February!” Leaf imagined all the leaves snuggling with the earth, whispering sweet nothings to one another. He was losing hope.

He pitied himself for the next few hours. Suddenly, he felt a breeze. And then a snap! Leaf was floating down. He was being called!

Leaf smiled as he picked a spot to land. “What’s that? A heart? A Valentine just for me!”

Sure enough, there was a gray heart moving across the earth below Leaf. The heart got smaller and smaller until he landed right on top of it.

“Oh, Earth! What a special Valentine you gave me! You do want me after all!” Leaf closed his eyes and nuzzled the Earth in a big hug. “I never gave up hope! Happy Valentine’s Day.”

#2 The Valentine’s Rooster

At the animal shelter, Rooster trembled.

His Valentine’s wish was for someone to take him home and love him.

On the inside, Rooster was as soft and cuddly as a chick.

But when people stopped at Rooster’s cage, they only saw his outside.

“He was a fighting rooster.”

“Looks mean.”

“Ugly.”

Rooster’s heart sank. Maybe he was unlovable.

The day before Valentine’s Day, a girl stopped at Rooster’s cage. “He’s trembling. Why is he all alone?”

“He’d peck another animal,” answered a man.

Rooster slumped. He would always be alone.

“Could a person hold him?” she asked.

Maybe I can be loveable. I’ll show her!

Rooster cocked his head and cooed.

Only his coo came out as “BAWK!”

“See?” said the man. “Ornery.”

“I’m not sure…” said the girl.

Then the girl went away, and night came.

Long. Dark. Lonely.

But a peck of hope had lodged in Rooster’s heart.

In the morning, the girl returned. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Rooster!”

The girl stroked his neck, and Rooster almost stopped trembling.

“Ahh,” she said. “You’re a lover, not a fighter.”

Rooster snuggled into the girl’s arms.

She rocked him and sang, “Rock-a-bye Rooster…”

He trilled softly and closed his eyes.

“You’re going home with me,” she whispered.

And Rooster lived happily, and cuddly, ever after.

#3 Valentine Handyman

 

Mom’s been quiet since Grampa died. Sometimes I see tears on her cheeks.

Dad says she’ll be ok, but that her heart is broken.

I know that it must be serious because I know hearts are important. I wonder if it hurts.

At school we decorated paper Valentine’s hearts. Mine ripped when I was cutting it out and I was mad that it was ruined. Miss Kelly taped it together but it’s not the same.

I bring Mom some tape.

She smiles, but she’s just not the same either.

I bring her a Band-Aid. Band-Aids make my cuts feel better.

Maybe it’s broken enough to need super glue.

Maybe a hammer and nails. Or a screwdriver. Or a drill.

I don’t know how to fix a heart.

As I’m falling asleep I see my Valentine heart poking out of my backpack. When I tiptoe into Mom and Dad’s room to leave it for Mom, I find her sitting on the edge of the bed. I crawl up beside her and I hand her my heart. I climb into her lap and listen to stories about Grampa. When we snuggle I know her heart is less broken because I can hear it working: tha-thump, tha-thump. Maybe it was the tape?

#4 The Hope Of Spring

Little Miss Bright-eyes Chickaree

hopped out of her nest in the cottonwood tree.

She was kind of hoping it would soon be spring

And all the birds would start to sing.

 

The sky would be blue, the sun would shine

And she would dance with her Valentine.

 

But Jack Frost nipped her nose and her toes

She snuffled and sneezed and her whiskers froze.

“I’m sure spring will soon be here,” she said

as she popped back into her cosy bed.

 

A day or two later she looked out again.

This time she was soaked by the icy rain.

“Forget about spring,” cried the squirrel next door.

“Winter will stay for evermore!”

 

Poor little Bright-eyes Chickaree,

hid in her nest in the cottonwood tree.

The world was wintry, cold and grey,

But surely spring would arrive one day!

On Valentine’s morning she opened her eyes

And goodness gracious, what a surprise!

 

Squirrel Bushtail was there at her door,

With a posy of flowers clasped in his paw.

“Oh, Miss Bright-eyes, look what I found.

“Snowdrops poking their heads through the ground.

“When these brave little flowers start to appear

“We can be sure that spring is almost here!”

 

“The sky will be blue, the sun will shine,

“And I’ll dance with you, sweet Valentine!

 

#5  A VALENTINE’S DAY FOR MILTON MONSTER 

“Go on ahead, Matilda,” Milton prodded.

“What are you up to?” asked his sister.

“Searching for worms,” said Milton.

Alone, he emptied his backpack. Hopefully, I’ll get others to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Even if I need to sway them one monster at a time.

He counted supplies.

Chocolate candy

Fuzzy lovey

Red roses

Mushy card

Check!

He placed the gifts, then peeked from behind a tombstone.

Myrtle Magog stopped, read and ran. AHHHHHHHHHH!!!

Milton wilted.

He sifted through the toppled trinkets.

Too sweet?

Too fluffy?

Too rosy?

Too mushy?

With a heavy heart, he headed to school.

“I saw what you’re up to,” said Matilda. “Holidays are for humans. No monster eats chocolate hearts. YUK!”

“Thanks for the idea!” Milton exclaimed.

“Oh, no!” said Matilda.

Hope soaring, Milton raced off.

He dug and dipped.

He snipped and sewed.

He ruined and rhymed.

After school, Matilda found several items by her cubby:

Chocolate-covered worms,

a zombie doll,

a thorn bouquet and

a card:

Candy is rotten,

Presents are worse.

To my great horror,

I’m writing in verse.

Be my Malentine!

Slugs and Hisses,

Milton

“So maybe  Malentine’s Day isn’t the worst idea ever.” Matilda took a bite of her chocolate-covered worms. “Yum, not bad.”

Milton smiled from his hiding spot. One monster at a time…

 

#6  HOPING FOR SNOW

When Dad says, “There’s a chance of snow!”

I dance around and whoop and cheer.

But just as I begin to hope,

I think, “We never get snow here.”

 

My Valentines are neatly stacked.

I’ve made each friend a special treat.

So if it doesn’t snow tonight,

at least school will be fun and sweet!

 

When Mom and Dad tuck me in bed,

I toss and turn and sigh all night.

As minutes tick-tock off my clock,

I peek outside and look for white.

 

Then suddenly, tomorrow’s here.

Mom sings, “It’s time to rise and shine!”

I look outside again. No snow.

But here’s a lovely Valentine!

 

At school, my friends have sleepy eyes;

it looks like no one slept last night.

“No snow—no FAIR,” they all complain.

“There goes our epic snowball fight!”

 

“Cheer up!” I say. “It STILL might snow—

the news guy said so on TV.”

I hand each friend an envelope.

“Now here’s a special treat from me!”

 

They open up their Valentines

and smile when they see what’s inside:

a cookie heart for everyone

and heart-shaped snowflakes made with pride.

 

“Let’s find some string and hang these up.

We’ll make it snow ourselves,” I say.

But as we work, I look outside.

“It’s snowing now for real! HOORAY!”

 

#7 Heart-Shaped Butt

“Help!” hollered Hen, “I must make a valentine for Cow, so she’ll love me and let me ride around on her magnificent horns. But look at this place! There’s not a speck of glitter or a scrap of ribbon! No red paper, no glue!”

“How about a feed sack and string?” Suggested Cat.

“UGH,” moped Hen. “Those horns deserve fabulous, not feed sack.”

“Scratch a heart in the dirt!”

“Dirt?! She’ll walk right through it and break my heart.”

“Heart-shaped haystack?”

No, no, no, Hen moaned hopelessly.

“Well,” Cat said, “even if you can’t make a valentine, you still have the biggest butt in the whole barn. It’s fantabulous! It’s glorious! It’s the fluffiest butt ever!”

Hen sighed, comforted. She did have the fluffiest butt.

A red feather fell from the rafters, one of Hen’s own.

She shoved her butt in Cat’s face. “My butt! Is it heart-shaped?”

“Um…kinda?”

Hen primped and preened and braided all night.

She waited on the fence for the sun to rise. As Cow came over the hill, Hen presented the prettiest, poofiest, floofiest valentine the farm had ever seen.

“Will you be my valentine?”

Cow swooned. She’d been feeling so unappreciated.

Hen perched her glorious behind on Cows magnificent horns, and off they went, best friends forever.

#8  Red

She read my face,

with just one look.

My bright red face-

an open book!

Red cheeks

Red chin

Red neck

Red nose.

She read my face

And now she knows.

I sent the card,

without my name.

but now my face

takes all the blame.

Red hearts

Red paint

Red “X”

Red “O”s

She read them all

And now she knows.

I hope that what my good friend read,

will please, please stay inside her head!

She gave a nod, a smile, a wink.

My bright red face cooled down to pink.

#9 MUMS THE WORM

Wendell Worm squiggled up to the Valentine’s Day cards.

A sign said, SOLD OUT!

“Oh NO!” thought Wendell. “How will I let Juanita Worm know I want her to be my Valentine?
Worms don’t talk. We can only think.
I have no feet so I can’t dance to show my feelings.
I have no hands to write down a love poem.
I hope I can think of some way to let Juanita know I want her for my Valentine!”

Wendell thought and thought. Before long he was all twisted up into a knot. That’s when he came up with his plan.

Soon, Juanita came inching up the sidewalk.

“Here goes,” thought Wendell.

He turned and squirmed until from one end to his other end he formed a heart.

When Juanita saw what Wendell did she thought, “That’s the sweetest thing any worm has ever done!”

She stretched herself straight across the heart to show Wendell that Cupid’s arrow had struck her, too. She loved Wendell!

Together, Wendell and Juanita wriggled off to spend the rest of their lives together digging in the earth.

Sometimes, on rainy days, whenever they get washed up onto the sidewalk, Wendell twists himself into a heart and Juanita stretches herself into an arrow…just to show their squirmy, wormy love.

#10  Timberdoodle Valentine

“I hope the Timberdoodle finds his Valentine,” I say.

We are going to watch the birds in the field that gets smaller every year. It’s Valentine’s Day.

“We have to be there before sunrise,” Mom says. “That’s when the Timberdoodles show off their sky dance.”

Quietly, we walk along the path. No one else is awake.

The tall grass tickles my hands. I see lights beside the field.

“It used to be very dark here in the mornings. Those houses are new,” Mom whispers, worried. “The birds need lots of land to survive.”

Will the Timberdoodle be able to find his Valentine?

“Let’s listen,” she whispers. “He will dance, and she will watch.”

We wait in the cold dark. And wait. And wait.

My ears hope to hear. My eyes hope to see.

“Peent!…Peent!…Peent!” a bird calls from the dark grass.

“It’s them! They’re here!” I whisper. Will he dance?

SWISH. I see him lift from the ground, and my heart soars with him. He flies high over our heads.

I hear his wings twittering like music. His sky dance makes a big circle, and he lands.

“Did he find his Valentine?” I ask.

“Peent!” the Timberdoodle calls again. Two dark shapes waddle away.

“I think he did!” Mom answers.

The sun wakes up.

#11  Antsy Valentines

“Oh no!” Mason stared at the calendar on the anthill wall. “Valentine’s Day and I didn’t get a gift for Abeegail. She’ll be stinging mad if I show up empty-legged,” he moaned. “I hope I find something on the way to school!”

He searched the meadow for clover, Abeegail’s favorite flower. Nothing, only dead grass and crunchy leaves. He checked the flower shop, but they didn’t sell clover. Losing hope, Mason walked on in the cold February wind. “My feelers are going to freeze and fall off.” He scurried across the playground, staring up at the giant humans on their way to school.

Plop! Clickity plop! Candies tumbled from a girl’s backpack. One crashed in front of him and he smacked into it. His six legs tangled together. He stared at the purple candy. “This is perfect!” he exclaimed. Mason grabbed the treat and dashed to his classroom.

“There you are,” said Abeegail, buzzing over to him. “I was getting antsy waiting for you,” she giggled. “Get it? Ant-sy?” She handed him a tiny jar, “Honey from my beehive.”

“Thanks,” said Mason, blushing. “Happy Valentine’s Day,” he said, handing her his gift. “Hope you like it.”

“I love it,” cried Abeegail, as she read the words on the purple candy heart. “Bee Mine.”

#12  A Fur-Ever Valentine

Cleo licked her paw and smoothed her fur for the tenth time. She wasn’t a kitten anymore, but it could still happen.
A family with three loud little boys passed by the banner reading “Adopt a Valentine”. Cleo shrunk back against the wall. Not them.
She returned the stare of a round lady with thick glasses. The lady smelled like so many other cats it made Cleo’s fur stand up a little. No way.
Cleo batted at the shiny red hearts taped to her fence and waited.
“Awww, look. She’s playing with the decorations!” The little girl was barely big enough to bend over the fence, but she smelled good. Maybe?
The girl held out her hand and waited for her. Cleo liked that.
“The sign says that her name is Cleo,” said the girl’s mother.
The little girl smiled. “Hi, Cleo! I’m Molly. You’re a pretty kitty,”
That was a good start. Cleo walked over to the edge of the pen and gave Molly’s hand a little bump. “She’s friendly,” Molly said, petting Cleo’s back.
“Can we take her home, Mommy?”
Cleo wrapped herself tightly around Molly’s arm and rubbed her nose against her hand.
Molly’s mother laughed. “I think that’s a yes, sweetie.”
Cleo purred. She was going to her fur-ever home.

 

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

Please vote for your favorite in the poll below by Sunday February 25 at 12 PM (noon) Eastern time.

Tune in Monday February 26 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 and eat bonbons to recover from all that reading and agonizing and negotiating.

Okay.

Not really.

I will actually be frantically trying to catch up on things I shoved to the back burner whilst reading Valentiny stories… but I could probably manage a few bonbons at least 🙂

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! . . . now that it’s basically Thursday 🙂

2017 Valentiny Contest Winners!!!

Hurray!

It’s Friday!

And you know what THAT means! . . .

. . .

It’s National Tortilla Chip Day!

It is!  I would not tease you by making something like that up!  If you don’t believe me, you can go check!

It is also the 178th anniversary of Mr. William S. Otis receiving a patent for the steam shovel!

And as I’m sure you all know, the invention of the steam shovel is of EXTREME historical import not because of stuff like the Panama Canal but because without it we would never would have had MIKE MULLIGAN AND HIS STEAM SHOVEL! 🙂

(And did you know that William’s cousin Elisha thought up the elevator ?- those Otises were clever boys!)

 

Today is also featherweight boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s 40th birthday, so we should probably have cupcakes 🙂

cupcakes

All around great day, wouldn’t you say?

Ok!

Thanks so much for stopping by!  Hope you all have a great weekend!

 

 

Oh wait.

 

I have this nagging feeling I may have forgotten something . . .

 

think.  Think!  THINK!!!

 

OHHHHH yeahhhhhhhh!!!!!

valentinywriting-contest2017

WINNERS!!!

Seems like maybe we have a few winners to announce, and prizes to give away! 🙂

We had a great turnout for the 2nd Annual Valentiny Contest – 117 entries!

I was thrilled beyond measure to see so many wonderful stories and meet so many new writers!

But with large entry numbers 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 on Monday for your vote.

There were, however, many other entries that were well-written, entertaining and very enjoyable even though they might not have made the finalists for one reason or another (one reason being that, at a certain point, we just had to stop adding finalists to the list! :))

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

1.  For Honorable Mention In The Competition As A Whole:
All the terrific entries on this longer-than-usual list were well-written and within a hair’s breadth of being chosen for the finalist list and were cut for the nit-pickiest of details and judges’ inability to reach a unanimous consensus!

Meagan Friedman for Bob’s Valentine Dilemma

Jill Proctor for Val N. Tine’s Day

Kimberly Delude for The Shape Of Love (also original POV – shapes!)

Leslie Liebhart Goodman for Showing Love

Anne Sawan for What Is Love?

Cathy Ballou Mealey for Something’s Fishy – A Valentiny Tale (also clever and funny!)

Molly Golden McDonough for Fiona’s Day (also likable/relatable character!)

Jim Jones for Balingtine Day Mix Up

Congratulations to the All-Around Honorable Mention Winners!  Because of the outstanding quality of your entries, you are eligible for one of the 3 following special prizes should you prefer one of them to the regular honorable mention prize options below.

The Nuts And Bolts Guide To Writing Picture Books by Linda Ashman (for Kindle), OR

Writing For Children And Teens by Cynthea Liu (paperback), OR

$10 Amazon gift card

2.  For Fabulously Written Entry That Didn’t Seem Quite Confusing Enough But We Otherwise Loved:

Linda Evans Hofke for Punny Bunny’s Valentine Dilemma 

Vivian Kirkfield for A Valentine’s Day Cake For The Queen (also great use of language!)

Ingrid Boydston for Oh My Darling Valentine

Kimberly Delude for Ways To Say I Love You (also very sweet for younger readers!)

Allison Alley for Inseparable (also original POV – 2 halves of friendship necklace!)

Penelope Aaron for Abuelita’s Valentine’s Day Surprise (also lovely incorporation of Spanish!)

Jana Locke for Vampy’s Val-o-ween

Christyne Elizabeth for Love Makes Me Sick

 

3. For Stories That Had Us Until The Ending (for one reason or another):

Terri Ross for Mr. Zombie’s Undying Love (also great character!)

Christine Evans for A Martian Valentine (also humorous!)

Although in other contests here prizes are often awarded for best character or humor or kid appeal etc, in this particular contest the entries that would have qualified were chosen for overall good writing, so we did not feel the need for the extra smaller categories.

 

Congratulations to all of you for your wonderful stories!  You may all email me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com, subject line Prize Winner 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)

Please email your HM prize choice within 2 weeks so we can wrap up the contest in a timely fashion 🙂

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

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

The Ultimate Fiction Thesaurus by Sam Stone OR

In paperback:
if you choose an item that has to be mailed, please include your snail mail address 🙂

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

 

Now then.  A word about the prizes before I announce the winners.

We have 10 fabulous prizes, generously donated by authors and various professionals in the writing field.  My policy is to let the first place winner have first pick of all the prizes, the second place winner have second choice, etc.  That way hopefully nobody gets something they already have, and hopefully everyone gets something that’s valuable to them.  All prizes are listed at the bottom of this post for your convenience in perusing the goodies 🙂  Since we had a problem with follow-through in the last contest, I’d like to ask that winners who choose a critique please be sure to use it within a month so that the professionals who are generously donating their time and expertise are not left hanging! 🙂

And now…

…the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

…THE WINNERS OF THE 2017 VALENTINY CONTEST as chosen by you, our esteemed voters!!!!!

In First Place

Winner of the whole shebang…

who gets first choice of all the prizes…

Kayla Prochnow

for
Love Bug

Congratulations, Kayla, on a fabulous entry that was all around well done, and clearly very popular!!! 🙂

In Second Place

Ryan Roberts
for
Banana In Love: A Valentiny Knock-Knock Story!!!

Congratulations, Ryan!!  You get first choice of the prizes that are left after Kayla makes her choice.

In Third Place

Heather Kinser
for
Valentine Crush

Congratulations, Heather!  You get first choice of the prizes that are left after Kayla and Ryan choose theirs.

In Fourth Place

Geoffrey Hyatt
for
Misaki’s First Valentine

Congratulations, Geoffrey!  You get to pick after Kayla, Ryan, and Heather.

In Fifth Place

Jilanne Hoffman
for
Cupid’s Heart Finds A Home

Congratulations, Jilanne!  You get to pick after Kayla, Ryan, Heather, and Geoffrey.

In Sixth Place

Katie Frawley
for
Valen-Rhymes

Congratulations, Katie!  I’m sure you get the idea of how the prize picking goes by now 🙂

In Seventh Placea tie!!! between

          Colleen Murphy                       and                                      Katelyn Aronson
                     for                                                                                              for
    Sebastian, Say Something                                          Lilla, Not Just Vanilla (A Tiny Self-Love Story)

Congratulations, Colleen and Katelyn!  You get to pick next – we’ll negotiate 🙂

In Ninth Place,

Jen Garrett
for
Never Text A Valentine

Congratulations, Jen, on a humorous entry!  You get to pick your prize after Colleen and Katelyn.

In Tenth Place,

Aileen Stewart
for
A Mixed Up Valentine

Congratulations, Aileen!  You get to pick a prize after Jen!

 

And, I don’t think I need to remind anyone that in addition to all these fabulous prizes, everyone mentioned on this page has bragging rights as having won or placed in the 2nd Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Contest!  Not just anyone can say that 🙂

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!  Finalists who did not finish in the top 10 (David, Joanne) may also contact me for their choice of the Kindle or paperback prizes listed above.

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 standing ovation, a glitter heart confetti parade, and a large amount of Valentine 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 terrific weekend everyone, and thanks again for making the 2nd Annual Valentiny Contest such a smashing success and a wonderful time for all! 🙂

 

The Prizes:

– A Picture Book Manuscript Read and Critique from “Dear Editor” Deborah Halverson!!!

– A Picture Book Manuscript Read and Critique from children’s literary agent Jodell Sadler!!!

– A Picture Book Manuscript Read and Critique from Andria Rosenbaum, author of the forthcoming Trains Don’t Sleep (May 2017) and Big Sister, Little Monster (September 2017) as well as others!!!

– A Picture Book Manuscript Read and Critique from children’s author Jodi McKay!!!

– A Picture Book Manuscript Read and Critique from Amy Dixon, author of Marathon Mouse, Sophie’s Animal Parade, and the forthcoming Maurice The Unbeastly!!!

– A Picture Book Manuscript Read and Critique from children’s author Jason Kirschner!!!

–  A Picture Book Manuscript Read and Critique from Children’s Author Vivian Kirkfield!!!

– A Query Letter Read and Critique from SubIt Club founder Heather Ayris Burnell!!!

– a personalized signed copy of Jodi McKay’s delightful Where Are The Words?

– a personalized signed copy of Diana Murray‘s wonderful (and very seasonally appropriate!) Groggle’s Monster Valentine

Once again, please join me in thanking Deborah, Jodell, Andria, Jodi, Amy, Jason, Vivian, Heather, and Diana for their incredible generosity, and show your appreciation by visiting their sites, buying and recommending their books and services to your writer friends and/or friends with kids, writing them nice reviews on Amazon, GoodReads etc if you’ve read and liked their books, and showing your appreciation to them in any way you can!  I truly can’t thank them all enough!

The 2nd Annual Valentiny Contest FINALISTS!!!

Okay.  So this is the part where we pretend it’s Monday morning instead of Monday fashionably late evening 🙂

(Don’t look at the clock!  You’re only imaging that it’s nearly midnight and basically Tuesday for all intents and purposes!)

You have only yourselves to blame!

There we were. . .

Three innocent judges minding our own business, confident in our ability to choose a group of finalists for this contest, happily gobbling heart-shaped chocolates whilst sipping delicious coffee from writerly-themed mugs, glasses perched, pens in hand, ready to make informed decisions, and . . .

. . . WHAM!!!

We were blind-sided by such a landslide of unrivaled entries that we quickly found ourselves overwhelmed by awesomeness to the point where we had to drag in an extra judge to help settle disputes that threatened to become physically violent!

A certain amount of knock-down-drag-out-fighting confusion ensued over what, exactly, constituted “confusion” as opposed to frustration, indecision, lack of knowledge,  coordination and/or ability, or just plain ole mystery!  Someone, (ahem!), should have thought more carefully before choosing confusion as the emotion.  It will NOT happen again! 🙂

If it weren’t for the quick thinking of Judge #1 (moi) who cleverly thought to break up the fight with a box of glazed chocolate Munchkins (no comment on exactly how those Munchkins were used to break up said fight, but let’s just say some of us grew up with brothers and have experience with sling shots and very precise aim… 🙂 ), or it might have ended in injury!

Luckily for all involved, a little Munchkin magic was worked, we all simmered down, and by some miracle we managed to come to some kind of contentious consensus.

May I present to you . . .

The 2nd Annual Valentiny Writing Contest

valentinywriting-contest2017

FINALISTS!!!

 

And may I just say, once again, that the quality of entries in these contests is improving every time.  This means there are fewer obvious standouts, almost none that are easy to cut, and there a LOT of very good ones that we have to get very nit-picky over!  It is agony, I tell you!  Hence the Munchkin mayhem!

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 such a girl of few 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 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.  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 confusion and success in making us feel the confusion!
  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
  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 (remember – it was supposed to be a Valentines Day Story for kids), or didn’t seem to really showcase confusion, or 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 2017 Second 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 Thursday February 23 at 12 PM (noon) 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 ask people to vote for a specific number or title, or for the story about the most confused baby in the playpen 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.  I thank you in advance for respecting this.

#1 Banana In Love: A Valentiny Knock-Knock Story

Banana gathered his courage. Flowers in hand, he stepped up to Orange’s door.
Knock! Knock!
“Who’s there?”
“Banana.”
“Banana who?”
“Banana who?!? I live next door!”
“Are you the red, shiny, popular guy who brought me flowers last week?”
“No…” Banana sighed and glanced at his flowers. “That’s Apple.”
“Oh. Are you the short, funny, fuzzy guy who brought me chocolates?”
“No!” Banana rolled his eyes. “That’s Kiwi!”
“Aw. So, you’re the squishy guy, who wrote me that poem, ‘What It Means to Be a Fruit’?”
“No, no, no! That’s Tomato! Look, never mind. I’m gonna split.”
“Wait!” shouted Orange. “If you’re not them… By chance, are you the tall, yellow, handsome guy that I find so….”
Orange flung open the door.
“….appealing?!”
Banana and Orange looked into each other’s eyes.
Banana cleared his throat. “Orange, you going to be my Valentine?”
“I thought you’d never ask.”

#2 A Mixed Up Valentine

Charlie Thomas carefully cut and pasted, glittered and glued, wrote and colored. Then, he sat back and admired the valentine he’d made for Rose. Charlie had adored Rose since Kindergarten, and every year he created a special card just for her.

When he finished admiring the card, he carefully placed it on her desk and returned to his seat. Just then, Sam passed down that aisle. The breeze he created when passing caused the card to float to the floor next to Jenny’s desk.

Jenny entered the class shortly afterwards and noticed what she thought was a note. She picked it up, looked around, and decided it was for her. Carefully she unfolded the heart shaped card and began to read. She smiled at the signature that said__ Love Charlie.

Jenny had adored Charlie Smith since kindergarten. She walked to Charlie’s desk, bent down so they were eye to eye, and hugged him around his neck. Charlie turned bright red. He wasn’t sure why Jenny had hugged him, but he had admired her since kindergarten, so he didn’t mind at all.

#3 Lilla, Not Just Vanilla (A Tiny Self-Love Story)

Lilla was a plain, ol’, donut hole.
Whenever a fancier donut rolled by, her tummy ached.
Strawberry icing…chocolate coating…snazzy sprinkles…nut topping…coconut flakes…
“I don’t even have a sugar glaze,” she sniffed.
“Cheer up, lil’ lump!” said Mini Muffin. “You’re just…vanilla. Vanilla is exotic! Vanilla comes from Madagascar.”
“But I don’t wanna be ‘just vanilla’!’” said Lilla.
She wanted to be a little something extra. But extra what?
On Valentine’s Day, Lilla decided a makeover was just the treat she needed.
She took the Rainbow Sprinkle Plunge.
The sprinkles wouldn’t stick.
She showered in powdered sugar.
COUGH-COUGH! COUGH-COUGH!
She even went cinny-dipping.
Aaaaaaaaaaaah-AACHOOO!
Lilla lolled about, lost. Her tummy only ached more.
She rolled, roly-poly-slowly, to the doctor’s.
“Flavor?” said Dr. Cruller.
“Plain,” said Lilla.
“Hmm…”  Flummoxed, Dr. Cruller ran one final test.
“Well, well, well. You aren’t so ‘plain’ after all, Lilla.”
Lilla peered at the x-ray. She saw a secret kiss of raspberry jelly, baked right inside her.
“I’m a surprise-inside kind of cake?!” she cried.
“No one will ever know unless you smile,” he said.
Lilla’s tummy ache faded.
BOING! She bounced out of the doctor’s, beaming.
“MINI! I’m not JUST vanilla!”
And from then on, everybody knew it.

#4 Never Text A Valentine

Happy V-Day to my BESTIE! Won’t you bovine?

Bovine?

No, I mean pea vine.
Beeline
Benign!
Stupid auto car wreck.

What???!!!
Are you OK?
What happened?

BFF? Are you there?
Hey! Why don’t you answer???

Sorry, phone died.

How did the car get wrecked?

What are you talking about?

You said your auto got in a car wreck.

What? No!  The car’s fine.

Whew!

It’s my phone. Keeps autocorrecting my worms.
words.

Oh, gotcha.

I was trying to say
Be
Mine

TY! Slime to you!

Um gist going to call.

K

 

#5 Sebastian, Say Something

Nell held in her hands three Valentine’s cards
She made in her class during Art.
Miss Polly, her teacher, had helped her to trace,
Then carefully cut out each heart.

Nell glued them on paper she’d folded in half.
Miss Polly had said they looked good.
She wrote on each inside, “I love you so much!”
As well as an eight-year old could.

But now as she held them, while perched on the bed
She slept in the end of each week,
Nell said to Sebastian, her step-mother’s cat,
“Sebastian, I wish you could speak!”

“I know I have known you for only two years.
And clearly, at first I was mad.
I wanted my parents to stay as they were,
But your mommy married my dad.

“I hated to come here; I hated you all.
Leaving my mother was hard,
But your mommy, Susan’s, been ever so nice.
Now, I want to give her this card.

“Sebastian, the problem’s my mother still cries.
I’m worried what harm I might do
By giving to Susan this Valentine’s card
And telling her I love her too.

“So, give me some signal, a simple meow
Or purr to convince me I’m right,
But hurry Sebastian; she’s coming in soon
To hug me and kiss me goodnight!”

#6 Too Many Mannys

“Look,” said Manny Mooney. “I found a valentine on Penny Pepper’s desk. It says, ‘For my marvelous Manny. You do the funniest things!’”

“It must be for me,” said Manny Mackey. “I mimic messy monkeys.”

“Or, it could be for me,” said Manny Meany. “I march through muddy muck.”

“No, it’s for me,” said Manny Murphy. “I make myself milkshake mustaches.”

“You forget about me,” said Manny Mitty. “I moo to mixed-up music.”

“And what about me,” said Manny Moony. “I mumble with a mouthful of mini-marshmallows.”

All five Mannys held onto the valentine and performed their funny feats.

Penny Pepper pranced in and was perfectly perplexed.

“What are you doing with my valentine?” She asked.

All of the Mannys answered at once, “I’m proving this valentine was meant for me.”

“Oh,” said Penny Pepper, “this valentine is not for Manny Mackey, Manny Meany, Manny Murphy, Manny Mitty, OR Manny Mooney.”

“But there are no more Mannys” said the many Mannys.

“If you look closer,” said Penny Pepper, “this valentine says, ‘For my marvelous Mommy.’ I’m bringing this one home.”

#7 A Picture-Perfect Valentine

Moose eyed the pile of valentines. On top was a handmade card from Maya. Honestly, he was surprised to see any valentines, let alone one from Maya.

On the card, she’d drawn a doughnut with sprinkles. “Sweet?” Moose whispered. “Sweetie? Sweet Thing?”

Next was a picture of something with wings. “A bee,” thought Moose.

Below that, a drawing of Maya herself. Moose stared, confused.

Why would Maya give him a valentine? He broke her crayons and stole her snacks. Well, not every day. “Sweetie, be mine.”

Moose grinned.

“Thanks for the valentine,” he told Maya. Now Maya looked confused. “I figured it out. See? Something sweet…”

“A doughnut,” Maya corrected.

“And a bee.”

“Actually…”

“And that’s you,” Moose continued.

“Well, sure, but…”

“So the message is, ‘Sweetie, be mine!'”

“Actually,” said Maya, her nose wrinkling, “that’s just a bug. Get it? ‘Donut bug me,’ like, leave me alone and don’t steal my candy today.” Maya walked away, shaking her head.

Moose blushed. He sank into a chair. Then he noticed another valentine on his desk, two candy hearts glued to construction paper. One said, “PUPPY LOVE.” The other said, “NO WAY.”  Signed, Chloe.

“No way,” he repeated. “Not puppy love? Then it must be true love.”

“Hey, Chloe,” he shouted “thanks for the valentine!”

#8 Cupid’s Heart Finds A Home

Dear Stupid Cupid,

Last year, you gave me a green candy cane. I barfed. Please don’t do that again.

Disgustedly Yours,

Gertie

*****************

Dear Hurty Gertie,

You hurt my feelings. It’s not nice to call someone stupid.

Sorry you’ve been sick. I know nothing about candy canes or the color green. I only know about chocolate, the color red, and hearts. Maybe you have me confused with someone else?

Cluelessly,

Cupid

******************

Dear Clueless and Confused Cupid,

Sorry to hurt your feelings, but I’m sure it was you. Speaking of red, you wear a red suit, don’t you?

Sincerely,

Gertie

******************

Dear Gertie,

No, I wear my birthday suit.

Warmly,

Bare-bunned Cupid

******************

Dear Birthday Suit Cupid,

Now I’m confused. My birthday’s in June, but I got the candy cane in December, along with a bunch of toys. Does your mom really let you go outside naked?

Flabbergasted,

Gertie

*******************

Dear Gertie,

I have no family, no home. I’m just a lonely cherub, spreading love and chocolate around the world, not toys.

Sadly,

Cupid

*******************

Dear Sad and Homeless Cupid,

Please come live with me! You can sleep in my room, and I’ll give you clothes to wear. We’ll hide the chocolates under my bed.

Your friend,

Gertie

********************

Dearest Gertie,

On my way! Happy Valentine’s Day!

All my love,

Cupid

#9 Misaki’s First Valentine

Misaki hugged her mother goodbye, went into school, and hung her coat. She was surprised to find many little envelopes and papers waiting in her locker. They were pink and red and white, and many were cut in the shape of hearts. On each there was writing — English letters that Misaki could not read yet.

Holding these pretty papers, Misaki walked into her classroom. She saw her friends were holding their own pink and red and white papers. She watched as Rosa handed a red heart to Sophia, and Caroline gave a pink note to Ramin.

Misaki looked at the papers in her hand. She wanted to keep them all, but she picked a white heart with red writing and gave it to Oskar.

Oskar smiled and gave it back. “This is your Valentine, Misaki. You don’t give it away. Ramin made this one for you. We give cards to our special friends on Valentine’s Day.”

Misaki looked again at her friends giving cards to each other. She smiled at Oskar, and took a red paper from the art tray. Misaki made 14 quick folds, just as her grandmother had taught her, and the paper became a delicate red heart. Misaki placed it in Oskar’s hand and said, “You are a special friend.”

#10 Valen-Rhymes

Hi, Didi!
Hi, Gogo! Want to help make valentines?
Sure! What do I do?
You draw a little picture, and write a little poem. Like this:
Roses are red.
Violets are blue.
Sugar is sweet,
And so are you!

Neat! Let me try.
Roses are red.
Violets are blue.
Sugar is sweet.
So brush your teeth later!
No, no, no. That doesn’t rhyme.
It doesn’t?
No. It has to rhyme.
It does?
Of course! Like BLUE – YOU – SHOE – TRUE. Those words rhyme!
If you say so.
Let’s try again.
Violets are blue.
Roses are red.
I dream of our friendship
Each night in my…

SLEEP!
No, not sleep. Bed! Like RED – BED – HEAD – FRED.
Who’s Fred?
Fred is no one.
Then why are you writing him a valentine?
Jiminy Cupids, Gogo! Pay attention.
Okay. I’m ready.
Are you sure?
Shoot.
Daises are white.
Some roses are too.
If I were a cow
I would stand here and…

STARE!
Forget it! I give up! You CANNOT rhyme!
Didi?
What is it, Gogo?
I made this for you.
Didi, you’re special.
You are my best friend.
I know I’m no poet.
But I love you a lot.
Oh, Gogo. Thank you.
Did I do it right?
You did it perfectly.

#11 Valentine Crush

I hope you’ll be my valentine.
You’re not so sure? I see.
You wonder why the card I gave
is crushed and crumpled?

Gee…

I fashioned it with you in mind–
with paper, sequins, glue–
then gently walked it to your house.
The next part’s strange, but true…

I tried to place it in your box.
(Yes, that’s what I had planned.)
Just then, a sentimental ape
removed it from my hand!

She lumbered down the street so fast
(your note crushed in her fist).
She seemed to think she’d won my heart
but in a crazy twist

a magpie spied your valentine
as ruby sequins flashed.
It stole her heart! She stole your card,
flew far away…

then crashed.

A smitten chipmunk found your note
and stuffed it down a hole.
It would have stayed there–disappeared–
except a lovelorn mole

insisted it was in his way
and swept it from his floor.
It popped up at my feet. What luck!
I bolted to your door.

Remember, it’s the thought that counts,
so don’t look so confused.
This valentine’s a fine design
it’s just a little…used.

And anyhow, it demonstrates
the kind of love I feel.
This crushed-up valentine is proof–
my crush on you is real!

#12 Love Bug

My sister Anna has been acting funny all day, working on some top secret card.
She’s been humming to herself, giggling, and was nice to me!
Anna even shared her Valentine’s chocolate with me.
Something must be wrong.

“Anna was bit by the love bug,” Mom said.
“Gross!” I said. I HATE bugs.
“Is she going to the doctor?” I asked. My Mom just giggled. Maybe she was bit too.

I wanted to find this bug.

I went outside with my butterfly net and a jar of leaves. This bug was mine.

I swished and I swooshed the net around until it was crawling with critters to fill up my jar.

Caterpillar, no.
Cricket, no.
Beetle, no.
Dragonfly, no.
Lady bug, no—Wait! The lady bug has a heart shaped spot on its wing! Love bug!

I was so excited that I ran inside to show Anna the love bug that bit her.

There was a boy sitting at the kitchen table with her eating cookies. Anna handed him the secret Valentine’s card, and he gave her one back. They were both giggling. She must be contagious!

“Who’s that???” I asked.

“That’s the love bug, sweetie,” Mom said smiling.

“Gross!”, I said. The only thing worse than bugs are boys!

 

Now that you’ve had a chance to read through the finalists, please vote for the entry you feel deserves to win in the poll below by 12PM EST Thursday February 23.

Tune in Friday 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 a tropical island paradise to recover from all that reading and agonizing and negotiating.

Okay.

Not really.

I will actually be frantically trying to catch up on things I shoved to the back burner whilst reading Valentiny stories… right after I meet a dear writer friend for lunch and spend a good portion of the day gabbing since we have a LOT to catch up on and we have been waiting WEEKS to get together!  But after that, yes, definitely back to work! 🙂

Have a marvelous Monday everyone!!! . . . now that it’s Tuesday 🙂

The First Annual Valentiny Contest FINALISTS!!!

Good Morning, Everyone!

I know it looks like Monday, but let’s go with me here and pretend that it’s last Wednesday, because that’s when I said the finalists would be posted.  So here they are, right on time! 🙂

valentiny logo

I’m trying to remember whose idea this contest was…

(Oh right.  YOURS! 🙂 )

…because holy pink glitter hearts on a doily, batman, we got a LOT of entries!  154, to be exact, the most we’ve ever had in any contest.  I guess you guys weren’t kidding when you said you wanted a contest in February to chase away the winter doldrums – you really stepped up!

The overall quality of the entries was impressive.  Really, if you were hoping to drive the judges to a completely irresponsible over-indulgence in chocolate as we agonized over our choices, you succeeded admirably 🙂  There isn’t a single morsel of chocolate left in the entire state of New York…or Connecticut… or Vermont… actually, we’ve had reports of people in chocolate withdrawal all the way up to Montreal!   We wish to extend our sincere apologies to anyone who is without chocolate because of us!

The quality of entries in these contests is improving every time.  This means there are fewer obvious standouts, almost none that are easy to cut, and there a LOT of very good ones that we have to get very nit-picky over!  It is agony, I tell you!  Hence the irresponsible chocolate indulgence!

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 such a girl of few 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 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.  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 grumpiness, and success in making us feel the grumpiness!
  3. Quality of story – we will look for basic story elements and a true story arc
  4. Quality of writing – use and flow of language, correctness of mechanics
  5. 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 (remember – it was supposed to be a Valentines Day Story for kids), or didn’t have a particularly grumpy character, or didn’t seem particularly kid-oriented even though they were very creative and well-written.  We tried our best to select finalists that checked all the boxes.

So without further ado, I present to you the finalists in the 2016 First 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 Thursday February 25 at 12 PM (noon) 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 ask people to vote for a specific number or title, or for the story about the grumpiest tiger in 1st grade 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.  I thank you in advance for respecting this.

#1 JASPER AND ABIGAIL

Jasper Turtle wanted to look dashing.

He would be escorting his best friend, Abigail Mink, to the Village Valentine Bash. She always looked so sleek in her soft furry coat.

He pulled his tuxedo shell from the closet and tried it on.

SQUEEEEEEZE

“It’s a little snug,” he squeaked.

Perhaps he should shed a few pounds before the bash. He glanced at the calendar. And soon!

Jasper nibbled on greens.

His tummy rumbled.

He jogged through the park.

He tripped and tumbled.

Jasper stepped on the scale,

and grumpily grumbled!

Grrrrr! Jasper wasn’t a snapping turtle, but…

He SNAPPED at the mailman.

He SNAPPED at his cat…fish.

He SNAPPED at Abigail.

Oops.

Abigail huffed. “Well!” She stormed off.

Jasper felt too grumpy to say he was sorry.

So he didn’t.

The night of the bash, Jasper slipped into his tuxedo shell.

It fit. He was a dashing sight.

“But what good is it without my best friend?” He sighed.

Jasper knew what he had to do.

He knocked on Abigail’s door.

He brought flowers.

And chocolates.

Lots of chocolates.

He apologized.

And explained.

Abigail smiled. “Silly, Turtle. I like you just the way you are. You’ve always looked dashing to me.”

Jasper’s heart swelled so big, he almost burst his tuxedo shell.

Almost.

#2 PIRATE GETS A VALENTINE

Winter comes by northern breeze.
Nights grow longer. Harbours freeze.
Pirate gets the winter blues,
red-hot temper, shortened fuse.

So Pirate hides from winter’s wail.
‘Til she reads her Love Day mail.
Boats are brown. The sea is blue.
All your friends are missing you!

Pirate shivers, peeks outside,
sees her friends all smiling wide.
“Come out Pirate,” call her mates.
“Bundle up and bring your skates!”

But Pirate’s skate is way too tight.
and nothing fits her peg leg right.
Pirate grumbles. Pirate gripes.
Friends all stop and Viking pipes,

“Come on Pirate, try these skis,
glide across the snow with ease!”
But Pirate cannot bend both knees,
manage hills, or dodge the trees.

Pirate whimpers. Pirate whines.
But can’t deter her Valentines.
Nanuk offers. “If you like,
“we could take a snowshoe hike.”

But Pirate’s snowshoes are too small.
They don’t help her out at all.
Pirate kicks and Pirate cries.
But Jack has brought a sweet surprise.

He digs right down into his pack,
“Pirate, would you like a snack?”
Steaming cocoa, heart-shaped treats.
Friends all wait while Pirate eats.

Pirate snickers. Pirate smirks.
Sharing cookies always works.
Pirate rumbles, “Snowball fight!”
Heaves the snow with all her might.
Pirate sparkles. Pirate shines.
and she delights her Valentines.

#3 KANDIE’S KISS

 

Kandie buried herself as deep as possible. She wiggled and squirmed until she was hidden by her heart-shaped friends.

What kind of Valentine’s Day surprise am I? Kandie scowled from the bottom of the bowl. She peeked out. That just made her even crankier.

“I’m all wrong!” she wailed, eyeing the other sweets. “How can you smile and feel sugary at a time like this?!”

Old Man Tart chuckled from across the way, “What’s yer bellyaching about?”

“You all have such beautiful words. I’m a fructose failure,” Kandie sulked.

She had a point. Old Man Tart’s tummy boldly stated: HUG ME! Pinky’s bragged: TOO CUTE! Why, Honey’s phrase even proposed: MARRY ME!

Kandie glanced down irritably at her own letters. “HISS ME? Seriously. HISS ME?” she pouted. “Someone at the factory cannot spell! Whoever heard of a candy heart that says HISS ME? I’ll never find a Valentine! No one will want me!”

Old Man Tart waited for her to finish complaining. He cleared his throat and said, “A wise person once said there is someone for everyone. Kandie, I’m sure you’ll find your match.”

I should try to be optimistic, Kandie thought, scooting back to the top of the bowl. And the first person she spotted was Gummy Snake smiling shyly at her.

#4 GRUMPY BEAR’S VALENTINE 

Mr. Bear did not sleep well; his pillow way too lumpy.

He had nightmares.

He woke up scared.

So Mr. Bear was grumpy!

And when he reached for honey, and then realized he was out,

his tummy growled,

he sneered and scowled,

he moaned and marched about.

He huffed and puffed, with cheeks bright red, he crawled back into bed,

to take a nap

then heard TAP, TAP

A sound that hurt his head.

He shouted “STOP!” and so it did, soon he began to snore,

but then a ring

ding, ding, ding.

Who dared approach his door?

He stomped his feet and roared, “Who’s there?” The ground and gravel shook.

No voice was heard,

yet something stirred.

Intrigued, he took a look.

Laying there, outside his lair, with honey and a teddy bear…

a heart-shaped note,

that read, I quote,

“For you, because I care.”

His heart swelled up, he couldn’t speak, his chin fell to his chest,

He’d gotten mad,

and now felt bad,

he’d scorned his thoughtful guest.

Then tracking prints, he trailed them to a cave beside the pine,

he tip-toed in

and with a grin

he asked, “Will you be mine?”

#5 Come In For The Cold

“Hot chocolate is for kids who get to play outside in the snow!” Sheena yelled back down the stairs. “I’m not cold and I don’t need warming up!”

“Sounds like you do,” her mother replied cheerfully.

“Sorry. I’m missing ALL the fun.” A deep Valentine’s snow had fallen and everybody was sledding on the driveway beneath Sheena’s window. She puffed on the pane and drew a frowny face. “Stupid broken leg.”

Sheena heard the door open and the stomping off of snow in the hall. Her brother came up the stairs.

“Go away!” She snapped without turning around, then shrieked as Joey dumped handfuls of snow over her head.

“Lighten up!” he laughed as Sheena frantically dusted icy flakes from her neck, “I can’t let you miss ALL the fun!”

“What ARE you doing?” Sheena sputtered, reaching for her crutches.

“Since you can’t come out and play, we’ll make a snowman here,” Joey chirped as he emptied a bucket of fluffy snow into the bathtub.

Sheena grinned. “You’re nuts!”

“I love you, too!” he retorted, smiling broadly.

Sheena hobbled to the bathroom shaking icy drops from her hair.

Joey returned with more snow.

The cold felt wonderful in Sheena’s bare hands.  “Mom,” She called, “I’m earning my chocolate! But first… I need a carrot!”

#6 No Valentines for Porcupines

Pip would not go to school today.
He would not ride the bus.
He would not hand out heart-shaped cards
and join in all the fuss.

For every year it was the same.
Each glittered, heartfelt greeting
was passed around with candy treats
for sharing and for eating.

Freddy Fox would slyly smile
at Katy Kangaroo,
while Lucy Lark made googly eyes
at Carl Cockatoo.

But there’d be no note for Pip,
not one small Valentine.
Pip knew no one could ever love
a prickly porcupine.

“Blech!” groaned Pip. “I cannot stand
this lovey-dovey day.
I think I’ll just go back to bed
and wish it all away.”

But Mom and Dad said, “Off you go!”
and kissed their son goodbye.
Pip sulked and moped his way to school,
arriving with a sigh.

The room was full of sugary treats
and Valentines galore.
But Pip sat at his empty desk.
His heart sank to the floor.

“Eh-hem,” Pip heard a tiny voice
and lifted up his head.
Henrietta Hedgehog stood before him
and she said-

“I don’t like pink or candy hearts,
Or Saint Valentine.
But there IS one thing I like,
That’s you, Pip Porcupine.”

Pip smiled a gigantic grin
that chased his blues away.
Maybe he would have to
reconsider Valentine’s Day.

#7 The Lonely Hearts Club

It was Valentine’s Day, and Candy Heart Box sat stewing on the drugstore shelf.

“This is ridiculous,” she grumbled. “All I want to do is spread love, but no one will buy me.”

“Tell me about it,” said a voice on the shelf below.

“Who are you?” she asked.

“Noseless Teddy Bear,” said the voice. “I’m missing my nose.”

“I’m still here too!” piped in another voice. “Nobody seems to want to buy a chocolate and beet rose.”

“Gross,” said Noseless Teddy Bear.

“I’m peeved because someone messed up my lettering,” groaned Candy Heart Box. “Instead of Love Bug, it says Glove Rug. Instead of I’m Yours, it says Time Fours.”

“We will never be bought,” moaned Gross Rose.

“This one says, “You and Pee,” whined Candy Heart Box.

Just then, a girl stopped in front of the shelves.

“Hmmm.” said the girl, “What Valentine’s Day gift says I love my brother, but he is still a pest?”

She searched the shelves.

Noseless Teddy Bear puffed out his chest.

Candy Heart Box pushed “DANGER” to the front of her box.

Gross Rose displayed her ingredient list.

“Ah ha! A noseless teddy bear, a gross rose, and a weird candy heart box. Perfect!” said the girl, bringing them up to the register.

#8 A Colorful Valentine’s Day

The crayons were crazy.
The box was a buzz.
Pink and Red wrestled to the front.
Purple pushed past Periwinkle.
Yellow yodeled , “You are my sunshine.”
February 14th was THE day to make Valentines.
Every color was eager.
All except one.
Black was on the bottom when he was bumped.
“OUCH! Watch it or I’ll give you something to be blue about!” He grumbled.
Blue bellowed, “It’s Azul to you! What’s got your wrapper in a bunch?”
Black’s voice was thick with the grumps, “Valentines are covered in color. No one draws black hearts. No one sketches black flowers. I wish there was NO VALENTINE’S DAY!”
His dark words shook the box.
The crayons cringed!
Green gasped!
Fuchsia fainted!
The box went silent.
Black slouched back to the bottom.
But others wanted to brighten his day.
The colors put their sharpened tips together and thought carefully.
They quietly started a special valentine with all the right words.
They finished just before the children arrived.
Black was baffled when tiny fingers searched just for him.
His wrapper was warm by the time he was finished.
His valentine was hung up for all to admire.
The title read “I’m batty for you.”
“Happy Valoween!” Cried the crayons.
The grumpy crayon cracked a smile.

#9 XOXO, YOUR SECRET ADMIRER (LARRY)

Dear Petunia,
I like your hair. You smell like chocolate. Will you be my Valentine?
Love, Larry

You smell like chocolate?

Sweet P,
How do I love thee? Let me count the sand in the sandbox.
Larry

One, two…thirty-seven….eh.

Dearest Petunia,
Your face is nice. Like ice cream in the summer. Or hot dogs.
Yours truly, Larry

Not bad.

Pretty Petunia,
I’m hungry.
Be mine?
Larry

Argh.

To: Petunia,
I love you. Do you love me?
Xoxo, Your Secret Admirer (Larry)

Too much?

To: Petunia,
I like you. Do you like me?
Lots of love!
Larry

Better.

Petunia,
Larry is a great guy.
Cupid

Bah.

Miss Petunia Picklebottom,
You’re the rainbow to my dark day.
With all the colors of the world and love in my heart, Larry

Almost there.

Hey Petunia,
What’s up? I was just thinking, maybe, you’d be mine? You know, if that’s cool with you and all.
Laters baby, Lar-dawg

I quit.

Larry,
You smell like enchiladas and sour cream.
Meet me at the swings.
Petunia

#10 No Snacks for Max

Once upon a Valentine,
A grumpy dog began to whine.

He yelped and barked for heart-shaped snacks.
His owners said, “Calm down, dear Max.”

They rubbed his ears. And tummy too.
Then, out the door, the couple flew.

“They’re buying yum yums!” Max was certain.
He sat for hours by the curtain.

Waiting…
Waiting…
Salivating…

Dripping…
Drooling…
Hope deflating…

Max was angry. Lonely too.
He ate a rose. He chewed a shoe.

He knocked a vase onto the floor.
And that was when he heard the DOOR!

Uncle Harry stepped inside.
“Happy Valentine’s!” he cried.

He plopped his suitcase in the den.
Max’s fit began AGAIN.

He ripped apart a Teddy Bear.
Fuzzy stuffing everywhere!

Harry yelled, “NO TREATS FOR YOU!”
Max went to bed. His dreams were blue.

Harry stayed for one more night.
Max did his best to be polite.

But Max was still a canine grump.
UNTIL…
A car door made him jump!

Max’s tail wagged. They were back!
Did they bring his favorite snack?!?

They had a bag. And something blue.
A blanket moved and said, “AH-CHOO!”

“Meet our little sweet bambino!
Also known as Valentino!”

Max was grumpy. Max was glum.
But soon enough, he had a chum.

#11 GRUMPY BADGER’S VALENTINE

Spying a red card with pink hearts inside his mailbox made Badger grumpy.
“I don’t want a Valentine,” he muttered.
Back in his burrow, he folded the offensive red square this way and that, attached a bit of string, and scurried back outside, hoping for a little bit of wind.
Badger’s new kite took flight and flew away. “Good riddance,” he grunted.

The next day the valentine appeared in his mailbox again. Badger felt grumpier.
“Valentines are silly,” he protested.
Back in his burrow, he folded the repulsive red square this way and that, attached a paper clip, and lumbered back outside, hoping for a little bit of wind.
Badger’s new paper airplane took flight and flew away. “Goodbye forever,” he huffed.

The next day the valentine appeared in his mailbox yet again. Badger felt grumpier than ever.
“I don’t like Valentine’s Day!” he grumbled.
Back in his burrow, he folded the horrible red square this way and that, attached a little flag, and scuttled back outside, hoping for a little wind.
Badger’s new boat sailed down the stream and away. “Don’t come back!” he growled.

The next day his neighbor, Lovey Badger, found him on his porch. She kissed him, thanking him for her three valentines.
Badger’s not so grumpy anymore.

#12 THAT’S NOT A VALENTINE!

Drawing time was almost over. Marco sat with his head down on his desk.

“I hate Valentine’s Day!” he grumbled.

His friend Asha leaned over. “You’d better draw something fast. You’re running out of time.”

“I know that!” He scowled. “I just can’t draw a silly heart. . . or much else.”

He stabbed his red paper with a black crayon and drew circles.

Asha giggled. “I’ll make one for you.” In a snap, she drew a perfect heart.

“It’s really good,” he said. “But it’s not big enough.”

He mumbled the words for his mama’s Valentine.

Mrs. Ling clapped. “OK, everyone! Time to clean up!”

Everyone had made a gazillion Valentines. Except Marco. Not even one.

On the way home Asha offered him one of hers.

“No thanks.” He imagined where the words would go.

When they got to his house, he asked Asha, “May I borrow your chalk?”

Mama would be home from work soon.

He drew a huge circle in the middle of the sidewalk.

Standing back, he was pleased.

Asha stared. “That’s not a Valentine!”

“Yes, it is,” said Marco.

Then he wrote words around the circle in a different color:

“MY LOVE FOR YOU IS BIGGER THAN THE WORLD.”

Asha smiled. “Your mama will love it!”

And she did.

Now that you’ve had a chance to read through the finalists, please vote for the entry you feel deserves to win in the poll below by 12PM EST Thursday February 25.

Tune in Friday February 26 to see THE WINNERS!!!  (Though we will have a brief contest interruption Wednesday for our regularly scheduled Would You Read It!)

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 on a cruise to recover from all that reading and agonizing and negotiating.

Okay.

Not really.

I will actually be frantically trying to catch up on things I shoved to the back burner whilst reading Valentiny stories… right after I pick up a dear friend from the train and spend a good portion of the day visiting since she is in my time zone for only a few hours and we have been waiting YEARS to meet in real life!  But after that, yes, definitely back to work! 🙂

Have a marvelous Monday everyone!!!