The 2022 Valentiny Contest WINNERS!!!

Once upon a time. . .

. . . on a blueberry-covered hill not all that far, far away in upstate New York. . .

. . .a princess lived in a little house in the woods.

(I know. You’re wondering why the princess lived in a little house in the woods. “That’s not right!” I hear you saying. “Princesses are supposed to live in castles, or be trapped in towers or dungeons!” But this is not your usual run-of-the-mill princess. . .)

This princess was a champion pogo-sticker (yes, that is too a word.) She had been training for years, doing hours of jumping, and keeping to a strict diet of Spring Beans and Garbouncebos. It was very effective. The villagers could often be heard proclaiming, “That princess sure is full of beans!” And, “Boy! Can she bounce!”

The Bouncy Trouncy Pouncy Flouncy Pogosticking Championship, the most prestigious of all pogosticking competitions in the Universe, was only days away, and the princess (whose name was Poppy – so fitting, don’t you think? due to all that popping up and down? it’s almost like her excellence in pogosticking was foreseen when her parents picked her name. . .) but anyway, Poppy passionately wanted to win the competition and the life-size golden pogostick trophy that was the prize!

There was just one small problem. . .

She was supposed to have posted the winners for the 7th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest and she had spent so much time jumping and bouncing and eating beans and various other explosive foods that she had not done it. NO, SHE HAD NOT!

So her mother said, “Poppy, there will be no Pogosticking Championship for you until you have met your obligations! I will not have shirkers in my little house in the woods!”

Well. Poppy REALLY wanted to get to that Championship! So she sat on her hippity-hop (great indoor leg strength building for bouncing and jumping muscles) and made the list of winners and honorable mentions in record time (because Poppy was all about making records, whether in pogosticking or in judging whilst hippity-hopping and continuing her bean eating!)

“I am so proud of you, Poppy,” her mother said. “Not only have you fulfilled your obligations, you have kept up with your exercise regimen and your bean eating at the same time, showing great commitment to your sport and your goals! Now, go to the Bouncy Trouncy Pouncy Flouncy Pogosticking Championship and jump the socks off your competitors!”

There will now be a short commercial break to announce the WINNERS of . . .

The 7th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest

~ for children’s writers ~

(don’t worry – you’ll find out what happened to Poppy after this break from our sponsors)

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

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

Third, I want to say again how difficult it was too choose!  There were so many amazing entries.  Really.  I could find at least something terrific about every single one.  The sheer volume of entries meant that many good ones had to be cut.  We chose 14 finalists, and around 35 Honorable Mentions which we also loved, and even with those 49 total there were nearly 150 entries we couldn’t list! So if yours didn’t make the final cut please don’t feel bad.  You’re in good company! There was a huge amount of competition. And remember that the judging is based on the contest criteria. If you wrote a great story that didn’t showcase pride enough or that was too grown-up or not related to Valentine’s Day, you didn’t make the final cut.  But that DOES NOT mean you didn’t write a great story.  Everyone who plonked their butt in a chair and worked hard to write a story for this contest is a winner!  You showed up.  You did your best work.  You practiced your craft.  You wrote to specifications and a deadline.  You bravely shared your writing with the world.  And you have a brand new story that is now yours to expand beyond 214 words if you like and maybe submit at some point to a magazine or as a PB manuscript.  So bravo to everyone who entered!

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

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

Lori Sheroan for The Proudest Pencil

Susannah Lee for Shelby’s Heartache

Claire Noland for The Valentine Surprise

Chayala Nachum for My Icky Sticky Valentine (great kid appeal too!)

Rachel Bandy for V’s For Valentine

Terri Hellard-Brown for Isabella’s Valentine

Becky Goodman for ValenTalent Show

Lauri C. Meyers for My Gummy Love

Susanne Whitehouse for The Mural

Judy Sobanski for Sloth’s Original Valentine

Laura Bower for Llama Love

Sara Kruger for The Perfect Present

2. For Great Read Aloud:

Brigid Finucane for Love Somebody (makes you want to sing and dance 😊)

3. For Great Story For Younger Readers:

Patti Ranson for Valentines Breakfast For Mom

Cindy Greene for Valentine’s Day Heartache

Tara Knox Cerven for The Purrfect Valentine

Lori C. Evans for Never Too Many Valentines

4. For Humor:

Donna Kurtz for Don’t-Let-The-Dung-Beetle-Make-The-Valentine-Brownies!

Jill Purtee for Gumballs

5. For Fun POV/Character:

Jenna Elyse Johnson for Hammie’s Valentine Surprise (dog)

Deborah Foster for Gary Groundhog Conquers The Shadow Monster (groundhog/snowhog)

6. For Great Ending:

Alayne Kay Christian for What Kind Of Cupid Am I?

Kristy Roser Nuttall for Love Inside

Mary Schultz for Taffy’s Sweet Surprise

7. For Well-Written Story With Great Sibling Interaction:

Julianna Helt for Allie’s Biggest Heart

Armineh Manookian for Lost But Found

Erika Romero for You Make Me So Proud

8. For Beautiful Writing:

A. Kidd for Three Hearts

Corine Timmer for It’s A Matter Of Taste (also educational and funny ending!)

9. For Best Short Valentiny Story:

Marty Findley for A Valentine For You (64 words!)

10. For Sweet Valentiny:

Heather Ferranti Kinser for Teeny Houdini

Kathy Crable for Valentine Barks

Lindsay Moretti for A Valentine For Mr. Weatherly

11. Best Story From A Young Writer:

Sophie Moore (age 10) for Detective Spot And The Search For A New Cupid (also clever and funny!)

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

And now…

…the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

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

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

DDDRRRUUUMMM RRROOOLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!

In First Place

Winner of the whole shebang…

who gets first choice of all the prizes…

Michaela Almeida
for

A Change Of Heart!!!

Congratulations, Michaela! Terrific job 😊

In Second Place

Daniella Kaufman
for
Sweet Valentine

Congratulations, Daniella! You get to pick your prize after Michaela.

In Third Place

Katie Brandyberry
for
Valentine Delivery – Part II

Congratulations, Katie! You get to pick your prize after Michaela and Daniella.

In Fourth Place

Jesse Anna Bornemann
for
Showdown In Smoochalot

Congratulations, Jesse! You get to pick your prize after Michaela, Daniella, and Katie!

In Fifth Place

Allison Strick
for
Percy’s Performance

Congratulations, Allison! You get to pick after Michaela, Daniella, Katie, and Jesse!

In Sixth Place...

Katie Palazzola
for
Oog Love Rock

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

In Seventh Place…

Sarah Meade
for
V-Day!

Congratulations, Sarah!  You get to pick next 😊

In Eighth Place…

Amy Leskowski
for
Cupid’s Confidence

Congratulations, Amy! You get to pick after Sarah 😊

In Ninth Place…

Laura Bost
for
Flicker’s Valentine

Congratulations, Laura!  You get to pick after Amy! 😊

In Tenth Place…

Kate Thompson
for
The Valentine’s Cake

Congratulations, Kate! You get to pick after Laura! 😊

In Eleventh Place…

Sara Petersohn
for
Valentine Wins

Congratulations, Sara! You get to pick after Kate! 😊

In Twelfth Place…

Kimberly Shrack
for
The Perfect Valentine

Congratulations, Kimberly! You get to pick your prize after Sara! 😊

In Thirteenth Place…

Emily Keener
for
Special Delivery

Congratulations, Emily! You get to pick after Kimberly!

In Fourteenth Place…

Zach Schloss
for
Hoppy Belated Valentine

Congratulations, Zach!

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

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

Oh! And as a special reward I will tell you that Princess Poppy went to the Bouncy Trouncy Pouncy Flouncy Pogosticking Championship and pogoed with astounding energy, bouncing and jumping as, one by one, all the other competitors fell victim to Jelly Legs and toppled off their pogo sticks, and she was so impressive that not only did she win the competition and the life-sized golden pogo stick trophy (“That’s my girl!” her mother said proudly), they also named a brand of beans after her, so now you can buy Princess Poppy Beans – Beans That Pop With Flavor and Will Make You Jump For Joy! They are high in fiber and an excellent source of protein so you really can’t go wrong! Try some with your chocolate! (er… or maybe that WOULD be wrong 🤣)

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 Wednesday, everyone! 😊

The Prizes:  Swoonworthy! As always, we are so fortunate to have an abundance of wonderful prizes donated by our very generous friends in the kidlit community! Just look at all these goodies!

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Read & Critique from agent Mary Cummings of Great River Literary, “an agency devoted exclusively to representing authors and author/illustrators of books for children and teens. Strong relationships with editors have resulted in a rapidly growing list of sales of board and picture books, chapter books and novels to such publishing houses as Knopf; Philomel; Viking; Nancy Paulsen/Penguin; Balzer & Bray; Walker; Little, Brown; Henry Holt; Holiday House; Feiwel & Friends; FSG; Running Press; WorthyKids; Abrams; Random House; Wiseman S & S; Chronicle; Candlewick; HarperCollins and many others.”

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

Author Lynne Marie

Lynne Marie is the accomplished author of Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten – art by Anne Kennedy (Scholastic 2011), Hedgehog’s 100th Day of School – art by Lorna Hussey (Scholastic 2017), The Star of the Christmas Play — art by Lorna Hussey (Beaming Books 2018), Moldilocks and the 3 Scares — art by David Rodriguez Lorenzo (Sterling 2019 and Scholastic 2019),  Let’s Eat! Mealtime Around the World — art by Parwinder Singh (Beaming Books 2019) and The Three Little Pigs And The Rocket Project — art by Wendy Fedan (Mac and Cheese Press 2022) and American Pie — art by Dea Lenihan (Dancing Flamingo Press, April 12, 2022)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Penny Parker Klostermann, talented author of THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT (Random House 2015) and A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE (Random House 2017)

⭐️ 30 Minute Zoom Ask Me Anything with Keila Dawson, author of THE KING CAKE BABY (Pelican Publishing 2016), NO VOICE TOO SMALL (Charlesbridge 2020), and OPENING THE ROAD: VICTOR HUGO GREEN AND HIS GREEN BOOK (Beaming Books, 2021)

⭐️ Access to author/editor Alayne Kay Christian‘s webinars! Alayne is the author of BUTTERFLY KISSES FOR GRANDMA AND GRANDPA (Blue Whale Press, 2008), SIENNA THE COWGIRL FAIRY: COWBOY TROUBLE (Blue Whale Press 2021), THE WEED THAT WOKE CHRISTMAS (Blue Whale Press, 2020), and AN OLD MAN AND HIS PENGUIN (Blue Whale Press, 2020)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (fiction) from Melissa Stoller, author of SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH (Spork 2018), READY, SET, GORILLA! (Spork 2018), THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION (chapter books) (Spork 2017), SADIE’S SHABAT STORIES (Spork, 2020) and PLANTING FRIENDSHIP: PEACE, SALAAM, SHALOM

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Rebecca Gardyn Levington author of BRAINSTORM! (Sleeping Bear Press, Summer 2022), I WILL ALWAYS BE…(HarperCollins, Spring 2024) and a contributor to the delightful anthology HOP TO IT: POEMS TO GET YOU MOVING (Pomelo Books, October 2020)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (nonrhyming) from Rebecca Kraft Rector, author of SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED (Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House, 2021), LITTLE RED AND THE BIG BAD EDITOR (Aladdin, September 2022), and TRIA AND THE GREAT STAR RESCUE (Delacorte/Random House)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique and Query Letter Critique from Jessica Stremer author of the forthcoming GREAT CARRIER REEF (Holiday House, 2023)

Author Jessica Stremer

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Cathy Ballou Mealey author of WHEN A TREE GROWS (Union Square Kids, 2019), SLOTH AND SQUIRREL IN A PICKLE (Kids Can Press, 2021), and the forthcoming MAKE MORE S’MORES (Sleeping Bear Press, 2023)

⭐️ Personalized Signed Copy of THE KING CAKE BABY by Keila Dawson

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

⭐️ Personalized Signed Copy of IT’S A MUFFULETTA! IT’S A WHATA? (Spork 2021) by Patricia Saunders

⭐️ Personalized Signed Copy of Winner’s Choice of any available Susanna Leonard Hill picture book

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

With Prideful Heart – The 7th Annual Valentiny Contest Is HERE!!!

Hi Everyone! I’m so sorry, but there is absolutely no chance I’m going to have finalists Friday morning as I originally posted. I’m not even sure when to say I will have them, though I’ll get them up as soon as I can. It will not be over this weekend, I’m sure of that. Thank you all for your patience. I’m so sorry for the delay!

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

Roses are red

Violets are blue

Valentinies rock

And so do YOU!

Whether your characters are filled with pride and joy, puffed up with pride, or in danger of pride going before a fall, the time has come for . . .

The 7th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest

~ for children’s writers ~

The Contest:  since writing for children is all about “big emotion for little people” (I forget who said that, but someone did so I put it in quotes!) and Valentines Day is all about emotion, write a Valentines story appropriate for children (children here defined as ages 12 and under) maximum 214 words in which someone feels proud!  They can be proud in a good way or a bad way. They can be proud of themselves for asking someone to be their Valentine, or they can be proud of how they asked. They can be proud of a Valentine they make, or a Valentine celebration they plan. They can be proud of giving something up, or proud of asking someone they’re not sure about for some reason in order to be nice. They can be proud of their performance in a Valentines Day play or concert or parade. . . sky’s the limit!  Just make sure it is clearly Valentine-centered! Think beyond the obvious!  Your story can be poetry or prose, sweet, funny, surprising or anything in between, but it will only count for the contest if it includes someone proud (can be the main character but doesn’t have to be) and is 214 words (get it? 2/14 for Valentines Day 😊 ) You can go under the word count but not over! (Title is not included in the word count.)  If you are so inclined, you are welcome to enter more than one entry – just remember you’ll be competing against yourself 😊  No illustration notes please!

Post your story in the comment section below between right now this very second and Sunday February 13th by 11:59 PM EDT.  There will be no regularly scheduled posts for the duration of the contest (Tuesday Debut, Would You Read It, or PPBF), so the post and all of your entries will stay up for everyone to enjoy.  If you have difficulty with the comments, which unfortunately sometimes happens, you may email your entry to me and I’ll post it for you. [Also, a small note: I have a serious family situation at the moment. I didn’t want to cancel the contest at the last minute, but please be patient with me if it takes me a while to post emailed entries and update the link list etc. I will do my best, but apologies in advance for delays.]

The Judging: my lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to 6-12 top choices depending on number and quality of entries (hee hee hee – you know how much trouble I have with the narrowing, so we’ll see) which will be posted here and voted on for a winner on Friday February 18th (or possibly a day or two later if the judges need extra time.)   The winner will be announced Monday February 21st depending on judging and voting time needed.  The dates of the judging/voting/winner announcements are subject to finagling depending on how much time the judges actually end up needing!

Judging criteria will include:

  1. Kid-appeal/Kid-friendliness – remember, this is a story for kids!
  2. Creativity in using pride, and success in making us feel the pride (whether it’s good pride or bad)!
  3. Valentine’s Day appropriateness – this is a VALENTINE story and Valentine’s Day must be central to it!
  4. Quality of story – we will look for basic story elements and a true story arc
  5. Quality of writing – use and flow of language, correctness of mechanics, excellence of rhyme and meter if you use it, PROOFREADING!
  6. Originality – surprise us with something new and different! 😊
  7. How well you followed the Submission Guidelines – agents and editors expect professionalism. This is a chance to practice making sure you read and follow specified guidelines.

The Prizes:  As always, we are so fortunate to have an abundance of wonderful prizes donated by our very generous friends in the kidlit community! Just look at all these goodies!

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Read & Critique from agent Mary Cummings of Great River Literary, “an agency devoted exclusively to representing authors and author/illustrators of books for children and teens. Strong relationships with editors have resulted in a rapidly growing list of sales of board and picture books, chapter books and novels to such publishing houses as Knopf; Philomel; Viking; Nancy Paulsen/Penguin; Balzer & Bray; Walker; Little, Brown; Henry Holt; Holiday House; Feiwel & Friends; FSG; Running Press; WorthyKids; Abrams; Random House; Wiseman S & S; Chronicle; Candlewick; HarperCollins and many others.”

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

Author Lynne Marie

Lynne Marie is the accomplished author of Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten – art by Anne Kennedy (Scholastic 2011), Hedgehog’s 100th Day of School – art by Lorna Hussey (Scholastic 2017), The Star of the Christmas Play — art by Lorna Hussey (Beaming Books 2018), Moldilocks and the 3 Scares — art by David Rodriguez Lorenzo (Sterling 2019 and Scholastic 2019),  Let’s Eat! Mealtime Around the World — art by Parwinder Singh (Beaming Books 2019) and The Three Little Pigs And The Rocket Project — art by Wendy Fedan (Mac and Cheese Press 2022) and American Pie — art by Dea Lenihan (Dancing Flamingo Press, April 12, 2022)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Penny Parker Klostermann, talented author of THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT (Random House 2015) and A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE (Random House 2017)

⭐️ 30 Minute Zoom Ask Me Anything with Keila Dawson, author of THE KING CAKE BABY (Pelican Publishing 2016), NO VOICE TOO SMALL (Charlesbridge 2020), and OPENING THE ROAD: VICTOR HUGO GREEN AND HIS GREEN BOOK (Beaming Books, 2021)

⭐️ Access to author/editor Alayne Kay Christian‘s webinars! Alayne is the author of BUTTERFLY KISSES FOR GRANDMA AND GRANDPA (Blue Whale Press, 2008), SIENNA THE COWGIRL FAIRY: COWBOY TROUBLE (Blue Whale Press 2021), THE WEED THAT WOKE CHRISTMAS (Blue Whale Press, 2020), and AN OLD MAN AND HIS PENGUIN (Blue Whale Press, 2020)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (fiction) from Melissa Stoller, author of SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH (Spork 2018), READY, SET, GORILLA! (Spork 2018), THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION (chapter books) (Spork 2017), SADIE’S SHABAT STORIES (Spork, 2020) and PLANTING FRIENDSHIP: PEACE, SALAAM, SHALOM

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Rebecca Gardyn Levington author of BRAINSTORM! (Sleeping Bear Press, Summer 2022), I WILL ALWAYS BE…(HarperCollins, Spring 2024) and a contributor to the delightful anthology HOP TO IT: POEMS TO GET YOU MOVING (Pomelo Books, October 2020)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (nonrhyming) from Rebecca Kraft Rector, author of SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED (Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House, 2021), LITTLE RED AND THE BIG BAD EDITOR (Aladdin, September 2022), and TRIA AND THE GREAT STAR RESCUE (Delacorte/Random House)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique and Query Letter Critique from Jessica Stremer author of the forthcoming GREAT CARRIER REEF (Holiday House, 2023)

Author Jessica Stremer

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Cathy Ballou Mealey author of WHEN A TREE GROWS (Union Square Kids, 2019), SLOTH AND SQUIRREL IN A PICKLE (Kids Can Press, 2021), and the forthcoming MAKE MORE S’MORES (Sleeping Bear Press, 2023)

⭐️ Personalized Signed Copy of THE KING CAKE BABY by Keila Dawson

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

⭐️ Personalized Signed Copy of IT’S A MUFFULETTA! IT’S A WHATA? (Sprok 2021) by Patricia Saunders

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

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

I can’t wait to read your stories!!!

Eager Readers: Check out the comment section for all the fabulous entries! 😊

ENTRIES (all entries are linked) [will be linked tomorrow – sorry for delay]

  1. The Perfect Present – Sara Kruger
  2. Dr. Basil Discovers His Secret Admirer – Royal Baysinger
  3. Teeny Houdini – Heather Ferranti Kinser
  4. How To Win At Wordle – Anne Lipton
  5. Eva Valentina’s Day – Katie Fischer
  6. Chick Forgot Valentine’s Day – Jess Burbank
  7. The Make-A-Valentine Contest – Hanna Geshelin
  8. Never Too Many Valentines – Lori C. Evans
  9. Proud As A Peacock – Bru Benson
  10. Valentine Farm – Jennifer Lowe
  11. Gary Groundhog Conquers The Shadow Monster – Deborah Foster
  12. Tucker And The Sneezies – Susan E. Schipper
  13. When Dad Is Away – Aileen Stewart
  14. It’s Valentine’s Day, Thomas, The Worm – Maria Lahman
  15. The House On The Corner – Elyse Trevers
  16. Staying In The Lines – Elizabeth Meyer zu Heringdorf
  17. Top Of The World – Christine Alemshah
  18. The Canape Caper – Cathy Stenquist
  19. My Icky Sticky Valentine – Chayala Nachum
  20. The Best Card Maker – Stephanie Maksymiw
  21. Dad Gets Weird On Valentine’s Day – Debbie Day
  22. The Valentine Tiff – Sally Yorke-Viney
  23. Glitter & Glue – Janna MacLean
  24. Heart Aflutter – Kelly Clasen
  25. Little Things – Molly Ippolito
  26. Veronica’s Surprise – Janel Caverly
  27. My Quiet Valentine – Amanda Sherlock
  28. Who’s Ana? – Ellie Langford
  29. Prince Of The Pride – Jessica Seitz
  30. Cupid’s Big Day – Marty Bellis
  31. A Match Made In Socks – Laura Heath
  32. Momma’s Smile – Amber Hendricks
  33. The Perfect Valentine – Kimberly Shrack
  34. Miss Frog And Mister Turtle – Sharon McCarthy
  35. The Trees Of The Girl Who Raised Bees – B.J. Genovese
  36. Mailbirds: Valentine’s Day – Reed Ambrose
  37. The Perfect Card – Keely Leim
  38. Valentine’s Day Is For Everyone – Janet Scratchley
  39. Valentine’s In The Jungle – Melissa Rafson Friedman
  40. The Lovesick Groundhog – Debbie Daugherty
  41. Rosas For Senor Perez – Carmen Castillo Gilbert
  42. Get Well Soon, Mrs. Love – Rebekah Hoeft
  43. A Valentine For You – Marty Findley
  44. Cupid, A New Generation – Linda Staszak
  45. A Valentine For Her – Marty Findley
  46. Mr. Sunder’s Valentine’s Day Cookie – Marta Cutler
  47. Valentine Countdown – Marta Cutler
  48. V’s For Valentine – Rachel Bandy
  49. ValenTINY – Jessica Milo
  50. Three Hearts – A. Kidd
  51. I Whale Always Love You – Kimberly Horch
  52. Isabella’s Valentine – Terrie Hellard-Brown
  53. Dear Moon – Carissa Brown
  54. A Nose For Love – Julie Kurtz
  55. Rabbit [heart] Rebecca – Anne Bromley
  56. The Heart Of A Wizard – Jany Campana
  57. Sweet Valentine – Daniella Kaufman
  58. The Valentine’s Cake – Kate Thompson
  59. Gene’s Forbidden Valentine – Vanessa Konoval
  60. The Best Part – Sarah Meade
  61. V-Day! – Sarah Meade
  62. The Special Valentine Card – Sherry Roberts
  63. Cutting Is Hard – Ashley Chance
  64. Hammie’s Valentine Surprise – Jenna Elyse Johnson
  65. Pinky’s Message – Elizabeth Muster
  66. Everyting You Taught Me – Shuba Mohan
  67. It’s A Matter Of Taste – Corine Timmer
  68. Broken Hearts Need Love Too – Stephanie Henson
  69. All Aboard – Debbie Whittam
  70. Dove Letters – Amy LaMae Brewer
  71. My Furry Valentine – Tiffany Hanson
  72. A Squawking Serenade – Tiffany Hanson
  73. Proud That You Are Mine – Tonnye Fletcher
  74. Mother, You Are One In A Million – Elaine D’Alessandro
  75. King Of Love – Sue Ko
  76. Rose’s Creative Valentines – Elaine D’Alessandro
  77. Dear Valentine – Jill Burns
  78. Subterranean Lovesick Blues – Andrea MacDonald
  79. Love, Mama And Me – Karen Olmstead
  80. A Gift For My Mami – Lana Montalban
  81. Baby Bear’s Heart – Lori Himmel
  82. Gumballs – Jill Purtee
  83. Beaming With Pride – Paul Kurtz
  84. Proud As A Peacock – Paul Kurtz
  85. Don’t-Let-The-Dung-Beetle-Make-The-Valentine-Brownies! – Donna Kurtz
  86. Best Valentine’s Day Ever! – Donna Kurtz
  87. To Sarah – Elizabeth Westra
  88. The Heart-Shaped Mitten – Sherri T. Mercer
  89. Love Inside – Kristy Roser Nuttall
  90. Valentine’s Field Trip – Darcee Freier
  91. Heart And Hands – Marjorie David
  92. Flicker’s Valentine – Laura Bost
  93. A Valentine For Birders – Geraldine Oades-Sese
  94. The Floofabims – Sabrina Shah
  95. I Wanted To Say I Love You – Joy Curtis
  96. Percy’s Performance – Allison Strick
  97. Showdown In Smoochalot – Jesse Anna Bornemann
  98. Theo’s Not-So-Perfect Valentine’s Day – Kelsey E. Gross
  99. Mama, Are You Proud Of Me? – Pamela Swanson
  100. Awesome Together – Sarah Hetu
  101. Valentine’s Breakfast For Mom – Patti Ranson
  102. Special Delivery – Emily Keener
  103. Harriet’s Cards – Jessica Reed
  104. Dolley’s Favorite Month – Lincoln Mansch
  105. Llama Love – Laura Bower
  106. Will You Be My Valentine? – Michelle S. Kennedy
  107. Sunshine Valentine – Vashti Verbowski
  108. Shelby’s Heartache – Susannah Lee
  109. Taffy’s Sweet Surprise – Mary Schultz
  110. Where Is Puppito? – Bridget Magee
  111. Princess Candace – Sheila R. Schmotzer
  112. Suzie And Jordan’s Special Day – Shadi Kafi
  113. Valentine Delivery – Part II (sequel to 2021 Valentine Contest Entry) – Katie Brandyberry
  114. A Friend For Valentine’s Day – Daniele Arndt
  115. Hoppy Belated Valentine – Zach Schloss
  116. Remember The Love – Ashley Murray
  117. The Proudest Pencil – Lori Sheroan
  118. My Gummy Love – Lauri C. Meyers
  119. Love ME – Melissa Rutigliano
  120. Love Potions And Laughter – Tiffany Hanson
  121. A Cake-tastrophe – Tiffany Hanson
  122. The Valentine’s Day Invitiational – Lori Keating
  123. Lost But Found – Armineh Manookian
  124. L-O-V-E – Ronda Einbinder
  125. Shakesbear In Love – MaryLee Flannigan
  126. A New Friend – Steve Jankousky
  127. What Kind Of Cupid Am I? – Alayne Kay Christian
  128. My Hero – Dawn Young
  129. Valentine’s Day Dance-Off In Nestville – Lynn Marie Moore
  130. Hidden In These Hallowed Hills – Shuba Mohan
  131. A Rose For Toad – Ashlee MacCallum
  132. I Do NOT Like Rohini Rao – Sandhya Acharya
  133. Untitled – M.M. Sutanto
  134. A Heart Of Gold – Ryan Schneck
  135. Haiku Valentines: Love In 5-7-5 Rhyme – Brenda Whitehead
  136. Kate’s Valentines – Sheila M. Hausbeck
  137. A Nest For Bluegill – Katie Palazzola
  138. A Puzzling Valentine – My Side Of The Phone Call… – Ingrid Boydston
  139. Smelly Kelly – Glenda Roberson
  140. Underneath It All – Carrie Charley Brown
  141. How To Find A Valentine – Bevin Rolfs Spencer
  142. My Daddy’s Valentine – Gayle Krause
  143. Proud Valentine’s Day – Deborah Hunt
  144. A Valentine For Annie B. Bear – Charlotte Dixon
  145. Valentine’s Day Heartache – Cindy Greene
  146. Valentine Shenanigans – Vasilia Graboski
  147. You Make Me So Proud – Erika Romero
  148. I Am Proud To Be Your Friend – Kerry Porter
  149. Love Somebody – Brigid Finucane
  150. Marcus Is Not An Elephant: How A Woolly Mammoth Makes A Friend – Susan Schwartz Twiggs
  151. Purple Lace – Liz Kehrli
  152. Puppy Love – Kathy Halsey
  153. Valentine’s Day Booty – Danielle Sharkan
  154. Wholeheartedly – Catherine Brewer
  155. Valentine Barks – Kathy Crable
  156. Oog Love Rock – Katie Palazzola
  157. C.I.T. (Cupid In Training) – Colleen Murphy
  158. Allie’s Biggest Heart – Julianna Helt
  159. Detective Spot And The Search For A New Cupid – Sophia Moore (age 10)
  160. The Valentine Surprise – Claire Noland
  161. The Purrfect Valentine – Tara Knox Cerven
  162. A Valentine For Mr. Weatherly – Lindsay Moretti
  163. A Proud Mum – Shariffa Keshavje
  164. Valentine’s Day At Sweet Pig’s – Patricia Corcoran
  165. Poppy’s Gift – Melanie Adkins
  166. Go Tell Bully Brady – Mona Pease
  167. Valentine Surprise – Abby Wooldridge
  168. Full Of Heart – Allison Burke
  169. Two Little Valentines – Judy Abelove Shemtob
  170. A Change Of Heart – Michaela Almeida
  171. The Mural – Susanne Whitehouse
  172. The Perfect Friend Chip – Cheryl Simon
  173. Sloth’s Original Valentine – Judy Sobanski
  174. Be My Fred – Lisa Furness
  175. Cupid’s Confidence – Amy Leskowski
  176. The Flower Code – Ashlee Hashman
  177. A Valentine For Jake – Andrew Fairchild
  178. Cardi V – Alicia Meyers
  179. The Heart Of The Matter – Sarah Marhevsky
  180. Bear And Fish – A Love Story – Aly Kenna
  181. Valentine Wins – Sara Petersohn
  182. Sweet Breakfast – JC Kelly
  183. ValenTalent Show – Becky Goodman
  184. Marla’s Mistake – Jessica Watts
  185. The Koi That Should Have Been In The Zodiac – MeiLin Chan
  186. Surprise Valentine’s Day Party – Una Belle Townsend
  187. My First Love – Adolfo Gomez-Herrera

The 2021 Valentiny Contest WINNERS!!!

Rise and shine, my friends!

I know it’s Monday.

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

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

But.

BUT!

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

Yes!

It’s true!

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


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

No?

Ok, how about

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

Oh no, wait! I’ve got it!

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

I don’t know what’s happening here.

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

Who could that be?

But never mind, because GUESS WHAT?

It’s time to announce the WINNERS of

The 6th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest

~ for children’s writers ~

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

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

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

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

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

Elizabeth Volkmann for Class List

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

David McMullin for Brave Brave Brave (also funny 😊)

Laken Slate for The Brave Little Conversation Heart

M.R. Haqq for Soon

Mia Geiger for Peanut’s Brave Valentine’s Day

Ashlee Hashman for The Wildflower

Lindsey Hobson for U R Brave

Audrey Day-Williams for Legendary Valentine

Sara Ackerman for Arrrrr Is For Valentine

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

Donna Kurtz for The Owl and the Kitty-Kat

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

Una Belle Townsend for Six Secret Valentines

Jan Suhr for The Lost Valentine

Kaylee Gwarjanski for Mission: Cancel Cupid Call

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

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

3. For Original POV:

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

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

4. For Humor:

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

Catherine J Lee for The Valentine on My Shoe

Karyn Curtis for The Valentine’s Quest

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

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

Brenda Whitehead for Step-Brother Battle

Shannon Howarth Nelson for Super Brothers

Danielle S. Hammelef for Scaredy-Cat

6. For Beautiful Writing:

Ciara N M Greenwalt for The Gift Tree

Sandhya Acharya for Sarla Asks A Question

Jyoti Rajan Gopal for A Cocoon of Love

Amy Flynn for Tilly’s Great Big Heart

7. For Best Short Valentiny Story:

P. J. Purtee for A Simple Valentine

8. For Sweet Valentiny:

Kelly Swemba for Brave For Gigi

Anne Bromley for Caleb’s Heart

Carmen Castillo Gilbert for Roses From Valentina

9. Best Story From A Young Writer:

Sophia Zafra for Bravery Is From The Heart

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

And now…

…the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

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

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

DDDRRRUUUMMM RRROOOLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!

In First Place

Winner of the whole shebang…

who gets first choice of all the prizes…

Sarah McDermott
for

Lemur in Love!!!

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

In Second Place

Sarah Meade
for
Jana’s Valentine Visit

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

In Third Place

Nancy Derey Riley
for
Percy’s Valentine

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

In Fourth Place

Jessica Hinrichs
for
Valentine’s Gotcha Day

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

In Fifth Place

Carrie Boone
for
The Ballad of Bad Bart

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

In Sixth Place...

Nicole Loos Miller
for
Stella & Hank

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

In Seventh Place…

Paul Kurtz
for
Someone Special!

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

In Eighth Place…

Chambrae Griffith
for
Octopus Hugs

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

In Ninth Place…

Janie Reinart
for
Untangled Valentines

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

In Tenth Place…

Anne Lipton
for
Most Valuable Valentine

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

In Eleventh Place…

Katie Brandyberry
for
Valentine Delivery

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

In Twelfth Place…

Lauri C. Meyers
for
Charmadillo

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

In Thirteenth Place…

Judy Sobanski
for
Brave Little Friends

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

In Fourteenth Place…

Samantha Haas
for
Valentine’s Day Rocks

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

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

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

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

Have a marvelous Monday, everyone! 😊

The Prizes:  Swoonworthy!

Hannah VanVels – Agent, Belcastro Agency – PB MS Critique

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

(from Belcastro Agency’s website)

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

Renee LaTulippe

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

Dawn Young

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

Kirsti Call

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

Melissa Stoller

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

Becky Scharnhorst

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

Ellen Leventhal

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

Rebecca Kraft Rector

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

Julie Abery


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

Author Jenna Waldman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roses are red

Violets are blue

Valentinies rock

And so do YOU!

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

The 6th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest

~ for children’s writers ~

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

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

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

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

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

Amazing wonderful Valentiny Contest story.😊

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

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

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

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

Judging criteria will include:

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

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

Hannah VanVels – Agent, Belcastro Agency – PB MS Critique

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

(from Belcastro Agency’s website)

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

Renee LaTulippe

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

Dawn Young

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

Kirsti Call

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

Melissa Stoller

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

Becky Scharnhorst

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

Ellen Leventhal

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

Rebecca Kraft Rector

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

Julie Abery


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

Author Jenna Waldman

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can’t wait to read your stories!!!

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

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

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

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

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

Knock, knock!

Who’s there?

Atlas.

Atlas who?

Atlas, it’s Valentines Day!

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

How about this one?

Knock, knock!

Who’s there?

Iguana.

Iguana who?

Iguana hold your hand!

Ok 😊 I’ll stop 😊 Because what iguana do really is let you know that it’s time to fire up those brain cells and write your entry for. . .

The 6th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest

~ for children’s writers ~

The Contest:  since writing for children is all about “big emotion for little people” (I forget who said that, but someone did so I put it in quotes!) and Valentines Day is all about emotion, write a Valentines story appropriate for children (children here defined as ages 12 and under) maximum 214 words in which someone feels brave!  They can be brave about asking someone to be their Valentine, of course, but they can also do something brave to get a Valentine (the person or the gift), or do something brave to help a friend. They could be brave about giving something up, or brave about asking someone they’re not sure about for some reason to be nice. . . sky’s the limit!  Think beyond the obvious!  Your story can be poetry or prose, sweet, funny, surprising or anything in between, but it will only count for the contest if it includes someone brave (can be the main character but doesn’t have to be) and is 214 words (get it? 2/14 for Valentines Day 🙂  You can go under the word count but not over! (Title is not included in the word count.)  If you are so inclined, you are welcome to enter more than one entry – just remember you’ll be competing against yourself 🙂  No illustration notes please!

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

The Judging: over the next several days, my lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to 6-10 top choices depending on number and quality of entries (hee hee hee – you know how much trouble I have with the narrowing, so we’ll see) which will be posted here and voted on for a winner on Thursday February 19th (or possibly a day or two later if the judges need extra time.)   The winner will be announced Monday February 22nd depending on judging and voting time needed.  The dates of the judging/voting/winner announcements are subject to finagling depending on how much time the judges actually end up needing!

Judging criteria will include:

  1. Kid-appeal/Kid-friendliness – remember, this is a story for kids!
  2. Creativity in using bravery and success in making us feel the bravery!
  3. Valentine’s Day appropriateness – this is a VALENTINE story!
  4. Quality of story – we will look for basic story elements and a true story arc
  5. Quality of writing – use and flow of language, correctness of mechanics, excellence of rhyme and meter if you use it, PROOFREADING!
  6. Originality – surprise us with something new and different! 😊
  7. How well you followed the Submission Guidelines – agents and editors expect professionalism. This is a chance to practice making sure you read and follow specified guidelines.

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

Hannah VanVels – Agent, Belcastro Agency – PB MS Critique

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

(from Belcastro Agency’s website)

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

Renee LaTulippe

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

Dawn Young

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

Kirsti Call

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

Melissa Stoller

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

Becky Scharnhorst

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

Ellen Leventhal

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

Rebecca Kraft Rector

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

Julie Abery


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

Author Jenna Waldman

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

Rosie Pova – personalized signed copy of SUNDAY RAIN

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

Dawn Young – personalized signed copy of The Night Baafore Easter

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

I can’t wait to read your stories!!!

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Cathy Ballou Mealey!

Hurray! It’s Tuesday Debut time!

I have to tell you, I love doing these posts so much!  So many of the authors who are featured here are writers I have watched come along from their first early steps into the world of writing picture books to their moments of great accomplishment.  I have had the opportunity to see how hard they work to improve their craft, research the agent market, polish their work to submit to agents and editors… and to see them keep trying when things didn’t go their way the first… or the fifth… or even the fifteenth time.  So I am extra especially thrilled when I get to see their first books in print! 🙂

Today’s Tuesday Debut-ess is a case in point!  Talented, determined, and now finally and most deservedly 🌟 published 🌟, I’m delighted to introduce you to Cathy Ballou Mealey and her wonderful picture book, When A Tree Grows!

When A Tree Grows
Written by Cathy Ballou Mealey
Illustrated by Kasia Nowowiejska
Sterling Children’s Books, April 2, 2019
Fiction, ages 3-7

Book cover

WHEN A TREE GROWS is a rollicking read-aloud that follows a zany chain of events triggered by a broken tree, a cranky Bear, a nut-loving Squirrel and his loyal friend Moose.

 

SUSANNA: First off, how cute is that moose???!!! 🙂 But getting down to serious business now 🙂  where did the idea for this book come from?

CATHY: I was hiking in the woods with my family when we heard a distant creaky Crash! Was it a tree? An animal? We froze, and after a long silence, hiked on. I started wondering: What if that crash had scared a bear or frightened a deer?

Building on that “OR” question, I framed a madcap tale with two different possible outcomes, one rather expected and one funny, unexpected outcome. Readers will find that “OR” spotlighted on the bottom corner of each recto page with a clever curled paper art effect.

 

OR page turn

 

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

CATHY: My first draft took roughly 6 weeks to complete before I had a preliminary version to share with my critique group and some trusted writing friends.

Squirrel work buddy (1)

Cathy’s work buddy 🙂

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

CATHY: Yes! Those first critiques helped me tighten and distill my draft into a 32 page picture book format. I wrote ideas on sticky notes, plastering them on the back of my door and re-arranging them into funnier scene sequences. I cut sentence strips from my paper draft and pasted them into a book dummy with stick-critter sketches. Trying multiple revision strategies helped me trim text and focus on story.

 

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

CATHY: When writer friends kept asking “How is that TREE book coming along? Don’t sit on that too long. Send it out!” I trusted them!

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

CATHY: I used Querytracker to find agents accepting picture book manuscripts. My goal was to send out three new queries each week. At the same time, I was polishing two additional manuscripts to have ready in case an agent asked to see more stories.

 

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”?

CATHY: The first “call” came in May 2015 when I signed with Liza Fleissig of Liza Royce Agency. After Liza submitted TREE to publishers, we got nice feedback and a request for revision. I revised for about a month, and the new version went to acquisitions at two houses. By December TREE was putting down roots at Sterling Books for Children with editor Meredith Mundy.

 

SUSANNA:How did you celebrate signing your contract?

CATHY: Since it was just before Christmas, I bought a special acorn ornament to hang on our tree.

2018 December Orange 004

 

 

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

CATHY: My agent was helpful in explaining technical contract bits that were important but unfamiliar. I also perused online resources for more information about publishing contracts. As others have mentioned, Hannah Holt’s author survey data – shared in her October 2018 Tuesday Debuts post – is current and extremely useful. I’d say my experience on the “business” side for TREE was on par with other debuts for advance, print run, author copies, etc.

 

SUSANNA: Tell us about the editorial process…

CATHY: The changes I had made during the R&R stage helped polish TREE to a high gloss. Specifically, the friendship angle between Moose and Squirrel deepened, and the visual humor was tweaked to a funnier level. I shared many illustration ideas both in manuscript art notes and by email with the editor and art director. See if you can find what I described as the “I Love Lucy” conveyor belt image!

 

SUSANNA: Tell us about your experience of the illustration process…

CATHY: I saw sketches and proofs throughout the process, which I never expected but found very exciting! I knew from the thoughtful questions art director Ryan Thomann posed that we shared a vision for how the final illustrations might look.

WATG interior

 

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

CATHY: Kirkus liked it – hooray! The review says “Laugh along as a story about a tree in the forest comes full circle, bringing three creatures along for a bumpy but fun ride.”

 

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

CATHY: Three years, four months. Once the PW announcement was released in March 2017, I could officially share the news with everyone that TREE was becoming a book.

 

SUSANNA: If your book has been out for at least one statement cycle, has it earned out yet?

CATHY: This interview is posting on TREE’s book birthday, so it is too soon to tell.

 

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

CATHY: Sterling sent TREE to reviewers and journals like Kirkus. They also promoted it to schools and libraries as part of National Parks Month in April with other Sterling titles.

 

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

CATHY: Three cheers for collaborative marketing efforts with my online debut PB groups, the marvelous Epic18’s and splendid Notable19’s. Through blogs, Twitter chats, Instagram, etc we are jointly boosting our debut releases to reach more young readers. I am also grateful to Danielle Davis whose amazing blog This Picture Book Life hosted my cover reveal in November, 2018.

 

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

CATHY: I wrote my first picture book in 2010 for the Cheerios “Spoonful of Stories” contest. I started to attend conferences, classes and workshops and joined SCBWI and the 2012 12X12 Challenge. I felt ready to query agents in 2015. So, approximately 3-4 years of learning and writing in earnest before selling my first book.

Cheerios (1)

 

SUSANNA: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?

CATHY: I’d like to thank YOU for giving me the opportunity to share some of TREE’s back story here. Ever since entering the very first Halloweensie contest in 2011, I’ve been truly fortunate to learn from, and connect with, like-minded kid lit writers, readers and reviewers right here through Perfect Picture Book Fridays, your seasonal contests, Would You Read It? and Oh Susanna! You have collated a treasure chest of material in your archives that are so helpful to writers. If my Tuesday Debut interview can add even a tiny tidbit to your resources, I am happy!

And you even provided photo-evidence for me that sometimes cute rodents DO stow away on vehicles bound for the city.

Susanna Hill Stowaway rodent

the stowaway mouse on Susanna’s car 🙂

 

 

SUSANNA: Cathy, it is absolutely my pleasure to provide anything I may have provided that helped you on your way, and I know your Tuesday Debut post will be more than just a “tiny tidbit” for writers who get to read it!  Thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your experience so we can all benefit!  I know I speak for everyone when I wish you the very best of luck with this book and the many others I’m sure will follow! 🙂

Cathy Mealey headshot

Author Cathy Ballou Mealey                                                                                                                    Please come connect and say hello! Tell me if you’ve seen a Moose in real life, or if you have ever rescued a friend from an adventure gone awry.

 

Cathy Ballou Mealey lives with her family north of Boston, where she delights in watching silly squirrel antics and is waiting patiently for a moose to appear. Her favorite nut is the hazelnut and her favorite cupcake is cardamom crème.

Website: https://cathyballoumealey.wordpress.com/about/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CatBallouMealey

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cathy.mealey

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/catballoumealey/

 

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

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

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

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

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

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

– sharing their books on social media

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

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

 

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

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

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

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

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

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

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

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

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

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