The 2021 Holiday Contest Finalists Are HERE! Vote For Your Favorite!!!

Darlings!

This is no time for play!
This is no time for fun!
This is no time for games!
There is voting to be done! (just go with it and pretend voting is only one syllable 😊)
or
There are prizes to be won! (no, that doesn’t work either, although it’s true!)

Maybe we should go with:

Every writer
in Bookville
liked contests a lot. . .
But the judges
who judged all the entries
did NOT!
(although to be fair, we love the contests and we love reading the entries, we just hate having to cut them to get down to 12!)

The point is, we have done our valiant best to come up with 12 finalists (and let me tell you, it was a Herculean task!) and the time has come for you to read the entries that made the finals, choose your favorite, and vote for it!

Normally, I’d waste a little time with tomfoolery, but it’s been a desperate few days (and nights) of entry judging, which means not always paying as close attention to the puppy as I should, which means there is carpet steam-cleaning to be done. (Maybe I should have found a way to finish up my little stanza with that!)

So let’s just get right to it!

I know these entries are a little longer than the Halloweensie ones, so I truly thank you for taking the time to read through them and vote for your favorite. You won’t be sorry. They are all fabulous and I know you’ll enjoy them!

I will say THANK YOU to everyone who wrote an entry, took time to read other people’s entries and leave supportive comments, shared the contest with friends and family so that all our talented writers could get more readers, is taking the time now to read and vote, and who generally helped to make the contest so much fun, but I’m going to skip reiterating the judging criteria (you can check for it HERE) and save all my usual difficulty-of-choosing stuff for the winners post on Friday so you can get right to the entries!

Please read through the following 12 entries and vote for your favorite in the poll below by Thursday December 16 at 7PM Eastern so I can announce the winners on Friday! As always, I encourage you to share today’s link everywhere you want so that as many people as possible can read these stories and vote, but please do not attempt to influence the voting in any way. It is supposed to be based on merit, not on who can get the most people to come vote for their entry because they’re your friends and relations or they owe you for that time you babysat their kids 😊 If you’re a finalist, please don’t broadcast that on social media – just ask people to come read all the entries and vote for their favorite.

So here we go! Your 12 Finalists for

The 11th Annual Holiday Writing Contest

~ for children’s writers ~

1 – Tree of the Year

Deep in the forest,
where giant pines grow,
an eager young sapling
stood covered in snow.

She gleamed in the moonlight.
“I’m shiny and frozen.
Tonight is the contest.
I hope I’ll be chosen!”

The first day of winter,
to spread Christmas cheer,
the humans would vote
on the Tree of the Year.

“Sapling,” said Ancient,
“most victors are tall,
so don’t get your hopes up.
Remember, you’re small.”

Sapling’s thin branches
drooped low at the thought:
Big trees are winners.
Small ones are not.

The ground started thumping
with footsteps and drumming.
“Listen,” said Ancient.
“The humans are coming!”

Down from the village
perched high on a hill,
they marched with their music
and sang of goodwill.

Sapling stood taller.
“It won’t hurt to try.”
She lifted her branches.
“I’ll reach for the sky!”

A girl with a garland
of berries appeared.
She said, “This one’s lovely.”
The villagers cheered.

“Me?” Sapling gasped.
“Is it ME they will choose?”
“I’m frail,” Ancient shivered.
“I’m sure that I’ll lose.”

And Sapling remembered,
though Ancient was tall,
he’d never been voted
the best tree of all.

So Sapling leaned gently
and whispered an oath.
“I’ll root for you, friend.
I’ll hope for us both.”

“Those trees are embracing!”
the little girl said.
“Let’s decorate TWO trees
this Christmas instead.”

The town danced around them.
The verdict was clear.
Sapling and Ancient:
The Trees of the Year!

2 – Phoebe’s Snowperson

Outside the city library, a flier flits in the wind. “Snowperson Contest!” it announces, catching Phoebe’s eye. She reads:

Kids, let’s spread a little cheer
and deck the library halls
with handmade “snow”-people
who won’t melt like snowballs!

The prize? Free popsicles at the pool this summer.

“Yes, please!” Phoebe exclaims.

Phoebe hurries toward home, her imagination firing with every step. What can she use to build a snowman? Perhaps she should create a snowgirl? How much glitter does she have? Is there any white paint in the garage?

“Hi, Mom! Bye, Mom!” Phoebe yells and dashes to her room. It might be December, but she can practically taste the watermelon-cherry-coconut flavors of summertime.

But when Phoebe starts to gather materials, she feels doubtful. She looks at the pillows scattered about and wonders how she’ll make a snowperson that stands up—and stands out.

Phoebe starts to hum an old song about a snowman who came to life. “He had a magical hat!” she recalls and races to her closet.

Then she remembers a story about snowmen’s nighttime adventures and another about a silly snowman in a hot tub. She smiles.

“The snowmen are in my books. What if my books are my snowman?”

Phoebe lays a chapter book flat with the pages facing out. She stacks on a fat collection of fairy tales and then some tattered picture books. Before long, a snowman built out of stories stares back at her.

“Perfection,” Phoebe whispers.

3 – A CHRISTMAS PICKLE STORY

Sentimental ornaments
trim our tree high to low,
but Christmas Eve tradition calls
for one to steal the show.

Dad dons a scruffy Santa hat
and gathers us around.
“I’ve picked the pickle’s hiding spot!
It’s waiting to be found.”

“Dance! Prance! Blitz and dash!
All may search until
the finder claims the first gift and
the title of ‘Big Dill’.”

Grammy prods each shimmery bough.
Mom browses round and through.
Baby pulls off ornaments
(to get a better view).

I snug myself beneath a branch
to peer up from the bottom.
A glint of green. A clumpy curve.
Yes! I think. I got ’em.

I pluck the pickle from its place,
eager to claim my prize,
then notice Dad off to the side
with sparkle in his eyes.

His festive fuss for all of us
makes everybody grin.
It doesn’t seem to bother him
that he will never win.

I put the pickle back, but shift
it where no one will see.
Then grumble, “Oh by golly, there’s
no pickle on this tree!”

“Ho ho, oh? Check near the stump–”
That’s when Dad’s eyes meet mine.
I toss a wink and, in a blink,
Dad’s rummaging through pine.

He tugs back on a tree skirt bump
revealing what I’d done.
The pickle found, I quickly cheer,
“Gosh, Dad, looks like you’ve won!”

He wraps us all up in a hug
and whispers in my ear,
“You can have the first gift because
I’ve got mine right here.”

4 – SIMPLY THE BEST

Christmas was Maise’s favorite time of year.
Awe-inspiring. Wonderful. Magical.
Simply the best.
Maise wanted to be awe-inspiring, wonderful and magical, too.

Maise entered the Gingerbread House Decorating Contest.
Her house had icing and gumdrops!
Sprinkles and sparkles!
It even had an entire reindeer family reunion!
“It’s very…. creative,” said the judges.
But, Catalina won with a classic design.
“Awe-inspiring,” Maise told her.

Maise entered the Holiday Baking Contest.
Peppermint sticks!
Mocha melts!
Orange and ginger shortbread!
“Quite the variety,” observed the judges.
But Lester won with his Yule Log cake.
“Wonderful,” said Maise, licking her lips.

Maise entered the Ice Skating Contest.
Wearing a very sparkly leotard,
she skated forward!
And backward!
She even did a twirl!
But Jozef had a routine that was…well…
“Magical,” admired Maise.

Maise smiled.
She hadn’t won any ribbons but it had still been a delightful day.

“We have one last ribbon to award,” announced the judges.
“The award for the Most Holiday Spirit goes to…
Maise!”
“Awesome,” said Catalina.
“Wonderful,” said Lester.
“Magical,” smiled Jozef.
And to Maise, it was simply the best.

5 – SO YOU THINK YOU CAN PRANCE

“Places, Rudolph. Jump in line.”
(That’s me! Contestant #9.)

“Welcome back to North Pole Live:
‘So You Think You Can Prance,’ season five.
I’m your host, the famous Prancer.
Please welcome back our champion dancer!
He’s shimmied chimneys—Seoul to Atlanta:
the man, the myth, the legend—SANTA!”

Santa’s back? Last season’s best!
His reindeer too? I should’ve guessed.
Dasher coasts. Dancer whirls.
(Prancer hosts.) Vixen twirls.
Comet? She was born a star.
Cupid is on point, so far.
Donner brings the beat, the boom.
Blitzen’s jig ignites the room.
Maybe I’ll sit out this year.
With four left hooves, I’m bottom tier.

Eight contestants soar. I sink.
They float. I flail. They curve. I kink.
They sway. I swoop. They strut. I stop.
They spring. I sprawl. They dip. I drop.
Showing off, they’re busting moves,
I spin and—
SPLAT.
I’ve busted hooves!

“Oh, DEAR!” I hear.
Yes, I’m aware—
my spill was broadcast on the air.
The crimson of my well-known nose
extends until my body glows.
Someone whispers, “not a dancer.”
Reindeer snicker—even Prancer!
“Can klutzy caribous compete?”
My antlers shrink. My legs retreat.

Halfway out the door, I hear,
“Rudolph! I need YOU this year!
Ho-ho-ho! That grit! That glow!
Prancer, change my choreo’:
Substitute those samba mixes.
No more formal foxtrot fixes.
Rudi’s riffs will spark my set—
a glow-in-the-dark-breakdance duet!”

*North Pole Live rewrote its jingle
to feature Ru’ and Kris-Kross-Kringle,
the prime-time prancing pair sensation,
who tours one eve—to every nation.

6 – Cinder-Latke

Cinder-Latke puts down her scrub brush and reads a letter on the kitchen table.

—EVERYONE INVITED TO ROYAL PALACE HANUKKAH PARTY—

—Prince Nudnik Will Wed Latke-Making Contest Winner—

Cinder-Latke sighs. “I wish I could go like Pishka and Kishka, my stepsisters—”

Pink lightning FLASHES—

A puff of smoke morphs into Fairy-Godmother Yenta. “—and you will!”

Yenta waves her wand—

Cinder-Latke rides in a gold carriage wearing a sparkling diamond-studded gown.

“The spell ends at midnight.” Yenta grins. “Have fun!”

At the palace, all the princess-wannabes cook potato-pancakes like crazy.

Finally, Prince Nudnik tastes Cinder-Latke’s latke. “It’s perfection—I love you!”

The tower clock chimes midnight—Cinder-Latke flees.

Next morning, Prince Nudnik searches every house in the kingdom.

“Ugh!” He spits out Pishka’s latke and gags on Kishka’s. “One’s heavier than lead and the other tastes like moldy sweat-socks.”

An irresistible aroma tickles Prince Nudnik’s nose, luring him into the kitchen.

Cinder-Latke flips her latke onto a dish. “I knew you’d come.”

Prince Nudnik, drooling, bites into the latke. “Heavenly—” He sinks to one knee and whips out a ring with a gleaming latke-sized diamond. “Please, be my Latke-Princess!”

Cinder-Latke’s eyelashes flutter. “Sure, why not?”

Cinder-Latke and Prince Nudnik wed on the eighth night of Hanukkah and dance the hora around the menorah.

After the honeymoon, they open a restaurant—

—PRINCESS CINDER-LATKE’S LATKE PALACE—

—and dine on latkes happily ever after!

(Pishka and Kishka become fabulously wealthy businesswomen selling their latkes as cannonballs and bug-repellent.)

7 – Christmas…by a Nose

Newspapers trumpeted!
Radios blared!
Cable news cried in alarm!
BIG CARROT SHORTAGE REPORTED TODAY:
CHAOS ERUPTS ON CLAUS FARM

And, indeed, Claus was troubled.
Perplexed, some might say.
To friends, he appeared worried sick.
(This was Sam Claus, who harvested just up the way
from his jollier brother, Old Nick.)

Christmas was coming,
And, with it, Claus knew,
The first of the season’s big snows.
But if carrots were lacking,
Joy would fade quick…
For no snowman could count on a nose!

Assistance was needed—
“A contest!” Claus thought.
No sense in lazing about.
“A trophy” he called. “To the barnyard friend here
Who can find the best substitute snout!”

“An apple!” said Horse.
(Goat and Donkey agreed.)
“It’s festive and rosy to boot.”
“But it’s round,” Claus reminded,
“And, also, it’s red. A not-at-all carrot-like fruit.”

“Maybe corn?” piped up Chicken.
“Oh, yes!” Pig enthused.
“I’ve got a few corncobs right here.”
“Not bad,” Claus conceded.
“A veggie, it’s true. But we need a good nose, not an ear.”

“’Wait, wait!” squeaked a voice. “Down here, take a look!
May I share my idea with you, please?
You need something pointy and orange-ish, and so…
Why not try wedges of cheese?”

“Yes, CHEESE!” Claus applauded. “A trophy for Mouse!
Or perhaps a large crumb would be better.
And while we’re addressing the subject of snacks:
…do we know if the reindeer like cheddar?”

8 – TREE NUMBER NINE

Sofie could barely contain her excitement. Today was Noel Knob’s first ever Christmas Tree Decorating Contest!

She had been gathering decorations for weeks —

Berries from the holly bush next door.

Strings of garland strung with white, fluffy popcorn.

Bows made from leftover ribbon.

She packed everything in her backpack and headed to the town square. 

There, evergreen trees lined the lawn. The smell of fir, spruce, and pine tickled her nose.

At the sign-in table, Sofie was assigned tree number 9.

She got right to work — a bow here, berries there, garland wrapped around and around, and a big pinecone right on top!

Proudly, she stood beside her tree. But soon her shoulders sagged.

Around her, trees twinkled with tiny lights, dazzled with store-bought decorations, and on top of each tree was a shining star.

She glanced at the ceramic teapot on the prize table and felt her hopes evaporating like steam.

Zipping up her bag, Sofie headed home. 

Behind her, the judges were ready to announce the winners. 

“Third place goes to… Tree 21, for most decorations!”

Everyone clapped. Sofie kept walking.

“Second place goes to… Tree 7 for most sparkly!”

Everyone cheered. Sofie kept walking.

“And first place goes to… Tree 9 for most creative!”

Everyone celebrated. Stunned, Sofie hurried to the stage.

“Which prize would you like?”

“The teapot, please.”

When she got home, Sofie carefully wrapped the teapot in red and green paper. 

Then, she filled out the gift tag —

To Mom
From Sofie
MERRY CHRISTMAS!

9 – A CREATURE WAS STIRRING

Twas the night before Christmas
and all through the house,
Every creature was stirring,
including, Wee Mouse.
Stirring and blending, creating sweet treats
for a contest to see which ones Santa will eat.
“Don’t even bother,” said Pup. “He’ll choose mine.”
“I don’t think so,” purred Kit. “Because mine are divine.”
But Wee Mouse said nothing. Her movements were nimble
as she tossed her ingredients into a thimble.
She had flour in her whiskers, some dough on her nose,
and a drop of molasses had dripped on two toes.
She placed all her cookies in a minuscule sack,
climbed up to the table then…UH OH! Fell back!
The cookies all crumbled except for one bite.
“I’ve barely a taste for Santa tonight!”
Wee Mouse dried her tears, climbed back up to the platter,
feeling her one little morsel must matter.
“It’s totally tiny,” said Pup. “Not ornate.
Santa will think it’s a crumb on the plate.
Mine have fun sprinkles on top of red icing.”
Kit purred, “That brown dot? Well, it’s just not enticing.”
Wee Mouse ignored them and went straight to bed,
exhausted yet hopeful for what lay ahead.
Christmas morning she woke to a gift and a note.
She opened it up to see what Santa wrote:
“Dear Wee Mouse, My thanks for your cookie so sweet.
It was far and away my favorite treat.
And the thing that I think set it so far above
all the rest was your secret ingredient—LOVE!”

10 – BEAR’S CHRISTMAS COOKIE

Of all the holiday traditions, Bear’s favourite was the cookie decorating contest. Hedgehog always won. This year Bear was determined to beat him. He’d been planning his cookie for months.

The animals lined up with their cookies displayed. The crows approached. They were notoriously picky judges. They started with Rabbit.

Rabbit had decorated his cookie with a garden of sugar spun carrots and roses.

Badger had created a glittering forest of silver and gold gumdrops and candy cane stars.

Hedgehog had outdone himself. On his cookie, he’d crafted a miniature ice-rink with tiny skaters, each holding cups of hot cocoa. You could even see the marshmallows.

Bear was last. The Crows approached his cookie. Their black eyes widened. Towering above them was layer upon layer of icing, chocolate, candy cane, marshmallows, toffee, sprinkles, sugar plums, and whipped cream. At the top, they could just make out a Christmas angel spinning in the wind.

“Did I win?” asked Bear.

Suddenly the cookie began to wobble. It leaned one way. It leaned the other.

“Look out!” cried the judges.

SPAAAALOOSH!!!!

Every inch of fur, feathers, and forest was drenched in icing, chocolate, whipped cream, and candy. The angel landed on someone’s head. Badger licked sprinkles off his coat. Rabbit brushed marshmallows from his nose into his mouth. Hedgehog wiped icing out of his eyes. He licked his paws with gusto.

“Actually,” he said, “I think we all won!” And that day they all enjoyed the most glorious candy feast, thanks to Bear.

11 – A Miscalculation

*Attention all children!
Come out in the snow
And bring all your shovels and gear
Join in the sport,
And build your best fort
For the holiday contest this year!*

We dig and we pat
We scoop and we splat
To build the best fortress of all
No torrent of snow,
No, nothing they throw
Will knock down our unyielding wall!

Two towering turrets
Three tactical windows
Four bunkers built into the floor
Snowballs piled high,
Stacked up to the sky
There must be two hundred or more!

We hold up a finger
So that we can tell
Which direction the cold wind is blowing
We take up our stance,
They don’t stand a chance
Let’s get this tournament going!

Whoosh, whoosh, THUD, THUD
Oh no, wait a minute!
We should have seen this from the start
The snowballs we chuck
Don’t have any luck—
Our snow forts are too far apart!

12 – THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS STAR

Last year? Measly fifth. Year before? Pitiful fifteenth.
But THIS year? I’ll capture the winning star for the Interstellar Christmas Tree Contest!
For 11 months, I’ve studied, analyzed, and scrutinized all things stars.
Nothing will stop me. Nothing will slow me down.
NOTH—
“Dagan,” says Mom, “this year, your sister joins.”
“But MO-OM!” I yelp.
“My two star-chasers—or nothing,” Mom says.
Rest of the week, I lecture Daphne on the fine art of star-catching.
For Daphne, my lessons are a fine time to nap.
I demonstrate proper blaze-proof glove attire.
Daphne proves gloves go on ears, too.
We practice swooping and swirling our star nets.
Daphne tangles her net into one big knot.
Sigh.
On Christmas Eve, we load gloves and nets into our Lunar Rocket 3000 and take off.
“Sit still and be quiet,” I say. Daphne’s head droops.
Just past the moon, I spy the perfect star! It glitters and flickers and zooms around our rocket.
But it’s too fast.
Can’t. Quite. Catch. It.
“Dagie!” says Daphne. She shuts her eyes. I do the same. The star thinks we’re napping! It slows down.
Daphne hangs gloves on her ears. The twirling star stops and giggles.
We tie our two nets with a knot. Together, we extend the oversize net and scoop up the twinkling light.
On Christmas morning, we place our winning star atop the Interstellar Christmas Tree.
“Next year,” I say to Daphne, “let’s enter the Christmas Ginger-Planet Contest! Together.”
Daphne’s face beams.
“Merry Christmas, Dagie!”

WOW!

Now YOU get to enjoy the agony of decision as you try to choose which of those amazing entries to vote for!

Please vote for the entry you feel deserves to win in the poll below by 7PM EST Thursday December 16th.

Tune in Friday December 17th to see THE WINNERS!!! – same bat time, same bat station 😊

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 truly cannot wait to see who you choose as the winner!  Good luck!!! 😊

Ho! Ho! Ho! The 11th Annual Holiday Contest Is HERE!!!

⭐️Deck the Halls! ⭐️ Light the menorah! ⭐️ Fill the Kikombe cha Umoja! ⭐️

It’s time for . . .

The 11th Annual Holiday Writing Contest

~ for children’s writers ~

The Contest:  Write a children’s holiday story (children here defined as age 12 and under) about a Holiday Contest!

Your contest can be anything you want! Baking, wrapping, decorating (tree or home), raising money or collecting gifts for those in need, ice skating, sledding, caroling, fancy dress, snowman or fort building. . . sky’s the limit! But it must be about a holiday contest!

Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, New Year’s or whatever you celebrate during the Holiday Season, but is not to exceed 250 words (I know! So much freedom after the Halloweensie Contest 😊 )  (It can be as short as you like (the judges will be grateful 😊 , you are welcome and encouraged to write shorter, but no more than 250!  Title not included in word count.)  The field is wide open!  Have fun!  The more creative the better!  No illustration notes please. (And yes, if you feel compelled to submit more than one entry you may, just remember you’re competing against yourself!)

Post:  Your entry should be posted between right now this very second and Thursday December 9th at 11:59 PM EST, and must be posted below in the comment section of this post. All entries should include a title, byline (people always ask what this is – it means who the entry was written by, so, by Suzy Q. Writer or whoever 😊) and word count. You are welcome to also post your entries on your own blogs and include your blog address with your entry here if you’d like to encourage people to come visit your blog, but your entry must be posted in the comment section of this post or it will not be counted because we won’t see it. This post will remain up for your reading pleasure until I post the finalists.  There will be no regular posts (Tuesday Debut, Would You Read It, or Perfect Picture Book) for the duration of the contest so everyone will have plenty of time to visit and enjoy.  If you have trouble commenting, you can email your entry to me and I will post it for you. Please copy and paste your entry with word count and byline into the body of the email NO ATTACHMENTS please.

The Judging: My lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to approximately 12 finalists.  In the interest of finishing up the contest in a timely fashion so everyone can go about their holidays, we will do our best to post the finalists here by Tuesday December 14th for you to vote on for a winner.  (But it almost always seems to end up taking us longer. . . so it might be a day or two later.) The vote will be closed on Thursday December 16th at 5 PM EST.  Whoever gets the most votes will be first and so on down to twelfth place (or wherever we place to), and the winners will be announced on Friday December 17th. (These dates are subject to adjustment if it takes the judges longer than we anticipate to get the judging completed.)

Judging criteria will be as follows:

  • 1. Kid-appeal! – These stories are intended for a young audience (ages 12 and under), so we’re looking for stories that children will enjoy and relate to.
  • 2.  Holiday Contest! – the rules state a Holiday Contest story, so it must be crystal clear that the story is about a contest that in some way relates to Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, New Year’s, or whatever seasonal winter holiday you choose.  The story must center on the contest  – the contest must not be just an offhand mention/reference in a story about something else.
  • 3. Quality of story – entries must tell a story, including a main character of some kind and a true story arc even if it’s tiny 😊  Entries must not be merely descriptions or mood pieces.
  • 4. Quality of Writing: check your spelling, grammar, punctuation etc.  If you’re going to rhyme, give us your best 😊  Overall writing quality and use of language are also important. Please proofread!
  • 5. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.
  • 6. PLEASE FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS! Large numbers of entries make it easy to cut entries that haven’t been entered as we asked.

The Prizes!: Oh! Such wonderful prizes! All I can say is, how lucky are we to be part of such a talented and generous community that offers such amazing prizes!

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! 😊

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (Rhyming or Non-rhyming, Fiction or Nonfiction) with written feedback AND a 30-minute Zoom Chat with children’s author Vivian Kirkfield, author of PIPPA’S PASSOVER PLATE (Holiday House, 2019), SWEET DREAMS, SARAH (Creston Books, 2019), FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN (Pomegranate, 2019), MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: THE INSPIRING FRIENDSHIP OF ELLA FITZGERALD AND MARILYN MONROE (Little Bee Books, 2020), FROM HERE TO THERE: INVENTIONS THAT CHANGED THE WAY THE WORLD MOVES (Clarion Books, 2021), and SHOW ME HOW! BUILD YOUR CHILD’S SELF-ESTEEM THROUGH READING, CRAFTING AND COOKING (MoneyPenny Press Ltd, 2010)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (Rhyming or Non-rhyming, Fiction or Nonfiction) with a recording of first read-through by children’s author and poet Sarah Meade, contributor to HOP TO IT: POEMS TO GET YOU MOVING (Pomelo Books, 2020!

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique/Zoom Chat (Non-rhyming) from children’s author Janie Reinart, author of WHEN WATER MAKES MUD: A STORY OF REFUGEE CHILDREN (Blue Whale Press, 2021)!

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (Rhyming) PLUS Zoom Chat from developmental editor Lou Piccolo! Lou studied English Literature, creative writing and teaching at university in South Africa. After working as an EFL teacher in France for twenty years, she studied proofreading and editing before becoming a developmental editor of children’s and young adult’s literature for independent authors. She is a graduate of Renee LaTulippe’s Lyrical Language Lab – Punching Up Prose With Poetry course and Making Picture Book Magic, the in-house writer for Editions Entrefilet’s language-learning magazine ‘Go English Kids’ for children of 8-12 in France, and a traditionally published author of MG and YA fiction with Burlington Books.

Developmental Editor, Lou Piccolo

⭐️ Connecting With School Librarians! Fabulous Opportunity for published or soon to be published authors! Winner’s Choice of either a Zoom or phone chat about how to connect with school librarians and get their ear or an Ask Me Anything Zoom or phone chat about K-8th grade author visits from a librarian’s POV from Kathy Halsey. Kathy Halsey is Storyteller Academy’s Community Manager and Ambassador. She enjoys writing picture books, humor, and nonfiction. Kathy’s active in SCBWI and blogs with other kid lit writers on the GROG. She serves on the Choose to Read Ohio Advisory Council and speaks at educational and literary conferences. Kathy’s a former K-12 school librarian and children’s bookseller. She writes monthly author studies for the Reading for Research Month along with Keila Dawson.

Writer, librarian, bookseller, blogger Kathy Halsey

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (Rhyme or Prose, fiction only) from children’s author Shelley Kinder! Shelley is the author of NOT SO SCARY JERRY (Spork 2017), THE MASTERPIECE (Spork 2018) and GOD AND ME AND THE SEA (Kregel Children’s Books, May 17, 2022)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (written) PLUS 15 minute Zoom Chat (no nonfiction) from Cindy Williams Schrauben author of THIS COULD BE YOU (Cardinal Rule Press, April 1, 2022)!

⭐️ Zoom Visit to a classroom or to kids at home by children’s author Ellen Leventhal! Ellen is the author of DON’T EAT THE BLUEBONNETS (Spork, 2017), LOLA CAN’T LEAP (Spork, 2018), HAYFEST: A HOLIDAY QUEST (ABCs Press, 2010), and A FLOOD OF KINDNESS (WorthyKids, 2021)

Author, Ellen Leventhal

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Heather Gale, author of HO’ONANI: HULA WARRIOR (Tundra Books, 2019) which was one of the New York Public Library’s Best Books for Kids 2019, one of the Ontario Library Association’s 2019 Top Ten Titles, Featured on the 2020 Rainbow Book List, Featured on the 2020 Rise: A Feminist Book Project List, and received a Booklist Starred Review!

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Maria Marshall! Maria is a children’s author, blogger, and poet passionate about making nature fun for children. She’s a judge for the Cybils Awards and the #50PreciousWords competition. Four of her poems are published in The Best Of Today’s Little Ditty anthologies. When not writing, critiquing, or reading, she bird watches, travels the world, bakes, and hikes. The Picture Book Buzz  Website  Facebook  Twitter  Instagram

Maria Marshall

⭐️ A Reversible Handmade Christmas Stocking or Other Winter or Holiday-Themed Gift Bag from Karen Gebbia PLUS a Personalized Signed Copy of CURIOSITY’S DISCOVERY by Nancy Derey Riley to fill it!

⭐️ Personalized Signed Copy of either QUEEN OF PHYSICS:How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom (Sterling Children’s Books 2019) or TWO BICYCLES IN BEIJING (Albert Whitman 2020) (Winner’s Choice!) by Teresa Robeson

PLUS!!!

a Personalized Signed Copy of either LISTEN (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books 2021) or TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE (Harry N. Abrams 2020) (Winner’s Choice!) by Gabi Snyder

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⭐️ Personalized Signed Copy of THE QUEEN AND THE FIRST CHRISTMAS TREE: Queen Charlotte’s Gift to England (Albert Whitman 2018) by Nancy Churnin PLUS a Digital Copy of THE STAR IN THE CHRISTMAS PLAY (Beaming Books 2018) by Lynne Marie

⭐️ Personalized Signed Copy of MY SCHOOL STINKS! (Philomel July 2021) by Becky Scharnhorst PLUS a Kindle or Audiobook Copy of either FUNNY JIMMY (AuthorHouse 2011) or THE HAUNTED HOUSE OF RIDDLES (Avid Readers Publishing Group 2011) (Winner’s Choice!) by Vanessa Rose Lee

⭐️ Winner’s Choice of 2 of the following 4 picture books, kindly donated by Dee Knabb!

With so many great prizes up for grabs I hope there will be a lot of entries – the more the merrier!  And you’ve still got a couple days to write, so you can squeeze in under the wire if you haven’t written yet.  Feel free to spread the word to your writing friends as well.  And your reading friends – parents, teachers, etc.  The more people who read and enjoy your stories, the better!!!

Contest Entrants, remember you MUST post your entry in the comment section below and include title, byline, and word count.

Eager Readers – just go along the list of links below, click on them (they’ll take you directly to whichever story you click on), and enjoy the stories!

So let the Holiday Contest begin!

Happy Writing and Happy Holidays! 😊 ☃️ ✡️ ⭐️ ❄️ 🎄🕯🕎

I can’t wait to read your entries!!!

THE ENTRIES!

  1. It Takes A Forest – Lucretia Schafroth
  2. The Kelpie Challenge – Bonnie Kelso
  3. The Cookies Of Holiday Hollow – Royal Baysinger
  4. Elf Off The Shelf – Anne Lipton
  5. The Trolls: A Winter Tale – Royal Baysinger
  6. Upon A Winter Solstice – Royal Baysinger
  7. So You Think You Can Prance – Amy Leskowski
  8. The Festive Flying Race – Nicola Beach
  9. Grumble’s Silent Night – Katrina Swenson
  10. Birdie’s Song – Beth Stillborn
  11. The Holiday Homework – Sue Lancaster
  12. How Tiny Won A Seat On Santa’s Sleigh – Elizabeth Westra
  13. The Claus’ Candy Cane Contest – Susan Schipper
  14. He Knows If You’ve Been Bad Or Good – Colleen Murphy
  15. Olive, The Other Reindeer – Lindsay Moretti
  16. Go Green For Christmas – Margaret Zotkiewicz
  17. Tree Number Nine – Lindsey Hobson
  18. Christmas Boots – P.J. Purtee
  19. Ellarose’s Sweater – Marta Cutler
  20. A Fourth Grader’s Poster Problem – Jennifer Vose
  21. A Buggie Tradition – Kay Inglis
  22. Kendy And The Solstice Solo Show – Sarah Meade
  23. Elsie And The Christmas Comedy Contest – Sarah Meade
  24. The Better Elf On The Shelf – Molly Ippolito
  25. Ernie And The Science Fair – Deborah Foster
  26. Mr. Tweedy’s Christmas Trees – Colleen Fogarty
  27. Best Wrapped Surprise – Sara Dean
  28. Christmas Eve Ride Along Contest – Dawn Young
  29. The Christmas Tree Contest – Dorothy K. Kohrherr
  30. Alfredo Learns The Secret Of Greatness – Joan Leotta
  31. The Pretty Ugly Sweater – Pamela Swanson
  32. Tree Of The Year – Lisa Varchol Perron
  33. Jamie’s Holiday Surprise – Diana Sussman
  34. Katie’s Snow Creation – Marty B.
  35. The Tasty Treat Christmas Contest – Katie Brandyberry
  36. Santa’s Secret Contest – Linda Staszak
  37. Phoebe’s Snowperson – Kelly Clasen
  38. The Star – Reed Hilton-Eddy
  39. THAT’S Not A Christmas Cookie! – Vanessa Konoval
  40. Candy Pies – Sharon McCarthy
  41. Solstice Skaters – Allison Strick
  42. The Best Gift Ever – Pen Avey
  43. The Most Christmassy House – Jen MacGregor
  44. Candy Caribou – Steena Hernandez
  45. A Christmas Pickle Story – Daniella Kaufman-Schloss
  46. Shining Star – Sarah Hawklyn
  47. Grumpy Snow Pants – Stephanie Maksymiw
  48. The Best Reading Contest Of Winter, 1959 – Beth Schmelzer
  49. Playground Games – Colleen Dougherty
  50. Simply The Best – Nicole Loos Miller
  51. Bear’s Christmas Cookie – Marta Cutler
  52. Happy Everything! – Laura Barens
  53. Dancing With The Elves – Jill Lambert
  54. A Creature Was Stirring – Judy Sobanski
  55. The Monster On Christmas Eve – Elizabeth Meyer zu Heringdorf
  56. What Christmas Means To Me – Marty Findley
  57. A Miscalculation – Emily Durant
  58. Lily And The Winter Festival – Karen J Moore
  59. 2021 Monkey Merry Xmas – Shariffa Keshavjee
  60. The Ginger Friend House – Kelly Swemba
  61. Gingerbread House Extravaganza – Elaine D’Alessandro
  62. Parol: This Little Star Of Mine – Lynn Grace Wong
  63. Christmas Song – YauMei Chiang
  64. Reindeer Games – Tiffany Hanson
  65. The Cookie Contest Caper – Kelsey E. Gross
  66. The Clean-Out-The-Clutter Contest – Sarah Demarest Guthrie
  67. The Contest – Amanda Sherlock
  68. Asher’s Chanukiah – Dina Silverberg
  69. Best Hanukkah Ever! – Paul Kurtz
  70. Cinder-Latke – Paul Kurtz
  71. Bunny Claus – Donna Kurtz
  72. Jangle Shells – Donna Kurtz
  73. Spin – Cheryl Simon
  74. Fantastical Fairytown Christmas Snowflake Contest – Ellen Crosby
  75. The Winning Recipe – Judy Abelove Shemtob
  76. The Greatest Display Of All – Barbara Kimmel
  77. Sparky’s Wish – Ingrid Boydston
  78. The Night After Christmas – Abby N. Wooldridge
  79. The Claus’s Hawaiian Vacation – C. S. Boyll
  80. Gifts For Grandma – Cindy Sommer
  81. Keep Christmas Coming – Jeannette Suhr
  82. The Most Special Ornament – Timothy Hicks
  83. Santa’s Workshop Winners – Polly Owen
  84. Elfie Selfie Contest – Stephanie Henson
  85. The Great Holiday Bake Off – Jamie Donahoe
  86. Laughing All The Way – Sarah Hetu
  87. The Perfect Christmas Star – Jennifer Lowe
  88. A Sack Full Of Presents – Patricia Nozell
  89. Fairy Tale Houses – Jim Chaize
  90. Christmas…By A Nose – Jesse Anna Bornemann
  91. Reindeer Sing…Are You Listening? – Katie Schwartz
  92. Christmas Carrots – Vashti Verbowski
  93. Being Santa Lucia – Cindy Greene
  94. Nun, Gimel, Hei, Shin – Who Will Win? – Stephanie Wildman
  95. ANDRÉS BLUE RIBBON – Carmen Castillo Gilbert
  96. The Chubby Bunny Champion – Alicia Meyers
  97. Up And Away! – Kristy Roser Nuttall
  98. Christmas Isn’t – Ingrid Boydston
  99. The Christmas Pirate – Julianna Kurtz
  100. Maryam’s Happy Persian Christmas – Shadi Kafi
  101. The Most Beautiful Snowflake Of All – Cassie Silva
  102. Fire And Ice – Jyn Hall
  103. The Santa Spectacle – Mary Cathering Amadu
  104. A Jarring Contest – Bru Benson
  105. Everything – Sandhya Acharya
  106. Similarity Despite Diversity – Eva Felder
  107. O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree – Becky Goodman
  108. Solstice Wars! – Phoebe Browning
  109. Gingerbread Surprise – JC Kelly
  110. Squirrels Christmas – Charlotte Boyer
  111. The Holiday Contest – Denise Seidman
  112. The Witch’s Gingerbread House – Lauri Meyers
  113. Elf Rivalry – Michelle S. Kennedy
  114. Dream Big, Little Pip! – Sally Yorke-Viney
  115. An Extraordinary Elf – Becky Kimbrough
  116. Jasmine Jingletoes And The Christmas Stocking Contest – Brenda Covert
  117. Let There Be (MORE!) Lights – Judy Carey Nevin
  118. Laughing All The Way – Samantha Gassman

The 2021 Halloweensie Contest WINNERS!!!

Hi Everyone!

Welcome to Perfect Picture Book Friday!

Today’s perfect picture book is called Goosebumps.

Put a piece of pumpkin bread on a plate, pull up a pillow, and let’s peruse this perfect picture book together!

Ready?

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

On Halloween, Gertie McCrackin fluffed up the straw in her broom tail.

“Let’s go, Blinx,” she cackled to her cat. “We’re going to give those kiddies goosebumps tonight!”

Blinx blinked. He didn’t care what they did as long as they went F A S T while they were doing it.

Gertie mounted her broom, adjusted her bulging panniers, and set Blinx up behind her.

“Away we go!” shrieked Gertie. “AH-HAHAHAHAHA!”

Blinx’s yellow eyes glowed in the dark as they took off into the night.

The broomstick zigged and zagged, zipped and zoomed.

The rushing wind blew Blinx’s fur flat, made his eyes squint, and threatened to blow him off the broomstick.

Was there anything better than speed?

They tore across the sky, emptying the panniers onto the kids below – handfuls (and pawfuls) of dust that Gertie’s magic turned to white crystals in the air.

“Ooh, goody!” the kids crowed. “It’s snowing!”

They danced with delight.

Maybe there was one thing better than speed. . . or at least as good as.

“I told you we’d give them goosebumps,” cackled Gertie.

Blinx had goosebumps, too!

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Ah, wasn’t that a perfect picture book?

Alrighty, then.

Thanks for stopping by.

Enjoy your Friday.

Rest up.

Eat some bonbons.

Have a lovely weekend!

Oh, wait!

You guys have got to keep me in line!

I’m not doing Perfect Picture Book Friday today!

So just forget all that stuff above because today is all about. . .

the 2021 11th Annual Pretty Much World Famous Halloweensie Contest WINNERS!

As you are all aware by now, we had an amazing turnout for Halloweensie 2021 – 294!!! entries!

I was thrilled beyond measure to see so many wonderful stories and meet so many new writers!  And I don’t know about you guys, but for me Halloween is all the better for 294 fabulous stories to read by jack -o’ – lantern light! 😊☢️

With large entry numbers come hard choices, though.  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 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 (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-around well-written stories we loved that just missed the finals for one small reason or another!)

Heather Ferranti Kinser for Mean Halloween

Emily Durant for A Helpful Ghost

Barbara Kimmel for The Perfect Pumpkin

Ellen Seal for Halloween Helpers

Kathleen Lowry for Teal Halloween

Molly Ippolito for Itsy B. Spider

Ann Grilli for Tricky Treat

Melissa-Jane Nguyen for Halloween Bites

Pat Finnegan for Gotcha!


2. For Great Use of Language: (not already in the finals)

Alicia Meyers for How To Steal A Halloween Treat

Amy Leskowski for Warning: May Contain Sugar (great tongue twister!)

Jamie Donahoe for My Word – It’s Halloween! (great alliteration)


3. For Spookiest/Creepy Entry: (not already in the finals)

Denise Seidman for Halloween Scavenger Hunt

Glenda Roberson for The Mansion On Maple

Laura Howard for This Pumpkin’s Not For Picking


4. For Excellent Story Telling From Young Writers!

Ames Jegan (age 11) for Capture The Goodies On Halloween


5. For Great Humor: (not already in the finals)

Krista Harrington for The Greatest Night Of The Year

Barbara DiMarco for Ogre’s Halloween

Nancy Derey Riley for Disguise Surprise

6. For Entries That Were Clever & Fun (not already in the finals)

Susan Summers for A Witchy Potion

Patricia Nozell for Tricky Treat

Bonnie Kelso for All Hallows Eve At The Roller Rink

Alexa Tuttle for You Are What You Eat

Samantha Sinclair for The After Party

7. For Poignant Entries (not already in the finals)

JC Kelly for Can We Please Skip The Costumes?

Corine  Timmer for Rainbow  Bridge

Melissa Miles for Home For Halloween

8. For Nice Message (not already in the finals)

Amy Reitz for Post Halloween Goals

David McMullin for Enough


9. For Great Read For Younger Readers: (not already in the finals)

Kathy Raggio for Pumpkin Train

10. For Unique Concept

Sharon McCarthy for Thank You, Trick-or-Treaters! For Protecting Your Mother

11. For Multiple Well-Written Entries

Sue Ko for It’s Dark In Here, Eyelashes, & Fall

Congratulations to all of you for fantastic elements of your stories!  You may all email me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com or use the handy contact form in the menu bar above, subject line Prize Winner to collect your prize, which is (and I have to be cryptic here because when I said it right out last year I got a LO-HO-HOT! of spam email!) a gift of a number of dollars that is between 4 and 6, for a large and well-known online store that begins with A, which will be presented to you in an email 😊 You can spend it on one of the many Kindle choices listed in previous contests here, or add it to your account for a gift for yourself or someone else, or whatever else you might choose to do! In addition, you will receive a beautiful badge of achievement that you may display on your blog or print out and frame or turn into a flag to carry with you everywhere and wave out the window of your hybrid pumpkin 😊

A word about the prizes before I announce the winners.

We have 13 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 😊

Now.

Finally!

Onto the moment you’ve all been waiting for. . .

. . . THE WINNERS OF THE 2021 HALLOWEENSIE CONTEST as chosen by you, our esteemed voters!!!!!

In First Place, winner of the whole entire contest and top of the heap who gets first choice of all the prizes…

Mary Catherine Amadu

for

Trick-or-Treat Night Animals!: A Holloween Story

Congratulations, Mary!

In Second Place,

Jen MacGregor

for

Santa’s Halloween

Congratulations, Jen! You get first choice of the prizes that are left after Mary chooses!

In Third Place,

Donna Kurtz
 for
Bunny’s Bored!

Congratulations, Donna! You get first choice of the prizes that are left after Mary and Jen choose!

In Fourth Place,

Ingrid Boydston
for
A Few Of The Scariest Things: A Parody to the tune of My Favorite Things

Congratulations, Ingrid! You get to pick a prize after Mary, Jen, and Donna.

In Fifth Place,

Scott Kinder
for
Jellyfish George’s Halloween

Congratulations, Scott! You get to pick your prize after Mary, Jen, Donna, and Ingrid.

In Sixth Place,

Colleen Murphy
for
How Hannah Saved Halloween

Congratulations, Colleen! You get to pick your prize after Mary, Jen, Donna, Ingrid, and Scott!

In Seventh Place,

Kaye Wright
for
Astronaut Aidan

Congratulations, Kaye! You get to pick your prize after Colleen!

In Eighth Place,

Kristen Littlefield
for
It’s Halloween In Toothytown

Congratulations, Kristen! You get to pick your prize after Kaye!

In Ninth Place,

Reed Hilton-Eddy
for
My Last Trick-or-Treat

Congratulations, Reed!  You get to pick a prize after Kristen…!

In Tenth Place

Kari Ann Gonzalez
for
Kit’s Costume

Congratulations, Kari Ann!  You get to prize pick after Reed!    

In Eleventh Place

Holly Vagley
for
Pumpkin’s Halloween

Congratulations, Holly!  You get to pick a prize after Kari Ann.    

In Twelfth Place

Jennifer Kaap
for
The Witch’s Mistake

Congratulations, Jennifer! You get to pick your prize after Holly!

In Thirteenth Place

Sue Lancaster
for
The Haunted House High Up On The Hill

Congratulations, Sue! You get to pick your prize after Jennifer!

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 Pretty Much World Famous Halloweensie Contest!  Not just anyone can say that 😊

All the winners should email me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com or use the handy contact form in the menu above with the subject heading Prize Winner so we can work out details for you to receive your prizes!  If you choose a prize that requires snail mailing, PLEASE include your snail mail address so we don’t have to email back and forth too many times 😊  If you would like a beautiful badge to celebrate your accomplishment, you are most welcome to one! Since everyone’s prize depends on everyone else’s choices, please get in touch as soon as you can.

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, a confetti parade, and a truckload of  leftover fun-sized chocolate. . . if there is any 😊

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, or by donating a prize!  It’s because of all of you that this contest was such a success, so many, many thanks from the bottom of my heart!

And before we go, I will give you all advance warning so you can start planning a little time into your December schedule…

Assuming you guys are up for it – and you’d better let me know in the comments!!! – the 11th Annual Holiday Writing Contest will be coming up sometime in the neighborhood of December 5 so we can all fully enjoy it and still have time for last minute holiday things.  I will do my best to post the rules well in advance (maybe a few days before Thanksgiving, good lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise! 😊 although yikes that’s just around the corner!) so you all have time to work on your stories!  But please let me know if you feel like it’s too much and you’d rather not do it!

Have a terrific weekend everyone, and thanks again for making the Halloweensie Contest such a wonderful time for all! 😊

The Prizes:  SO AMAZING! What a generous community we have to donate so much awesomeness!!! 😊

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique by Dawn Young, author of THE NIGHT BAAFORE CHRISTMAS (WorthyKids, 2019), COUNTING ELEPHANTS (Running Press Kids, 2020), THE NIGHT BAAFORE EASTER (WorthyKids, 2021), THE NIGHT BAAFORE THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL (WorthyKids, 2021), and the brand new ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS (WorthyKids, October 19, 2021)!

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⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (nonrhyming) by Janie Reinart, author of WHEN WATER MAKES MUD: A STORY OF REFUGEE CHILDREN (Blue Whale Press, 2021)

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⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (biography) by Lindsey McDivitt, author of NATURE’S FRIEND: THE GWEN FROSTIC STORY (Sleeping Bear Press, 2018), TRUTH AND HONOR: THE PRESIDENT FORD STORY (Sleeping Bear Press, 2020), and A PLAN FOR THE PEOPLE: NELSON MANDELA’S HOPE FOR HIS NATION (Eerdman’s Books For Young Readers, 2021)

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⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (rhyming or any) or First 10 Pages of a longer MS (winner’s choice) by Kenda Henthorn, author of the forthcoming BAA, BAA TAP SHEEP (Sleeping Bear Press, April 15, 2022)

Kenda works in the aviation industry now so it’s no surprise that her writing inspirations and aspirations are sky-high, too.  She resides in Oklahoma and when the winds aren’t sweepin’ down the plains, Kenda enjoys acting, flying, kayaking and riding horses or her motorcycle.  (Vroom-vroom!)She has served as a Regional Coordinator for the Oklahoma SCBWI and a Best in Rhyme Award committee member and judge.

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⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (rhyming or lyrical) by Randi Sonenshine, author of THE NEST THAT WREN BUILT (Candlewick March 2020) and the forthcoming THE LODGE THAT BEAVER BUILT (Candlewick Fall 2022)

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⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique by Danielle Dufayet, author of YOU ARE YOUR STRONG (Magination Press, March 2019) and FANTASTIC YOU (Magination Press, September 2019)

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⭐️ Storyboard Notebook – a great way to draft your picture books! PLUS a deck of What’s The Story Cards to inspire the drafts! PLUS the Making Picture Book Magic Self Study Course to help you craft your draft!

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⭐️ Personalized signed copy of ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS by Dawn Young PLUS your choice of one of the writing craft books listed below!

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⭐️ Personalized signed copy of BRANCHES OF HOPE: The 9/11 Survivor Tree by Ann Magee PLUS your choice of one of the writing craft books listed below!

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⭐️ Personalized signed copy of MIMIC MAKERS: Biomimicry Inventors Inspired by Nature by Kristen Nordstrom PLUS your choice of one of the writing craft books listed below!

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⭐️ Personalized signed copy of A PLAN FOR THE PEOPLE: Nelson Mandela’s Hope for His Nation by Lindsey McDivitt PLUS your choice of one of the writing craft books listed below!

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⭐️ Personalized signed copy of THE NEST THAT WREN BUILT by Randi Sonenshine PLUS your choice of one of the writing craft books listed below!

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⭐️ Personalized signed copy of 13 WAYS TO EAT A FLY by Sue Heavenrich PLUS your choice of one of the writing craft books listed below!

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⭐️ Winners of the 6 signed picture books above may also receive their choice of any one of the following writing craft books to go along with their picture book:

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Writing Picture Books Revised and Expanded Edition: A Hands-On Guide From Story Creation to Publication by Ann Whitford Paul
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Writing Irresistible Kidlit: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grade Readers by Mary Kole
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The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories For Children by Nancy Lamb
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Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career by Nancy I. Sanders
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Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Beginning Readers and Chapter Books by Nancy I. Sanders
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Making a Living Writing Books for Kids: Tips, Techniques, and Tales from a Working Children’s Author by Laura Purdie Salas

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! 😊

The 11th Annual Halloweensie Writing Contest – FINALISTS!!! – Vote For Your Favorite!!!

I love running writing contests.

I really do.

Right up until the moment when I have to narrow a field of 300 fabulous stories down to a finalist list of 12 or so!

That’s the moment when I say to myself (every single time!), WHAT WAS I THINKING???!!! WHOSE IDEA WAS THIS WHOLE CONTEST THING ANYWAY???!!!

It’s all fun and games when the entries are rolling in, and each one is better than the last, and I’m enjoying the stories and marveling over everyone’s talent and creativity.

But then I have to evaluate all those wonderful entries – dissect and weigh and nitpick (and hem and haw and dither over every single one I have to let go) – because really, everyone steps up and does an amazing job, and there is at least something to like about all of them!

So here I am, along with my fellow judges, doing our best impressions of the Pillsbury Dough Boy after all the chocolate we’ve consumed to get us through this torturous decision-making, having not gotten out of our pajamas for days as we read and re-read. . . really, it’s a very good thing you can’t see us right now! 😊

Please know that we did the best we could to make good choices – entries that met the contest criteria, that were kid-friendly and Halloween-y and had a strong element of story (because those were big reasons why many entries were cut – too adult, not Halloween-y enough, not enough story – which we know is VERY hard in 100 words!)

I just want to say three little things before I post the actual finalists (shocking, I know, because normally I’m so quiet you can hardly get a word out of me 😊😊)

First, 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 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 reiterate 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 revise, expand, and polish if you like and maybe submit at some point to a magazine or as a PB manuscript.  A lot of people have successfully done that at this point – we have quite a few books in the world that were born in Halloweensie, Holiday, or Valentiny Contests, plus a chapter book series that came out of the Fractured Fairy Tale Contest one spring!  So bravo to everyone who entered!

So.

Are you ready for the finalists?

I hope you like them!

Please read through them all, then vote for your favorite in the poll below by Thursday November 11 at 3 PM Eastern (so I can post the winners on Friday!)

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 identify yourself or ask others to identify you as a finalist on social media, please do not ask people to vote for a specific number or title, and please do not ask people to vote for the story about the broomstick-riding vampire princess 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.

So here we go! Read! Enjoy! VOTE! 😊

1. JELLYFISH GEORGE’S HALLOWEEN                                    

Jelly George’s glow-in-the-dark skeleton costume arrived today.

He would FINALLY have bones!

“Just wait until my friends see how good I look. How creepy. And SOOOOO boney!”

George visited Susie Sponge’s house first. He rang her bell with excitement, full of goosebumps.

The door opened.

George could see envy seeping from Susie’s pores as she gave him candy.

She wanted bones too. And he was FULL of them.

George floated the night away, collecting goodies and passing his jelly buddies with their silly mediocre masks.

He felt like a king.

UNTIL he noticed …

David Dogfish eyeing him.

And DROOLING.

UH-OH.

2. SANTA’S HALLOWEEN

‘Tis Halloween evening, and up at the pole
ol’ Santa sneaks into his sleigh, with one goal.

“I know it’s not Christmas but I need a snack!
I’ll gather some goodies and—WHOOSH—I’ll be back.”

“Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer and—YIKES!
I didn’t expect to see skulls stuck on spikes!”

“Monsterly mayhem and ghouls on the streets?
Galloping goosebumps! Now where are the treats?”

But glow-in-the-dark decorations galore
shock Rudolph so much that he’s shook to his core.

“My poor little reindeer have had such a fright.
We’re outta this town—good riddance, good night!”

3. TRICK-OR-TREAT, NIGHT ANIMALS!: A HOLLOWEEN STORY  

Coyote was first to spot the stampede.
“Trick-or-Treaters! Hide!” he yelped with alarm,
hurrying into the big tree’s hollow.

Goose heard Coyote.
If Trick-or-Treaters scared fierce Coyote,
they must be goosebump worthy.
She honked and joined Coyote inside the tree.

Racoon heard Goose.
If Goose and Coyote feared Trick-or-Treaters,
Racoon couldn’t mask his nerves.
He chattered, then crammed into the hollow.

Cat heard Racoon.
She didn’t fancy herself a fraidy-cat,
but Trick-or-Treaters sounded ferocious.
She hissed, then jammed into the tree with the others.

Deep in the hollow, Coyote’s sharp teeth glowed-in-the-dark.

“Goody,” he drooled.

“Trick AND treats.”

4. A FEW OF THE SCARIEST THINGS: A Parody to the tune of My Favorite Things

Witches on broomsticks and vampires flying,
Frankenstein monsters and zombies not dying,
Ogres and aliens, all ghastly green!
I’m getting goosebumps ‘cause it’s Halloween!

Halloween night doesn’t make me feel merry.
Walking around in the dark is too scary.
Glow in the dark, that’s what I need to be.
Trick or treat goodies would all be for me!

Hey I’ve got it!
I could light up….
I know what I’ll be!
Bright lights and some tinsel, a glittering star!
A Halloween Christmas Tree!

5. BUNNY’S BORED!                             

“Won’t Easter ever come?” sighs Bunny. “I’m bored.”
He checks his calendar.
“Yay! Tonight’s Halloween—I’ll hide yummy glow-in-the-dark goodies.” Hopping through creepy woods, Bunny hears branches shake.
“What’s that?” Goosebumps spike up his back.
“ROARR!” Out jumps Monster.
“Eee-yoww!” Bunny dashes.
“Wait!” Laughing, Monster removes his mask.
“Santa?”
“I got bored waiting for Christmas.”
The ground trembles—
Killer-Robot clanks from the dark.
“Great costume!” cheer Bunny and Santa.
Red beams shoot from Killer-Robot’s eyes—
ZAAPPP!
Bushes explode into flames.
“Eee-yahh—he’s real!” Bunny and Santa skedaddle.
Killer-Robot’s head slides off.
“Tee-hee-hee!” Ms. Claus grins—
“HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE!”

6. HOW HANNAH SAVED HALLOWEEN                                                 

A wicked storm blows out the lights
up and down the street.
With costumes set, the children fret,
“They’ll cancel trick-or-treat.”
Except for hopeful Hannah who,
as always, starts to plan,
certain she will find a way
to shift from can’t to can.
She first imagines fireflies,
“Too scattered to control.”
She next considers candlelight.
“Too hard to hold and stroll.
Aha!” she says as goosebumps form.
“A perfect resolution!
We’ll use my sticks that glow-in-the-dark
for lighting substitution!
I’ll ride throughout the neighborhood,
deliver while it’s bright,
then everyone can still collect
their goodies when it’s night.”

7. MY LAST TRICK-OR-TREAT                             

It was the biggest house, once showy now spooky and scary with oodles of stairs that led to darkness; but this was my last Halloween.

Leaves crunched and the wind cried.

Alone except for goodies bumping in my bag.

Ahead, a glow-in-the-dark hand on a curtain at the window. A ghost? A ghoul? Goosebumps form.

Shadows surround me.

At the top a door – large and looming.

Knock, Knock.

CRRREEEEEEK.

A hand materializes from the darkness behind the door.

PLUNK.

I look in my bag.

I am filled with horror.

Looking back at me, one small box of … RAISINS!

8. THE HAUNTED HOUSE HIGH UP ON THE HILL 

Across a front door where no one dared roam,
Spider had woven a web-tastic home.
Dead in the middle, she stifled a cry.
“What?!” grumbled Goosebump, a ghost floating by.
“Halloween’s coming, the ONE night they call!
Children won’t notice… my cobweb will fall!”
Goosebump replied: “I know what to do…”
Then into the derelict mansion he flew;
He reappeared holding a luminous potion,
Splattered it over the web in one motion.
When tricksters arrived for their goodies, they spied
A cobweb that glowed-in-the-dark, stretching wide.
“Best not approach,” someone sounded unsure,
He scurried away…

To try the BACK door!

9. KIT’S COSTUME                                                                                            

“Finally, Halloween!”
Kit couldn’t wait to go trick-or-treating.
The ooey-gooey goodies, the goosebumps, the KIDS!
All he needed was a bit of black paint
and he could be part of it!
One last glob…
“Purrrrfect!”
Under the moon’s glow-in-the-dark light
Kit crept to the corner and peeked.
“Look Mum, a kitty!”
Kit beamed,
finally walking freely.
And with so many people in sight!
Kit marched with creative costumes,
devoured thrills, chills and too-much candy
Until…
He felt a wave of wet.
“SPRINKLERS!”
Kit raced to stay dry
but, the paint had…
“Run! SKUNK!”

“Well…that had been fun.” Kit sighed.

10. ASTRONAUT AIDAN                            

Spacesuit? Check.
Stuffed bear co-pilot? Check.
Rocketship? Almost.

Goosebumps covered Aidan’s arms.
This Halloween he was flying into space.

No huge piles of goodies like last year, he thought.
No parading through the streets with his brother either.

Nervously he waited to take flight.

“The nurses have a special surprise for you,” Mom encouraged.

Do all astronauts feel this topsy-turvy before take off, he wondered.

“Ready, Astronaut Aidan?” the nurse called.

Slowly the lights dimmed.
One by one, glow-in-the-dark stars shone from above.

Reassured, Aidan smiled.

From his seat aboard the radiation machine rocketship he bravely counted. “3, 2, 1 … blastoff!”

11. IT’S HALLOWEEN IN TOOTHYTOWN                     

It’s Halloween in Toothytown,
The ghouls and goblins gather ‘round.

Their trays arranged with cakes and pies,
In hopes of grabbing this year’s prize.

Miss Dragon’s Breath, the crusty judge,
Turns up her snout at Franky’s fudge.

She sneers at Ogre’s goosebump blintz,
And gags on Troll’s toejam with lint.

But Gremlin’s spicy pepper bread,
Makes Dragon hold her scaly head.

Her nostrils flare. She starts to wheeze,
And lets out a gigantic…

SNEEZE!

The goodies sizzle, snap, and spark,
Like pumpkins glowing in the dark. Miss Dragon’s eyes begin to brim,
“Now that’s a treat! Let’s all dig in!”

12. THE WITCH’S MISTAKE                     

OH, GOODY, my first victim! Goosebumps prickle my warty body.
“Trick-or-treat!”
At last I will turn these horrid children into delightfully frightful black cats!!
It was an easy potion: dog tears, firefly butts, swamp mud, and a fingernail of salt. Looks just like king-sized chocolate bars!
Yes, they all come running now. Greedy goblins!
I stifle a cackle and wait…
But instead of feline screeches and yowls, I hear…
“Woah! Check us out! We glow-in-the-dark! Best. Halloween. EVERRRRRR!!!”
OH, BOO! I can’t believe I mixed up the sugar and salt again. Worst. Halloween. Ever.

13. PUMPKIN’S HALLOWEEN                                                          

Alone near the farm truck, Pumpkin sagged and straightened his white tag like a tie.

Ryan zigzagged through the pumpkin patch. “Here’s the last one!”

Grandpa shook his head, “Cracked.”

Ryan touched Pumpkin’s white tag. “What’s it say?”

“Sound it out.”

Ryan traced the letters. “F-R-E-E. We’ll take Free home! Put two happy eyes and a great grin on his goose-bumply face!”

Glowing-in-the-dark on Ryan’s stoop, Pumpkin enjoyed the costumes. The giggles. “Halloween is beautiful…”

Ryan thanked her shining friend with goodies. “Your midnight snacks.”

Soon, Pumpkin’s light faded. His eyes drooped. But his smile didn’t. “I’m Free.”

So there you have them! Your 2021 Halloweensie Finalists!

(And yes, I realize we posted 13 finalists and 12 prizes, so I’ll dream up an extra prize!)

Please vote for your favorite in the poll below by Thursday November 11th at 3PM Eastern!

Tune in Friday November 12th to see THE WINNERS!!! – same bat time, same bat station 😊

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 truly cannot wait to see who you choose as the winner!  Good luck!!! 😊

The 11th Annual Halloweensie Writing Contest aahhhrrrooooOOOOO!!!

***FRIDAY NIGHT UPDATE***

Sorry for the delay in posting finalists, everyone! So many great entries – it’s really hard to narrow the field and it’s taking us longer than expected. I will do my best to post them no later than Monday afternoon, sooner if I can. Thank you all so much for your patience, and have a great weekend!

Witch’s wart and wing of bat! It’s time for. . .

The 11th Annual Halloweensie Writing Contest!!!

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~ for children’s writers ~

THE CONTEST: write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (children here defined as 12 and under) (title not included in word count) using the words glow-in-the-dark, goosebumps, and goodies.

  • Your story can be poetry or prose, scary, funny, sweet, or anything in between, but it will only count for the contest if it includes those 3 words and is 100 words. Get it? Halloweensie – because it’s not very long and it’s for little people 😊
    
  • You can go under the word count but not over!
  • Title is not included in the word count.
  • Also, being super clear for this year, glow-in-the-dark counts as 1 word (even though it looks like 4 😊)
  • You may use the words in any form i.e. glowed-in-the-dark, goosebumpley, goody (“Oh, goody!”, goody-two-shoes etc.), whathaveyou 😊
  • You are welcome to enter more than one entry – just remember you’ll be competing against yourself 😊
  • No illustration notes please!

And yes, I know 100 words is short, but that’s part of the fun and the challenge! We got just shy of 300 fantastic entries last year, so I know you can do it!

POST: your story in the comment section below between right now this very second and Sunday October 31st at Midnight – the witching hour! Please include your title, word count, and byline with your entry so that if your posting handle is MomNeedsAVacation I’ll still be able to tell who wrote your entry 😊

  • For those of you who would also like to post on your blogs, please feel free to do so! You are welcome to include the link to your blog with your entry in the comment section below so that people can come visit your blog, but all entries must be posted in the comment section of This Post between now and Sunday October 31st at Midnight.
  • 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! Contact button above or [susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com Please place your entry in the body of the email including your title and byline at the top NO ATTACHMENTS! They will not be opened.
  • I know how hard you all work on your entries, and how anxious you are to get them posted, but please try to be a little patient if your entry doesn’t show up immediately. Many comments have to be manually approved, and it sometimes takes me a little while to post entries that come in by email. I promise I will get to everything as soon as I can. I try never to leave my desk during contests, but sometimes it’s unavoidable 😊
  • Side Note: WordPress will not properly format entries written in the shape of a pumpkin (or anything else!) or with fancy or colored fonts or unusual spacing. No matter how great it looks in whatever program you compose it in, be forewarned that when you post it in the comment section it is going to be basic and I am not able to change that for you, I’m afraid.

THE JUDGING: in a grueling marathon over the days following the contest close, my devoted assistants and I will read and re-read and narrow down the entries to a finalist field of about 12 which will be posted here for you to vote on I hope by Friday November 5th (though if the judging takes longer than expected it might be a little later – we will do our best!) The winner will be announced Monday November 8th (good lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise 😊)

Judging criteria will be as follows:

  • 1. Kid-appeal! – These stories are intended for a young audience (ages 12 and under), so we’re looking for stories that children will enjoy and relate to.
  • 2.  Halloweeniness – the rules state a Halloween story, so it must be crystal clear that the story is about Halloween, not just some random spooky night.
  • 3. Use of all 3 required words and whether you came it at 100 words or less.
  • 4. Quality of story – entries must tell a story, including a main character of some kind and a true story arc even if it’s tiny 😊  Entries must not be merely descriptions or mood pieces.
  • 5. Quality of Writing: check your spelling, grammar, punctuation etc.  If you’re going to rhyme, give us your best 😊  Use and flow of language, correctness of mechanics, excellence of rhyme and meter if you use it, PROOFREADING!
  • 6. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.
  • 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: So amazing! What wonderful, generous people we have in our kidlit community! Just wait til you see what you can win!

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique by Dawn Young, author of THE NIGHT BAAFORE CHRISTMAS (WorthyKids, 2019), COUNTING ELEPHANTS (Running Press Kids, 2020), THE NIGHT BAAFORE EASTER (WorthyKids, 2021), THE NIGHT BAAFORE THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL (WorthyKids, 2021), and the brand new ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS (WorthyKids, October 19, 2021)!

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⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (nonrhyming) by Janie Reinart, author of WHEN WATER MAKES MUD: A STORY OF REFUGEE CHILDREN (Blue Whale Press, 2021)

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⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (biography) by Lindsey McDivitt, author of NATURE’S FRIEND: THE GWEN FROSTIC STORY (Sleeping Bear Press, 2018), TRUTH AND HONOR: THE PRESIDENT FORD STORY (Sleeping Bear Press, 2020), and A PLAN FOR THE PEOPLE: NELSON MANDELA’S HOPE FOR HIS NATION (Eerdman’s Books For Young Readers, 2021)

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⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (rhyming or any) or First 10 Pages of a longer MS (winner’s choice) by Kenda Henthorn, author of the forthcoming BAA, BAA TAP SHEEP (Sleeping Bear Press, April 15, 2022)

Kenda works in the aviation industry now so it’s no surprise that her writing inspirations and aspirations are sky-high, too.  She resides in Oklahoma and when the winds aren’t sweepin’ down the plains, Kenda enjoys acting, flying, kayaking and riding horses or her motorcycle.  (Vroom-vroom!)She has served as a Regional Coordinator for the Oklahoma SCBWI and a Best in Rhyme Award committee member and judge.

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⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (rhyming or lyrical) by Randi Sonenshine, author of THE NEST THAT WREN BUILT (Candlewick March 2020) and the forthcoming THE LODGE THAT BEAVER BUILT (Candlewick Fall 2022)

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⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique by Danielle Dufayet, author of YOU ARE YOUR STRONG (Magination Press, March 2019) and FANTASTIC YOU (Magination Press, September 2019)

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⭐️ Storyboard Notebook – a great way to draft your picture books! PLUS a deck of What’s The Story Cards to inspire the drafts! PLUS the Making Picture Book Magic Self Study Course to help you craft your draft!

⭐️ Personalized signed copy of ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS by Dawn Young PLUS your choice of one of the writing craft books listed below!

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⭐️ Personalized signed copy of BRANCHES OF HOPE: The 9/11 Survivor Tree by Ann Magee PLUS your choice of one of the writing craft books listed below!

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⭐️ Personalized signed copy of MIMIC MAKERS: Biomimicry Inventors Inspired by Nature by Kristen Nordstrom PLUS your choice of one of the writing craft books listed below!

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⭐️ Personalized signed copy of A PLAN FOR THE PEOPLE: Nelson Mandela’s Hope for His Nation by Lindsey McDivitt PLUS your choice of one of the writing craft books listed below!

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⭐️ Personalized signed copy of THE NEST THAT WREN BUILT by Randi Sonenshine PLUS your choice of one of the writing craft books listed below!

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⭐️ Personalized signed copy of 13 WAYS TO EAT A FLY by Sue Heavenrich PLUS your choice of one of the writing craft books listed below!

⭐️ Winners of the 6 signed picture books above may also receive their choice of any one of the following writing craft books to go along with their picture book:

Writing Picture Books Revised and Expanded Edition: A Hands-On Guide From Story Creation to Publication by Ann Whitford Paul
Writing Irresistible Kidlit: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grade Readers by Mary Kole
The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories For Children by Nancy Lamb
Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career by Nancy I. Sanders
Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Beginning Readers and Chapter Books by Nancy I. Sanders
Making a Living Writing Books for Kids: Tips, Techniques, and Tales from a Working Children’s Author by Laura Purdie Salas

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! 😊

Happy Writing! Happy Reading! And Happy Halloween!

Now, let the Halloweensie begin!

The 294 entries listed below are linked to where they appear in the comments so you can click on the titles and get right to them! (Assuming WordPress cooperates . . . fingers crossed!) Anyone who feels kind can start at the bottom of the list so those entries get some comments too! 🎃 😊

  1. Isolated For Halloween – S. J. Little
  2. A Halloween Time Machine – Sara Kruger
  3. Weather’s Trick, Witch’s Treat – Abby N. Wooldridge
  4. Halloween Is LIT! – Anne Lipton
  5. Kit’s Costume – Kari Ann Gonzalez
  6. Mean Halloween – Heather Ferranti Kinser
  7. A Witchy Switch – Katie Schwartz
  8. The Porchlight – Chris Garcia-Halenar
  9. Bruce Goose – Jessica Hinrichs
  10. Undersea Halloween – Vashti Verbowski
  11. Sweet Swap – Daniella Kaufman-Schloss
  12. The Halloween Witch – Trista Herring Baughman
  13. The Lonely Pumpkin Head – Elle Jaufret
  14. Hallows’ Eve – E. A. Peterson
  15. Whose Cat Is THAT? – Beth Stillborn
  16. This Pumpkin’s Not For Picking – Laura Howard
  17. The Jimjam – Carrie Karnes-Fannin
  18. Trick Likes Treats, But So Does Swoop – Melissa Valente
  19. The Haunted House High Up On The Hill – Sue Lancaster
  20. Tricked The Treats – Katie Fischer
  21. A Helpful Ghost – Emily Durant
  22. The Wraith On My Wrist or Ghostie Lost In City Mist – Sally Yorke-Viney
  23. Three Little Geese Do Halloween – Linda Williams Swanson
  24. A Glowing Solution – Nicole Loos Miller
  25. Warning: May Contain Sugar – Amy Leskowski
  26. How Hannah Saved Halloween – Colleen Murphy
  27. Double Meaning Halloween Knight – Debbie Meneses
  28. Untitled – Shariffa
  29. The Scavenger’s Feast Ball – Sarah Hetu-Radny
  30. ‘Tis The Season, Candy Eaters – Hannah Roy LaGrone
  31. Greta’s Glow-In-The-Dark Goosebumps – Susan E. Schipper
  32. Bobbing For Apples – Lyn Jekowsky
  33. The Perfect Pumpkin – Barbara Kimmel
  34. No More Sugar! – Sarah K. Rose
  35. Fairy-Fire – Vanessa Konoval
  36. Creepy Cook-Off – Sarah Meade
  37. Macy & Lucy’s Halloween – Sarah Meade
  38. Ghostly Linens – Stephanie Maksymiw
  39. Happy HOWL-oween – Lindsey Hobson
  40. Three Glowing Bats – Sherry Roberts
  41. Halloween Family Secret – Jennifer Mary Grolemund
  42. A Sick Day – Jany Campana
  43. The Pied Pumpkin Of Halloween – Marta Cutler
  44. Creatures From The Couch – Julie Hansen
  45. Alligator The Ghost – Marta Cutler
  46. Goose-Zilla – Linda Staszak
  47. Welcome To The Skeleton Dance – Sue Heavenrich
  48. Teal Halloween – Kathleen Lowry
  49. The Gloves – Stephanie Rondeau
  50. Ghoulie Rulies – Brenda Whitehead
  51. Tricky Treaters – P. J. Purtee
  52. Garth’s Game Changer – Darcee A. Freier
  53. Nabbed! – Abby Voss
  54. The Wart-Covered Tree – Danielle Arndt
  55. The Last Fall Firefly – Meagan T. Gentry
  56. Who Cares If It’s Cold? – Allison Strick
  57. Glenda’s Goosebumps – Susan Burd
  58. The Candy Thief – Meagan T. Gentry
  59. Halloween Hero – Rose Cappelli
  60. The Halloween Ball – Marta Cutler
  61. Scary-Go-Round – Catherine Catcho
  62. The Scariest Monster – Marty McCormick Bellis
  63. Fright Night – Marty Findley
  64. Halloween Eve – Barbara Renner
  65. Wilbur Werewolf – Deb Buschman
  66. Teeny Owl’s Spooky Halloween – Janet Parkinson Bryce
  67. No Room For Monsters – Jill Stuck
  68. Ghost House – HC Morris
  69. Boogie Man’s Bright Idea – Jenn Shetsen Wierda
  70. Swamp Beast Falls For Sweets – Jilanne Hoffman
  71. Have You Seen My Monster – Alan Elliott
  72. Halloween Hang-Ups – Russell Wolff
  73. Mark Lights The Way – Karyn Curtis
  74. Halloween Pie – Jill Stuck
  75. The Costume – C. E. King
  76. I’m Coming To Get You – Pat Holloway
  77. The Frightmare – Linda Staszak
  78. Frankie & Gigi: Trick Or Feet – Kira Barrett
  79. Home For Halloween – Melissa Miles
  80. Not The Costume I Wanted – Michelle S. Kennedy
  81. Goosey Glender’s Fall Feast – Bartybear
  82. Halloween Scavenger Hunt – Denise Seidman
  83. Stink Fairy’s Hallo-smelly-ween – Stacey Miller
  84. Hallowmas – Danielle S. Hammelef
  85. Goosebumps For Mother Goose – Lynne Marie
  86. How Do You Tickle A Ghost? – Kizzi Hutcheson
  87. Dragon Magic – Melissa Rotert
  88. Gretyl Hobbled Into Halloween History – Royal Baysinger
  89. Shiver And Sugar! – Abby Voss
  90. Monster Feast – Abby Voss
  91. Are You Ready To Trick-Or-Treat? – Corine Timmer
  92. Christmas In October – Vanessa Konoval
  93. Spooky ABCs – Alan Elliott
  94. Dragon And Pirate’s Halloween – Alan Elliott
  95. Tiny’s Halloween Flight – Carolyn C. Snelling
  96. Rainbow Bridge – Corine Timmer
  97. Great-Aunt Broomhilda – Josh Cohen
  98. Cirque Fantome – Kizzi Hutcheson
  99. A Knock On The Door – Pamela Swanson
  100. Trick-Or-Treat Nightmare – Cindy Sommer
  101. Worth The Climb – Armineh Manookian
  102. Thank You, Trick-Or-Treaters! For Protecting Your Mother – Sharon McCarthy
  103. Beware, Out There – Julie Lerczak
  104. The Haunted Bathroom – Jill Lambert
  105. Plan Bee – Jenny Morales
  106. “BOO!”K Spooky Halloween – Laura N. Clement
  107. The Witch’s Mistake – Jennifer Kaap
  108. Itsy B. Spider – Molly Ippolito
  109. Too Many Goodies – Rachel Krackeler
  110. Ghostmetics – Rozana Rajkumari
  111. Santa’s Halloween – Jen MacGregor
  112. My Scariest Halloween Night – Les Degnan
  113. Winnie Trick-Or-Treats – Dorothy Kohrherr
  114. Camping Surprise – Meredith Flory
  115. Halloween Hunt – Mary Ann Featherston
  116. The Glow-In-The-Dark Bowl – Kathy Scott
  117. The Haunted House – Carmen Castillo Gilbert
  118. Once Upon A Halloween – Colourbeam
  119. A Witchy Potion – Susan Summers
  120. A Giant Surprise – Susan Summers
  121. Hollow-Eeek! – Karen Keesling
  122. Once Upon A Halloween – Nadia Ali
  123. Halloween Battle: (Vampire) Squid vs. (Goblin) Shark – Laura Bower
  124. Happy, Happy Halloween – Claire Freeland
  125. Mr. O’Leary’s House – Nina Nolan
  126. Phantom Festival – Lynn Moore
  127. The Surprise Halloween Friend – Cindy Greene
  128. Goosebumps – Amy Flynn
  129. Ninja Goose And The Halloween Hi-Yah! – Deborah Foster
  130. Tricky Treat – Patricia Nozell
  131. A Halloween Snack – Debra Daugherty
  132. Escaping Planet Taradiddle – Colleen Daugherty
  133. First Halloween Treat – Natalie Cohn
  134. My Last Trick-Or-Treat – Reed Hilton-Eddy
  135. Glowing Ghost – Lauri C. Meyers
  136. hALLYween SPELL – Paul Roncone
  137. Halloween Love – Marla Yablon
  138. Cockroach’s Glowing Problem – Lori Himmel
  139. Scaredy-Cat Pat And The Haunted House – Sara Dean
  140. Let The Real Halloween Begin! – Lori Evans
  141. Ixchel’s Belizean Halloween – Blanca Manzanilla
  142. Emy Is Always Right – Katharyn R. Benessa
  143. Tricky Treat – Ann Grilli
  144. Jack’s Pumpkin Plan – Diana Murrell
  145. Lights In The Dark – Ivanka Dimitrova
  146. Fraidy Cat No More – Jennifer Cherry
  147. Galactic Trick-Or-Treat – Tiffany Hanson
  148. My Ghost Bubble Friend – Sheila R. Schmotzer
  149. R-R-R-Rattled – Gennie Gorback
  150. Glow-In-The-Dark Goodies – Leslie Collins
  151. Moonlit Love – Liz Kehrli
  152. Un-Spooky Halloween – Krista Legge
  153. Stella Shines – Laura Barens
  154. Tabby The Trouble Maker – Dawn Renee Young
  155. The Nameless Ghoul – Imelda Taylor
  156. How The Jack-O-Lantern Found His Real Smile – Sheri Palmer
  157. Halloween Chase – Connie Newbauer
  158. Spidey Sparkles – Angelique Lamour
  159. Never Trick A Witch – Tiffany Hanson
  160. Halloween Monster – Tiffany Hanson
  161. The Halloween Sleepover – Kelsey E. Gross
  162. Goose Bumped – Jen Subra
  163. The Rock – Trista Herring Baughman
  164. Halloween Pumpkin – Shariffa
  165. A Tricky Tattoo – Gregory E. Bray
  166. Brave, Adalaide – Katie Walsh
  167. March Of The Skeletons – Jill Richards Proctor
  168. Little Night Terrors – Obbverse
  169. The Mansion On Maple – Glenda Roberson
  170. The Graveyard Picnic – Gabrielle Cardwell
  171. Halloween Heebie-Jeebies – Karen Pickrell
  172. A Few Of The Scariest Things: A Parody To The Tune Of My Favorite Things – Ingrid Boydston
  173. The Witch Of Jekyll Island – Shampa Enayet
  174. FEELINGUNSEENONHALLOWEEN – Nicola Beach
  175. Hank’s Halloween Costume? (A Riddle In A Story) – Ken Major
  176. All Hallow’s Eve – Stacey Miller
  177. Molly’s Ghost – Hobbo
  178. The Witch’s House – Emma Wood
  179. My Word – It’s Halloween! – Jamie Donahoe
  180. Switched On And Off – Diana Webb
  181. A Night With Gran – Diana Webb
  182. Boys Will Be Boys – Matt Snyder
  183. Flicker Of A Cat’s Tail – Jacqui Boulter
  184. Pumpkin Train – Kathy Raggio
  185. The Alien – M. Waknitz
  186. Jellyfish George’s Halloween – Scott Kinder
  187. Skeleton’s Halloween – M. Waknitz
  188. Twyla Z. Witch – Lori Dubbin
  189. Witch’s Brew – K. Sibilia
  190. It’s Halloween – Elizabeth Muster
  191. Capture The Goodies On Halloween – Ames Jegen (age 11)
  192. (Not) A Very Scary Story – Linda Staszak
  193. Halloween Helpers – Ellen Seal
  194. Halloween Warning – Stephanie Henson
  195. Leaping Lizards! – Sharon Match
  196. Graveyard Bully – Jean James
  197. The Greatest Night Of The Year – Krista Harrington
  198. Halloween Hide And Seek – Melissa Wrex
  199. Trick Or Treat Night – Emily Keifer
  200. Oscar’s Irresistible Brew – Lucretia Schafroth
  201. All Hallow’s Eve At The Roller Rink – Bonnie Kelso
  202. My Halloween Crew – Alana DeVito
  203. Post Halloween Goals – Amy Reitz
  204. The Card Game – Cathy Lee
  205. Quiet Night – Thelia Hutchinson
  206. Trick-Or-Treat, Night Animals!: A Halloween Story – Mary Catherine Amadu
  207. A Halloween Tail – Janice Kay
  208. An Inch – Susan Leigh Needham
  209. Underwater Halloween – Judy Sobanski
  210. The Lonely Scarecrow – Sarah Atherton
  211. The Little Witch – Deborah Hunt
  212. Waking The Dead – Nancy Derey Riley
  213. A Not-So-Sweet Halloween – Erika Romero
  214. It’s Halloween In Toothytown – Kristen Littlefield
  215. Until It’s Safe – Brittany Saulnier
  216. First Halloween – Karen deWilde
  217. You Are What You Eat – Alexa Tuttle
  218. Once Upon A Halloween – Carrie O’Leary
  219. Goodie Ghost’s Halloween Screams – KJ Albright
  220. A Bunny Can Dream – Becky Walker
  221. Ogre’s Halloween – Barbara DiMarco
  222. Monster Lipstick – Kathi Morrison-Taylor
  223. Ghoulies Grand Soiree – MaryAnn Cortez
  224. Haunting Gnomes – Lindsay Moretti
  225. Goosebumped Ghoul And Scattered Skeleton – Sarah Kohls Roberts
  226. Not This Time – Sandhya Acharya
  227. How To Sneak A Halloween Treat – Alicia Meyers
  228. I Wish. . . – Amy Duchene
  229. Bram’s Hunt – Michaela Almeida
  230. Terrific Toothpaste! – Heather Gallagher
  231. The After Party – Samantha Sinclair
  232. The Final Hour – Ashlee MacCallum
  233. Halloween Gala – Tonnye Williams Fletcher
  234. Halloween Bites – Melissa-Jane Nguyen
  235. Double, Double Toilet Trouble – Stephanie Amargi
  236. Henley’s Haunted House – Jeannette Suhr
  237. Disguise Surprise – Nancy Derey Riley
  238. Enough – David McMullin
  239. Witches Aren’t Supposed To Be Afraid Of The Dark – Ally Piper
  240. Frankenpixie – Paul Kurtz
  241. Scaredy-Monster – Paul Kurtz
  242. Halloween’s The Worst! – Donna Kurtz
  243. Bunny’s Bored! – Donna Kurtz
  244. The Goblin Market – Aly Kenna
  245. Wilfred The Wizard – Nicola Thackrey
  246. Halloweenie – Jana Mattern
  247. The Last House On Halloween – Bru Benson
  248. Ghostly, Ghastly, Goosebumps – Janet F. Smart
  249. Astronaut Aidan – Kaye Wright
  250. The Halloween Dare – Erin Cleary
  251. Dracula’s First Halloween – Eleanor Cullen
  252. Pumpkin Dawn – TSW Sharman
  253. A Southern Halloween – Trista Herring Baughman
  254. The Candy Monster – Judy Cooper
  255. The Halloween Potty – Andrew Hacket
  256. It Absolutely Will Be A Fine Night – Susan Krevat
  257. Halloween Goodies – Una Belle Townsend
  258. It’s Dark In Here – Sue Ko
  259. Eyelashes – Sue Ko
  260. Fall – Sue Ko
  261. Too Dark – Rae Harkness
  262. Boo – Mary Ann Napolitano
  263. Much Too Goody – Sarah Hawklyn
  264. Candy Surprise – Julianna Kurtz
  265. Halloween Surprise – Judy Egan
  266. Trick-Or-Treat At 20 Below – Matthew Lasley
  267. Gotcha! – Pat Finnegan
  268. The House Next Door – Aundra Tomlins
  269. No Grownups! – Penny McNally
  270. The Halloween Party – Claire Schlinkert
  271. Can We Please Skip The Costumes? – JC Kelly
  272. How Would She Know? – Meredith Adams
  273. The Day After Halloween – Haven Blough
  274. Brujita’s Treat – Desi Vee
  275. Spooky Investigates – Jessica Murray
  276. The Best Medicine – Becky Falkum
  277. You Ain’t Nothin’ But A Hot Dog – Joyce Schriebman
  278. Witches Holiday – Nadia Nakib
  279. Halloween Hocus Potion – Shelley Kinder
  280. Goats And Goblins – Briana Joy McCormick
  281. Next Halloween – JC Kelly
  282. Pirate’s Halloween – Marjorie David
  283. Silly Goose – Sarah Marhevsky
  284. All’s Fair In Spook And Scare – Patricia J. Weaver
  285. Smartie Treat – Steena Hernandez
  286. Haunted Hunt – Dea Brayden and Linsday Brayden Ellis
  287. The Glow-In-The-Dark Goodies – Christopher Singleton, Sr
  288. Witches Woods – Bevin Rolfs Spencer
  289. Invite A Witch To Your Halloween Party?! – Holly Vagley
  290. Pumpkin’s Halloween – Holly Vagley
  291. Halloween Moon – Martha Holguin

Wheee-hee-hee! Witches In The Air! – Announcing The Guidelines For The 11th Annual Halloweensie Writing Contest!

So, I know it’s Monday and I don’t usually post on Mondays.

But this is a special Monday.

A Monday I post on almost every year (except when I’m really behind schedule and end up on a random Thursday…😊)

And you know what I’m about to say, right?

Of course you do!

This isn’t your first trip around the blog! (See what I did there?)

I removed a section of this post because although it was intended to be in good fun it caused offense to some people, which was never my intention.

So, get ready for. . .

The 11th Annual Halloweensie Writing Contest!!!

~ for children’s writers ~

So! Are you ready?

THE CONTEST: write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (children here defined as 12 and under) (title not included in word count) using the words glow-in-the-dark, goosebumps, and goodies.

  • Your story can be poetry or prose, scary, funny, sweet, or anything in between, but it will only count for the contest if it includes those 3 words and is 100 words. Get it? Halloweensie – because it’s not very long and it’s for little people 😊
  • You can go under the word count but not over!
  • Title is not included in the word count.
  • Also, being super clear for this year, glow-in-the-dark counts as 1 word (even though it looks like 4 😊)
  • You may use the words in any form i.e. glowed-in-the-dark, goosebumpley, goody (“Oh, goody!”, goody-two-shoes etc.), whathaveyou 😊
  • You are welcome to enter more than one entry – just remember you’ll be competing against yourself 😊
  • No illustration notes please!

And yes, I know 100 words is short, but that’s part of the fun and the challenge! We got just shy of 300 fantastic entries last year, so I know you can do it!

POST: your story in the comment section of the Official Contest Post between 12AM Eastern Friday October 29th (the day the official contest post will go up here) and Sunday October 31st at Midnight – the witching hour! (see, there are those witches again 😊)

  • For those of you who would also like to post on your blogs, please feel free to do so! You are welcome to include the link to your blog with your entry in the comment section of the Official Contest Post so that people can come visit your blog, but all entries must be posted in the comment section of the Official Contest Post between 12 AM Eastern Friday October 29th and Sunday October 31st at Midnight.
  • 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 Please place your entry in the body of the email including your title and byline at the top NO ATTACHMENTS! and please do not submit any entries before the official opening of the contest at 12AM Friday October 29th. They will not be accepted.
  • I know how hard you all work on your entries, and how anxious you are to get them posted, but please try to be a little patient if your entry doesn’t show up immediately. Many comments have to be manually approved, and it sometimes takes me a little while to post entries that come in by email. I promise I will get to everything as soon as I can. I try never to leave my desk during contests, but sometimes it’s unavoidable 😊

THE JUDGING: in a grueling marathon over the following days, my devoted assistants and I will read and re-read and narrow down the entries to a finalist field of about 12 which will be posted here for you to vote on I hope by Friday November 5th (though if the judging takes longer than expected it might be a little later – we will do our best!) The winner will be announced Monday November 8th (good lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise 😊)

Judging criteria will be as follows:

  • 1. Kid-appeal! – These stories are intended for a young audience (ages 12 and under), so we’re looking for stories that children will enjoy and relate to.
  • 2.  Halloweeniness – the rules state a Halloween story, so it must be crystal clear that the story is about Halloween, not just some random spooky night.
  • 3. Use of all 3 required words and whether you came it at 100 words or less.
  • 4. Quality of story – entries must tell a story, including a main character of some kind and a true story arc even if it’s tiny 😊  Entries must not be merely descriptions or mood pieces.
  • 5. Quality of Writing: check your spelling, grammar, punctuation etc.  If you’re going to rhyme, give us your best 😊  Use and flow of language, correctness of mechanics, excellence of rhyme and meter if you use it, PROOFREADING!
  • 6. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.
  • 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: So amazing! What wonderful, generous people we have in our kidlit community! Just wait til you see what you can win! (This list is still under construction, so there may be changes…!) (And in the interest of getting this posted I’m merely listing the prizes tonight – I will add details ASAP!)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique by Dawn Young, author of THE NIGHT BAAFORE CHRISTMAS (WorthyKids, 2019), COUNTING ELEPHANTS (Running Press Kids, 2020), THE NIGHT BAAFORE EASTER (WorthyKids, 2021), THE NIGHT BAAFORE THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL (WorthyKids, 2021), and the brand new ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS (WorthyKids, October 19, 2021)!

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (nonrhyming) by Janie Reinart, author of WHEN WATER MAKES MUD: A STORY OF REFUGEE CHILDREN (Blue Whale Press, 2021)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (biography) by Lindsey McDivitt, author of NATURE’S FRIEND: THE GWEN FROSTIC STORY (Sleeping Bear Press, 2018), TRUTH AND HONOR: THE PRESIDENT FORD STORY (Sleeping Bear Press, 2020), and A PLAN FOR THE PEOPLE: NELSON MANDELA’S HOPE FOR HIS NATION (Eerdman’s Books For Young Readers, 2021)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (rhyming or any) or First 10 Pages of a longer MS (winner’s choice) by Kenda Henthorn, author of the forthcoming BAA, BAA TAP SHEEP (Sleeping Bear Press, April 15, 2022)

Kenda works in the aviation industry now so it’s no surprise that her writing inspirations and aspirations are sky-high, too.  She resides in Oklahoma and when the winds aren’t sweepin’ down the plains, Kenda enjoys acting, flying, kayaking and riding horses or her motorcycle.  (Vroom-vroom!)She has served as a Regional Coordinator for the Oklahoma SCBWI and a Best in Rhyme Award committee member and judge.

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (rhyming or lyrical) by Randi Sonenshine, author of THE NEST THAT WREN BUILT (Candlewick March 2020) and the forthcoming THE LODGE THAT BEAVER BUILT (Candlewick Fall 2022)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique by Danielle Dufayet, author of YOU ARE YOUR STRONG (Magination Press, March 2019) and FANTASTIC YOU (Magination Press, September 2019)

⭐️ Storyboard Notebook – a great way to draft your picture books!

⭐️ Personalized signed copy of ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS by Dawn Young

⭐️ Personalized signed copy of BRANCHES OF HOPE: The 9/11 Survivor Tree by Ann Magee

⭐️ Personalized signed copy of MIMIC MAKERS: Biomimicry Inventors Inspired by Nature by Kristen Nordstrom

⭐️ Personalized signed copy of A PLAN FOR THE PEOPLE: Nelson Mandela’s Hope for His Nation by Lindsey McDivitt

⭐️ Personalized signed copy of THE NEST THAT WREN BUILT by Randi Sonenshine

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!  Lay in a good chocolate supply (no better time than right before Halloween for THAT!)! Butt In Chair! Pencils, pens, or keyboards ready! Put on your pointy black thinking cap (you know, to get in that Halloween mood 🧙🏿‍♀️ 😊!)  And write those prize-winning stories!!!

I can’t wait to read them!!! 😊

The 2021 Valentiny Contest WINNERS!!!

Rise and shine, my friends!

I know it’s Monday.

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

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

But.

BUT!

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

Yes!

It’s true!

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


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

No?

Ok, how about

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

Oh no, wait! I’ve got it!

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

I don’t know what’s happening here.

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

Who could that be?

But never mind, because GUESS WHAT?

It’s time to announce the WINNERS of

The 6th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest

~ for children’s writers ~

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

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

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

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

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

Elizabeth Volkmann for Class List

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

David McMullin for Brave Brave Brave (also funny 😊)

Laken Slate for The Brave Little Conversation Heart

M.R. Haqq for Soon

Mia Geiger for Peanut’s Brave Valentine’s Day

Ashlee Hashman for The Wildflower

Lindsey Hobson for U R Brave

Audrey Day-Williams for Legendary Valentine

Sara Ackerman for Arrrrr Is For Valentine

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

Donna Kurtz for The Owl and the Kitty-Kat

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

Una Belle Townsend for Six Secret Valentines

Jan Suhr for The Lost Valentine

Kaylee Gwarjanski for Mission: Cancel Cupid Call

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

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

3. For Original POV:

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

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

4. For Humor:

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

Catherine J Lee for The Valentine on My Shoe

Karyn Curtis for The Valentine’s Quest

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

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

Brenda Whitehead for Step-Brother Battle

Shannon Howarth Nelson for Super Brothers

Danielle S. Hammelef for Scaredy-Cat

6. For Beautiful Writing:

Ciara N M Greenwalt for The Gift Tree

Sandhya Acharya for Sarla Asks A Question

Jyoti Rajan Gopal for A Cocoon of Love

Amy Flynn for Tilly’s Great Big Heart

7. For Best Short Valentiny Story:

P. J. Purtee for A Simple Valentine

8. For Sweet Valentiny:

Kelly Swemba for Brave For Gigi

Anne Bromley for Caleb’s Heart

Carmen Castillo Gilbert for Roses From Valentina

9. Best Story From A Young Writer:

Sophia Zafra for Bravery Is From The Heart

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

And now…

…the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

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

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

DDDRRRUUUMMM RRROOOLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!

In First Place

Winner of the whole shebang…

who gets first choice of all the prizes…

Sarah McDermott
for

Lemur in Love!!!

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

In Second Place

Sarah Meade
for
Jana’s Valentine Visit

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

In Third Place

Nancy Derey Riley
for
Percy’s Valentine

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

In Fourth Place

Jessica Hinrichs
for
Valentine’s Gotcha Day

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

In Fifth Place

Carrie Boone
for
The Ballad of Bad Bart

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

In Sixth Place...

Nicole Loos Miller
for
Stella & Hank

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

In Seventh Place…

Paul Kurtz
for
Someone Special!

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

In Eighth Place…

Chambrae Griffith
for
Octopus Hugs

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

In Ninth Place…

Janie Reinart
for
Untangled Valentines

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

In Tenth Place…

Anne Lipton
for
Most Valuable Valentine

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

In Eleventh Place…

Katie Brandyberry
for
Valentine Delivery

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

In Twelfth Place…

Lauri C. Meyers
for
Charmadillo

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

In Thirteenth Place…

Judy Sobanski
for
Brave Little Friends

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

In Fourteenth Place…

Samantha Haas
for
Valentine’s Day Rocks

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

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

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

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

Have a marvelous Monday, everyone! 😊

The Prizes:  Swoonworthy!

Hannah VanVels – Agent, Belcastro Agency – PB MS Critique

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

(from Belcastro Agency’s website)

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

Renee LaTulippe

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

Dawn Young

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

Kirsti Call

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

Melissa Stoller

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

Becky Scharnhorst

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

Ellen Leventhal

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

Rebecca Kraft Rector

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

Julie Abery


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

Author Jenna Waldman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roses are red

Violets are blue

Valentinies rock

And so do YOU!

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

The 6th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest

~ for children’s writers ~

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

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

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

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

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

Amazing wonderful Valentiny Contest story.😊

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

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

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

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

Judging criteria will include:

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

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

Hannah VanVels – Agent, Belcastro Agency – PB MS Critique

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

(from Belcastro Agency’s website)

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

Renee LaTulippe

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

Dawn Young

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

Kirsti Call

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

Melissa Stoller

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

Becky Scharnhorst

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

Ellen Leventhal

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

Rebecca Kraft Rector

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

Julie Abery


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

Author Jenna Waldman

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can’t wait to read your stories!!!

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

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

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

The 2020 Holiday Contest WINNERS!!!

Well hi there, my little snowflakes!

You’re just in time for some high jinx and shenanigans!

I’m always on the lookout for those fun holiday quizzes, but let’s face it: we’ve done Elf Names, and Reindeer Names, and that pretty much covers the available options. Last year I made up a What Kind of Christmas Cookie are you quiz. . . which was entertaining. . . but now we’ve done that too.

So this year I’ve decided to combine holiday quiz tomfoolery with writing prompt/idea generation! Try out this one!

I will not even try to deny that some of these combinations work better than others 😊 But I don’t mind if you cheat a little and use the first letter of your middle or last name or the month your pet iguana was born to get a better result 😊

My Holiday Picture Book Title is The Littlest Cookie (or, because there’s an alternative on that one, The Biggest Cookie, which is probably more appropriate!) But I think I could write either of those stories and have fun doing it! I might add in a type of cookie. . . The Littlest Sugar Cookie or The Biggest Peppermint Supreme Cookie. Or I might expand one way or the other: The Teeniest Tiniest Itty Bittiest Cookie or The Most Gigantic Christmas Cookie of All Time! But have a go and see what you get and share your title in the comments if you want to!

Wasn’t that fun?

Don’t you feel like you just got a little surprise holiday gift?

I bet those writerly brain cells are already humming!

So you’re welcome, and I won’t keep you from getting words on the page!

Go forth! Write! Create!

And enjoy your holidays!

Merry Christmas!

Happy Hanukkah!

Wondrous Solstice!

Happy New Year!

Etc. etc.!

See you in 2021!

Uh. . .

Were you expecting something else?

I already gave you your next picture book idea AND JOY!

What more could you want?

Oh, silly me.

There I go again, just completely forgetting the only reason you came to see me today!

I guess, now that you mention it, it IS time to find out who won

THE 10TH ANNUAL HOLIDAY CONTEST!!!

~ for children’s writers ~

As always, I was thrilled to see so many wonderful stories!  Really!  It is amazing and inspiring, not to mention VERY entertaining!  There is just so much talent out there amongst you all!

But as you well know by now, 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 on Monday (ahem, okay, technically it was Tuesday 😊) for your vote.

There were, however, a few entries that barely missed being finalists, and 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, a lovely badge, 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!)

Kaitlyn Sikes for ‘Twas A Cold Winter Solstice (beautifully written!)

Jessica Hinrichs for The Merry Melody Farm (also great for younger readers!)

Randi Lynn Mrvos for Four Things (also wonderful kid voice!)

Jilanne Hoffman for Promises Are For. . . (a poignant exploration of promises dishonored and promises kept)

Deborah Clayton for The Song of the Stable Mouse (a sweet, kid-friendly retelling of the Christmas story from the POV of a little mouse, nicely written!)

Elyse Trevers for Baia’s Bags of Blessings (a timely story of generosity and spreading the joy of Chanukah even in difficult times)

Laurie Carmody for The Holiday Henchman (a glimpse of Christmas from the naughty side that kids will enjoy)

Linda Schueler for Planting Smiles (a believable story of reluctance turning to understanding)

Patricia Nozell for Star (a miniature horse with a big heart who finds her own way to shine)

Cathrene Valente Youngquist for The Toymaker and the Christmas Tomte (told like a folk or fairy tale)

Mary Vander Plas for Oy to the World: An Ode to 2020 (so fitting!)

Shannon Howarth Nelsen for Christmas Bread (so evocatively written we could almost smell the bread)

2. For Make This A Picture Book! 😊

Ashlee Hashman for Gingerbread Construction Crew

3. For Great Depiction of Sibling Relationships

Pamela Love for Angel’s A

Melissa Trempe for Operation Christmas Distraction

Cynthia Stacey for The Christmas Tree

4. For Great For Younger Readers

Kirsten LeestmaDecember 21st

Larissa ElliottChristmas Good

5. For Great Kid Appeal

Ellen Turcio for A Super Scooper

Stacey Miller for A Cranky Christmas

6. For Inventive Re-Telling

Lauri C. Meyers for Gingerbread Girl To The Rescue (a new version of The Gingerbread Man)

7. For Great Ending

Gabrielle Cardwell for Decorating The Tree

Ashley Bray for Noella

8. For Wonderful Stories Celebrating Other Lands/Holidays/Cultures/Customs

Shariffa Keshavje for Holiday Helpers

Rachel Hobbs for The Day of the Three Kings – Argentina

Linda HofkeNot Counting On Sweet Treats This Year

Kathryn RammellA Swedish Pageant And The Mystery of the Missing Meatballs

9. For Unique Point of View

Megan and Rob Hunnicut for Sugar’s Spin (POV of the chosen cookie!)

10. For Humor 🤣

Bill Canterbury for Princess Oblivious

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 ten dollars for category 1 – Honorable Mention in the Competition as a Whole – and five dollars for all the other categories, 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 😊 )

And now…

…the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

The announcement of the WINNERS OF THE 2020 HOLIDAY CONTEST as voted on by you, our esteemed 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…

Dana Marie Miroballi
for

Christmasaurus Hex!!!

Congratulations, Dana, on a fun, kid-friendly, delightfully humorous story that was clearly very popular with a LOT of readers!!!

In Second Place

Rebecca Gardyn Levington
for
A Spark of Friendship

Congratulations, Rebecca, on bringing the Shamash to life in spot-on rhyme!  You get to pick your prize after Dana.

In Third Place

Molly Ippolito
for
Firling’s Friend

Congratulations, Molly, on a sweet entry that made us hope that Firling wouldn’t be left out!  You get to pick your prize after Dana and Rebecca.

In Fourth Place

Julie Abery
for
Waddle Santa Do This Christmas?

Congratulations, Julie, on a delightful, original story about penguins pitching in!!!  You get to pick your prize after Dana, Rebecca, and Molly!

In Fifth Place

Allison Strick
for
Let It Grow! Let It Grow! Let It Grow!
       

Congratulations, Allison, on a very well written, creative, original take on green gifts! So clever!  You get to pick your prize after Dana, Rebecca, Molly, and Julie!

In Sixth Place

Kelsey Gross
for
The Solstice Tree

What a lovely story, Kelsey, where all the forest truly helped out! Nicely done! You get to pick your prize after Dana, Rebecca, Molly, Julie, and Allison!

In Seventh Place

Kristy Roser Nuttall
for
The Twelve Sleighs of Christmas

Congratulations, Kristy!  We loved how the elves helped Santa out of his fix by turning one sleigh into twelve!   I’m sure you get the idea of how the prize picking goes by now 😊

In Eighth Place

Natasha Zimmers
for
The Christmas Owl

Such beautiful writing, Natasha!  You evoked the peace of the snowy woods, made us feel the tension of the situation, and taught us something about owls as a bonus!  You get to pick after Kristy 😊

In Ninth Place

Laura Bower
for
The SleighAwake Band

Congratulations, Laura, on your entertaining entry written in excellent rhyme!  Who would have thought Santa had a band along with him to keep him from falling asleep? You get to pick after Natasha 😊

In Tenth Place

Chelsea Tornetto
for
The Christmas Corgi

Congratulations, Chelsea, on an adorable entry that made us all want a Christmas corgi! You get to pick your prize after Laura!

In Eleventh Place

Kelly Swemba
for
Christmas Impossible: An Unquiet Night

Congratulations, Kelly, on a delightfully fun and kid-friendly entry that saw the elves helping out in true squirrel control fashion!  You get to pick after Chelsea!

In Twelfth Place

Marty Findley
for
Not Too Little

Congratulations. Marty, on a wonderfully relatable story that celebrates every child who has ever wanted to help and been made to feel that he or she isn’t ready for that yet! You get to pick after Kelly!

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 shower of holiday confetti!

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, or by donating a prize.  It’s because of all of you that this contest was such a success, so many, many thanks from the bottom of my heart!

As I… hmm… maybe didn’t mention…? but seem to do every year so you’re probably not surprised, I’m taking a little blogging break so I can spend time with my family. Although it will be a bit different than in other years, it’s still holiday time 😊   So I will see you all in a couple weeks – most probably the first week of January 😊

Before we part company, I want to wish you all a happy and healthy holiday filled with love, laughter, joy, and family, and a happy, healthy and successful new year!  It is a pleasure and a privilege to get to spend time with you all, and I’m happy and grateful to know each and every one of you!

Looking forward to all the things we’ll do in 2021!

Happy Holidays, and all best wishes for a wonderful New Year!!!

Screen Shot 2017-12-18 at 4.46.14 PM

The Prizes!:  OMG! So much awesomeness!!!

A Picture Book Manuscript Read and Critique by Agent Kaitlyn Sanchez of Olswanger Literary! Although she is currently closed to submissions (making this prize EXTRA special!) a look at her wish list will give you an idea of what she likes.

Agent Kaitlyn Sanchez

A 12×12 Silver Membership (valued at $177 but worth so much more!) generously donated by author and 12×12 founder and queen, Julie Hedlund! 12×12 is a fantastic, educational, supportive community with TONS to offer its members, including interesting and informational webinars of all kinds, access to forums and critiques, and the chance to submit to agents. If you’re not familiar with it, you can learn all about it HERE. Julie is the author of A Troop Is A Group of Monkeys (Little Bahalia Publishing, 2013), My Love For You Is The Sun (Little Bahalia Publishing, 2014), and the forthcoming Over, Bear! Under, Where? (Philomel Books, Fall 2021)

Julie Hedlund
Photo credit Kim Huggins

A Picture Book Manuscript Read and On The Spot Critique by prolific author Laura Purdie Salas! Laura offers a 50-minute on on-the-spot critique via Zoom for one picture book manuscript of up to 600 words (fiction or nonfiction, rhyming or prose or poetry). She will read it out loud to the writer and then do a critique right then and answer questions. Laura is a writer of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, prose, her own submissions and work for hire – she’s done it all! She is also the author of a number of fantastic books for writers which are often given as prizes here. Some of her books include A Leaf Can Be (Millbrook Press 2012), Clover Kitty Goes To Kittygarten (Two Lions 2020), Snowman – Cold = Puddle (Charlesbridge 2019), If You Were The Moon (Millbrook Press 2017), Making A Living Writing Books For Kids (CreateSpace 2017), and Picture Books The Write Way (CreateSpace 2014)

Rate Your Story owner, Picture Book Mechanic, and author Lynne Marie is offering 4 amazing prizes!

A 1/2 hour Zoom Session Picture Book Manuscript Consultation/Critique from ThePictureBookMechanic.com

Another 1/2 hour Zoom Session Picture Book Manuscript Consultation/Critique from ThePictureBookMechanic.com

A Rate Your Story Speedpass from RateYourStory.org

[From the Rate Your Story site] “A SPEED PASS allows a Non-Member to submit to Rate Your Story, as well as a Member to submit additional items to best serve the rating and feedback needs of our writing community.

We have a variety of Speedpass options, including pitches, query letters, art or a single manuscript at any time for a rating + guaranteed comments*, and it will be returned in less than 7 days’ time. Should you require a faster turnaround, fast pass options may be purchased to facilitate that.” 

Another Rate Your Story Speedpass from RateYourStory.org

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)  and  Let’s Eat! Mealtime Around the World — art by Parwinder Singh (Beaming Books 2019) and two others forthcoming.


A Picture Book Manuscript Critique (fiction, rhyme or prose) by accomplished author Laura Sassi, author of Goodnight, Ark (Zonderkidz 2014) , Goodnight, Manger (Zonderkidz 2015), Diva Delores And The Opera House Mouse (Sterling 2018), Love Is Kind (Zonderkidz 2018), and the forthcoming Little Ewe: The Story of One Lost Sheep (Beaming Books, February 2021)

A Picture Book Manuscript Critique by talented author Sandra Sutter, whose delightful books include The REAL Farmer In The Dell (Clearfork Publishing/Spork, March 2019) and Stan’s Frightful Halloween (Clearfork Publishing/Spork, September 2020)


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


Personalized, signed copies of For Spacious Skies (Albert Whitman, April 2020) and The Queen And The First Christmas Tree (Albert Whitman, October 2018) by award-winning author Nancy Churnin.



Personalized, signed copies of The Night Baafore Christmas (WorthyKids 2019) by Dawn Young and Louis (HMH Books For Young Readers 2020) by Tom Lichtenheld, illustrated by Julie Rowan-Zoch. The Night Baafore Christmas will be signed by Dawn, the author. Louis will be signed by Julie, the illustrator.



Two Picture Books (TBD) donated by Darshana Khiani, whose own picture book How To Wear A Sari is forthcoming from Versify in June 2021.


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

The 2020 Holiday Contest Finalists Are HERE! Vote For Your Favorite!

Hi there!

Happy Monday!

You’re probably wondering if you’re in the right place since, if you’re like the rest of the civilized world, you woke up thinking it was Tuesday.

But Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.

We (imaginative bunch that we are) are going to join in collectively choosing to believe that it is still Monday because that’s when I said I would post the Holiday Contest finalists. And by gum. . . I almost managed it!

So close!

About three more hours and I would have pulled it off.

You’re probably also wondering what happened to my hair!

Turns out that gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair is a real thing when you have to read and judge 223 AMAZING Holiday Contest Entries and cut 211 of them to get down to 12 finalists! Ouch!

So here I am, one day before the first real snowstorm in ages is predicted to occur, which is not a good time to be suddenly bald, looking like I could be Humpty Dumpty’s sister (in more ways than one 😊) but there you have it.

I think I will set a new trend.

(You know how fashion forward I am!)

I will be wearing my Santa hat at all times for the foreseeable future 😊

Feel free to join me!

You lose 7 to 10 % of your body heat through your head, you know, and it’s probably more when you have no hairsulation. Santa hats are our friends. 🤶

Have a great day, everyone!

Remember to wear your hats!

See you soon 😊

What?

Oh!

Darn!

See?

I KNEW I’d forget something!

You came for a reason!

It’s time to announce the finalists for. . .

THE 10TH ANNUAL HOLIDAY CONTEST!!!

~ for children’s writers ~

So, I just want to say three little things before I post the actual finalists (shocking, I know, because normally I’m so quiet you can hardly get a word out of me 😊😊)

First, 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, I want to reiterate 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 revise, expand, and polish if you like and maybe submit at some point to a magazine or as a PB manuscript.  A lot of people have successfully done that at this point – we have quite a few books in the world that were born in Halloweensie, Holiday, or Valentiny Contests, plus a chapter book series that came out of the Fractured Fairy Tale Contest one spring!  So bravo to everyone who entered!

You will recall the judging criteria:

  • 1. Kid-appeal! – These stories are intended for a young audience (ages 12 and under), so we’re looking for stories that children will enjoy and relate to.
  • 2.  Holiday Helpers! – the rules state a Holiday Helper story, so it must be crystal clear that the story is about someone helping someone else in some way during Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, New Year’s, or whatever seasonal winter holiday you choose.  The story must center on helping  – the help must not be just an offhand mention/reference in a story about something else.
  • 3. Quality of story – entries must tell a story, including a main character of some kind and a true story arc even if it’s tiny 😊  Entries must not be merely descriptions or mood pieces.
  • 4. Quality of Writing: check your spelling, grammar, punctuation etc.  If you’re going to rhyme, give us your best 😊  Overall writing quality and use of language are also important.
  • 5. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.

As I said above, you all did a stellar job – there were no bad stories.  But we had to pick the 12 we thought were the all-around best on all 5 counts listed.  (12 because we have 12 prizes)

So, without further ado, I present to you the 2020 Holiday Contest Finalists.  A mix of poetry and prose, stories for younger readers and slightly older (but still kid) readers, funny, poignant, sweet, and cute.  Please read through them carefully, take your time, think it over, and vote for your favorite.  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 identify yourself or ask others to identify you as a finalist on social media, please do not ask people to vote for a specific number or title, and please do not ask people to vote for the story about the unicorn-riding gingerbread princess 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.

So here we go! Read! Enjoy! VOTE! 😊

1. A SPARK OF FRIENDSHIP

[Note: “Shamash” is pronounced “shah-MAHSH”]

The menorah’s “helper candle,” the Shamash, as she is known,
has never ever asked for help. She likes to work alone.
For all eight nights of Hannukah, Shamash ignites each candle.
“A gust of wind? A sneeze? A fan? There’s nothing I can’t handle!”
Shamash can’t wait to start night one! She’s luminous and strong!
She dazzles on the second night and hums The Dreidel Song.
Night three arrives. Shamash continues beaming, all aglow.
But on night four she flickers, fades. Her pacing starts to slow.
Her blaze begins to dim night five. She fights with all her might.
But on night six, she’s feeling faint. “I…mustn’t…lose…my….light!”
The seventh night, Shamash is snuffed. She’s lost all spunk and spark.
“I blew it! I’m extinguished!” she says, sobbing in the dark.
“Need a light?” A voice calls out from up upon the shelf.
“You mustn’t feel you need to do this job all by yourself!”
A little lighter flicks a flame, announcing: “Hi, I’m Bic!”
“And I’m Shamash!” She brightens, as he lights her wilted wick.
Shamash, at last, alight again, illuminates the rest.
She beams as all eight candles gleam. “I love night eight the best!
“Oh, Bic! You are a miracle! You saved our holiday!”
“I’m happy I could help,” he says, then tucks his torch away.
Shamash prefers to work alone. “But this year, I’ll admit,
that thanks to you, my new friend Bic, this Hannukah is LIT!”

2. The Christmas Owl

In the darkness of the forest,
the young owl swooped,
plunging his talons
through powdery snow.

In the warmth of a fire
Dara gazed at Christmas lights
dancing a rainbow
on the wintery world.
A shadow of wings flickered by.

An owl?

* * *

Dara’s footsteps were silent
as she walked between the trees.


She stopped,
staring in awe.
An impression in the snow,
a perfect pair of wings.

An owl?

* * *

Freezing rain fell,
coating every surface in crystal.
Dara explored,
marveling at the frozen world.
A shadow caught her eye.
A stooped shape!
An owl!

She tiptoed closer.
She watched, still and silent.
Her toes went numb.
The owl didn’t move.

Was it hurt?
Did it need help?

“I’ll be right back!” Dara whispered.

* * *

When Kaylee, the wildlife expert, arrived,
they watched the owl together.
“When the snow forms a crust,” she murmured,
“young owls can’t punch through to catch their prey.
They get too hungry to hunt,
too hungry to move.”

Dara’s heart felt as icy
as the world around her.
Would the owl be OK?
Was she too late?

Kaylee crept
towards the owl.
She enveloped him in a blanket,
gently placed him in a box.
Dara’s sigh of relief
made a puff in the wintery air.

* * *

On Christmas eve,
the ice melted.
Kaylee called.

At dusk,
they walked
into the dripping woods.

Kaylee held the owl high,
gently relaxed her grip.

The owl flew!

“Merry Christmas!”
whispered Dara to the empty forest.

3. CHRISTMAS IMPOSSIBLE: AN UNQUIET NIGHT

‘Twas the night before Christmas
and all through the house
not a creature was stirri –

“Wait – what’s that noise?” Santa whispered and paused placing presents.
Chitter, chatter. Squeak!

“There it is again!” Santa froze and cupped his hand to his ear.
Chitter, chatter. Squeak!

“Oh no,” the jolly man groaned.
“That sounds like a-
SQUIRREL!”

Santa dialed the Christmas Tree Hotline.
The switchboard lit up like Rudolph’s red nose on a dark night.
“We’ve got a code 57,” stated Santa.
“Dispatching Elf Squirrel Division now, Sir.”

Gears, Ginger, Twinkle and Bob set their Santa Map coordinates
and dashed out through the frosty flakes.

They reached the house and whooshed down the chimney.
“So – ho happy you’re here,” said Santa.
“Glad to help,” said Gears.
They got to work while Santa snacked by the fire.

The elves climbed the tree
but
the squirrel scurried higher.
The elves swooped down from the star
but
the squirrel hid deeper.
Even Bob’s “never fail” tinsel lasso trick
failed!

“We’re doomed!” cried Twinkle.
“Is it snack time?” said Bob.
“Sweet sugar plums that’s it!” cheered Ginger.

She set a trail of cookie crumbs down the tree.

The squirrel sniffed.
It crept closer.
Then…
MUNCH!

Crumb by crumb it climbed down and into the open carrier.
“Thanks team,” said Santa and up the chimney he rose.

The elves flew to the forest where
the squirrel found the perfect pine.

Meanwhile at another house-
“Finally,” sighed Santa. “Peace and –“

Chitter, chatter. Squeak!

4. FIRLING’S FRIEND

Firling breathed in the cold, crisp breeze. Though he stood only as tall as the park bench beside him, he could still sense the yuletide in the air.
Firling’s thin branches stood still. He could hear the warm laughter in the snow covered park.
His scarce pine needles vibrated with joy as the sweet notes of Christmas carols echoed off the frozen pond.
‘Tis the season! Firling thought.
Soon I’ll be dressed in my Christmas best!

Firling watched as rows of nearby trees were adorned with colorful ornaments.
Yards of beautiful garland twisted and twirled around his tree neighbors.
Bright stars twinkled and angels perched atop trees as far as Firling could see.
Who will decorate me? Firling worried.

Suddenly a small girl approached.
“Aw! Poor, little tree! You’re the only bare one in the park.”
Firling felt his bare branches sag.
“Oh Christmas Tree, I can help! You stay right here! I’ll be back!”

Time passed and Firling began to worry that the girl wouldn’t come back.
As the sun was just starting to set, the girl returned.
Carefully, she hung hand cut paper hearts from Firling’s branches.
She wrapped long strands of braided yarn from trunk to tree top.
Finally, she placed a brightly painted cardboard star on Firling’s highest branch.
The girl beamed at her work.

“Oh, little tree! How lovely are your branches!”
The little girl flashed Firling one last smile, before heading down the sidewalk.
Here I am, Firling thought. Dressed in my Christmas best!

5. Waddle Santa Do This Christmas?

The elves are tired out and in elf-isolation,
They’ve worked all year long with no chance of vacation.
Poor Santa is worried, but what can he do?
He opens a letter that’s come from the Zoo!

Dear Santa, We’re bored as the zoo is in lockdown.
Apart from the keepers the place is a ghost town!
The Penguins at London Zoo love Christmas cheer!
So, please can we help with your presents this year?
With very best wishes and warm fishy kisses,
Your best friends the Gentoo penguins

On reading the note Santa conjured a scheme,
To rest up his elves and bring on the new team.

My dear Gentoo Penguins, I think that sounds swell!
The elves will adore this, and I will as well!
I’ll send down my reindeer, who have herd immunity,
They’ll pick you up — what a great opportunity!

And everyone had such a wonderful day,
The penguins wrapped presents, and packed up the sleigh.
The elves made hot chocolate and played in the snow,
Then baked penguin shapes out of gingerbread dough.
The penguins all hope to go back there one day,
And the elves will come visit the zoo, so they say.
In the end for this Christmas it turned out alright,
Merry Christmas to all and make sure you sleep tight!

6. The Solstice Tree

Owl watches as
sunlight dims to a simmer, and
starlight scatters across snowdust.  
Tonight is the longest night. 
Solstice is here. 

He swoops down 
and calls from his perch in the frosted pine,
Whooo can help me shine the light, 
Share gifts of hope on this long night?

I can help to shine the light!
Squirrel places nuts on branches, 
gifts of hope for a plentiful harvest. 

I can help to shine the light! 
Duck tucks feathers amongst the boughs, 
gifts of hope for cozy warmth. 

I can help to shine the light!
Fox props icicles alongside pinecones, 
gifts of hope for flowing energy. 

I can help to shine the light!
Rabbit sprinkles bits of bark, 
gifts of hope for strength and safety. 

I can help to shine the light!
Chickadee wraps grasses round and round, 
gifts of hope for rest and ease. 

Bounding, waddling, soaring, hopping 
They frolic and feast 
around the tree.
Until… 

Footsteps thump. 
Twigs snap. 
Everyone freezes. 
A girl squeals, “Animals! And a beautiful tree!” 
Rabbit trembles. “Should we run?”

Owl shakes his head and winks an eye. 
Her wonder is a gift of light,
and hope for all 

on this dark night.

7. The Twelve Sleighs of Christmas

Santa’s arm hurt, and his sleigh was kaput—
One runner bent sideways—all covered in soot.

A rooftop collision had totaled his rig.
One tiny mistake that turned out to be big.   

He had only been trying to test some new gear—
To practice his landing for Christmas this year.

This awful dilemma stirred up the north pole. 
Poor jolly old Santa —an unlucky roll! 

But the elves didn’t fret, and they shouted with glee,   
“Oh, don’t worry Santa, we’ve got a plan B!”

“Your sled may be broken, and so is your arm,
But wood from your sleigh wreck has true Christmas charm.”

“We’ve already hammered and chiseled for days.
Our elf crew has fashioned these twelve brand new sleighs.”

Sleighs one through three glowed with holly green paint—  
Dressed up with berries, all simple and quaint.

Sleighs four through six sported stripey red flames—
A curvy design stamped with all the elf names.

Sleighs seven through nine all sparkled like snow—
Cup holders for cocoa and revving to go.

Sleighs ten through twelve were bedecked to look bright— 
Festive with light bulbs—they sparkled with light.

The elves gathered gifts—from small to quite large.
They hooked up the reindeer—now they were in charge! 

These holiday helpers would rescue the day—
Subbing for Santa with twelve jolly sleighs.

Zipping up in the sky, they sang out from their flight,
“Merry Christmas to all and to all an elf night!”

8. CHRISTMASAURUS HEX

Wanda looked out the window. It was Halloween, but there wasn’t a skeleton in sight, just Santas and strings of colorful lights. “Christmas season starts earlier every year,” Wanda grumbled. “But this time they’ve gone too far.” 

For the next 55 days, Wanda planned and plotted and prepared a spell to ruin Christmas.

On Christmas morning, Wanda took a candy cane and waved her wand. “Halloween was skipped, and so I’m vexed. Give me a monster that runs, roars, and wrecks.” 

POOF!

Wanda clapped as a Christmasurus appeared. “Come with me and help,” she cackled. 

But when the Christmasaurus ran through town, everyone smiled. 

“You’re fast,” a child said. “Please pull our sled.” The Christmasaurus was happy to help. 

Wanda grumbled and waved her wand. Needs to be louder.

POOF!

But when the Christmasaurus roared, everyone cheered. “Your voice is the perfect pitch,” a caroler said. “Please sing with us.” The Christmasaurus was happy to help.  

Wanda grumbled and waved her wand again. Needs to be bigger. 

POOF!

But when the Christmasaurus went to wreck the tree, everyone looked relieved.  “You’re just the right height,” the mayor said. “Please put the star on top.” The Christmasaurus was happy to help.  

Wanda flew home fuming. 

The Christmasaurus followed with a note from the mayor.

“Dear Wanda,” it read. “Thank you for the holiday helper. I hope to see you both at the Christmas party. P.S. Sorry we missed Halloween.”  Wanda grinned. “Why not?” she said. “I do like parties.”

9. The Christmas Corgi

Dash, the Christmas corgi,
Tries so hard to do his part.
He might be small in stature, 
But he has a helpful heart!
But Dash can’t wrap the presents.
He’s too short to trim the trees.
And if he tries to shovel snow –  
His stubby legs will freeze!
The cookies are too tempting,
And he can’t quite reach the lights.
And have you ever heard a corgi…
Singing “Silent Night?”
He can’t harness the reindeer,
Or help put together toys.
And Dash can’t read the letters 
Sent by all the girls and boys.
He’s too small to pull Santa’s sled;
His nose will never glow.
So Dash can’t shine the way
Through storms of swirling, blowing snow.
But if you’ve had a long, hard night,
Of flying through the cold…
If climbing down chimneys and stairs 
has left you feeling old…
If you need something soft and warm 
to help you get some rest…
For snuggles, fluff, and love,
A Christmas corgi is the best!

10. NOT TOO LITTLE

I tried to help bake
While Mom answered the door
But SPLAT! Cookie dough spilled
All over the floor!

I tried putting lights
On the tree for my Dad
But I couldn’t reach high enough
It was so sad!

“You’re still just too little
To help us right now
But maybe next year
You can help us somehow!”

“Too little, too little
That’s all that I hear
I don’t want to wait
Until Christmas next year!”

Too little, too little,
Too little I’m not!
I know I can help
I just need the right spot!

Then Christmas Eve came
We had all gone to bed.
We were all in our dreams
Cookies danced through my head

My daddy snoozed, snoring
Mom mumbled in sleep
And my little brother
Was counting his sheep

When out of my slumber
I woke with a yelp
A clamorous crash!
Someone needed my help!

I bounded from bed
And raced into the den
As the clock struck twelve
I caught sight of HIM!

He was setting the Christmas tree
Back up and then…
I saw it was Santa!
White beard on his chin!

“I’m just bit late
Do a favor for me?
Fill up the stockings?
Put gifts ‘round the tree?”

“Yes sir!” I shouted!
“Just leave it to me!”
“Thanks for the help,”
Santa shouted with glee!

Up the chimney he went
And jumped into his sleigh
“Great helper!” I heard
As he went on his way!

11. Let it Grow! Let it Grow! Let it Grow!

Oh the weather outside was dreary
And the plants were looking weary.
Poor Santa was filled with woe.
“They won’t grow! They won’t grow! They won’t grow!”

“A Venus fly-trap for Tommy,
And a String of Pearls for Mommy?!
Their progress is much too slow!
They won’t grow! They won’t grow! They won’t grow!”

Rudolph finally came one night.
“How plants hate being out in a storm!
Northern climate just isn’t right–
The leaves and the roots should be warm!”

They ran around helter-skelter
And devised to build a shelter.
“Protected from ice and snow,
They will grow, they will grow, they will grow!”

Well they didn’t show signs of perking.
“Oh no, it isn’t working!”
“Dear Santa, don’t feel so low.
They will grow! They will grow! They will grow!”

“It’s not enough to be cozy.”
So Rudolph lit his nosey.
The greenhouse was set aglow.
“There they go! There they go! There they go!”

Santa finally cheered “Hooray!
Rudy’s light has again saved the day!
Little Tom and his mom will cheer,
And I can grow plants through the year!”

When the weather outside is nippy
Santa’s garden still looks zippy.
“With a greenhouse and Rudolph’s glow,
Let it snow! Let it blow! They will grow!”

12. The Sleigh-Awake Band

Santa packs up his sled for the long night ahead,
of lifting and gifting and being well-fed.
The cookies and milk make the big guy feel tired,
(but staying awake for his job is required!).

ZZZZZZZZZZ….

The sleigh teeters left and then sails to the right,
and loops through the air like a runaway kite.
The reindeer are dizzy, the presents are sliding –
“It’s time” shout the elves (who had all been in hiding).

Jingle’s on cymbals and Jangle’s on cello.
The sound shakes the sleigh just like jiggly jell-o.
Now Santa is stirring. Noelle grabs a drum,
and RAT-A-TAT-TATS til’ her thumbs become numb.

Then Eve heaves her tuba and gives it a blast.
BOOM, BOOM “Wake up Santa, and please make it fast!”
WHOOOSH! Just in time. He grabs hold of the reins.
The sleigh soars up high, past the birds and the planes.

The Sleigh-Awake Band jams across the night sky.
“You rock!” Santa shouts with a gleam in his eye.
You helped me make presents, baked cookies and cake,
but you helped me the most when you kept me awake!

Now, each Christmas Eve, Santa makes sure to pack
the Sleigh-Awake Band to help keep him on track!
BOOM BOOM, RATTLE RATTLE, A RAT-A-TAT TAT!
They’re off to spread joy with the tip of his hat….

Now YOU get to enjoy the agony of decision as you try to choose which of those amazing entries to vote for! You’re going to need that Santa hat!

Please vote for the entry you feel deserves to win in the poll below by 7PM EST Thursday December 17th.

Tune in Friday December 18th to see THE WINNERS!!! – same bat time, same bat station 😊

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 truly cannot wait to see who you choose as the winner!  Good luck!!! 😊