The 12th Annual Halloweensie Contest Finalists Are HERE! Vote For Your Favorite!!!

There are witches in the air,
Evil spirits everywhere.
Creepy monsters walking by.
Pumpkin moon up in the sky. . .

Halloween is so spooky, isn’t it?

WHAT???!!!

Are you suggesting it’s not Halloween anymore?

Are you asserting that this is nonsense, and that Thanksgiving has come and gone, and it’s snowing where you are, and you’re putting up your holiday decorations and wondering what the twinkle twinkle little bat is going on around here?

Ok.

It’s possible that this post is a teensy bit late in coming.

But better late than never, I always say!

And I hope you agree because, at long last, it’s time for you to see who the 2022 Halloweensie Contest Finalists are and vote for your favorite!

The 12th Annual Halloweensie Writing Contest!!!

~ FINALISTS! ~

We’ve got an interesting mix this year. There were a LOT of entries about snakes and slugs (not surprising, given the “slither” requirement), quite a few “First Halloween” stories, lots of “costume decision” stories, an unfortunate number that were really mood pieces or lists that, while nicely written, were not stories, a few that didn’t use all the required words, one that didn’t use any!, several (sad face) with proofreading errors that prevented them from being finalists because it didn’t seem right to choose one with mistakes when there were other good stories without mistakes, more spooky/creepy/icky ones than usual, and more for the 9-12 age group than usual, and quite a few with a nice non-fiction-y element. . . In short, so many wonderful stories, as always! You are all so talented! We love the ones we chose, but we also loved a lot of the ones we didn’t or couldn’t choose.

If you didn’t make the finalist list, I don’t want you to feel bad! It doesn’t mean you didn’t write a good story! It’s VERY hard to tell a great story in 100 words. There is a LOT of competition. Out of 240 entries, 226 did not make the finals, so you are in excellent company. And don’t lose heart. A lot of you will be on the Honorable Mention Lists in a few days. The judging is always the part I hate 😊 There are always so many more I want to choose… But a contest is a contest, and so we have to try, to the best of our ability, to select the cream of the crop. I’m sure, despite our best efforts, there may be some we didn’t choose that you think we should have, and some we did choose you think we shouldn’t have. But we really tried to make good choices. We looked for originality and that little extra something that makes a story stand out.

And for those who didn’t make the cut, you still practiced your craft, wrote good stories, met writing requirements, wrote to a deadline, and increased your writing experience. You produced good work that you were brave enough to share in public. And you hopefully have a strong basis to build on that may allow you to expand and polish your story into a magazine piece or a picture book when you’re not constrained by the contest parameters. So bravo, and congratulations to everyone!

The 14 finalists are listed below. We have a mix of stories for younger and older children, some in rhyme and some in prose, some funny, some lovely, some downright creepy – all fabulous!

Please read them all, choose your favorite, and vote for it in the poll below by Tuesday November 29th at 7PM Eastern. (I do have a Tuesday Debut scheduled that day, so this post will drop from the top of my blog page, but I will be sure to include a link to this finalist/voting page so it’s still easy to find!)

Please feel free to share the link to this post on social media – the more readers and voters the better! Every one of these entries deserves to be read by as many people as possible. But I ask that you please not troll for votes! The contest is supposed to be based on merit, not a popularity contest based on who has the most followers or can talk more people into voting for their story. If you are a finalist, please do not say you’re a finalist or mention your entry by name or number. Encourage people to come read and vote, and let them make their own decisions. As judges, we make our selections blind. The names are all removed so we make our choices based solely on the story so we can remain unbiased. In fact, as of this writing, I still don’t know who wrote the stories on this list. You can bet I’m going to go look right after I post!

So read, enjoy, vote! 😊

1. RAINFOREST HALLOWEEN

The weeds were thick. The branches, slick.
But Howard vowed to play a trick
by sneaking up behind Doreen
to frighten her on Halloween.

He’d slither near, unseen, unheard—
a streak of color, faintly blurred—
using stealthy camouflage,
then shock her with a “BOO!” barrage.

He scurried, on his tree-top chore,
high above the valley floor
and spied her on a banyan trunk.
A terrify-your-friend slam dunk!

What a treat! That very night
he gave Doreen a spooky fright.
AHHhhh!

Yes, Howard the chameleon scared sweet Doreen the gecko.

But after Howard hollered “BOO!!!”—he fainted, from the echo.
BOOooo-ooo-ooo!

2. THE FRIGHTFUL FUGITIVE

Beneath a full and pumpkin moon,
I flew to trick-or-treat,
when, from the corner of my eye,
I spied a heap of meat.

I shivered as it stared at me,
wide eyes without a face,
a creature with no place on Earth.
It came from outer space!

With body like a comet’s tail,
legs like a centipede’s,
it slithered through the unkempt field
to jump me from the weeds.

A skeleton creaked up just then,
gave me a bony hug.
“You’ve found my brain and spine!” he said
and took that scary slug.

3. A SHADY HALLOWEEN

It was Halloween, and Sun was fuming.
“Moon has all the fun!” huffed Sun. “I can be spooky. Come play, ghosts, goblins, and ghouls!”
But all Sun got on this bone-chilling holiday…
was festive foliage and boisterous birdsong.
BORING.
“Sun,” whispered Moon, spying the sulky star. “How about a daytime treat?”
Sun beamed as Moon’s shadow masked her rays, until…
all was dark!
Witches flew—
WHOOSH!
Skeletons danced the monster-mash—
RAP TAP!
Black cats pranced on tip-toe—
MEOW!
Ghosts haunted the Halloween Bash—
WooooOOOOOOooooo!
Then…
Sun slithered out.
“BOO!”
Spooky creatures everywhere agreed—
Sun’s scare eclipsed all other Halloweens!

4. SSSSSSCARY!

I didn’t mean to SCARE her,
but I guess that’s what ghosts do.
As ghosts go, I’m not scary.
I simply whisssspered,
“Boo!”
I mean, it’s Halloween night,
so, I SLITHERED up the walk.
I wriggled up the steps and
adjusted my ghost-sock.
My tongue flicked out and rang the bell.
I gave a fangy grin.
My scaly tail held out my bag–
“Let trick or TREAT begin!”
She gasped.
She squealed.
She dropped the bowl.
She fainted dead away.
Who knew a sock with two eyeholes
could scare someone this way?

5. HALLOWEEN NIGHT LIGHT

A candle in a pumpkin sees
the sun set out of sight.
Then tilts its flame near windows cut
to free the candle’s light.

Its glow will guide the ghouls and ghosts—
some scary, others sweet—
by casting beams upon a path
for all to trick-or-treat.

“Stay bright tonight!” The candle chants
behind its pumpkin’s face,
while waxy droplets slither down
and puddle at its base.

It droops. It stoops. But still, it shines
‘til night has come and gone.
Then sighs triumphant threads of smoke
into the light of dawn.

6. TRICK-OR-TREAT, SHOES TO EAT

It’s a Halloween party!

Ruff, ruff. Roo!

No shoes on the carpet means . . . 

Front-door treats for me!

I must have one. Or two. Or ten!

Nobody’s looking. I gotta go fast.

Crawl. Slither. Roll over. 

Dash!

Princess slippers.

Baseball cleats.

Gopher loafers.

Pirate boots.

How to choose?

Sniff. Lift. Wag. 

Drool!

Ruff, ruff. Roo!

Surfer sandals,

Ballet flats. 

Scary sneakers.

Fairy clogs.

I want them ALL!

“Puppy, no!”

Uh-oh. 

I need treats to-go.

Aha! 

Gotcha, kitten heels.

The purrfect pair.

Jump. Gallop. Zigzag.

Scoot!

Under the bed. 

Trick-or-treat, shoes to eat. 

Ruff, ruff. ROO!

7. HALLOWEEN IS MAGIC

“It’s Halloween!” Witch Wanda screeched.
“And I can’t scare up tricks or treats!”

“The cauldron’s cracked.”
“My potion burned.”
“I’m out of bats and three-eyed worms.”

So Wanda flew into the night,
And gathered things to give a fright.

Ten slithery snakes,
Two warty toads,
A shrew that had a runny nose.

“Yippee!” she cried, “What spooky fun!”
“Can’t wait to see those kiddies run!”

But when they spied Witch Wanda’s “treats”,
Excited children filled the streets.

They hugged the snakes.
They cuddled the shrew.

Now Wanda runs a petting zoo.

8. SCARY GOAT SCAM

Billy and Maribelle thought it unfair
that the Halloween treats were not evenly shared.
Bored with their thistle and grass-loaded diet,
“Oh Candy” sighed Billy, “I’m eager to try it.”

They made themselves costumes to scare the town silly,
smeared mud on their beards and tossed hay willy-nilly.
They covered their horns, pinned their beards tightly down
and with eyes glaring brightly they clomped into town.

The villagers fled as their fear slithered out,
scattering treat bags and candy about.
The goats quickly gobbled the treats left behind,
“Not bad” Billie said, “But these bags taste divine!”

9. SAPLING’S HALLOWEEN

Sapling was scared.
October was nearly over,
and still she had no costume.
On October 1st,
Maple proudly primped in his pumpkin colors.
By mid month,
Oak fetchingly flaunted her firefighter red.
Sapling grew green with envy.
“Don’t worry,” Hickory whispered
through his fur-brown mask of foliage.
“Mother Nature will make sure you’re ready for trick or treat.”
Hickory and his brothers were the three bears.
On Halloween Eve, Sapling swayed slightly.
A cool breeze slithered through her leaves.
She held onto hope.
When the sun rose on Halloween,
Sapling’s costume was complete.
Sapling, the young Ginkgo, was Goldilocks.

10. MIDNIGHT SNACK

Slither, Slither.
Tiptoe, CREEEEAK.
shh.
The moon is bright.
It’s time to sneak.

Down the hallway.
Stop to see.
zzzz.
The coast is clear.
I smirk with glee.

‘Twas a night of
costumed fun.
oooOO.
With bags of treats
the night was done.

Now I creep and
Tiptoe light.
grrrr.
A shadow’s there!
I freeze with fright!

Stepping slowly,
Then a whirl!
phew.
It’s just the dog…
“You scared me, girl!”

In the kitchen
hidden high.
mmm.
I reach the snacks
“Success!” I sigh.

Then I heard a
great big SNAP!
AHH.
“I caught you Dad!
You like my trap?”

11. A MARTIAN’S HALLOWEEN

A tiny spaceship landed with a rumble and a roar
So Timothy, a Martian boy decided to explore
Zombies, witches, scary creatures slithered down the street
Traveling from door to door, they shouted “TRICK OR TREAT!”

Suddenly, poor Timothy felt frightened and alone
“This Earthly kind of holiday just isn’t in my zone!”
An alien, dressed up in green, peculiarly appeared
“You’re looking lost. I’ll get you home,” she gladly volunteered.
She found his spaceship just in time. He knew she saved the day.
Then she reached inside her sack. “Have a Milky Way.”

12. PUMPKIN PRIDE

One tiny pumpkin sat on the vine.

“Grow, Pumpkin, grow,” chanted Witch.

When scary bugs slithered close, Ghost shouted “Boo!”

“Grow, Pumpkin, grow,” chanted Ghost.

Mummy watered during four months of sunshine.

“Grow, Pumpkin, grow,” chanted Mummy.

Cool weather came; Pumpkin stopped growing.

“Pumpkin’s perfect!” said Witch, Ghost, and Mummy.

“Let’s bring him to the contest at the Trick-or-Treat Fair!”

Carved pumpkins… Warty pumpkins… Tasty pumpkins…

But no pumpkin beat Pumpkin.

Witch, Ghost, and Mummy beamed with pumpkin pride

Their precious Pumpkin won grand prize —

WORLD’S HEAVIEST PUMPKIN

FUN FACT: The Guinness World Record for heaviest pumpkin is 2,702 pounds.

13. THE SWEETEST TREAT

It’s Halloween! Come one and all!
Slither, scurry, climb and crawl –

gather round the bright full moon.
Children will be coming soon.

As they swarm the darkened streets,
calling out their “Trick or Treats!”

we’ll lurk nearby, our eyes aglow,
making sure our tails don’t show.

Once they’re candy-full and sleepy –
numbed to all that’s scary, creepy –

leap out from our hiding place
and lick the children – just a taste.

The sweetest tasting child will be
the one we eat on Halloween!

14. CANDY NIGHT

Costumes on,

grab your gear,

Candy Night is almost here.

Sun is set,

route is mapped,

we won’t leave one house untapped.

Trick or treat,

check the haul.

Chocolate! Gummies! Eat them all.

Wrapper pile,

empty tote,

taffy slithers down my throat.

Not enough.

We need more!

I know somewhere we can score.

Candy out,

down the road,

now we’ve hit the motherlode.

“Just take one?”

I think not.

Ditch the sign and grab the lot!

Lights come on,

time to run!

If my mom finds out, I’m DONE.

Just a scare,

so we think?…

Doorbell footage has us linked.


PHEW! So there you have it! Good luck choosing just one of those amazing stories!

Please vote for your favorite in the poll below by 7PM Eastern Tuesday November 29!

The Winners and Honorable Mentions will be posted on Wednesday November 30 (because running into December would just be a bridge too far! 🤣)

I can’t wait to see who you all choose as your winners!

Tune in Wednesday!!! 🎃🧙‍♀️👻🎃

Goblins And Ghosties And Ghouls, Oh, My! – Announcing The Guidelines For The 12th Annual Halloweensie Contest!

Holy Jack-O’-Lanterns, Batman!

Can you actually believe that this year is Halloweensie number 12?!

And are you ready? 😊🎃

Well, of course you’re not ready, because I haven’t told you the rules yet!

You’ve got 2 weeks and 5 days to write, eat miniature chocolate bars, revise, eat more miniature chocolate bars, polish, eat some candy corn (ooh, that was a surprise!) and take a little snooze before it’s time to submit your entry!

So get ready. . .

. . .get set. . .

Here are the guidelines for. . .

The 12th Annual Halloweensie Writing Contest!!!

~ 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 slither, treat, and scare.

  • 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.
  • You may use the words in any form i.e. slithery (yes, it’s a word, we looked it up 😊), treated, scary, etc, 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!

POST: your story in the comment section of the Official Contest Post between 12:01 AM Eastern Saturday October 29th (the day the official contest post will go up here) and 11:59PM Eastern Monday October 31st (So you have 3 full days to post – Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.)

  • 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 12:01 AM Eastern Saturday October 29th and Monday October 31st at 11:59PM Eastern.
  • 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, byline (that means who the story is by – you! – so for example, By Jane Doe) and word count at the top NO ATTACHMENTS! and please do not submit any entries before the official opening of the contest at 12:01 AM Saturday 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: 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 Saturday November 5th (though if the judging takes longer than expected it might be a little later – we will do our best! But fair warning I have two school visits that week and a long drive Friday.) The winners will be announced Tuesday 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! (I’m still juggling the list, so in the interest of getting this posted I’m merely going to generalize the prizes right now – I will add details ASAP!)

⭐️ Rhyme & Meter Self Study Course – Renee LaTulippe Renée M. LaTulippe is the author of The Crab Ballet (Cameron Kids/Abrams, 2022) and Limelight: Theater Poems to Perform (Charlesbridge, 2024) and has poems published in many anthologies including No World Too BigNight WishesSchool People, National Geographic’s The Poetry of USOne Minute Till BedtimePoems Are TeachersThankU: Poems of Gratitude, and A World Full of Poems.

⭐️ 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)

⭐️ 30 Minute Zoom Ask Me Anything with Rosie Pova author of IF I WEREN’T WITH YOU (Spork, April 2017), SARAH’S SONG (Spork, September 2017), SUNDAY RAIN (Lantana Publishing, March 2021), THE SCHOOL OF FAILURE: A STORY ABOUT SUCCESS (Yehoo Press, May 2022), and for Middle Grade readers, HAILEY QUEEN PRANKING MAKES PERFECT: THE ALIEN ENCOUNTER (Spork, April 2017) Rosie does a lot of school visits and presentations, should that happen to be of interest for your Ask Me Anything.

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (rhyming preferred) with Andrea Denish, author of EVERYONE LOVES A PARADE (Astra Young Readers, March 2020), and THE WAY WE SAY HELLO forthcoming from Starry Forest Books February 7, 2023

⭐️ Picture Book Critique (non-rhyming) with Becky Scharnhorst, author of MY SCHOOL STINKS! (Flamingo Books, July 2021) and THIS FIELD TRIP STINKS! (Flamingo Books, August 2022)

⭐️ 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

⭐️ 30 Minute Ask Me Anything Zoom Chat (anything relating to writing/publishing) with Penny Parker Klostermann, talented author of THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT (Random House 2015) and A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE (Random House 2017) as well as the forthcoming SPIDER LADY: Nan Songer and Her Arachnid WWII Army (Astra/Calkins Creek 2025) and another as yet unannounced 😊

⭐️ 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

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique PLUS Zoom Chat with 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)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (rhyming or non-rhyming) with Kelly Conroy whose poems have been published in 5 anthologies (10.10, wee words for wee ones, October 2021; BETTER THAN STARBUCKS, January 2022; THINGS WE EAT, Pomelo Books, March 2022; THINGS WE FEEL, Pomelo Books, July 2022; WHAT IS A FRIEND, Pomelo Books, October 2022) and also the author of a rhyming board book due out in 2025.

⭐️ 30 Minute Picture Book Zoom Critique Session with Lynne Marie

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

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (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!)

⭐️ 20 Minute Zoom Ask Me Anything with Darshana Khiani, author of HOW TO WEAR A SARI (Versify, June 2021), I’M AN AMERICAN (Viking Books for Young Readers, May 2023), and THE BOYS OF KOH PANYEE (coming Fall 2023)

⭐️ Rate Your Story Speed Pass from Lynne Marie

And maybe I’ll have some extra picture books to add in here and there to sweeten the pie. . . 😊

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, recommending their books for school and library purchases, 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 2022 Valentiny Contest WINNERS!!!

Once upon a time. . .

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

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

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

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

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

There was just one small problem. . .

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

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

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

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

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

The 7th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest

~ for children’s writers ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lori Sheroan for The Proudest Pencil

Susannah Lee for Shelby’s Heartache

Claire Noland for The Valentine Surprise

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

Rachel Bandy for V’s For Valentine

Terri Hellard-Brown for Isabella’s Valentine

Becky Goodman for ValenTalent Show

Lauri C. Meyers for My Gummy Love

Susanne Whitehouse for The Mural

Judy Sobanski for Sloth’s Original Valentine

Laura Bower for Llama Love

Sara Kruger for The Perfect Present

2. For Great Read Aloud:

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

3. For Great Story For Younger Readers:

Patti Ranson for Valentines Breakfast For Mom

Cindy Greene for Valentine’s Day Heartache

Tara Knox Cerven for The Purrfect Valentine

Lori C. Evans for Never Too Many Valentines

4. For Humor:

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

Jill Purtee for Gumballs

5. For Fun POV/Character:

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

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

6. For Great Ending:

Alayne Kay Christian for What Kind Of Cupid Am I?

Kristy Roser Nuttall for Love Inside

Mary Schultz for Taffy’s Sweet Surprise

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

Julianna Helt for Allie’s Biggest Heart

Armineh Manookian for Lost But Found

Erika Romero for You Make Me So Proud

8. For Beautiful Writing:

A. Kidd for Three Hearts

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

9. For Best Short Valentiny Story:

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

10. For Sweet Valentiny:

Heather Ferranti Kinser for Teeny Houdini

Kathy Crable for Valentine Barks

Lindsay Moretti for A Valentine For Mr. Weatherly

11. Best Story From A Young Writer:

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

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

And now…

…the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

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

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

DDDRRRUUUMMM RRROOOLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!

In First Place

Winner of the whole shebang…

who gets first choice of all the prizes…

Michaela Almeida
for

A Change Of Heart!!!

Congratulations, Michaela! Terrific job 😊

In Second Place

Daniella Kaufman
for
Sweet Valentine

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

In Third Place

Katie Brandyberry
for
Valentine Delivery – Part II

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

In Fourth Place

Jesse Anna Bornemann
for
Showdown In Smoochalot

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

In Fifth Place

Allison Strick
for
Percy’s Performance

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

In Sixth Place...

Katie Palazzola
for
Oog Love Rock

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

In Seventh Place…

Sarah Meade
for
V-Day!

Congratulations, Sarah!  You get to pick next 😊

In Eighth Place…

Amy Leskowski
for
Cupid’s Confidence

Congratulations, Amy! You get to pick after Sarah 😊

In Ninth Place…

Laura Bost
for
Flicker’s Valentine

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

In Tenth Place…

Kate Thompson
for
The Valentine’s Cake

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

In Eleventh Place…

Sara Petersohn
for
Valentine Wins

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

In Twelfth Place…

Kimberly Shrack
for
The Perfect Valentine

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

In Thirteenth Place…

Emily Keener
for
Special Delivery

Congratulations, Emily! You get to pick after Kimberly!

In Fourteenth Place…

Zach Schloss
for
Hoppy Belated Valentine

Congratulations, Zach!

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

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

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

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

Have a marvelous Wednesday, everyone! 😊

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

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

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

Author Lynne Marie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author Jessica Stremer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know.

My secret past sounds intriguing.

And let me assure you, IT IS!

But it is a story for another day.

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

We’re going bare bones.

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

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

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

Now then! Prepare to have your socks knocked off!

#1 – Special Delivery

I am BEAUTIFUL!

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

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

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

Oh, she’s picking me up! Here we go!

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

Where in the world is she taking me?

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

Hey, her box is covered in glitter like me!

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

#2 – The Valentine’s Cake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#3 – Flicker’s Valentine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just then he spied…
“Marshmallow hearts?”

“Oo!” thought Flicker.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The dryad popped the toasty treat into her mouth.

“It’s perfect!”

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

#4 – Valentine Wins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#5 – A Change Of Heart

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

#6 – The Perfect Valentine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

#7 – Valentine Delivery – Part II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#8 – Sweet Valentine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#9 – V-Day!

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

#10 – Percy’s Performance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#11 – Oog Love Rock

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

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

His arrow missed Ugga.

It whizzed by Unk.

It flew over Froon.

But then, it struck!

A boulder.

“OOG LOVE ROCK!”

Oog made Valentines for Rock out of moss and bark.

He sang love songs to Rock.

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

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

But Oog would not leave his beloved Rock behind.

He pressed his shoulder against Rock.

“Oog push!”

But Rock wouldn’t budge.

He made a rope and tied it around Rock.

“Oog pull!”

But the rope wasn’t strong enough.

SNAP!

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

very,

sloooowwwly.

“Oog never get there!”

Then Oog had an idea.

He chipped and chopped, scraped and smoothed, until…

“Rock roll!”

Oog had invented the wheel!

“Oog proud.”

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

“Oog love Rock.”

#12 – Showdown In Smoochalot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#13 – Hoppy Belated Valentine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#14 – Cupid’s Confidence

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

NOPE!

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

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

NOPE!

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

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

NOPE!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roses are red

Violets are blue

Valentinies rock

And so do YOU!

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

The 7th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest

~ for children’s writers ~

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

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

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

Judging criteria will include:

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

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

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

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

Author Lynne Marie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author Jessica Stremer

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can’t wait to read your stories!!!

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

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

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

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

Well, hi there, everyone!

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

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

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

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

Are you ready to fire up those brain cells?

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

The 7th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest

~ for children’s writers ~

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

Post your story in the comment section of my Friday February 11th Post between 12:01 AM EDT Friday February 11th and Sunday February 13th by 11:59 PM EDT.  There will be no regularly scheduled posts for the duration of the contest (Tuesday Debut, Would You Read It, or PPBF), so the post and all of your entries will stay up for everyone to enjoy.  If you have difficulty with the comments, which unfortunately sometimes happens, you may email your entry to me and I’ll post it for you. But please don’t email your entry before the start of the contest – my inbox is generally overflowing and things may get lost!

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

Judging criteria will include:

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

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

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

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

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique from author Penny Parker Klostermann!

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

⭐️ Access to author/editor Alayne Kay Christians webinars!

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

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique from author Rebecca Gardyn Levington!

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

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

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique from author Cathy Ballou Mealey!

⭐️ Personalized Signed Copy of KING CAKE BABY by Keila Dawson

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

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

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 –

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 –

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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is or-1.png

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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dawn-young-1.jpg

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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is janie-reinart.jpg

⭐️ 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)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is lindsey-mcdivitt.jpg

⭐️ 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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is kenda-henthorn.png

⭐️ 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)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is randi-sonenshine.png

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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is danielle-dufayet.png

⭐️ 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!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is once-upon-a-time.-.-..png



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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is once-upon-a-christmas.jpg

⭐️ 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!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is branches-of-hope.jpg

⭐️ 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!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is mimic-makers.jpg

⭐️ 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!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is a-plan-for-the-people.jpg

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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is the-nest-that-wren-built.jpg

⭐️ 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!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is sue-heavenrich.png

⭐️ 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:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 51uWkD4rEaL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
Writing Picture Books Revised and Expanded Edition: A Hands-On Guide From Story Creation to Publication by Ann Whitford Paul
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 51Z2zcrOrWL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
Writing Irresistible Kidlit: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grade Readers by Mary Kole
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 51HudKwh7yL._SX317_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories For Children by Nancy Lamb
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 616DBksinRL._SX404_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career by Nancy I. Sanders
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 61ytcQK4faL._SX404_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Beginning Readers and Chapter Books by Nancy I. Sanders
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 51IokcO7AEL._SX384_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
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!!! 😊