The 2020 Valentiny Writing Contest WINNERS!!!

Darlings!

Do you know what today is?

Of course you do!

That’s why you’re here!

No one wants to miss National Tortilla Chip Day!

Let’s take a poll!

Which is better: potato chips or tortilla chips?

and

What is your favorite dip? Guacamole? Salsa? Queso? Other?

These are the burning questions that can only be answered by the great minds here in our little community.

Now I come to think of it, there is probably a picture book in this. . . The Search for Perfection. . . or maybe, Who Stole The Dip?

But back to the point, I think we can all agree that for un-dipped flavor, our friends the potato chips have poor plain tortillas beat hands down.  Also, I would argue that ruffled potato chips have more flavor than smooth ones.  But once dip is involved, all bets are off.  Tortilla chips with both guacamole AND salsa may surpass the lowly plain potato chip.  (Although, if you get a good barbecue or sour cream and onion potato chip, the tables turn again!)

MY!  What a knotty problem!  Thank goodness you’re here to weigh in!

Now off you go to your Mondays to enjoy your properly-dipped tortilla chips.

Ta-ta.

See you tomorrow for Tuesday Debut.

Thanks for stopping by.

Buh-bye now.

What?

You DIDN’T come to talk about tortilla chips?

What else could possibly be on your mind on National Tortilla Chip Day?

Ah. . .

. . . I know what it is!

You’ve spent the whole weekend in a fever of anticipation to find out who won

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

Valentiny Writing Contest 2019!

 

So I suppose, if you’re very nice to me and agree with everything I say (for example, that ruffled potato chips are better than smooth ones) and are willing to give me a tiara and elect me Princess of Clove Valley, I will tell you.

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

As always, I was thrilled to see so many wonderful stories!  (Did I mention there were nearly 150?!)  Really!  It is amazing and inspiring, not to mention VERY entertaining!  There is just so much talent out there amongst you all!  The other judges and I are blown away anew each time!

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

There were, however, many other entries that were outstanding in certain areas even though they might not have qualified all-around for one reason or another, or that the judges couldn’t reach a consensus on.  It is SO HARD! One of our favorite entries – well written and curious – was over the word limit!  Two entries came in after the deadline.  Many other entries were so well written but simply weren’t curious enough, although they were fabulous in other ways!

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

 

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

Ingrid Boydston for What’s Love?

Theresa Kiser for Little Card’s Purpose

Rebecca Loescher for Crabby’s Heart Speaks

Mia Geiger for Secret Stash

 

 

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

Laura Howard for Bags Of Love (fun and sweet!)

Kelsey Gross for Moe’s Valentine’s Day Discovery  (good story structure and curiosity, sweet ending)

Sarah Meade for Valenturtle

Mary Warth for Mystery Marks

 

3. For Original POV:

Amy Flynn for Mailbox (POV of a mailbox! – well-written!)

 

4. For Humor:

Genevieve Puttay for Cupid Caper (clever and funny! but we thought maybe some of the humor would escape the 12 and under set)

Katrina Swenson for Cupid’s Love Trials

Jen Bagan for Cupid And Curtis

Andrea MacDonald for Peck! (funny, original inside-the-egg POV)

 

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

Jilanne Hoffman for Double-Crossed Hearts

Joy Pitcairn for February 14

 

6. For Well-Written Scariest Valentine Ever That Totally Gave Us The Shivers! : 

Sofia Dibble for Ophelia Divine (so original and very Edgar Allan Poe!)

 

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

Aundra Tomlins for Better With Bear

Elizabeth LaGrange Muster for Cupid’s Curious Conundrum (great mash-up of holiday characters!)

MaryAnn Cortez for Yeti Wants A Valentine

Sue Lancaster for Shelly & Saul

Claire Lewis for My Piggy Valentine

Elsie Duffany for The Curious Kitten (well done, Elsie!  Keep up the great work!)

Cindy Williams Schrauben for How To Find Your Valentine

Anne Bromley for A Shelter Dog’s Valentine

Kate Thompson for When Love Gives You Wings

 

Congratulations to all of you for fantastic elements of your stories!  You may all email me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com subject line Prize Winner to collect your award badge and prize, which is five dollars in a format that can be emailed for you to put toward something you’d like at a large online store (and I’m being cryptic because when I did this for Halloweensie I got a ton of problematic spam mail because of the way I worded the post, but hopefully you can figure it out.  The store starts with the letter A 🙂 )

 

And now…

…the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

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

Nicole Loos Miller
for

Seeds Of Love!!!

Congratulations, Nicole, on a beautifully written entry which had us wondering right along with your main character what would grow and what would be done with it, along with a lovely message!

In Second Place

Kelly Conroy
for
Candy Conundrum

Congratulations, Kelly, on a delightfully kid-friendly entry we loved for your MC’s very believable curiosity and subsequent taste-testing of the candy hearts and perfect final question 🙂   You get to pick your prize after Nicole.

In Third Place

Sarah Meade
for

Gibbon’s Valentine’s Surprise

Congratulations, Sarah!  You did a terrific job of writing a fun, well-structured story in 214 words!  We were especially fond of Sloth 🙂  You get to pick your prize after Nicole and Kelly.

In Fourth Place

Nancy Riley
for

Finding A Friend

Congratulations, Nancy, on an engaging story of a curious little rover on a Valentine mission on Mars in perfect rhyme!  You get to pick your prize after Nicole, Kelly, and Sarah!

In Fifth Place

Charlotte Sheer
for

Scraps Of Love

Congratulations, Charlotte, on your heart-warming story. We felt Papa and the neighbors’ curiosity over what on earth Sergio was up to!  How lovely that he was doing something nice for those who had helped him. . .  using reclaimed and recycled items!  You get to pick after Nicole, Kelly, Sarah, and Nancy!

In Sixth Place

Jean James
for

The Stinky Valentine

Congratulations, Jean!  You really had us wondering what kind of awful stinky thing was in that box!  And what a fun twist that a Valentine mix-up had occurred! I’m sure you get the idea of how the prize picking goes by now 🙂

In Seventh Place…

Marty Bellis
for
Dear Cupid

Congratulations, Marty!  You made us laugh 🙂  You get to pick next 🙂

In Eighth Place…

Sara Ackerman
for
I Snorfle You

Congratulations, Sara!  You did a beautiful job of showing curiosity in an unfamiliar world (we loved that two eyeballs seemed strange and that Zingle marveled over cold bits of the sky falling and that he had to learn that glitter was not a snack! 🙂 ) as well as the beginning of friendship.  You get to pick after Marty 🙂

In Ninth Place…

Chelsea Tornetto
for
Sending Love

Congratulations, Chelsea!  We loved your imaginings of how a Valentine might get from one side of the map to the other!  You get to pick after Sara!

In Tenth Place…

JC Kelly
for
Always.  Every Day.  No Matter What.

Congratulations, JC!  We loved how believably “kid” Johnny was with his curiosity over how far his mom’s love went, and how patient and forgiving his mom! You get to pick after Chelsea!

In Eleventh Place…

Michelle Howell Miller
for
Whose Valentine Could This Be?

Congratulations, Michelle, on a wonderful entry for youngest readers, beautifully done!  You get to pick after JC 🙂

In Twelfth Place…

Chambrae Griffith
for
Beetle’s Valentine

Congratulations, Chambrae, on a lovely, curiosity filled story in well-written rhyme!

 

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

Congratulations again to all our winners – it was a stiff competition!! – and congratulations to EVERYONE who wrote and entered a story in the contest.  You all deserve a huge round of applause and a gigantic chocolate heart… or lots of little chocolate hearts… or both… really, you can never have too much chocolate 🙂 . (Or perhaps you’d rather have a shower of tortilla chips and some lovely dishes of dip 🙂 )

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

Have a marvelous Monday, everyone! 🙂

 

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

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

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

Penny Klostermann

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

495eb-penny      Cooked-Up Fairy Tale

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

Rosie Pova                Sarah's Song

If I Weren't With You Sunday Rain

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

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

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

Ellen Leventhal       Don't Eat The Bluebonnets

Hayfest     Lola Can't Leap

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

Sherry Howard (4)Cover Rock and Roll Woods

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

Lydia Lukidis        No Bears Allowed

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

MPBM

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

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

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

Not Quite Snow White      noah

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

Emily's Idea HEY, HEY, HAY! Cover

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

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

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

What Color Is Night? Caspian Finds A Friend

 

Please join me in thanking these very generous authors and other writing professionals for contributing their books and writing expertise as prizes by visiting their websites and blogs, buying and recommending their books and services to your writer friends and/or friends with kids, writing them nice reviews on Amazon, GoodReads etc if you’ve read and liked their books, and showing your appreciation to them in any way you can! 😊

The 5th Annual Valentiny Contest -FINALISTS!!!

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

It is SO MUCH FUN!

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

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

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

and, “Whose idea was this ANYWAY?!”

and “GAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!”

cd521-surprisedbabytiger

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

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

Ouch!

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

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

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

Valentiny Writing Contest 2019!

~ FINALISTS!!!~

 

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

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

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

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

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

Now.  Onto the judging criteria which were as follows:

  1. Kid-appeal/Kid-friendliness – remember, this is a story for kids!
  2. Creativity in using curiosity and success in making us feel the curiosity!
  3. Valentine’s Day appropriateness – this is a VALENTINE story!
  4. Quality of story – we will look for basic story elements and a true story arc
  5. Quality of writing – use and flow of language, correctness of mechanics, excellence of rhyme and meter if you use it.
  6. Originality – surprise us with something new and different! 🙂

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

So without further ado, I present to you the finalists in the 2020 Fifth Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest!  Please read through them carefully, take your time, think it over, and vote for your favorite in the poll below by Saturday February 22 at 5 PM Eastern time.

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

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

So now, here are the 2020 Valentiny Contest Finalists!!! Some poetry, some prose, some for younger readers, some for older (but still kid) readers, all fabulous 🙂

 

1 – Candy Conundrum

I wonder what they taste like.

The Hug Me heart looks good.

My mommy says, “Don’t eat them.”

My tummy says, I should.

I smell True Love and Kiss Me,

then give Be Mine a lick.

I chew up Smile and Soul Mate…Yuck!

I think I might be sick.

I wonder why they make them,

those pretty hearts I ate,

to give to someone that you love

…or someone that you hate.

 

2 – Seeds Of Love

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

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

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

See you soon, little seed.

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

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

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

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

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

From just one seed.

 

3 – The Stinky Valentine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

4 – I Snorfle You

Zingle gripped Mama’s warm green hand.

“I snorfle you,” Mama said.

“Snorfle you too.”

Zingle didn’t like this planet.

Spaceships zoomed on the ground. HONK!

Everyone stared at him—with two eyeballs.

And cold bits of sky fell everywhere.Brrrr.

“What’s this? What’s this? What’s this?” Zingle asked.

“Flag. Squirrel. School.” Mama brought him inside. “I snorfle you,” she said before leaving.

Zingle’s eye teared up. But then he looked around. “What’s this? What’s this? What’s this?”

“Sand. Playdough. Hamster.” an Earthlittle replied.

Lucy taught Zingle everything. Zingle got used to Lucy’s second eye.

Then one day, school looked different.

“What’s this?” Zingle asked Lucy. “What’s this? What’s this?”

“Glitter. Heart. Valentine.”

“Why?” Zingle asked.

“It means ‘I love you.’”

“I zuv you?”

“Love.”

Zingle didn’t know what that meant, but he liked making things. And he liked his friend. Zingle would make a valentine for Lucy!

But the scissors wouldn’t listen to him. The glue was too sticky. Glitter was NOTa snack. A classful of double eyeballs stared at him. The valentine was all wrong, the sky was falling again, and Zingle wanted Mama. His eye teared up.

Then Lucy put something in Zingle’s hand. “Happy Valentine’s Day!”

Zingle read the crooked heart: I snorfle you.

Zingle hugged Lucy. “Snorfle you, too.”

 

5 – Finding A Friend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

6 – Dear Cupid

Dear Cupid,

Just wondering…

How good is your aim?

How often do you practice?

If you miss, do you try again?

How many arrows do you have, anyway?

Do you take requests? From anybody?

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks.

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

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

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

 

7 – Sending Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

8 – Always. Every Day. No Matter What.

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

“MOOOOOOOM,” he called out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

9 – Whose Valentine Could This Be?

Whose Valentine could this be?

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

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

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

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

Whose Valentine could this be?

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

 

10 – Gibbon’s Valentine’s Surprise

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

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

They set down their books.

“I wonder what it is…” Meerkat mused.

“Maybe Valentine’s candy?” Marmoset murmured.

“Or… something… elssssssssse,” Sloth whispered.

First Gibbon grabbed paint and brushes.

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

“Maybe Valentine’s cards?” Marmoset murmured.

“Or… something… elssssssssse,” Sloth whispered.

Next Gibbon gathered wood and his toolbox.

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

“Maybe a valentines mailbox?” Marmoset murmured.

“Or… something… elssssssssse,” Sloth whispered.

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

“I love stories…” Meerkat mused.

“Me too,” Marmoset murmured.

“Oh….yesssssss,” Sloth whispered.

Everyone planned and painted.

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

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

“Maybe the post office?” Marmoset murmured.

“Or… somewhere… elssssssssse,” Sloth whispered.

The three friends waited.

They pulled out paperbacks and read together.

And waited.

On Valentine’s Day Gibbon gathered his friends.

“Surprise!” Gibbon pointed.

“A little library!” Meerkat cried.

The outside:

“Our paintings!” Marmoset cheered.

Inside:

“Bookssssss!” Sloth said with a slow smile.

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

“Thank you!” said Meerkat.

“Thanksssss,” said Sloth.

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

 

11 – Beetle’s Valentine

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

12 – Scraps Of Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

Ahem.  Let’s try again.

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

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

Have a thrilling Thursday, everyone!

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

 

Roses are red

Violets are blue

Valentinies rock

And so do YOU!

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

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

Valentiny Writing Contest 2019!

~ for children’s writers~

The Contest:  since writing for children is all about “big emotion for little people” (I forget who said that, but someone did so I put it in quotes!) and Valentines Day is all about emotion, write a Valentines story appropriate for children (children here defined as ages 12 and under) maximum 214 words in which someone feels curious!  Your someone can feel curious themselves or make someone else feel curious.  The curiosity may be about a person, place, thing, quality, idea, event, or about whether something will happen or something is true or real, or anything else under the sun you can think up!  Think beyond the obvious!  Your story can be poetry or prose, sweet, funny, surprising or anything in between, but it will only count for the contest if it includes someone curious (can be the main character but doesn’t have to be) and is 214 words (get it? 2/14 for Valentines Day 🙂  You can go under the word count but not over! (Title is not included in the word count.)  If you are so inclined, you are welcome to enter more than one entry – just remember you’ll be competing against yourself 🙂  No illustration notes please!

Post your story on your blog between right now this very second and Friday February 14th by 11:59 PM EDT and add your post-specific link to the list below.  There will be no regularly scheduled posts (Tuesday Debut, Would You Read It or PPBF) for the duration of the contest, so this post and the list of links will stay up all week for everyone to enjoy. If you would like to enter but don’t have a blog you are welcome to paste your entry in the comment section below (please be sure to include your byline so that if your posting handle is writesbynightlight1 or something I’ll be able to tell who you are!)  If anyone has trouble commenting, which unfortunately happens, please email your entry to me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com and I’ll post your entry for you. But please no attachments!  Just copy and paste your story including byline into the email.  Also, please only post your entry once – either in the comment section of my blog or on the link list or by emailing me and asking me to post it.  Multiple postings of the same entry get confusing. 🙂
P.S.  Although I try to stay glued to my computer 24/7 I am sometimes forced to leave my desk.  If you haven’t commented on my blog before, your comment won’t show up until I approve it.  It may take a little while if I’m away from my desk.  Likewise, if you send me an entry to post, I promise I will do it as soon as I can!

The Judging: over the next several days, my lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to 6-10 top choices depending on number and quality of entries (hee hee hee – you know how much trouble I have with the narrowing, so we’ll see) which will be posted here and voted on for a winner on Wednesday February 19th (or possibly a day or two later if the judges need extra time.)   The winner will be announced Friday February 21st or Saturday February 22nd depending on judging and voting time needed. (And there will be no Tuesday Debut, WYRI or PPBF that week either so that everyone will have time to read and vote and so that we don’t confuse PPBF with announcing winners.)  The dates of the judging/voting/winner announcements are subject to finagling depending on how much time the judges actually end up needing!

Judging criteria will include:

  1. Kid-appeal/Kid-friendliness – remember, this is a story for kids!
  2. Creativity in using curiosity and success in making us feel the curiosity!
  3. Valentine’s Day appropriateness – this is a VALENTINE story!
  4. Quality of story – we will look for basic story elements and a true story arc
  5. Quality of writing – use and flow of language, correctness of mechanics, excellence of rhyme and meter if you use it.
  6. Originality – surprise us with something new and different! 🙂

The Prizes:  Oh, so many wonderful things to choose from that will be of great help to you in your writing career!!!

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

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

Penny Klostermann

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

495eb-penny      Cooked-Up Fairy Tale

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

Rosie Pova                Sarah's Song

If I Weren't With You Sunday Rain

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

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

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

Ellen Leventhal       Don't Eat The Bluebonnets

Hayfest     Lola Can't Leap

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

Sherry Howard (4)Cover Rock and Roll Woods

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

Lydia Lukidis        No Bears Allowed

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

MPBM

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

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

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

Not Quite Snow White      noah

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

Emily's Idea HEY, HEY, HAY! Cover

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

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

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

What Color Is Night? Caspian Finds A Friend

 

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

 

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

Steel yourself!

A Valentiny Mystery (184 words)

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

What could it be?

“Ribbon? Wagon? Redwood tree?”

Ooh! I love a mystery!

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

What could it be?

“Candy apple? Raspberry?”

Hmm… it’s still a mystery!

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

What could it be?

“A candy heart? A strawberry?”

Hmmm… it’s still a mystery!

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

What could it be?

“A sparkle-sprinkled chocolate cherry?”

Golly! What a mystery!

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

What could it be?

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

I warned you. . . 🙂

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

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

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

So!

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

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

Happy Valentines Week, Everyone! 💕

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

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

The Twelve Days Of Valentines…

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

Woohoo!  Fun, right???!!! 🙂

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

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

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

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

Or, to be more precise, 12 days until the

The 5th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest!!!

Valentiny Writing Contest 2019!

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

The Contest:  since writing for children is all about “big emotion for little people” (I forget who said that, but someone did so I put it in quotes!) and Valentines Day is all about emotion, write a Valentines story appropriate for children (children here defined as ages 12 and under) maximum 214 words in which someone feels curious!  Your someone can feel curious themselves or make someone else feel curious.  The curiosity may be about a person, place, thing, quality, idea, event, or about whether something will happen or something is true or real, or anything else under the sun you can think up!  Think beyond the obvious!  Your story can be poetry or prose, sweet, funny, surprising or anything in between, but it will only count for the contest if it includes someone curious (can be the main character but doesn’t have to be) and is 214 words (get it? 2/14 for Valentines Day 🙂  You can go under the word count but not over! (Title is not included in the word count.)  If you are so inclined, you are welcome to enter more than one entry – just remember you’ll be competing against yourself 🙂  No illustration notes please!

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

The Judging: over the next several days, my lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to 6-10 top choices depending on number and quality of entries (hee hee hee – you know how much trouble I have with the narrowing, so we’ll see) which will be posted here and voted on for a winner on Wednesday February 19th (or possibly a day or two later if the judges need extra time.)   The winner will be announced Friday February 21st or Saturday February 22nd depending on judging and voting time needed. (And there will be no Tuesday Debut, WYRI or PPBF that week either so that everyone will have time to read and vote and so that we don’t confuse PPBF with announcing winners.)  The dates of the judging/voting/winner announcements are subject to finagling depending on how much time the judges actually end up needing!

Judging criteria will include:

  1. Kid-appeal/Kid-friendliness – remember, this is a story for kids!
  2. Creativity in using curiosity and success in making us feel the curiosity!
  3. Valentine’s Day appropriateness – this is a VALENTINE story!
  4. Quality of story – we will look for basic story elements and a true story arc
  5. Quality of writing – use and flow of language, correctness of mechanics, excellence of rhyme and meter if you use it.
  6. Originality – surprise us with something new and different! 🙂

The Prizes:  I’m still working on prizes, but I wanted to get the contest guidelines up so you’d have time to write.  If anyone has anything fabulous to offer, drop me an email 🙂  But meanwhile, start writing and watch this space for prizes which I will add as I get them organized!

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

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

Penny Klostermann

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

 

495eb-penny      Cooked-Up Fairy Tale

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

Rosie Pova                Sarah's Song

If I Weren't With You Sunday Rain

 

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

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

 

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

Ellen Leventhal       Don't Eat The Bluebonnets

Hayfest     Lola Can't Leap

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

Sherry Howard (4)Cover Rock and Roll Woods

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

Lydia Lukidis        No Bears Allowed

 

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

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

 

MorningWithGrandpa_cover

Lee&Low New Voices Award 2013

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

Not Quite Snow White

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

Emily's Idea

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

queen of physics cover

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

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

noah

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

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

I can’t wait to read your stories!!!

The 2019 Holiday Contest WINNERS!!!

 

 

          🎄             ⭐️             ✡️             ❄️             🕎             ☃️             🎄

 

Well, hello there, my little cupcakes!

It’s Thursday, so you know what that means!

For starters, it means you’re a little confused!

This is the second time this week you’ve come to visit on a day I don’t post!

But that is delightful in every way because I am ALWAYS glad to see you!

And as it turns out, I kind of thought you might wander in, so I made you something.

Yes! I really did!

All by myself!

It IS the holiday baking season after all . . .

. . . which got me to thinking, wouldn’t we all like to know what kind of holiday cookie we are?

I mean, I know wondering about that keeps me up at night. . . !😊

The rest of the world may be busy figuring out their elf names or their reindeer names, but that is so last year.

You are so special that you are the ONLY people IN THE WOLRD who get to discover what kind of cookie you are!  Check it out!

What Kind Of Holiday Cookie Are You_

And now you know how I spend my time – thinking up cookie flavors and types, randomizing the lists, and employing canva to make festive charts.  No wonder I haven’t vacuumed😊

Allow me to introduce myself:  Chocolate Chip Crinkle Cookie!!!  (which I think describes me to a T since I love chocolate and I am quite crinkly-looking now that I’m more than half a century old!😊)

So now that you all know what kind of cookie you are (please feel free to share in the comments!) you can all go off happily to your holiday whirlwind of shopping and wrapping and cooking and baking and traveling or tidying depending whether your visiting or hosting and etc, etc, etc!

Bon voyage!

See you next year!

                                                 ❄️

                                                                                                                                    ❄️

                       ❄️                                                              ❄️

                                                      ❄️

                                                                                                ❄️

                         ❄️                                           ❄️

                                                                                                                   ❄️

 

Tra-la-la…

Oh!

You’re still here?

Not that I mind, but . . .

. . . was there something you wanted?

Besides your cookie name?

It’s almost as if you’re hanging around . . .

. . . waiting for something . . .

. . . like . . .

. . . maybe . . .

. . . to find out who won

THE 9TH ANNUAL HOLIDAY CONTEST!!!

Holiday

~ for children’s writers ~

 

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

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

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

So my assistant judges and I would like to award recognition 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!)

Carmen Castillo Gilbert for Andres SAVES la Navidad (beautifully written with a natural interweaving of Spanish vocabulary and a lovely depiction of a grandmother/grandson relationship)

Colleen Murphy for The Recipe (beautifully written and poignant – a tug-on-the-heartstrings story with a hopeful ending)

Janet Smart for Ho! Ho! Ho! Yum! (fun and kid-friendly with a delightfully conscientious mouse 🙂 )

Sarah Meade for Claire’s Big Christmas Trip (we could imagine her special outing to New York City perfectly!)

Maria Antonia for Last Christmas Cookie (great portrayal of sibling interaction and a nicely executed twist ending!)

Lori Sheroan for Watch And Learn (an entry we loved for its beautiful setting and wonderful characterization done in very few words as well as its Appalachian folk tale flavor)

Deb Sullivan for A Great Treat (energetic, kid-friendly and fun!)

Kathy Halsey for Likin’ Lichen . . . Or Marshmallows? (fun and believably kid – favorite line: “Their eyes – how they twinkled. Their noses – So hairy. Their antlers – so tall and a teensy bit scary.” 🙂 )

Katrina Swenson for The Great Cookie Escape (original, creative and entertaining Point of View (the cookies!) very well written!)

Kelly Pope Adamson for Recipe For A Snowman (very creative – who knew you could make a snowman without snow?!)

 

2. For Fun, Well-Written Twists on Familiar Tales:

Brenda Covert for A Surprise For General Gingerbread (well written and fun, not exactly based on the tale, but the main character is technically a Gingerbread Man 🙂 )

Jill Lambert for Even Trolls Deserve A Treat (a kind-hearted twist on The Three Billy Goats Gruff)

Angela Verges for Cora’s Christmas Cookies (a cute twist on The Little Red Hen)

Stacey Miller for A Fairy Tale Treat (a twist on Hansel And Gretel with a touch of the The Three Little Pigs thrown in – favorite line: “A book of 101 Things To Make With A Turnip” 🙂 )

 

 

3. For Top Of The Naughty List:

Sarah Hetu-Radny for A Trickster’s Treat (that Ellery was up to every kind of no-good! – good job with character!)

 

4. For Poetic Writing and Original Format:

Tracy Curran for The Choice Of A Tree (lovely language, poignant story which she somehow wrote in the shape of a Christmas tree!)

 

5. For Excellence In Representing A Different Holiday Tradition: (not already in the Finals or All-Around HM)

Jyoti Rajan Gopal for Luscious Laddoos: A Sweet Story (wonderfully descriptive and mouth-watering!)

 

 

6. For Best Entry Based On A True Story:

Pat Finnegan for A Taste Of Peace (based on the Christmas Eve truce in hostilities on the Western Front)

 

 

Congratulations to all of you for fantastic elements of your stories!  You may all email me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com subject line Prize Winner to collect your award badge and prize, which is five dollars in a format that can be emailed for you to put toward something you’d like at a large online store (and I’m being cryptic because when I did this for Halloweensie I got a ton of problematic spam mail because of the way I worded the post, but hopefully you can figure it out.  The store starts with the letter A 🙂 )

 

And now…

…the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

The announcement of the WINNERS OF THE 2019 HOLIDAY CONTEST as voted on by you, our esteemed readers!!!

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

DDDRRRUUUMMM RRROOOLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!

In First Place

Winner of the whole shebang…

who gets first choice of all the prizes…

Rebecca Gardyn Levington
for

The Greatest Latke Topping!!!

Congratulations, Rebecca, on a fun, kid-friendly story written in spot-on rhyme with a delightfully humorous ending that was clearly very popular with a LOT of readers!!!  It ain’t over til Ketchup comes to the table! 🙂

In Second Place

Laurie Carmody
for
All I Want For Christmas

Congratulations, Laurie, on a fun, kid-friendly entry that made us laugh at yet another use for the poor. much-maligned fruit cake 🙂  You get to pick your prize after Rebecca.

In Third Place

Kelly Kandra Hughes
for

Christmas Peach Pie

Congratulations, Kelly, on an entry that made us long for peach pie and admire your little main character for being willing to embrace the naughty list to get that pie! 🙂  You get to pick your prize after Rebecca and Laurie.

In Fourth Place

Sue Lancaster
for
Grandpa Ted’s Garden Shed

Congratulations, Sue, on a fun story about a holiday treat that wasn’t food!!! with a great ending that left us wondering what exactly Grandpa gets up to in his spare time… 🙂  You get to pick your prize after Rebecca, Laurie, and Kelly!

In Fifth Place… a tie! between

Kailei Pew                                                                                      Anne Lipton
for                                                                                                       for
       A Christmas Treat For Mama                                                         Vinarterta With Amma

Congratulations, Kelly, on a sweet story that embraced the true spirit of the season, and Congratulations, Anne, on a beautifully-written story full of lovely language that introduced us to a different holiday tradition!  Great job both of you!  You get to pick your prizes after Rebecca, Laurie, Kelly, and Sue… and we may have to negotiate a little (which is why I try to avoid ties, but when they happen they happen!)

In Seventh Place…

Lara Elliot
for
Gingerbread Family

Congratulations, Lara!  We loved how Isabel found a way to make the best of things, not only saving the cookies but celebrating each member of the family for their uniqueness!  I’m sure you get the idea of how the prize picking goes by now 🙂

In Eighth Place…

Gabrielle Cardwell
for
Biscuit’s Christmas Treat

Congratulations, Gabrielle!  We loved that your story celebrated a dog’s POV of a Christmas walk through the neighborhood, and we felt like we knew Biscuit!  You get to pick after Lara 🙂

In Ninth Place

Tracy Curran
for
The Gingerbread Sleigh

Congratulations, Tracy, on your mouth-watering entry written in excellent rhyme with a wonderful ending!  You get to pick after Gabrielle 🙂

In Tenth Place

Brenda Whitehead
for
Christmas Eve Treats

Congratulations, Brenda, on a lovely entry that celebrated the love between a grandmother and granddaughter and came around to such a sweet ending where their roles were reversed.  You get to pick your prize after Tracy!

In Eleventh Place

Deborah Bence Boerema
for
Christmas Kitchen Chaos

Congratulations, Deborah, on an entry that perfectly portrayed the way things seem to go in the kitchen this time of year with a lovely ending that showed it’s the who not the what that matters!  You get to pick after Brenda!

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 Holiday Treat (see what I did there?  🙂 )

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

As I… hmm… maybe didn’t mention…? but seem to do every year so you’re probably not surprised, I’m taking a little blogging break so I can spend time with my family – I’ve got children to fetch, cookies to bake, Christmas presents to shop for and wrap, and my sister and her family arriving from Georgia! 🙂  So I will see you all in a couple weeks – most probably the first week of January 🙂

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

Looking forward to all the things we’ll do in 2020!

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

Screen Shot 2017-12-18 at 4.46.14 PM

 

 

 

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

 

Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Children’s Literary Agent Melissa Richeson of Apokedak Literary!!! Melissa will read and give a written critique of your picture book manuscript plus a 10 minute phone call to talk!!!

MG/YA First 1500 Words Critique from Children’s Literary Agent Melissa Richeson of Apokedak Literary!!! Melissa will read and give a written critique of the first 1500 words of your MG or YA manuscript!!!

Melissa Richeson

Literary Agent Melissa Richeson

Melissa is currently looking to build her client list and is focusing on children’s book authors—picture books through young adult. She’s drawn to witty wording and whimsical design for picture books, humor and quick pacing for chapter books, charming mysteries or magic in middle grade, and fresh, character-driven stories in young adult. She’s not the best fit for horror, high fantasy, or graphic violence of any kind

.

 

 

Art of Arc Writing Course from writer and editor Alayne Kay Christian!

Art of ArcArt of Arc is an independent-study picture book writing course. Most stories have some sort of arc. Many successful picture books are built around an arc. Understanding story and character arcs will help give your story order and the tension that will energize it from the beginning to the end. This energy will not only drive your protagonist forward – it will also drive readers to turn pages and keep reading.

The purpose of this course is to deepen your understanding of picture books written with a classic arc and to introduce you to many other picture books structures. The course also addresses a number of common issues that weaken a story and common writing mistakes that authors make.

Picture Book Manuscript Critique (rhyming or non-rhyming) 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)

fb844-penny 495eb-penny A Cooked Up Fairy Tale

Rhyming Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Dawn Young, author of THE NIGHT BAAFORE CHRISTMAS (WorthyKids 2019)

Young headshot hi res for blog - jacket

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

Picture2 Picture1 gorilla

Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Julie Abery, author of LITTLE TIGER and LITTLE PANDA (Amicus Ink 2019) and the forthcoming YUSRA SWIMS (Creative Editions February 2020) and LITTLE MONKEY and LITTLE HIPPO (Amicus Ink February 2020)

julie abery Yusra Swims

Little Tiger Cover Little Panda Cover Little Monkey Little Hippo

Book Bundle #1 – Nonfiction

Signed Copies of multiple star- and award-winning picture books

SONNY’S BRIDGE: JAZZ LEGEND SONNY ROLLINS FINDS HIS GROOVE (Charlesbridge 2019) and A PLACE TO LAND (Charlesbridge 2019)

and

A PLACE TO LAND: MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. AND THE SPEECH THAT INSPIRED A NATION (Charlesbridge 2019) by Barry Wittenstein

barry-wittenstein-photo Sonny's Bridge A Place To Land

 

Book Bundle #2 – Two By Tara Plus One

Personalized, signed copies of OPERATION PHOTOBOMB (Albert Whitman 2019) and I USED TO BE FAMOUS (Albert Whitman 2019) by Tara Luebbe

Tara Luebbe Operation Photobomb I Used To Be Famous

and a personalized signed copy of MOTHER TERESA: THE LITTLE PENCIL IN GOD’S HAND (Spork 2019) by Patricia Saunders

patricia-saunders_orig  Mother Teresa cover

Children's Writers And Illustrators 2020

(Charlesbridge 2019)

Making A Living Writing Books For Kids: Tips, Techniques, and Tales from a Working Children’s Author – by Laura Purdie Salas

Making A Living

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

The 2019 Holiday Contest FINALISTS!!!

hello?

Hello?

Is someone there?

What day is this?

Monday?

It IS Monday.

So what brings you to this neck of the woods?  I don’t post on Monday.

Ah! I know!

You came for treats!

Hang on.  Let me rummage about for a moment and see what kind of goodies I have squirreled away.

Hmm. . .

The cupboard is alarmingly bare.

It’s empty of cookies.

It’s empty of pies.

It’s empty of gooey marshmallow surprise!

No gumdrops! Or twizzlers!! Or peppermint sweets!!!

No chocolate!  NO CHOCOLATE!  NOT ONE CHOCOLATE TREAT!!!!!!!

OMG!!!!!!! EMERGENCY!!!!!!!

AAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

It’s okay.

I’m not panicking.

I just had a little . . . moment.

But all is well.

Nothing a little shopping trip and an hour or two of baking won’t fix in a jiffy!

I forgot that, in a desperate bid to maintain sanity, the other judges and I ate every single treat this weekend whilst trying to winnow your many, many amazing entries down to a handful of finalists.

Which, I imagine, is the real reason you’re here 🙂

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

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

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

Third, I want to reiterate how difficult it was too choose!  There were so many amazing entries.  Really.  I could find at least something terrific about every single one.  The sheer volume of entries meant that many good ones had to be cut.  So if yours didn’t make the final cut please don’t feel bad.  There was a huge amount of competition.  Judging, no matter how hard we try to be objective, is always subjective at a certain point – we all have our own preferences for what makes a great story.  And the fact that you didn’t make the final cut DOES NOT mean you didn’t write a great story.  Everyone who plonked their butt in a chair and worked hard to write a story for this contest is a winner!  You showed up.  You did your best work.  You practiced your craft.  You wrote to specifications and a deadline.  You bravely shared your writing with the world.  And you have a brand new story that is now yours to revise, expand, and polish if you like and maybe submit at some point to a magazine or as a PB manuscript.  A lot of people have successfully done that at this point – we have quite a few books in the world that were born in Halloweensie, Holiday, or Valentiny Contests, plus a chapter book series that came out of the Fractured Fairy Tale Contest one spring!  So bravo to everyone who entered!

You will recall the judging criteria:

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

 

As I said above, you all did a stellar job – there were no bad stories.  But we had to pick the 11 we thought were the all-around best on all 5 counts listed.  (11 because we have 11 prizes)

So, without further ado, I present to you the 2019 Holiday Contest Finalists.  A mix of poetry and prose, stories for younger readers and slightly older (but still kid) readers, funny, poignant, and cute.  Please read through them carefully, take your time, think it over, and vote for your favorite.  To help with objectivity, finalists are listed by title only, not by author.

And I’d like to be very clear about the voting process.  You are MOST welcome to share a link to this post on FB, twitter, or wherever you like to hang out, and encourage people to come read ALL the finalists and vote for the one they think is best.  Please do that.  The more people who read and enjoy these stories the better, and the more objective votes we get the better.  HOWEVER (and I want to be very clear on this) please do not identify yourself or ask others to identify you as a finalist on social media, please do not ask people to vote for a specific number or title, and please do not ask people to vote for the story about the unicorn-riding gingerbread princess or whatever.  Trolling for votes or trying to influence the outcome is counter to the spirit of this competition which is supposed to be based on merit.  I thank you in advance for respecting this.

So here we go! Read! Enjoy! VOTE! 🙂

#1 – Gingerbread Family

The warm scent of ginger and cloves tickled Isabel’s nose. “Mami, the timer’s going off!”

“Okay, stand back, Isa. It’s hot.” Mami pulled the pan out. “Oh no!”

“What’s wrong?” Isa climbed up on a stool to get a closer look. The cookie dough had spread! All the little gingerbread men were plump and lopsided.

Mami put her hand on her hip. “They’re ruined. We can’t serve these.”

“Why not?” Isa licked her lips. They still looked yummy.

“Christmastime with family is special. I want everything to be perfect.”

“Can we make new ones?” Isa asked.

Mami shook her head. “We don’t have enough ingredients.”

“Can we fix them?”

“They would probably break.”

Isa thought for a moment. “Maybe the family won’t mind that they’re crooked.”

“I don’t know.”

Isa pointed at one of the cookies. “Look! This one looks exactly like Abuela with her poofy hair.”

“I guess.”

She pointed to another with a big round belly. “And that one looks like Tío Emanuel.”

Mami laughed. “You’re right. It does.”

“This crooked one looks like Abuelo.”

“Mija, I love the way you see things.”

Isa and Mami carefully decorated their unique treats. When the family visited, they each were delighted to get a cookie that looked like them.

Isabel felt so proud. “You were right, Mami. Christmastime with family is special.”

“Sí, Isa. Everything was perfect.”

 

#2 – A Christmas Treat For Mama

Melody grinned as she rushed home. She had planned the perfect Christmas treat for weeks. And today, Grandma helped her make a mountain of fudge for Mama.

“Wow!” Someone said from behind. “Is that a mountain of fudge?!”

Melody turned to see her new neighbor, Jason.

“Yes!” Melody boasted. “All for my Mama!”

“Oh,” Jason said, looking at his toes. “Sure wish I could make a treat like that for my Mama.”

“Go tell your Daddy.” Mindy suggested. “I’m sure you can make a fine treat for your Mama.”

“Yeah…” mumbled Jason. “Maybe…”

Melody continued on her way. But she slowed as she approached her house…

Maybe it was the way that Jason’s coat hung much too big around his small frame.

Or the way his sad eyes had never quite met hers.

Or perhaps something in her heart just told her…

…Jason couldn’t make a treat like this for his Mama.

She hurried back and clumsily pushed the fudge into Jason’s hands.

“I think your Mama would like this even more than mine,” she said hastily.

“Oh boy! Thank you!” He whooped. “Mama! Mama!” He called as he ran inside.

Melody raced back to her house, hot tears burning in her eyes.

She burst through the door and fell into her Mama’s arms. The entire story tumbled from her lips.

“And now,” she sobbed, “I don’t have a Christmas treat for you!”

“Oh baby girl,” Mama said, “Don’t you see? You’ve given me the greatest treat of all!”

 

#3 – Christmas Peach Pie

Twas the night before Christmas,
and I was in bed.
No visions of sugar plums
danced in my head.

All I could think of
was Grandma’s Peach Pie.
Just one slice remaining,
I’m not gonna lie….

I wanted that slice
to be mine alone;
to not have to share it
with big sister Joan.

Or Mama or Papa,
Uncle Bob or Aunt Sue.
Or my three little cousins,
John, Mark, and Lou.

Just thinking about
that perfect pie slice,
I crept out of bed
each step so precise.

Into the hall,
I moved like a snail.
Just one creaky floorboard
could cause me to fail.

I made it downstairs!
Just one room to go.
Crikey, that hurt!
I stubbed my big toe.

I limped to the fridge.
I opened the door.
Oh, peachy delight!
My tummy did ROAR.

Onto a plate
I set down my slice.
Wait just a second,
Warm pie would be nice.

OMG, that was close!
I almost forgot.
The microwave beeps;
I nearly was caught.

Now it’s just me
and my peachy pie.
A Christmas Eve treat,
I thought with a sigh.

“Naughty or nice?”
boomed a voice from behind.
I whirled around
And then lost my mind.

Santa was there
wagging his finger.
I looked at my pie,
and I didn’t linger.

I gobbled it up;
I shoved it right in!
“Naughty,” I said,
through my peachy-pie grin.

“No regrets,” I told Santa.
And to my surprise,
Santa agreed,
“I do love peach pies.”

 

#4 – Grandpa Ted’s Garden Shed

Grandpa Ted has a garden shed, but the door stays firmly closed,
Whenever I visit, I try to peek in, but he won’t even show Granny Rose.
Whatever it is Grandpa keeps inside, he will not let me see.
I beg to him: “pleeeeease let me in,” but he keeps it a mystery…
Maybe Grandpa’s a super hero, and it’s where he keeps his cape?
Then, when he thinks no-one’s looking, he quickly makes his escape…
Maybe Grandpa’s a time-traveler, and his shed is a time machine?
Transporting him far in the future, the things he must have seen…
Maybe Grandpa’s a secret spy, and it’s where he keeps his tools?
Night vision goggles, invisible ink – now, that would be really cool…
Maybe Grandpa’s an astronaut, and his shed is a rocket ship?
Whenever he steps inside, he takes an intergalactic trip…
Then, one afternoon when I visit, Grandpa opens the shed door wide,
“Come in,” he says, “I’m finished. Let’s see what’s hidden inside.”
Grandpa has made me a playhouse, as a special Christmas treat!
“It’s filled with all my favourite things! Oh, Grandpa, you’re so sweet!
A train track with a wind-up train… a doll’s house with four floors…
Jigsaw puzzles… board games… and picture books galore!”
So now the mystery’s over, but something’s made me pause:
A suit so bright tucked out of sight… is Grandpa…

Santa Claus?

 

#5 – All I Want For Christmas

Franny’s Big Front Tooth would not move.
Not a wiggle or a jiggle. Not a shimmy or a shake.

Its pearly white neighbor jumped ship on a regular old Tuesday.
The bottom chompers both popped out with the help of an apple.
Even the other Big Front Tooth had taken the plunge last fall.
One by one, each and every tooth bit the dust.
But not Big Front Tooth.

Franny tried tugging and tapping.
Even prodding and pleading.
Big Front Tooth WOULD. NOT. MOVE.

“All I want for Christmas is my tooth to come OUT!” Franny begged while sitting on Santa’s lap.
“Try a candy cane,” said Santa.
Crunch!…Nothing.
“…a molasses cookie?”
Chomp!…Still nothing.
“Peppermint bark will surely take the bite out of your bite!”
Crack!…The tooth stayed firmly rooted.

And so Franny woke up on Christmas morning, frantically feeling with her tongue.
There it was. Big Front Tooth, parked squarely in her gums.
She plodded downstairs, wondering if Santa had given her some magical dental equipment or something.

Instead, she found a package under the tree and a note that read:
“Dear Franny,
Please enjoy my famous fruitcake. No teeth can chew it. No glass of milk can soften it.
-Tooth Fairy”

“No teeth can chew it?” repeated Franny.

She took a bite.

Big Front Tooth wiggled and jiggled.
It shimmied and shook.
And POP!

That stubborn sweet tooth came right out.

Whistling through the new gap in her smile, Franny cried…

“Merry Christmas tooth all!”

 

#6 – Christmas Kitchen Chaos

Twas the week before Christmas, when all through the kitchen
Mom was so flustered; I just had to pitch in.
Church potlucks, class parties, and family dinners . . .
This volume of baking was not for beginners!

Treats for teachers and neighbors and coaches and sitters . . .
The list kept on growing. It gave us the jitters!
We Googled ideas for cookies and breads,
While lists of ingredients danced in our heads.

We spoke not a word, but went straight to our work.
Things started out fine, then they just went berserk!
The counter dusted with flour like new-fallen snow;
We were getting it ready to roll out the dough.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But our KitchenAid mixer, jammed in high gear!
I looked on in horror as eggs splashed everywhere
On the floor, on the walls, and of course in my hair!

And then, in a twinkling, I thought I smelled smoke.
Oh no! Not burned cookies! This must be a joke.
It was time for the icing, confetti, and such.
Slather, squirt, sprinkle! Oops! Did I use too much?

When the last gift was packaged, Mom plopped on a chair,
Asking, “Which Christmas treat is your favorite to share?”
I said, a bit puzzled, “I thought that you knew . . .
The best treat for me is just baking with you!”

 

#7 – The Gingerbread Sleigh

The day is drawing nearer,
for our yearly Christmas treat.
We’re heading off to Grandma’s
to whip up something sweet.

A gooey, sticky biscuit house,
with walls of gingerbread.
And a roof that’s draped in icing;
white and green and red.

We cover it in sweeties,
Pipe windows on, then doors.
And roll some golden marzipan
to carpet all the floors.

But my brother is not happy.
“We do this every year!”
So Granny gives him full control.
“Make something else, my dear!”

My brother looks delighted
(though I am not too keen).
He cuts out complex templates
and pipes a background scene.

Till, finally, I come on board
and help to mix and weigh
and bake and glue his good idea…

a jolly Christmas sleigh.

It stands so proud and regal
Piped with gleaming gold.
But still, it’s needing something more
and so we start to mould…

We sculpt and shape the marzipan,
we work till they appear.
We paint, then add the antlers…
a fleet of nine reindeer.

Our holiday treat is finished;
a sleigh of gingerbread,
but we never get to eat it…

for next day the sleigh has fled!

And still the neighbours whisper
about the strange-shaped sight…
a biscuit sleigh with reindeer
flying out into the night.

 

#8 –

 

#9 – Biscuit’s Christmas Treat

Biscuit the bulldog is taking a nap,
snoring and drooling on Oliver’s lap.
She rolls to the floor but continues to snooze
as he wipes off the slobber and laces his shoes.

She opens her eyes as he tickles her chin,
“Let’s go for a walk, it’s too nice to stay in.”
He strolls down the path, through the gate to the street.
She waddles behind, smelling good things to eat.

Turkey with stuffing at house number four.
Ham at the place with the wreath on the door.
Warm apple pie at the home with the tree.
Pudding with custard at house number three.

Gingerbread stars at the home with the lights.
Biscuit inhales all these Christmas delights,
Roasted potatoes and mixed berry crumbles.
Her tummy is hungry. It growls and it grumbles.

“It’s time to go home for it’s getting quite late.”
They turn and walk back to the house through the gate.
In Biscuits blue bowl – surprise! It’s a bone,
a fabulous Christmasy treat of her own.

After the feasting is done for the night,
Biscuit is tucked in her bed, snug and tight.
She snuffles and snorts while she dreams of her treat
and all of the wonderful scents from the street.

 

#10 – Christmas Eve Treats

We have a tradition, my Grandma and me,

To make a new treat every year Christmas Eve.

And each little treat comes along with some fun,

A story, a dance, and a mess when we’re done!

 

When I was three we made gingerbread friends,

We practiced the ginger waltz kitchen to den,

She told me a story of button gumdrops,

That made me so strong I could climb the treetops!

 

When I was four we made cinnamon swirls,

And while they were baking we practiced our twirls.

She told me a story of dresses so rare,

That when twirled fast took me up in the air!

 

When I was five we made candy cane sweets,

And we danced the twist arm-in-arm through the streets.

She told me a story of red-striped balloons,

That when I held tight floated me to the moon!

 

This year I’m six and in charge of the treat.

See, Grandma has moved, and she has a wheeled seat.

 

Grandma, I made us some gingerbread friends,

I’ll push you, and we’ll ginger waltz once again!

 

Grandma, I made us some cinnamon swirls,

I’ll help spin your chair into special wheeled twirls!

 

Grandma, I made us some candy cane sweets,

Now let’s go outside and roll-twist through the streets.

 

Grandma, I brought some more presents for you,

Button gumdrops, a dress, and a red-striped balloon.

Now you can climb, fly, and float up with me!

We’re the story this year, the best Christmas Eve treat.

 

#11 – Vinarterta with Amma

Góðan daginn! Hello from New Iceland!
Amma and I are making vinarterta for Þorláksmessa, Saint Thorlak’s Day, and Christmas.
We cream sparkling sugar into fluffy butter and sprinkle in spicy cardamom for warmth.

Crack! Each egg yields a yolk as precious as the winter sun,
which shines for only a few hours each day
in Manitoba
and Iceland.

Whoosh! Flour sifts into the bowl
like the drifts of snow
in Manitoba
and Iceland.

We roll the dough into seven pans and bake them in the oven.
Why seven?
Wait and see.

We hum “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” as the dried plums bubble into glossy jam.
Amma lifts the pans from the oven, two by two, and then the last, odd one out.
“Are we Icelandic or Canadian?” I ask.
“Já,” says Amma.
“Yes?”
Amma smiles, her blue eyes twinkling, and squeezes my fingers in her warm palm. “Two hands, one heart.”

I spoon the plum filling on top of each layer.
It flows like lava over the warm cake.
We stack the seven layers,
pressing them paper-thin,
making stripes of fire and ice,
as red and white as the Canadian flag,
or the red and white cross of the Icelandic flag.

We slather the cake in icing and wrap it like a present.
Gleðileg jól! Merry Christmas!
Takk! Thank you for coming.
We hope you enjoy our vinarterta.
But you must wait a week before you eat it,
letting the seven layers soften
over seven long short days.

 

 

Wow! Did those entries knock your socks off or what?! 🙂

Now that you’ve had a chance to read through the finalists, please vote for the entry you feel deserves to win in the poll below by 7PM EST Wednesday December 18.

 

 

Tune in Thursday December 19 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 can’t wait to see who you choose as the winner!  Good luck!!! 🙂

Ho! Ho! Ho! The 9th Annual Holiday Contest Is HERE!!!

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

It’s time for . . .

THE 9TH ANNUAL HOLIDAY CONTEST!!!

Holiday

~ for children’s writers ~

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

Your treat can be any kind of treat – a delectable holiday food specialty – Grandma’s Sugar Cookie Reindeer, or the Brown Family Gingerbread House; an event or experience that is a treat – the town Holiday Parade, attending the Nutcracker Ballet, or getting to light a candle on the menorah; making a treat for someone else – baking peppermint crunch brownies for the residents of a local shelter, or doing something special for a favorite teacher or neighbor – sky’s the limit 🙂

Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever you celebrate, 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 on your blog between right now this very second and Wednesday December 11 at 11:59 PM EST, and your post-specific link should be added to the link list below.  This post will remain up for your reading pleasure until I post the finalists.  There will be no regular posts (Tuesday Debuts, Perfect Picture Book, or Would You Read It) for the duration of the contest so the links will stay up for everyone to visit and enjoy. If you don’t have a blog and would like to enter, you can simply copy and paste your entry in the comments section below (please include your byline! If your posting handle is something like MamaWritesByNightlight I can’t identify you.)  If you have difficulty posting in the comments, which unfortunately sometimes happens, you may email your entry to me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com and I’ll post it for you.  Please place your entry in the body of the email including your title and byline at the topNO ATTACHMENTS!  Please do not submit entries before the start of the contest!  Please submit your entry only ONCE! If you add it to the blog link list, and the comments, and email me to post it, things get very confusing!  I try to stay as glued to my desk as possible, but sometimes I have to get up so if I don’t respond to your email or approve your post immediately, don’t panic!  I’ll get to it as soon as I can!

 

The Judging:  My lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to approximately 10 finalists (depending on the number of entries – if we get a lower turnout we’ll post fewer finalists, a higher turnout possibly one or two more.)  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 Monday December 16 for you to vote on for a winner.  The vote will be closed on Wednesday December 18 at 5 PM EST.  Whoever gets the most votes will be first and so on down to tenth place (or wherever we place to), and the winners will be announced on Thursday December 19.

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 Treat! – the rules state a Holiday Treat story, so it must be crystal clear that the story is about a treat of some kind that is specific to Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or whatever you celebrate.  The story must center on the treat  – the treat must not be just an offhand mention/reference in a story about something else.
  • 3. Quality of story – entries must tell a story, including a main character of some kind and a true story arc even if it’s tiny 🙂  Entries must not be merely descriptions or mood pieces.
  • 4. Quality of Writing: check your spelling, grammar, punctuation etc.  If you’re going to rhyme, give us your best 🙂  Overall writing quality and use of language are also important.
  • 5. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.

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

 

Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Children’s Literary Agent Melissa Richeson of Apokedak Literary!!! Melissa will read and give a written critique of your picture book manuscript plus a 10 minute phone call to talk!!!

MG/YA First 1500 Words Critique from Children’s Literary Agent Melissa Richeson of Apokedak Literary!!! Melissa will read and give a written critique of the first 1500 words of your MG or YA manuscript!!!

Melissa Richeson

Literary Agent Melissa Richeson

Melissa is currently looking to build her client list and is focusing on children’s book authors—picture books through young adult. She’s drawn to witty wording and whimsical design for picture books, humor and quick pacing for chapter books, charming mysteries or magic in middle grade, and fresh, character-driven stories in young adult. She’s not the best fit for horror, high fantasy, or graphic violence of any kind

.

 

 

Art of Arc Writing Course from writer and editor Alayne Kay Christian!

Art of ArcArt of Arc is an independent-study picture book writing course. Most stories have some sort of arc. Many successful picture books are built around an arc. Understanding story and character arcs will help give your story order and the tension that will energize it from the beginning to the end. This energy will not only drive your protagonist forward – it will also drive readers to turn pages and keep reading.

The purpose of this course is to deepen your understanding of picture books written with a classic arc and to introduce you to many other picture books structures. The course also addresses a number of common issues that weaken a story and common writing mistakes that authors make.

Picture Book Manuscript Critique (rhyming or non-rhyming) 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)

fb844-penny 495eb-penny A Cooked Up Fairy Tale

Rhyming Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Dawn Young, author of THE NIGHT BAAFORE CHRISTMAS (WorthyKids 2019)

Young headshot hi res for blog - jacket

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

Picture2 Picture1 gorilla

Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Julie Abery, author of LITTLE TIGER and LITTLE PANDA (Amicus Ink 2019) and the forthcoming YUSRA SWIMS (Creative Editions February 2020) and LITTLE MONKEY and LITTLE HIPPO (Amicus Ink February 2020)

julie abery Yusra Swims

Little Tiger Cover Little Panda Cover Little Monkey Little Hippo

Book Bundle #1 – Nonfiction

Signed Copies of multiple star- and award-winning picture books

SONNY’S BRIDGE: JAZZ LEGEND SONNY ROLLINS FINDS HIS GROOVE (Charlesbridge 2019) and A PLACE TO LAND (Charlesbridge 2019)

and

A PLACE TO LAND: MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. AND THE SPEECH THAT INSPIRED A NATION (Charlesbridge 2019) by Barry Wittenstein

barry-wittenstein-photo Sonny's Bridge A Place To Land

 

Book Bundle #2 – Two By Tara Plus One

Personalized, signed copies of OPERATION PHOTOBOMB (Albert Whitman 2019) and I USED TO BE FAMOUS (Albert Whitman 2019) by Tara Luebbe

Tara Luebbe Operation Photobomb I Used To Be Famous

and a personalized signed copy of MOTHER TERESA: THE LITTLE PENCIL IN GOD’S HAND (Spork 2019) by Patricia Saunders

patricia-saunders_orig  Mother Teresa cover

Children's Writers And Illustrators 2020

(Charlesbridge 2019)

Making A Living Writing Books For Kids: Tips, Techniques, and Tales from a Working Children’s Author – by Laura Purdie Salas

Making A Living

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

 

This is the part in the proceedings where I would normally post my sample to entertain and encourage you, but I’m afraid today, without burdening you with the details, my heart just can’t be in it.  Bad timing, I’m sorry 😦

But I know you guys are going to come up with great stories, and I’m so looking forward to reading them all.  I know they will lift my spirits! 😊

I can’t wait to read all of your entries!  With so many great prizes up for grabs I hope there will be a lot – 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 to add your post-specific link to the google form below so we can all come read your awesome stories!  (Post-specific means not your main blog url, but the actual url of the post that has your story in it – otherwise if you post again before the contest ends, your link will take readers… and judges!… to the wrong place!)

Eager Readers – just go along the list of links, click on them, and enjoy the stories!

 

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

And don’t miss the 77!!! fabulous entries that are posted in the comments below!  The titles are linked and will take you directly to the stories!

  1. Grandpa Ted’s Garden Shed – Sue Lancaster
  2. The Popcorn Tree – Lindsey Hobson
  3. Christmas Vacation Anticipation – Glenda Roberson
  4. A Great Treat – Deb Sullivan
  5. Santa’s Selfie – Sue Lancaster
  6. Mountain Magic – Deb Buschman
  7. The Great Cookie Escape – Katrina Swenson
  8. Elves Need Treats Too – Alicia Fadgen
  9. And One For Me! – Priscilla Merryman
  10. Gulab Jamuns – Shariffa Keshavjee
  11. Xmas Surprise – Shariffa Keshavjee
  12. The Candy Cane Con – Maryna Doughty
  13. Santa’s Sweet Treats – Lu Pierro
  14. Flavor Favor – Dorothy Wawa
  15. Gingerbread House UNDER CONSTRUCTION – Liz Sites
  16. Earl’s Christmas Gift – J. Gray Frye
  17. How NOT To Sit On Santa’s Lap – Chelsea Tornetto
  18. Vinarterta with Amma – Anne Lipton
  19. A Present For Grandma – Susan Drew
  20. Fudge – Johanna Speizer
  21. Never Too Old For Grandma Soo’s Pie – Bru Benson
  22. Where Light Can Reach – Kristen Loughlin
  23. Santa’s Cookies – Megan Hoffman
  24. Broccoli: The Best Holiday Treat – Taylor Gardner
  25. The Big Bad Wish – Roo Parkin
  26. Treats From Trash – Geraldine Jones
  27. Dinosaur Dress-up – Roo Parkin
  28. Christmas Cake Hero – Kristy Roser Nuttall
  29. Even Trolls Deserve A Treat – Jill Lambert
  30. Christmas Kitchen Chaos – Deborah Bence Boerema
  31. Home For The Holidays – Penelope McNally
  32. The Choice Of A Tree – Tracy Curran
  33. The Gingerbread Sleigh – Tracy Curran
  34. The Cookie Competition – Lisa Cloherty
  35. Santa’s Favorite Treat – Deborah Dolan Hunt
  36. Hero Cat’s Treat For Christmas – Lily Erlic
  37. Three Treats For Santa – Dawn Young
  38. Emma’s Turn – Beverly Warren
  39. A Sweet Escape – Tara Cerven
  40. How the Kvetch Hijacked Hanukkah – Paul Kurtz
  41. Best Christmas Ever! – Paul Kurtz
  42. Jungle Bells – Donna Kurtz
  43. My Bubbie’s Special Hanukkah Recipe – Donna Kurtz
  44. Luscious Laddoos: A Sweet Story – Jyoti Rajan Gopal
  45. Santa’s Millionth Cookie – Heather Pierczynski
  46. Recipe For A Snowman – Kelly Pope Adamson
  47. A Fairy Tale Treat – Stacey Miller
  48. All I Want For Christmas – Laurie Carmody
  49. Double The Christmas Waffle Recipe – Kristy Roser Nuttall
  50. A Surprise For General Gingerbread – Brenda Covert
  51. Christmas Magic –  Kristy Roser Nuttall
  52. Special Report – Augusta McMurray
  53. The Reindeer Farm – Carrie Williford
  54. The Greatest Latke Topping – Rebecca Gardyn Levington
  55. That’s The Way The Cookie Crumbles – Amy Flynn
  56. Believe In Christmas Magic – Linda Staszak
  57. Tortellini Day: A Family Holiday Tradition – Mona Pease
  58. Gingercats!– Amy Duchene
  59. Twinkle Twinkle Little Candle – Lisa Hutcheson
  60. Christmas Cookie Cuties – Kathy Mazurowski
  61. Biscuit’s Christmas Treat – Gabrielle Cardwell
  62. A Treat For Nana – Deborah Holt Williams
  63. Gobblewolly’s Gingerbread Goof – Jenny Buchet
  64. An Indigestible Treat – Jill Proctor
  65. Uh-oh, What Happened To The Dough? – JC Kelly
  66. Nutty Nut-Cracking – Ledys Chemin
  67. The Greatest Gift – Valerie Bolling
  68. Grandma Goodsnacks– Abbi Lee
  69. A Taste Of Peace – Pat Finnegan
  70. Andrés SAVES la Navidad – Carmen Castillo Gilbert, PhD
  71. The Case Of The Disappearing Candy Canes – Kristen Donohue
  72. Goodnight Zoolights – Kelly Pope Adamson
  73. With A Puff Of Snow – Yara C
  74. Santa’s Treat – Judy Sobanski
  75. A Wondrous Treat – Michelle S. Kennedy
  76. Hodgepodge – Kristy Roser Nuttall
  77. Little Bot’s Crunchy Latkes – Deborah Bernick

 

Extra! Extra! Saturday Evening Post!!!

Okay, my pretties.

I don’t know who has been monkeying with the time-space continuum (and I am sorry to say that is definite Naughty List behavior!!!), but somehow we’ve gotten into THIS week when I need us to still be in LAST week.

I’m going to have to put things back to normal so all my posts and contests etc. work out right, because what we’ve got here is a snowball rolling out of control that’s going to bowl us right over.  (We are not even going to discuss that I’m still working my way through prize distribution for the Halloweensie Contest which should have been finished 3 weeks ago! 🙂 )

Just hang on a sec while I hitch this sleigh flown by 8 tiny reindeer, with menorah running lights, a New Year’s blowout horn, and a Solstice candy holding Kikombe cha Umoja on the dash, to 21 gigawatts of electricity and take us. . .

. . . Back to Last Week!

Ah, that’s better!

Lucky I’m good at such a variety of tasks, isn’t it?  Not just anyone could have turned a fancy-schmancy variety holiday sleigh into a time machine and solved this knotty little problem!

No need to thank me.  It’s the least I can do.

Now when this post goes up you’ll have more time to write your entries!

Because it’s time to put on your Elf Thinking Cap, fire up your writing implements, and write your way to fame and fortune in . . .

THE 9TH ANNUAL HOLIDAY CONTEST!!!

Holiday

~ for children’s writers ~

 

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

Your treat can be any kind of treat – a delectable holiday food specialty – Grandma’s Sugar Cookie Reindeer, or the Brown Family Gingerbread House; an event or experience that is a treat – the town Holiday Parade, attending the Nutcracker Ballet, or getting to light a candle on the menorah; making a treat for someone else – baking peppermint crunch brownies for the residents of a local shelter, or doing something special for a favorite teacher or neighbor – sky’s the limit 🙂

Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever you celebrate, 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 on your blog between 12:01 AM EST Monday December 9 and Wednesday December 11 at 11:59 PM EST, and your post-specific link should be added to the link list on the official holiday contest post which will go up on my blog on Monday December 9 and remain up for your reading pleasure until I post the finalists.  There will be no regular posts (Tuesday Debuts, Perfect Picture Book, or Would You Read It) for the duration of the contest so the links will stay up for everyone to visit and enjoy.  If you would like to enter but don’t have a blog you are welcome to paste your entry in the comment section of my December 9th post when it goes up.  If you have trouble commenting, you can email me.  (We’ll go over this part in more detail on the December 9th post! 🙂 )

 

The Judging:  My lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to approximately 10 finalists (depending on the number of entries – if we get a lower turnout we’ll post fewer finalists, a higher turnout possibly one or two more.)  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 Monday December 16 for you to vote on for a winner.  The vote will be closed on Wednesday December 18 at 5 PM EST.  Whoever gets the most votes will be first and so on down to tenth place (or wherever we place to), and the winners will be announced on Thursday December 19.

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 Treat! – the rules state a Holiday Treat story, so it must be crystal clear that the story is about a treat of some kind that is specific to Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or whatever you celebrate.  The story must center on the treat  – the treat must not be just an offhand mention/reference in a story about something else.
  • 3. Quality of story – entries must tell a story, including a main character of some kind and a true story arc even if it’s tiny 🙂  Entries must not be merely descriptions or mood pieces.
  • 4. Quality of Writing: check your spelling, grammar, punctuation etc.  If you’re going to rhyme, give us your best 🙂  Overall writing quality and use of language are also important.
  • 5. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.

 

The Prizes!:  The prize list is not quite complete. . .  But I wanted to get the guidelines up so you guys would have as much time as possible to work on your stories!  Stay tuned for an updated list at some point 🙂

 

Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Children’s Literary Agent Melissa Richeson of Apokedak Literary!!! Melissa will read and give a written critique of your picture book manuscript plus a 10 minute phone call to talk!!!

MG/YA First 1500 Words Critique from Children’s Literary Agent Melissa Richeson of Apokedak Literary!!! Melissa will read and give a written critique of the first 1500 words of your MG or YA manuscript!!!

Melissa Richeson

Literary Agent Melissa Richeson

 

Melissa is currently looking to build her client list and is focusing on children’s book authors—picture books through young adult. She’s drawn to witty wording and whimsical design for picture books, humor and quick pacing for chapter books, charming mysteries or magic in middle grade, and fresh, character-driven stories in young adult. She’s not the best fit for horror, high fantasy, or graphic violence of any kind.

 

 

Picture Book Manuscript Critique (rhyming or non-rhyming) 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)

fb844-penny 495eb-penny A Cooked Up Fairy Tale

 

Rhyming Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Dawn Young, author of THE NIGHT BAAFORE CHRISTMAS (WorthyKids 2019)

Young headshot hi res for blog - jacket

 

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

Picture2 Picture1 gorilla

 

Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Julie Abery, author of LITTLE TIGER and LITTLE PANDA (Amicus Ink 2019) and the forthcoming YUSRA SWIMS (Creative Editions February 2020) and LITTLE MONKEY and LITTLE HIPPO (Amicus Ink February 2020)

julie abery Yusra Swims

Little Tiger Cover Little Panda Cover Little Monkey Little Hippo

 

Book Bundle #1 – Nonfiction

Signed Copies of multiple star- and award-winning picture books

SONNY’S BRIDGE: JAZZ LEGEND SONNY ROLLINS FINDS HIS GROOVE (Charlesbridge 2019) and A PLACE TO LAND (Charlesbridge 2019)

and

A PLACE TO LAND: MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. AND THE SPEECH THAT INSPIRED A NATION (Charlesbridge 2019) by Barry Wittenstein

barry-wittenstein-photo Sonny's Bridge A Place To Land

 

Book Bundle #2 – Two By Tara

Personalized, signed copies of OPERATION PHOTOBOMB (Albert Whitman 2019) and I USED TO BE FAMOUS (Albert Whitman 2019) by Tara Luebbe

Tara Luebbe Operation Photobomb I Used To Be Famous

Children's Writers And Illustrators 2020

(Charlesbridge 2019)

Making A Living Writing Books For Kids: Tips, Techniques, and Tales from a Working Children’s Author – by Laura Purdie Salas

Making A Living

 

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

 

So there you have it!  Fire up those brain cells!  Grab a cup of hot chocolate, plonk your tiny hiney into a comfy chair, and get to writing your potentially prize-winning Holiday Treat story!!! You have 10 full days!  (Sorry it isn’t more – blame it on the joker who tinkered with the space-time continuum 🙂 – but look at the bright side – deadlines are great for creativity and productivity!  Your house doesn’t need to be cleaned this week, your children can eat raisin bran for dinner for a few days, and let’s be honest – no one’s concentrating on getting homework done or practicing their trombone at this time of year anyway, so you’ll have plenty of time to write! 🙂 )

On your mark…

…get set…

…GO!

I am SO looking forward to getting to read all your stories!!!

Have a great rest of the weekend! 🙂

 

The 2019 Halloweensie Contest WINNERS!!!

Well, hi there! 😊

So lovely of you to drop by to visit on a Thursday when I don’t usually post!

Latte?

latteartheart.jpg

You must have heard about my irresistible new offering and stampeded over to avail yourself of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

Yes! The hype is all true!

Today, you can broaden your horizons with

Susanna's Seven Secrets

for the low, low price of $0!!!

Learn how to:

  • start ten tasks at once. . . without the burden of actually finishing any of them!
  • work for 10 minutes and get distracted with online holiday shopping!
  • realize you’ve been online shopping for one hour and 73 minutes and remind yourself sternly that you’re supposed to be working!
  • check all your social media accounts, work for 10 minutes, then sharpen your mental skills with a rigorous round of Sporcle! (Can you name the 10 US State Capitals you can’t fly to?)
  • travel to another continent in the middle of hosting a writing contest!
  • fall asleep on your computer and get keyboard checkers on your cheek!
  • work for 10 minutes and decide to make tiramisu!
  • . . . and so much more!

What is that?

You DIDN’T come to absorb my freely-given wisdom on productivity when I have clearly taken it to new heights?  (I did say it was unprecedented. . . 😊)

Fine.

I will do my best not to take it personally that you doubt my fitness as a model of organization, efficiency, and productivity just because the Halloweensie Winners haven’t been posted yet, and we’ll move on to how I can help you with choosing the right burlap sack for any social occasion which must be why you’re here if you don’t want to improve your productivity.

Wait, what?

You’re here because you want to know who won Halloweensie?

Well why didn’t you just say so?!

Because it just so happens that I know! 😊

As you are all aware by now, we had an amazing turnout for Halloweensie 2019 – 324!!! entries!  Golly gee willikers!!!

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 wouldn’t be Halloween without Halloweensie!  What’s better than a candy-filled dark and spooky night?  A candy-filled dark and spooky night with 324 fabulous stories to read! 😊

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!)

Lindsay Leslie for The Scurry Treat (well written, great use of language, great ending!)

Cassy Ciarq for Trick Or Treat (well written, great job evoking the delicious fear and excitement of a child trick-or-treating in the dark!)

Marta Magellan for Scary Things (well written, great job showing the spookiness of Halloween and the back-to-normal morning after – good kid appeal)

Linda Hofke for What Witch Whips Up (so cleverly written with the body parts subtly woven in to lead up to the ending of “body lotion”!)

David McMullin for Billy And Buddy’s Epic Halloween (fun and kid-friendly, very believably “kid” and sibling!)

Tracy Curran for My Mummy’s A Witch (fun and kid-friendly with a great twist ending!)

Mary Vander Plas for Some Arachnid (well written fun story – great twist on Charlotte’s Web!)

Chelsea Tornetto for Booty And A Beat (clever, fun to read aloud, irresistible rhythm)

Roo Parkin for The Road To Grimly Gore (well written, great use of language, fun ending!)

Pat Finnegan for Save-This-Night (a kid-friendly witchy change-of-attitude story)

 

2. For Best Endings: (not already in the finals)

Stephanie Williams for The Contest

Lauri Meyers for Haunted Halloween Hop

Lauren Neil for Witch 101

Shelley Kinder for Fishy Witchy

Sue Lancaster for The Halloween Hop

 

 

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

Sue Heavenrich for Spider Parade

Jenna Waldman for All Hallows Poetry Reading

Sarah Meade for The Goblin And The Girl

Deborah Boerema for Monster-Matopoeia

 

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

Christina Dendy for The Bone House

Unidentified author for Matilda’s Treat

Paul Kurtz for Cobwebs

Mary C. Thorpe for What Had They Found?

Vashti Verbowski for Cecil The Beetle (And The Web Of Wishes)

 

 

5. For Funniest Entry: (not already in the finals)

Kael Tudor for Hubble, Bubble, Toil And . . . Muddle?

Greg Bray for The Ultimate Spider-Man Costume

Susan Summers for The Witch’s Dilemma

 

 

6. For Sweetest Entry: (not already in the finals)

Melissa Miles for Just One Child

Lisa Zaccaria for Halloween Surprise

 

7.  For Unique Character: (not already in the finals)

Cathy Murphy for A Cure For Cobweb (Spider turns into a Unitoad – like a unicorn but a toad!)

Lori Himmel  for The Very Haunted House (MC is the house)

 

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

Brenda Whitehead for Halloween Countdown

Avana Lily for The Little Witch Helps Out

JoAnn DiVerdi for Boo-Boo! A Little Ghost Story

 

9. For Creative Format:

Jenna Waldman for Ghost Store (written like a commercial)

Michelle Henrie for Halloween Treat (written as a crossword puzzle)

 

10. For Good Kid Voice:

Lindsey Hobson for Little Brother

 

11. For Good Depiction of Siblings: (not already in the finals)

Tara Cerven for A Silken Surprise

 

12: For Cleverness: (not already in the finals)

Mary Rudzinski for Halloween Forever

Erin Kerger Duffett for Three Cauldrons Full

 

13. For Contestants Who Entered Multiple Strong Entries:

Sarah Meade

Paul Kurtz

Donna Kurtz

Michelle Kennedy

 

14. Last But Not Least A Very Special Mention:

Joyce Schriebman for The Good Witch – a tribute to our sweet friend, Robyn Campbell, who always went out of her way to help others and whom we miss dearly.

 

Congratulations to all of you for fantastic elements of your stories!  You may all email me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com subject line Prize Winner to collect your prize, which is a $5 Amazon Email Gift Certificate (which you may spend on one of the many Kindle choices listed in previous contests here, or add to your  Amazon bucks for a gift for yourself or someone else, or whatever else you might choose to do!) as well as a beautiful certificate 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 car 😊

A word about the prizes before I announce the winners.

We have 12 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 reason you got out of bed this morning. . .

. . .  in spite of shadows under your bleary eyes. . .

. . . and the candy corn that is stuck in your hair!!!

. . . THE WINNERS OF THE 2019 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…

Jocelyn Watkinson

for

Vampire Stains

Congratulations, Jocelyn, on a fabulously written, entertaining entry that was all around well done and clearly very popular with judges and voters alike!!!

In Second Place,

Keatley Eastman

for

Sneaky Sister

Congratulations, Keatley, on a cute, well written, kid friendly entry with a great ending! (and for coming in 2nd two years in a row!) You get first choice of the prizes that are left after Jocelyn chooses!

In Third Place,

Paul Kurtz
 for

A Halloween Visit

 

Congratulations, Paul, on a well written, clever entry that masterfully combined elements of Halloween and Christmas into Spider Claws!  You get first choice of the prizes that are left after Jocelyn and Keatley choose!

In Fourth Place,

Leslie Goodman
for
The Nickname Cure

Congratulations, Leslie, on a fun story with funny twist of an ending!  You get to pick a prize after Jocelyn, Keatley, and Paul!

In Fifth Place,

Katrina Swenson
for
Itchy Witchy Underwear

Congratulations, Katrina, on your delightfully well written entry that made us laugh out loud!  You get to pick your prize after Jocelyn, Keatley, Paul, and Leslie!

In Sixth Place,

Maryna Doughty

for

Ghost’s Pest Problem

Congratulations, Maryna, on your clever, fun and creative entry! You get to pick your prize after Jocelyn, Keatley, Paul, Leslie, and Katrina!

In Seventh Place,

Mary Ann Cortez
for
Let’s Go Scarecrow

Congratulations, Mary Ann, on your fun, Going On A Bear Hunt-esque twist on Halloween!  You get to pick your prize after Maryna!

In Eighth Place,

Colleen Murphy
for
Broom Or Bust

Congratulations, Colleen, for a beautifully written, fun, entertaining kid-friendly entry! You get to pick your prize after Mary Ann!

In Ninth Place,

Jill Lambert
for
Tacky Trick

Congratulations, Jill! What is a spider to do if his silk has no stick’em?! 😊  You get to pick a prize after Colleen…!

 

In Tenth Place

Debbie Day
for
Gloona The Grinchy Witch

Congratulations, Debbie, on making us laugh at your Grinchy Witch!  You get to prize pick after Jill.

In Eleventh Place
Sandy Perlic
for
Boo Quiet To Spook?
Congratulations, Sandy, we loved your timid little witch who was given a little boost by her giant sneeze 😊  You get to pick a prize after Debbie.
In Twelfth Place
Ingrid Boydston
for
Tricky Witch Test
Congratulations, Ingrid, on a fun story!  Nothing like turning into a pumpkin! 😊  You get to pick your prize after Sandy!

 

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 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 certificate to celebrate your accomplishment, you are most welcome to one!

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 truckloads 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 9th Annual Holiday Writing Contest will be coming up sometime in the neighborhood of December 7 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 the Saturday after Thanksgiving, good lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise! 🙂 ) 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 Thursday 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!!! 🙂

Go Directly To Go! Skip The Slushpile at Blue Whale Press and Get Your PB Manuscript Directly On The Editor’s Desk!!!

Submit your picture book manuscript directly to editor Alayne Christian for her consideration and critique. Helpful feedback is a certainty, publication could be a possibility!

blue whale logo

Who Will Will You Cover Reveal Official  thumbnail_randall-randall-cover-ISBN9780981493879-highres

Blue Whale Press is an SCBWI PAL publisher of children’s books that focuses on stories involving themes of friendship and/or personal challenge. Most often, stories are selected for publishing due to their inherent educational or moral value. But as a general rule, a good dose of humor or a tug at the heart doesn’t hurt their chances of being published either. While a few chapter books and a middle grade are on their list, their focus is picture books. As a boutique publisher who doesn’t mind taking risks, Blue Whale Press considers itself to be a launch pad for authors and illustrators hoping to establish themselves.

For more info: https://www.bluewhalepress.com/

Hone Your Skills with the Lyrical Language Lab Rhyme & Meter Self Study Crash Course (11 Lessons) from accomplished writer and poet Renee LaTulippe

INTENSIVE RHYME AND METER CRASH COURSE

This option contains all the same lessons as Module 1 of Renee’s fully guided course, including all supplemental materials, downloads, and audio/video components. This is the option to choose if you need to build a strong foundation in the mechanics of rhyming picture books and poetry. The major focus is on the four main types of meter and how to use mixed and varied meter. Other topics include rhythm, cadence, breath, scansion, rhyme, sound devices, figurative language, imagery, and diction.
.
You also have the opportunity to submit two of your assignments to Renee for feedback, and have email access to ask questions about the lessons as you complete them. Although lessons will arrive every other day, you are free to complete them at your own pace.
See the course description above for more information.

For more info: https://www.reneelatulippe.com/writing-courses/ (scroll down)

Picture Book Manuscript Critique (Rhyming, Non-Rhyming, Fiction, or Nonfiction – Vivian is open to any type of picture book critique) from Vivian Kirkfield author of SWEET DREAMS, SARAH (Creston Books, 2019), PIPPA’S PASSOVER PLATE (Holiday House, 2019), FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN (Pomegranate 2019), MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD (Little Bee, January 14, 2020), and more…

Sweet Dreams Cover Template Revised Screen Shot 2018-12-05 at 10.39.16 PM

Nonfiction Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Christine Evans, author of EVELYN THE ADVENTUROUS ENTOMOLOGIST (Innovation Press, September 2019)

Evelyn cover Christine Evans

Rhyming Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Carrie Finison, author of DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS and DON’T HUG DOUG, forthcoming from Putnam in August 2020 and Spring 2021.

Screen Shot 2019-10-27 at 8.35.37 AM   Carrie-Finison-200x300

Picture Book Manuscript Critique (non-rhyming please) from Janet Johnson author of HELP WANTED, MUST LOVE BOOKS (Capstone, March 2020) as well as the MG novel THE LAST GREAT ADVENTURE OF THE PB & J SOCIETY (Capstone 2016)

must love books JanetJohnson.AuthorPic

Fiction OR Nonfiction Picture Book Manuscript Critique (non-rhyming please) from Darshana Khiani, author of HOW TO WEAR A SARI forthcoming from HMH/Versify, Spring 2021

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Picture Book Manuscript Critique (non-rhyming please) from Gabi Snyder, author of TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE, forthcoming from Abrams Appleseed, May 2020 and LISTEN, forthcoming from S&S/Wiseman, Spring 2021

twodogsonatrike_cov gabi-snyder-profile-pic

Query Letter Critique from Dee Romito, author of PIES FROM NOWHERE: HOW GEORGIA GILMORE SUSTAINED THE MONTGOMERY BUS BOYCOTT (Little Bee Books, 2018) as well as several middle grade books.

pies from nowhere dee romito

Book Bundle #1 – Nonfiction
Signed Copies of WAITING FOR PUMPSIE (Charlesbridge, 2017) and THE BOO-BOOS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD (Charlesbridge, 2018) by Barry Wittenstein

and JURASSIC RAT (Spork, June 2019) by Eleanor Ann Peterson.

waiting-for-pumpsie boo boos barry-wittenstein-photo

EP 3  EP 2

Book Bundle #2  – Board Books
Personalized Signed Copies of LITTLE TIGER and LITTLE PANDA (both Amicus Ink, 2019) by Julie Abery

Little Tiger Cover Little Panda Cover julie abery

Book Bundle #3  – Holiday Books
Personalized signed copy of NOT SO SCARY, JERRY (Spork, 2017) by Shelley Kinder

Personalized signed copy of THE QUEEN AND THE FIRST CHRISTMAS TREE (Albert Whitman, 2018) by Nancy Churnin

The Night Baafore Christmas (WorthyKids 2019) by Dawn Young

Jerry  The Queen and the First Christmas Tree hi res for blog - jacket

shelley-kinder_orig         nancy churnin              Young headshot

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

 

 

Just When You Thought It Would Never Happen . . . The 2019 Halloweensie Contest Finalists – Vote For Your Favorite!!!

All right, you guys.

Clearly there was a dastardly plan afoot.

A plot, one might say, involving sneaking, secrecy, and skulduggery!

I know what you’ve have been up to.

On a dark and stormy night, you all got together in a cobweb-covered barn and, sipping a delectable steaming potion concocted of chocolate and cream, with bobbing marshmallows and a dusting of cocoa powder, you rubbed your hands together gleefully and cackled, “Oh, what a trick we can play!”

Forthwith, you applied yourself to submitting 324 –  yes, that’s THREE HUNDRED AND TWENTY FOUR!!! – amazing entries to the 9th Annual Halloweensie Contest!

I think it’s safe to say you nearly did us in.

We are but shadows of our former selves, haggard from a solid week of reading and re-reading, evaluating and re-evaluating, trying desperately to narrow the tremendous field down to 12 finalists.

I’m going to tell you straight out it was an impossible task.

There were SO MANY well-written, fabulous, entertaining, delightful entries.  In order to pick 12 for you to vote on we had to put aside literally hundreds, many of which were of equal quality.  So I recognize that many of you may feel you would have chosen differently.  I get that.  In the final analysis, try as we might to be objective, an element of subjectivity almost has to come in to play in order to choose between multiple entries of similar quality.  Please know we admire everyone for their talent, throughly enjoyed every story we read, and that we did the best we could.

12 entries made the finals.

312 did not.

A mere 3.7% made it to the top.  If you’re in that 3.7%, give yourself a congratulatory handshake.  If you’re not, rest assured you’re in extremely good company.

We were ruthless about some things because we simply had to be.

The judging criteria were clear:

1. Kid-appeal! – These stories are intended for a young audience, so entries that were well-written but lacked child-friendliness did not make the cut.  Same for entries where the appeal, humorous or otherwise, seemed more directed toward adult readers than children.

2.  Halloweeniness – the rules stated a Halloween story, so entries that failed to mention anything Halloween-y did not make the cut even if they were well-written. Surprisingly 5-10 fell into this category and were stories that could have taken place at any time – not specifically Halloween.

3. Quality of story – the rules stated that entries were to tell a story, so if they appeared to be more of a description or mood piece, they didn’t make the cut.  We looked for a character and a true story arc.

4. Quality of Writing: we took note of spelling, grammar, punctuation etc.  In addition, for the rhymers, we looked at rhyme and meter (for which we are sticklers!)  We also looked at overall writing quality and use of language.  There were a lot of problems in this department, and since the competition was so fierce, we did cut people for punctuation, capitalization, and word usage errors, as well as for relatively minor glitches in meter – one or two lines that threw the rhythm off – because there were so many that were perfect.

5. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.

A surprising number of this year’s entries were amazingly written… but in spite of the warning, still failed to really tell a story.  This is SO TOUGH in 100 words – I totally get it.  But some people managed better than others.  There were any number of entries that were superbly written that we wanted to choose, but when we got right down to it, there really just wasn’t much story… not compared to some of the other entries that really managed to tell one.  They were more descriptions, lists, or mood pieces.  So as awesome as they were, we had to make some very hard calls.  A couple were too adult.  Some, because of the cruelly limiting word count were a little hard to follow.  Some of the rhyming ones we really liked were too off-meter to make the cut.  Some entries were just so close, but missed out because of one relatively small thing!  GAH!  So hard!

(There is nothing like reading through so many to give you an editor’s perspective.  Read through 300+ stories and you’ll quickly see how there can be A LOT that are really quite good, so there has to be something to make them stand out.  Something that sets them apart from the ocean of very-strong-nothing-particularly-wrong-with-them-but-nothing-that-makes-you-say-WOW submissions.  It will make you realize exactly how important it is to make your manuscript fresh and heart -or mind-capturing in some way. You want yours to be the submission the editor (or contest judge) can’t stop thinking about.😊)

So now, just quick before we get to the finalists, I want to thank EVERYONE who took the time and care to write an entry for this contest.  You all did a fabulous job and provided great enjoyment for many!

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

Third, before I list the finalists, I want to say one final time how truly difficult it was too narrow such a field!  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.   The fact that you didn’t make the final cut DOES NOT mean you didn’t write a great story.  Everyone who plonked their butt in a chair and worked hard to write a story for this contest is a winner!  You showed up.  You did your best work.  You practiced your craft.  You wrote to specifications and a deadline.  You bravely shared your writing with the world.  And you have a brand new story that is now yours to expand beyond 100 words 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 or had new life breathed into them in Halloweensie, Holiday, or Valentiny Contests!  So bravo to everyone who entered!

So, without further ado, I present to you the 2019 Halloweensie Contest Finalists.  A mix of poetry and prose (weirdly weighted toward rhyme – just the way it panned out), stories for younger readers and slightly older (but still kid) readers, funny, spooky, and cute.  Please read through them carefully, take your time, think it over, and vote for your favorite.  To help with objectivity, finalists are listed by title only, not by author.

And I’d like to be very clear about the voting process.  You are MOST welcome to share a link to this post on FB, twitter, or wherever you like to hang out, and encourage people to come read ALL the finalists and vote for the one they think is best.  Please do that.  The more people who read and enjoy these stories the better, and the more objective votes we get the better.  HOWEVER (and I want to be very clear on this) please do not ask people to vote for a specific number or title, or for the story about the sombrero-wearing witch 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!

#1 – Sneaky Sister

My sister swore her potion
Was succulently sweet.
She whispered if I’d drink it, I’d grow feathers on my feet.
My skin would glow magenta,
My ears would multiply,
The cobwebs sprouting from my nose would smell like mildew pie.

My sister said “Don’t worry,
There’s not a thing to fear!
Tomorrow all the side effects will (mostly) disappear…
You’ll be the perfect monster
For this year’s trick-or-treat!
Just guzzle my concoction, and you’ll terrify our street.”

But now she’s flabbergasted
Because I’m feeling fine.
I guess she doesn’t know:
I poured it in her cup
Not mine.

#2 – A Halloween Visit

The pumpkin-moon rises on Halloween night,
A tiny black coffin with eight bats takes flight.

An eight-legged driver with dagger-fanged jaws?
That’s not old Saint Nick, it’s his pal Spider-Claws!

His cobweb-wrapped presents of potions and spells
Will flip-flop your tummy with nose-burning smells.

He creeps down the chimney with barely a noise
To leave scary gifts for all ghouls, girls, and boys.

He might bring you nightmares or haunt all your dreams
With hair-curling howling and spine-tingling screams.

Then Spider-Claws shrieks from his cold, coffin seat—
“Happy Halloween all, and to all Trick-Or-Treat!”

 

#3 – The Nickname Cure

Matilda’s nickname gave her a case of the gloomies.

Especially today on Halloween.

Since her first day at Spookamentary School,

the zombies, ghouls, and mummies called her

W A R T I L D A !

The name didn’t suit Matilda. After all, her wart was teensy-tiny.

Moments before trick-or-treating, Matilda slipped into the science lab.

She picked a sticky cobweb and two bat wings from a box.

She stirred them up with one juicy, lizard’s gizzard.

“This potion will do the trick!” said Matilda.

She dabbed the mixture on her chin and…

Ka-BOOOM!

Matilda’s wart grew large and hairy.

“Perfect!” said Matilda. “Now my nickname suits me.”

 

#4 – Itchy Witchy Underwear

Every year on Halloween,
there’s pumpkins, costumes, and a scene
that thrills the region’s flight fanatics:
Myrtle’s Fright-Night Aerobatics!
But Myrtle’s stumbled on a hitch:
her witchy britches make her itch!
Charms and chants and incantations–
none relieves her aggravations.
Myrtle checks a cobwebbed cranny
for a brew to soothe her fanny.
“Use this potion if you dare.”
She pours it on her underwear.
“It’s done the trick! Oh, lucky witch!
Britches gone, but so’s the itch!”
Feeling breezy on her broom,
Myrtle zips to practice. Zoom!
On Halloween she wows the town–
but…
DON’T watch Myrtle upside down!

#5 – Tricky Witch Test

It’s Halloween! Tonight’s my chance. I’ve got to join the witches dance!

If I can pass this potion test, at last I’ll with cackle with the rest!

Two strands of cobweb, eye of newt, a pinch of stinky goblin root…

GULP!

Do you smell smoke? I feel a spark! I think I’m glowing in the dark!

What’s that? I passed? I got it right? I’m now a pumpkin burning bright?

Hooray! I’m glad I did so well, but how do I undo this spell?

BURP!

That’s all it took to make the switch? Tonight I get to be a witch!

 

#6 – Let’s Go Scarecrow

Screen Shot 2019-11-09 at 2.28.16 AM

 

Bloop-blop 

Past the oozing potion.

Let’s go, Scarecrow.

Shuffle-shuffle 

Under drooping cobwebs.

There’s the door.

TIP-toe TIP-toe

Shhh, Let’s go, Scarecrow.

DING-DONG!

TRICK or TREAT!”

“MWA-HA-HA-HA!!

AAAAHHH!

Let’s go! Let’s go!

Under the cobwebs.

Past the potion.

Through the maze.

Over the bridge.

Down the path.

Through the leaves,

PHEW!

Finally, safe at home again.

 

#7 – Tacky Trick

Itty-bitty corner,
teeny-tiny shed.
Eensie-weensie spider
hanging by a thread.

Spiderling is spinning.
Complicated! Tricky!
Can’t construct a cobweb.
Help! The strings aren’t sticky!

Searches for solutions,
while Halloween is new.
Awkwardly appears
arachnid has no glue.

Witchy whizzes in then,
(broom repair, you see),
catches Spider sobbing
among the web debris.

Witchy comforts Spider
with a shushing motion.
Utters muttered verses,
promptly pours a potion.

Golden drop is plopped
on Spider’s little backy.
Silken threads appear.
Some twirl and tie—they’re tacky!

Spider’s on the broom now,
trying to repay.
Sticky silk will mend it.
Witchy’s on her way!

 

#8 -Vampire Stains

Curses! No! It can’t be so!
I need to get to my chateau!
Zis cloak is now adorned with stains
From zees night’s many spurting veins.

Vhere’s my blood removal lotion?
Bleh! I vill just make a potion.
To rid ze blood, resume abductions,
Follow zees precise instructions:

Curls of cobwebs, vings of bats
Vort of toad and tails of cats.
Zen a scoop of Oxyclean
To look my best on Halloveen.

Ah-ha! That vorked! A vondrous trick!
Now back to hunting very quick.
Bleh! I’m shiny as a spark!
I’m much too clean; glow-in-ze-dark!

 

#9 – Boo Quiet To Spook?

It’s Halloween, and Glenda Ghost
must face the thing she dreads the most:
to haunt tonight, each ghost and ghoul
must prove they’ve mastered Spooking School!

So Glenda waits to do her best
while witches pass their potions test.
Next up, the werewolves howl and growl,
and black cats hiss and monsters scowl.

As Glenda’s turn approaches fast,
she fears her timid “Boo” won’t pass.
Would trick-or-treaters shrink in fright,
or laugh if Glenda spooks tonight?

The spiders spin,
then Glenda’s next!
She LOOMS—nose twitching, fingers flexed.
With cobwebs clinging, quiet “Boo!”
becomes a spookier
“AhhhhhHHHHHhhhhhhhHHHHhhhhhhhhh-Choo!”

#10 – Ghost’s Pest Problem

Ghost peeked out the window.

GHOST: Ahhhh!!!

He picked up the phone and dialed the number.

WITCH: You’ve reached Lotions, Potions, and Other Solutions, how may I help you?

GHOST: I’ve got a pest problem!

WITCH: Okay, I’ll send the exterminator.

Later…

Knock, knock.

Ghost opened the door.

GHOST: Finally, you’re here! They’re all over the front porch!

SPIDER: It’s that time of year. Halloween always brings them out, especially to haunted houses.

GHOST: You’re sure the traps will work?

SPIDER: Oh yeah, they always get caught in them.

Ding-dong.

GHOST: They’re here! Quick! Spin the cobwebs!

“Trick-or-treat!”

 

#11 – Gloona The Grinchy Witch

Gloona the witch was a ghastly old soul-

more greed than a dragon, more warts than a troll.

On Halloween evening, she mixed up a brew

with lizard tail, bedbugs, and pickled worm goo.

From out of her potion, a ghoulish mist crept.

It oozed through the streets until everyone slept.

Beaming with glee, Gloona flew out unseen.

She swept through the city and stole Halloween.

She took every cobweb, each pumpkin and light,

the scarecrows, the sweets, the decor made of fright,

and inside her cottage, she laughed with conceit.

That is, ‘til she heard, “Ring-a-ding. Trick or treat!”

 

#12 – Broom Or Bust

The Witches-Who-Confer convene,

just once a year on Halloween.

 

The youngest witch to ever try

to earn her broom and learn to fly,

Sabrina stood before the crowd;

enacting words she spoke out loud:

“A pinch of cobweb, extra dusty,

metal shavings, not too rusty.

Put them in a pumpkin shell.

Add the potion; mix it well.”

 

Sabrina ducked behind the chair

as pumpkin pieces pierced the air.

And once the chaos came to rest

Sabrina said, “I tried my best!

I’ll go back home; I’ll hone my tricks

and I’ll be back when I am six!”

 

I know this is a tough choice!  But please read and consider and choose your favorite and vote for it in the poll below by Monday November 11 at midnight Eastern time!  That gives you 3 whole days to vote!

 

 

Due to the large number of entries and the amount of time it took to get the finalists posted, my schedule is a disaster.  There will be a Tuesday Debut on Tuesday and a Would You Read It on Wednesday which were previously scheduled, so I will try to post the contest winners on Thursday.  I am leaving for Brazil on Wednesday, however, which will make handling the prize distribution and related emails a bit tricky until I get back.  So I beg your indulgence and appreciate your patience!  I will get it all sorted out just as quickly as I can!