Oh, Guilty Heart! – The 4th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest!

Roses are red

Violets are blue

Valentinies rock

And so do YOU!

Hang onto your chocolate everyone!  It’s time for . . .

The 4th 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 guilty!  Your someone can feel guilty themselves or make someone else feel guilty.  They may feel guilty for good reason, or just because they think they should!  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 guilty (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 tomorrow Thursday February 14th by 11:59 PM EDT and add your post-specific link to the list below.  There will be no 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 don’t send 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 20th (or possibly a day or two later if the judges need extra time.)   The winner will be announced Friday February 22nd or Saturday February 23rd depending on judging and voting time needed.  The dates of the judging/voting/winner announcements are subject to finagling depending on how much time the judges actually end up needing!

Judging criteria will include:

  1. Kid-appeal/Kid-friendliness – remember, this is a story for kids!
  2. Creativity in using guilt and success in making us feel the guilt!
  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, the awesomeness!  Such great prizes to motivate you!  With thanks to all who donated!

“Skip The Slushpile” AND get a Query Letter Critique from Charlotte Wenger, associate editor at Page Street Kids, the picture book division of Page Street Publishing. She earned her Master of Arts in Children’s Literature from Simmons University (then College) and is a board member of the Mazza Museum’s National Advisory Board of Visitors. She enjoys working with debut picture book authors and illustrators and is excited about the 19 Page Street Kids picture books pubbing in 2019.

 
Find Charlotte on Twitter at @WilbursBF_Char, and learn more about Page Street Kids via www.pagestreetpublishing.com, Twitter: @PageStreetKids, and Instagram: pagestreetkids.

Charlotte will read the winner’s picture book manuscript of choice, then send an email letting you know she’s read your story and including one thing you did well and one thing you might work on to improve the manuscript.  In addition, she will give you a query letter critique.  Like all editors, she has a hectic schedule, so she will aim to fulfill the prize within 2 months of receiving the manuscript.

Picture Book Manuscript Critique by the incredibly talented, multi-published author/illustrator Iza Trapani!

Iza 2014  Old MacDonald

Picture Book Manuscript Critique by the Queen of KidLit411 herself, Elaine Kiely Kearns, author of Noah Noasaurus, forthcoming April 1, 2019 from Albert Whitman!

elaine  noah

– Top Ten Reasons for Rejectiona 52 minute webinar from Alayne Kay Christian, author of Butterfly Kisses (picture book) and the Sienna The Cowgirl Fairy series (chapter books), and Content and Developmental Editor of Blue Whale Press.

Alayne butterfly kisses

Webinar Description: If you want tips on some corrective action that you might take to improve your chances of submission success, and/or if you would like to deepen your understanding of plot and arc, this webinar is for you.

(And if you’re interested in seeing what else Alayne has to offer, like her Writing For Children Webinars and Courses page on FB and keep an eye out for upcoming offerings!)

 

15-30 Minute Your Questions Answered Phone Call – with Ryan Sias, author/illustrator of Balloon Toons: Zoe And Robot, Let’s Pretend, Sniff Sniff!, and the Woof And Quack beginning reader series (Green Light Readers), and the Super Doodle Series. He has worked in animation, film, and television, including Sesame Street 🙂

Do you have questions about writing, revising, submitting, whether or not to try for an agent, what happens after the sale, or anything else publishing industry related?  If so, this is your chance to ask away and get answers from a professional!

85044-ryan_headshot  SniffSniffcover-300x300  woof and quack snowy doodle

 

Query Letter Critique by Heather Ayris Burnell, creator of the Sub It Club and author of Bedtime Monster, Kick! Jump! Chop! The Adventures Of The Ninjabread Man, and the Sparkly New Friends early chapter book series from Scholastic!

heather burnell  Kick Jump Chop

2-Pack of Personalized Signed Picture Books from amazing author Melissa StollerScarlet’s Magic Paintbrush and Ready, Set, Gorilla!

Picture2  Picture1 gorilla

The Writer’s Tool Box: Creative Games And Exercises for Inspiring The “Write” Side Of Your BrainAND a $10 Amazon Gift Card

writer's toolbox

Children’s Writer’s And Illustrator’s Market 2019 – by Robert Lee Brewer AND a $10 Amazon Gift Card (2 available)

Children's Writer's Guide 2019

I can’t thank these authors enough for their incredible generosity!  Please visit their sites, buy and recommend their books and services to your writer friends and/or friends with kids, write them nice reviews on Amazon, GoodReads etc if you’ve read and liked their books, and show your appreciation to them in any way you can!

Now.

The time has come for my sample.

It could have really benefited from the 65 words I had to cut out of it to make the 214 word limit! I’m warning you now – have some chocolate handy to help ease the pain of reading it 🙂

Valentine Fair and Square (214 words)

Flora and Miles liked all the same things.

Climbing trees.

Fishing.

Baseball.

And peanut butter ice cream with marshmallow sauce.

Unfortunately, Miles didn’t know Flora existed.

But Flora had a plan.

For days she toiled, making the Best Valentine Ever.

Valentines morning, she put her valentine on Miles’s desk.

Miles would notice her now!

But then Isabella put hers on top!

It was HUGE.

It was FANCY.

It came with a whole box of candy.

DISASTER!

There was only one thing to do.

When Isabella wasn’t looking, Flora grabbed the huge, fancy, pink valentine and hid it behind the bookshelf.

During Attendance, Flora’s middle felt pinchy.

She hadn’t stolen it, she told herself.  She’d only moved it!

But during the Pledge, her heart felt twingy.

She so wanted Miles to like her. He had to like her valentine most!

But by Morning Announcements Flora’s thoughts were poking her in the brain.  Sharply.

Isabella probably worked as hard on her valentine as Flora had.

Flora flooded with guilt.

She didn’t want to hurt Isabella.

She didn’t want Miles to like her when she’d been deceitful.

So she put Isabella’s valentine back.

“Hey!” said Miles, holding up a valentine.  “This is the Best Valentine Ever!”

It wasn’t fancy pink.

It was a climbing-tree-fishing-peanut-butter-cup-and-mini-marshmallow-covered baseball-glove heart.

Flora’s.

Alrighty then!

I feel GUILTY for writing such drivel 🙂  But surely you are all feeling a surge of confidence, emboldened to share your stories, now that I have posted this travesty for all the world to see!  Never let it be said that I’m not willing to make a fool of myself for you, my friends!  🙂

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 tomorrow 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 92 fabulous entries posted in the comment section below!!!

Happy Valentines Week, Everyone! ❤

Scroll through the comments to find these wonderful stories!

  1. Valentine’s Day Confession – Juli
  2. Prince Froggie Went A’ Courtin’ – Sherry
  3. Valentine’s Remorsel – Joel
  4. Sophie Builds A Bridge – Corine
  5. Charity’s Chocolate Bath – Johanna
  6. Candy Hearts – Glenda
  7. Cupid’s Valentine Scrabble – Jill
  8. Momo On Valentine’s Day – Shariffa
  9. A Valentine’s Party At School – Anneberly
  10. Secret Mission Valentine – Ramona
  11. It Wasn’t Me! – Susan
  12. The Little Piggies Celebrate Valentines Day – Sarah
  13. Messy Valentines – Sarah
  14. Wilfred’s Valentine’s Day – Cheryl
  15. A Box Full Of Love – Anne
  16. No Sweethearts – Marcia
  17. The Missing Pupcake – Jill
  18. Cupid And Bob – Jessica
  19. The Important Pink Washcloth – Marcia
  20. Valentine’s Day Smiles – Katie
  21. A Penny For His Thoughts – Charlene
  22. The Girl With The Dragon Choo-Choo – Anne
  23. Where Does Love Go? – Aixa
  24. The Sucker – Megan
  25. I Was Wrong – Nina
  26. Alex & Apple Solve The Case – Nicole
  27. Tamu, The Thieving Cat (Paka Mwizi)! – Ketan
  28. Late Night Snack – Mary
  29. A Way With Words – Susan
  30. A Spiny Valentiny – Rachel
  31. Love Bug At The Zoo – Chambrae
  32. Stan’s First Valentine’s Day – Jessica
  33. Tom’s Dad – ???
  34. The Lovebird’s Valentiny Ball – Barbara
  35. Love LOVES Love – Rebecca
  36. Sasquatch: In Search Of A Valentine – Mary
  37. The Case Of The Missing Valentine’s Candy – Sherry
  38. My Muddy Valentine – Jennifer
  39. Sometimes To Always – Jan
  40. The Heart-Shaped Balloon – Amy
  41. Tater Tot Tilly’s Valentine Treat – Kim
  42. No Ordinary Thursday – Emma
  43. Alma’s GREEN Valentine – Amy
  44. Ahava’s School Valentine Surprise – Amy
  45. An ImPURRfect Valentine Surprise – Deborah
  46. Last Valentine’s – Tonya
  47. Vivi’s Heart – Pai
  48. A Valentine For Papa – Keely
  49. A Valentine Party To Remember – Judy
  50. A Valentine For Prince Donald – Jim
  51. Tiny Crush – Amy
  52. The Valentine’s Day Mess & Cure – Joyce
  53. Hillary’s Heart – Deborah
  54. The Perfect Valentine – Susie
  55. Change Of Heart – Jeannine
  56. The Presents – Kirsten
  57. Teacher Valentine – Rosemary
  58. Happy Valentine’s Day To Everyone – Michele
  59. Conversation Smarts – Lauren
  60. Twenty Chocolate Kisses – Patricia
  61. A Little Heart – Lynn
  62. Guess Who? – Marty
  63. Big Sister For The Day – Alison
  64. Puneet’s Valentine Birthday – Johannah
  65. Ella And Emma And The Valentine Verdict – Cindy
  66. A Valentine For Valentina – Lara
  67. The (Not So) Great Revenge – Darcee
  68. The Glass Heart – Gabriella
  69. All Wrapped Up – Mia
  70. A Valentine’s Day Breakfast “Trip” – Susan
  71. Raisins Or Frosting – Ashely
  72. Buffa-lonely Love Day – Jennifer
  73. Bookworm’s Valentine – Dee
  74. The Saga Of Cupid – Linda
  75. Celebrate Every Day With A Poem – Kathy
  76. Puppies Can’t Eat Chocolate – Jan
  77. Something Special – Deb
  78. Spoon In Hand – DL
  79. The Unkeepable Promise – Juliana
  80. Guilty As Charged – Michelle
  81. Valentines For All – Marjorie
  82. Mom’s Valentine – Scott
  83. How It All Began – Linda
  84. The Coconut Covered Chocolates – Carmen
  85. Valentine Dilemma – Ranessa
  86. Who Will Be Mine? – Susie
  87. Blue Whale’s Big Heart – Susan
  88. Chadwick The Zombie Cooks Up A Valentine – Katrina
  89. Noses Are Red – JC
  90. The Tattle Tale – Karen
  91. An Extra Special Valentine – Margaret
  92. Operation Chocolate Hearts – Lucretia

Would You Read It Wednesday #312 – The Genchi War (YA) PLUS The October Pitch Winner AND The November/December Pitch Pick!

Hiya, Folks!

I’ve been thinking…

Wouldn’t it be great if Would You Read It Wednesday had a theme song?

Something catchy, like The Beverly Hillbillies tune?

Then we could all start our Wednesday mornings singing together!

I’m sure it would bring about great changes for good in the world 🙂

So if anyone is inspired, feel free to make suggestions in the comments – video auditions welcome 🙂

Meanwhile, now that it’s February, it’s time to announce the winner of the October Pitch Pick! (We are right on schedule around here! 🙂 )

The winner of the October Pitch Pick was Ciara with her PB pitch for Drop The Dragon!  Congratulations on a fabulous pitch, Ciara!  It is on it’s way to editor Erin Molta for her thoughts!

And congratulations also to our other brave pitchers who stepped up and shared their work for all of us to learn from and who hopefully feel they gained from the experience even if they don’t get to have Erin critique their pitches.  You are all amazing!

Onward to the November/December Pitch Pick!

Please read through the following pitches, revised on the basis of your helpful feedback, and choose the one you feel is best and most deserving of a read and critique by editor Erin Molta!  Vote for your choice in the poll below by Sunday February 10 at 5 PM Eastern.

#1 – Ciara – Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone (PB ages 4-11)

Flamingo hugs aren’t for everyone.

But Flaminga is willing to try anything to win the admiration of zoo patrons from daring disguises, delightful dances, to gifts of guppies.  Her clumsiness may set her plans afoul, but it is also becomes the key to achieving her dreams.

#2 – Mary – The Mouse Of Rocktown Museum (PB ages 3-7)

Parker Higgins adores his museum home until he comes face-to-face with a new security guard, who is decidedly not mouse-friendly. After close calls with a broom, mousetraps, and a hungry cat, Parker launches an ingenious plan to protect the life he loves.

#3 – Sarah – Hive To Move (PB ages 4-8)

Betsie and Leelee’s hive has outgrown its home.  The bees swarm, which is explained in the back matter.  Betsie, a scout, must find a new home before her sisters are disturbed by the pesky humans.  When a bee wrangler is summoned, Leelee encourages Betsie to search faster.  This fictitious story is based on Thomas Seeley’s HONEYBEE DEMOCRACY.

#4 – Lily – Ana and Puto – Hungry In The Hills Of Hercegovina (PB ages 4-8) Creative nonfiction (based on my aunt’s true story)

Ana wants to relieve her hunger but it is a struggle in her poor village in the hills of Hercegovina, Yugoslavia in 1956. Puto, her dog, chases foxes and wolves away from the family’s herd of sheep. When Ana and Puto face a hungry vulture and their lives are threatened, she braves the battle with her shepherd’s staff and the bark of her courageous dog. She discovers that being grateful ‘for not just every morsel we receive but for every breath we are given’.

 

 

I think a little pick-me-up is in order after all that voting, don’t you?  How about Something Chocolate? Continuing our Valentine theme, I’m thinking Red Velvet Brownies With White Chocolate Icing (because red velvet is technically chocolate, red and white are very Valentiny, and if you put the two weaker sisters of the chocolate family together (red velvet and white chocolate) they equal actual chocolate 🙂 )

Red Velvet Brownies With White Chocolate Icing

Ooh la la!  Pretty AND delicious! 🙂

Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Amitha who says, “This is my first book, and I truly enjoy writing. I am a high school student with a passion to learn. In my free time, most can find me reading a book, playing with my dog, or writing more stories! Apart from writing, I enjoy being with animals or reading on a rainy day. Much like my character, I am an introvert and love staying inside and learning new things. However, the times where I interact socially is at the mall or library looking for cute plushies to satisfy my inner child. Speaking of which, I also like to help children learn more about reading, and I set up a reading program for young children for a full year back in my previous primary school.”

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: The Genchi War

Age/Genre: Early YA

The Pitch: A girl (Amethyst Capricorn) who’s never fit in, finally finds others like her but must fulfill an ancient prophecy to save her new world, and her hostage family.

So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Amitha improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on Would You Read it in the dropdown under For Writers in the bar above.  There are openings in March, so you could get your pitch up pretty soon for helpful feedback and a chance to have it read and commented on by editor Erin Molta!

Amitha is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to sharing my new classroom guides with anyone who might be interested!  Check out the appropriately named Classroom Guides page of my website to see the beautiful Guides By Deb created for WHEN YOUR LION NEEDS A BATH, WHEN YOUR ELEPHANT HAS THE SNIFFLES, WHEN YOUR LLAMA NEEDS A HAIRCUT, and WHEN YOUR MONKEYS WON’T GO TTO BED!

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 🙂

P.S. How is your Valentiny Contest entry coming along??? Check the page for updated prizes!

Would You Read It Wednesday #311 – Hazel Lee Flew A Fighter Plane As Well As Any Man (PB) PLUS The October Pitch Pick!

Hey there, Peeps!

How are things in your reading, writing, teaching, library-ing, and parenting worlds today?

There is snow in my world, and it’s making me want to write a picture book about snow. The Snowy Day has been done 🙂  but there’s got to be another possibility!

snow scout

For any of you who didn’t notice the post I snuck in on Sunday evening, the guidelines for the 4th Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Contest have been posted!  And for those of you who did see it, the prize list has been updated! 🙂 So hop on over and check it out.

Then hop back here and make your choice in the October Pitch Pick!

Here are the revised pitches from our talented October participants.  Please read through them and choose the one you think is best and most deserving of a read and comments from editor Erin Molta, then vote for your pick in the poll below by Sunday February 3 at 5 PM (see? you’ll be done before the Super Bowl! 🙂 )

#1 – Katie – The Night There Was No Bedtime (PB ages 3-6)

Mischievous Bedtime decides sleeping is boring. When she and one playful little girl sneak outside for some starlit hide & seek, parents everywhere wonder if their children will ever sleep again—until Bedtime discovers the one thing that makes sleeping sound fun.

#2 – Ciara – Drop The Dragon (PB ages 4-12)

Dragon theft is a real problem for Lily.  Her best frenemy, the family dog, is a pilfering pup.  To thwart the theft of her toy dragon, Lily engineers towers, traps, and more. But when their toy disappears, these two must join forces to save their beloved dragon. 

#3 – Meghan – Weeping Willow (PB ages 4-10)

Todd is a young boy that faces an unexpected choice: one that could ruin or fulfill his new friend’s deepest dreams. She is a tree that yearns to be made into something magical, but the consequence might be too much for Todd to bear. Can he handle the pressure?

#4 – Sarah – The Punching Ballerina   (PB ages 4-8)

KC, a karate student, longs to take ballet lessons.  He weaves all things dance throughout his days, which encourages negative attention at school.  After several minor social losses, a group of kids confronts him on the playground.  He sticks up for himself peacefully, winning confidence, and gaining something else.

Thank you all in advance for your votes!  I think everyone has earned Something Chocolate! I’m on a Valentines theme apparently, started last week with the creme filled chocolate cake hearts, so let’s have heart-shaped butter cookies dipped in chocolate today!

Easy Cream Cheese Butter Valentines Cookies

That’s what I call breakfast/second-breakfast/elevenses/afternoon snack/dessert/bedtime snack/midnight snack! Perfect for dunking in coffee/hot chocolate/milk/maybe even tea 🙂

Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Fanny who says, “I’m a Chinese-American writer who used to design multicultural dolls and puppets for the early childhood education market. After my retirement, it’s natural I want to write for children.”

Find her on the web at www.fannywrites.com

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Hazel Lee Flew A Fighter Plane As Well As Any Man

Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 6-9)

The Pitch: A Chinese-American woman fighter pilot in WWII? No way! Women shouldn’t be flying alone, they are too nervous, too emotional. But Hazel Lee is not the stereotyped Chinese women!

So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Fanny improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on Would You Read it in the dropdown under For Writers in the bar above.  There are openings in March, so you could get your pitch up pretty soon for helpful feedback and a chance to have it read and commented on by editor Erin Molta!

Fanny is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to writing my snow story!  I hope I get farther with it than I did with last week’s pie story! 🙂

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 🙂

Oh, and P.S.  If I manage to scrape it together, I will post a Straight From The Editor post with the 6 I have hopefully on Saturday or Sunday!

What’s Short And Sweet And Read All Over?

I know!

It’s Sunday evening!

You’ve spent the afternoon baking princess cookies and building the world’s most awesome train track around the entire living room with the littles and now it’s time for pajamas and bed!

What on earth am I doing bugging you at this hour?!

Well, I’ll tell you 🙂

I’m trying to give you enough time to cogitate and write! 🙂

Three years ago, a bunch of folks asked for a contest to cheer them out of the winter doldrums!

The result?

The First Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest!

(Valentiny because, like the Halloweensie Contest, it’s not very long and it’s for little people 🙂 )

We had so much fun that we went ahead with the 2nd and 3rd Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contests and now it’s kind of a tradition!  I mean, no one wants to get bested by a doldrum 🙂

So here we are!  The reason I’m interrupting your Sunday!

Announcing . . .

The 4th Annual 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 guilty!  Your someone can feel guilty themselves or make someone else feel guilty.  They may feel guilty for good reason, or just because they think they should!  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 guilty (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 13th and Thursday February 14th by 11:59 PM EDT and add your post-specific link to the list that will accompany my February 13th post.  There will be no Would You Read It that week, and no 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 into the body of the email – no attachments! And please do not submit emailed entries until the contest begins on Feb. 13!)  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 20th (or possibly a day or two later if the judges need extra time.)   The winner will be announced Friday February 22nd or Saturday February 23rd depending on judging and voting time needed. (And there will be no 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 guilt and success in making us feel the guilt!
  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:  As usual I’m still working on prizes.  If anyone has anything fabulous to offer, drop me an email 🙂  But meanwhile, here are some of the awesome prizes just waiting to be won!

“Skip The Slushpile” AND get a Query Letter Critique from Charlotte Wenger, associate editor at Page Street Kids, the picture book division of Page Street Publishing. She earned her Master of Arts in Children’s Literature from Simmons University (then College) and is a board member of the Mazza Museum’s National Advisory Board of Visitors. She enjoys working with debut picture book authors and illustrators and is excited about the 19 Page Street Kids picture books pubbing in 2019.

 
Find Charlotte on Twitter at @WilbursBF_Char, and learn more about Page Street Kids via www.pagestreetpublishing.com, Twitter: @PageStreetKids, and Instagram: pagestreetkids.

 

Charlotte will read the winner’s picture book manuscript of choice, then send an email letting you know she’s read your story and including one thing you did well and one thing you might work on to improve the manuscript.  In addition, she will give you a query letter critique.  Like all editors, she has a hectic schedule, so she will aim to fulfill the prize within 2 months of receiving the manuscript.

Picture Book Manuscript Critique by the incredibly talented, multi-published author/illustrator Iza Trapani!

Iza 2014  Old MacDonald

Picture Book Manuscript Critique by the Queen of KidLit411 herself, Elaine Kiely Kearns, author of Noah Noasaurus, forthcoming April 1, 2019 from Albert Whitman!

elaine  noah

– Top Ten Reasons for Rejectiona 52 minute webinar from Alayne Kay Christian, author of Butterfly Kisses (picture book) and the Sienna The Cowgirl Fairy series (chapter books), and Content and Developmental Editor of Blue Whale Press.

Webinar Description: If you want tips on some corrective action that you might take to improve your chances of submission success, and/or if you would like to deepen your understanding of plot and arc, this webinar is for you.

(And if you’re interested in seeing what else Alayne has to offer, like her Writing For Children Webinars and Courses page on FB and keep an eye out for upcoming offerings!)

 

15-30 Minute Your Questions Answered Phone Call – with Ryan Sias, author/illustrator of Balloon Toons: Zoe And Robot, Let’s Pretend, Sniff Sniff!, and the Woof And Quack beginning reader series (Green Light Readers), and the Super Doodle Series. He has worked in animation, film, and television, including Sesame Street 🙂

Do you have questions about writing, revising, submitting, whether or not to try for an agent, what happens after the sale, or anything else publishing industry related?  If so, this is your chance to ask away and get answers from a professional!

85044-ryan_headshot  SniffSniffcover-300x300  woof and quack snowy doodle

Query Letter Critique by Heather Ayris Burnell, creator of the Sub It Club and author of Bedtime Monster, Kick! Jump! Chop! The Adventures Of The Ninjabread Man, and the Sparkly New Friends early chapter book series from Scholastic!

heather burnell  Kick Jump Chop

2-Pack of Personalized Signed Picture Books from amazing author Melissa StollerScarlet’s Magic Paintbrush and Ready, Set, Gorilla!

Picture2  Picture1 gorilla

…and more good stuff coming!

I can’t thank these authors enough for their incredible generosity!  Please visit their sites, buy and recommend their books and services to your writer friends and/or friends with kids, write them nice reviews on Amazon, GoodReads etc if you’ve read and liked their books, and show your appreciation to them in any way you can!

Now then!  Aren’t you feeling inspired to write the best Valentiny Story you can so you can win one of these awesome prizes?

Get a nice cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows and whipped cream (fuel, people, your brain needs fuel to write and chocolate is the best!), bring it over to your comfiest writing spot, settle in with some kind of writing implement and a cozy throw to keep you warm, and rev those writing engines!

Ready, set, WRITE!

I so look forward to reading your stories in a couple weeks!!! 🙂

Would You Read It Wednesday #310 – BYOB, Bring Your Own Bear (PB)

Howdy, Folks!

In case you were wondering, today is National Pie Day.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure there are a number of picture books in that!

– the biggest pie in the world
– the smallest pie in the world
– friendship pie
– magic pie
– a pie baked by pirates
– a pie that isn’t baked at all
– a pie that burns, ensuring burglars are brought to justice
– a pie with a secret
– a pie that is a trick
– a pie baked with love
– a pie baked for revenge
– a pie for every season
– a pie that goes for a motorcycle ride
– a pie that is sailed down an underground river
– a mystery pie
– a pie with very unusual filling…

I could go on, but I hope all you writers are hastily scribbling notes for the story you’re going to write as soon as you finish Would You Read It! 🙂  Think of me (and pie) as my contribution to Storystorm 🙂 (And if by some bizarre chance you haven’t heard of Storystorm well, by golly!, click that link!)

But enough about pie!  (As if…! 🙂 )

The Halloweensie and Holiday Contests wreaked havoc with my resolution to do a better job of keeping up with the Pitch Picks and Straight From The Editor.  I was trying to sort it all out Monday night, and realized I don’t think I ever announced that the winner of the September Pitch Pick was Sarah with her pitch for No Shoes Stanley!  Congratulations, Sarah! I have, in actual fact, sent your pitch to Erin and I’m sure you’ll hear from her as soon as she’s able!  I’m sorry if your win fell through the cracks of October!  But more fun for you now… 🙂 A surprise!  With confetti and balloons!!  And PIE!!! 🙂

The backlog of Straight From The Editors is extreme, due to them all showing up at once the week before Christmas when we were all distracted.  I think rather than try to fit about six of them into an already packed Would Your Read It Wednesday, I might just post a special Straight From The Editor Thursday or something.  What do you guys think about that?

While you’re thinking (and to help aid in your thinking) how about a little Something Chocolate?

I thought so.  Great minds think alike!

What with Valentine’s Day just around the bend, I thought we could all put a little love in our hearts… and a little cream filling in our chocolate 🙂

Ding Dong Valentines Chocolate Hearts

 

Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Jennifer who is an aspiring picture book author, registered nurse and French fry fanatic living in the deep south. She is a woman of many hats but her favorites are the ones that say wife, mom, & writer. She spends some of her time auditing and educating for a regional hospice company and can also be found blogging at her personal site Magnolias & Manuscripts and as a regular contributor on Lafayette Mom’s Blog. She has a passion for creativity and whole heartedly believes Brene Brown when she says, “The magic is in the mess.”

You can also find her on FB and twitter:
Twitter: @jennygprevost
Facebook: @JenniferGPrevost

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: BYOB, Bring Your Own Bear

Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-8)

The Pitch: Of course, Jillian knew that Rex wasn’t a bear, it wasn’t something that had ever mattered to her before. But, on the day of the Teddy Bear Picnic, it suddenly mattered… a lot. Without a new bear to bring, Jillian decides do whatever it takes to fit in, even if it means keeping a secret from all of her friends.

So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Jennifer improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on Would You Read it in the dropdown under For Writers in the bar above.  There are openings in February, so you could get your pitch up pretty soon for helpful feedback and a chance to have it read and commented on by editor Erin Molta!

Jennifer is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to writing a story about pie! :). I think I’ll start…

The Princess And The Pie
Once upon a time, there was a princess.
She didn’t look much like a princess because she had a passion for wading through swamps in search of bog turtles.
“You are not a princess,” said her swamp-wading companion, Wellsley.  “Princesses do not wear hip-waders and smell like pond scum and have brambles in their hair.”
“I’ll prove I’m a princess,” said the princess.  “I can feel a pea under twenty mattresses and twenty featherbeds!”
Wellsley knew that only a true princess was that sensitive.  But where was the challenge if she knew there was going to be pea?
“I’ll put something under twenty mattresses and twenty featherbeds,” said Wellsley, “but you have to tell me what it is!”
“Game on!” said the princess.

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 🙂

 

Would You Read It Wednesday #309 – Mawbelina Ballerina (PB)

Bom Dia! Buenos Dias! Buongiorno!

You have now heard my entire vocabulary in Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian 🙂
(and it’s possible I slightly cheated by looking up spelling…!)

But good morning!!! 🙂

I’m not sure about the regions you inhabit, but in my neck of the woods we’ve got these pesky critters called weather forecasters who seem to have a hankering for stirring up trouble!

They are currently making dire predictions about the the “FIRST BIG SNOW EVENT OF 2019!” which, if they can be believed, will descend on Saturday.

I ask you.

How bored do you have to be?

I know why they’re all hyped up though.  It has nothing to do with the actual weather systems.

It’s because it’s been winter for weeks and nothing interesting has happened weather-wise, so they’re casting about looking for something to jazz things up!

I will believe it when I see it!

But I will also prepare a Just-In-Case Plan by making sure I have a few handy ingredients lying about.  That way, if we DO get snowed in, I’ll be ready to practice Something Chocolate – Super Bowl Cupcakes!

It’s a couple weeks early, but practice makes perfect, right? We need to do warm-ups – a test run, if you will – of this line-backer-sized* treat.  Just look…!
(disclaimer: football is NOT my area of expertise! I’m only guessing line-backers are the extra large folks on the field???)

Super Bowl Cupcakes!

OH. MY. GOODNESS!

I DARE you not to drool! 🙂

Get right on it.  Whip up a batch and sample them so you can perfect your technique in time for Super Bowl Sunday!  If you need to do it more than once, who can blame you? You just want to achieve ultimate flawless deliciousness!

Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Dedra who says, “I am a late-in-life writer who just found her bravery. Five years ago, I started writing professionally after receiving a journalism degree twenty-six years earlier. Writing has always been in my heart. I wrote three children’s books almost thirty years ago, received a no, and filed them away. Because I now write regularly and have the confidence, I am writing more children’s manuscripts. And this time, I will continue until I get a yes!”

Find her on the web at:

 

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Mawbelina Ballerina

Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 3-8)

The Pitch: Mawbelina Ballerina is a young weenie dog desperate to go to dance school with her older siblings. Not long enough or tall enough to go, she whines and pouts until her mom teaches her patience, showing her being small is fun for now.

So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Dedra improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on Would You Read it in the dropdown under For Writers in the bar above.  There are openings in February – not far off! – so you could get your pitch up pretty soon for helpful feedback and a chance to have it read and commented on by editor Erin Molta!

Dedra is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to seeing exactly how wrong the weather people are.  My bet? A dusting.  We’ll just wait and see who’s right and who can’t predict weather!  (And no, Phyllis isn’t helping.  Even though this is fake winter, she’s currently asleep and will not be available to venture weather opinions until February 2!)

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 🙂

 

Would You Read It Wednesday #308 – Professor Steed And The Elusive Thieves (CB)

Happy New Year, Everyone!

And welcome back to the wonderful world of writing for kids, reading with kids, reading to improve our writing skills, and writing to improve kids’ reading experience!

I hope everyone’s holidays were warm and happy and restorative (although I know for a lot of us getting back to work feels like a rest after the holidays! 🙂 )

I am not quite fully back into regular work mode because I still have one little Hill at home… but I’m getting there…!

I’m pretty sure Something Chocolate would help us ALL get back in gear, don’t you think?

Let’s start the new year off healthy with some Triple Chocolate Brownie Cake for everybody!!! 🙂

Triple Chocolate Brownie Cake

triple_chocolate_brownie_cake2-s

Recipe HERE at Lil’Cookie

Mmmmmm!!  Scrumptious!!! 🙂

I feel more like a nap energized already, don’t you? 🙂

Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Aileen.  Besides writing, Aileen Stewart spends her days reading, attending Library Board of Trustee meetings, managing the local farmers’ market, taking pictures, cooking, tending to the needs of her family, and herding three cats which is just as difficult as it sounds!

You can find her on twitter: http://www.twitter.com/AileenWStewart
On her blog: http://www.aileensthoughts.com
Or on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAileenStewart

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Professor Steed And The Elusive Thieves

Age/Genre: Chapter Book (ages 8-12)

The Pitch: When solving a rash of burglaries leaves everyone in in Collarsville at a loss, dedicated hound, John Steed, uses both his undercover skills gained by working for B.O.N.E. and his position as a professor at Hound Academy to sniff out the thieves and recover the stolen goods.

So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Aileen improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on Would You Read it in the dropdown under For Writers in the bar above.  There are openings in February, so you could get your pitch up pretty soon for helpful feedback and a chance to have it read and commented on by editor Erin Molta!

Aileen is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to my nap some extremely productive work time today 🙂

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 🙂

 

2018 Holiday Contest WINNERS!!!

So darlings, it’s Wednesday, and you know what that means, right?

 

Yes!

 

It means that today is the day…

 

…for us to FINALLY find out…

 

…the thing that kept us up all night in anticipation…

 

…what our reindeer names are!

According to the Elf On The Shelf Site (a character I confess I find a bit creepy and don’t really get!) my reindeer name is Cocoa Wonderland.

I don’t know about you, but that seems like a bit of a mouthful to me…

On Dasher, on Dancer,
On Prancer and Vixen,
On Comet, on Cocoa Wonderland,
On Donner and Blitzen…

I don’t know…

When in doubt, try another site! So I took the MagiQuiz… and now my name is Mistletoe!

Pretty, but…

Since I’m a writer, and here in the land of writers we love the Rule Of Three, I thought I’d better check one more option… and there I struck gold, the best of the best, the cream of the crop, the pick of the litter, my True Reindeer Name (which I might have to give to my car after Christmas 🙂 )

Are you ready?

(I am not making this up…!)

My reindeer name is…

 

…wait for it…

 

Salla Shinyhooves The Speeder!

 

Really!  That’s what it is!

Okay.  Technically even longer than Cocoa Wonderland, but I can’t resist 🙂

Let’s try it out!

On Dasher, on Dancer,
On Prancer and Vixen,
On Comet, on Cupid,
On Donner and Salla Shinyhooves The Speeder!

*** moment of appreciative silence***

I just don’t think it gets any better than that 🙂

I wonder what YOUR reindeer names are…???!!! 🙂

But okay, okay.  Enough reindeer games.  You may all address me as Salla Shinyhooves The Speeder from now until Christmas (don’t even think about nicknaming it down to Salla or Shiny or Speedy!) and we will devote ourselves to the business at hand…

Hot chocolate…

…and…

…the wrap up of…

THE 8TH ANNUAL HOLIDAY CONTEST!!!

Super Santa.png

~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 (yes it was still even if barely) Saturday for your vote.

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

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

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

Teresa Traver for Ten Chocolate Coins (an entry we loved for the writing and kid-friendliness)

Judy Sobanski for Ozzie Owl To The Rescue (an entertaining, well-written rhyme with some great lines – “directional expertise”, “Santa switching to cruise control”, and “To OWL a great night!” 🙂 )

Angela Hawkins for Burro’s Christmas Wish (a well-written story with a great twist ending!)

Sue Heavenrich for Moose Is A Hero! (how can you not love a moose with X-ray goggles and a decoder ring determined to be a hero even if others say he can’t be?!)

Lisa Lee Furness for Come Back, Santa (wonderfully relatable kid character, plenty of humor – loved those reindeer names 🙂 – and heart!)

Barbara Gruener for A Recipe For Hope (a tale of true heroism, kindness, and Christmas spirit beautifully written for kids)

Liz Tipping for Happy Rose For Christmas (a beautifully written story about one child noticing and caring about the need of another)

Johanna Speizer for The 12 Days Of Christmas With Noni (a lovely twist on Secret Santas)

 

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

Stacy Jensen for Penguin’s Quest For Answers: Saves Christmas (which could also have been in a category for Favorite Character – Penguin is something else! We loved this one, Stacy 🙂 )

Stuart Carruthers for How I Saved Christmas Dinner (believable, imaginative kid character and there’s a dragon involved – what kid wouldn’t love that?! 🙂 )

 

3. For Excellence In Representing A Different Holiday Tradition:

Mary Ann Cortez for The Burro’s Blanket(finally a story about Las Posadas! 🙂 )

 

4. For Beautifully Written Spiritual Story:

Michelle Kennedy for The Christmas Prayer (such a lovely expression of what the world needs, and beautiful last line: “Whatever you do, let love be the reason.”)

 

5. For Best Entry Based On A True Story:

Matthew Lasley for Delivery (we loved that this actually happened and could imagine it as a picture book with a little more detail and emotional resonance than 250 words allowed for!)

 

6. For Best, Most Original Setting:

Shariffa Keshavjee for Momo The Xmas Hero (set in Nairobi, Kenya, with a wonderful folk tale feel to the writing)

 

 

7.  For Humor Funnier For Grown-ups But Well-Written And Enjoyable!

Darcee A. Freier for The Cookie Defenders

Julie Abery for The Holiday Show

(both of which were delightful and oh-so-believable! but for which we felt adults would be more amused by the humor than kids would)

 

8. For Incredibly Original And Different (but the math vocab was a little over our heads 🙂 ):

Mishka Jaeger for Christmas-Shaped

 

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 your choice of one of the following: (the titles are all links so you can go see what they’re about) (and if you request a paperback, please include your snail mail address!)

For Kindle:

Picture Books: The Write Way by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

Rhyming Picture Books: The Write Way by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

How To Query An Agent Or Editor: A Children’s Writer’s Insider Guide From Mentors For Rent by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

Getting Published: How To Access Editors: A Children’s Writer’s Insider Guide From Mentors For Rent by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

The Easy Way To Write Picture Books That Sell by Robyn Parnell OR

Self-Publish Your Book: A Quick And Easy Step-By-Step Guide (Writing In A Nutshell Series Book 6) by Jessica Bell, OR

The Write Ideas Creative Writer’s Toolkit: A Genre-Spanning Box Set of Writing Prompts And Creative Exercises by Kate Krake

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi , OR

The Postitive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Attributes by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, OR

The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Flaws by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, OR

The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To City Spaces by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, OR

The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Personal And Natural Places by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, OR

The Ultimate Fiction Thesaurus by Sam Stone, OR

Writing In A Nutshell: Writing Workshops To Improve Your Craft (Writing In A Nutshell Series Book 4) by Jessica Bell, OR

In paperback:

Show And Tell In A Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions From Telling To Showing by Jessica Bell

The Six Senses In A Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions From Bleak To Bold Narrative by Jessica Bell OR

Adverbs And Cliches In A Nutshell: Demonstrated Subversions Of Adverbs & Cliches Into Gourmet Imagery by Jessica Bell OR

Creating Extraordinary Characters by Angela Hunt, OR

Evoking Emotion by Angela Hunt, OR

Picture Books: The Write Way by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

Rhyming Picture Books: The Write Way by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard

Just For Fun…

2019 Pocket Calendar (Kittens) OR

2019 Pocket Calendar (Puppies) OR

Magnetic Poetry – Little Box Of Awesome Kit – Words For Refrigerator (let me know your color choice if you care 🙂 )

 

And now…

…the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

The announcement of the WINNERS OF THE 2018 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…

John McGranaghan
for

Christmas In The Park!!!

Congratulations, John, on a beautifully written, poignant entry with carefully chosen details and a lovely message that clearly struck an emotional chord with a LOT of readers!!! 🙂

In Second Place

Jennifer Broedel
for
Nippynose Flu

Congratulations, Jennifer, on an entry we loved for its fun story, rollicking rhyme, clever solution to a knotty (I just can’t say snotty 🙂 ) problem, and chicken soup with snowballs!    Apparently you’re a writer to watch – 2nd in last year’s Holiday Contest, 1st in this year’s Halloweensie Contest, and now 2nd again in the Holiday Contest!  You get to pick your prize after John.

In Third Place

Jill Lambert
for

Christmas Scent-sation

Congratulations, Jill, on a delightfully fun, kid-friendly entry in wonderful rhyme!  How can you not love firefighters and Stan the wildlife control guy saving toys for tots from a skunk soaking? 🙂  You get to pick your prize after John and Jennifer.

In Fourth Place… a TIE!!! between

Patricia Nozell             and            Jenna Waldman
for                                                 for
Hester Saves Christmas                   Larry’s Latkes

Congratulations, Patricia, on a most entertaining and humorous entry about determination and working hard to achieve your goals – hurray for Hester the cow!  And congratulations, Jenna, on a most original story – latke-eating gators – who’d have thought?! – in perfect rhyme with fabulous language!  You two get to pick your prizes after John, Jennifer, and Jill!  I guess we may have to negotiate a little…

 

In Sixth Place

Nicole Loos Miller
for

Alex & Apple

Congratulations, Nicole!  We loved the whole “Santa stakeout/witnessing of a crime!” and Alex’s MacGyver-like ability to make use of things to hand to save the day!  You get to pick after John, Jennifer, Jill, Patricia, and Jenna!

In Seventh Place…

Vivian Kirkfield
for
A New York Hero

Congratulations, Vivian!  We loved the authentic historical immigrant-new-to-New York feel of your story, the coziness of Rachel’s store, the believability of a child suffering stares and glares and wrinkled noses, and the heroism of offering help even after being treated unkindly! I’m sure you get the idea of how the prize picking goes by now 🙂

In Eighth Place…

Beverly Warren
for
A Special Nest

Congratulations, Bev!  We loved your original and very accessible take on the baby in the manger, your earnest, formal yet affectionate Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow who worked so hard to accomplish their important task, and the tiny sprinkling of humor woven in.  You get to pick after Vivian 🙂

In Ninth Place… ANOTHER TIE!!! between

Laura Bower             and            Connie Bergstein Dow
for                                                     for
The Christmas Pick-Up                     Sparkle The Snowflake

Congratulations, Laura, on your big-hearted, helpful truck entry, and to you, Connie, on your beautifully written dance of the snowflakes that made us long for a white Christmas!  You two get to pick after Beverly :). And again, we may need to negotiate a little…

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 (Reindeer Chow anyone?  🙂 )

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 just arrived from Georgia! 🙂   And, I’ve been so busy I haven’t put up my holiday decorations or gotten a tree yet, can you believe it?!  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 2019!

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

Screen Shot 2017-12-18 at 4.46.14 PM

 

The Prizes!:

Magic Happens When You Make Every Word Count Writing Mentorship with Author Vivian Kirkfield!

Vivian will:
1. Read through your body of work (3-5 PB mss)
2. Skype chat with you to discuss your dream/vision/direction and her general thoughts about your work.
3. Help you choose which manuscript to move forward with/work on with her.
4. Critique that ms and then set up a Skype chat to go over it.
5. Help craft a cover letter and pitch for your ms which will then serve as a template for you as you move forward with your other work.

This is a truly amazing opportunity to work one-on-one with a talented author and critiquer to get you submission-ready for an editor or agent!

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Vivian Kirkfield

Writer for children – reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. She’s got a bucket list that contains many more than five words – but she’s already ticked off skydiving, parasailing and banana-boat riding. When she is not looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books that she hopes will encourage young kids to become lovers of books and reading. She is the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate(Holiday House, Feb 2019); Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book(PomegranateKids, March 2019); Sweet Dreams, Sarah(Creston Books, May 2019); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books, Spring 2020); From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall 2020). You can visit Vivian on her website, Picture Books Help Kids Soar, where she hosts the #50PreciousWords Writing Challenge every March. Or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter,Pinterest,Instagram, Linkedin, and just about anywhere people are playing with picture books.

cover on amazon   four otters cover amazon   sweet-dreams-new-on-amazon

A Rhyming Picture Book Manuscript Critique by prolific author Diana Murray!

diana-murray  One Snowy Day

A Non-Rhyming Picture Book Manuscript Critique by talented author Amy Dixon!

amy-dixon  Maurice

A 2-Pack of Personalized, Signed Picture Books by Tara LuebbeI Am Famous and Shark Nate-O

Tara Luebbe Shark Nate-O I Am Famous

a spot in my online picture book writing class Making Picture Book Magic (in any month mutually agreed upon by the winner and me)

MPBM

Children’s Writer’s And Illustrator’s Market 2019 – by Robert Lee Brewer AND a $25 Amazon Gift Card (2 available)

Children's Writer's Guide 2019

– Yes You Can Learn How To Write Beginning Readers And Chapter Books – by Nancy I. Sanders AND a $25 Amazon Gift Card
nancy sanders 2
laura salas educational market
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, Amazon, B&N or anywhere else if you like them, or supporting them in any other way you can dream up 🙂

The 2018 Holiday Contest FINALISTS!!!

So, a little over three weeks ago the person who runs this popsicle stand was ruminating on possible themes for the Holiday Contest.

She consulted her fellow judges.

They mulled over mischief, magic, misunderstandings, miracles, mayhem, and more.

And then somebody (who shall be nameless!) (Judge #2!) suggested heroes!

“Great idea!” the rest of the knuckleheads agreed.

And so Holiday Heroes it was!

Now I ask you.

What the flingin’-flangin’-fiction-factory were we thinking???!!!

Fast forward through three days of fabulous authors posting fantastic entries – each one better than the last – to The Moment Of Judgment!

And what happened during The Moment of Judgment?

Which was supposed to take a couple days?

And be completely finished by Thursday evening so the finalists could be posted on Friday?

Well, I’ll tell you…

Judge #1 said a hero was someone who was admired for achievements and noble qualities.  Judge #2 said, well, yes, but also a hero was an illustrious warrior or at least had to show great courage.  Judge #3 said, well, yes, but just plain kindness could count as heroism even if it didn’t accomplish much or require a great deal of courage because on its own it is noble. Judge #1 and Judge #2 said kindness alone wasn’t necessarily heroism.  After some discussion, Judge #2 and Judge #3 agreed that some level of courage ought to be involved because that makes everything more heroic.  To which Judge #1 countered that courage means different things to different people, as does heroism…

I’m sure you see where I’m going with this…

Hence, many days, Many pots of coffee and MANY pounds of chocolate later, we have agreed on one thing: we were nuts to pick heroism! 🙂

After much impassioned arguing civilized discussion (which included hardly any injuries  and a bare minimum of bandages, splints, antibiotic ointment, sterile cotton, and tetanus boosters) we have arrived at 10 finalists.

No problem. At all! 🙂

We did the best we could to choose stories that showed true heroism, and were kid-friendly and well-written.

Narrowing the field to 10 was excruciatingly difficult.  We could SO easily have posted an additional 10… and even then there would have been a whole bunch of others we would have wanted to include as well!

You guys write great stories.

But 10 it is.  We have 10 prizes, and 10 seemed like the most number it was fair to ask you to read and vote on. So there you have it!

So, just quickly, before I post the actual finalists I want to say three things:

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 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 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, 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.  Holiday Heroism! – the rules stated a Holiday Hero story, so entries that failed to mention anything Holiday (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, etc.) or that did not contain a true hero/act of heroism did not make the cut even if they were well-written.

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.

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 10 we thought were the all-around best on all 5 counts listed.

So, without further ado, I present to you the 2018 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 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 sumo wrestling reindeer to the rescue 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 –  CHRISTMAS IN THE PARK

Momma says, “It’s time to go.”

But I don’t want to go.
The park is cold.

“Time to go,” says Daddy.

I want to stay home
and make my Christmas list.

“People are waiting,” says Daddy.

I grab my coat,
cross my arms,
and sit in the back seat.

The food trays are warm.
They smell yummy.

The city lights shine bright.
But the park is dark.

It is supper time.
People start to gather.

I grab a big spoon,
and start serving.
They thank me.

Momma tells me to say,
“You’re welcome. Enjoy the meal.”

Millie squeezes my cheeks.
Her hands are scratchy,
not soft like Momma’s.

Momma and I bring food
to the lady in the bushes.
Her hair is messy.
She does not talk,
but she takes the food.

Abraham tells Daddy
the library won’t let him
take out any books.
He has no address.

Jimmy tells me
he sleeps under the stars
like a cowboy.
But it’s not like the movies.

I play checkers with Patrick.
He promises to
teach me how to play chess.

Will pulls out a
crumpled copybook.
He reads his poems.

When I ask why we come,
Daddy says,
“It’s good to help people.”

Momma says,
“People helped us.”

It is time to go.
I wave good bye.

On the way home
I start my Christmas List.

Millie – hand lotion
Lady in the bushes – hair brush
Abraham – books
Jimmy – tent
Patrick – chessboard
Will – notebook.

 

#2 – THE CHRISTMAS PICK-UP

With a sack full of gifts and some fresh fallen snow,
Santa started his journey with “Ho, Ho, Ho, Ho!”
The sleigh chugged along like a train on a track.
It was all going smoothly until he heard CRACK!
Underneath the soft snow was a pond filled with ice.
Santa grabbed for his list (both the naughty and nice).
He wrangled his sack and held all the toys tight,
and the nine deer pulled hard, using all of their might.
But the sleigh wouldn’t budge. It was sunken and stuck.
Just then, through the woods, came an old pick-up truck.
“Hi Santa, I’m Rusty. I heard your deer yelp.
I see you’re in trouble, so I’m here to help!”
Rusty revved up his engine. His wheels found their groove.
Then he heard Santa shout, “The sleigh’s starting to move!”
CRICK, CRACK went the ice. But with one final push,
Santa’s sleigh was on track with a SWOOSH and a WHOOSH!
There was no time to stop. He flew high in the sky,
and shouted to Rusty with twinkling eyes,
“You saved Christmas for all of the good girls and boys.
Thanks to you they’ll be getting their trinkets and toys.”
Rusty woke Christmas morning and found a wrapped gift,
with a note from the big guy, “Thank you for the lift.”
What came on the next line made him start to tear,
“I’ll pay you a visit the same time next year.”

 

#3 – ALEX & APPLE SAVE CHRISTMAS

Alex watched in wide-eyed horror as Papa ate the cookie meant for Santa before heading to bed. 

Ducking back behind the couch, Alex lamented that the Santa-stakeout had instead led to witnessing a crime! And now, it was up to Alex to replace the cookie before Santa arrived and decided the Yusef family belonged on the Naughty List! 

Alex groaned. Apple, feline best friend extraordinaire, meowed in sympathy. 

Where to get a cookie now? The whole family had come over earlier in the day to bake and decorate but everyone had taken cookies home! The cookie left out for Santa was the last one in the whole apartment. 

Alex took a deep breath. “No time for pity parties.” Apple twitched her tail in agreement. 

Alex and Apple padded ever so quietly into the kitchen, picked the least-squeaky chair and stealthily pushed it to the kitchen counter. They took stock of their supplies:
– Open tub of white frosting
– 1 slightly burnt gingerbread woman (behind the coffee maker)
– 3 Graham crackers
– 4 Cinnamon candies

Alex looked at Apple. Apple looked at Alex. Oh yes, they could save Christmas. 

“Oh Alex,” sighed Mama, waking Alex with a start. “Did you sleep behind the couch all night?”

Without answering, Alex and Apple rushed to the tree. Their Christmas-race-car (with cinnamon wheels and a slightly burnt driver) had a large bite taken out of it and a note laying next to it. 

The most creative treat I’ve enjoyed all night. Nice save. Love, Santa

 

#4 – A CHRISTMAS SCENT-SATION

Two weeks before Christmas,
way out in the shed,
presents were stockpiled
and wrapped, green and red.

Behind the brick firehouse
was joy, guaranteed,
collected each Christmas
for families in need.

The firefighters planned
to deliver the gifts
the very next day
when they finished their shifts.

Then what did their
sensitive noses detect,
but a strong scent of skunk–
all the gifts had been wrecked!

A skunk made his burrow
out under the shed,
then an unwelcome
possum crawled in it instead.

Well, what would you think
that striped stinker should do?
He blasted the possum
with skunk musk—P-U!

And of course all the presents
soaked up the foul odor
as it seeped through the floorboards–
that furry exploder!

Now what could be done
to remove the aroma,
without putting everyone
into a coma? 

“I’ll call my friend, Stan,”
the chief told the crew,
“He’s in wildlife control,
so he’ll know what to do.”

Stan was there in a flash
in his van full of tricks,
“I’ll fill up my fogger
with a mystery mix.

It’s my favorite concoction
for skunk residue.”
Then he put on a gas mask,
his coveralls, too.

Stan fogged and he fumed
till the stink disappeared.
They delivered the packages,
all the kids cheered:

“Hooray for old Stan,
he’s a Christmas scent-sation!
He rescued our presents
from contamination!”

And they heard the skunk mumble
as he slunk out of sight,
“Guess I’ll find a new burrow.
Merry Christmas! Good night!”

 

#5 – HESTER SAVES CHRISTMAS

Hester loved jingling bells, the scent of sparkling pine trees, and the promise of present-filled stockings hung by Farmer O’Neill’s chimney. She especially loved stories of Santa and his reindeer.

“Mama, can I can pull Santa’s sleigh next year?” Hester asked.

“Flying reindeer pull Santa’s sleigh, Hester. And everyone knows Highland Cows can’t fly.”

But I can dream, thought Hester. And practice.

She hopped over heather and thistles.

“Ouch!”

She jumped across rocky streams…almost.

            SPLASH!

She trotted uphill, leapt, and…

tumbled down a steep slope.

            Moooo…

Hester kept trying…

and trying…

and trying…

but not quite succeeding.

As Christmas drew near, Hester turned her nose from pine trees and looked away from the chimney. She hung her shaggy head. Large tears fell, freezing like a glistening beard.

“A blizzard,” sighed Farmer O’Neill on Christmas Eve. “No presents tomorrow. Santa’s reindeer can’t fly through this mess. Into the barn, girls.”

All but one shuffled into the warm barn.

Hester trudged through deep snowdrifts. She shivered in the blustery wind and slipped on icy paths until…

She heard a faint jingle-jingle. She scrambled and spied…

Santa in his sleigh with eight grounded reindeer stuck in a snow pile.

Hester pulled, tugged and led the reindeer, sleigh and Santa along the snowy trail.

The next morning, presents filled stockings.  Laughter rang like jingling bells across the farm.

“Merry Christmas, Hester,” Farmer O’Neill said.  “Wake up! Somehow Santa came!”

Hester yawned and wondered,

Can a cow hide Easter eggs?

 

#6 – NIPPYNOSE FLU

The night before Christmas, with no time to spare,
unparalleled storms spilled a chill in the air.

Amid all the bustle, two tinkering elves
coughed at each other and startled themselves.
The shivering, sneezes, and sniffles spread quick,
till every last elf in the workshop was sick.

The presents piled up, and the reindeer weren’t fed,
the list wasn’t checked, and the room filled with dread.
“Is everyone sick now? Is no one immune?
We need to do something, or get some help soon!”

Plain out of time, and with so much to do,
Christmas was threatened by Nippynose Flu!

“The snowmen can help us guys, all isn’t lost,”
said Tinselbelle, wiping her nose clean of frost.
As soon as the snowmen got wind of the fuss,
they hollered “Don’t worry, just leave it to us!
We snowmen enjoy a good frigid-frost chill,
we can’t catch a flu and we never get ill.”

So while all the elves were reclining in bed,
the snowmen saved Christmas, and worked in their stead.
Where elves had been chilly and starting to freeze,
the snowmen breezed through all the work with great ease.

They finished the wrapping and loaded the sleigh,
happy to help Santa off on his way.

To top it all off, they brought soup to the elves…
“We hope you enjoy it, we made it ourselves.
Our Nana’s own recipe: my, it tastes nice!
Chicken with snowballs, but we held the ice.”

 

#7 – A SPECIAL NEST

A distant donkey brayed. Mrs. Sparrow awakened. A silvery light flooded the stable.
How peculiar, she thought, and flew outside to find its source. A single star brightened the world below.
Two figures slowly picked their way along the stony path leading to the stable. Mrs. Sparrow flew near.
“Oh my!” she exclaimed, and raced home. “Wake up Mr. Sparrow. We must build a nest.”
“What?” he asked “Are you going to lay eggs?”
“No, Mr. Sparrow. Company is coming. The woman will soon give birth.”
“Where can we build a nest for an enormous egg?” he asked.
“Mr. Sparrow, people don’t lay eggs,” she said. “Quick, help me find a place for the nest.”
They circled the room. He went right, she went left, they collided and tumbled into an empty box.
Mrs. Sparrow chuckled. “The manger! It’s perfect. But where can we find clean straw?”
“I know,” chirped Mr. Sparrow. “The innkeeper put fresh hay behind the stable.”
The two birds gathered strips of hay and packed them snugly, until the silvery light was dimmed
by the couple’s shadowed form.
The man settled his wife beside the manger.
“Do you think it was enough hay, Mrs. Sparrow?”
A baby’s cry rang out in the room.
“Oh yes, Mr. Sparrow,” she answered.
The woman then wrapped her child in cloth and placed him in the manger. Exhausted, she lay down.
Her eyes caught the movement of two small birds huddled in the rafters above, and she smiled at them.

 

#8 – LARRY’S LATKES

 Big Larry ran a latke shop

for tater loving gators.

Hot pancakes, piled on paper plates,

were plopped down by the waiters.

 Applesauce and sour cream

made trails around the plate,

as gators licked their massive lips

with pleasure while they ate.

 Hanukkah was coming fast,

Big Larry’s busy season.

But this year’s business hit a snag,

for one disastrous reason…

 Spud supplies were running dry

from gator tater famine!

But gators need their latkes like

like a bagel needs smoked salmon.

Big Larry sat around his shop,

he moaned and groaned, “oi vey!”

“Our Hanukkah won’t be the same

if spuds don’t come our way.”

He vowed to find an answer fast,

and keep the gators fed!

Potatoes may have gone away,

 what else could work instead?

He tried a carrot pancake but,

it tasted far too sweet.

His hands turned pink, and stained the sink,

when he fried up a beet.

Zucchini was too boring and

the onions were a flop.

A yam, a pear, some camembert,

one more and then he’d stop!

The only thing that he had left:

A teeny tiny dud,

a little sad pathetic orb…

the last remaining spud!

But thinking of his patrons and

a Hanukkah disaster,

He made a dish that was delish,

a gator latke master!

The carrots, beets, zucchini, AND

some onions, yams AND pear.

The teeny, tiny tuber,

AND a dash of camembert!

“A miracle!” Big Larry cried,

“An absolute delight!

Chag sameach, everyone!”

The menorah shimmered bright.  

 

#9 – SPARKLE THE SNOWFLAKE

Everyone knows that no two snowflakes are alike, but Sparkle was extra special.  She shone and shimmered a little brighter than all of the other snowflakes that lived in her cluster of clouds.

Sparkle and her snowflake friends had an important job to do.  They were to fall to earth on Christmas Eve. They would cover the hills and trees, and especially the rooftops of the houses, so that Santa and his reindeer would leave their footprints on the rooftops for children to see on Christmas morning.

The snowflakes were busy the day before Christmas.  They carefully planned their journey from the clouds. They practiced floating and staying together so they could create a beautiful snowfall that evening.

Sparkle and all of the other snowflakes snuggled deep into the billowy clouds to get some rest before the busy night.  Soon, Sparkle woke up and looked around in alarm.  It was almost midnight!  “Wake up!” Sparkle called. Then she soared from cloud to cloud, making sure that every snowflake was ready.

Just in the nick of time, they slipped from the puffy clouds and began to twirl and dance in the chilly night air.  The snowflakes landed gently, and waited silently.  When the sun peeked over the hill, the snowflakes heard children laughing as they ran from their houses and saw the glistening snow.  Little did the children know that the snow that had greeted them this Christmas morning was all thanks to Sparkle, the shiny little snowflake.

 

#10 – A NEW YORK HERO

The sign flashed PIZZA/DELI. Christmas bells jingled as Rachel hurried inside. Shaking off snow, she slipped past cloth-covered tables. Warmed with the heat of a wood-fired oven, the room felt good, but Rachel wondered if this would ever feel like home.

Almost a year ago, Rachel and her family arrived in America. She was grateful to be in a safe place. But everything was different. She was different. Living over the store, Rachel always smelled like pastrami or salami or pepperoni pizza. Kids at school stared and glared and wrinkled their noses. Especially Mia, who lived over the laundromat next door. Mia smelled like flowers and sunshine and spring rain. Rachel sighed. Still, it was Christmas vacation – no stares or glares or wrinkling noses for a whole week.

That night, the wind howled and snow fell. In the morning, silence. Power was out all across the city. But the wood-fired oven burned merrily and Mama lit candles for each table. In the kitchen, Rachel layered pastrami and salami and thought about Mia. Without power, maybe Mia’s family would have no heat. Rachel remembered being cold.

“Can we invite Mia to eat with us?”

“Of course,” Mama replied. “Go ask.”

Soon, Mia and her family trooped in, stamping snow from their boots. Before long, everyone was biting into sandwiches piled high with meats and cheeses.

“Here in New York,” Rachel said, “this sandwich is called a hero.”

“Maybe,” Mia said as she moved closer. “But to me, you are a hero.”

 

Wow! Are your socks knocked 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 5PM EST Tuesday December 18.

 

 

Tune in Wednesday December 19 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!

Tune in Wednesday… same bat time, same bat station 🙂

Ho! Ho! HO! The Eighth Annual Holiday Contest Is HERE!

Deck the halls!

Light the menorah!

Fill the Kikombe cha Umoja!

It’s time for…

THE 8TH ANNUAL HOLIDAY CONTEST!!!

Super Santa.png

~for children’s writers~

The Contest:  Write a children’s holiday story (children here defined as age 12 and under) about A Holiday Hero!  Your hero’s act of heroism can be on a grand scale or a small one – from saving Christmas to leaving a fresh-baked loaf of Challah bread for a homeless person to something like Gift Of The Magi where two people give up the thing most important to them to be sure someone they love has a good holiday.  Your hero can be obvious or unlikely.  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 Saturday December 8 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 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 midnightwriter1 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 don’t send 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.

 

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 Friday December 14 for you to vote on for a winner.  The vote will be closed on Sunday December 16 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 Monday December 17 (how’s that for ambitious?! 🙂 )

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 Heroism! – the rules state a Holiday Hero story, so it must be crystal clear that the story is about Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or whatever you celebrate, and it must contain a hero and act of heroism in some form! 🙂
  • 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!:

Magic Happens When You Make Every Word Count Writing Mentorship with Author Vivian Kirkfield!

Vivian will:
1. Read through your body of work (3-5 PB mss)
2. Skype chat with you to discuss your dream/vision/direction and her general thoughts about your work.
3. Help you choose which manuscript to move forward with/work on with her.
4. Critique that ms and then set up a Skype chat to go over it.
5. Help craft a cover letter and pitch for your ms which will then serve as a template for you as you move forward with your other work.

This is a truly amazing opportunity to work one-on-one with a talented author and critiquer to get you submission-ready for an editor or agent!

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Vivian Kirkfield

Writer for children – reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. She’s got a bucket list that contains many more than five words – but she’s already ticked off skydiving, parasailing and banana-boat riding. When she is not looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books that she hopes will encourage young kids to become lovers of books and reading. She is the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate(Holiday House, Feb 2019); Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book(PomegranateKids, March 2019); Sweet Dreams, Sarah(Creston Books, May 2019); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books, Spring 2020); From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall 2020). You can visit Vivian on her website, Picture Books Help Kids Soar, where she hosts the #50PreciousWords Writing Challenge every March. Or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter,Pinterest,Instagram, Linkedin, and just about anywhere people are playing with picture books.

cover on amazon   four otters cover amazon   sweet-dreams-new-on-amazon

A Rhyming Picture Book Manuscript Critique by prolific author Diana Murray!

diana-murray  One Snowy Day

A Non-Rhyming Picture Book Manuscript Critique by talented author Amy Dixon!

amy-dixon  Maurice

A 2-Pack of Personalized, Signed Picture Books by Tara LuebbeI Am Famous and Shark Nate-O

Tara Luebbe Shark Nate-O I Am Famous

a spot in my online picture book writing class Making Picture Book Magic (in any month mutually agreed upon by the winner and me)

MPBM

Children’s Writer’s And Illustrator’s Market 2019 – by Robert Lee Brewer AND a $25 Amazon Gift Card (2 available)

Children's Writer's Guide 2019

– Yes You Can Learn How To Write Beginning Readers And Chapter Books – by Nancy I. Sanders AND a $25 Amazon Gift Card
nancy sanders 2
laura salas educational market
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, Amazon, B&N or anywhere else if you like them, or supporting them in any other way you can dream up 🙂

 

Now.

 

The time has come for my sample.  I wrote it between midnight and 2 AM, so that’s my excuse for how bad it is and I hope you all appreciate the fact that I am willing to make a complete fool of myself just for you! 🙂  But this should be very comforting because you can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that ANYthing you wrote is better than this! 🙂

So.  Are you ready? (Be forewarned you might need a little chocolate to help you through… I’m going to need a LOT! 🙂  I have taken dreadful writing to a whole new level and should probably write a new sample tomorrow!  Also because this one is a few words over the limit 🙂  )

 

The Christmas Rescue

‘Twas the night before Christmas
The sleigh was packed high.
The team shook their jingle bells
Eager to fly!

Santa and Elsie Elf
Boarded the sleigh
And quick as a wink
They were up and away!

As they soared over rooftops
That glittered with snow
Elsie said,
“Look at that shooting star go!”

Santa leaned forward
And peered through the night.
“That’s no shooting star!
It’s a meteorite!”

“Pretty!” said Elsie.
And Santa said, “Yes…
But it’s going to wreak havoc
With our GPS!”

The NAV screen went blank
A search icon spun round
Because Magnetic North
Could no longer be found!

They tapped at the screen
Turned it off and back on
But it was no use
Their directions were gone!

The meteor’s metal
Messed up Elsie’s phone
So she couldn’t call Tech
At the workshop back home.

“Maybe star navigation?”
said Santa with doubt.
But clouds had moved in
And they blocked the stars out.

“We have no direction
We can’t find our way
To get gifts to good girls and boys
Christmas Day!”

At this precise moment
From out of the blue
A small caped crusader
Flew into their view.

“My goodness!” said Santa.
“Whatever is that?”
The crusader said proudly,
“I’m Super Bat!

I just couldn’t help
Overhearing your plight.
The Bat Squad and I
Can assist you tonight.”

“How?” wondered Elsie.
“Without navigation.”
“No problem,” said Bat,
“we use echolocation!”

With Super Bat skillfully
Guiding the sleigh
The gifts were delivered
By dawn Christmas Day.

“We couldn’t have done this
Without you, you know.”
Santa smiled and said,
“Bat, you’re a Christmas Hero!”

 

So now!  Is everyone filled with confidence about their entries?  I certainly hope so after that display!  Never let it be said that I’m not willing to make a fool of myself for you guys 🙂  It just proves how much I love you 🙂

I can’t wait to read all of your (much better!) stories!  I hope there will be a lot – the more the merrier!  And you still have until Saturday midnight to write, so you have time if you haven’t written yet and want to join the fun.  Feel free to spread the word to your writing friends as well.  If you just want to enjoy reading, that’s great too!  We need all the readers we can get, so feel free to spread the word to parents and teachers!  And what better way to entertain yourself and your kids while waiting for the holiday goodies to bake?  Or get someone to read aloud while everyone else wraps presents 🙂

Rejoice! and let the festivities begin!!! 🙂

Happy Holidays to All! 🙂

 

And don’t miss the additional 49 fabulous entries in the comment section below!
(Titles are not links – sorry! Scroll through comments to view)

  1. The Super-Invisible Snowgirl – Anne L
  2. Toby Saves Christmas – Sherry H
  3. The 12 Days of Christmas With Noni – Johanna
  4. Saint Bernard Savior – Sandra
  5. The Cookie Defenders – Darcee
  6. Nippynose Flu – Jennifer
  7. Santa’s Gift – Barbara
  8. I’m Santa – Sarah
  9. Manger Mayhem – Susan
  10. Cat Called Hero – Lily
  11. All By Myself – Jessica
  12. Surprise On The Sleigh – Sarah
  13. Ozzie Owl To The Rescue – Judy
  14. Come Back Santa – Lisa
  15. Christmas Presence – Angelique
  16. Papa Bear’s Rescue – Dianne
  17. Santa Tryouts – Amy F
  18. Just One Bean – Kristy
  19. Merritt Mouse – Saves Christmas – Patricia
  20. Jesse The Pup Saves Hanukkah – Amy B
  21. Sammy, the Skillet Saves Hanukkah – Amy B
  22. UH-OH. OH NO. HO HO – Jill
  23. The Christmas Boots – Sherry F
  24. Christmas Cookies – Kami
  25. Christmas In The Park – John
  26. A Christmas Scent-sation – Jill
  27. A Christmas Prayer – Michelle
  28. A Special Nest – Beverly
  29. Tent City Christmas – Anne B
  30. Who Was The Real Hero The Night Baby Jesus Was Born? – Carmen
  31. The Cookies That Saved Christmas – Jamie
  32. Fox And The Red Wagon – Kathy
  33. Listen To Libby – Nannette
  34. The Soldier’s Little Girl – Beth
  35. Momo The Xmas Hero – Shariffa
  36. The Santa Kid – Mega
  37. Dasher Saves The Day By Night – Tara
  38. Alex & Apple Save Christmas – Nicole
  39. Sparkle’s Special Christmas Wish – Lucretia
  40. Santa’s Beard – Linda
  41. Christmas Kindness – Beth B
  42. A Neighborly Christmas Eve – Mona
  43. Ellen – Priya
  44. The Christmas Pick-Up – Laura
  45. Christmas-time Tea – Elizabeth
  46. The Holiday Hero – Ranessa
  47. The Little Reindeer – Debora
  48. The Hay – Anna
  49. Happy Rose For Christmas – Liz