February 29, 2012

Would You Read It Wednesday - The 29th Pitch

OK.  How Twilight Zone is it that the 29th pitch is occurring on that rarest of days, February 29th?  *hums Twilight Zone music* Do you have chills?

If you don't have chills from that, you'll get them from marveling over the extreme succinctness of my post today - hitherto unheard of brevity :)  Grab your Something Chocolate and let's get right down to Would You Read It!

Today's pitch comes to us from Jennifer.  No, not the same Jennifer as last week.  That was Jennifer R.  This is Jennifer Y :)

Jennifer was born and raised in southern Connecticut and settled down in south Jersey.  She loves quotes.  One of her favorites is from The Edge - "What one man can do, another can do."  You can visit her blog and like her on Face Book :)

Working Title:  Planet Vacation
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-8)
The Pitch:  Rose takes a vacation to visit the planets.  Will she get a chance to rollerblade on the rings of Saturn and scuba dive for starfish on Jupiter or will her trip be nothing like she dreamed?


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 the Would You Read It tab in the bar above.  Go ahead and send your pitch for a chance for it to be read by editor Erin Molta!

Jennifer is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!

And I hope you are all suitably impressed by my succinctness :)  See you Friday - boy do I have a fantastic book to share with you!



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February 27, 2012

Oh Susanna - How To Cope With Critique Group Feedback?

Happy Monday, Everyone!  It's an Oh Susanna day!  But first, I'd like to give you a teensy report on the Reach Out And Read Event I did last week.

Reach Out And Read is a terrific program that seeks to put books in the homes and hands of children who would otherwise not own a book, and to educate their parents on the importance of reading to children.

We had a great crowd at the Ossining Open Door Clinic for the event.  So many eager listeners gathered on the rug to hear Can't Sleep Without Sheep and Punxsutawney Phyllis.
Photo by Ana-Maria Cabreira
Photo by Ana-Maria Cabreira
Afterwards, many asked to have their books signed, and/or to have their photo taken with an actual author (and Phyllis and Baahb :))
Photo by Ana-Maria Cabreira
All of them went home with books of their very own, thanks to donations from you and others.  We had so many books that families who brought 3 or 4 children were able to get a different book for every child and go home with several titles.
Photo by Ana-Maria Cabreira
Photo by Ana-Maria Cabreira
Photo by Ana-Maria Cabreira
It was truly a wonderful day.  Thanks so very much to all of you who donated books!

And now, today's Oh Susanna question comes to us from Eric.  He says, "I love my writer’s critique group that meets each month.  They offer great feedback — LOTS of feedback.  But, I am often overwhelmed when I get home.  Do you have tips or tricks to managing feedback to use it effectively to improve your work?"

This is an excellent question.

Whenever you hand over your beloved work - product of your blood sweat and tears - even though you know logically that it probably isn't perfect, you secretly hope that your critique readers will come back with comments like, "This is the absolute best thing I ever read!  You're a genius!  Submit it immediately!"

So when you get the logically expected feedback, your writerly defenses automatically go up.  No matter how mature and professional you are, you can't help it.  Nor should you.  You worked hard on this!  You need a little time to let the comments sink in before you can fairly evaluate them.

So my advice is this:  don't decide anything right away.  Part of that overwhelmed feeling is the natural result of having your hard work picked apart - it has more to do with emotion than technique.

So take all that feedback home.  And the next day, or the day after, take it out.  Read it over.  Think it over.  Let it simmer.

Then, when the writerly defenses have lowered their swords and you're in a place where you can realistically evaluate the feedback, go through your ms one page at a time and see what you agree with and what you don't.

I find it easiest to start with things that I agree with and/or are very easily fixable - like typos :)  This way you don't have to start by making concessions in your work.  If you fix the easy things first, it's a little less difficult to tackle the harder stuff.

You can also organize your critiquers' comments into categories and approach your revision one topic at a time - overall plot, character development, dialogue, language use etc. - and make your revisions accordingly.

Were there things that ALL your critique members agreed on?  Those things should be tackled early on as they have the most likelihood of really being things that should be addressed.

Other things that were only mentioned by one person, you as author have to evaluate in terms of your story intent - does your critiquer have a valid point, or did they miss the point?  And if they missed the point, was that the fault of your writing and can you fix that?

Obviously, the longer the work, the more extensive and complicated the feedback may be - it's going to be very different for a YA novel than for a picture book.  But the basic approach remains the same:  let it simmer, tackle the easy stuff first, then go through by page or category and tackle the harder stuff.  And if there are things you feel strongly should be left alone, well, you're the author!

I hope that at least partially answers your question, Eric.  If you have follow-up questions, or more specifics, add them in the comments and we'll all try to help.

And now, I hope some of our devoted readers who also deal with critique group feedback will chime in with their advice on how to handle it - how do you make the best use of your feedback, and how do you keep from feeling overwhelmed?
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February 24, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday - The Top Job

I love Perfect Picture Book Fridays!  The only hard part is choosing just one book to share each week when there are usually about 50 I'd like to add to the list! :)

Before we get to today's choice though, I think we need to have a serious discussion about the Official Perfect Picture Book Snack.  Something Chocolate has already been taken for Would You Read It Wednesdays, so put on your thinking caps boys and girls, and let's come up with something scrumptious! :)  Because I'm a mite peckish!  The comment section is open for suggestion....

But back to PPBF....  I love books that turn out to be something you didn't expect.  I love getting to the end and thinking to myself, "Wow, that author was clever!"  I love books that I like better every time I read them.  And that is just the kind of book I'm sharing today!

The Top Job
Written By: Elizabeth Cody Kimmel
Illustrated By: Robert Neubecker
Dutton Juvenile, July 2007, Fiction based on fact

Suitable For: ages 5-8

Theme/Topic: Careers, Standing up for yourself, Coping with rudeness and bragging.

Opening:  "On Career Day, Mrs. Feeny asked her students to stand up in class and talk about their parents' jobs.  Emma Sweetpaw said her dad was a UFO hunter.  She said he used a two-ton telescope to search the sky for flying saucers and a giant satellite to receive alien transmissions."

Brief Synopsis:  One by one, the students stand up and brag about what their parents do - a UFO hunter, a jeweler, a NASCAR driver.  When it's the narrator's turn, she says her dad changes light bulbs, which seems pretty tame compared to what everyone else does... until she reveals which lightbulbs!

Links To Resources:  Careers (grades K-5),  Careers (grades 6-8) (these are both link lists to info on all kinds of careers), Amazing Facts About The Empire State Building, Fun Facts About The Empire State Building

Why I Like This Book:  What kid wouldn't love to have a parent with a really cool and unusual job?  This book is set up very cleverly.  The first few kids to introduce their parents careers all brag - their parents are UFO hunters, jewelers, and NASCAR drivers.  Pretty hard to top!  When it's the narrator's turn, she sets them up, saying her dad changes light bulbs.  Of course they make fun... until they find out where the light bulbs are.  The pacing is great, letting the reader discover a page at a time that all isn't exactly as it seems.  I also love that the story is based on fact - someone really does have to change those light bulbs and it's a pretty tricky job!  This book offers a great deal of information about a little-known job as well as a great opportunity to talk about all the different careers that are open to kids when they grow up.  It's interesting, educational, clever, and fun!

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

In other news, I wanted to share the Reach Out And Read report with you but I don't have the pictures yet, so I'm going to save that for next week.

I'm looking forward to seeing what Perfect Picture Books everyone else chooses today - it's always so much fun!  And then we all have tons of great new choices for the weekend - to read to our kids, plan upcoming lessons, or to learn from as writers!  What could be more fun than that?  Please post your Perfect Picture Book link below and have a great weekend!

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February 22, 2012

Would You Read It Wednesday - The 28th Pitch

Well, folks, today's the day I head out for the Reach Out And Read Event!  Pretty exciting!  To those of you who donated books, thank you so very much - the kids will be thrilled.  I'm hoping to get a picture or two today, but you never know...  If I get any, I'll be sure to post them :)

Since I'm off and running today, we'll cut right to the chase!

Today's Would You Read It pitch comes to us from Jennifer.  Jennifer loves to read, write, and spend time with her husband and two boys.  She also writes a terrific blog and participates frequently in Perfect Picture Book Fridays :)

So without further ado...

Working Title:  The Birthday Bash
Age/Genre: PB (ages 6-8)
The Pitch:  It's Sylvia's birthday tomorrow and Stan and Louie have a big surprise party planned. With hilarity and hi-jinks the two raccoons search for Sylvia's favorite foods in the forest, garages and backyard patios. Will they find what they're looking for or will the birthday party be a bust?


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 the Would You Read It tab in the bar above.  Go ahead and send your pitch for a chance for it to be read by editor Erin Molta!

Jennifer is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!

And I'm looking forward to seeing you all Friday for Perfect Picture Books! :)
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February 20, 2012

Oh Susanna - Where To Go For Swag?

Wow!  How did it get to be Monday so fast?  The weekend just FLEW by!

Yesterday seems to have been an unusually quiet day on the internet (by which I mean I was so busy doing laundry that I was barely on my computer and hence missed whatever might have been going on :))  But seriously, I dragged Donna out for an interview and I'm not sure anyone besides Catherine, Alison and Vivian even saw it!  (Ouch for Donna! :( )  The extreme quietness has caused me to doubt my new policy of posting interviews on the third Sunday of the month... Perhaps it is a bad plan.  I shall have to re-examine it....  Or maybe Disqus was having issues... or maybe y'all weren't interested in the topic under discussion...  Feel free to share below.  In any case, if you didn't get to see Donna's interview, please go HERE.  I think you might find some useful information, and if you have any questions, please post them to the comments of her interview post and we'll see what we can do about getting you answers :)

In other news, I'm pretty excited because April Fool, Phyllis! will be available in the Scholastic SeeSaw Book Club for March!  It is titled The April Fool Treasure Hunt and has a blue cover instead of pink, but the story inside is the same.  And for real fun, it comes on CD!!!  I haven't gotten to hear it yet - I hope it's good :)
Since I haven't gotten my copies yet, I had to swipe this cover picture off the Scholastic site :)
Oh, and apropos of nothing, I'm being featured on Kimberly Dana's blog - The Blog Zone - today if anyone is interested...

Now onto today's real business: the Oh Susanna question!  This is a good one, and I will be very interested to hear what all of you have to contribute on the topic!

Saba asks, "I'm looking to have some swag made for my blog and website.  Do you know of any companies that make stickers and bookmarks?"

Well, Saba, as a matter of fact I do!  And I'm sure our readers have experience with many more and will hopefully share what has worked well for them!

The main sites I have used are VistaPrint, GotPrint, and Zazzle.  I have made magnets, bookmarks, stickers, mugs, and pencils.  (The pencils were from another site...  Oriental Trading Company.)  What's really great about all these sites is that you can google coupons for them and usually find a way to get a discount.

I am not artistically inclined and I have no knowledge whatsoever of how to use PhotoShopElements or Adobe Illustrator or any of those design-oriented programs.  For this reason, I have found Zazzle to be the easiest site to work with for anything involving art.  You can upload photos or scans straight out of your iPhoto file or wherever you keep your photos (as long as you have the rights or permission) and plop them right onto whatever you're making - magnets, stickers, t-shirts, mugs, keychains, etc.  Zazzle has a lot of choices of things to make.

VistaPrint I have used for business cards and magnets.  They are pretty user-friendly too.

GotPrint is what I used for bookmarks, but I had to have help.  My daughter created the bookmark image I wanted on PhotoShopElements and uploaded it to GotPrint.  I could not have done that myself because all I know how to do is open PhotoShop Elements - I have no idea what to do next :)  This does not make for interesting bookmarks :)  Bookmarks are the thing I've struggled most with.  I have not found a really easy-to-work-with site that allows you to design your own without themed templates you don't want.  Anyone with advice on this topic, please share!!!!!

The pencils are a little tricky because you can only go to 30 characters usually, and usually only one line of print.  So you have to choose your book title or your website or your name - you can't fit them all.

I am always looking for easy-to-use sites for this kind of thing.  Also for good ideas of what to make.  Like I said, I personally have found Zazzle the easiest to work with, and they have a lot of product choices.  I might try tote bags soon :)

Now, all you faithful and helpful readers, what kinds of swag have you made?  What sites do you use?  What do you recommend for Saba?  Please share!
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February 19, 2012

Meet Donna Farrell - Interview With Children's Author/Illustrator Website And Blog Designer

It's time for our monthly interview, and today I'm delighted to introduce Donna Farrell!

As you know, these interviews are usually of authors, illustrators, or author/illustrators, but I'm making an exception today because Donna has some uniquely applicable expertise that I think you'll find interesting and helpful.

As the world (of publishing and in general) has changed, we as authors and illustrators have been encouraged to have a presence on the web.  We're supposed to have websites, blogs, Face Book pages, twitter accounts etc, and yet many of us have no real knowledge of how to go about these things.  How do we design a site that will draw readers?  What should it look like?  What should it offer?  And how can we fit design and maintenance into our already busy schedules?

Enter Donna!  (Who, in case you didn't know, designed my website and blog! :))
Donna Farrell

SLH:  Thank you so much for visiting with us today, Donna!  I'd like to start by asking, what exactly do you do?

DF:  My creative umbrella covers- illustration, web design and graphic design.

Although they may all seem different, it really is all visual story telling. 
As a designer, I take information and present it in a logical way. I understand the need for whitespace and a balanced composition. 

The majority of my web designs have been for children's authors (20+).  I didn't start out targeting this niche.  My involvement in the field of children's publishing and my own pursuit of publication came first. Along the way a business has been born.  I bring a unique perspective to the table.  An understanding of what is needed on an authors site.  What visitors are expecting to find and how to present that information.   I also act as a consultant, giving advice about content.  Visitors often visit the site to get "extras". Information that isn't in the book itself or available elsewhere.   I can help make suggestions about those things, design activity sheets that tie in to the authors books etc.


Screen shot of site designed
by Donna
SLH:  Do you think it's absolutely necessary to hire a designer?

DF:  No.  But when attempting to develop a site on your own, please ask yourself the following:

1. Can I create a professional looking site?
Be sure your site reflects you as a professional.  Publishing is a business, you want to be taken seriously.  
2. Do I know what needs to be on my author site?
Design is important but content is essential.  Have a good understanding of what visitors are looking  for dictates content.  
3. Do I have the technical knowledge needed?
You can purchase a program to develop a website, but if you don't have the know how, you have just wasted your money. The site will not design itself.
4. Do I know who my site is for?
Knowing your audience is very important. Pre-publication your site might focused on editors, agents and other writers but, publication will mean that your focus will shift to your "fans".  Those who are investing in you as an author and your books.  You need to be prepared to give them something.
5. Do I have the the time?
Creating and maintaining a site takes time, time that will cut into your writing time.  
Screen shot of site
designed by Donna

If you answered YES to all the above, you are probably a good candidate to try it yourself.  But, just like a manuscript that needs critiquing before submissions, I strongly recommend having a set or several sets of eyes look at the site your going to publish to be sure it is easy to navigate and doesn't have any major design flaws that send visitors screaming from your site before you launch it into cyberspace for literally all the world to see.  

If you answered NO to some or most of these, it might be a good idea to have someone with experience help you out, that's where I would come in.

Looking at the same questions above, here is what I can offer:
1. Can I create a professional looking site?
Yes.  I create professional, yet personal sites.  Each site I create is unique to the client.  It is important that it reflects them and their writing.  
2. Do I know what needs to be on an author site?
Yes.  Because of my experience and research I have a good understanding of what is expected.
3. Do I have the technical knowledge needed?
Yes.  I don't sell myself as a techie.  Foremost, I'm a designer, but I do have the knowledge required to create and publish a site.  At this moment technologies are changing so quickly that I would never say I'm an expert, but I do my best to stay current.
4. Do I know who your site is for?
Yes.  I can look at the site from a visitor perspective and make recommendations.
5. Do I have the time?
Yes.  Let me free up more writing time by taking the worry out of some of this for you!
SLH:  What are some tips for authors to think about as they design their site?

DF:  CONTENT!

Screen shot of site
designed by Donna

My Top 5 Suggestions to authors regarding content:
1. Have at least one good photo of yourself.
2. Have links to purchase your titles.
3. Have a strong "About" page. (Statistics show this is the most visited page on an author site.)
4. Have contact information available.
5. Have exclusive content, freebies, downloads, extras.
SLH:  Thank you again for joining us today, Donna.  We really appreciate you sharing your expertise!  If readers have questions, I'm hoping you won't mind answering :)

For anyone interested in learning more about Donna's work, please visit her website!   You can also follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.
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February 17, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday - The Monster Returns

Oh, boy, do we have fun in store today!

But you know the rules - Perfect Picture Book first, other stuff after :)  So let's start with the book!  Today's choice is by one of my favorite author/illustrators.  Don't be surprised if some of his other books show up on PPBFs in the future :)

The Monster Returns
Written and Illustrated By: Peter McCarty
Henry Holt & Co., January 2012, Fiction
Suitable For: ages 3-7

Themes/Topics: art, friendship, imagination, surprises

Opening:  "One beautiful day, Jeremy was up in his room.  Jeremy didn't like to be disturbed when he was drawing."

Brief Synopsis:  (From the jacket copy) "Jeremy thought he'd seen the last of his monster when he sent him away with a one-way bus ticket.  But suddenly the phone rings... The monster has returned!"

Links To Resources: Mad Monster Activity, Monster Songs and Poems, have kids draw their own monsters or make them out of whatever craft materials you have to hand!

Why I Like This Book:  This is a sequel to Jeremy Draws A Monster (also excellent!)  Jeremy is perhaps a little too inclined to spend time on his own drawing, and this book shows both that it's okay to spend time alone being creative and that it's nice to have friends to do things with.  Jeremy is imaginative and resourceful in dealing with the monster.  The end is a fun surprise where the monster's intent turns out to be different than the reader might have expected, with the message that everyone needs friends - even monsters :)  The art is simple and engaging with plenty of white space to draw your eye to the monster :)

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

Before we get to the fun part (announcing the winner of the Valentines Day Writing Contest!) just a little business about Perfect Picture Books.

A few stats:

- This is PPBs 14th week.
- 37 Bloggers are participating, of which 25 have contributed at least 4 books and 5 besides me have contributed every week since the beginning.  (Also 1 has contributed 12, and 2 have done 11, so we have some very dedicated PPB bloggers! :))
- There are 245 books on the list before today's go up.
- They fall across 145 categories/subjects/themes.
- With possibly one exception, every single one posted has resources!

So thank you all for your fantastic work.  We are building a great resource here for parents, teachers, home schoolers, writers, and gift-givers!  That said, I think we have enough of a list going now that we should all be talking this up to everyone we know who might find the resource useful - it's only really great if people are actually  benefitting from it.  So I encourage you all to spread the word in whatever capacity you can.  Tracy (known to many of you as A2ZMommy) is writing a review about it for her local news site today!  You can read it HERE.

Since some bloggers are new to PPBFs, and some people may need a refresher, I'd just like to take a second to remind you all of a few key things:
1.  Please check the list on the Perfect Picture Book tab before you choose a book to post.  I try hard to keep it updated.  If I'm behind, it's usually only by the previous week's list, so check that too.  We are trying to avoid multiple postings of the same book.

2.  When you add your link to the list, please add the post-specific link (not the general link to your blog.)  It doesn't matter that much for the actual day of posting, but for anyone who comes along afterwards, your link then links to whatever the next post you did was - not the PPB.  And for me going along updating, I then have to search for the post and get the right link for the archive page.

3.  Please only post favorite books WITH RESOURCES!  The resources are what set our list apart from many others.  The resources can be links online or things you make up, but there must be something that people can use to expand their use of the book.  Books without resources will NOT be added to the master list.

4.  Please follow the PPB format (available at the bottom of the Perfect Picture Book tab) as closely as possible.  This allows for consistency across blogs, making it easy for people using the list to find the information they want.

5.  Please make sure to post themes, age appropriateness, and fiction or non-fiction clearly.  It's a lot of work updating the list, and if I have not read the book, I can't guess where it's supposed to fit or how to archive it.

Thank you so much for your attention to these details.  I'm sure it seems nit-picky, but it's really about making the list as useful as possible and preserving my sanity in trying to keep it up-to-date :)

NOW.  AT LAST.  THE MOMENT YOU'VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR!!!

Who won the Valentine Contest?

Oh, wait.  I think I hear my doorbell.  I'll be right back....

JK :)

Once again, I'd like to thank everyone for their terrific entries.  Many of us readers are writers.  We know how hard it is to put your work out there.  And we appreciate your bravery.  All the entries were worthy and fun to read, and I wish you could all win!

But I don't have that many prizes.... unless you want raccoon nest material?  I think there's some of that in the garage...

It was a closely contested race - the most competitive of any of the contests so far.  But eventually, someone pulled ahead and stayed there.  So, without further ado, the voters have spoken, and the winner of our Valentine Contest is:

PENNY!!!!! with Frankenstein Valentine!!!!!

Congratulations, Penny!  This is the second time you have won a contest here.  You may have a future as a writer :)  You get your pick of Ann Whitford Paul's book, or a picture book ms critique from me.  Let me know via email what your choice is!

2nd Place goes to Erik for Love Has No Point.  He gets a copy of Spilling Ink (if he doesn't already have it :))

3rd Place goes to Vivian for Whom Do I Love?  She gets our admiration for being 3rd out of 30 entries :)

Thanks again to everyone for making the contest such a success!

Now have a great weekend, and PPB bloggers, please remember to add you post-specific link to the list below, which I will hopefully remember to attach this week! :)  OH!  And remember our awesome interview which will take place on Sunday with Donna Farrell, website and blog designer for children's authors and illustrators!


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February 15, 2012

Would You Read It Wednesday - The 27th Pitch

Those of you who have been around the blog for a while know that I live in the wilderness.  You may have seen my posts on Mexican stand-offs with deer, and our run-ins with the bear #1 and #2.

So it will come as no surprise to you that I am being stalked by a masked marauder.  Apparently our unseasonably warm winter has confused it into thinking our garage is a raccoon hotel and he is entitled to stay as long as he likes and order room service.  Do I look like I'm offering room service?
google images
Now, I don't know how much time you guys spend around raccoons, but they are not small.  They have sharp claws and pointy teeth, and they don't dress like bandits for nothing!  On Disney they look really cute, but in real life they're a little too much like the R.O.U.S.s in The Princess Bride.

So the raccoon and I are locked in epic battle over the fact that I want my car and he's not leaving.

My current approach works like this:

Walk out front door of house singing "Love Shack" by the B-52s at the top of my lungs thinking that ought to scare the bejeesus out of anyone, human or raccoon!

It doesn't.

But I have back-up: a flashlight, in case I need to stun him into submission with blinding light (assuming the batteries aren't dead, which they probably might be because I haven't checked them in, oh, a decade), and my daughter's ice-hockey stick because it makes me feel brave.  (I have no intention of getting close enough to that wily critter to actually poke him or anything!!!)  I would love to have my trusty companions, Dog 1 and Dog 2, but I'm afraid it might hurt them - it shows no signs of compassion!

I dance forward, hockey stick out in front, in much the way a swordsman might approach an opponent (only I'm guessing I look a lot less elegant...)

The raccoon thumps around near the garbage can (which is empty, but he's an optimist, apparently.)

"I'm coming in there!" I warn.

This fails to induce the element of fear I was hoping for.  I'm pretty sure he's laughing at me.

The crafty little critter scuttles up into the rafters.  Now I KNOW he's laughing at me. "I see you up there!" I call to the oversized rodent.  "You think you're so clever, but your tail is hanging right down in plain sight!"  He doesn't care apparently.  It's way too much fun getting a rise out of me every time I need my car.

Fine!  I guess we don't have to get groceries until tomorrow.  But this battle is not over!

Honestly!  The things I put up with on Blueberry Hill!

So, now that you're laughing yourselves silly over my raccoon predicament, it's about that time :)

Today's Would You Read It contestant is Sharron, who loves reading, writing, sharing with friends, and learning new things.  Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Sorrysorrysorry
Age/Genre: Early PB (ages 2-5)
The Pitch:  Three frolicking baby giraffes try to find a place to play on a hot and crowded savannah. They find it isn’t an easy task. They run into a troop of baboons, a dazzle of zebras, and a pride of lions. At last, they turn to the river, only to be confronted by hippopotami. Our giraffes find fun and friendship at the end of a long a grueling day.

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 Sharron 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 the Would You Read It tab in the bar above.  Go ahead and send your pitch for a chance for it to be read by editor Erin Molta!

Sharron is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!

Just a little heads up - this month's Author/Illustrator Interview will take place on Sunday February 19 (that's this weekend folks) and our guest will be none other that Donna Farrell.  Donna is an illustrator, but what she will really be talking about is her work as a website and blog designer for authors and illustrators. Yes!  That means you!  She is absolutely terrific (she did my website and blog, need I say more? :))  So I hope you'll all find a few minutes in your weekends to come see what she has to say!

Also, anyone who hasn't had a chance to vote for a Valentines Contest winner yet, please go HERE.  We really need everyone's votes - it's a tight race! :)

Now.

Back to my battle with the raccoon! :)

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February 14, 2012

Happy Valentines Day! - The Contest Finalists!

So I had this brilliant idea.

Have a Valentines Contest, I thought to myself.  It'll be fun.  People are pretty busy with all their various pursuits.  You'll probably only get about 3 entries - if you're lucky to get that many - so say you'll pick 3 finalists and you're golden!

(Note to self - have you noticed that your brilliant ideas don't always work out as planned?)

Yes.

Well.

My plan seems to have gone awry.

Did I mention there were 30 entries???  That's THIRTY!

And they were SO GOOD!

So I have done the best I can.  I have narrowed it to 6.  And a couple honorable mentions.  And a separate division for under 10.  And now it's up to you, my dear readers, to read the 6 finalists and vote for your favorite by noon on Thursday.  We will see who comes out on top!

But before I unveil the top 6, I just want to say that I'm thrilled we got so many entries, and I was so impressed by the quality of everyone's stories and poems!  What a talented bunch you all are!  I had so much fun hopping from blog to blog and reading your wonderful work!  It was dreadful having to pluck you off, one by one!  I had to get very nit-picky and really focus on the contest guidelines - appropriateness/appeal for children being the deciding factor in several cases of brilliant writing that didn't make the final cut.  So you all deserve a huge pat on the back and many boxes of Valentine chocolates :)  Give yourselves a round of applause!

Now.  Here are our finalists, posted by entry only, no names.  Please have a look and then vote for your favorite!

#1 Love Has No Point


Bill P. Porcupine had a  love. Not just any love, mind you, it was the greatest love of all, but it was also a secret love.
“Oh, how I love her!” Bill sighed to himself.
Every day when Bill walked home from school he stopped by the gift shop where she worked. He tried to impress her by making his quills stand on end so he would look bigger, but she never noticed him. He’d then go home and cry.
“Boo hoo,” Bill sobbed.
“What’s the matter Bill?” asked his Mom.
“I’m in love mom, but she doesn’t know I exist,” said Bill.
“There, there,  it’ll be OK,” his mom said gently.
“She is so beautifully round. Her skin is smooth and rosy. When she moves, she floats like her feet never touch the ground,” Bill whimpered.
“I think you should just tell her,” Bill’s mom suggested.
The next day, Bill marched to the gift shop with one thing on his mind. He shoved the shop door open, walked straight up to her, threw his arms open to hug her and said, “I love…”
POP!
She was gone, except for the bits of pink rubber stuck to Bill.

#2  Oops! Excuse Me!


On her way to school, Porcupine was certain nobody would be her Valentine.  She waddled along, head down, when -- oomph!

“Yow!”

“Oops, excuse me,” said Porcupine. “Ugh!  What smells?”

“Me. Sorry. Happens when I'm startled.”

“Oh no!  You’re that stinky skunk!  Now you’ve made me stinky.”

“You’re that prickly porcupine!  You gave me an owie.”

Porcupine sighed. “Who would ever be our Valentines?”

As they dillydallied toward school, Skunk stopped to sniff flowers.  Porcupine stuck a puffy one on a quill behind her ear. 

They exchanged looks. 

Porcupine grabbed one for each quill.  Skunk scooted around on them, scenting his bottom. 

Porcupine giggled. “You look funny!”

“So do you.”  They both collapsed in laughter.

 “ACHOO!” said Porcupine.  Quills popped out.  “ACHOO!” said Skunk.  Stink squirted. 

They exchanged glances, and then, started shoving flowers into their noses. 

ACHOO!  ACHOO!  ACHOO!

“No more,” said Skunk, exhausted.

“Enough! “ agreed Porcupine.  “You know, I like you just the way you are.”

Skunk said, “Same here.  Will you be my valentine?”

“Will you be mine?” asked Porcupine.

The new friends scampered off to school.

Of course, it wasn’t perfect.

“Oops, excuse me!”  Giggle.

“Oops, excuse me!”  Giggle, giggle.

But it was close.


#3  Scully And Penny: Love Stinks!


“I’ll never find love,” worried Scully the Skunk.
He was a looker–but this skunk-hunk stunk!
Yet he was determined, that whiff-and-sniff guy
“I might as well ask the next girl who comes by…..”
So when Polly the Poodle wagged by looking fine,
He forced back some fumes and asked, “Will you be mine?!!”
“Oh Scully, my nose…it is sharp as a nail!
It just wouldn’t work with your stinky-stink tail.”
“You’re probably right” – Scully Skunk gave her that.
And as soon as he spoke, he spotted a cat.
It was Kitty LaPretty; she stretched out her spine.
He squeezed back some stench and asked, “Will you be mine?”
“Oh Scully, my nose…it is keen as my ears,
“I just couldn’t stand smelling skunk-funk for years.”
“You’re probably right” – not the first time he’d heard,
Then all of a sudden, down fluttered a bird.
It was Penny the Parrot, bird-beauty divine,
He sucked in his stink and asked, “Will you be mine?”
“Well, of course, handsome Scully—been hoping you’d ask.”
“I’ve searched for so long – finding love’s a real task.
“And please don’t you worry, this will work out well…
My peepers see more than my sniffer can smell.”


#4 Underwater Bliss

A shark saw his mark when he spied a wee fish,
‘I’ll have her for my dinner. She’ll make a tasty dish.’
But as the shark gave chase, the stronger his emotion
Changed from one of hunger, to love and pure devotion.
‘Look at how she swims. She darts with style and grace.’
Each swish of her tail, made his ol’ heart race.
‘Your eyes are round and beautiful, your scales are just divine.
I promise not to eat you, if you promise to be mine.’
The fish, who’d tired of swimming, succumbed to his charm.
And as the shark promised, she never came to harm.
But she’s ever so careful when she gives her love a kiss,
Lest those razor sharp teeth of his accidentally miss.


#5  Frankenstein Valentine

Won’t you be my Valentine?
And say, “I love you, Frankenstein?”
Love my ragged, jagged hair?
Love my bloodshot, frightening stare?

Won’t you be my Valentine?
And say, “I love you, Frankenstein?”
Love my grisly, garish grin?
Love my lumpy, warty skin?

Won’t you be my Valentine?
And say, “I love you, Frankenstein?”
Love my stitched-up, crooked scar?
Love my brain from Victor’s jar?

Won’t you be my Valentine?
And say, “I love you, Frankenstein?”
Love my garbled, boorish talk?
Love my lumbering, stilted walk?

Yes, it’s your chance, my Valentine
to be my Mrs. Frankenstein.
What???
G-r-r-r-r-r-r!!!!!

You say that you will NOT be my mine?
Will NOT love this Frankenstein?
Then…just forget this love-fest scene
I’m heading back to Halloween!

#6  Whom Do I Love?

Whom do I love?
Quizzed the cloud-covered moon.
I love the dish that ran off with the spoon.

Whom do I love?
Posed the run-away dish.
I love the silvery stream-swimming fish.

Whom do I love?
Slurped the shimmering trout.
I love the rock-hopping toad that jumped out.

Whom do I love?
Croaked the hip-hopping toad.
I love the waddling duck on the road.

Whom do I love?
Quacked the web-footed duck.
I love the pig on the rusty farm truck.

Whom do I love?
Oinked the curly-tailed pig.
I love the floppy-eared dog that can dig.

Whom do I love?
Barked the diggity-dog.
I love the bee in the hollowed-out log.

Whom do I love?
Buzzed the bumblely-bee.
I love the mouse that lives under the tree.

Whom do I love?
Squeaked the scurrying mouse.
I love the curly-haired boy in that house.

Whom do I love?
Asked the sweet little lad.
I love my momma and I love my dad.

The poll is below.  Please vote for your choice of winner!


The poll closes at noon EST on Thursday February 16 so I can announce the winner Friday!

I'd also like to give Honorable Mention to Heather for Daisy Loves Fred, and Eric for Puffy Pancho and Pretty Paulita: The Perfect Penguin Pair.

And a tie in the (hastily added) junior division (under 10 years old) between Isabella for Puppy & Kitten Love and Gabby for How Miss Mouse Became A Door Mouse will result in a prize each which I have yet to determine :)

Congratulations to everyone for excellent entries!  Now go ahead and vote!  We will all be waiting anxiously for your choice of winner!  Thank you all for sharing your wonderful writing!
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