August 31, 2012

The Summer Send-Off Contest!!!

September 3rd update: 8 entries on the link list, 4 in the comments, and at least one other that is neither linked nor in the comments - all fantastic!  What talent!  Come read, enjoy, and add your own - there are still 2 days left to enter (today and tomorrow!)

It's August 31st, and we're sending summer out in style with a fun and fabulous contest!

Fingers on the keyboard?

Writing gears engaged?

Ideas sparking like mad?

Then let's get cracking! :)


SUMMER SEND-OFF CONTEST!!!
illustration copyright Heather Newman 2012 used by permission
Contest Rules:
The contest is for a children's story of 250 words or less based on the picture above and in which somebody somewhere in your story says, in dialogue, "Did/do you see that?" (you may substitute any of the other senses - "Did/do you hear/feel/taste/smell that?") and somebody somewhere in your story says, "Goodbye!" (you are allowed to substitute "Farewell!", "Au revoir!", "Sayonara!", "Ciao!", or "So long!")

Entries must be posted on your blog (or, if you don't have a blog but would still like to enter, in the comment section of this post which will stay up through Tuesday September 4) between today and Tuesday September 4 at 11:59 PM EDT.  (I'm giving you an extra day to post, because I realize it's Labor Day weekend!)

Once your post is up you must add your post-specific link to the linky list below so everyone can come visit you and read your amazing story (or, if you don't have a blog, copy and paste your entry into the comment section as mentioned above - everyone please be sure to check the comments for entries so you don't miss any! :))  Special note:  I know some people have been having trouble commenting on my blog since disqus updated.  If anyone has trouble, please email your entry or your link or whatever you need to me at susanna [at] susannahill [dot] com and I will make sure your link gets linked or your comment gets posted!!!

Finalists - we'll say 3, but you know me... it may be more like 6 :) - will be chosen by me and my assistant judge and posted for you all to vote on on Monday September 10.  I'm guessing we may not get tons of entries, what with it being Labor Day weekend and all (although I'm hoping I've given people enough time to plan ahead and pull it off! :)), so we'll probably only have one winner.  But if perchance we get lots of entries - more than 20 say :) - we'll expand to 1st , 2nd and 3rd places.
Prize choices will be:
1.  A PB manuscript critique by yours truly :)
2.  Your choice of 2 picture books.
3.  Your choice of 2 paperback middle grade books.
4.  Your choice of 1 paperback YA book.
5.  Your choice of 1 writing craft book.
and whoever wins will get their first choice of those options, whoever's second will get second choice, etc....  Hopefully there's something in there that will appeal to every writer! :)

So here's my demo:  (And I admit, I had a TERRIBLE time getting down to 250 words.  I have 5 other stories - all better! - that I couldn't get below 286, 547, 272, 308, etc.  I guess I should have tried this before I published the guidelines... :))  Anyway:

Bathtime For Balkazar


Donovan couldn’t find the dragon soap.
He had the scrub brush, the hot water, and the ladder.
But he couldn’t find the soap.
“Stay, Balkazar,” he told the dragon.  And he gave him some bubblegum to keep him busy.
When he came back with the soap, he gasped.
“What’s wrong?” asked Balkazar (because as everyone knows, dragons can speak English.)
Do you see that?” asked Donovan.  The dragon looked at his reflection in one of the water buckets.
“I’m pink!” shrieked Balkazar.  “Ack!  Get it off!”
“It must have been the bubblegum!” said Donovan.  “But King Hallvard is due within the hour.  If he sees you like this it’ll be sayonara! kemosabi for us!”
“Try scrubbing!” begged Balkazar.
Donovan scrubbed.
Balkazar became a dazzling, sparkling, glowing pink.
“It’s even worse,” Donovan moaned.  “Try rolling.”
The dragon rolled.  He kicked up great clouds of dust that blotted out the sun and left everyone gasping and choking.
Now he was brownish pink.
“I look like an overgrown scaly earthworm,” he said sadly.  “Not scary at all.”
“You turned pink from the inside,” said Donovan.  “Maybe we can turn you back the same way.”  He dashed into the castle and came back rolling a barrel of pickles.  “Eat these!  And hurry!  The king’ll be here any minute!”
Balkazar scarfed down pickles. When King Hallvard rode across the drawbridge, Balkazar, mostly green again, greeted him with a colossal belch of pickle-scented fire.
“Stupendous!” shouted King Hallvard.
“Phew!” said Donovan.  (Or was it "Pee-ew!"?!)
(249 words)

I hope that gives you the courage to post your entry, should you happen to be feeling doubtful - surely your story is better than that! :)  And I would also like to remind you that we really have a lovely community of people here - kind, generous, and supportive - so your entry will be read with friendly eyes by people who want to find the good in what you've written and cheer you on!  So go ahead - add your entry post-specific link to the list below, or copy and paste your entry into the comment section.  Remember, if you have any trouble, email me and I'll do it for you!

I can't wait to read your stories!!!  Let the contest begin! :)

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August 29, 2012

Would You Read It Wednesday - The 55th Pitch

Guess what I've been doing?

You'll never guess.

It's so out of character.

I've been cleaning my office.

You know that feeling, when you squeeeeeeeeeeeeze your way into your office, look around at the mountains of note-covered manuscripts, the cascading piles of scraps of multi-colored paper, ATM receipts and napkins densely covered with scribbled ideas you thought up while you were away from your computer, stacks of books - both for reading pleasure and for writing craft - that simply will not fit into your overflowing bookshelf, Phyllis and friends tumbling off their seat of honor onto the desktop, and you just think to yourself, "Crikey, Sus!  You need a maid!"?

I just felt - and I may have been leaping to farfetched conclusions - that I wasn't getting the maximum benefit out of my workspace since I couldn't actually get into it... and even if I did, there wasn't a clear surface on which to set my trusty computer.

"Susanna," I said to myself, very sternly, "you will clean that office or I will have to administer harsh punishment!"

I was pretty scary!

So I cleaned for HOURS!

Result?  I'm exhausted.  And my office is clear...er...ish... but not done, so there is more cleaning in my future.  Sigh.

So this morning I am recovering my unquenchable good humor by hanging out with you guys and sharing today's Would You Read It pitch :)  Hmm... let me just rummage in my pantry and see what kind of Something Chocolate I have today... Oooh!  Look!  I still have a few of those special Kiwi milk chocolates left that the wonderful Diane sent me all the way from far off New Zealand!  How is possible I didn't eat these yet?  Well, don't question good fortune, just help yourselves if you care to :)

Now then, today's pitch comes to us from the lovely Rachel.  Rachel says, "I'm married with four kids, aged seven years down to ten months. I coach high school speech and theater. I show Arabian horses, which I'm now able to do with my oldest daughter. I mainly write picture books and middle grade books."  When you have a sec, please take a moment to visit her BLOG.

Here is her pitch:


Working Title:  Princess Azalea's Two Left Feet
Age/Genre:  Picture Book (ages 3-8)
The Pitch:  Princess Azalea has two problems. One: She can't dance. And if she can't dance, she can't meet a prince at a royal ball, which, as everyone knows, is where princesses meet their prince charmings. Two: She really doesn't care. But her mother, the Queen, is determined to get her dancing no matter what! Will Azalea learn to twirl and spin without falling on her royal bottom? Or will she find her happily ever after her own way?

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 Rachel 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.  There are openings in Octoberber, which is not very far away!

Rachel is looking forward to your thoughts!  And I am NOT looking forward to going back into my office!  But, as they say, once more into the breech!  Wish me luck.  If I don't show up on Friday, you'll know I'm trapped :)

Oh, and P.S.!  For anyone who didn't see the contest announcement on Monday, go HERE and read all about it!  The contest opens Friday and it will be tons of fun! :)


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August 27, 2012

Summer Send-Off Writing Contest!!! - And A Short & Sweet Update

If you've arrived in the middle of the adventure, you may start at the beginning by going HERE.


Erik and Josie head for home

Benton and the black horse trotted eagerly side by side toward home and supper.

"So I'm assuming you were responsible for my birthday gift going missing?" Erik asked Lady Josie.  He still had not seen what she carried, but the clues had all led him to believe she had his gift.

"Yes," admitted Josie.  "It wasn't perfect, and it has to be perfect."

"What is it?" Erik asked.

"It's a surprise," said Josie primly.

Erik could see he wasn't going to get any more information out of her.  Lady Josie was maddening that way - if she decided she wasn't telling something well then by golly she wasn't telling!

His stomach grumbled, reminding him that he was starving.  He bent over and took a small nibble of the cake he carried.  It was apple-y and delicious, full of cinnamon and topped with a creamy brown sugar-caramel icing.  YUM!

"I saw that," said Josie.

Erik wiped frosting off his nose and chin and licked his fingers and didn't care.

Just then, Benton's steps quickened and when Erik squinted into the deepening twilight he could just see the lights of the castle.  They were nearly home!

They slowed the horses to a walk so that they could catch their breath and not be too hot when they reached the stable.  A few minutes later they crossed the drawbridge.  The horses turned without prompting toward the barn, knowing the way.  A groom took Lady Josie's black horse, and Erik removed Benton's saddle and bridle, gave him a quick rub-down, and fed him a measure of grain and a flake of summer-sweet hay.  "Good boy," he said, giving his pony a fond pat.  Then he headed for the castle with what was left of his cake.

Lady Josie was waiting for him just inside the castle.  "Come with me," she said, leading him toward the Great Hall.

Erik followed her through the huge doors, thinking about some hearty stew and crusty bread to go with his cake when suddenly...

"SURPRISE!!!"

What?

The Great Hall was decked out with garlands of flowers and streamers and candles, and everyone from the castle was there!  The lords and ladies, most of the guards, the jester, the cook, the knights, even the king!  All dressed in their festive best and waiting for him, wishing him Happy Birthday!

Erik didn't know what to say.  He'd never had a birthday like this.

"Come forward, young Erik," said the king, "and tell us of your adventures this day!"

So Erik stood before the king and all the assembled dwellers of the castle and told of the woodcutter, and following the black horse, of the Brownie at the bridge, the tinker at the ford, Berwyn, and Greta, the ogre, the Seer, and everything else, and how eventually he had faced Cuddles the dragon and returned safe and sound after all of it with the Lady Josie.

"Well done," said the king at the end of Erik's tale.  "I believe it is time for your present."

Lady Josie and Sir Lionel stepped forward, holding the box from the long-ago morning between them.  "Happy Birthday, Erik," said Josie.

Erik opened the box.

And this time, when he looked inside there lay a shining silver sword, its edges honed to perfection, a star-shapped ruby glinting richly from its exquisitely wrought handle.

"Oh...!" Erik breathed, scarcely daring to touch it.

It was the king who reached forward and lifted the sword from it's resting place.  "Kneel," he said solemnly.

Unbelieving, Erik sank to his knees before the king and bowed his head.  The king laid the gleaming sword first on Erik's right shoulder then on his left.  "I dub thee knight," he said.  "Rise, Sir Erik!"

And Erik stood.  A knight.  At last, a real knight!

The king handed him his sword and Erik took it, feeling the weight of it, and how the hilt fit his hand perfectly.

The Great Hall erupted with applause and cheering.

"And now," said Erik, who was determined in this venture, "let's have some CAKE!!!"

And so they did.

And forever after, Erik proclaimed that to be his Best Birthday Ever!

THE END

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ERIK!  And for your actual present which is not a sword or a knighthood but is hopefully still fun, please Email Me!!! :)

To start the adventure again and choose different options, go back to the beginning! HERE


*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Well, my friends, somehow or other it's the last week of August.  When I think of everything I've done this summer - life in general, writing, blogging, getting a new washing machine (yes! it's true! and so pretty :)), applying my black thumb to the butterfly bushes (apparently when they say full sun they mean, like, ALL THE TIME!) and a few Secret Projects (details coming possibly soon... or possibly later... depending how long it takes to get things finished up :)) all stuck in around the edges of 21 college visits in about 14 states and DC - it makes sense that it's nearly September.  But on the other hand, the start of the new school year always seems to catch me by surprise.... probably what some would chalk up to not being the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree :)

In case anyone is feeling a little down about summer drawing to a close, and because thanks to Short & Sweets our writing gears are still finely tuned :), and because we really SHOULD finish Summer Shorts up with a bang, and because we haven't had a contest since MAY!, I thought this would be a good time for some fun - so let's have a contest!  (You all know how much I love contests! :))

SUMMER SEND-OFF CONTEST!!!
illustration copyright Heather Newman 2012 used by permission
Contest Rules:
The contest will be for a children's story of 250 words or less based on the picture above and in which somebody somewhere in your story says, in dialogue, "Did/do you see that?" (you may substitute any of the other senses - "Did/do you hear/feel/taste/smell that?") and somebody somewhere in your story says, "Goodbye!" (you are allowed to substitute "Farewell!", "Au revoir!", "Sayonara!", "Ciao!", or "So long!")

Entries must be posted on your blog (or, if you don't have a blog but would still like to enter, in the comment section of the official contest post on my blog which will be up on Friday August 31 and stay up through Tuesday September 4) between Friday August 31 and Tuesday September 4 at 11:59 PM EDT.  (I'm giving you an extra day to post, because I realize it's Labor Day weekend!)

Once your post is up you must add your post-specific link to the linky list that will be up (or, if you don't have a blog, copy and paste your entry into the comment section as mentioned above.)  Special note:  I know some people have been having trouble commenting on my blog since disqus updated.  If anyone has trouble, please email your entry or your link or whatever you need to me at susanna [at] susannahill [dot] com and I will make sure your link gets linked or your comment gets posted!!!

Finalists - we'll say 3, but you know me... it's more likely to be around 6 :) - will be chosen by me and my assistant judge and posted for you all to vote on on Monday September 10.  I'm guessing we may not get tons of entries, what with it being Labor Day weekend and all (although I'm hoping I'm giving people enough time to plan ahead that they might still be able to pull it off! :)), so we'll probably only have one winner.  But if perchance we get lots - more than 20 say :) - we'll expand out to 1st , 2nd and 3rd places.  Prize choices will be:
1.  A PB manuscript critique by yours truly :)
2.  Your choice of 2 picture books.
3.  Your choice of 2 paperback middle grade books.
4.  Your choice of 1 paperback YA book.
5.  Your choice of 1 writing craft book.
and whoever wins will get their first choice of those options, whoever's second will get second choice, etc....  Hopefully there's something in there that will appeal to every writer! :)

Now, onto the other business at hand.  I wanted to share a little Short & Sweet update, now that the Summer session is officially ending.  Summer Short & Sweets was 8 weeks of fun and games, and to qualify for a prize, you had to provide at least one entry for every week.  As of this writing, we had a total of 51 people enter at least one of the weeks.  The week with the most entries was Week 1, with 36, and the week with the fewest entries was Week 7 with 17.  (Actually, Week 8 is about even with Week 7, but I'm pretty sure a few more entries will be trickling in over the next couple days.)  By my reckoning, 12 people are currently qualified for a prize (Delores, Vivian, Romelle, Heather, Robyn, Laura, Karen, Jennifer, Erik, Cathy, Penny, and Tracy), 2 people are only one entry away (Renee and Jarm), and 1 person is only 2 entries away (Pam).  I realize that a few of you have been having trouble posting comments lately, so feel free to email anything to me that you couldn't post and I'll copy and paste it for you in the appropriate spot.  Looks like I'm going to have to part ways with disqus.... but that's another story :)  If you think you posted an entry a week for 8 weeks and should be qualified and don't see your name here, please let me know!!!  The last day you can post entries on any of the weeks is August 31.

All in all, I think it was a success, and I really hope everyone had fun and got some good ideas out of it!

Short & Sweets will be continuing on alternate Mondays starting September 17 (because I forgot last week when I said September 10 that we need a day to vote on finalists for the Summer Send-Off Contest!) and we'll see how that goes :)

Now fire up those imaginations and get started on those contest stories!  Good luck and have fun!!!


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August 24, 2012

Summer Short And Sweets - Week 8 The Final Week!

I can't believe it.  Didn't we just start Summer Short & Sweets?  And here we are, August 24th, purple loosestrife blooming, lots of kids already back in school - although not mine - and this is our last official day of SS&S!
badge created by Loni Edwards
Before you get too sad, though, let me tell you that, due to popular demand, we will be continuing Short & Sweets in some incarnation on alternate Mondays henceforth... or once school starts, anyway :)  I'm thinking around September 10...

Meanwhile, we have today.  And today is SO exciting!  I've been planning it for 2 whole months and trying to keep it a secret and let me tell you, it's been excruciating!!!

For today's Short & Sweet we have a picture prompt, and not just any picture prompt.  This one was painted specially for the occasion by the incredibly talented Heather Newman, whom many of you know from 12x12 and/or her blog, Heather Newman Illustrations.  Heather is an amazing artist, writer, homeschooler, cowherd, and Phyllis hostess.  She also just opened her Etsy Shop and I encourage everyone to go have a look at all her wonderful offerings.  Please also feel free to leave compliments on her painting in the comments once you've seen the prompt if you are not left completely speechless with awe :)

Are you ready???

:)

Your challenge for today is to take a good look at the picture below.
Image copyright Heather Newman 2012

Woweekazowee!  That is some picture isn't it?

Now, in the comments, you may write your choice of the following:

1.  A pitch for a children's story, any level (please specify PB (picture book), ER (early reader), CB (chapter book), MG (middle grade), or YA (young adult)) based on the picture, in the manner of Short & Sweet Week 6

2.  The first 50-100 words (or more or less - whatever gets the creative juices flowing) of a children's story, any level, (please specify PB, ER, CB, MG, YA) based on the picture.

3.  The last 50-100 words (again, more or less is fine - whatever works for you :)) of a children's story, any level (please specify PB, ER, CB, MG, YA) based on the picture.

4.  Choose a character (there are at least 10 possibilities!) from the picture and introduce us to him or her - who he/she is, where he/she came from, how he/she got into this situation - a character sketch of sorts.

5.  Choose a character and give us a one paragraph synopsis of the story told by the picture from his/her point of view.

6.  The title of the story told by this picture - give us a good one! :) (and again please specify level)

7.  A poem following the rules from Short & Sweet Week 3 based in some way on this picture.

One added thing for you to think about:  next Friday, August 31, will be our Summer Writing Contest!!!  (I know!  The mind reels at the excitement!!!)  And guess what?  It will be based on this picture!  So any of you who would like to enter the contest can get a head start on your thinking this week by participating in the Short & Sweet.  Just so you know, the contest will be for a children's story of 250 words or less based on the picture and incorporating the some special key words, but I'm not telling those yet :)  Full details of the contest will be posted Monday.

Now then, back to the matter at hand - today's Short & Sweet.  Pick whichever of the 7 options above inspires you most.  I'm hoping with 7 options and that amazing picture you will find something inspiring :)

Here is a small sample from moi (and when I say small, I mean what with all the traveling I totally ran out of time, so talk about off the top of your head! :)):

#1 (a pitch for MG)
Grenadier, who would carry his knight anywhere, must cross the moat to save Cythrigg, the last dragon of Cyfarr, but finds he is unable to penetrate the magical fire surrounding Castlewellyn.

#6  (a possible title for a PB)
Bathtime For Balkazar

#7 (a poem)
I am a raven
Black as moonless night
With powerful secrets
Watching, waiting
For the prophesied moment
Spying on the forbidden castle
Holding the truth close
Keeping safe the golden key until,
As from the mists of Avalon, a new prince rises.
I am a raven.

Happy Writing, everyone!  I can't wait to see what you all come up with!  As usual I'm sure we'll all have story ideas coming faster then we can write them down sparked by our own responses to the exercise as well as everyone else's.

Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday for Oh Susanna and the contest announcement!

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August 22, 2012

Would You Read It Wednesday - The 54th Pitch, And Straight From The Editor #11

Buenos Miercoles mi amigos!

I hope you are all deeply impressed with my ability to render Spanish unrecognizable :)  It's a gift :)

Surprise, surprise, guess where I am?  If you guessed en el coche (in the car for our English speaking audience) you are correct!  I may have to be surgically removed from Princess Blue Kitty come September... we are starting to have a very hard time telling where one of us ends and the other begins :)

Anyhoo, I know you are all champing at the bit to get to today's pitch, plus we have Straight From The Editor.  Has there ever been anything better that Would You Read It Wednesday?  But yes!  The Something Chocolate that goes along with it!  Of course you may grab whatever chocolate suits your fancy, but today I am serving chocolate chip pancakes because Wendy suggested them and they sounded like a perfect choice!
In case you were wondering, I DO realize that this is not a picture of chocolate chip pancakes.  It is my step-daughter's wedding cake.  But it is the only picture of food I have, and people have been poking fun at my ability to draw food using only the options on the keyboard, so just pretend since I can't borrow from google anymore.  Chocolate chip pancakes anyone? :)
So, first up, Straight From The Editor starring Erin Molta, and Dana's pitch.

Here is Dana's pitch:

Working Title:  CJ's Tiger
Age/Genre:  Picture Book (ages 4-8)
CJ has always dreamed of having a tiger for a pet, so he is thrilled when he awakens one day to find that his cat “Tiger” has transformed into a real tiger. However he soon learns that having a pet tiger is a lot harder than he imagined when the day turns into one big catastrophe!

And here are Erin's comments:

This is cute! But since most people realize that a pet tiger might be more difficult to care for than a cat, I think you might want to add at least one example of how catastrophic it can be. So, the first sentence is fine but then I would say, “However, when “Tiger” mauls her favorite scratching post to smithereens and swallows the steaks mom had out for dinner –whole, he realizes that having a pet tiger is a lot harder than he imagined.” Of course, using the scenes you were envisioning that would make the day a catastrophe :).

I think that is very helpful, don't you?

Now, it's time for today's pitch which comes to us from Kimberley who has worked as a literacy coach, elementary teacher, grant writer, public policy lobbyist, and Executive Director of Literacy Volunteers. She is a master in the art of moving and changing. She is concentrating on staying in one place, raising her children in Maine, teaching, reading, and writing.

Here is her pitch:

Working Title:  Saturdays With Fish
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-7)
The Pitch:  When Libby goes fishing with her stepdad he calls her “Fish”. The loud loud loud of the city is left behind as they head to the quiet quiet quiet of the pond. It is there that Libby and her Stepdad find joy as simple and warm as the sun, well, except when Libby accidentally hooks a bullfrog!

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 Kimberley 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.  There are openings in Octoberber, which is not very far away, so we could really use some new pitches!!

Kimberley is looking forward to your thoughts!  And I am looking forward to getting out of the car... if I am still able to stand up... and no, those are certainly NOT donut crumbs! :)  See you all Friday for the last Summer Short & Sweet which is going to be tons of fun!!!!!


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August 20, 2012

Oh Susanna - Is There A Difference Between Scholastic And Regular Editions Of Picture Books?

Happy Monday Everyone!

Where to start today?  Well, how about with the winner of the July Pitch Pick?

I really enjoyed the new format for the pitch pick.  I thought it was great to see how much everyone improved their pitches... although it did make it even harder to choose! :)  However, the votes have been cast and the winner is...

dunh duhn duhn duhn...

DANA!!!!! with her pitch for CJ's Tiger!

Congratulations, Dana!  Your pitch has been sent to editor Erin Molta for comments, and we will all be excited to see what she says :)

Wow!  That was a lot of excitement for first thing Monday morning.  If you're feeling a little peaked, feel free to take a short break for a sustaining snack.  I'm offering homemade banana bread this morning, but I'm not even going to try drawing that!

OK.  All refreshed?  Let's move on to two questions:

#1  A few people have mentioned they're having trouble commenting on my blog the past few days.  I'm not sure what's going on, but I tried updating to the new disqus and I'm hoping that will fix the problem.  Will you all kindly let me know if the problem is fixed or if you are still encountering difficulty?  I really want it to be as easy as possible for you to comment - I highly value everything you have to say - and I like disqus because it allows me to reply directly back to you so you know I've read your comments and they matter to me.  But if it continues to cause trouble I will axe it!  Thanks in advance for your help with this conundrum :)

#2  A few other people (who shall remain nameless but you know who you are! :)) have been plotting behind my back in hopes of getting Short & Sweets to continue past summer's end.  I am thrilled if it has been fun and helpful to anyone, and I would be happy to continue it in some form if there is sufficient interest.  The idea was to alternate Monday posts - Oh Susanna one week, Short & Sweets the next.  I would be grateful for anyone to leave their thoughts on this matter in the comments so I can get a sense of where people stand on this.  My blog is here for you.  I want to do whatever you most enjoy and find most helpful.  So speak now :)  Just be forewarned, I'm not sure I can continue coming up with fun new things you'll like... I may end up recycling with new twists to some degree...! :)

Alrighty!  Last but not least we have an Oh Susanna question for today.  The lovely Stacy says

I picked up some picture books at a weekend yard sale. Several were Scholastic editions. Is there a difference between a Scholastic edition and a regular edition? I'm wondering both as a parent/reader and a writer.

Great question, Stacy!  And one I can luckily answer from my own experience.  Scholastic editions, to my knowledge, have no change to original interior art or text.  The cover may be different from the original and so may the title.  As examples, Punxsutawney Phyllis was sold through Scholastic as Wake Up, Groundhog with a different cover illustration.
original Holiday House version
Scholastic version
Scholastic did a focus group and determined that "Punxsutawney" was a difficult and therefore potentially off-putting word, so they chose to go with an alternate.  Likewise, April Fool, Phyllis was sold through Scholastic as The April Fools' Treasure Hunt.
original Holiday House version
Scholastic version
There was discussion of changing the background color on the cover to blue, but in the end it stayed pink.  In both cases, however, all the interior illustrations are the same as in the original versions and there is no change to the text.  The only other difference is in the quality of paper and binding used.  Scholastic versions, in an effort to be affordable to as many kids as possible, are mostly (if not completely) produced in paperback and may sometimes be a little less sturdy.

If you're on a budget but still want to increase your library, Scholastic is a wonderful option!

I hope that answers your question, Stacy!  Please feel free to ask for clarification if you have further queries :)

And I will look forward to hearing from you all about whether the comments are working better/properly and what your thoughts are on attempting to continue Short & Sweets!

Have a lovely day :)

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August 17, 2012

Summer Short And Sweets - Week 7 - And The Give Away Winner!

I can't believe it!  We're up to week 7 of Short & Sweets already!  That means there's only one more week to go (and boy is next week going to be awesome!!!) but it also means that summer is drawing to an end.  It has flown by so fast!  And I still haven't updated the backlog of Perfect Picture Books that I was sure to get done with so much time.... Better get cracking! :)

But I've been hard at work on some other things.... which maybe I'll tell you about one of these days... :)
badge by Loni Edwards 
For today’s Short & Sweet, we’re taking a field trip!  It can be anywhere you want – and anything that fits into what you’re already doing – no special outings necessary.  Going out with your kids to the beach, the zoo, a museum, the playground, the library?    Going shopping at the grocery store?  Washing the car?  You don’t even need to leave the house - the kitchen or the back porch will be just fine!

Your challenge today is to describe a setting - any setting that tickles your fancy.  In 50-100 words (more or less if you like, that's just a ball park) make us feel like we're there.  Take a careful look at your surroundings - whatever they are.  What does it look like? sound like? smell like? feel like? taste like?

BUT - here's the trick :) - you can't use the actual word of the place!  So if you're describing the kitchen, you can't use the word kitchen.  We have to be able to guess!

For an extra challenge, describe it from a kid's perspective - try to look at it through the eyes of the average 5 year old - the typical picture book age target.  Places can look a lot different to a five year old than they do to an adult.  Different features stand out, and kids' react to things differently.

Although we don't devote a lot of words to setting in picture books because that part of the job is done by the illustrator, it is helpful to you as a writer to envision your setting clearly.  Certain select details will be necessary, depending on your story, and this is good practice in focusing on the details that really matter.  If you write for older readers, setting description is very important to make your reader feel like they're there - but you can't ramble on indefinitely.  MG and even YA readers are not going to have a lot of patience for long-winded descriptions.  So this is a chance to practice picking out the part you really need to say!

Here's my example (which, as per Short & Sweet instructions I am writing in 5 minutes off the top of my head because this day is WAY too packed for me to have any more time than that!)

Weathered wood.  Dutch doors.
It smells like summer, warm and sweet, but with a hint of molasses and clean leather.  Dust motes hang in the haze of late afternoon sunshine slanting through the barred windows.  The brass nameplates on the leather halters wink in the golden light - Jasmine, Pennywhistle, Thumbelina.
Clip-clop-clip-clop.  Snowflake's unshod hooves thud lightly on the aisle as Ginny leads her in from the pasture.  She lowers her muzzle to her bucket and takes long swallows, then lifts her head, dark eyes soft, drops of water bejeweling her whiskers.
Whuufft!
A few feet away, Blackjack sneezes into his hay.
Ginny runs a hand over Snowflake's satin shoulder.  She reaches up and straightens the silver forelock between her ears, smoothing it down.  Snowflake rubs her cheek against Ginny's arm, almost knocking her down.
"Silly girl!"  Ginny laughs, then steps back into the aisle and rolls the heavy door shut.
It is quiet but for the occasional rustle of a hoof drawn through straw, the rhythmic munching of horses nose deep in alfalfa and timothy.
This is Ginny's favorite place to be.
(Okay.  So mine is 181 words.  I never claimed to be succinct :)  And I hope you didn't have too much trouble figuring out where Ginny is :))

So, are you ready to give it a try?  I can't wait to read all your setting descriptions and see if I can guess where you are!  And I have no doubt that many of these descriptions will serve as story sparkers for readers, who feel themselves transported to that time and place and are suddenly inspired by a character who pops into their head and onto the scene! :)

OH!  And I almost forgot!  The winner of the giveaway from Monday - a hardcover copy of Puffling Patrol by Ted and Betsy Lewin, courtesy of Lee & Low Books - is PAMELA!!!!  Pamela, please email me and let me know your address so I can mail it out :)

Have a fantastic weekend everyone!  There will be a birthday party going on at my house - YUM!  MORE CAKE! :)

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August 15, 2012

Would You Read It Wednesday - The 53rd Pitch And The July Pitch Pick!

Happy Wednesday Everyone!

I am very excited for Would You Read It today!  Not only do we get to start the day with Something Chocolate, not only do we get to read a great new pitch, not only am I not in the car (it's true!  I'm not in the car!  Can you believe it?), but this is the first month where we're trying out the new system!

Previously, we just voted on the month's pitches, but NOW, as per the new policy, pitchers who wanted to have had the chance to revise their pitches for the pitch pick, so what you will be seeing today is that in action for the first time!

3 of our 4 July pitchers chose to take your helpful comments and revise for the July Pitch Pick, so here are the pitches for your evaluation:

#1 Carrie
Title: Singin’ Sam, the Ice Cream Man
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-8)
Pitch: Sam loves dishing out ice cream to his favorite customers. But when a rival ice cream truck shows up on his corner, Sam must find a way to out-sing, out-scoop, and out-serve the competition to keep his customers — and himself — happy.

#2 Rita
Working Title:  What's Wrong With Molly Zwirl
Age/Genre:  Chapter Book (ages 6-9)
The Pitch:  Molly, an immigrant girl from Europe settling in the USA, is just like the girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead.  She tries so hard to be good but when her grandparents come she just has to be bad.


#3 Vivian

Working Title: The Tomato Turner
Genre/Age: Picture Book/3-8
Stuck between a brainy brother and an adorable sister, Peter Peter middle-seater is searching for a way to be spectacular.  When he sees the basket of green tomatoes, he knows his chance to astonish his family has come...if only he can turn the tomatoes red.


#4 Dana
Working Title:  CJ's Tiger
Age/Genre:  Picture Book (ages 4-8)
CJ has always dreamed of having a tiger for a pet, so he is thrilled when he awakens one day to find that his cat “Tiger” has transformed into a real tiger. However he soon learns that having a pet tiger is a lot harder than he imagined when the day turns into one big catastrophe!

Please vote for your favorite below by Sunday August 19 at noon EDT.  I will announce the winner Monday and send her pitch off to editor Erin Molta for comment at that time.

I must say, this is a tough choice!!!  I can't wait to see how the votes land!

Now, onto today's pitch, which comes to us from Sharron.  Sharron loves reading, writing, sharing with friends and learning new things.  She blogs at Nothing But Writing and has joined us here once before for the 27th pitch of Sorrysorrysorry back on February 15.  (As a matter of fact, she was the winner of the February pitch pick!)

Here is her pitch for today:

Working Title:  Nothing But Blue Skies
Age/Genre:  Upper Middle Grade Fantasy
The Pitch:  Wizards have turned the world topsy-turvy. The sky is green. The grass is purple. Streams are pale pink. An abused, fourteen-year old princess is the only being able to change it back. But – not as a girl. A dragon’s tear transforms her into a prince. To triumph over magic, she must find out who she is and who she wants to be.

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.  There are openings in September, which is not very far away at all at this point, so we could really use some new pitches!!

Sharron has struggled mightily with this pitch and is very much looking forward to your thoughts!

I am looking forward to hearing everyone's reactions to the new pitch pick system.  Do you like it?  Would you prefer to have the old pitch and the revised pitch both shown so you can compare, or would that make too much reading or be confusing?  Inquiring minds want to know :)


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