November 30, 2011

Would You Read It Wednesday - The 18th Pitch and The Winner!

I know.

You stayed up all night watching the minutes tick past, waiting for this post to be up so you could find out who won the Thanksgiving Contest and share your thoughts on this week's Would You Read It pitch since skipping last week sent you into withdrawal :)

And we'll get to both of those things in one second...

First, I have to say that I am such a complete space cadet that I forgot to mention Monday that I was being interviewed on Julie Hedlund's blog for her How I Got My Agent series.  I know many of you are Julie's devoted followers and have already read it, but if you haven't please pop over and visit.  Julie writes an awesome blog at Write Up My Life and I think you'll find her How I Got My Agent series (although not necessarily my part in it :)) very illuminating and helpful!  Thanks, Julie, for inviting me to take part and sorry I forgot to mention it Monday!

Second, I have just realized that tomorrow marks my first blogiversary.  I can't believe it's been a year!  I should probably be doing something wildly and crazily amazing to celebrate, but I'm fresh out of ideas at the moment.  If any of you have suggestions, feel free to share! :)  But I want to thank everyone for being so wonderfully supportive. I have so enjoyed getting to know so many people who are both talented and nice! :)  I think, at the very least, this calls for some celebratory cake!  Please help yourself to a slice, because cake definitely counts as a healthy breakfast - milk (calcium), eggs (protein), wheat (grains)... need I say more?
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Now on to all that excitement you stayed up all night waiting for!

I want to thank each and every person who submitted an entry to the Thanksgiving Contest as well as everyone who took time to read and vote.  I think I speak for all of us when I say we so enjoyed reading everyone's stories and they were all so wonderful.  As you know, my assistant judge and I had a terrible time narrowing down the finalists, but we did at last and now your votes have spoken.

Drum roll, please!


The winner of the Thanksgiving Contest, with a delightful, creative, and original story, is
(That's entry #2!)  Congratulations, Penny!  You have officially knocked our socks off :)  Please email me (susanna [at] susannahill [dot] com) or use the handy Email Me button on the right hand side of the blog and let me know if you'd prefer the $15 Amazon Gift Card or the hardcover copy of Balloons Over Broadway!

And now, on to Would You Read It!

This week's pitch comes to us from the lovely Ashley who, until October of last year, considered herself a person who didn't like to write but has now discovered she loves it!

Working Title:  Prelude To An Apocalypse
Age/Genre:  YA Literature
The Pitch:  Jack wakes up in the hospital to find a mysterious man offering to take her in, to teach her everything she needs to know about being a Wizard, but something deep inside tells her she can't trust him.

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 Ashley 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.

Ashley is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!

Please join us Friday for Perfect Picture Books, and I hope everyone is hard at work on their Holiday Contest entries!  Who knew practicing our craft could be so companionable and fun with such great prizes? :)

November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Contest Finalists and More Fun To Come!

Happy Monday everyone!  We've got all kinds of fun in store today, but first I have to share something totally off topic that made my day :)
Isn't that just the nicest thing? :)
OK.  Now on to today's important business!

I had no idea what I was letting myself in for when I started the Thanksgiving Contest.


To begin with, there were more than twice as many entries as for the Halloweensie Contest - 19 all together in case you were wondering (the 20th was in there just for fun, but because the author is related to the judges it could not in fairness be considered :))

To top that off, you are all so creative and talented!  I could have found a reason to make any of the entries a finalist.  My assistant judge and I couldn't even come to a consensus on which 3 it should be, so in the end, as senior judge, I made the call.  I just want you all to know it was really hard, and I wish I could give everyone the prize!

Entries were judged on appropriateness as a children's story, originality, and Thanksgiving-ness (that is too a word!)

So without further ado, here are the 4 finalists because I just couldn't decide between 2 of them and make it 3, so I'm cheating and leaving it up to you guys :)  They will be identified by number only.  Please vote for your favorite!


They were set to go to Grandma’s
For their big Thanksgiving feast,
But the blizzard came in fast
Growling, howling like a beast –

Hurled itself around the house
Rattling windows, banging doors.
They laid a fire in the hearth
Against the blizzard’s wicked roars.

They couldn’t roast a turkey.
Electricity went out.
They ate tuna for their meat,
For their veggie – sauerkraut.

They wrapped themselves in blankets
Lit some candles, played some gin.
Dessert was pumpkin out of cans
With some cinnamon stirred in.

They started telling stories
Scary, funny, tried and true
Til the fire turned to embers
And the clock struck half past two.

They stoked the fire to blazing,
Snuggled close and rested heads.
That fire was so darned cozy
That they did not miss their beds.

They formed a sleeping circle
With the dog curled up inside.
Slept so soundly through the night,
They did not hear the storm subside.

They woke up the next morning
To a dazzling, blinding light.
Snow had piled up to the rafters,
And the world was frosted white.

They threw on coats and snowsuits
Raced out straight into the snow.
Threw some snowballs, built a snowman
Came back in with cheeks aglow.

They sat sipping some hot chocolate
When they heard the doorbell ring.
Behind the door was Grandma
With a giant turkey wing!

That Thanksgiving sure was different.
Many folks would call it lame.
But they made the most of family
And were thankful just the same.

"They were supposed to go to Grandma's for Thanksgiving, but the blizzard came in fast.
The weatherman said, "It's best to stay inside until this storm is past...
In fact don't heat the oven. Make sandwiches instead
With pumpkin flavored jelly spread on a piece of bread."
That's when I said with a look of great suspicion,
"That funny looking weatherman knows nothing of tradition."
And what is that he's wearing? A faux-feather suit!
And that…That's a waddle dangling down from his snoot!
"DAD! Call the station! Quick! This guy is a fraud!
The whole blizzard’s just a big facade."
So, as they snatched Mr. Gobble right off the TV station,
We loaded up and headed out for Thanksgiving vacation.
“Grandma we’re coming. There’s really not a blizzard.
But you can’t blame a turkey when he tries to save his gizzard.”

They were supposed to go to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving, but the blizzard came in fast.  The wind howled.  The tree creaked.
Papa stockpiled wood inside the burrow.  He stomped his feet and bolted the door.
Papa looked at his shivering brood of three.  “I know you are disappointed, but we are safer in our burrow.”
“What about Grandma’s acorn pie, ” asked Sammy.  His pudgy cheeks quivered and is large glossy eyes brimmed with tears.
“We have plenty of nuts, berries, fruit, seeds and grains to feast upon,” said Mama.  “Why don’t you do your chores.  Be thankful that we’re together.”
Sammy, Teddy and Rose tidied up their nests and swept the burrow.  Sammy wondered what they could do to make Thanksgiving special.
Then Sammy spied a twig resting against the wall inside the burrow.
“Hey Teddy and Rose, I have an idea,” said Sammy.  The three siblings huddled and whispered.  Rose jumped up and down.   The rest of the morning they worked in a corner of the burrow on their idea.
Mama worked all morning preparing their feast.  Papa tended to the fire so that the burrow remained warm.
Sammy carefully placed their centerpiece on the table.
“It’s beautiful!”  Mama gasped.
“It’s our thankful tree,” beamed Sammy.  Tied to the branches were acorns, pine cones, and dried leaves bearing the names, Mama, Papa, Grandma, Sammy, Teddy and Rose.
They heard a rustle in the tunnel and a voice called out,  “Acorn pie anyone?”
“Grandma,”  they chirped.  “We’re thankful you’re here!”

We should have gone to Grandma’s but the blizzard came in fast.
The snow banks drifted deeper and we knew that they would last.

We thought of Grandma’s turkey and prize winning pumpkin pie.
Could we miss her fancy feast? Oh no! We had to try!

Dad shook his head. “Our tire tread won’t get us out of here.
We need some transportation with snow blizzard traction gear.”

From the barn we pulled an old toboggan, bent and beat.
We lashed some rope onto the front and pulled it to the street.

The horse, the cow, the dog, the cat – we tied them to the sled.
Then gooped their feet with peanut butter, honey and some bread.

We hopped aboard and held on tight when Dad shouted, “Now, MUSH!”
Whoosh! We sailed across the snow and slid along the slush.

The icy snow was blinding, but we thought we headed east.
Our rag-tag team was working hard to get us to our feast.

On and on we traveled, til our teeth were blue with frost.
Finally little Suzie cried, “Oh Dad, I think we’re lost!”

Then up ahead we saw a twinkling light among the trees.
It wasn’t Grandma’s house but we must stop or else we’d freeze.

We would have gone to Grandma’s but the blizzard came in quick.
Who knew that was the year we’d have Thanksgiving with St. Nick!

With seriously honorable mention to runners-up Erik and Abby who nearly caused some heated hot chocolate slinging between the judges over whether to include or not!

See how hard this is?  I can't wait to see what you vote for!  Polls close Tuesday November 29 at 11:59PM EST so I can announce the winner on Wednesday, so please vote ASAP!

Now, on to that surprise I promised :)

The response to the Thanksgiving Contest was so enthusiastic, and I think we all had such a good time, writing our stories and reading everyone else's, and there was such a sense of fun and community, that I have decided to hold a Holiday Contest!  YES!  IT'S TRUE!  I'm announcing it now to give you all plenty of time to get your stories written before the holiday rush.  Here are the entry requirements:

Write your own version of Clement C. Moore's traditional poem, 'Twas The Night Before Christmas!  Entries must be at least 12 lines/3 stanzas, not to exceed 40 lines/10 stanzas (although I realize the original is 56 lines/14 stanzas, but I'll have to read them all during the week before Christmas :))  Entries may refer to any winter holiday you celebrate (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc.) or to any combination of winter holidays, or no holiday - just a good winter-time story if you're not comfortable with a holiday.  I chose a rhyming challenge because so many people seem keen on it, but if the idea of rhyme strikes fear and loathing into your heart, you may write a prose version not to exceed 350 words :)

Entries must be posted on your blogs, or copied and pasted into the comments on my blog between Monday December 19 and Thursday December 22.

3 finalists will be chosen (hopefully really 3 next time :)) for you to vote on Monday December 26.  The winner will receive their choice of a $15 Amazon gift card (to buy themselves whatever book they really wanted and didn't get as a holiday gift :)) or the 2012 Children's Writers and Illustrators Market!

I hope you're all as excited as I am about the Holiday Contest!  And please, don't forget to vote for your favorite Thanksgiving entry by tomorrow night!

November 25, 2011

Perfect Picture Book Friday - Mole Music

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

The Thanksgiving Contest is now officially closed.  We got WAY more entries than for the Halloweensie Contest, and they're all so imaginative and fun that my assistant judge and I are going to have our work cut out for us selecting three finalists.  But never fear - we will do it even if we have to print them out, throw them on the living room floor and see which three the dogs step on first :)  The finalists will be up for you to vote on Monday.  And now for Perfect Picture Books (and I'm obviously behind this morning because I see at least three people have already posted theirs :))

Mole Music
written and illustrated by David McPhail
Henry Holt & Co, March 1999, Fiction
Suitable for:  Preschool - Grade 2 (ages 4-8)
Themes/Topics:  how music makes us feel, power of music to harmonize and heal, practice makes perfect, sometimes we don't even realize how our actions may effect others.
Opening and brief synopsis:  "Mole lived all alone underground.  He spent his days digging tunnels.  At night he ate his supper in front of the TV and then went to bed.  Mole liked his life, but lately he had begun to feel there was something missing."  Mole longs to create beautiful music, but little does he know the effect his music will have on others.
Links to resources:  This story is perfect for a discussion of how music makes us feel, the power of music to harmonize and heal, as well as the idea that it takes practice to become good at something.  Activity GuideDiscussion questionsSupplemental Lesson Plan (Film)
Why I Like This Book:  One story is told in words, but there is a whole other story shown in the illustrations.  Mole works hard learning to play the violin.  He does it for himself, with no thought of trying to impress anyone.  He achieves his goal  - and so much more without ever being aware of it.  His simple goodness and desire to make something beautiful bring more beauty to the world than he knows.
For more books with resources please visit Perfect Picture Books!

And now, so that you don't all go into a depression because Uncle Spike finished ALL the pumpkin pie and little Jimmy made the most awful grape juice stain on your favorite table cloth and how will you ever get it out and it's Black Friday and you have so much shopping to do and the mall is a horror at this time of year etc, I will lift your spirits by telling you that on Monday - yes, only a couple days away! - I will have a fun little surprise for you.  I hope you'll like it!  So keep your chin up as you jockey for parking spaces and plow through the crowds - more fun is coming :)

Have a happy weekend!

(Please add you Perfect Picture Books to the link list below.)

November 21, 2011

Oh The Excitement! - Thanksgiving Contest!

Hurray, hurray!  Today's the day!

The Thanksgiving Contest is officially open!  Post your 250 (or fewer) word kids' Thanksgiving story, beginning with "They were supposed to go to Grandma's for Thanksgiving, but the blizzard came in fast..." (poetry or prose is fine, and the opening phrase counts toward the total word count) and add your link to the link list.  We'll all have a great time visiting and reading your stories!  (Note that if you choose to write in poetry/rhyme, you have permission to tweak the opening sentence to fit your meter/rhyme scheme, or you can begin with that sentence and then continue in rhyme.  And if you'd like to participate but don't have a blog, just copy and paste your story into the comments and make sure I have a way to contact you!)

The contest is open from now until the end of Thanksgiving Day, and this post with the link list will remain up during that time.  (You will recall that the powers that be (me) decided not to run Would You Read It this week because we will all be too busy cooking, traveling and visiting to give it the attention it deserves, so there will not be a new post on Wednesday.)  Once the link list closes, my assistant judge and I will select three finalists, who will be posted next Monday Nov. 28 for you to vote on.  The winner of the contest will receive their choice of a $15 Amazon gift card or a hardcover copy of Melissa Sweet's new picture book, Balloons Over Broadway in time for the holidays!

Here's my totally wacky just for fun sample (250 on the nose!) :)  You'll just have to imagine the pictures... :)

The Bloopers Thanksgiving

They were supposed to go to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving, but the blizzard came in fast.
“Our bicycle built for five won’t make it through this snow,” said Dad.  “It’s time for Plan B.”
“Thanksgiving won’t be the same without Grandma and Grandpa,” cried Bridget, Babs, and Ben.
“Now, now,” said Mom.  “We’ll still have fun.  Go and suit up for our happy day.”
Bridget, Babs, and Ben raced off to don their favorite finery.
“Bikini, tankini, and trunks!” said Dad.  “How festive!”
“Your bunny suit looks great, too, Dad,” said Bridget, Babs, and Ben.
Bridget, Babs, and Ben put their colored eggs under the Thanksgiving Tree and hung their American flags by the coat rack with care.  They made cookies in the shape of four-leaf clovers.  They helped Mom carve a scary face into a giant rutabaga and they stuck it on top of the June Pole in their living room and danced around it to welcome spring, which was just 5 short months away.
Then, though the blizzard blustered and blew, the whole family bellied up to the barbeque pit to enjoy their feast of baked beans, beef du jour, berry juice with baby blue umbrellas, and bananas flambé.
“Children,” said Dad, “Didn’t Mom barbeque beautifully?”
“Thamsgfh Mohsdf!” said Bridget, Babs, and Ben whose mouths were brimful of barbequed banana and beans. 
At bedtime, Bridget, Babs, and Ben snuggled into their bathtub.
“Plan B was fun after all,” said Bridget, and they stayed up all night playing Battleship.

I can't wait to read all of your stories!!!  Readers, please check the comments section below.  Some people are entering their stories there!

And don't forget to tune in Friday for Perfect Picture Book Friday, entering it's second week!

H A P P Y   T H A N K S G I V I N G   E V E R Y O N E!!!

November 18, 2011

Perfect Picture Book Fridays Begins! - Llama Llama Misses Mama

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood!  I'm off to a school visit this morning and....!

Welcome to the new feature - Perfect Picture Book Fridays!  I'm so excited about this!  I'm hoping it will become a really great resource for parents, teachers, homeschoolers, writers, and gift-givers :)  Here and on all the linked blogs, you will find highly recommended picture books along with fantastic ideas for how you can use them at home and in the classroom, often including links to classroom guides and activity pages, hopefully making life easier for parents and teachers and giving writers great examples of craft to study.  The books will be archived in the Perfect Picture Books tab above, organized alphabetically by age and subject, making it easy to find an age-appropriate book on a given topic for home, classroom, or gift.

(For those of you posting your own Perfect Picture Book, please add your link to the link list at the bottom so people can come over and find your recommendations and the resources you're offering!  For details on how to post, please click here.)

Without further ado, let's jump into our very first entry :)  There are so many wonderful books out there it was hard to choose, but we've got to start somewhere :)

Llama Llama Misses Mama
written and illustrated by Anna Dewdney
Viking Juvenile, March 2009, Fiction
Suitable for:  Preschool - Kindergarten (ages 3-6)
Themes/Topics:  first day of school, separation, missing a loved one.
Opening and brief synopsis:  "Llama Llama, warm in bed.  Wakey, wakey, sleepyhead!  Llama school begins today!  Time to learn and time to play!"  Llama Llama is excited for his first day of school, but when it's time for Mama to leave, Llama Llama doesn't feel so sure.
Links to resources:  Activity Kit, Llama Llama in the classroom, Same and Different Activity (click on "assets" then pdf)
Why I Like This Book:  Llama Llama's uncertainty and sadness over Mama leaving him at school are portrayed genuinely, and the story is told with such warmth and reassurance that children experiencing separation anxiety of their own are sure to feel comforted.  School is shown to be happy, engaging place.
For more books with resources please visit Perfect Picture Books!

I'm excited for Monday, the opening day of our Thanksgiving week contest!  I hope you've all got your stories ready to go (or will have them ready after the weekend :))  I can't wait to read them!!!

Before we go, here's our Farewell Fun Friday Foto.  Our final theme is THANKSGIVING, so here's mine:
my Thanksgiving :)
Now, whether you're looking for something fun to read with your child, a great book to add into a lesson plan, the perfect gift for your niece, or a shining example of picture book writing craft, click on the links below for some Perfect Picture Books!  I'm off to visit PK-3s!  Have a great weekend :)

November 16, 2011

Would You Read It Wednesday - The 17th Pitch

Isn't it great when you wake up looking forward to the day?  And I know you all did because it's Would You Read It day :)

Before we get started, let's select our Something Chocolate snack.  It's very drizzly and drab here this morning, so I'm thinking some hot chocolate would be mighty nice.  Care to join me?
because this is exactly how hot chocolate is always served at my house :)
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Ahh!  That's better!

Now, before we get to today's pitch, a couple of teensy housekeeping details.

First, a reminder about our new feature which starts Friday - Perfect Picture Books Friday.  For the full description, click here.  This new feature is intended as a resource for all of us - parents, teachers, homeschoolers, writers, and gift-givers.  The posts will showcase a favorite book and include ideas and links on what it's good for and how to use it at home and/or in the classroom.  (I'm going to try very hard to get my post up early on Friday so that anyone who needs to look at an example of how it's done can do so - I might even post it late Thursday.)  Not only will this be a great resource, it will also strengthen our community and hopefully encourage people to visit all of our blogs :)

Second, don't forget that next week is the Thanksgiving writing contest!!!  Click here for details.  (Please scroll down - it's the last item in the post.)  It should be really fun and the winner will get a prize along with all our admiration, so please join in!  You still have time to write your entry (and it's short!) :)

And last but not least, our theme for this week's Fun Foto, if anyone wants to do it, will be THANKSGIVING.  This will be out last Fun Foto because it didn't turn out to be as fun as we thought and we're hoping people will get a lot more out of Perfect Picture Books!

And now, it's time for Would You Read It!  If you need to refill your hot chocolate, go ahead.  I'll wait :)


This week's pitch comes to us from Halli who hails from rural Alberta, Canada, and whose YA novel Shifters is being released in March 2012 from Imajin Books.

Working Title:  SIMBIOTE
Age/Genre:  YA Sci-Fi
The Pitch:  Kal is a donor in the illegal bulb trade.  He donates his own symbiotic bulbs to the humans on the multi-million dollar black market.  Their addictions can cost them a pretty penny, but what does it cost Kal?  What does he suffer every year at harvest time?  When he gets caught he realizes the risks he has put upon himself, his potential girlfriend and his family are far worse than he ever imagined.

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 Halli 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.  (And please spread the word about Would You Read It to anyone you know who might be interested in pitching.  I have openings in mid-January which isn't that far away :))

Halli is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  And I am looking forward to your Perfect Picture Book posts on Friday.  (I can't WAIT to see what you all choose!)  And also to your Thanksgiving contest entries next week :)

November 14, 2011

Perfect Picture Books!

I hope everyone had a nice weekend!

I got to babysit :)  Want to see?  (I know.  I promised not to inundate you with pictures of the most adorable granddaughter the world has yet seen.  But I've been pretty good... :))
How can you not fall in love with this? :)
What's that?  You need one more?  OK.  You've twisted my arm :)
Just look at those cheeks!  I think she's related to Friday's chipmunk :)
All right.  That's enough.  Stop asking me to show you pictures.  We have all kinds of excitement to get to this morning!

Remember that secret I mentioned on Friday?  The one you've no doubt been desperate to find out about all weekend to the point where you could hardly think of anything else but what will Susanna spring on us Monday????  You probably didn't even sleep last night!

Well get ready, because here it comes!

But first,  let's talk about how to remove stubborn stains from laundry items...

Tee hee :)

Seriously, here's the news:

I'm starting a new feature!

In the spirit of Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays, the brainchild of Shannon Messenger, and various YA listicle-type things, I am starting Perfect Picture Book Fridays!  I'm announcing it today so you'll all have time to gear up for the inaugural list this Friday, November 18.  Here's what we'll do:

As part of your Friday post, showcase a picture book you love.  This is NOT a review feature in the usual sense.  We're all going to assume that you recommend the book you're posting.  What's going to make this feature really great is the details.

(Please note: to start with, Perfect Picture Books Fridays will only list traditionally published picture books.  In the future, I hope to expand to e-books and possibly self-published books, as well as books for older readers, but for now we're going to stick with traditionally published picture books.)

(image of book cover optional)
1.  Give us the book title, author/illustrator, publisher, year, fiction or non-fiction, and audience age (preschool, elementary school or both)
2.  Tell us the themes/topics of the book (e.g. sibling rivalry, or, through hard work we achieve mastery, or, ocean life.)
3.  Give us the opening sentence or page and a 1-2 sentence synopsis.
4.  Link to any available resources you know of to expand this book's use at home or in the classroom (e.g. links to classroom guides, coloring pages or other activity sheets, or fun activities that can be done in conjunction with the book like a leaf collage or an egg carton caterpillar etc.) and/or list your own ideas.
5.  Link back to the Perfect Books page of my blog (which will be useful in a week or two when we start having a list!)

Then add your post link to the list, using the picture book title along with your blog's name, and every Friday parents, teachers, homeschoolers, and writers will have a great resource at their fingertips, perfect for going to the library to gather some weekend reading, or planning upcoming lessons for the following week, or studying great writing over the weekend, or all of the above!  (And as an added bonus, you'll hopefully be increasing traffic to your blogs and attracting parents, teachers, and writers!)

In addition, I have added a Perfect Picture Books tab in the header of my blog where all these wonderful books and resources will be archived by age and subject (and permanent links to your blogs) - a go-to resource that parents, teachers, and writers can access at any time.

At the end of each month (starting with November even though we're only going to be up and running for half the month) I will do a random drawing from among the names of the participants (you'll get one chance for every book you've listed that month) and the winner will receive their choice of a $10 Amazon gift card or whatever picture book I'm giving away that month.

We all want to introduce our children to the joys of books, and encourage them to be life-long readers.  So much of that is dependent on finding the right books to suit their individual needs and interests.  The marketplace can be overwhelming and sadly, not all of us have time to go and chat with our local children's librarian or spend hours researching books.  Perfect Picture Books will be your new resource - a community of parents, teachers, librarians, and writers whose recommendations you can trust, and a way to make life easier for parents and teachers.

Please pass the word to everyone you know who might be interested.  The more people who are involved, the more comprehensive and helpful this resource will be.

I hope you'll all find this idea as fun and exciting as I do and join in starting this Friday.

I'll bring the donuts :)

November 11, 2011

Fun Friday Foto Fextravaganza, Straight From The Editor #3, and more!

There is just too much fun to be had to stick to a single category!  So get ready to start your day off with a bang :)  We will be whooping it up with Fun Friday Foto, Straight From The Editor #3, the Thanksgiving Contest!!!, and a secret!!!!! (I'm not going to manage Warm Fuzzies this week - I'm afraid of scaring you away with too much reading - but feel free to check out the other Warm Fuzzies :))

So let's get comfy.  This morning I am in the mood for something besides donuts so, in keeping with the season, we will be having pumpkin muffins hot out of the oven.  Please help yourselves :)
google images

Gfyih shuf fgioh mnbysr

Sorry.  I didn't mean to talk with my mouth full :)

Now then.  Let's start with Fun Friday Foto.  This week's theme is HIBERNATION, and you'll note that those of us who have posted so far are all having the same problem - choosing just one!  Here are mine:
This guy is getting ready!
(and yes, I know he looks like me with my muffin :))
google images
This guy's thinking of spending the winter here, but he's afraid you can see him :)
google images
These two are looking cozy and settling down for their long winter's nap :)
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I hope at least one of those gives you a story inspiration!  If it does, please share :)  Now hop on over to Catherine's and Stacy's and see their hibernation photos, and then if you'd like to post one (remember, kid-friendly) you can put your link in the comments and everyone will come visit you.

Next, it's time for Straight From The Editor!  As you will recall, our pitch winner for October was Kim.  Readers felt fairly unanimously that her pitch was strong, and it turns out our fabulous editor felt the same way.  Here, once again, is Kim's pitch:

Working Title:  Henry Hears You
Age/Genre:  YA
The Pitch:  13-year-old boy finds his voice as the new advice columnist for the school newspaper only to discover that some problems don't have easy solutions when he gets a letter from a kid threatening to kill himself if the gay bashing doesn't stop.

And here are Erin's comments:

I definitely want to read this! I am intrigued. The only advice I can offer is to break it up into two sentences like this: 13-year-old boy finds his voice as the new advice columnist for the school newspaper. But he discovers that some problems don¹t have easy solutions when he gets a letter from a kid who threatens to kill himself if the gay bashing doesn¹t stop. It makes it easier to read -- not such a run-on sentence -- and gives it slightly more punch.

I hope you all find this helpful in writing your own pitches!

And now, the moment all you eager writers have been waiting for....  The announcement of the

Thanksgiving Contest!

Write a children's Thanksgiving story beginning with the sentence:

They were supposed to go to Grandma's for Thanksgiving, but the blizzard came in fast....

Maximum word length: 250 (but anything less is fine)  Prose or poetry is fine (and if you choose rhyming poetry you have permission to twist that first sentence a bit so it fits your rhyme scheme, or use the first sentence outside the rhyme and then continue in rhyme.)  Remember everything you've learned about writing stories for children :)  My assistant judge and I are prepared to be dazzled :)

Post your story on your blog any time between Monday November 21 and Thursday November 24 and link to the link list.  Or, if you don't have a blog but would like to enter, just copy and paste your entry into the comments the week of the contest.

Three finalists will be chosen from among the entries and posted here on Friday November 25, and you wonderful readers will get to choose the winner! :)

The prize will be your choice of a Thanksgiving picture book (to be selected) or a $15 Amazon gift card - in time for the holidays :)

And now for the secret!  I love secrets, don't you?  They're so exciting.  I bet right now you're rubbing your hands together in anticipation and wondering, what could it be?


I'll tell you on Monday.

I know.  I'm just that mean :)

Have a great weekend, and see you Monday!!!

November 9, 2011

Would You Read It Wednesday - The 16th Pitch

In case you were wondering, there are only 46 shopping days left until Christmas, counting today!

I'm not sure why the radio feels it necessary to tell us this in a panicky voice, as though we might have trouble getting our shopping done in 6 and a half weeks!  But there you have it.  Consider yourself forewarned.

Personally, I couldn't shop for 6 and a half weeks.  Maybe after I write a New York Times bestselling book, or Punxsutawney Phyllis gets made into a movie :) but at the moment, 6 and half minutes of shopping is more in line with my budget! ... and my patience... :)

So.  That is my public service announcement for the day.  Chocolate creme donut anyone?

Now onto the fun stuff.  We have a winner in the Halloweensie Contest!!!  I do want to say again, before I tell you who the winner is, that ALL the entries were really wonderful - I was so impressed.  So if you didn't make the list of finalists, don't feel bad.  The competition was stiff.

Okay.  Are you ready???  Drum rollllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll!

The winner of the Halloweensie Contest, the signed copy of Haunted Party by Iza Trapani, and your admiration is #2 - Cathy!!!  Congratulations, Cathy, on a really great piece of work!  Please email me at susanna [at] susannahill [dot] com or use the handy Email Me button in the right-hand side bar to contact me with your address so I can mail your prize!

And never fear!  We will be having another contest in a couple weeks which I will be announcing on Friday!!!

Now.  Buckle up your reading glasses because it's time for everybody's favorite show:  Would You Read It!

Today's contestant is Dee from Down Under who blogs at DeeScribeWriting and is currently participating in NaNoWriMo.  She presents us with the following:

Title:  Hating Ric
Age/Genre:  YA Verse
The Pitch:  On the day of his brother, Jason's funeral, 17 year-old Ric's anger explodes, and he races Jason's car through the streets, crashing and badly injuring jogger, Kate.  Ric is sent to a juvenile justice centre, where survivor guilt and grief set him on a reckless destruction course. Help comes through his music and from an unexpected source in Kate who is struggling to put her own life back together.

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 Dee 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.

Dee is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  And I am wondering about your holiday shopping habits... :)

And a quick reminder that Friday's Fun Foto theme is HIBERNATION if you want to post a kid-friendly, story-inspiring, hibernation-related photo on your blog Friday :)  Friday will also be the next installment of Straight From The Editor!, so stay tuned.  Friday may or may not include a Warm Fuzzies entry (depending on whether or not I can pull something together :)) but it will include the next contest announcement.  So see ya Friday!!!

November 7, 2011

Tons Of Fun Monday!

I hope you're all feeling bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning (and really, don't ask me what being "bushy-tailed" means exactly or what it has to do with being awake... :))

Since it's Monday, I assume some of your bushy tails look like this:
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and some like this:
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But if you're feeling like the second one, never fear!  You've come to the right place!  We have donuts :)

And, as you know, we always have plenty of fun around here!  Today is extra-especially fun because of all the winning!  Ready?

First  off: this week's Fun Foto theme is HIBERNATION!  So scout around for a child-friendly photo that says hibernation to you and get ready to post it on your blog Friday for everyone to enjoy and use as a story prompt :)

Next up: the October Pitch Pick.  The winner, whose pitch will be sent to the awesome editor Erin Molta for evaluation and comment, is none other than KIM!!!!!  Congratulations, Kim!!!  Well done!!!  And congratulations also to Carla, Christie, and Tracy, our other brave contestants, who put their work out there for everyone to see and critique.  As always, all the pitches were wonderful, and I'm sorry that everyone can't win.  But please, keep those pitches coming.  It's great practice, and who knows?  You could be a winner next time!  Stay tuned for Straight From The Editor coming up whenever Erin's comments happen to arrive... :)

Next: the winner of which book will go on a journey around the world is Can't Sleep Without Sheep! If you would be interested in having Can't Sleep come to your neck of the woods, please sign up in the comments.  I will either choose one person to start with (possibly by a contest of some kind... mwah-ha-hah!) and let them send it on, or if enough people from enough far-flung places sign up, perhaps I'll just put together an itinerary.  The idea is for the book to travel around and be signed with a first name, location and date (and a tiny message if you like) and then come back to me eventually to share with kids on school visits!
illustration copyright Mike Wohnoutka 2010
Finally: here are the Halloweensie Contest finalists for you to vote on.  Boy did this turn out to be way harder than I expected!  Everyone's entries were so good!  In the end, though, my assistant judge and I narrowed it down with heaviest emphasis on what a child would most enjoy since the point is, after all, to write for kids, with secondary consideration to how close you came to the 100 word count.  So here are the 3 finalists, identified by number. not name.  Please read them and vote for #1, #2, or #3!


Oh Judy!
A gaggle of boys and girls dressed like soldiers, dancers, animals and one lone devil walked down the street in search of Halloween treats.
Before they reached Judy's house, a ghost darted out of the bushes.
A ballerina jumped throwing her candied apple into the air.
A bear cried as the gooey treat fell on his furry head.
The devil stumbled over a jack o'lantern into the bushes.
The group joined together to return the devil to his feet.
"Oh Judy,” they yelled.
"What?" she cried from her front porch, as a shadowy figure slipped into the bushes.


Red candied apple dripping in goo.
Orange carved pumpkins spelling out BOO!
Yellow glowing jack o’lantern’s grin,
Green as the wart on an ugly witch chin!
Blue satin Cinderellas looking for a shoe,
Purple bubbling cauldron of stinky witch brew.
Black is the cat, white ghost in flight,
A rainbow of colors on Halloween night!


Boo smirked and pulled Jack O’Lantern to the spooky looking house.
“Come on. Let’s go here.”
Jack O’Lantern gasped at skeletons and ghosts hanging from trees. The eerie sound of a wind chime, the only noise.
“Maybe we should have come out earlier,” said Boo, shivering in the cold and dark.
Circumnavigating a hanging ghost to reach the door, Boo dared to ring the doorbell.
Just as the door creaked open, a gust of wind blew the hanging ghost into them.
“Aargh!” They screamed as two candied apples were thrust toward them.
The boys ran and called back,
“Thank yoooooooo!”

So please vote for your favorite today or tomorrow!  (Poll will close Wednesday November 9 at 5 AM EST so I can post the winner on Wednesday morning.)

The winner will receive a signed hard cover copy of Haunted Party by the incomparable Iza Trapani!
And as I said, all of the entries were fantastic - I was so impressed with the quality and with how imaginative people could be within the constraints of the writing requirements!  I'm looking forward to the Thanksgiving Contest I've had requests for which I will post as soon as I think up what it is :)

Don't forget to vote for the Halloweensie winner, let me know if you'd like to have Can't Sleep journey to your house, and pick out a hibernation foto for Friday!
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