May 30, 2012

Would You Read It Wednesday - The 42nd Pitch

Happy Wednesday Everyone!

Grab your donut (or any member of the donut family that suits your fancy this morning - bagel (donut's less exciting sister), cruller, danish, croissant, preferably chocolate, actually, I suppose even funnel cake qualifies, with all that lovely powdered sugar on top... wait... what was I saying?)

Oh yes.  I want you to know that it may be a small miracle if this post actually appears.  We are in the path of severe thunderstorms (which I would know even without the weather report and the exceedingly menacing dark sky and high winds because Jemma has glued her shaking little self to my side - poor Baby J!)...
this is Baby J when she's not being scared by thunder - I wouldn't
want to show you her distress!
...which means that our internet, always temperamental, has become downright moody and is threatening to quit altogether.

So it will be like a little surprise to see if this post shows up or not.

Talk about living on the edge! :)  We laugh in the face of danger up here on Blueberry Hill! :)

Anyway, before we get to Would You Read It, I wanted to mention for all you contest junkies out there that Randy is having one over on his blog Author In Training.  So hop on over and check it out!

Also, if you haven't had a chance to vote for who you think should win the Birthday Contest, you still have until midnight!  You can vote HERE.  And it is quite a heated competition, so your vote could be a deciding factor!

Now then.

Today's pitch comes to us from the amazing Tina.  Here are a few words about her that I lifted off her blog (since apparently I forgot to ask her what she wanted me to say about her - oops! - :))

Tina M. Cho is a freelance writer for education and children’s stories and a former elementary teacher of eleven years. She wrote 16 books for Lakeshore Learning and 4 guided readers for Compass Media. Her nonfiction book for girls from Legacy Press will be out in 2013, and she’s working on another contracted book for girls with them. She has written stories for a private school’s reading curriculum, books reviews for the Christian Library Journal, educational activities for,and stories for magazines and e-zines. She is the mom of two kids, a fourth grader and a first grader. She and her husband Jackey recently moved from Southern California to South Korea.

Here is her pitch:

(and BTW, Tina lives on the other side of the globe from many of us, and will be going to bed when the rest of us are getting up and reading this, so please be patient for her responses to your comments!)

Working Title:  Dewey Bookworm Takes The Stage
Age/Genre:  Picture Book (ages 4-8)
The Pitch:  What if a bookworm doesn't like books?  Tree leaves taste better than book leaves.  Dewey Bookworm wants to join the circus.  Will other book-eating creatures change his mind?

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 Tina 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 August, so you have time to polish :) for a chance for it to be read by editor Erin Molta!

Tina is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!

Tune in Friday for Perfect Picture Books - I have such a perfect one for this week! you're going to love it! - and for the announcement of the Birthday Contest winners!!!  Ooh, the excitement!  How will you ever wait for Friday?

Have another donut :)

May 28, 2012

The Birthday Contest Finalists! - Vote For Your Favorite!

Oh.  My.  Goodness!

I have hemmed and hawed, gone backwards and forwards and sideways, compared notes with my assistant judge, eaten some cookies, chosen, second-guessed, re-chosen, further consulted with my assistant judge (which may or may not have involved more cookies...), third-guessed, hemmed and hawed some more...

Would you just look at me this morning?!
Man this was tough!  So many terrific entries!  How to choose?

Well, I'll tell you.

Criteria number one was tied between child-friendliness and creativity (since the contest was for a children's story about a very creative or unique birthday.)  Several entries ended up not being chosen because either the topic seemed more appealing to adults, or the writing felt a little too adult, and several others ended up not being chosen because they just didn't feel quite unique enough.  Criteria number two was quality of writing.  A couple of entries had mistakes in basic grammar, word usage etc, and a couple others needed a bit more work on rhyme/rhythm/meter.  Although there were MANY other entries we could have chosen for one reason or another, we tried to pick the ones that really did the best overall job with all three criteria.

So.  Without further ado, here are the 6 finalists, listed by number and title only in case that helps you be objective :)

#1  A Gift Of Love

Kayla sat by her twin sister Kenya’s side and held her hand.  It was their tenth birthday and the celebration was going to be very low key.  Kenya couldn’t take too much excitement.  She was very weak from the chemo treatments.  Her head was covered with a soft, knitted hat because her glorious mane of red hair had fallen out.  She was as pale as her hospital sheets.
Weak and sick as she was, Kenya was able to dredge up a fit of blazing anger directed at her sister.  “What have you done?  Why have you had your hair cut off?” she spluttered.  She was simply furious.  The twins crowning glory was their hair and they took care every day to style it identically.  Kayla now had a short pixie style hair cut.
Kayla  just smiled, offered no explanation, and simply handed her sister a gaily wrapped birthday gift.  “Happy birthday Ken.”  She said and slipped quietly out of her sisters hospital room.
Kenya, puzzled, opened her gift and then broke down in tears of joy and shame over having spoken to her twin so harshly.
When Kayla came back in the room Kenya was propped up in bed and her hairdo was the mirror image of her sisters.  “Thank you.” She said softly.  “This is the best birthday gift I have ever had or will likely ever have again.  I love you.”

#2 A Present For A Pirate

Lundy the hound and Captain Saltsam
Were pirates aboard the vast ship Crusty Clam.
On Saltsam’s big birthday, he had one desire:
A colorful bird for his pirate attire.
Lundy decided to cast out their net
And catch Saltsam’s present, the best ever yet.
After sailing around, Lundy pulled in the haul:
Some driftwood, a buoy, a flattened beach ball.
Snared in the net lay a sopping sea bird,
“A parrot?” asked Lundy. “Now don’t be absurd!
I’m a puffin! Release me!” the cranky bird snapped.
“I’ve no place on a ship, and I won’t be bird-napped!”
“Hush up, pesky puffin! Behave and pipe down.
You’re a pirate’s bird now. Eat crackers and frown!
Happy birthday dear Captain!” said the gift-bearing hound,
“A bird for your shoulder! Here – wear him around!”
The bird thrashed his feet and swung with his beak,
He flapped his strong wings, smacking Sam on the cheek.
He wiggled and wobbled and shrieked in alarm,
Then lifting his tail, pooped down Saltsam’s arm.
“Yuck!” yelled the captain. “Get off me! Goodbye!”
The puffin leaned over and nipped Saltsam’s eye.
Lundy was crushed, gave a low mournful howl.
“I’m sorry I gave you that terrible fowl.”
“Oh well!” said the captain. “I don’t need a bird.
I can see now quite clearly my wish was absurd.
The present I want isn’t one we can catch.
With this nifty new boo-boo, I want an eye patch!”

#3  Not Another Birthday!

Billy hated his birthdays, every single one of them. The day was always a complete disaster. One time, on Billy’s seventh birthday, most of his party guests ended up in the emergency room! In fact, none of Billy’s friends will come to his parties anymore. Only Billy’s relatives show up because they have to. 
Things usually start off pretty well. The guests arrive with smiles on their faces, carrying presents in colorful paper. There’s lots of ”Hi’s”, hugs and  “How are you’s?” Everyone puts their party hats on. There’s pizza for dinner, and games like guess the wizard, and pin the drawbridge on the castle.
Then comes the cake. Billy’s dad carries it in. This year it has twelve candles on it, brightly lit with flames dancing in the air. Billy notices it is an ice cream cake, “UGH!” He says to himself. “Even WORSE!”
The cake is placed on the table in front of Billy; all the guests cower behind their chairs and under the table as they nervously sing “Happy Birthday to You” in hushed voices. As Billy listened to the song, getting ready to blow out the candles, he thought to himself, “This makes no sense for a fire-breathing dragon.”

#4 Birthday At The Beach

Mom hung up the phone just as Kara finished dinner.
“Grab your jacket,” Mom said, grinning. “We’re going to a birthday party.”
“Whose birthday? We don’t know anyone here,” said Kara. She searched for her jacket among the moving boxes that had arrived, like they had, only three days ago.
“It’s a surprise,” said Mom.
“Where’s the party?” asked Kara, climbing into the car.
“At the beach,” said Mom. “I told you it would be great to live near the beach.”
“But it’s almost dark!”
Mom smiled.
“Will there be cake?”
A birthday party at the beach, in the dark, with no cake?
At the beach, a small crowd had gathered. Coming closer, Kara saw that the crowd surrounded a rope-marked path from the dunes toward the water. For a birthday party, it sure was quiet.
“Watch that patch of sand,” whispered Mom, pointing. Kara stared through the growing darkness. She thought she saw the sand shift. Then it shifted again, slowly, and then more rapidly. To Kara, it looked like a pot of water beginning to simmer. A small black head appeared, then another, then a flipper, and suddenly the sand boiled over with tiny creatures struggling toward the surface.
“Turtles!” Mom whispered, squeezing Kara’s hand. Dozens of baby sea turtles flip-flopped their way across the sand toward the waves. A woman with a clipboard counted them. The crowd remained still, but once in a while someone stooped to gently guide a wandering baby turtle back to the path.
They’re brave, Kara thought, watching the tiny creatures make their way into the vast ocean, a place they had never been and could know nothing about.
“Happy birthday,” Kara whispered, then smiled at Mom. “I think I’m going to like living near the beach,” she said.

#5 Dan's Birthday Plan

Dan had to stop Christmas. It was the only way his birthday would be normal. Every year, he celebrated Christmas one day and on the next his birthday.

As Mom announced time for dinner, Dan jumped in.

“We can’t have Christmas. If we do, my birthday will be ruined.”

Dan knew the reason for the season, but his Christmas and birthday presents always had a part missing.

“Christmas always splits my birthday,” Dan said. 

“It doesn’t,” Mom said. “That’s your special day. This is another one.”

“Why did I get arrows on Christmas Day and a bow on my birthday?” Dan asked.

“They were two separate gifts,” his sister Sue said. 

“One year, I got multi-colored pencils for Christmas. I had nothing to write on until paper arrived on my birthday,” Dan said.

“You had to sharpen the pencils,” cousin Bobby said reaching for a roll.

“The leather baseball glove,” Dan said.

“What was wrong with that?” Dad asked.

“I couldn’t play catch until my birthday. That’s when you gave me a baseball.”

Grandma put her arms around Dan.

“We don’t need to cancel Christmas or your birthday. We’ll celebrate both with no missing parts — right Mom and Dad?”

His parents agreed and they all sat down to eat.

During the gift exchange, Dan tore the Christmas paper and opened the box to find one tennis shoes.

“Oops,” Mom said. She left and returned with a birthday package. Dan opened the box. He beamed holding the shoes. “A pair of shoes for Christmas!“

“Everything worked out,” Grandma said. “Now are you ready for your birthday?”

“Yes,” Dan said and noticed a jar of jelly in his stocking. “Who knows what I’ll get for my birthday.”

#6 The Biggest And The Best

Scott only wanted the biggest and best.  For his fourth birthday, Scott’s parents rented a pony.
Scott asked, “No elephant?”
For his fifth birthday, his grandmother baked a five layer cake.
Scott said, “I wanted ten layers.”
For his sixth birthday, his brother bought him the all the Super-Robo-Thunder-Team figurines.
Scott asked, “Where’s the Super-Robo-Volcano–Lair play set?”
So Scott figured his seventh birthday was going to be just like all his other ones—just okay.
To his surprise, dad said, “We decided to get you something bigger and better than anything you have ever gotten!”
“What is it?”
Dad said, “You’ll find out tomorrow.”
Scott thought of all the big, best things he wanted.  “They know I want an airplane, but where to put it?
“Maybe it will be my own personal movie theater.
“Maybe a submarine!  I told my mom this week I wanted one!”
Scott was nearly unable to sleep.  Tomorrow was going to be better than Christmas and 4th of July combined.
At the party, he passed on the games.  He devoured dinner in two bites.  Scott blew out the cake candles before the singing was over.
“Alright! Where are my presents?”
Dad gave him a card.  “Open it, son.  Congratulations.”
Inside was a certificate:
A heavenly gift from The Star Registry Society. 
Your Star’s Coordinates: GSC 4628:237
                                                                Your family
“It’s something big,” said grandfather.
“The star we picked is twice as massive as the sun,” said mother.
“And you wanted the best,” said uncle.
“There’s not much better than something  that spews fire and is billions of years old,” said aunt.
“I see you are speechless.  So let me also show you your new telescope.  It’s outside, ready to find your star,” said dad.
They went out to see the biggest and the best.

And I just have to say we had a particularly hard time finally laying aside Bailey Bear's Birthday Band (by Laura), Happy Birthday Seahorse (by Wendy), Mouse Du Jour (by Penny), The Birthday Giving (by Sabrina), and No Brother For My Birthday (by Vivian).

But really, all the entries were terrific, there were things we really liked about all of them, and you all did such a fantastic job.  You are all winners by virtue of the fact that you wrote stories that met the guidelines and entered the contest.  They say 90% of success is showing up (or something like that :)) - well, you all showed up!  And I know I speak for everyone when I say how much we all enjoyed your work!

And now, if you could all please vote for your favorite between now and 11:59 PM EDT Wednesday May 30 (I extended it a little because I want to make sure everyone has time to vote!) I will announce the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Place Winners on Friday after the Perfect Picture Book!

I really cannot wait to see how the voting shapes up!

May 25, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday - Aunt Isabel Tells A Good One

Once upon a time...

There are few phrases that fill you with as much anticipation as those 4 little words!  (Okay.  "I made chocolate cake" is right up there too.  Or, if you're me, "time for Grey's Anatomy" which is actually a little like "once upon a time" although my faith was badly shaken by the season finale... but I digress.)

When you hear once upon a time, you just know something good is coming!  You settle in, get comfy, and eagerly await whatever comes next!

Well, I feel the same way about 4 other little words - Perfect Picture Book Friday!  When I hear those words, I just know I'm about to read about a whole bunch of terrific books I can't wait to get my hands on!

And the one I'm going to share with you today is all about that once upon a time...! :)

Aunt Isabel Tells A Good One
Written & Illustrated By: Kate Duke
Dutton Children's Books, 1992, Fiction
Suitable For: ages 3-8

Themes/Topics: creativity, storytelling, imagination, girl power

Opening: "'Tell me a story,' said Penelope one night after supper.
'What kind of a story?' asked Aunt Isabel.
'A good story,' said Penelope.
'All right,' said Aunt Isabel.  'A good story is the hardest kind to tell, though.  We must put it together carefully, with just the right ingredients...'"

Brief Synopsis:  At Penelope's request, Aunt Isabel makes up a story using all the necessary ingredients.  A When, a Where, and a Who.  Romance, a Problem, and Villains!  But when beloved Prince Augustus is in danger from Odious Mole and Bad-Egg Bat, who will come to his rescue?

Links To Resources: probably the best thing you can do with this story is use it as a springboard for creativity, writing, and storytelling activities, one-on-one or in a group.  Some online resources to enhance the fun are Scribblitt and Story Starters.  And illustrating the stories (before or after) is always fun too!

Why I Like This Book: the story is fun and engaging, and the art is absolutely charming.  But even better, it is actually a how-to manual for how to write a story!  While Aunt Isabel is making up a story for Penelope, readers are learning how to make up their own stories.  This applies to adults as well as kids :)  Whether you're a child, a parent, a teacher, or a writer (or any combination thereof :)), I think you'll enjoy this one!

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

Before we all head for the PPB list, I just want to thank the fabulous Natasha over at Writes By Moonlight for bestowing the Kreativ Blogger Award on me!  As you all know, I am terrible at these awards, and as you can tell by how impressively brief I'm being today I'm unusually pressed for time, so I'm going to skip the questions and random facts and trying to pick other people to give the award to for now.  But do please pop by and visit Natasha!

PPBF bloggers, please add your post-specific links below!  I will be popping around reading when I can, and then spending as much of this holiday weekend as I can appropriate trying to choose finalists in the Birthday Contest!

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend everyone!

May 23, 2012

Would You Read It Wednesday - The 41st Pitch, and Straight From The Editor #7

Well, MY GOODNESS!  Apparently I am a glutton for punishment!

Have you read the entries in the Birthday Contest?  (If you haven't, you should,  They're really amazing!  So much creativity!)

But they're all so good!  And somehow my assistant judge and I have to choose finalists!  We certainly have our work cut out for us.  (Thank goodness we have a very large tray of donuts!)

The contest is now closed, but never fear.  The finalists will be posted on Monday May 28 and I hope you will all come back and vote!

Meanwhile, we have Straight From The Editor, where everybody's favorite editor, Erin Molta, comments on the winning pitch from last month.

You will recall that Rebecca won April's Pitch Pick with her pitch for Broomstick Rodeo:

Working Title:  Broomstick Rodeo
Age/Genre:  Picture Book (4-7)
The Pitch:  The Thistlegulch Sisters have thirteen trophies between them and they’re determined to win another. They practice for the rodeo until they’re chapped under their chaps and have calluses on their warts. But when a buckin’ broomstick charges towards their youngest sister, Myrna, they realize there are more important things in life than winning trophies.

Here are Erin's comments, so that we can all learn!

This sounds like it could be very cute! But I think the pitch would work better if, rather than saying how hard they practiced, you mentioned what they neglected because they wanted to win so badly—like perhaps Myrna. That way it makes sense that suddenly they would care about Myrna.

Interesting.  And encouraging, I think :)

Now then, I'm in the mood for some of those lovely cider donuts today.  How about you?

Would you like one (or three?)  Help yourselves!  There's coffee and tea, too.

Then get comfy for today's pitch which comes to us from our very own Banana Peelin' Elizabeth!

Elizabeth Stevens Omlor loves slipping on banana peels. She has at least one slip a day, physically or verbally. She loves writing for children, although she has recently discovered she is a delusional rhymer. When she isn’t writing for children, you can find her having a kitchen dance party with her husband and two young children or drinking a large glass of milk. She loves milk. Yum.  Especially when it’s in chocolate. She blogs about all of this on Banana Peelin’: The Ups and Downs of Becoming a Children’s Writer.

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Magnificent
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-8)
The Pitch:  When the synchronized swimming Savanna Belles lose their watering hole to drought, the troop of elephant calves decide ballet is the perfect way to make them feel magnificent once again. Facing the challenges of trunk-tickling ants, loss of weightlessness, and the scarcity of tutus, can the girls tame the doubtful roars, hisses and cackles of the their wild friends, proving that they really can be magnificent ballerinas? Follow the tutued journey of these silly mammals as they sashay, leap and pliĆ© their way into even the wildest of hearts.

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 Elizabeth 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 August, so you have time to polish :) for a chance for it to be read by editor Erin Molta!

Elizabeth is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!

See you all on Friday for Perfect Picture Books (assuming I haven't run off to Outer Mongolia to avoid having to pick finalists in the contest! :))

May 19, 2012

Birthday Contest For Children's Writers!!!

Monday May 21 - The contest is going strong!  11 links so far, plus 4 or 5 entries in the comment section below!  Read!  Enjoy!  Enter :)

Woo-hoo!  It's finally here!  The Birthday Contest!  Although, due to the busy-ness of April we had to push the contest back to a month that is no longer my birthday, surely someone is celebrating! :)  Let the games begin!

For anyone who hasn't seen the rules, here they are:

The contest is to write a children's story about a very creative and/or unique birthday celebration in 300 words or less.  Poetry or prose, your choice.

Entries must be posted on your blog (or in the comment section of this post if you don't have a blog) between right now this very minute and 11:59 PM EDT Tuesday May 22.  Please add your entry-specific link to the list below (or, as mentioned, if you don't have a blog and want to enter, just copy and paste your entry in the comment section below.)

If there are fewer than 20 entries there will be one prize.  If there are more than 20 entries there will be 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prizes!  Finalists will be chosen by me and my assistant judge and will be posted for you to vote on Monday May 28.  (I'm trying not to skip Would You Read It or Perfect Picture Books, or overload you with extra posts, hence the wait til Monday the 28th, which I realize is Memorial Day so the voting will stay up throughout Tuesday May 29!)

If there are fewer than 20 entries, and therefore one winner, the winner may have his or her choice of the following 4 options.  If there are more than 20 entries, and therefore a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place, 1st place will get 1st choice, 2nd place will get 2nd choice, and 3rd place will get 3rd choice of the following 4 options:
#1- a PB ms critique by me
#2 - a 3 pack of Perfect Picture Books including Chloe, My Side Of The Car, and Z Is For Moose
#4 - a $15 gift certificate to Merritt Bookstore.

So now, to get the party started, I will share a sample entry.  As I mentioned yesterday, my original idea did not pan out and I was VERY pressed for time this week, so don't expect literary brilliance.  And what I mean by that is please don't throw rotten tomatoes at me!

Hoppy Birthday!
(206 words)

Joey said, "My birthday's coming!  I can hardly wait!
Here's an invitation.  I sure hope you'll save the date!

We'll have silly hats, and blowers that make noise like a kazoo!
Balloons - at least a hundred! - orange, yellow, red and blue!

We'll play games like Duck Duck Moose and Pin The Tail On Cousin Fred.
We'll have contests to see who can stand the longest on their head!

If you happen to like water we've got lots of room to swim!
But if you'd rather climb and hang then try the jungle (gym).

I'm just hopping with excitement for my party - how 'bout you?
After all it isn't every day that you turn 2!

Mom will make a birthday cake like you have never seen!
Seven luscious layers filled with icing in between!

All my friends will sing the Happy Birthday song to me.
I'll make a wish and blow out all my candles - one, two, three!

We'll serve up cake and ice cream by the gallon and the ton.
We're going to need a LOT to have enough for everyone!

So won't you please come join your little friend the kangaroo
For my Hoppy Birthday Party at the San Diego Zoo?

So now that you're filled with confidence about how good your entry is compared to that! :) please add your entry-specific post link to the list below, or copy and paste your entry into the comments.  I can't wait to read them!
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