October 31, 2012

The Halloweensie Contest!!! - aahhhroooooOOOOO!

Before we begin the contest, I just want to thank everyone who expressed their concern and sent their thoughts and prayers my way during the storm, and say that I hope all of my friends out there were able to stay safe.  We were lucky here, but I know a lot of people who read this blog were in harm's way and I hope you and your loved ones are all safe and well.

And now...

It's the (2nd Annual!) HALLOWEENSIE CONTEST!!!!!

courtesy google images
The Contest:  write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (title not included in the 100 words), using the words witchbat, and "trick-or-treat".   Your story can be scary, funny or anything in between, poetry or prose, but it will only count for the contest if it includes those 3 words and is 100 words (you can go under, but not over!)  Get it?  Halloweensie - because it's not very long and it's for little people :)

Post your story on your blog today! - Wednesday October 31 - by 11:59 PM EDT and add your post-specific link to the list below.  If you don't have a blog and would like to enter, you can simply copy and paste your entry in the comments section.  Then have fun hopping around and reading all the fabulous entries!  Anyone who has trouble commenting, please email me! (susanna[at]susannhill[dot]com)  P.S.  Special Note: due to the chaos and power outages caused by Sandy, if you would like to enter but need a little more time to post, please let me know!  I will extend the deadline out to Friday if that helps anyone!

The Judge: my lovely assistant and I will narrow down the entrants to three (hee hee hee - you know how much trouble I have with only 3, so we'll see) top choices which will be posted here and voted on for a winner.  The vote will be added to Amy Dixon's guest post on Monday (because Amy needs Monday since her book is Marathon Mouse and Monday is the day after the NYC marathon (which will hopefully still be able to take place) but we also need to vote for a winner!)  Unless you all let me know by popular vote in the comments that you'd prefer a separate post on a day I usually don't post - Saturday or Sunday? or next Tuesday?

The Prize:  The winner will receive the INCREDIBLE prize of 5 (that's FIVE!) brand new picture books personalized and signed by the authors!  These 5 awesome books are: PUZZLED BY PINK by Sarah Frances Hardy, THE MONSTER WHO LOST HIS MEAN by Tiffany Strelitz Haber, THE THREE NINJA PIGS by Corey Rosen Schwartz, MARATHON MOUSE by Amy Dixon, and FLAP! by Alison Hertz.  Great to keep for your own collection or to give to little ones in your life as holiday gifts :)  The winner will also be incredibly famous and able to boast that he or she won The Halloweensie Contest... and that is not something most people can say! :)

Here is my official sample, cobbled together in the midst of Sandy.  If only she had been as benevolent as the story...

Sandy Candy

Bad weather brewed.
"Windy!" said Wanda.
"Stormy!" said Spellda.
"Halloweenie!" said baby Cauldra.
Just then the lights went out.
"Perfect!" squealed the little witches.  They grabbed their broomsticks and candy cauldrons.  "Let's trick-or-treat!"
"Sorry," said Mama Witch.  "Spook Radio just issued a Wild Weather Warning.  All broomsticks grounded.  I'm afraid we'll have to stay home."
"No candy?"  Cauldra began to cry.
"We can still have fun," said Wanda.
They played Pin-The-Bat-In-The Attic.  They sang Monster Mash and danced.  They told ghost stories by jack-o-lantern light.
The front door rattled.
Dad blew in, covered with...
"Candy!" shouted the girls.  "Happy Halloween!"
(99 words)

Here is the first sample I wrote which I'm including just for fun.  It originally had 2 other verses and totaled 176 words... too long!  This version is close though, with 116 words :)  What was I thinking?  100 words!  Ouch! :)

Topsy-Turvey Halloween

In a spooky old house perched perilously
On the creaky branch of a skeleton tree
Lived Emmeline Witch and her sisters three
But they weren't as happy as they should be.

Emmeline Witch wiped away a tear.
"I just don't get why year after year
no trick-or-treaters ever come here.
It totally spoils my Halloween cheer.

Emmeline tried to figure out why.
She puzzled and pondered, then gave a sigh.
"By Jingo, girls!  We're way too high!
The kids don't see us when they pass by!

Now Emmeline Witch and her sisters three
are the favorite stop on the Halloween spree,
the only house you'll ever see
that hangs like a bat from a skeleton tree!

So now, having comforted yourselves with how much better your stories are than these!, everyone please add your post-specific contest entry link to the list below, or paste your story into the comments!  I  CAN'T WAIT to read them!!!

Also, please let me know if you have thoughts about what day to post the vote!

Happy Halloween!!!
(Please be sure to check the comments for entries - already 6 there from Sidney, Linda, Patricia, Larissa, Adele, and Pam!)

October 29, 2012

Oh Susanna - How Do You Decide Which Blogs To Follow?

Batten down the hatches, all my fellow east-coasters!  In spite of the fact that I bought candles on Friday and filled the bathtubs with water this morning, the Frankenstorm appears to be coming anyway. I hope you are all in a safe place with plenty of batteries and chocolate and possibly your floaties and a rowboat!

To keep your minds off whether or not your basement is likely to approximate Lake Superior by tomorrow, let's dive in to today's Oh Susanna question, which is one that strikes a real chord with me, and I'm guessing a lot of you will feel the same way.

Penny asks, How in the world do you decide which blogs to follow regularly??? I would love to follow everyone! I would love to comment on all posts! But, if I do that, I have no time to do what I really love, which is writing! I read lots of blogs that I only comment on randomly, so the writer never knows that I read them often. We have become so connected by the Internet that I sometimes feel rude because I can't spend time with all my writing friends equally. Does anyone have a "qualifier" list for what blogs they will choose to best suit their goals? Do those who blog rely on comments to "keep them going"...or are you going to blog no matter what? Is anyone else as frustrated about this as I am? (I know you covered time management in one of your Oh Susanna! posts...but I think I need a refresher focusing on blogs.)

Yes, Penny!  I am definitely as frustrated as you are! :)

As Penny mentioned, we did discuss this a little in the Oh Susanna post on Time Management.  But I decided to post this more specific question because it's something I think  lot of people wrestle with every day (including me! :)), and I'm very interested in hearing from everyone out there about how they handle this issue.

I think the answer partly depends on what you hope to get out of blogging.  If you're trying to hone your craft, then you'll read a list of blogs that focus on craft and you might not need to comment unless you have a question.  This is a very different picture from that of someone who is trying to build a platform and will have to visit and comment on many blogs regularly in hopes of encouraging them all to follow back.

If you, like me, blog for community - for the connection, the interaction, the discussion, the feeling of being part of a group of like-minded people, the friendship - there's really no limit to how much time you CAN put in, which is where the problem lies.  And from the way Penny asked the question, I think this is at least partially what she's talking about.

This is a knotty problem, because we do develop friendships.  There is a large group of people out there who I am very fond of even though technically I've never met them in real life :)!  I feel guilty if a day goes by when they post and I don't have time to read, or I read but don't have time to comment.  I worry they'll feel slighted and think bad thoughts about me!

But let's face it: there are only so many hours in the day.  And most of us here have things to do besides blog :)

Just for fun, let's take a quick survey:




I'm very interested to see how these turn out!  And I have a feeling the results may be a very informational part of this post for all of us.  I hope a lot of people will respond.

If it helps to share concrete information, I'll tell you what I do: (and I will admit straight out that I DO NOT have the answer!)

The blogs I follow regularly belong, as a general rule, to writers, illustrators, teachers, librarians, and a few agents, editors, book reviewers, and mom bloggers - at least, those are the blogs I read with commitment.  (I confess there are a couple funny ones I read sometimes that don't fit into any of those categories :))  These are the people I share common ground with, the blogs where many of my interests lie, that also intersect with what I have time for.  (I would love to read blogs about horses and dogs and a few other things, but I simply don't have time, so for me blogging centers in a more professional area.)

I like having new posts delivered straight to my inbox, even though it fills up, because then I'm sure to see them.  Anyone whose blog does not include an email option is likely to get sporadic reading from me because I read so many that I tend to forget about some without the reminder.

I try to carve out a chunk of time at the approximate beginning, middle, and end of my work day to read and comment on blogs, but it is rarely that neat... reading and commenting on blogs feels deliciously like being productive at moments when the writing isn't going well which makes it a nearly irresistible distraction :)

I read an average of 30-40 blogs per weekday (fewer on weekends - I'm trying to cut back :))  I comment on an average of 20-25 per day, maybe a little more.  Chances are high that if you ever see comments from me (and you have an email option for delivery :)) I'm reading your blog all the time - every post.

As for comments on my own blog, they are very important to me.  They let me know that I'm not just shouting into the abyss - that I hopefully provide something enjoyable maybe sometimes even valuable on some level.  And I genuinely like hearing everyone's thoughts on everything.

Truthfully I feel like the amount of blogging I do is both insufficient and far too much.

Wouldn't it be great if we could agree on some sort of system?  So that we could spend a little more time on our actual work without worrying that our friends are feeling neglected and unloved?  Maybe an "I'm-Up-To-My-Eyeballs-But-I-Took-The-Time-To-Come-Over-Here-So-You'd-Know-I-Still-Love-You-Even-Though-I'm-Not-Reading-Or-Commenting-Today" button? :)

What works for one may not work for another, but it sure would be helpful to hear from you all about how you manage.  How do you decide who to read?  How much is enough?  Please share!!!

(And remember!  Only 2 days until the Halloweensie Contest!  Rules HERE!)

October 26, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday - Silence

Remember on Monday when I was feeling all flibbertigibbetty?

Well, I decided I'm not the only one who feels that way.  Life is crazy! :)  So for today's Perfect Picture Book I chose some balm for the flibbertigibbeted soul :)

Written & Illustrated By: Lemniscates
Magination Press, March 2012, Fiction

Suitable For: ages 3-8

Themes/Topics: listening, taking time to notice yourself and your world

Opening: "In the silence I can hear the waves crashing and the wind playing with my kite."

Brief Synopsis:  A child takes different moments of peace and quiet throughout the day, in different seasons, and in different locations, to see what the world has to say.

Links To Resources:  I think the best activity for this book is to do exactly what it says: listen!  What can you hear in the quiet of your room?  What can you hear if you listen quietly outside?  What do you notice when you take the time to absorb what's going on around you?  Try just being quiet for a few minutes :)

Why I Like This Book:  Let's face it - life is busy!  Even for kids.  This lovely, peaceful, quiet book reminds children and parents to pause for a few minutes, listen. and reflect.  The book is filled with lovely lines like, "In Spring, I can hear the bees loving flowers" and "When I listen I can hear  my feet when dancing my heart when running..."  This book may be as close as you can get to meditating with the under 6 set :)  I find it very peaceful :)

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

Since we're talking Perfect Picture Books today, let me just say that I'm pretty excited that the Perfect Picture Book book marks arrived this week!  They turned out beautifully!  I have the following packaged up and ready to send out to the wonderful people who are taking it upon themselves to help spread the word of our endeavors here:

Beth - 200
Vanessa - 100
Patricia N. - 100
Donna - 100
Darshana - 50
Kirsten - 50
Heather B. - 50
Laura M. - 50
Julie R-Z - 30
Kim Mac. - 30
Clar - 25
Penny - 25
Stacy - 25
Vivian - 25
Jennifer R. - 25
Joanna - 20
Pat - 15
Jarm - 15
Alison - 10

If you asked for book marks and don't see your name here, please let me know!  Saba and Amy both said they would like some but I need to know how many.  Vanessa, Patricia N,. and Donna - I'm happy to send you more if you need them - please let me know - but I only had 1000 to start.  ONLY!  I can't believe we used them ALL!

If anyone else would like book marks to pass around to local libraries, schools, teachers, parents, day care providers, preschools, etc., please let me know.  If you email your address and let me know how many, I'm going to order some more and I'll send them along!

And now, a quick reminder before the weekend, when some people might be able to find a few spare minutes to work on it...  The Halloweensie Contest is next week! - Wednesday October 31 to be exact!! - tons of fun and a great prize (as well as incredible fame should you happen to win :))!!!  So whip up those 100 words!  For complete details, please see HERE.  And can I just say, I don't know what's up with the weather, but after saying I hoped we wouldn't get 2 feet of snow that knocks out the power and the internet like last year, would you believe we have a HUGE storm predicted for Tuesday into Wednesday?  I am going to do my best to get the post written ahead (Stop that!  I hear you rolling around on the floor laughing!  I didn't promise, I said I'd TRY!) so that everyone will be able to add their links and such even if I can't get on to read.  By planning ahead, I'm hoping to scare the storm away altogether.  I am that powerful.  But in case the worst happens, we will still have our contest whenever the power comes back on!

PPBF bloggers, please add your post-specific links to the list below.  I can't wait to see what shows up this week! :)

Have a great weekend, everyone! :)

October 24, 2012

Would You Read It Wednesday #63 - Scooter Annie Braves The Hill (PB), Straight From The Editor #13, AND The Halloweensie Contest!!!

Holy Jack-O-Lanterns Batman!

Why didn't anyone remind me that I forgot to post the Halloweensie Contest Rules on Monday???!!!  Now we've got a gigantic post for today!  So that's it.  No chitchat!  We're getting right down to business!

First things first.  It's Would You Read It Wednesday, so grab your Something Chocolate!  Care to join me for some chocolate cheesecake?
Chocolate Cheesecake... YUM!!!
Photo copyright Stacy Jensen 2012 used by permission
You know, usually I can rationalize the chocolate into some form of acceptable breakfast, but this one eludes me.  Just enjoy :)

Now then.  Straight From The Editor for the September Pitch Pick, which you will recall was won by the lovely Elizabeth with her pitch for Buff The Magic Dragon.

Buff The Magic Dragon
Picture Book, ages 4-8
The Pitch: Buff the Magic Dragon is afraid of EVERYTHING. But when his magic trick-gone-wrong lands the baby Princess Ponypants in the tentacles of Captain Meanie Bones Jones, Buff must swallow his fear to save her. 

Here are editor Erin Molta's comments:

This is cute. I think it would work better if instead of saying “swallow his fear” you say, “overcome his fear”. Because when swallow is used it’s almost always about swallowing one’s pride and I think you’d rather have the connotation being strong. Then I think you might want to be a tad more specific about what fear he is overcoming. I know he’s afraid of everything but if he is to rescue Princess Ponypants(cute name!) from Captain Meanie Bones Jones, he’ll need to face that fear directly. So perhaps Buff must overcome his fear of  . . . eight-legged purple sea monsters or his fear of water in order to do battle with the Captain . . .

I don't know about you, but I always find Erin's thoughts very helpful!

Moving right along, we have today's pitch from Carrie who blogs over at Story Patch and who, if you've spent any time around here at all, you will recognize as the pitch doctor :)  She has an uncanny ability to take any pitch, keep what's best, and fix what needs help.  But it's always a different matter when it comes to your own work, isn't it?  So today she's asking for your help.  Let's see if she needs any :)

Working Title: Scooter Annie Braves The Hill
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-8)
The Pitch: When Annie gets a new scooter, she can’t wait to ride. She loves swooping down her driveway and gliding along the sidewalk. But if Annie wants to ride in the neighborhood parade, she must find a way to conquer her fears and tackle the biggest hill in town.

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

Carrie is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  And I am looking forward to presenting The Halloweensie Contest!!!

Are you ready?

What is that noise in the dark of night?

It's coming closer...

...and closer...

*dramatic Hollywood scream*  AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

It's the (2nd Annual!) HALLOWEENSIE CONTEST!!!!!

courtesy google images
The Contest:  write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (title not included in the 100 words), using the words witchbat, and "trick-or-treat".   Your story can be scary, funny or anything in between, poetry or prose, but it will only count for the contest if it includes those 3 words and is 100 words (you can go under, but not over!)  Get it?  Halloweensie - because it's not very long and it's for little people :)

Post your story on your blog on Wednesday October 31 and link up here (and I'm really hoping we don't get 2 feet of snow that knocks out the power and the internet this year!!!)  If you don't have a blog and would like to enter, you can simply copy and paste your entry in the comments section of the Wednesday October 31 official contest blog post that will go up here.

The Judge: my lovely assistant and I will narrow down the entrants to three (hee hee hee - you know how much trouble I have with only 3, so we'll see) top choices which will be posted here and voted on for a winner.

The Prize:  Okay.  Seriously?  I think this is a good prize :)  The winner will receive 5 (that's FIVE!) brand new picture books personalized and signed by the authors!  These 5 awesome books are: PUZZLED BY PINK by Sarah Frances Hardy, THE MONSTER WHO LOST HIS MEAN by Tiffany Strelitz Haber, THE THREE NINJA PIGS by Corey Rosen Schwartz, MARATHON MOUSE by Amy Dixon, and FLAP! by Alison Hertz.  Great to keep for your own collection or to give to little ones in your life as holiday gifts :)

Doesn't that sound like fun?  Last year this was the very first writing contest I ever had on my blog, and I think we got 8 entries.  I'm really really hoping we get lots more this year - it's fun, it's not too long (one might even call it short and sweet :)), it has to do with Halloween, which makes you think of candy, which is pretty much synonymous with chocolate... - so really, what could be better? :)

So get those thinking caps on - you've got a whole week to come up with a 100 word kids' Halloween story! (and I've already given your three of the words :) witchbat, and "trick-or-treat") - and, since I went and distracted you with the contest, everyone please remember to leave your thoughts on Carrie's pitch!

Have a lovely Wednesday, my friends :)

October 22, 2012

Monday Short & Sweet

I feel like a flibbertygibbet.

I don't know exactly what that is (or how to spell it :)) - something the nuns called Maria in The Sound Of Music :) - but that's what I feel like!

So today's Short & Sweet is going to be very short and sweet because I have a school visit and 47 million things to get done before I go (no, I am not exaggerating! :))
badge created by Loni Edwards

Pick one (or all if you're feeling ambitious :)) of the following actual openings of actual books (well, I changed some names) and write  3-5 sentences of your own story starting with that opening, AND/OR a brief synopsis of what your story would be about.  (I'm not telling you what books they're from because if you knew that might bias the direction of your story or, worse, limit you!)

1. "Ouch!" said Princes Amelia as she stabbed herself with the needle.

2. One day four big chickens peeked out the coop window and saw a wolf sneak into the farmyard.

3. Violet was a little white cat with bright green eyes.

4. "There she is!" Mandy whispered excitedly.  "She's coming back!"

5. Rocky and Blossom lived in a meadow on the mountain.

6. In the moon of the raspberries in a long time ago a baby sleeps, dreaming.

7. Cyrus Squirrel stood at the edge of the forest and cried.

Example: first 3-5 sentences starting with #7:

Cyrus Squirrel stood at the edge of the forest and cried.
His fur was wet.
His paws were cold.
He was hungry.
He was lost.
But worst of all, his brother Stewie and tricked him again!

Example: synopsis starting with #1:

"Ouch!" said Princess Amelia as she stabbed herself with the needle.
Synopsis: Princess Emmeline from the neighboring kingdom is coming to visit and Princess Amelia wants to impress her.  But Princess Amelia is not good at sewing.  She is not good at dancing.  Her table manners make the dogs look like royalty.  And no matter how hard she tries, her hair always seems to be messy and her gown always seems to have dirt on it.  How will she get Princess Emmeline to like her?

I hope you'll have fun with this!  Can't wait to see what you come up with!

Happy writing :)

October 19, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday - Sacajawea Of The Shoshone And a Few Extras!

As promised, today I'm excited to share Sacajawea Of The Shosone for Perfect Picture Book Friday.  If you didn't have a chance to read the interview with author Natasha Yim, please go HERE - I think you'll enjoy it :)  And I want to thank Natasha from all of us for taking the time to visit repeatedly, respond to people's comments, and answer with lots of additional very interesting information!  Thank you, Natasha!  After the Perfect Picture Book, I will announce the winner of the giveaway from Monday, so stay tuned :)

Sacajawea Of The Shoshone
Written By: Natasha Yim
Illustrated By: Albert Nguyen
Goosebottom Books, September 26, 2012, Non-Fiction

Suitable For: ages 9-12

Topics/Themes: American History, Sacajawea, Lewis and Clark Expedition, Native Americans, real princesses

Opening: "Clouds of dust swirled across the plains, kicked up by galloping horses.  Screams shattered the autumn air.  Arrows arced across the crisp blue sky, sprung from Shoshone bows...."

Brief Synopsis: From the book jacket: "One minute Sacajawea was picking berries and the next her Shoshone tribe was being attacked by another tribe. As she ran for her life, she was scooped up and taken far away from her village and family—and into history. When Lewis and Clark happened upon her living amongst a new tribe and chose her to accompany them, they greatly benefited from her skills as an interpreter and guide. From her mountain home to the banks of the Missouri River, over the majestic Rockies to the pounding waves of the Pacific, Sacajawea traveled farther than any American woman of her time."

Links To Resources: Shoshone Facts For Kids, make a map of the route Sacajawea took when leading the Lewis and Clark expedition, How To Draw An Easy Teepee, Goosebottom Books Resources (there isn't a resource listed yet for Sacajawea, but resources are listed for the other titles in this series so I expect a link will show up soon!) try a basket weaving or bead work activity.

Why I Like This Book:  As you know, this book is a bit of an aberration for me - it's a non-fiction picture book for older readers, and my usual choices lean toward fun fiction for fours and fives :)  The fact that I have chosen it as today's PPB is a testament to how much I liked it.  The text is clearly written and includes a lot of information I didn't know about Sacajawea and the Lewis and Clark expedition.  I especially loved the side bar type sections which gave extra interesting information about certain things, like the spelling of Sacajawea's name, what she ate, and how she got chosen for the Lewis and Clark expedition.  The art is beautiful - a combination of painting and photography that works very well.  And I like that this book is a title in the Thinking Girl's Treasury Of Real Princesses and includes a bibliography of sources.

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

Now that you TOTALLY want to read Natasha's book, I will announce the winner of the giveaway, which was randomly drawn at random by :)  And the winner is:
Congratulations, Vivian!

Natasha and I thoroughly enjoyed everyone's creativity and all the wonderful titles that were submitted, but she wanted readers to know that she especially loved:

What to Expect When You're Exploring with...White Men (Elizabeth)
Helping your Teens Deal with Mean Squaw Bullying Without Resorting to the Use of the Tomahawk (Delores)
Reasons Why You Should Always Let a Woman Lead the Expedition (Robyn)

I would add to that list my two additional favorites (because you guys know I can never stop at 3 :)):

Buffalo Again? How To Get Your Kids To Eat It Every Night (Coleen)
Nodding And Other Techniques To Make Your Travel Companions Think They Are Really In Charge (Katie)

You guys were all great!

I'd also like to announce that so many of you wonderful Perfect Picture Book bloggers have offered to spread the word far and wide about PPBF that I have ordered and will soon be mailing out to you, 1000 book marks!  Isn't that fabulous?  Thank you all for all the hard work you put into PPBF!  I think it's a great resource, something that serves people well and will also help make parents, educators, and publishers see the great value in picture books and the continued need to keep them coming!  Anyone who didn't ask for bookmarks yet but would like some, I have plenty so see me after class :)  (Let me know in the comments or email susann[at]susannahill[dot]com)

And, as if we weren't on fun-overload already, on a non-PPBF theme, I have to thank my sweet, four-legged friend, Cupcake, who bestowed the One Sweet Blog

and Super-Sweet Blogging Awards

on me.  I think she saw all the chocolate treats and donuts and other goodies that find their way onto these pages :)  I am truly honored to have been chosen by Cupcake who is one of my favorite people :) As you all know, I am truly terrible at awards, but I'll give this one a go because it involves dessert :)

The rules are, you have to:
1. Give credit to the person who chose you (the lovely Cupcake as mentioned above :))
2. Answer the 5 Super Sweet questions below and,
3. Nominate a Baker's Dozen (13 blogs)

1. Cookies or Cake? YES!
2. Chocolate or Vanilla? BOTH!  gosh, these questions are easy :)
3. What is your favorite sweet treat? Oh.  Not SO easy... Would it be cheating if I said cookiescakepie?  Yes?  Hmm... Well, I do love a really good oatmeal raisin cookie... :)
4. When do you crave sweets the most?  All day, every day :)
5. If you had a sweet nickname, what would it be?  Hmmm.... Superwoman doesn't really count as sweet...  How about Piecake?

Now, about those nominees, this is the part I really can't do because I love you all and hate to choose.  So consider yourselves all nominated.  (I know, taking the wimpy way out!)  But this time I do have one person who must be recognized because she is supplying us with sweet photographs of sweet food.  So Stacy Jensen, come on down!  I pass these along specially to you! :)  Oh, and someone else has had a very hard week in which her sweet tooth underwent root canal, so Robyn, you get special mention as well :)  Now that I think of it, Natasha was very sweet to visit so much and respond to everyone!  So Natasha, you get them too :)  So let see... how am I doing...
1. Stacy
2. Robyn
13. Natasha

I did it!  13!  A Baker's Dozen!

Phew!  That turned into a long post with lots of goodies, but hopefully pretty much fun too what with all the award winning and passing around!  PPBF bloggers, please add your post-specific links to the list below so we can all come visit you!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

October 17, 2012

Would You Read It Wednesday #62 - Dishing Up (!) (PB) And The September Pitch Winner

It's another wonderful Wednesday!  And we've got tons of Would You Read It fun lined up :)

But before we get to that, I just have to interrupt myself for one second and say how lucky I am that the nicest people in the world come over here every day!

You all participate so enthusiastically in whatever high jinx and shenanigans I've got going on.  So many of you have helped me with one hair-brained scheme or another out of the kindness of your hearts (remember Phyllis's World Tour?).

A number of you (and you know who you are :)) have recently gone above and beyond to help me with a couple of projects (more on those when and if they come to fruition!)

Whenever I need a talented illustrator or graphic designer (which is pretty much always because I am so bad at that stuff :)) I have only to holler - just look at all the gorgeous book marks and badges and story prompts that abound in this neck of the woods! :)

And then, as if all that weren't enough, Stacy took pity on me (and all of you) because of the Don't-Use-Images-Off-Google-Lest-You-Get-Sued debacle that has left my Would You Read It posts depressingly undecorated with chocolate.  She spent heaven knows how many hours baking amazing treats AND PHOTOGRAPHING THEM!!! and then sent me a whole file full of truly delicious pictures - that I am allowed to use! :) - to make your Wednesdays brighter and chocolate-r.  I am not making this up.  Look!!!
Peppermint Patty Brownie Cupcake
Photo copyright Stacy S. Jensen used by permission
Seriously!  Aren't you just drooling?

So I would like to ask for a big round of applause for Stacy!  Thank you so much for bringing beautiful chocolate back into our Wednesdays.  Really, I'm a little choked up :)

And a huge thank you from me to all of you for taking the time to come over here and join in the fun and support me in whatever crazy thing I've got going at the moment! :)  Please.  Have a cupcake on me!

So, okay, enough of that mushy stuff.  Now that we are suitably armed with Something Chocolate (YUM!), let's go!

First, I'd like to announce the winner of the September Pitch Pick.  It was a tight race!  Our new system of letting writers rework their pitches based on all your helpful comments is resulting in much-improved pitches across the board, making it very difficult to choose!  (Although it does also make it more exciting! :))  Anyway, the winner for September is
with her pitch for Buff The Magic Dragon!  Congratulations Elizabeth!  Especially because you now have the honor and distinction of being the first person in Would You Read It history to win more than one pitch pick!  (You all may recall that Elizabeth won the May pitch pick with her pitch for Magnificent about synchronized swimming elephants :))  Your pitch has been sent to editor Erin Molta for critique and I'm sure we'll hear from her soon!

I would also like to congratulate all the other pitchers - Tina, Vivian, and Catherine - for excellent pitches and for being brave enough to put their work out there for critique.  We all know it isn't easy!  So thank you for stepping up to the plate... or maybe it should be stepping onto the mound :)... although somehow that doesn't sound very good... like maybe something that should be in Catherine's story :)

Anyway, 2nd grade bathroom humor aside, it is now time for today's pitch!

Today we have a pitch from Brenda.  Brenda says, "I am a somewhat average gal, not to tall, not too round, not too young or too old.  I am not outgoing, yet I am definitely not an introvert.  My works include:
-Meeting Myself, Snippets from a Binging and Bulging Mind (about bulimia and me)
- Heartfelt-366 devotions for common sense living
- God, Gluttony & You (a Bible study)
- The Big Red Chair ( a story book for grieving children.)
Writing gives me a way to look at my life and recognize how far I've come.  If you really want to know what I am thinking, read my Daily Devotionals.

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Dishing Up (!)
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 3-8)
The Pitch: Squabbles and food fights break out when invisible guests show up at a family dinner table.

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

Brenda is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  And I would like to sneak in a quick word from our sponsors before you go.  Have I reminded you lately that the Halloweensie Contest is coming up soon?

I haven't?

Well then, the Halloweensie Contest is coming up soon!!!!!

As you all know, I'm a last-minute kinda gal, so I haven't yet decided exactly what the contest will be...  but it will be on Wednesday October 31 (Halloween!!!) replacing WYRI that day, and it will be a children's story of some type (aren't they always? :)) and it will be tons of fun and there will be good prizes!!!  So put on your halloween thinking caps so you'll be all ready to start writing when I put up the official contest announcement... hmmm.... maybe Monday!

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone :)

October 15, 2012

Meet Natasha Yim - Children's Author (Plus A Giveaway!!!)

Today I am thrilled to be hosting Natasha Yim on the 4th leg of her blog tour for Sacajawea Of The Shoshone.  Let's jump right into the interview, shall we?  It's a little long (I apologize - but there are extra cinnamon sugary cider donuts to help sustain you :))  I think you'll find it very interesting, and I didn't want to break it in two because it would have required an extra post on a non-posting day.  Your reward?  (Aside from the extra donuts...)  If you read to the end you can have some fun and there's a chance you could win a signed copy of Natasha's brand new book!

...which, BREAKING NEWS!!! was just nominated for the ALA's Amelia Bloomer Project (Feminist Books For Youth List)!!! (which I happen to know about because Punxsutawney Phyllis was on that list, so Sacajawea is in good company :))  Congratulations, Natasha! :)

Natasha Yim

       SLH: Welcome, Natasha!  Thank you so much for joining us today!  Can you tell us a little about your writing beginnings?

NY: My love of writing began when a 7th grade English teacher gave us an assignment where we had to create our own island and make up names of lakes, mountains, forests, villages etc. and weave a story around it. It was so much fun, I was immediately hooked and I’ve been making up stories ever since. I kept several journals and wrote in them daily. I also kept notebooks where I wrote poems and short stories. My Mom knew of my interest in writing and she was very supportive. She encouraged my creative expression, sometimes reading my stories and offering comments, but mostly just letting me write.

       SLH: What was your first published children’s book?  Tell us about the moment when you got your first offer!

NYOtto’s Rainy Day (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2000). For some reason, Charlesbridge was the only publisher I sent this manuscript to (maybe it was because they wanted exclusive submissions at that time? I can’t remember), but I sent it out and went on to work on other things. The guidelines said they would respond in 3 months. 3 months went by and nothing happened. At the 6 month mark, I received my SASE back. I could feel my heart dropping thinking this was a rejection letter. It wasn’t. The letter said they were really backlogged and hadn’t gotten to my manuscript yet, and to be patient because they will read it—eventually. I remember thinking how nice that was. Usually, you just don’t hear from publishers unless they reject or accept your work. At the 9 month mark, I received a phone call from the editor. I was soooo excited, thinking this was it. This was THE call. It wasn’t. The editor had called to say they were still really backlogged and were catching up on reading manuscripts and that she promised I’d hear from them soon. After my initial disappointment, I thought “Now, that was really nice of them”. Usually, publishers don’t bother to call unless they want your work. Finally, one year after I submitted the manuscript, I got a call from the editor who told me that they wanted to publish my book! My heart leapt into my throat, I was so excited but I had to limit my exuberance because they had called me at work. I did tell my co-workers and allowed myself a few “woo-hoos”. And I did tell my husband who was my boyfriend at the time. My family lived overseas (my parents in Hong Kong and my sister in Australia) so I had to wait until I got home to tell them.

SLH: How did you go about doing the research for Sacajawea Of The Shoshone? Was there anything different or interesting about getting the art for a historical type book?

NY: There weren’t a whole lot of adult books on Sacajawea. Mostly, she gets a mention in books about Lewis and Clark. However, there were quite a few books about her in the juvenile section of the library, so I read about six books on her and browsed about a dozen websites. I found a really good Shoshone website that gave a very comprehensive overview of Sacajawea’s life plus interesting information like the meaning and spelling of her name.  The internet is great for immediate access but you have to be careful about the information on there as there are a lot of misleading information out there, so I did a lot of cross-referencing with books. The publisher and art director are the ones who are responsible for the visual layout of the book including the illustrations.  It’s one of the unique features of the Goosebottom Books books that they use a combination of real-life photographs and illustrations. For photographs, you have to get permission from the appropriate people and get permission to use the pictures, and all that was handled by the publisher. There is also one illustrator for each series so that the books in that series has a uniform look. The Real Princesses series is illustrated by Albert Nguyen, so when Sacajawea was added, he naturally became the illustrator for this book.

SLH: What surprised you the most when you were writing Sacajawea of the Shoshone?

NY: Though Sacajawea has often been mistakenly labeled as the expedition's "guide" and her name only comes up about 8 times in the Lewis and Clark journals, her presence on the trip was nonetheless invaluable and without her, the expedition could have failed at several points. Not only was she instrumental in providing food for the Corps of Discovery; she gathered edible plants and roots to supplement the game they hunted or in place of game if it was scarce, she patched up and made new moccasins for the men as they were continuously being ripped up by the rough terrain, she saved most of Lewis and Clark's important instruments and documents when the boat in which she was riding almost capsized, she prevented other native tribes from attacking them because the presence of a woman and a baby indicated that the Corps was not a war party, and as the only Shoshone language speaker, she successfully negotiated for horses that helped the expedition cross the Rocky Mountains. Sacajawea's contributions have left an indelible stamp on the history of the American West. Today, there are three mountains, two lakes, and twenty-three monuments named after her, yet her tribe, the Shoshone, are still fighting for Federal recognition. That, to me, is not only incredible, it's outrageous!

SLH: What has been the most challenging thing you have faced as an author/illustrator?

NY: Everything about writing is hard. It’s hard work to make your story as perfect as possible before you send it out. It’s really hard getting the attention of someone who likes your story. If you’re lucky enough to be offered a contract and get your book published, getting it the attention it deserves and the marketing and promotion of it is challenging. But I think for me, the most challenging part was getting over my fear of public speaking and realizing this was something authors had to do. Only this year did I start to agree to assembly-type school visits but having done a few of those, it’s not as bad as I thought it would be, although all the ones I’ve done, I’ve done with another author. It might be a whole other level of anxiety if I have to do assemblies alone.

 SLH: Do you do school visits?  Would you be kind enough to briefly describe your program/presentation?  What is your preferred age range and group size?  Do you have materials available for parents/teachers to go along with your books(s)?

NY: I do do school visits. The kind of program and presentation depends on the age groups, the needs of the teacher, and the book I’m promoting. For example, sometimes the teachers have been working very closely with their students on practicing writing and editing their work so they’ll want me to talk about my writing process. I’ll show them my edited manuscripts with all the mark ups so they can see good writing takes work and practice. If I have it, I’ll show them the original manuscript and then the final accepted one, and read passages as a before and after comparison. For larger audiences like assemblies, I like to use power point presentations because kids tend to be more engaged with visuals. I do a little intro of myself and show pictures of me as a kid, my kids, my p├Ęts, my workspace etc. I can also show slides of the page excerpts I'm reading and the illustrations which are easier to see on a large screen. For individual classrooms, I'll sometimes conduct writing exercises. For the biographies, I'll have the kids pair up and "interview" each other then write a biography of their partners from their interview notes. For younger kids, I have coloring pages and sometimes the teacher or librarian and I will come up with related activities. For a recent library event, I presented Cixi, The Dragon Empress and we had a Chinese fan making activity. Every age group can be fun but I love the 4th to 6th graders. Not only are they the age group for the Cixi and Sacajawea books but they're the most engaged and the most engaging. They always ask such great questions. You can access and download my school visit program at:

       SLH: What advice do you have for authors/illustrators just starting out?

NY: Keep writing and keep trying. Editors and agents have such different tastes. Just because you get rejected by one doesn' t mean the next one won't love your work. My upcoming book Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2014) was rejected by several publishers. Author Richard Bach once said, "a professional writer is an amateur who didn' t quit."
Natasha's work space (which, incidentally is a LOT neater than mine :))
       SLH: Can you give us any hints about what you’re working on now?

NY: I have a couple of middle grade/YA projects in the works and a picture book manuscript.

       SLH: Do you attend writer’s conferences?  Enter contests?

NY: Yes. I' m a conference junkie. I  LOVE writing conferences because I always learn so much and I get to network with other writers. I rarely enter contests though just because I don't really have the time.

SLH: Any marketing tips?  What have you done that has worked well?

NY: This is in line with a recent question I received on my blog from Amanda J. Harrington who asked, “What is your best marketing strategy for building up a following on line?” I promised to provide a link to whoever posted a question on one of my blog tours. So, here it is: Please hop over and check out Amanda’s site.

My marketing tip is that every writer has to do some of it. How much or how little will depend on your comfort level and how much time you can afford. I have a blog, Facebook , twitter, Pinterest. I do school visits, book festivals, public speaking engagements. But it's really difficult to gauge how effective each aspect of marketing is because there is no measurable yard stick that tells you if you do a, b & c, you will sell x amount of books. However, what I do know is that people can’t buy your book if they don’t know it exists. To answer Amanda’s question, in terms of building up a following on line, here’s what I’ve learned:

1)   When I first started my blog, I posted things about my writing life, my home life, how I juggled that with writing, any meagre successes I encountered. But here’s the thing: nobody wants to hear or read about you talking about yourself all of the time. My blog began to feel...well...a little self-absorbed. So, I started incorporating things that I think might be of interest or useful to other people, especially writers, such as interesting writing conferences or retreats, writing tips I’ve gleaned from other sites or articles I’ve read. And now I’ve included a Friday Features segment on my blog that is purely devoted to interviews with other authors. It’s been great fun and I’ve learned so much from the authors I’ve interviewed. Come check out interviews with Deborah Halverson, Linda Joy Singleton, and coming up soon, Gennifer Choldenko (

2)   I see this on Facebook groups all the time: “Come read my new blog post.” or “Check out my new blog.” and my question always is “Why?” Generic announcements like this don’t entice me out of my busy schedule to go look at somebody else’s blog or blog post. I have to give credit where credit’s due. Elizabeth Stevens Omlor, the lovely hostess of the fabulous blog, Banana Peelin’: Ups and Downs of Becoming a Children’s Writer ( which features different writers talking about their slips and embarrassing moments on their way to publication, would post upcoming blog posts with teasers such as, “This week we have Cori Doerrfeld, the author/illustrator of one of my family's favorite reads, LITTLE BUNNY FOO FOO! She reveals her experience managing deadlines after the birth of her first child.” So, if I was a writer with young kids at home and struggling with time management, I might be really interested in what Cori had to say about this.” I think this is a very effective way to attract readers to your blog and I do this now. I’ll find something in a blog post that others might find interesting or useful  and mention it in my announcement. For example, for my interview with author and editor Deborah Halverson, I mentioned that she would share tips on the YA market trends and how she started her popular blog. I’ve had quite a few visitors over to read her interview. The Banana Peelin’ blog will be blog stop #7 for the Sacajawea of the Shoshone blog tour on Oct. 23. Stop on by for my top secret blog post. Shhh...
3)   Comment on other people’s blogs or Facebook postings etc. Don’t make it all about you. Congratulate others on their successes, ‘like’ the posts you enjoyed, exchange information. The key word in social networking is “social”.
4)   I have a Facebook fan page for Cixi, The Dragon Empress and Sacajawea of the Shoshone. In addition to posting events and book information, I’ll post interesting tidbits about the characters—Cixi’s six inch long fingernails, for example, or a video of the Shoshone Love song on Sacajawea’s page. It makes the pages more fun and interesting.

I don’t know how much of a “following” I have, but my blog has seen an increase of about 4,000 page views since January when I focused on making it more interactive and informative.

        SLH: Where can we find you?
        NY: You can connect with me on my:


       You can find my books at:
       Your local bookstore
       or purchase it at Amazon
       Signed copies can be purchased from Goosebottom Books

Just for fun quick questions:

Left or right handed? Right
Agented or not? Agented: Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary
Traditionally or self-published? Traditional
Hard copy or digital? Hard copy
Apps or not? Not
Plotter or pantser? A converted Plotter. I used to be a pantser, but now I like having some sort of road map to go by.
Laptop or desktop? Laptop
Mac or PC? Oh definitely Mac
Day or night worker? Day, 5 am. to be exact
Coffee or tea? Coffee in the morning and early afternoon, tea in late afternoon and evening
Snack or not? Throughout the day, unfortunately
Salty or sweet? Mostly salty unless you offer me Lindt’s Dark Chocolate
Quiet or music? Quiet but I’m trying nature sounds to tune me into writing my book rather than doing other things like social media, email or marketing stuff
Cat or dog? I’m a dog person but right now we have two cats
Currently reading? LA Meyer’s Bloody Jack Series, my friend Jody Gehrman’s “Babe in Boyland”

If you'd like to read previous stops on Natasha's tour, please visit:

Oct. 3 — Frolicking Through Cyberspace Blog,www., guest post on public speaking
Oct. 8 — The Writer's Block on Raychelle Writes,, guest post, "The Journey of a Lifetime"
Natasha, thank you so much for joining us and being so helpful with all your answers!

And now!  The moment you've all been waiting for - the chance to win a signed copy of Natasha's gorgeous and informative book (I have it, so I can attest to how interesting it is and how beautiful the art is!)

You know me.  I like to make things fun :)  So here's what you have to do to earn a chance to win Sacajawea Of The Shoshone:

In the comments, please answer the question "If you were Sacajawea, what would you have written an article/advice column about?"

Here are a few examples to get your minds in gear...  :)

"Dress Up Your Teepee: Creative Decorating With Buffalo Hide"
"365 Recipes For Corn!"
"5 Subtle Ways To Let Your Traveling Companions Know It's Time For A Bath!"

You get an entry for every article/advice column suggestion :)  (And OK, if you want to be boring serious you can :))

But if you're not feeling creative at this hour on Monday morning I don't want to penalize you.  If you can't think up an entertaining article, you can just say why you'd like to win the book :)

I can't wait to see what you guys come up with!  Comments must be entered by Tuesday October 16 at 11:59 PM EDT.  Winner will be drawn at some point on Wednesday or Thursday when I have 5 seconds free by and announced on Friday along with Perfect Picture Books, which, I'm warning you in advance, will be Sacajawea Of The Shoshone, so don't anyone else plan on doing it :)

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