November 30, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday - First Snow (And Some Other Odds And Ends!)

Well, you guys are in for it today!

After several brief (for me) posts in a row, I've used up my ability to be short-winded and I have so much to tell you today I can't even believe it.  I'll try to be succinct :)

First, my Perfect Picture Book, because I like that to be at the top on Friday.

First Snow
Written & Illustrated By: Kim Lewis
Candlewick Press, 1993, Fiction
Suitable For: ages 4-8

Themes/Topics: kindness, helping others, friends, pets, farm life, beloved toy, loss

Opening: "Wake up, Sara," whispered Mommy.  "Daddy's not very well today.  I'm going to feed the sheep on the hill.  Would you and Teddy like to come?"

Brief Synopsis: To help Daddy, Mommy and Sara and Sara's bear, Teddy, go up the hill to feed the sheep.  It's a long climb, and while they're up there, the first snow of the year begins to fall.  Hurrying to get home before they can't find their way, no one notices that Sara's beloved Teddy has been left behind.

Links To Resources: The Working Sheep Dog (video), Sheep Herding Demonstration (video), Fun Sheep Facts For Kids, Facts About Border Collies Talk about what you could do for someone that would be nice or help them in some way.

Why I Like This Book:  I love that whole story takes place because Sara and her mom are trying to do something nice for Daddy.  As they hike, you can feel the steepness of the hill, the cold air, the first tentative snowflakes followed by the real snow.  For children who may never have been out in the real country, the book gives them a taste of it.  The sense of wanting to get back to their cottage pulls the reader along, but on the whole it's a fairly quiet book.  The art is gorgeous.  It's drawn in colored pencil and the little cottage where Sara's family lives is so warm and inviting, and the vistas of the English hills so lovely it makes you want to step right into the pages of the book.  The sheep are beautiful, the border collies exceptional.  But maybe the thing I love most about the book is the understanding it shows between a child and her pet.  It is not Mommy or Daddy or Sara who recovers Teddy :)

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

Next, two things that kind of go together.  When Beth asked to interview me about Perfect Picture Books I was happy to do it to raise awareness of this resource that we all work so hard on (and because Beth is nice and I like her :)) but I never in a million years expected the kind of response we got.  So I wanted to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your wonderful comments.  They meant so much to me.  I really can't find words to tell you how much... which is bad for a writer!  But it was an unexpected gift for which I am truly grateful, and it just makes me value this wonderful community even more.  I wasn't kidding when I said I was going to print out that post and stick it on my wall to read on days when I feel low :)  So thank you.

In the same vein, Randy over at Author In Training very kindly gave me the Addictive Blog Award.
In addition to linking back to him (and I hope you'll go visit him if you haven't because he does great writing prods and is currently writing a YA novel that you get to read a bit of every Friday and just has an all around great blog!) I am supposed to list 10 blogs I am addicted to.  But I can't list only 10.  Especially after being reminded Wednesday of just how wonderful you all are.  So consider yourselves all recipients, and feel free to take the award badge and post it on your blog!

The next item I wanted to mention is that tomorrow, December 1 (a Saturday so I don't post) marks my 2nd Blogiversary!!!  I can't believe it's been 2 years.  I have had so much fun here, getting to know you all and dragging you into all my hair-brained schemes!  Anything that's good about this blog is good because of you, so please give yourselves all a big pat on the back and a round of applause!  Some confetti would be nice, too.  And of course, I think we should serve Something Chocolate, even though it's not Wednesday :)  I would also like to give you A PRESENT!  Of course, I'd really like to give you ALL a present, but I don't have the resources, so two (that's 2!) lucky random commenters today will receive a packet of 5 assorted hand-drawn greeting cards by our own superbly talented  Tracy Campbell!  Here's a little sample:
copyright Tracy Campbell 2012 used by permission

copyright Tracy Campbell 2012 used by permission

copyright Tracy Campbell 2012 used by permission
Aren't they gorgeous?  Please click on the link to her blog and explore and you can see many other cards!

Second to last (see? there's a light at the end of the tunnel :)), I wanted to let you all know ahead of time about a special PPBF.  At the suggestion of Pat at Children's Books Heal and Vivian at Positive Parental Participation, on Friday December 14, which is the anniversary of the date in 1954 that the UN General Assembly recommended there should be a Universal Children's Day, we are going to be doing our part to raise awareness of the plight of children around the globe and to promote the welfare of children in the world by posting books which focus on multicultural/multiracial issues, human rights, and/or children who have helped to change the world in some way.  For example, Pat plans to post the picture book version of The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind.  Beatrice's Goat and Wangari's Trees Of Peace are other examples of books in this category (although they're already on our list.)  Please join us if you'd like to!  But of course, if you've already got a book in mind and would like to post a regular PPB that is fine too - all picture books are for children :)

FINALLY (here we are! this is the end!) I'm hoping to post the rules for the Holiday Contest on Monday.  Of course, that will depend on whether I make up my mind about what it's going to be by then :)  But here's hoping :)

That's it!  Go forth!  Run free!  Go see all the wonderful picture books that have been chosen this week!  And have a GREAT weekend! :)

(PPBF bloggers, please remember to add your post-specific link below!  And don't forget, 2 lucky commenters will win beautiful cards, and the winners will be chosen totally by and not at all based on how nice the things you say about me or my blog are :))

November 28, 2012

Would You Read It Wednesday #67 - Surprises Await (PB)

Wait until you hear this!  I have reached new heights of fame!

Why, you ask?

Because today I am a guest at By Word Of Beth, the wonderful blog of the lovely Beth Stilborn.  I am so honored that she invited me, so I hope you all might find a minute or two to go and visit her!  (Just, if you go now, don't forget to come back here and help Katie with her pitch - remember, we have chocolate over here :))

I don't know about y'all, but after a festive Thanksgiving week, I find myself quite behind in my work!... and it only promises to get worse as Christmas approaches!  So I have decided not to fight it.  I'm going to go with the flow and do the best I can and not worry.  (Well, okay, if we're being honest, that's pretty much impossible - who do I think I'm kidding? :) - but I'm hoping if I write it down maybe I'll convince myself :))

How's everyone else doing?  Are you all abreast of your work or are you like me - always playing catch up? :)

Just thinking about everything on my to-do list today is making me feel a little peaked.  I think it's time for Something Chocolate!  May I offer you some chocolate turtle cookies?
photo copyright Stacy Jensen 2012 used by permission
And shall we have a look at our pitch?

Today's pitch comes to us from Katie.  Katie writes picture books and MG novels, is a puppeteer! (how cool is that?!), and is a stay-at-home mom to her 2 yr. old daughter and 5 yr. old son.  She can be found at her Website, or at A Life Spent Reading, the blog she writes with her critique partner.

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Surprises Await
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 3-7)
The Pitch: The trip to Grandma's house takes forever. Time drags on, and there isn't enough to do, until a seven-year-old boy discovers an amazing sight. Beautiful hot air balloons fill the sky. Suddenly, this trip may not be so boring after all.

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 Katie 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!

Katie is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  And I am looking forward to checking at least a few things off my to-do list!

Have a great day, everyone, and if you didn't click over to Beth's yet, take a cookie for the road and head on over :)

November 26, 2012

Oh Susanna - What About Copyright Infringement?

Happy Monday, Everyone!

I hope you all had wonderful Thanksgiving weekends!  Did anyone get a Christmas tree yet?  I saw a surprising number of cars with trees up on their roof racks, and while I love having a Christmas tree I know better than to get one this early.  I have a bad habit of forgetting to put water in the the stand, so our trees have a tendency to dry up rather faster than one might hope.  If we got one a whole month head it would look exactly like that tree in How The Grinch Stole Christmas by December 25th... you know... a bare dried up brown thing with no needles whatsoever :)

So how exciting is this?  We've got an Oh Susanna question today!  It feels like it's been ages!

Here's the question of the day:

Oh, Susanna, lately there has been a lot of talk about bloggers putting pictures (not their own pictures that they have taken, but images found on sites like Google) on their blogs. But I have seen some picture books read in their entirety on YouTube with each spread visible. Isn't this really chancy, too? Does this break copyright rules? Or does an author feel that this is a wonderful form of advertisement for their books?

I have to say, this is something I have wondered too, because I have also seen picture books on YouTube in this form and I simply can't believe it.  My knowledge of law is not as extensive as you might think, given that you can't swing a cat in my family without hitting a lawyer :) (my grandfather, both my parents, and one of my brothers are all lawyers!)  I don't think any of my contracts specifically say it is against copyright to read the book aloud and show all the pictures in a YouTube video, but the message of most contracts, whether they're that specific or not, is quite clear.  The general idea is NOT to give away the book you worked so hard on and that the publisher spent a lot of time and money producing.

And make no mistake, that is what you're doing.  If you read a picture book in its entirety and show all the pictures in a YouTube video you have given away your book (or someone else's should you happen to be reading a book that's not your own.)  Where is the incentive for anyone to buy the book if they can view it whenever they want for free?  I would think that was a serious copyright infringement, far worse than posting a single picture you don't own.

By making a book available in this way, you are potentially taking away someone's royalties and cutting into their sales numbers.  You are sharing something that isn't yours to share.

In answer to the second part of your question, although I as an author would be flattered if someone liked one of my books enough to share it in this way, I would be very unhappy and hurt if someone were to do it.  The only entity that would have the right to do something like that is the publisher, and they would have no reason to.

I'd be very interested to hear from everyone, though, what you think about this.  Is it okay to make videos such as those described above?  Would you feel like you were doing the author/illustrator a favor, or celebrating the book, or helping in some way?  I'm looking forward to the discussion, because maybe I'm wrong...!

Have a great day, everyone! :)

November 23, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday - Gone Riding

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Mine was lovely, and since my kids are all out of school and I have family visiting, I am doing the unthinkable and taking the day off.  I know.  Shocking and shameless :)  But if you want me, this is where I'll be:
Gone Riding :)
(yep that's me and my borrowed steed, Velvet - thank you Nancie :))
Come join me if you like :)

Anyone who managed to get their PPBF post done in this hectic week, please add your post-specific link to the list below and we will all come visit.  Including me... as soon as I get off Velvet and give her a carrot... or two :)

Have a great weekend everyone! :)

November 21, 2012

Would You Read It Wednesday #66 - Dim Sum Dog (PB)

Happy Day Before Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Given that even I am busy cleaning and cooking (I know - the mind reels at the concept because you all know how I feel about those "c" words :)), loving having my kids home, and preparing for more family on the morrow, I'm sure you are all very busy too, so we will keep today's post very brief!

Although we normally indulge in Something Chocolate right about now, our lovely Stacy has prepared these delightful and festive Turkey Cookies (as in looks-like- a-turkey, not made-out-of-turkey because that would probably not taste very good :)) which seem very appropriate for Thanksgiving.  So grab a few...
photo copyright Stacy Jensen 2012 used by permission
... and something to wash them down with (cider sounds good, doesn't it?), and let's jump right into today's Would You Read It!

Today's pitch comes to us from Larissa, a writer in Hawaii, mother of two kids, college minister, and blogger at The Larissa Monologues (speaking of good recipes, which we weren't exactly, but definitely go check it out! :))

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Dim Sum Dog
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-8)
The Pitch: A man and his wife are about to close their beloved yet deserted dim sum stand. But when they discover a clever, dim sum-loving dog at their doorstep, maybe the stand can be saved after all.

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 Larissa 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!

Larissa is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  And I am looking forward to having so much of my family together over the next few days!  Remember, anyone who is too busy for Perfect Picture Books this week, don't worry!  We'll see you on the 30th :)

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!  I hope you all enjoy some lovely time with your families and have as much to be thankful for as I do :)

November 19, 2012

The Idea Behind The Story - Clara Bowman-Jahn Author Of Annie's Special Day

Happy Monday Everyone!

One quick thing before we get to our post: for anyone who participates in Perfect Picture Books on Friday, I know this is a busy week and lots of people (including me) will be busy with family Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  PLEASE don't feel like you have to participate this week if you're too busy!  I have a feeling a lot of us are going to be in that boat, so have fun, enjoy your families, and don't feel like you have to show up if you're having a little time deliciously free of the internet! :)  We'll all still be here next week :)

Okay!  That's the business.  Now for the fun :)

Today we have a special guest post from Clara Bowman-Jahn.
Author Clara Bowman-Jahn
She is doing a mini blog tour, posting on different aspects of the writing and production of her debut picture book, Annie's Special Day.
Annie's Special Day is available at eTreasures and Amazon
And she's going to share with us where she got the idea for the story!

So without further ado, here's Clara!

How I got my idea: from idea to story.
I was lying in bed one day in May with a terrible fever, but the sounds of the birds were ones of beauty and magnificence.  From about four AM to Seven AM the birds just blew my mind. It seemed like every hour some different bird sang their song. Singing back and forth while courting their mates is so melodious and awe-inspiring I still get up and don both my hearing aids just so I can hear it.  And it was in all around sound. One further away would sing to one closer in and back again.

I wanted to record them somehow. I didn’t have a tape recorder. I thought of the character Annie and how a little girl heard something beautiful every hour like I did with the birds. First the crows then the more musical birds come, like chickadees and warblers, the smaller ones. They were right next door in the trees near my bed. I could hear them through the open window.

I figure it was one of the harder things I’ve done in my life to write down what I heard every hour that morning while sick and feverish, but it turned into a children’s book. And that is something pretty terrific.

The specific words “Annie heard (something) every hour” has been edited out of the book. The editor thought it slowed down the action and that it was passive writing so now there is just an activity, an adventure, every hour that Annie sees and does. “Annie’s Special Day” is a basic concept book about time and clocks with Annie having a birthday slumber party and staying up all night. It’s about family and friends. "Annie's Special Day" is a cheerful read without much plot but a book of recorded enthusiastic activities and fun.

That fall I took a writing project class and finished my book. But the main person I can say supported me and taught me how to revise and rework my book was my kindergarten teacher sister.  She read over more rewrites than I can remember and showed me how to make something out of the book. Then the next person who made the book a beauty was my illustrator, Claudia Wolf. She really took the character of Annie and made a little girl from her. She brought the book to life.

Then the whole other story of what came after I got that contract was my husband who finished what the publisher couldn’t. Because when you are the first children’s book in a small press the story doesn’t end there. The entire format, the text embedding, and the size of the book have to be done for them.
My husband, my hero, did all that. He enlisted the help of a writer friend, who also holds a print shop, Sue Walls, to show him what needed to be done and which computer tools he needed, and he did it. He transcribed my e book to a print one. If anyone is interested I’ll send his written explanation of all he did to you. To me what he did is no small miracle.

And along with being my biggest support he does the grunt work for me. Without his effort there would not be a print book. And when he asks if it were worth it? He easily says yes. And so do I. I love my book and am having fun marketing it.

What has your process been? From idea to story? I would love to hear in the comments.

Thanks so much, Susanna for inviting me to be a guest on your blog. This post marks the end of my blog tour hosted by my blogging buddies. 

And I know you won't want to miss any of the other posts, so... :)

At Pat Tilton's Children's Books Heal: a book review and Q&A with Clara about “Annie’s Special Day” on November 12th
At Joanna Marple's Miss Marple's Musings: the illustrator story from Clara’s side on November 14th
At Stacy Jensen's Writing My Way Through Life: author Clara Bowman-Jahn’s publishing story on November 15th
And finishing up on Clar's Blog: a post from “Annie’s Special Day”  illustrator, Claudia Wolf on November 20th 

Annie's Special Day is available at eTreasures Publishing and Amazon.

Thank you so much, Clar, for joining us and sharing your inspiration.  Readers, if you have questions or comments, I know Clara will be checking in and will be sure to respond!

Author Clara Bowman-Jahn

Clara Bowman-Jahn worked as a registered nurse for thirty two years finally trading that job for her true love, writing. Clara’s short  stories have been published in the anthology of the “Campaigner’s Challenges 2011” Book.

When Clara is not writing, she does volunteer  work for a local elementary school and her church. She also likes taking long walks with her husband, blogging, and reading books. She is a member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Pennwriters, Bethesda Writer’s Center and Round Hill Writer’s Group. She lives in rural Loudoun County, Virginia with her brilliant husband, and two cats. She is the proud mother of two wonderful grown sons and a grandmother to a delightful grandson. 

November 16, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday - The Pirate's Parrot

In case you're wondering, I had a lovely chat with Santa on Wednesday at the Brick Church Holiday Fair in New York City and you are all on the Nice List!  (So you can breathe a sigh of relief - I know some of you were a little worried that all that chocolate might have tipped the scales, as it were, to the Naughty side, but you're good :))

I also sat next to a pile of Jamie Lee Curtis's books - but not, as it turned out, Jamie Lee.  (She probably heard she'd be sitting next to a groundhog and a sheep, not to mention a relatively unknown author, and that violates some clause of her appearance contract.)  But her illustrator, Laura Cornell, was happy to sit with us and she was delightful!  I was very glad to meet her and have her company for the three hours or so that we were in attendance.  I did not take any pictures because I wasn't kidding when I told you this was a fair of epic proportions.  We're talking Park Avenue glitz.  I was afraid you might sustain eye damage from all the glitter :)

Anyway, look how far down the page I am without a single mention of Perfect Picture Books!  That just proves how dazzled I was from that fair - I haven't recovered my senses yet :)  But now... it's time... for Perfect Picture Books!!!  (I'm feeling the need for theme music - anyone want to sing?)

The Pirate's Parrot
Written By: Lyn Rossiter Mcfarland
Illustrated By: Jim Mcfarland
Tricycle Press, March 2004, Fiction

Suitable For: ages 5-8

Themes/Topics: pirates, doing a job well, defying the expected, being different

Opening: "When Captain Cur's parrot died, he thud-thumped and tapped on his wooden leg all night long until his crew thought they'd go mad.
Then at dawn, he tap, tap, crunched!
"Mr. Bellows!" he roared.  "I've stepped on me monocle!"
Quartermaster Bellows rushed to his captain's side.
"I have no bird," snarled the Cur.  "I have no monocle.  Me near vision's a blur, and me mood is bad and getting worse.  So what are you going to do about it?"

Brief Synopsis:  The First and Second Mate are dispatched to solve the problem, but they make a slight error... the parrot they bring back is actually a teddy bear.  Unwilling to face the Captain's wrath, the crew tell him it's a parrot (and without his monocle he can't see well enough to tell the difference!) and they teach the bear to be a pirate's parrot.  Not until they board the Sea Weasel, ship of the dreaded pirate Captain McDagger, do they find out what a good job they did!

Why I Like This Book:  To start with, it has pirates in it, and I love books with pirates :)  But beyond that, how can you not love a book where a scurvy crew puts one over on their Captain by giving him a teddy bear instead of a parrot because he can't see well enough to tell the difference?  And then names said bear Barr and teaches it to swagger and squawk, swashbuckle and spit.  This book carries a message of believing you can do a job well even if you're not the usual type of person (or animal or thing) to do it, but it's also just plain, flat out fun!  And Barr's got another secret as well... but you'll have to read the book to find out what it is :)

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

Now, since last week's Friday post was long, you are excused early today :)

Please join us Monday when Clara Bowman-Jahn shares the story of the idea behind her debut picture book - Annie's Special Day!

And PPBF bloggers, please leave your post-specific link in the list below so we can all come see what fabulous books you've selected this week!

Have a GREAT weekend, everyone! :)

November 14, 2012

Would You Read It Wednesday #65 - How The Bull Lost His Feathers (PB)

Busy day ahead, boys and girls!

Princess Blue Kitty (my car, if you didn't happen to be around this summer :)) and I will be driving to the Big Apple for the Brick Church Holiday Fair, which is always an extravaganza of epic proportions!  Me, Phyllis, Woolliam, Santa - what could be more fun??? :)  Personally, I can hardly think of anything :)

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood but very cold this morning, and I am feeling significantly under-fueled for this weather, so let's dive into something chocolate, shall we?  How about....
Photo copyright Stacy Jensen 2012 used by permission
... mmmmm... some Rocky Road Cookie Bars!  They look sustaining, don't they?! :)  Also just exactly like what your mother would approve of for breakfast :)  (Rocky road, by definition, includes nuts, and nuts have protein which equals healthy breakfast - see how that works?)

All right.  Everyone feeling energized?  Let's start by announcing the winner of the October Pitch Pick!  Announcing winners is such a cheerful fun thing to do!  And the winner is...

Carrie! with her pitch for Scooter Annie!

Carrie, your pitch has already been flung through cyberspace to editor Erin Molta, and we will all await her words of wisdom with great anticipation!

Onward to today's pitch which comes to us from the lovely Kim.  Kim is "Mama" to a wonderful 8-year-old with multiple nicknames, wife of a genius, and has switched careers numerous times in her short (ha!) life. She has been passionate about picture books since her first encounter with Dr. Seuss, though it has taken her decades (don't ask) to realize that writing them is something that she can probably do for the rest of her life.  She writes a wonderful blog over at Kid Lit Dish and is a regular participant in PPBF.  She would love it if you'd like to follow her on Twitter or like her on Face Book!

Here is her pitch:

Working Title:  How The Bull Lost His Feathers
Age/Genre: PB (ages 4-8)
The Pitch: What, you say?  Bulls don’t have feathers?  Well, long ago, they did.  This is the fable of how one bull lost beautiful peacock-like feathers for himself and his descendants… forever. (Hint: It’s also why the color red will always make a bull’s temper flare.)

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 Kim 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!

Kim is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  And I am looking forward to a fun-filled author visit at the Brick Church Fair and hanging out with Santa!  If you're in NYC, stop by! :)

November 12, 2012

Monday Short & Sweet - Winter Is (Not) Coming :)

Happy Monday, Everyone!
badge created by Loni Edwards

I'm not going to beat around the bush.

I'm just going to come right out and say it.



Here it is:

I saw a completely black woolly bear.

I am not kidding.

Now, I know all about woolly bear folklore... the whole 13 segments, one for each week of winter (OK, well, that's just hogwash - around here we definitely have more than 13 weeks of winter!), and how a lot of black at the front means early winter will be harsh, and a lot of black toward the hindquarters means the end of winter will be harsh (and if you don't know which end is which, well, you're just going to have to figure that one out on your own :)), and generally you want a nice wide band of brown because the brown means mild.
Pyrrharctia isabella 001 So I'm thinking an all black woolly bear is either a true pessimist, or is having a Halloween trick on us a bit late (or just hasn't changed out of his Dementor costume yet), or really likes dark chocolate and is campaigning for world wide recognition of a National Dark Chocolate Rules Day.

I think I'd like to vote for number 3 :)

But I do not think it is a harbinger of a serious, cold, snow-filled winter, because unlike our friend the black woolly bear, I am not a pessimist :)

(I also really like the word harbinger... it's fun to say!  But I digress...)

Now that I've come up with a very clever way to sneak in a picture of a woolly bear because I think they're really cute AND we're all on the same page about how we will most certainly not be having a Little House In The Big Woods type of winter, let's warm up with something Short & Sweet, shall we?

Remember (because it's been a couple weeks and you might have forgotten) - Short & Sweets are meant to be fun and quick.  No agonizing!  Just write!

Okay, ready?


Pick a holiday, any holiday.

Of course Halloween, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, National Deviled Eggs Day (no I did NOT make that up - it's November 2 - you can check!), Kwanzaa, Make Your Own Head Day (November 28th if you've never celebrated before) etc. are clearly foremost in our minds right now, but I hope some of you free spirits will dance to your own tune and pick National Gum Drop Day (February 15) or Easter or Look Up At The Sky Day (April 14), or maybe Sidewalk Egg Frying Day (the lesser know July 4th holiday) or Ear Muff Day (March 13) :)


Got your holiday?

Write down the name of your holiday.

Now, write down
 - something you see on that holiday
 - something you smell on that holiday
 - something you hear on that holiday
 - something you taste on that holiday
 - something you touch on that holiday

Then write down the name of the holiday one last time.

Guess what?

You just wrote a holiday poem!

And maybe it will be even more than that and give you a great idea for a story!  (Or at least your PiBoIdMo idea for the day if you're participating in that festival of inspiration and frivolity as I most certainly am!)

I'll give you an example.  Remember... short... sweet... off the top of our heads here (because let's be honest - I used up most of my available time rambling on about woolly bears :))

Delicate ribbons of tinsel shimmering silver and gold
Spicy pine breathing the outside in
Joy To The World singing clear to a starry sky
Bright peppermint, cool and sweet, and
Peace On Earth warming every heart

So, are you ready?  Get set...  WRITE!!!

Please share your holiday poem in the comments so we can all admire them and become inspired for a whole week of great writing!

Also, if you have a word you love to say (like harbinger, or maybe Terpsichore or multitudinous, please share that as well! :))

I can't wait to read your Holiday poems!  I hope someone picks Race Your Mouse Day (May 28th)!

(P.S. I will announce the winner of the October Pitch Pick on Wednesday during Would You Read It!)

November 9, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday - Marathon Mouse AND Giveaway Winner AND Hallloweensie Contest Winner!!!

It's finally Friday!  Hooray!  That means I finally get to show you Marathon Mouse!  Also, I will be announcing the winner of Monday's giveaway signed copy of Marathon Mouse at the end of the post (I know - so much excitement!) so stay tuned!

Oh, and there is one other thing... halloween related... :)

But first things first, and you know the Perfect Picture Book always has to go at the top of Friday's post.  Those are the rules.  And the person in charge around here made the rules so I really have to follow them :)

Marathon Mouse
Written By: Amy Dixon
Illustrated By: Sam Denlinger
Sky Pony Press, October 2012, Fiction

Suitable For: ages 3-8

Themes/Topics: Running, Marathons, Goals, Believing In Yourself, Determination

Opening: "Every New York City mouse dreamed of living under the bridge bewteen Brooklyn and Staten Island.  There, they didn't have to dodge taxi cabs or escape hungry sewer cats.  And when they wanted to visit, the bustling city was just a hop, skip, and a scamper away.  But there was one day each year that their life under the bridge was not dreamy..."

Brief Synopsis: Preston Mouse lives beneath the Verrazano Bridge and dreams of running the New York City Marathon.  "Mice were not made to run," says Papa.  "A mouse could get crushed," says Mama.  "You? Run 26.2 miles?" his sisters tease. With this lack of faith, Preston trains secretly, but train he does because he believes he can do it.  At least, he wants to try.

Links To Resources: Teacher's Guide from author's website.  Also I think reading this story gives an excellent opportunity to discuss with kids what they dream about - what do they think they can do?  what do they hope to accomplish?  Younger kids can draw pictures of themselves working toward or achieving something that matters to them.  Older kids can write a story about it.  Discover Marathon Kids.  And a little about the first marathon and some related activities HERE.

Why I Like This Book:  Ah, so many reasons :)  First, it's really well written, a captivating story told with gentle humor and warmth.  Second, this is the only picture book I've ever seen about running/marathoning, so it's a new, fresh topic and one I think kids will love.  Third, I don't think there can ever be too many books that encourage kids to work hard toward something that's important to them, believe in themselves, and follow their dreams.  Finally, when Preston gets out there to run, I dare you not to cheer him on, and I think you'll be surprised and touched by how the story ends :)  And seriously, how cute is this little guy? :)
Preston Mouse from Marathon Mouse by Amy Dixon & Sam Denlinger
For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

And now that you're all just desperate to own a copy, I'll tell you who won Monday's giveaway :)  And I would just like to say that I so enjoyed reading about all the things you guys have accomplished (which was what you had to tell us to qualify for the drawing) - what an amazing group!  If you didn't happen to read the comments from Monday's post, hop over and have a look - you're in impressive company over here!  But I digress... :)

Cue the trumpets!

The winner of a signed copy of Marathon Mouse is...

(who it just so happens rode a camel to the top of Mt. Sinai and after sunrise walked all the way down! which is not why she won the book - that was just - but I really thought you should know! :))

Please email me (by using the handy button on the side or by actually, physically, manually typing in susanna[AT]susannahill[DOT]com) and tell me your address and (never mind, Jarm - I have it from the PPB book mark mailing!) how you'd like Amy to sign it, and we'll get it straight out to you!

So, have a nice weekend everyone!


Oh, you think I forgot something?

Tee hee :)

Okay.  You twisted my arm.  I'll tell you who won the Halloweensie Contest.  And let me just say - it was quite the nail biter!  But the voters have spoken!

And the winner is...

Oh.  I guess we better have trumpets AND a drum roll this time.

Okay.  The winner is...

Wait!  Maybe we should also throw some confetti, wouldn't that be nice?

Okay, really.  The winner is...

Cake, anyone?  Something festive and Halloween-y?

Okay, really and truly.  The winner is...

Julie with Hallow's Eve!!!

Congratulations, Julie, for a fun story that even included the term halloweensie!!! and was artistically presented in the shape of a cat :)  (At least, it looks like a cat to me, but I suppose it could be a halloweensie mouse :))  Julie, you are the lucky recipient of the 5 signed picture books from our generous and talented fellow authors.  You will receive Marathon Mouse by Amy Dixon, The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz, Puzzled By Pink by Sarah Frances Hardy, Flap! by Alison Hertz, and The Monster Who Lost His Mean by Tiffany Strelitz Haber!  Please email me and let me know how you'd like them signed and we'll all get on the case :)  You are also the distinguished recipient of the incredible fame that comes with winning a contest of this caliber.  You can now hold your head high and proudly tell everyone you see that you won the Halloweensie Contest!  Not just anyone can say that!  (In fact, at the moment, only one other person in the world can say that - Cathy who won last year :))  Fame, I tell you! :)

Second place and a $25 Amazon gift card goes to Laura R for Jack O'Lantern!

Third place and a $15 Amazon gift card goes to Nancy for Halloween Drives Me Batty!

Congratulations to all the winners!

But I'd like to say again how fabulous ALL the entries were, and congratulate everyone who entered.  You all did a great job, and I know how hard it is to put your work out there, so BRAVO!!!  I know I speak for everyone when I say how much we all enjoyed reading ALL the entries!

And here's a little heads up.  I'm not running the Thanksgiving Contest this year.  I think it's just too much with everything else going on in November and having just finished the Halloweensie Contest.  But I WILL be running the Holiday Contest during the week of December 19-24.  And I'll tell you right now that there are 5 (that's FIVE!) Picture Book Manuscript Critiques up for grabs to the winners of that contest!!!  And maybe some other good stuff too!  So start thinking holiday thoughts.  Make some notes.  And be sure to keep your calendar open enough to participate!  The reason there are 5 fabulous prizes is because we got so many entries for that contest last year, which gave me the impression (possibly misguided :)) that it was popular.  So I hope people will enter, and please spread the word to anyone you know who might be interested.  I will post the contest rules in the first week of December... hopefully... :)

Okay.  Now for real, go have a nice weekend :)  PPBF bloggers, please remember to add your post-specific link to the list below!

November 7, 2012

Would You Read It Wednesday #64 - A Banshee Birthday (PB), And Pitch Pick #14 (October)

Well, my goodness!  This has been a busy week so far, hasn't it?

I apologize for the extra post yesterday, and thank everyone who took the time to read and vote for their favorite Halloweensie Contest entry.  If you haven't had a chance to vote yet, the running is VERY tight and we need all the votes we can get, so please go HERE!

And speaking of voting, we've had so much of it this week!  Voting for the president... voting for the Halloweensie Contest... and now voting for the October Pitch Pick winner.  Truly, I feel a little weak, and I suspect you may too, so I'd like to offer you all a restorative chocolate cake pop :)
Photo copyright Stacy Jensen 2012 used by permission
Very festive, don't you think?  And orange-y and yellow-y for post-Halloween scrumptiousness :)  And as we all know, if it's cake, it's breakfast (milk, eggs, grains, need I say more?)  Hmm... I like that!  I think it should be my new motto:  "If it's cake, it's breakfast!"  (and you have to say it in the voice of a Saturday morning cartoon narrator, you know, like "Not far outside the city, the evil scientist, Simon Barsinister, was up to no good!"!)

Now that we are thusly fortified, here are the revised pitches from October, presented for your voting pleasure.  Enjoy reading the new and improved versions and then please vote for the one you think deserves a read by editor Erin Molta.

#1 Linda
Alpha Bitty (PB ages 4-6)
A special tree stands on Wordy Hill. It doesn’t sprout apples or oranges but letters, from A to Z. All year Wind, Rain and bright Sunshine, have helped the letters grow strong, but how can they pick them? Alpha Bitty comes to the rescue and together the friends share the letters near and far so new stories may blossom.

#2 Sidney
Phantom And The Boneyard (MG)
The Phantom awakens to find himself separated from the other airplanes in his squadron and relocated to a military "boneyard" in the Arizona desert where retired aircraft are used for spare parts. But Phantom isn't ready to retire. With the help of new friends, he starts plotting his escape before he, too, ends up in permanent storage with his "eyes" wrapped shut.

#3 Brenda
Dishing Up (PB ages 3-8)
What could possibly go wrong when Dan Platter, Kay Gravy Boat and Amy Gravy Boat take over the kitchen!

#4 Carrie
Scooter Annie (PB ages 4-8)
Annie loves swooping and gliding on her new scooter. Nothing can stop her…except the hill at the end of her street. Now, if Annie wants to ride in the neighborhood parade, she must find a way to tackle that big hill – without getting hurt in a big way.

Please vote by Friday November 9 at 11:59 EST!

And now for today's pitch from the lovely Heather (who you may remember from that gorgeous dragon painting we all enjoyed so much for the Summer Send-Off Contest - helpfully linked in case you want to go look at that picture again!)  Heather is an artist, writer, wife and mom living in the woods of Maine. When she's not scribbling away at her desk, she's busy exploring, learning and generally raising a ruckus with her family. You can find her at her blog or her website.

Working Title: A Banshee Birthday
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-8)
The Pitch: Ailbe wishes she had some friends to invite to her birthday party, but it's tough finding girls willing to attend a nocturnal banshee celebration. For those girls brave enough to say "yes" and stay awake past bedtime, Ailbe has many secrets of the night to share

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 Heather 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!

Heather is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  And I am looking forward to a lovely day in which there will be sunshine and temperate temperatures and certainly NOT what the weather man is calling for which I will not repeat here because this is a kid-friendly blog and the weatherman is tossing about a four-letter word that begins with S!

See you Friday for Perfect Picture Books and the winner of Amy's giveaway for Marathon Mouse!

Have a fun-filled, snow-free day! :)

November 6, 2012

The Halloweensie Contest Finalists - Vote For Your Favorite!!!

The time has come, the walrus said, for the Halloweensie Contest Finalists to be revealed!!!

I can just feel the very air quivering with excitement!!!

Let me just say that I was bowled over - by both the number and the quality of the entries!!!  I NEVER expected a turnout like this!  I was so happy at the response and enthusiasm - really it was just wonderful!  I had SO much fun going around to read each new entry as it was added to the list - each better than the last.  I hope you all had as much fun with it as I did.

Now, I realize I said I'd try to narrow the field down to 3 finalists, but you all know I can pretty much never do that anyway :) and that was before I knew there were 38 entries!  And in this case there were so many great entries that cutting any of them was brutal!  So after much hemming and hawing and gnashing of teeth and consulting with my lovely assistant, I have ruthlessly done away with more than 75% of the competition - much as it pained me! - and have left you less than a quarter to choose from (and that's just as close as we're going to get to correct percentages because math is not my thing!)  And I'd like to say right up front that many of the entries that were cut I was EXTREMELY nitpicky about because I had to cut something!  They were all excellent!

I also decided that since there were so many entries I should give a couple more prizes.  So while the winner will still receive the fabulous 5 signed picture books, 2nd place will receive a $25 Amazon gift certificate, and 3rd place will receive a $15 Amazon gift certificate (which was the best I could think up on short notice!  If anyone has a better idea, let me know :))

So, with GREAT FANFARE, here are the finalists!  They were chosen on the basis of kid appeal and quality of story within 100 words - tough criteria.  Please read through and then vote for your favorite by Thursday November 8 at 6 PM EST.  In the interest of trying to help you be objective they are listed by title only - no author names for now (though of course if you have photographic memories and remember who wrote what I can't help with the objectivity :))

I would also like to add that, for spookiness/creepiness, Renee ('round the moonlit town) and Sidney (The Last House) should receive honorable mention.  And for the other 2 stories that I finally cut because I decided 10 finalists was just too many and these were a little more like character sketches than stories but still really, really good, honorable mention to Cathy (The Halloween Queen) and Lauri (No Trick-orTreating For Jack).  But really - excellent job EVERYONE, and thank you all for providing us with such fantastic Halloween entertainment!

#1 Sneak-a-Sweet

There was a little witch
who kept a little bat
high upon the top
of her little pointy hat.

Every Halloween
when she would trick-or-treat,
the little bat would swoop right down
and grab an extra sweet.

The bat knew this was sneaky,
impolite and , yes, uncouth—
But when your home’s a witch‘s hat
you MUST tend her sweet tooth!

#2 The Witches of Fairy Top Hill

On Halloween eve up on Fairy Top Hill,
A trio of witches, Pam, Tamsin and Lil,
Were practicing magic and chanting out loud,
“Bat-candy, bat-candy…rain down from that cloud!”
“Kaput! and Kabob!” Pam invoked with a shout
The sky quickly filled with a hover of trout.
“Kibosh! and Pish-posh!” Tamsin yelled with finesse.
A chorus of frogs joined the fish-slippy mess.
Then bold Lil spoke up, “This is Trick-or-Treat night,
And children get candy and Turkish delight.”
Costumed as young children…with treat bags to fill,
The trio went guising, Pam, Tamsin and Lil.

#3 The Little Scaredy Witch

Chloe was a scaredy witch. She was scared of bats, jack-o-lanterns, and most of all, costumed trick-or-treaters. Her sister Mavis told her, “Don’t be a scaredy witch! You’re supposed to be the one scaring people on Halloween.” With Halloween days away, Chloe worried about the trick-or-treaters who would visit. Maybe she would hide until Halloween was over. She found a sheet, and draped it over her head. Mavis walked in and screamed. "You frightened me!" said Mavis. Chloe suddenly felt braver with her sheet. So on Halloween night, she wore the sheet and happily greeted trick-or-treaters at the door. “Boo!”

#4 Witch Party

The wee witch is very excited,
her pointed toes quiver with glee.
Today is the day
all the ghouls come to play.
This night will be super spooky. 

Bent tree branches scratch at the windows,
carved pumpkins do flicker and scowl.
Dry leaves fly and swirl
as the bats start to whirl,
cold wind swoops around with a howl.

Her cauldron glows green as it bubbles,
the wild creatures party all night.
No one on this street
dares to come trick or treat.
They're all in a shivering fright.

#5 The Scariest Halloween

     Ghost heard an eerie sound. 
     He trembled beneath his sheets.
     Ghost froze. "It's probably just a bat," he said.
     He hid behind the curtain and peeked out his window. 
     Princesses, fairies, and superheroes roamed the streets singing, "Trick or treat!"
     "How could I forget?" said Ghost.
     He called Mummy, Skeleton, and Witch.
     "It's Halloween!"
     They dashed out of their house.
     "Boooo," wailed Ghost.
     "Muahahahaha," cried Mummy.
     "Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah!" chattered Skeleton.
     "Ack-yak-yak-yak," shrieked Witch.
     They scurried to the streets, running amuck until they reached their hiding place.
     A banana whizzed by them.  "This is the scariest Halloween ever!" said Ghost.

#6 Hallow's Eve

#7 Halloween Drives Me Batty

Winifred stared at the calendar, “It’s Halloween!
Unimpressed, her black cat, Ebony, turned away and returned to slumber.
“I know witches are supposed to like Halloween.  But I don’t.  Halloween drives me batty.  I never want to hear  “trick-or-treat” again.” 
Winifred grabbed her Spell Book and turned pages, “No . . . No . . . Not a chance . . . Hmm . . . Maybe . . . No . . . YES!” 
Winifred chanted as she tossed ingredients into her cauldron: 
Eye of Newt, Hair of Dog, Wing of Bat

Just for today . . . turn me into a Cat!
Winifred padded over to join Ebony for a cat nap, and purred, “Better catty, than batty.”


Jack O’Lantern was an orange-headed kid
With a very round face, a stem on his lid.

On Halloween night, Jack met an old witch.
He begged for a spell and presented his pitch.

“I want to trick-or-treat like a regular boy
In spooky attire.  I love Almond Joys.”

Jack guzzled her brew, full of bat wings
And all sorts of other odd, horrible things.

“Jack?” Joe asked.  “You’re as white as a ghost.”
"A witch threw a pumpkin. I thought you were toast!”

“My pumpkin head’s gone! I feel….BOO!” Jack haunted.
“Turning into a ghost was not what I wanted.”

I know!  Tough choice, right?  We need all the votes we can get!  Ready, go!

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