Nancy Churnin Will Write for Cookies PLUS CONTEST WINNERS







Most of you know how much I love critique groups. For me, they are one of the most important elements in a writer’s life. They support, encourage, inspire. They keep you sane…they keep you company…they keep you on track. I’m thrilled to spotlight one of my favorite critique buddies as today’s Will Write for Cookies guest of honor. Nancy’s got a lot of inspiring words for us today…and when the post is finished…we will announce the WINNERS of the #50PreciousWords Contest. By the way, I was overwhelmed by the amazing level of participation and enthusiasm for this little writing challenge. Thank you all!

Nancy is a native New Yorker (me, too!) and a lover of baseball who is happy to call Dallas her home. Go Rangers! She’s the theater critic for The Dallas Morning News and a graduate of Harvard University, with a masters from Columbia University School of Journalism. (and now when I have a question, I know who to go to for the answer) She lives in North Texas with her husband, Dallas Morning News arts writer Michael Granberry. Between shows and story deadlines, they’re raising four sweet boys and two crazy cats.

I was thrilled when Nancy’s book debuted and a couple of weeks ago, I did a Perfect Picture Book Friday post:



Welcome, Nancy! Thank you for joining us today.

ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?



There are so many! I was enthralled with C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and remember going on a hunt to track down hard to find titles like The Silver Chair. I read everything by Louisa May Alcott, I reread Frank L. Baum’s The Wizard of Oz numerous times. I also loved J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, all things Dickens (but especially A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield and Oliver Twist) and Mark Twain (particularly The Prince and the Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn). Also, I could never get enough mythology; I loved reading about Greek, Roman, Norse mythology, the King Arthur legends and any and all fairy tales.


ME: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started writing for children?


I wish I knew at the start what a wonderful, supportive writing community there is for children’s book writers if you will only reach out and make contact. In the early years I enjoyed my writing as my private escape. I had no idea that I could have both that wonderful escape into another world and friends with whom I could share the wonder of that work and get help in making it better and, ultimately, publishable!

ME: Where do you like to write/draw – inside, outside, a special area in your home, on the computer, in a notebook? And when do you find time to write?


I like to write inside and with my trusty laptop any room will do. Sometimes I sit at my desk in my bedroom. Other times I will lie down in bed and write. Sometimes when I am stuck, pen and paper will help get me going. I can’t go on too long writing things longhand, however, because my penmanship can be too challenging for me to decipher, particularly if I’ve been thinking faster than my scribbles.


ME: When during the day (or night) are you most productive? Do you set a schedule for working or do you write/draw when the muse speaks?


I will write whenever I have time or inspiration, but my best time is usually the morning when my mind is fresh and free of distractions and deadlines that rain down during the day.


ME: Why do you write for children?


I love children. They are the purest form of humanity, the essence of what it is to be human. Children are honest and open to ideas. They are like the rich soil of Narnia at the beginning of its existence in The Magician’s Nephew, where a metal rod takes root and grows into a streetlamp. If you gift them with a book that introduces a fresh idea or way of looking at themselves and the world, you can feel, hear and see seeds taking root and flower in unexpected, beautiful ways.


 ME: Nancy, do you have any other tips you’d like to share with aspiring writers? And thoughts for parents, educators, and librarians?


 Dear Writers, always write the story you must tell, the story that you believe with all your being must be told, the story that fills a void or emptiness in the world. Books can be written to sell, but they probably won’t last or stir anyone’s soul. If you write what truly matters to you, it will matter to others.

Dear Parents, Educators, Teachers and Librarians, I will never forget that the only reason I even heard of Narnia was because once upon a time, a librarian recommended The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe to me and I overcame my skepticism and turned the first page of a story with a long, odd title. That book was my wardrobe into a magical world.  Yes, books can take us on incredible journeys of the heart and the mind, but without you wonderful guides, who knows if new generations of children will find their way to the wardrobe or have the courage to push open the door.

THANK YOU A MILLION! Nancy, this was terrific!

Dear Readers…if you would like to find out more about Nancy and her book:

Twitter: @nchurnin

Facebook: Nancy Churnin Children’s Books


Now I know you’ve all been waiting for the sweet treat ending to the Will Write for Cookies post…and you won’t be disappointed because Nancy’s brownies are to die for.


Melt 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup) and cream with 1 cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in two eggs, one at a time. In a separate bowl, mix 1/2 cup whole wheat flour with 1/3 cup cocoa, 1/4 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt. Mix dry and wet ingredients together. Grease the bottom of a rectangular baking pan with oil. Pour in brownie mixture. Add 14 dark chocolate chips if desired. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a knife in the brownies comes out clean. Cool and enjoy!


So now that you have your brownie and maybe a cup of hot chocolate, it’s time to announce…the winners of the #50 Precious Words Contest. I just want to say how amazing all of your stories were. I was honored to read and enjoy each one. I met so many new writers…and was happy to see entries from many old friends as well. Congratulations to all who participated…there were a total of 128 beautiful stories. You were on fire…some of you wrote several, just for the challenge and the fun of it. And that, my dear friends, is what this whole crazy journey is about!

I’m using some of the parameters I learned from all of the fabulous writing contests the lovely Susanna Hill has held. I take my hat off to her…and to every editor and agent who has to turn away a really good manuscript. Believe me, you guys did a FABULOUS job. Each story had something that made me want to keep it in the running, but in the end, I did have to make some decisions that I admit, are entirely subjective. So if you don’t see one of your favorites among the finalists, I apologize. THIS WAS TOUGH! I wanted to give out 128 prizes! These were the rules:

  1. Kept to the Word Count: For this contest – 50 words or less.
  2. Kid-friendly for kids 12 years old or younger.
  3. A story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
  4. A well-written story that engages the reader.
  5. I added another requirement: a story that I enjoyed reading out loud over and over again.

The prizes will be awarded as follows…first place winner gets to choose first. It’s possible the first place winner already has an agent and has already taken Kristen’s class and might pick one of the books…you never know. Then second place picks next from the prizes that are left. And so on. Please email me at or PM me on Facebook if we are connected. I will then get in touch with each of the winners in turn to tell you what prizes remain.

Here are the prizes:

  1. A seat in Kristen Fulton’s Nonfiction Archaeology Class…many thanks to Kristen for this generous prize!
  2. A critique of a manuscript by my fabulous agent, Essie White…many thanks to Essie…someone is going to be thrilled!
  3. A mini-critique from yours truly…picture book manuscript preferred, either rhyming or prose, fiction or nonfiction.
  4. A copy of Miss Moore Thought Otherwise by Jan Pinborough.
  5. A copy of The William Hoy Story by Nancy Churnin.
  6. A copy of Kissed by an Angel Anthology (11 middle grade stories edited by Robyn Campbell – one of my stories is in there).
  7. A copy of Lucky Draw Anthology (50 middle grade stories edited by Sally Odgers – one of my stories is in there).
  8. A copy of Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking by Vivian Kirkfield.
  9. The Book Lover’s Journal – A Personal Reading Record to keep track of the books you read.
  10. Copy of Llama Llama Wakey-Wake by Anna Dewdney (board book).
  11. Copy of Get Crafty: Special Occasions by Vivienne Bolton (full color hardback – great crafts for various holidays).
  12. Mini book: Qi Gong – The Energy of Harmony and Healing.
  13. Mini book: The Embrace – A Treasury of Romance in Word and Image.
  14. Mini book: Love One Another – words and illustrations by Joan Walsh Anglund.
  15. Mini book: Silver Palate Desserts.


In FIRST PLACE: Little Tiger by Julie Abery

In SECOND PLACE: Stay or Go by Shari Schwarz

In THIRD PLACE: Catch a Bird by Maria Marshall

In FOURTH PLACE: I Did It! by Cathy Stenquist

In FIFTH PLACE: Anything But Broccoli by Jodi McKay

In SIXTH PLACE: Toes by Janet Smart

In SEVENTH PLACE: Kitchen Drawer Drama by Katelyn Aronson

In EIGHTH PLACE: Cat’s Revenge by Jean James

In NINTH PLACE: Rainbow Treasure by Sara Gentry

In TENTH PLACE: Honu Waits by Stephanie Shaw

In ELEVENTH PLACE: The Masterpiece by Shelley Kinder

In TWELFTH PLACE: Run Chippie Run by Debbie Vidovich

In THIRTEENTH PLACE: Doggie Delight by Janie Reinart

In FOURTEENTH PLACE: Bear’s First Spring by Jess Townes

In FIFTEENTH PLACE: A Ride in the Car by Lauri Fortino


I hope this contest was as much fun for all of you as it was for me. I am absolutely positively without a doubt going to make this an annual event here on Picture Books Help Kids Soar. You all made my first real contest a BIG success…I couldn’t have done it without all of you, blogging about it, tweeting about it, posting it on Facebook…and entering your wonderful stories. THANK YOU!

Here is the link to the post with all of the contest entries:

Have a wonderful weekend!

About viviankirkfield

Writer for children - Reader forever Mom of 3, educator, author of SWEET DREAMS, SARAH (Creston Books, 2018), picture book junkie, lover of travel, hiking, cooking, playing Monopoly with my 8-year old grandson and fly-fishing with my husband.

Posted on March 19, 2016, in #50 Precious Words Contest, Uncategorized, Will Write for Cookies and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 48 Comments.

  1. Maria Marshall

    Wow, congratulations to all the winners and to everyone who wrote a story in 50 words. A great accomplishment. Wonderful brownies Vivian, thanks. And thanks for a really fun tournament.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The brownies look great, don’t they, Maria? Maybe next year we’ll have a dozen homemade brownies as a prize…now that is something I would like to win! I’m glad you enjoyed the contest…every minute was a joy and a pleasure for me…until I had to start picking the winners. It was one of the hardest nights of my life. But I’m so glad I did the challenge…and humbled by all of the incredible stories. It brought together many many many talented writers. 😉 And I loved Catch a Bird. Margaret Knight was also one of my favorites. Yes, there needed to be 128 prizes I think. 😉


  2. Wow…. Congratulations to all! I am positively ‘chuffing’ with excitement 🐯. Thank you, Vivian, for having the great idea of the 50 word contest and the brownies were delicious! It has been so much fun reading all the fabulous stories!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The best thing about the contest, Julie, other than getting to read all of these amazing stories, was getting to meet a whole bunch of writers I had never even heard of before. Like you! I’m glad you enjoyed reading the other stories…I loved Little Tiger and would be honored to read it to my grandchildren, over and over again.


  3. Wow, Vivian, you had a big job, whittling down all those entries. Congratulations to all the winners. Great prizes to choose from!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful spotlight on our Nancy Churnin! Congratulations to all the winners. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Congratulations to all the winners! And I love Nancy’s description of children.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wonderful interview & fantastic contest. Thank you so much Vivian!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Congratulations winners! And Nancy, Thanks for sharing! I can relate to writing “the story that fills a void or emptiness in the world.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s such a great quote to point out, Manju…we do want our stories to fill the emptiness in the world. There was such an amazing response to the contest…I thank everyone who participated…I hope some of those stories become books one day. 😉


  8. Congratulations to all the winners! And a lovely interview, Nancy and Vivian!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow! What a jam-packed-with-delights post, Vivian! I hope you got some sleep last night!
    I loved Nancy’s comparison of children to the rich soil of Narnia, the idea that planting an idea in their soil can grow into something unusual and outstanding. What incredible imagery!! (Says the Narnia-lover who wishes she’d thought of it.)
    Congrats to all your winners – those are some amazing stories. And more than that, congrats to you, Viv, for inspiring so many to write outside their comfort zone…and with such impressive results!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Yes, I read so many great stories and enjoyed the challenge of writing my own, Vivian. TY. Love what Nancy has to say about why she writes for children! Congrats, winners.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Congratulations to all the winners and thank you for the fun and challenging contest Vivian. Stretched my own verbose limits for sure! Also, wonderful interview, especially the answer to the question about why Nancy writes for children. I love the imagery of a seed taking root. 🌱

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Enjoyed the interview and the brownie recipe! Congratulations to all the winners and for the contest. I love writing for children. I was so excited to see my name on the list!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Fun contest! Congrats, winners! And thanks for the great interview with Nancy.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Yay! Looks like I squeezed in there at number 15! Congratulations to all the winners! And thanks, Vivian, for a fun contest. Excellent interview, Nancy! I love to hear stories about the positive influence a librarian has in the life of a child. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Wonderful post! Loved the planting of seeds in children – well said! And congratulations to all the winners!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Great interview Vivian and Nancy! And congrats to the contest winners!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Vivian, this was a wonderful experience and I thank you for all of your hard work. You got us thinking and doing what we love best-writing! Thank you Nancy, for the inspiration and tips to keep us on track with our journey in writing. “They are the purest form of humanity, the essence of what is to be human.” I love this description of children. We have a need to want to continue the nourishment of their souls with good stories relatable to their needs. Wonderful contest, blog, and recipe for brownies! It’s a good day 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Congratulations to everyone who took the challenge!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. jdewdropsofink

    Brava to all. Super tough challenge.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Congrats to all the winners of this fun contest!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Congratulations to the winners! And thank you Vivian for hosting this contest. I loved reading the entries!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Congratulations to the winners, such great stories! Thanks so much for this challenge and all your wonderful positive comments, Vivian, so lovely to meet you and discover more fabulous kidlit writers and their blogs. Nancy’s post was super inspiring too, I spent a lot of my childhood lost in Narnia also 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Congratulations every one who placed. Your stories were fantastic! I read almost all of them. 🙂 I am so happy I did not have to judge because there would have been too many ties. Well done everyone who entered. #justkeepwriting #justkeepwriting

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Thank you Vivian for hosting such a fun contest, and a huge congrats to all the winners, and thank you for your vote for my story. I just loved this interview with Nancy (I’m a NYer as well), and wow what a resume! I loved how Nancy was inspired to read because of her librarian. I remember all the great books I read because a teacher assigned them to me; I never saw reading stories as work, they were some of the best books I ever read.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I enjoyed this interview. My mom taught hearing impaired students for years and I look forward to reading this picture book. Congratulations to all the participants and winners! Thank you, Vivian for hosting this wonderful writing challenge.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Nancy’s book looks like a delight. Congrats to all the winners. Such a fun contest definitely needs to be reprised next year. Thanks for all your hard work, Vivian! Best, Brenda

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Vivian, so glad your contest was a success. Congrats to all the winners. All the best, Nancy with your book. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Yay for the winners! I am sorry – I totally blew this! I had an English paper due and it just took over my life. :o( I even had a story ready to go – just didn’t have time to throw the post up! BAH stupid school!

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Brownies AND a wonderful interview with Nancy AND contest winners! all in one day. whew! Congrats to all the winners – the stories were fun to read and I agree, Vivian, there were at least 100 “winners” in the bunch.

    Liked by 1 person

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