#50PRECIOUSWORDS WRITING CHALLENGE BY THE NUMBERS
#50: Number of words each story can contain.
#251: Number of fabulous stories entered.
#234: Number of courageous writers (some did more than one story).
#2100: Number of comments on this blog post.
#3: Number of hours of sleep I got the last few nights.
#1: Number of stories created about me. WHAT’S THAT YOU SAY? SOMEONE WROTE A STORY ABOUT ME? Yes, indeed. Fellow-writer Debbie Vidovich gives a nod to the wonderful Karma Wilson’s Bear Snores On.
Vivian Reads On by Debbie Vidovich
In a chair in a room,
Of her great big house,
Through a pile of stories,
But without her spouse.
Snuggled in a throw,
With her specs on tight,
She reads through the day,
And she reads through the night.
Stories so cute, so sad, so sweet.
That her heart feels full, she says,
“What a treat!”
Eyes grow weary and her head goes plop, but
Vivian reads on.
On she reads through stories galore,
Til she picks a winner and can snore once more.
Elizabeth Barret Browning wrote, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways?”
Let me count the ways I love all of you.
- You accepted the challenge.
- You wrote your story.
- You put your work out there for the world to see.
- You generously and kindly commented on the other stories. Many of you lifted up other writers by commenting on dozens and dozens and dozens of stories. And I saw some names over and over again…your fellow-writers are grateful for your support.
- You taught me so much. I learned about Pangolins from Christina Rowe and Periwinkle snails from Beth Gallagher. Joanne Roberts shone a spotlight on a mule-riding, cigar-smoking, former slave woman. And Cathy Stenquist invented a new language (tip of the hat to Du Iz Tak?).
- Special thanks to Maria Marshall, my other set of eyes…Maria graciously agreed to join me in reading ALL of the entries so she could help me make difficult decisions. And she commented on just about every story. Your help was much appreciated, Maria! I’m extremely grateful.
- Many of you commented that this was the FIRST time you had ever submitted your work or entered a writing contest or challenge…I am honored that you felt my platform was a place where you felt safe and comfortable. I hope you always feel that way.
- EVERY story I read has the potential to be published…to become a book that a child will connect with. I’m really serious! I hope whether your story placed in the top thirty or not, you will PURSUE it…think about if it should be expanded. Or not (some were perfect at just 50 words). Send it to critique buddies. Because your stories are unique…with universal truths that all children can relate to. I was blown away by the quality of the entries. You did NOT make this easy for me. There were heart-wrenching stories about refugees and illness. There were hilarious stories that twisted the tongue and caused me to laugh so hard, my stomach ached.
These were the rules:
- Write a story appropriate for kids ages 12 or under, using only 50 words…they can all be different words, or you can use some of them over and over…just as long as the total word count for the story is 50 or less.
- It can be prose, rhyme, free verse, silly or serious…whatever works for you.
- Title is not included in the word count.
- No illustration notes please.
Are you wondering what MY guidelines were in choosing the winners?
- Child-friendly/appropriate (EVERY ENTRY WAS)
- 50 words or less (EVERY ENTRY WAS)
- Had a beginning, a middle, and end…with a story arc or concept that made sense.
- If it was rhyming, the rhyme had to be pretty spot on…no inverted phrasing or frivolous words just to make the rhyme work.
- If it was a concept book, like a counting story, it still had to have a thread that pulled it together and some quality that would make it stand out.
- The beginning needed to hook me and make me want to keep reading.
- The ending needed to be satisfying whether it was an ah-ha, a haha, or an aww moment. (tip of the hat to the incredible Linda Ashman, author of dozens of books, including a fantastic writing craft book, The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books).
- Readability…I had to want to read it over and over again…and being a good read-aloud was important for the stories that were geared for the very young crowd.
- And of course, since as you all know, this is a very subjective business, in the end, I had to like it, love it, and connect to it.
- You’d think, with all of these necessary elements, there would have only been a few stories that rose to the top. But no. There were so many, I had to make painful cuts. Which is why I urge EVERYONE to take their story and work on it and make it the best it can be. Vet it with your critique partners. And send it to agents or editors. Because I read a whole bunch of promising children’s books that are lurking in your #50PreciousWords.
Thanks to generous kid lit mentors, we have some wonderful prizes. I had planned to award 21 prizes, but I just could not distill the winner’s pool to less than 40. First-place winner gets first pick of whichever prize he/she wants. Email me and I will connect you with the prize donor. And then second place gets to pick. And so on. So please be patient…it may take some time to work our way through the list. As I had mentioned previously, books, unless they are e-books will be mailed to U.S. addresses only.
- A critique from my beloved agent, Essie White.
- A seat in author Susanna Leonard Hill’s amazing Making Picture Book Magic online writing class (the first writing class I ever took and it set me on the path of writing wonderful picture book manuscripts).
3. A seat in author Kristen Fulton’s incredible Nonfiction Archaeology online writing class (that was the class that opened the door for me to discover the joy of writing nonfiction picture books).
4. Coupon for 50% off author Alayne Kay Christian’s ART OF THE ARC online writing class (this is the next class I would love to take).
5. Or, if you have already taken Alayne’s wonderful class, you can choose a coupon for 50% off an in-depth critique from Alayne Kay Christian (when Alayne says it is an in-depth critique, she isn’t kidding. I had one of those…it is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious).
6. A seat in one of the KidLitCollege webinars (I’ve attended a few and they are FABULOUS!) OR $19.99 off a critique, donated by Jodell Sadler, JCLA Editorial Agent and Founder of KidLitCollege. Winner choses one and will get a special code.
7. A manuscript or query letter critique from author Rebecca Colby.
8. A picture book manuscript critique from author Lori Degman.
9. A picture book critique from author Anna Forrester.
10. A fiction picture book critique from author Ariel Bernstein
11. A picture book critique from author Rosie Pova
12. A picture book critique from Maria Marshall.
13. A book on the craft of writing from Rosie Pova
14. A copy of Bunny’s Book Club from Annie Silvestro.
15. A book on the craft of writing from author Maria Marshall
Writing with Pictures by Uri Shulevitz
16. A copy ofHello, My Name is Tiger from author/illustrator Jennifer P. Goldfinger.
17. A copy of LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL plus an adorable SEAL NECKLACE from author/illustrator Patricia Keeler.
18. A copy of CLAMS ALL YEAR by Maryann Cocca-Leffler.
19. A SUPER HAPPY book prize package from author Marcie Colleen with copies of Super Happy Party Bears Gnawing Around and Super Happy Party Bears Knock Knock on Wood.
20. A copy of Mutt’s Promise, a middle grade dog adventure written by Julie Salomen…donated by author/illustrator Jill Weber.
21. A signed copy of Fuzzbuster Knows He’s the Favorite by author Stacy McAnulty.
22.A picture book critique from me and a copy of my parent-teacher book, Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking.
- through 40: A Kindle copy of one of the following books:
Picture Books the Write Way by Laura Purdie Salas
Rhyming Picture Books the Write Way by Laura Purdie Salas
Writing Children’s Books: 1001 Creative Prompts for Stories Kids Will Love by Anthony Fredericks
Writing Children’s Books: How to Generate Thousands of Creative Story Ideas by Anthony Fredericks
WOW! What a generous Kid Lit community we have! I’m grateful to all of the generous prize donors…I hope you all visit their websites and buy their books!
And this has been a long post…I’m sure you are ready to get up and stretch…maybe get a snack or go throw out the trash.
Oh wait…it seems I’ve forgotten something.
AND THE WINNERS OF THE 2ND ANNUAL #50PRECIOUSWORDS ARE:
IN ORDER OF THEIR PLACEMENT (which was incredibly hard to do)..WITH THEIR STORY (because with over 2100 comments, it would be pretty annoying to have to go and find them to read them):
- DIVERSITEA by Cheryl Kim
trays of sweets.
Tea for two-
Mom and me.
two warm hands-
Tea for two-
Grandma and me.
within my cups!
2. INSIDE THE TIDE POOL: by Sam Altmann
Removed by request of author – going out on submission!!
3. Dog’s Best Friend by Jean James
Come on with me Dog.
Ride along with me Dog.
Hey! Bring back my mitten Dog.
Let’s lay by the fire Dog.
I love you next to me Dog.
4. DANDELION DREAMS by Derick Wilder
Drifts past scampering
Drops nuts on friendly
Hops in pond, KER-SPLASHES
Sinks teeth in weeping
CRASHES, startles snoozing
Soars into puffy
Saunters under springtime
Splashes blue on
Softly lands on little
Makes a wish on
5. A Single Rose by Saba Negesh
New School, strange faces.
Different languages. A lonely place.
Bintu watches other children play.
A single rose, a sweet smile.
“Crayon.” “Qalam Shama’. ”
A single rose, a sweet smile.
6. A Cucumber Kind of Day by Michael Samulak
Today was a cucumber kind of day.
A wee bit wet
With a hint of something sweet.
No sharp edges,
A little too long.
Maybe tomorrow will be like…
A big sweet juicy strawberry!
Today was definitely a cucumber day –
7. The Ballad of Mary Fields by Joanne Roberts
Mary Fields comes chug-chuggin’ from the saloon,
A thundering locomotive,
Streaming smoke from her cigar.
Wolves on the trail,
Four-legged or man-sized,
Won’t slow her down.
Slapping the mail sacks across Moses’s saddle,
She rolls out of town.
Her smile wide as Montana skies,
Freest soul ever born a slave
8. A Brief for CF by Erin Buhr
Ever think about your breaths?
Air in. Air out.
Put on shoes. Off you go.
Legs fast. Lungs pumping.
Air in. Air out.
Some kids work for every breath.
Legs fast. Lungs fighting.
Every in. Every out.
They hope one day it will just be
Air in. Air out.
9. GNU SHOES by David McMullin
Hugh Gnu’s gnu shoes were used, so Hugh pursued new gnu shoes at SUE SHREW’S SHOES.
“Two and two,” said Hugh, “plus two,”
“Plus two?” asked Sue.
“I choose to chew shoes, too.”
“My shoes are not to gnaw, gnu.”
“Who knew,” said Hugh Gnu.
“Not you,” said Sue. “Shoo!”
10. Izzy (or A Zebra & Her Hitchhikers) by Katelyn Aronsen
Two birds perch
on Izzy’s back.
Two o’ pinions
white and black.
-where she should go!
-whom she should meet!
-what she should eat
for her ice cream:
‘Til Izzy screams,
…Let ME be ME!”
The birds depart.
Izzy is free.
11. BADGER’S GIFT by Jen Bagan
Badger reviewed her delivery list:
Slippers for Skunk
Gloves for Grizzly
Hankies for Hedgehog
She locked her store and began walking.
Badger returned at dusk, sat down and rubbed her sore paws.
“Hmmm … what’s that in the corner?”
She gasped at the attached delivery slip.
Bicycle for Badger
12. Little Leaf by Mary Rudzinski
Long branch bends low,
soft breeze swirls
little leaf floats slowly to the rocky creek
Through dark woods to the rushing stream
Into the thundering waterfall
Down the sleepy river
Round the wide bend
Out to the calm bay
Past the busy town
to the deepest ocean
13. ROSE PETAL SOUP by Heather Kinser
Petal necklace. Petal sash.
Petal blush. Petal lash.
Petal pen. Petal ink.
Petal portrait, rosy pink.
Petal pocket smells divine.
“Rose Sachets for Sale” sign.
When our blooming roses droop,
make petal soup!
14. A Periwinkle Paints by Beth Gallagher
A tiny artist,
dragging his delicately spiraled home,
paints his magnum opus
on the glistening salted surface.
Slow to finish his work,
he toils on
as gulls whirl above looking for lunch.
At last his masterpiece is completed,
just as the white foamy sea stretches up to wipe his canvas
15. ISHAAN’S GARDEN by Candace J Andersen
India is far away, Ishaan.
This is home now.
It is safe.
Here; some earth to make your own.
New school; strangers.
New places; rules.
New friends; sharing.
Familiar scents, tastes.
This is home now.
It is safe.
16. I’M UNIQUE. I’LL BE LOVED. by Carmen Castillo Gilbert, PhD
Mommy is happy.
Daddy is nervous.
Pépère is delighted
Abuela is excited.
My nursery is decorated.
My crib’s a-waiting.
Plenty of visitors
Gifts to be opened
Onesies, bottles, diapers, and books
What about my looks?
Dark or fair?
No one cares.
I’M UNIQUE. I’LL BE LOVED.
17. GIRAFFE’S BLUE SWEATER by Angela Hawkins
Giraffe has lost his blue sweater.
Monkey hasn’t seen it,
Lion doesn’t know,
Hippo isn’t sure, just where could a sweater go?
He’s wandered all around the park, gone here and there times two,
now back at home he’s surprised to find,
a wild and wooly blue…sweater-wearing zoo!
18. Papa Pasta by Amber M. Bouchard
Every night Papa and Stella ate together.
Every night Papa cooked Papa pasta.
Linguini, tortellini, fettuccine, ziti.
“No more pasta,” said Stella.
So every night Stella made Stella salad.
Cesar, chef, garden, greek.
Until Papa said, “Enough!”
The next night Stella and Papa made dinner together and enjoyed…
19. My Mom is a Ninja by Megan Haslem Jones
I think Mom is a ninja.
Cuts, chops, dices.
She must be a ninja.
“Powerful kicks,” I overhear.
She IS a ninja!
“Mom, I know your secret.”
“Excited? Future big brother!”
Not a ninja.
20. Letter Home by Tracy Helixon
She blinks the tears away
To watch Grandad
From the Dublin shore
Until the ocean carries her
Too far to see him
Across the sea
The statue welcomes
“Tis Lady Liberty herself,” says Da.
“Gather your things,” says Mam.
“Dearest Grandad,” she writes, in her best penmanship,
21. Slash, Delete, Chop by Jim Chaize
“50 word limit!” I complained.
My third-grade teacher nodded.
“But I have a lot to say.”
Two hundred nineteen. “Ahhh!”
One hundred forty. “Grrr!”
The teacher smiled.
“That was fun. Can I write another?”
22. BE HOP-PY! by Deborah Weed
Kangaroo hopped faster than Grasshopper.
underneath Kangaroo’s hind paws.
Grasshopper leaped up,
landed on a branch,
then rolled up into a ball.
held onto the branch,
then let go.
Grasshopper catapulted through the air.
right into Kangaroo’s pouch!
23. An Epicurean Delight? by Pamela Courtney
Cool and green.
Lizard spies a scary scene.
Snaps up Beetle as he dozes.
“En garde Flytrap, you carnivorous barbarian!”
Venus gasped, “But I’m vegetarian.”
Venus trips her trap.
“Settle your mettle Lizard. You’ve made a mistake.”
“Yes, Lizard.”“Let’s eat.”
24. CLAM I AM by Vicky Fang
Everyone says I should be happy.
“Happy as a clam,” they say.
I am NOT HAPPY.
If only I could swim like that fish…
Or that shrimp.
Or that squid.
Or – OH NO A SHARK!!!
Feeling pretty good about being a clam right about now.
25. THE LION TAMER by Ellen Levanthal
Kyle creeps into the moonless night.
Kyle is brave.
He tiptoes closer and closer.
He digs deep into his pack,
flings something into the air.
The beast sleeps.
He puts his pen down.
A new adventure tomorrow.
26. The Play by Mary Warth
Pitcher Mikey threw a zinger,
But the hitter was a swinger.
Coach yelled, “Keep on running kid, they haven’t got the ball!”
As the fielder’s catch was fumbled,
Rounding third, the hitter stumbled.
The Ump ran down the third base line in time to make the call.
27. Nuts! By Julie Abery
Crow found a nut…
“My nut!” he cawed greedily.
Jay squawked loudly as crow flew over his tree.
Crow dropped the nut!
Jay caught the nut.
“My nut!” he squawked cheekily.
Squirrel bounced along the branch.
Jay dropped the nut!
Squirrel caught the nut.
“My nut!” he squeaked gleefully.
Squirrel dropped the nut!
to the ground.
Pig walked under the tree.
“My nut!” he grunted and gobbled it up!
28. SLUGS AREN’T SLOW bY DEBBIE DAY
Frog was smug.
He never lost a race.
Then a slug said, “I can beat your pace!”
“Slugs are slow.”
“Then race me to the shoal!”
Mark, set, GO!
Then slug began to ROLL.
Zzzzzip! Slug won!
“You see, you never know.
Slugs can’t run-
that doesn’t mean they’re slow.”.
29.BUTTON MEMORIES by Ann Magee
Annie dumped the buttons onto her bedspread. “Tell me another story.”
Grandma’s gnarled hands spooned through the shiny discs, finding the tiny white one.
“Once upon a time, a beautiful baby girl was born. This was on her christening gown.”
“That’s how my favorite story begins, Grandma.”
“Mine too, Annie.”
30. ME HUNGRY by Zainab Khan
“Eeew! Me hungry- not starving.”
“Then get your own food.”
“What are you doing?”
“They fill me up.”
“But those were mine!”
“Ugh! Little vacuum sisters.”
31.Bright Bulbs by Dr. Anne Lipton
See the yellow daffodil,
sunning on the window sill?
If you have a pot and spoon,
you can grow your own bright bloom.
Plant a bulb deep in the dirt.
From its top, green leaves will spurt.
But a lightbulb yields no shoots.
Pick a bulb that will take root
32. Meowcus Welby, D.V.M. by Gregory Bray
“Mr. Furrypants, I have the results of your cat scan and it shows hairballs in your tummy.”
“You’ve got to be kitten me, Doc. What can I do?”
“I’ll give you a purrscription for catnip.”
“Will I need to see a purrgeon?”
“No. You’ll be feline.”
33. Tree Entreaty by Stephanie Salkin
Sit with me.
Stuck in your tree.
Poor little me.
Wait! Don’t fly away!
What can I say
To make you delay
Phoo! You took flight.
Now you’re gone—out of sight.
I’ll be stuck here all night.
© Stephanie Salkin
34. HELLO BABY by Keila Dawson
You’re quiet inside mama’s belly. What are you doing in there?
You’re moving inside mama’s belly. And I can feel what you’re doing in there.
You’re noisy outside mama’s belly. I can hear and see what you’re doing now!
35.WHAT’S THE POINT? By Jeanne Curtin
“Ho hum. I am so dull.”
“Take a spin with me. I’m all the buzz.”
And so Pencil met Sharpener.
Together they created ideas, art, and became best friends.
When Pencil hit a breaking point, Sharpener was there.
And Pencil shared Sharpener’s daily grind.
Until Pencil’s life ended short.
36. POW, BOOM, WHOOSH by Beth Schneider
Cooper pulled his blanket over his eyes.
Water beat against the car window.
“You’re fine,” Jake said.
Wind shook the car.
Cooper’s toes curled up.
“Open your eyes,” Jake said.
Cooper smiled. “That wasn’t bad.”
“Car washes are fun.”
37.The Race by Linda Hofke
mouse in beak
38. Mommy? What Will I Be? by Ingrid Boydston
“Mommy? What will I be when I grow up?”
“You can be anything!”
maybe a great leader!”
“Thanks Mommy, I know what I’ll be!”
“All those things!”
“I’m afraid you can’t be ALL of them.”
“Sure I can. I’ll be a mommy!”
39. EDAMAME DELIGHT by Charlotte Dixon
Maisy counted at the table…
Six edamame plopped on the floor.
“Is your plate clean?” asked Mom.
“Almost,” said Maisy.
Crawling, Maisy counted…
Maisy sowed her edamame…
in Mom’s macrame!
“All done,” shouted Maisy.
40. CURLS by Jennifer Broedel
One day, while Nonna was visiting, she said my curls looked like a lion’s mane.
I smiled and said:
“My curls are where my courage lives,
Where my ‘crazy’ climbs,
Where my warm heart gives.
My curls are where my ‘sillies’ shine.
My curls are ME!
And they’re all mine.”
CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL! Sometimes at the bottom of posts, you might see the words: THE END. But not here. Oh no! Because this is not the end for all of the #50PreciousWords everyone wrote. Whether you placed first…or didn’t get a prize…your story is a living thing…play with it, work with it, breath life into it…and send it out to the world.
Thank you so much, dear friends. I hope you will join me here, same time next year!
And please, if you aren’t exhausted from my posts, come back tomorrow for Perfect Picture Book Friday. One of 2017’s picture books, Old Tracks, New Tricks by Jessica Petersen, will be in the spotlight. And on Saturday…hold on to your hats…we’ll be chatting with Jessica on Will Write for Cookies and there will be a book giveaway as well!
Have a wonderful weekend.
Congratulations to all!! You guys did a great job. And Vivian, I am not sure how you managed to sort through all of these wonderful entries. You deserve a vacation after all the prizes are distributed!
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Congratulations to all the winners! Super fun stories ~ no wonder you had such a difficult time wittling it down, Vivian 🙂 Thank you, and thank you to Maria Marshall, as well! 🙂
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Thank you Vivian for this challenge – I enjoyed participating and reading all the posts and congratulations to the lucky winners!
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Wow! wow! wow! I’m truly awed by these stories. Congratulations, everyone!
I just want to say thank you so much for all the planning, time, and hard work you put in by hosting this awesome contest. It has given me extra motivation to keep writing and it was just so much fun participating! Thank you for the fun challenge and the boost of writing excitement!! Congratulations to all the winners on their wonderful entries!
Wow! This event was a success. Vivian, thank you for organizing this awesome challenge. I can’t imagine the hours (and stress) you and Maria spent analyzing each story. Thank you for providing this opportunity for your fellow writers. I’m grateful to be a part of the supportive writing community. Also, thank you for including all the of winning entries in this post. I tried to read as many stories as I could throughout the entry period, but with so many comments I couldn’t keep up.
Thank you so much Vivian! I am so honored! This contest has really inspired me! I danced around my kitchen and clapped my hands. Thank you and Maria for all your hard work and time spent- I will not let this story go away. Great experience to participate, and very helpful to be able to read other entries. I agree with Megan that including all the winners in the post will make for great reading today.
Thank you so much for this challenge! I am honored to be a winner among SO many wonderful entries. Congratulations to everyone that entered for stepping up to the challenge and writing a story!
Thanks so much for the 50-word contest, Vivian! The work, consideration, and skill you put into the judging is appreciated! The winning entries are absolutely delightful! Congrats to the winners!
Sorry I’m so late to comment, but I’ve been dealing with a sick child all week and well…we all know how that goes. First, I just want to say a huge thank you to Vivian and Maria, I can only imagine how difficult this undertaking must have been, and your kindness and grace always shone through in your supportive and kind comments. I’m honored to be included in such winning talent. I read almost all of the entries, and enjoyed them all so much. There was such creativity and unique style. Congratulations to all the winners!
I’m late to comment here, but once again, congratulations to all the winners! WOW! Such wonderful stories! And thank you, Vivian, for all your work organizing this fabulous contest 🙂
Congratulations winners!!! I loved reading the top entries. So many incredible stories, beautifully written. Thanks Vivian for all you do for our writing community and for putting on this incredible contest once again! 🙂
Wow, I thought I had read most of the entries, but there were some that I missed. Tons of talent out there. Thanks for posting the winners so handy for us to read again Vivian. Congratulations to all.
Congratulations to all the winners and all the other participants. These short stories wowed me! So creative! Thank you, Vivian, for hosting the challenge. It was fun! ‘Til next time!
What a fabulous collection, Vivian. I very much enjoyed Debbie’s story about you. I hope she won a prize! You did an amazing job of reading all the stories and selecting the winners. I’m sorry it has taken me so long to get back here to read them all. Sorry for me. Look what I was missing! Thank you for this awesome competition, to all the competitors for their awesome entries, and to the judges for their generous prizes. What a fun competition it was.