A PW Announcement and a Peek at the #50PreciousWords Writing Challenge


My next picture book has just been announced in Publisher’s Weekly!

PW announcement screen shot

FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN: AN ANIMAL COUNTING BOOK started out as a PiBoIdMo idea in 2012. Thank you, Tara Lazar! The next year, I wrote it as a 12×12 draft. Thank you, Julie Hedlund! I revised it many many times. Thank you, critique buddies! And sent it for feedback and it got a ‘1’. Thank you, Rate Your Story. And this past year, the manuscript went out on submission. And my agent paired it with Mirka’s amazing illustrations because she just knew that Mirka’s art and my text were a match made in heaven. Thank you, Essie White!

I’m truly enjoying the collaboration of the entire team…editor, illustrator, and me, the author. I know that many times, authors and illustrators are kept apart…but Mirka and I have helped each other–we have each other’s back. Let me share what happened.

I had researched each animal before I wrote the book. I wanted animals local to an area in Colorado where I flyfished many times with my husband. And I chose animals that were endangered or threatened because I know that it’s important for young children to develop an awareness of our fragile environment and how each of us can make a difference.

But when Mirka began illustrating…as every good illustrator should…she did her own research. And messaged me one night…the Golden Cheeked Warbler doesn’t live in Colorado!!!!

Sure it does, I told her. It lives in Colorado Bend State Park! 

So she sent me a link to Colorado Bend State Park…and, after reading more carefully, I discovered that Colorado Bend State Park is in…

…TEXAS! And the Golden Cheeked Warbler is ONLY found there. Oops!

We researched some more and picked another wonderful bird…the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher. And I can’t thank Mirka enough for her careful attention to detail. That is why making a beautiful book is really a collaborative effort between author, illustrator, and editorial team.

Mirka has been amazing…sharing the illustrations with me–I love them all! And she agreed to let me share an illustration she made for Valentine’s Day that has a few of the animals that appear in our book…the otter, the turtle, and the fish…oh yes, and the butterfly.

Lovely pic and quote from Mirka


The quote is by Gregory Brown…perfect for us to keep close to our hearts as we travel through this somewhat crazy, often tragic world where we are trying to spread hope and love with our writing.

SPEAKING ABOUT WRITING…are you ready for the #50PreciousWords Writing Challenge? I hope so!




 I wanted to give everyone a heads-up for the #50PreciousWords Writing Challenge that is just around the corner. I want to make sure everyone has plenty of time.


March 2nd is the birthday of the incredible Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. For the last two years, I’ve hosted a little contest based on Bennet Cerf’s challenge to Seuss to write a children’s book using only 50 words. And the classic Green Eggs and Ham was born. It’s true that the story has over 700 words…but only 50 unique words.

In 2016, I thought it would be fun to try to write a story for kids with ONLY 50 words. With a beginning, a middle, and an end. I wondered if I could do it. And then I opened the challenge to everyone. Much to my surprise and amazement, there were 128 entries! And last year, there were 253 entries.

Please put on your thinking caps and get busy writing. On March 2nd, I’ll post the opening of the contest and you will have until March 6th at 11:59pm to post your story. Here are the guidelines:


  1. 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 of the story is 50 or less.
  2. It can be prose, rhyme, free verse, silly or serious…whatever works for you.
  3. Title is not included in the word count.
  4. No illustration notes please.
  5. On March 2nd, I will put up the contest post and you will need to post your story in the comment section of that post. If you have your own blog and want to post your story there also, please do. And let us know your post link.  I ask for the link so that people will visit each other and find new friends in the kid lit community. Please make sure you put your name in the postIf you have any trouble at all posting the story, please email me and I will be happy to do it for you: viviankirkfield@gmail.com.
  6. Deadline for posting the story in the comments is Tuesday, March 6, at 11:59pm.
  7. Winners will be announced in a special blog post on Sunday, March 11.
  8. Winners? Of course, there will be winners…and prizes, too!

I’m still putting together the prizes (hint,hint, hint…if anyone would like to donate a prize, please email or PM me. But here are a few so far: 

  • A critique from my beloved agent, Essie White (some of you may remember that the winner of the first year’s contest chose Essie’s critique as her prize…and she subsequently signed with Storm Literary Agency and THAT story, plus a sequel to it, will be published next year!


  • Your choice of ONE of the following from author, mentor, and founder of Sub Six FB group, Alayne Kay Christian: Picture Book critique or Chapter book critique (first three chapters), or Complimentary Art of Arc course.
  • Picture Book manuscript critique from author Lori Degman.
  • Picture Book manuscript critique from author Melissa Stoller.
  • Picture Book manuscript critique from author Amber Hendricks.
  • Picture Book manuscript critique from author Katey Howes.
  • Picture Book manuscript critique from author Julie Abery.
  • Signed copy of OFFICER KATZ AND HOUNDINI from author Maria Gianferrari
  • A piece of original signed art and a copy of LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL plus a silver seal necklace from author/illustrator Patricia Keeler.
  • Rest & Relaxation package with two picture books and a surprise from author Maria Marshall.
  • A signed copy of CAT IN THE CITY from author/illustrator Jill Weber.
  • $15 credit in her TeachersPayTeachers store from Barbara Leyne (GradeOnederful)

And there will be more!

So dear friends, many good and hopeful things going on amidst the sad happenings. Our prayers are with the families who have been impacted by this latest tragedy. Many ask what we can say to our children. I think what is most important is for us to reassure our children that we love them and that we will do everything in our power to keep them safe.

Please do stop by tomorrow for our Q&A Will Write for Cookies chat with author and circus guru Jackie Leigh Davis, a yummy cookie recipe, AND a giveaway!



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 February 16, 2018, in #50PreciousWords Writing Contest, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 66 Comments.

  1. Lovely illustration, Vivian & Mirka + quote. Yes, that’s neat how you two have connected.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s been an amazing journey so far, Tina. I can definitely say that for me, being involved in the process from the very beginning has been eye-opening and instructive…as well as totally awesome…Mirka is a joy to work with.


  2. I wish I had time this year to take part in the challenge! Its the perfect follow up after Storystorm.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Congratulations!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So over the moon excited for you, Vivian! You are on your way, and I’m so proud to be a part of your Village. ❤️ Huge congratulations!! 🎉🎉🎉Can’t wait until 50preciouswords! I’m sharpening my pencils right now!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Congratulations on your PW announcement! And Mirka’s art is fantastic!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I could not be happier for you, Vivian! Thank you for sharing your journey-and transparency- with FOUR OTTERS TOBAGGAN. Congratulations to both you and Mirka. And 50 words–what a great challenge! Most of my comments are probably longer than that… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I love what you said about your comments being longer than 50 words…ME, TOO!
      Thank you so much for your good wishes…and I hope to share the same way with the other books in the pipeline. I think it really helps all of us when we know the story behind the story and behind the process of making it into a book! 🙂


  7. Big congrats on your upcoming new book, Vivian! I can’t wait to give # 50preciouswords writing challenge another go.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Congrats! Love Mirka’s illustration and the Gregory Brown quote.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Congratulations on the announcement~ I’m so happy for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I was so excited to see your announcement yesterday, Vivian, and I loved reading the backstory. You’ve inspired me to keep working on some of my early drafts!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. So much good news on one blog post! Time to break out the bubbly and celebrate!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I was just thinking of this contest this morning! Very excited to get writing! Sincere congratulations Vivian on your beautiful book. The illustrations are amazing! And again thanks for inspiring us all.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Vivian, I am so excited for you and your upcoming publications!! I loved hearing the story of this book and appreciate knowing the attention to detail that went into it. Mira’s illustrations are a beautiful complement to your words, and I look forward to seeing it next spring!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Vivian Congratulations on your upcoming book, it looks amazing, and I love the background story! Such happy news. I cannot wait for your #50PreciousWords contest!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. So excited by this news! Can’t wait to hold your books in my hands!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Congratulations, Vivian! I look forward to reading it with my son.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Can’t wait to read your new book. Loved hearing how you and Mirka worked together to create this PB. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. And a BIG congrats.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. WOW! Congratulations! I am so very happy for you. Love the team work between you and Mirka! Can’t wait for Sarah’s release!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Funny you should mention Sarah. 🙂 I think the illustrations are moving along quite well…but unfortunately, the editor feels we are looking at a Fall 2019 pub date. But I’m excited for it all to be going forward, Pat…and thank you for your good wishes. I am dancing on air about all of this good fortune. 😉


  19. I’m so excited for you, Vivian!
    I enjoyed reading the behind-the-scene process. Readers don’t realize how much work is involved. Writing is not for the faint of heart.
    The illustration you shared is beautiful. As was the quote.
    I look forward to reading your book in 2019.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Congratulations, Vivian!! I can’t wait to see this book!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. mariagianferrari

    Thrilled for you, Vivian! LOVE Otters!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Congrats on the big news! Looks like you got a great partner in illustration. Her work is beautiful! Looking forward to the book’s release and the contest!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am truly lucky to have Mirka doing these illustrations…and as I mentioned in the post, it was our agent, Essie, who felt my text and her illustrations would be perfect together….and the editor agreed! So glad you enjoyed the post, Amanda.


  23. CONGRATS, Vivian!!!!!

    I see two of my favorite animals…otters and butterflies. Can’t wait to see the finished book.
    (and that was a good catch by the illustrator. Teamwork at it’s best.)

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Wow! Mirka’s attention to detail is amazing! I’m so glad she caught that. As a former editor, I’m pretty picky about things like that, too. And it’s terrible when things slip through the cracks, despite everyone’s best efforts. Can’t wait to see “Four Otters” for reals!! And maybe this year, I’ll be able to put 50 words together for a story. I hope!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, yes, yes…please do send your #50PreciousWords! And yes, it was so much better to catch the error before the editor caught it. It would have been fixed in the end, but it was better for us to come forward with the need to change and not wait until the editor discovered a problem, Jilanne.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Hurray for great book news and Mirka’s beautiful illustrations and collaboration and 50 Precious Words!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Congratulations on the book deal! That is terrific news.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Congratulations! And 50 words sounds like a challenge (I tend to write LONNNGGG). But what a great challenge! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  28. So excited for you and Mirka! Love the playfulness of the illustration. Congrats to both you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  29. kelliejanebyrnes

    Congrats on the new book deal Vivian! I really enjoyed learning about the collaboration process with the illustrator too. Will definitely been keeping an eye out for this one when it’s published!

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Vivian, you are awesome to put this together! I’m still not sure WHERE you get the time with all of your other projects!


  31. Congrats!! I’m looking forward to your contest, and marvel at your four books for next year! Yay, you!


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