The #50PreciousWords 2018 Writing Challenge was a HUGE success! You all made it so with your fabulous participation: 298 awesome stories and a comment thread that contained almost 1900 positive comments!
The guidelines were simple:
- 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.
- 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.
- Please post your story in the comment section below. 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 post. If you have any trouble at all posting the story, please email me and I will be happy to do it for you: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Deadline for posting the story in the comments is Tuesday, March 6, at 11:59pm.
- Winners will be announced in a special blog post on Sunday, March 11.
Here are the prizes:
- A critique from my beloved agent, Essie White
2. A picture book or chapter book or MG critique with Clear Fork editor Callie Metler-Smith.
3. 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.
4. Picture Book manuscript critique from author Lori Degman.
5. Your choice of either a picture book manuscript critique from author Karen Valenti or a seat in her Master Course on Picture Book Writing.
6. Picture Book manuscript critique from author Melissa Stoller.
7. Picture Book manuscript critique from author Amber Hendricks.
8. Picture Book manuscript critique from author Katey Howes.
9. Picture Book manuscript critique from author Julie Abery.
10. Picture book manuscript critique from author Maria Marshall.
11. Picture book manuscript critique with Vivian Kirkfield
12. Signed copy of OFFICER KATZ AND HOUNDINI from author Maria Gianferrari
13. A piece of original signed art and a copy of LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL plus a silver seal necklace from author/illustrator Patricia Keeler.
14. Rest & Relaxation package with two picture books and a surprise from author Maria Marshall.
15. A signed copy of CAT IN THE CITY from author/illustrator Jill Weber.
16. Signed copy of MONSTER TRUCKS by Anika Denise
17. Signed copy of POWER DOWN, LITTLE ROBOT by Anna Staniszewski
18. Copy of A FAMILY IS A FAMILY IS A FAMILY by Sara O’Leary
19. Copy of CAP’N REX & HIS CLEVER CREW by Henry Herz
20. $15 credit in her TeachersPayTeachers store from Barbara Leyne(GradeOnederful)
A big thank you to all of our amazing prize donors! Much appreciation to illustrator Vicky Fang whose awesome logo graces our challenge every year! And a grateful thank you to my dear friends and critique buddies, Maria Marshall and Julie Abery who read and commented on all of the entries.
For many years, I’ve participated in Susanna Hill’s awesome writing contests. But until I hosted #50PreciousWords in 2016, I never realized how difficult it was to make the final choices. As we all know, this is a very subjective business. My agent has submitted the same manuscript to different editors…one editor says it doesn’t grab her. Another says it doesn’t fit her list. And a third falls in love with it and buys it. Go figure.
The first year of this challenge, I made all of the decisions on my own…I think I did okay since the first place winner signed with my agent and got a book deal with that story. But I knew an additional set of eyes would be better. Last year, Maria Marshall was kind enough to volunteer to assist with the reading, commenting, and winnowing down. And this year, I was fortunate to have Julie Abery joining the #50PreciousWords team. We enjoyed reading ALL of your wonderful stories. But in the end, we had to make choices.
What do I look for in a story? I look for a story that has heart or humor…and if it has both, all the better! I also look for a story that hooks me from the first line and holds my attention to a satisfying ending. Most of all, I look for a story that I could envision as a board book, picture book, chapter book or in a poetry collection for children. And among the 298 stories, there were dozens and dozens that checked off all of those boxes.
So I am left with having to pick 20…a joy, for sure…but also a sorrow in that there were many many wonderful stories. ALL of the 298 have promise…some are just about ready to submit to agents or editors…others will need fleshing out or tweaking or reworking. But I am so very proud of all of you who put your work out there…CONGRATULATIONS!
In addition to the 20 prize winners, I created several categories for honorable mentions…although there won’t be prizes attached to these, please know that your stories stood out and you should definitely keep moving forward with them.
The prizes will work the same way that Susanna Hill does her contests. First place winner chooses whichever prize she/he wants and lets me know as soon as possible, so that I can cross that prize off the list and alert the second place winner…and so on, down the list.
I am posting the top 20 so that you can all enjoy these wonderful stories!
And now, drumroll please, listed in numerical order….
- Cathy Ogren’s winning story is now going out on submission so we have removed it from here at her request. Fingers crossed for a successful journey for this wonderful manuscript.
- FRANCES KALAVRITINOS with TWELVE MONTHS OF ME!
- GABI SNYDER with Moose Wants to Play!
“Moose!” screeched Owl. “Vamoose! You’re too big for Duck, Duck, Goose.”
Moose clumped on.
Rabbit and Hedgehog twirled a rope.
“Little white rabbit, hop…”
“Moose! Stop! You can’t hop!”
Moose stumped on.
Porcupine tossed a ring.
“Wait! Your antlers CAUGHT the ring!”
- MEGAN HASLEM JONES with Fiercest Creature of All
A small, fierce creature has tricked my parents.
They see cute and cuddly. More like smelly and strange.
Mom says “cuddle bug.”
Dad says “cutie.”
I wanted a dog, not this loud, demanding beast.
Aww! I love my Sis.
- CATHERINE FRIESS with Night Time In The Library
At night time the library is dark and deserted.
At night time the library is NOT quiet.
Pages rustle as fairies fly out of books, dinosaurs dance and clowns do cartwheels.
Wizards wave wands and picnic blankets appear. Bears bring porridge, queens bring tarts and pirates bring pizzas.
Magicians perform tricks, dwarves sing and cowboys tell campfire stories.
At night time the library is NOT quiet.
At night time the library comes alive!
6. Megan Hoyt with The Peasant and the Peacock
A Prince arrayed in finest silk,
His robe the color of buttermilk,
travels the kingdom puffed with pride,
a thorny heart nestled inside.
“My kingdom is yours if ever you see
anyone quite so handsome as me!”
A peasant girl in a dirty frock
quietly points to a dazzling peacock.
7. BAILA DAWN with Seasons Cycle
Cold and clear
Trees sleep, darkness creeps…
Eggs hatch, sow garden patch…
Like peacock plume
Long days, firefly plays…
Leaves fall, shadows tall…
Seasons cycle again.
8. PAULETTE SHARKEY with How to Survive a Piano Recital
Beast waits, open-jawed
Take a seat
Music download, brain to fingers
Breeze through tricky passage
Rewind, try again
- ANN KELLEY with SPRING WAKE UP
Under winter’s frosty bliss,
Springtime sneaks a teasing kiss.
One ray, two rays, three rays, four,
Sunrays warm my burrow door.
Plink-plop, drip-drop, splash my nose.
Pooling puddles wet my toes.
Peek and seek above the ground.
Robin chirps a cheery sound.
Good-bye, Winter! Celebrate!
Scurry through the garden gate.
- BRUNA DE LUCA with MISH MASH MAMMAL
Platypus bemoaned his beak,
a tear slid down one furry cheek,
“I don’t fit in. I don’t belong.
My paddle tail,” he wailed, “is wrong!”
Then otter, beaver, drake and duck,
swam by and he was thunderstruck!
“I have their strengths, their odds and ends,
a hotchpotch of potential friends!”
11. MICHELE THORNE with A Window Into You
breathe it in.
this window in.
eyes lock mine.
to see it again.
that window in.
- SARAH HETU-RADNY with Cake, by Cat and Bear
Cat and Bear plan.
Cat measures. Bear yawns.
Cat pours. Bear dozes.
Cat bakes. Bear snores.
Cat frosts. Bear drools.
Cat rests. Bear stretches.
Cat sleeps. Bear samples.
Bear hiccups. Cat awakes.
Bear blushes. Cat hisses.
Bear apologizes. Cat sniffs.
Bear hugs. Cat forgives.
Bear does the dishes.
13. REBEKAH LOWELL with MONARCH
on the leaves
I spin a silk anchor
while I change,
into a quiet cloak—
where I wait.
I look still,
I’m lacing together,
into something new.
14. CHARLOTTE OFFSAY with Mouse to the Rescue
I race to help.
is too heavy.
A house on fire
Flames dance higher.
My tail!” it wails,
and chases me
Small yet mighty.
- WENDA SHURETY with PEAR OF HOPE
Annie picked the largest pear. It was smooth and round like her bald head.
Juicy and sweet.
She pressed it into the soft soil.
Day after day…
A green shoot…
A tuft of hair…
A new pear…
- DERICK WILDER with TIMELY TREASURES
Moments stand still,
but seconds sit up,
and minutes crawl around.
and hours hopscotch by,
days dash past,
and weeks dance away.
and months march on,
seasons scamper to campus,
and years walk down the aisle.
and generations gather.
but I still miss you, Daddy.
- KATIE WALSH with My Only Friend
Henry reached into the broken box and pressed robot’s cracked buttons.
The movers weren’t careful, but Henry could fix anything.
All afternoon he tightened, cleaned, and glued robot.
Zerriinng! Eerp. Beep!
Colorful lights blinked. Robot’s eyes opened. “Hel-lo, Hen-ry.”
Henry took a deep breath and smiled. “Welcome back, my friend
- RICH SHEA with SLOTH
Never wake till after dawn
Do the things I do best
Spend my day up in the trees
I am a sloth. That is all.
19. CHRIS M. REGIER with Impatient Patience
The hay field was empty.
“Hey.” Patience bleated.
They’d been robbed!
“Hey!” Patience bellered.
Anxious to alert the farmer, she didn’t notice the bale wagon disappearing into the barn.
“HEY!” Patience bawled.
Hoarse and hungry, she finally trudged home.
Into a barn bursting with wispy, wonderful…
- SERGE SMAGARINSKY with REX & BILBY. AGAIN.
“That pesky marsupial is back. Get him, Rex!”
Rex creeps through the doggy door, sniffing for Bilby’s scent.
Rex pounces, barking furiously.
Bilby flees. Again.
“Great chasing, Rex. Have a scrummy treat.”
Disappearing under the veranda, Rex greets Bilby with a big, wet, sloppy lick and shares his reward. Again.
WOW! Whether heartfelt or hilarious, these stories are filled with elements we want to find in the books we read with our children.
AND HERE ARE OUR HONORABLE MENTIONS…I wanted to list more, but it is 4:20am and I must stop…but if you don’t see your story here, it just means I ran out of time…there were SO many wonderful stories…you are all amazing!
CAT STORIES…because it seems cats were a very popular topic:
The Something by Merinda Wild, Stuck by Kathy Shanahan, Two Plus Two by Cathy Stenquist, GRRRR by Zainab Khan
Rainbows, Dreams and Flutterflies by Mary Vander Plas, Let’s Draw a Monster by Chambrae Griffith, A Slide, a Tear, and a Friend by Tori DeLeon, At School by Valerie McPherson
Smile for the Camera by Rosalind Malin, Pickle Palooza by Gayle Krause, My Neighbors by Valerie Coulman, HAT by Monica Dietrich, Sonia on the Slopes by Debbie Day, How to Pick a Pet by Maria Bostian, Raiders of the Lost Cookie Jar by Erik Ammon, Wannaseemydragonfly by Linda Hofke, The Ant and the Inchworm by Vicky Hammond.
Fate of the Ship of Dreams by Leslie Goodman, Old Farm, New Farm by Lindsay Metcalf; Dindim & Joao by Julie Abery, Magnify Me by Heather Kinser, Mannatee by Doreen Lepore,
Beach Adventures by Susie Sawyer, The Mink by Tiffany Dickinson, Petal and Wing by Shae Millward, The Daffodil by Sara Gentry, Atele Is The Moon and Stars by Beth Gallagher, It’s a Pearl by Carmen Gilbert
Sharing Mom’s Necklace by Tanya Shock, Hello Me! by Lynn Davidson, Brother vs. Sister by Michelle Miller
Ribbon’s Adventure by Brenda Horsham, Puddle by Jennifer Raudenbush, Toughest Job by Rebecca Levington, Locker by Tina Shepardson, When Trees Talk by Robin Wechsler, This is the Wild by J.D. Silverwood, I’m a Book by Bill Borders
Daffodil by Elizabeth Curry, Firefly by Ellen Leventhal, Battle at the Beach by Patricia Nozell, Puddle Day by Cindy Williams Schrauben, Snow Day by Jean James, A Snowflake Tale by Michael Samulak, Butterflies Soar by Amber Hendricks, Syrup Season by Jessica Southwick
The Cousin’s Visit by Maria Marshall, Count With Me by Amanda, Doggy Days by Andrea Mack
HOPE…there were quite a few stories about hope…and that gives me hope!
Waiting for Monarch by Candace Kubinec, Rainbows Bad Day by Jimmy Zankel, Song of Change by Jessica Kulekjian, Don’t Change by Sandy Ferber
And a special shout-out to Janie Reinart who did a fabulous Reverso job with New At School!
If anyone needs their stories removed from this post or the original challenge post because they are going to send that story out on submission and don’t want it published anywhere, please reach out and let me know and I will be happy to do that: email@example.com or message me on Facebook.
And, as Porky Pig used to say in the Looney Tunes cartoons…THAT’S ALL FOLKS!
Thank you again for joining in the fun. In May, I hope to host the #50PreciousWordsforKids International Writing Challenge again to coincide with Children’s Book Week…so if you have children in grades K-6 or if you are a teacher of grades K-6, please start planning to participate…we had a ball last year with children writing 50-word stories from all across the United States and the globe.
I look forward to #50preciouswords each year. I love the challenge of this contest but also the kindness of the writing community. I love seeing familiar names I’ve met since starting my kid lit writing journey. Thank you, Vivian, Maria, and Julie for selflessly donating your time to almost 300 writers. This type of encouragement keeps us following our dreams. Also, thank you to the mentors and authors for donating prizes. I hope to one day pay it forward as you have all so graciously done.
Hello Megan….I love hosting this challenge! And I’m so happy that you joined in the fun. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org…it is time to choose your prize.
What a wonderful groups of winners. Loved them all. Thanks again, Vivian.
I’m happy for the winners! Thank you Vivian for a fun writing challenge!
Hi Vivian, Thanks for hosting and for the honorable mention for unique POV (Ribbon’s Adventure). Just a note that my name is Harsham not Horsham. I thought I’d get a ping or an email if I won, so when I dropped by, it was only to admire the winners. Congrats to the winners!! What an overwhelming amount of talent you had participating. Well done for how much work this must have been. I’m quite chuffed to have an honorable mention. Thanks.
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Yay to the winners!
I’m just wondering if my story, A SLED FOR KALA, got lost in the shuffle. It looked like you were commenting on each and every story (a huge job, for sure!), but I never received any comment from you.
Thank you for making this opportunity available!
Have you ever thought about writing an e-book or guest authoring on other websites? I have a blog centered on the same ideas you discuss and would really like to have you share some stories/information. I know my visitors would enjoy your work. If you are even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me an email.