Grab a cuppa and hold onto your hats, folks! This is going to be an exciting post.

First of all...I am so honored to bring you the covers of two very special books wriiten by a dear friend of mine, Amber Hendricks. She’s the author of SOPHIE AND LITTLE STAR (Clear Fork, 2018) which is one of my granddaugther’s favortie picture books…and the upcoming EXTRAORDINARY ORDINARY ELLA (Amicus, Feb 25, 2020) and SUPERHEROES DON’T BABYSIT (Beaming Books, June 2, 2020). But Amber also has two board books in the pipeline for 2020 and 2021 – that is amazing!!! And what is even more amazing is that these stories first appeared as entries to my #50PreciousWords Contest!!! Here’s what Amber says:

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would get to say I was the author of a board book series. And I wouldn’t without Vivian’s 50 Precious Words contest. When I doubted myself as a writer, Vivian’s contest gave me the motivation I needed to write. Winning honorable mention two years in a row gave me the validation I needed to start believing in myself again. Those two stories went on to catch the attention of my editor and I’m thrilled to say will be published as a part of the Little Nature Explorers board book series!

I have had the privilege of knowing Vivian for a long time. She was one of my first agency sisters, and one of my first cheerleaders and supporters. So it is a great honor to share the covers of Autumn Leaves Fall and Forest Friends Sleep, the first two titles in the Little Nature Explorers series, illustrated by Gavin Scott and publishing with Amicus Ink this fall.

To learn more about author Amber and illustrator Gavin:

Amber’s tags

TW: @ashayhen  FB: @amberhendricksauthor  IG: @henamber

Gavin’s tags

TW: @gavillustrator    IG: @gavillustrator

And here is the cover of one of Amber’s upcoming picture books, EXTRAORDINARY ORDINARY ELLA

Ella cover amber

I cannot wait to add these to my shelf of books by author friends!

And I also cannot wait to read all of the entries in the #50PreciousWords Contest.

That’s right…and even though the contest doesn’t open until February 29…I wanted to give all of you time to work on your stories.

As many of you know, I’m a BIG fan of writing contests and challenges.  I love them because

  1. they encourage writers to write
  2. they push us to submit our work
  3. they engage us in the kid lit community and provide us with positive feedback and inspiration.


March 2nd is the birthday of the incredible Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. I began this contest in 2016 to celebrate his brithday and honor this children’s writer who changed the face of kidlit.


If you are currently writing picture books…or just reading them, you’ll notice that the average word length for many is getting shorter and shorter. So I thought, wouldn’t that be a great challenge…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. I opened the challenge to everyone. Much to my surprise and amazement, there were 128 entries! Last year there were 300 entries. And now it’s time to DO IT AGAIN.

Please put on your thinking caps, sharpen your pencils, and get busy writing. You have a couple of weeks until you need to post your story. Here are the guidelines:


  1. Write a story appropriate for kids ages 12 or under, that has a total word count of 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. The contest officially opens on Saturday, February 29 in a special post on my blog.
  6. Between February 29 and March 5, post your story in the comments of that special contest blog post. If you have a blog of your own and want to post it there also, that is terrific…please add the link to your comment so we can all go and visit you there.  Also, please make sure you put your name in the post.
  7. Only ONE entry per person, please.
  8. Deadline for posting the story in the comments is Thursday, March 5, at 11:59pm.
  9. Winners will be announced Saturday, March 21.
  10. Winners? Of course, there will be winners…and prizes, too! There are critiques with EDITORS, seats in WRITING CLASSES, CRITIQUES by published authors, SIGNED PICTURE BOOKS…and more. The book prizes are limited to USA addresses, please.


  1. Picture Book Critique with Little Bee editor COURTNEY FAHY.

Courtney Fahy is the Editorial Assistant at Little Bee Books and Yellow Jacket, where she acquires and edits board books, picture books, and middle grade novels. Some of Courtney’s picture books include Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit by Linda Marshall, Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe by Vivian Kirkfield, Mootilda’s Bad Mood by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Kirsti Call, as well as Moonbeams: A Lullaby of the Phases of the Moon by Ann Bausum. Prior to joining Little Bee Books, Courtney interned at Macmillan at Roaring Brook Press and Farrar, Straus, and Giroux for Young Readers, as well as W.W. Norton. Originally from New Jersey, Courtney graduated from Pace University with a Master in Science in publishing. You can find Courtney on Twitter @courtneyfahy.

2. Critique from Callie Metler-Smith, publisher of Spork/&mg

Callie Metler-Smith is the CEO and founder of Clear Fork Publishing in Stamford, Texas.
She answers to the following titles: Publisher of Books, Newspaper Chick, Bookstore Owner,
Writer, Illustrator, Wife, Mom, and Friend.

3. PB Critique or Seat in Writing Humor for Kids or 1/2 off The Craft and Business of Writing Picture Books course from  Art Director and CBA Founder MIRA REISBERG.


4, Seat in Making Picture Book Writing Magic course from the founder of Perfect Picture Book Friday, NYTimes Best-selling author Susanna Leonard Hill.

Susanna Leonard Hill (2)


5. A set of craft of writing webinars from Blue Whale Editor ALAYNE CHRISTIAN.

Alayne headshot


Alayne Kay Christian is the acquisitions editor for Blue Whale Press and an award-winning children’s book author. She is the creator and teacher of a picture book writing course Art of Arc. In addition, she shares her knowledge with writers through free and affordable webinars at Writing for Children Webinars. She has been a picture book and chapter book critique professional since 2014, and she worked as a 12 X 12 critique ninja for three years. Alayne has spent the last thirteen years studying under some of the top names in children’s literature. Alayne’s focus at Blue Whale Press is content editing, creative direction, and working with authors and illustrators to coordinate the path to quality books.

Art of Arc


6. Seat in Master Class in Picture Book Writing from author Karla Valenti

Karla Valenti

Karla madame curie cover

I was born and grew up in Mexico city. Since then, I have had the great privilege and opportunity to live in a number of places I have come to call home: the U.S., Japan, France, and most recently Germany. I currently live in the Chicagoland area where I keep myself busy with lots of words and big ideas (both in my job as a lawyer and author).

My writerly self focuses on picture books and middle grade novels. I also offer a Master Course on Picture Book Writing and Editing and Picture Book critique services.

I’m rep’ed by the inimitable Ammi-Joan Paquette at Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

Find me on Facebook or Twitter.

7. Rhyming PB Critique from author Lori Degman


8. PB Critique plus copies of two fabulous picture books from author/illustrator Patricia Keeler

PKeeler Head Shot



Patricia Keeler is the author/illustrator of SCOOP THE ICE CREAM TRUCK and LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL, both of Sky Pony Press. Patricia received the Christopher Medal in 2011 for her illustrations in WOULD YOU STILL LOVE ME IF. Patricia won the children’s book category for the New York Book Festival 2013. Her work has been a selection of the Junior Library Guild and the Children’s Book-of-the-Month Club. Follow her on Instagram @patricia.keeler.books.

9. PB Critique and copy of Nova the Star Eater from author Lindsay Leslie.

Lindsay Leslie Headshot small

Nova the Star Eater

Lindsay likes to bring her unique outlook on life, quirky humor, and play with words to the page in picture books. She is the author of THIS BOOK IS SPINELESS and NOVA THE STAR EATER (Page Street Kids). Her third picture book, DUSK EXPLORERS (Page Street Kids), will launch June 2, 2020. Lindsay lives with her husband, two boys, two dogs, a guinea pig, and a tortoise in Austin.

10. PB Critique from author Keila V. Dawson

Before becoming a children’s book author, Keila Dawson worked as a teacher, school administrator, and educational consultant in the U.S., the Philippines, Japan, and Egypt.

A native of New Orleans, her debut picture book THE KING CAKE BABY (Pelican Publishing Co. 2015), celebrates one of the unique cultural traditions in her hometown – eating King Cake during the Mardi Gras season. Her second book, NO VOICE TOO SMALL: Fourteen Young Americans Making History, co-edited with Jeanette Bradley and Lindsay H. Metcalf (Charlesbridge) will release in September 2020. A third nonfiction book is under contract has not been announced yet.

Keila is a member of SCBWI, writes monthly author studies for the Reading for Research Month (ReFoReMo) blog, and reviews books for Multicultural Children’s Book Day. When Keila isn’t reading, writing, and visiting schools, she’s traveling, playing tennis, or digging in genealogical archives.

Twitter: @keila_dawson  Website:

Facebook author page: @keilavdawson

11. Non-Rhyming Picture Book Critique from author Melissa Stoller

Melissa Stoller books

head shot

Melissa Stoller is the author of the chapter book series The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection – Book One: Return to Coney Island and Book Two: The Liberty Bell Train Ride (Clear Fork Publishing, 2017 and 2020); and the picture books Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush and Ready, Set, GOrilla! (Clear Fork, 2018). Upcoming picture books include Return of the Magic Paintbrush and Sadie’s Shabbat Stories (Clear Fork, 2020). Melissa is an Assistant and Blogger for the Children’s Book Academy, a Regional Ambassador for The Chapter Book Challenge, a Moderator for The Debut Picture Book Study Group, and a volunteer with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators/MetroNY. In other chapters of her life, Melissa has worked as a lawyer, legal writing instructor, freelance writer and editor, and early childhood educator. Additionally, she is a member of the Board of Trustees at Temple Shaaray Tefila, and a past trustee at The Hewitt School. Melissa lives in New York City with her husband, three daughters, and one puppy.

12. Picture Book or Query Letter Critique from author Laura Roettiger

LauraRoettiger Headshot 2019

Laura Roettiger is the author of ALIANA REACHES FOR THE MOON and has enjoyed working with children ever since she was no longer considered a child herself. She was a reading specialist and elementary teacher in Chicago, IL before moving to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado where she worked in Environmental Education and as a new teacher mentor for two years at a STEM school. She is a judge for Rate Your Story, an active member of SCBWI and 12x12PictureBook Challenge. Laura works with third grade classrooms through #KidsNeedMentors, tutors adults in the Boulder Reads Literacy program at the Boulder Public Library, and works with BookstoKids, a Colorado based literacy nonprofit. Her superpower is encouraging curiosity in children and her students, letting them know she believes in them. She has three children of her own whose curiosity and creativity led all of them into STEM related professions. 

13. Picture Book Critique from author Maria Marshall

Maria is a children’s author, blogger, and poet passionate about making nature and reading fun for children. She’s a Cybils Awards judge ( and a contributing blogger for STEM Tuesday – From the Mixed-up Files of MG Authors ( She interviews authors & illustrators and reviews books on -The Picture Book Buzz ( Her poems are published in The Best Of Today’s Little Ditty 2017-2018, 2016, & 2014-2015 anthologies. When not writing, critiquing, or reading, she bird watches, travels the world, bakes, and hikes.

14. Picture Book Critique from author Katey Howes

katey howes

be a maker katey howes

Katey Howes is thrilled to be making books for children. She also makes bad jokes, great apple crisp, and messy mistakes. Katey lives in Upper Makefield, Pennsylvania (really!) with her husband and three adventurous daughters makers. A former physical therapist specializing in brain injury, Katey now divides her time between writing award-winning stories and raising kids with a love of books. She also contributes to parenting, literacy and STEM websites including All the Wonders, The Nerdy Bookclub, STEAM Powered Family and Imagination Soup. Find Katey on Twitter @kateywrites and on Instagram @kidlitlove.

15. Copy of Play Like An Animal from author Maria Gianferrari

Maria Gianferrari’s childhood playground was nature: climbing trees, playing hide and seek in the cornfield and slapping cow patties for fun! Nowadays she tries to keep the spirit of play alive in her writing. She enjoys playing Dominion with her family sans the curse cards. Her late dog, Becca, was always ready for a game of “catch the flying biscuit.” To learn more about Maria check out her websiteInstagram or Facebook pages.

16. Picture Book Manuscript Critique from author Kirsti Call

Here’s a bio: Kirsti Call loves putting words together. She co-runs Reading for Research month, has judged for the Cybil’s award since 2014, blogs for Writer’s Rumpus, and her second picture book, Mootilda’s Bad Mood (Little Bee) comes out this fall.  Cow Says Meow (HMH) and Cold Turkey (Little Brown) release in 2021!

Instagram @kirsticall   Facebook:

Twitter: @kirsticall Websites:

17. Picture Book Critique or signed copy of Lola Can’t Leap from author Ellen Leventhal

Ellen L head shotlola can't leap 2

Ellen Leventhal is an educator and writer in Houston, TX. Her writing usually contains universal themes to which children can relate–even if the thoughts occasionally come from talking cows or lambs.  She can’t remember a time when she wasn’t writing in some capacity. Ellen is the co-author of Don’t Eat the Bluebonnets and the author of Lola Can’t Leap.  She has been published in magazines and newspapers as well as in short story and poetry anthologies. Ellen loves school visits! When visiting schools, she coordinates with and supports literacy programs as well as diversity and anti-bullying programs. Ellen’s best days are when she can interact directly with the students and spread her love of literacy and kindness. To find out more about Ellen’s books and writing projects, please go to

18. Picture Book Critique from author Tina Cho

tina cho

Tina is the author of Rice from Heaven, a picture book from Little Bee Books August 2018, Korean Celebrations, a nonfiction picture book from Tuttle, August 2019, My Breakfast with Jesus, a nonfiction picture book from Harvest House June 2, 2020, The Ocean Calls: A Mermaid Haenyeo Story from Kokila, an imprint of Penguin Random House August 4, 2020, and her first middle grade graphic novel in verse, The Tune Without Words by Harper Alley Fall 2022.

ocean calls tina cho

19. Picture Book Critique or Signed Picture Books from author Amber Hendricks

updated author


Born and raised in the Midwest, Amber Hendricks grew up reading everything she could get her hands on- including the morning cereal boxes. That passion melded into writing as well, and by the age of 11 she was writing and binding her own “books”. Amber has worn many hats in her career but she has always circled back to her first love of telling stories. Amber currently resides in Missouri with her husband and two children.

20. Picture Book Critique from author Beth Anderson

Beth Anderson head shot hi res

Lizzie Demand a Seat

Beth Anderson loves digging into history and culture for undiscovered gems, exploring points of view, and playing with words. A former educator who has always marveled at the power of books, she is drawn to stories that open minds, touch hearts, and inspire questions. Born and raised in Illinois, she now lives in Loveland, Colorado. Author of AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET (S&S 2018) and LIZZIE DEMANDS A SEAT (Boyds Mills & Kane, 2020), Beth has more historical gems on the way.
@Bandersonwriter (Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram)

21. Signed copy of Beautiful Shades of Brown from author Nancy Churnin

nancy c this oneA native New Yorker, Nancy is a graduate of Harvard University, with a master’s from Columbia University. She lives in North Texas with her husband, a dog named Dog and two cantankerous cats.

Beautiful Shades of Brown

22. Signed copy of Can U Save the Day? from author Shannon Stocker

Shannon Stocker headshotcover

Shannon Stocker’s debut picture book CAN U SAVE THE DAY (Sleeping Bear Press) released in 2019, LISTEN: HOW ONE DEAF GIRL CHANGED PERCUSSION (NF PB bio about Evelyn Glennie) comes out with Dial/Random House in 2022, and several of Shannon’s nonfiction essays have been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul. Shannon currently serves as SCBWI social co-director for Louisville, a judge for Rate Your Story, a ninja for 12×12, and she created the blog series, Pivotal Moments: inHERview, highlighting transitional life stories of female picture book authors ( Cool facts: Currently writing her memoir, Shannon is a medical school graduate, a coma survivor, an RSD/CRPS patient and advocate, and a singer/songwriter who once performed two songs, including one original, as part of an opening act for Blake Shelton. She can be found online at, on Facebook (Shannon Otto Stocker/Shannon Stocker Author), and on Twitter/Instagram @iwriteforkidz. Shannon is represented by Allison Remcheck of Stimola Literary Studio.

23. Picture Book Critique (fiction) from author Lisa Katzenberger.

lisa-head-shot-2017I live in La Grange, IL in a hundred-year-old Victorian house with sloping hardwood floors, glass doorknobs, and the tiniest bathroom you’ve ever seen. I have a great husband and amazing boy-girl twins. I’m an active member of SCBWI, where I volunteer as the Social Media Coordinator for the SCBWI-Illinois region. I work part-time as a technical writing consultant to fund my writing conference habit. I am represented by Wendi Gu of Sanford J. Greenburger Associates.

Lisa K pb

24. Picture Book Critique from author Jenna Grodzicki

Jenna's head shot

Jenna is the author of both fiction and nonfiction picture books, including Finn Finds a Friend (Clear Fork Publishing, 2017), I See Sea Food: Sea Creatures That Look Like Food (Millbrook Press, 2019), Harmony Humbolt: Perfect Pets Queen (Clear Fork Publishing, Fall 2020), and Wild Style: Amazing Animal Adornments (Millbrook Press, September 2020). She lives in Connecticut with her husband and two crazy awesome kids. At all hours of the day (and night) she can be found at her desk, drinking iced coffee and working on her next story. Jenna is represented by Victoria Selvaggio of Storm Literary Agency.

i see seafood

So, as Porky Pig used to say in the old cartoons…That’s all folks.

But actually, that’s not all…this is only the beginning. 

It’s only the beginning for Amber and her board book series…I’m honored she revealed her covers here!

And, it’s only the beginning for our #50PreciousWords Contest. What do you think about these amazing prizes? I’m blown away by the generosity of this kid-lit community. Thank you to all the prize donors. If I made any mistakes with the bios or photos, please let me know (I am not very tech savvy when it comes to making photos smaller)…and if anyone else has a prize they’d like to add to the list, please contact me.

Dear friends…you have 29 days to write your story…and I can’t wait to read your precious words – the official contest post will go live on February 29 and that is where you will put your story in the comment section. If anyone has questions or has a problem posting, please email me and I will be happy to help:

48 thoughts on “COVER REVEAL for AMBER HENDRICKS and CONTEST REVEAL for #50PreciousWords

  1. Pingback: February Picture Book Opportunities – WRITERS' RUMPUS

  2. Vivian—aside from the wonderful opportunity (and challenge!) with this contest, I’ve added some new books to my TBR stack, too. Thank you so much for this challenge grounded in the reality of modern picture books!


  3. Wow, I’m looking forward to participating this year, Vivian. How EXCITING!

    And congratulations on your absolutely gorgeous books, Amber!


  4. Love hearing about Amber’s success. I’ll be looking for these books!!

    Wowza! Such a great line-up of prizes for 50preciouswords. You amaze me, Vivian!! So wonderful to have so many people contributing. 🙂


  5. Congratulations Amber, your book cover’s are delightfully cozy, and welcoming. I love that your inspiration came from 50 precious words. Wow Vivian, what a line-up of great prizes! Looking forward to reading and writing #50 precious words.


  6. My 50 word book is Frog Pond by Sharon K. Solomon

    Frog Pond

    The frogs catch flies.
    “Yum. Now, let’s catch sunbeams,” Lizzy said.
    “I’m gonna nap,” Freddy said.
    “I can’t sleep. Sun, stop shining!”
    KERPLOP! into the water.
    “Turn off your light,” they croaked.
    “It worked. Let’s sleep.”
    “Brrrrr. It’s raining.”
    “Sun, turn back on.”
    “Look! A rainbow.”
    “Thank you, sun.”

    Liked by 1 person


    Carol Coven Grannick

    Hello, Mirror—it’s just me.

    Look at all the parts I see:

    curvy places, growing spaces,

    freckles, scar—my finger traces

    all the lines that make me, me

    (no one else I’d rather be).

    Mirror, I can tell you true

    that who I see is me, in you!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Can you catch a yawn?

    My mum says you can catch a yawn
    I don’t know if it’s true?
    I’ve never caught a yawn before.
    Have you?

    I’ve caught a beanbag, and a ball,
    I’ve even caught a cold
    But a yawn seems much too stretchy to be something you can hold.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Debbie Lodato

    An Unlikely Friend
    Bells jingle.
    Kitty swats.
    Worms wiggle.
    Kitty hops.
    Mouse runs.
    Kitty pounces.
    New puppy?
    Kitty hides.
    Puppy sniffs.
    Kitty hisses.
    Chow time.
    Kitty waits.
    puppy whines.
    Kitty peeks,
    then snuggles puppy.
    Bells jingle.
    Kitty swats.
    Worms wiggle.
    Puppy hops.
    Mouse runs.
    Friends pounce.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The Gremlin in our Playroom

    There’s a gremlin in our playroom.
    Lurking beneath our couch.
    At night…he sneaks….he creeps…he plays.
    Dawn reveals his monstrous mess!
    Block explosion,
    Cars and trucks,
    Dolls thrown everywhere.
    I will not clean it!
    I’m determined.
    A trap I set.
    But to my dismay…
    I caught a baby brother.

    by: Catie Daly

    Liked by 1 person

  11. A Case Against the Leafy Sea Dragon
    by Pamela Courtney

    Is his movement an aimless contemplation?

    Or does his suspended animation

    Give plankton, shrimp and other crustacean

    A cause to believe they’re no temptation?

    So the leafy sea dragon sucks vegetation.

    And in their moment of hesitation

    The plankton, shrimp, and other crustacean

    Fall prey to Leafy’s manipulation.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hippo Hide and Seek
    by M. Elizabeth Gage

    I can not find my hippopotamus.
    I’ve searched my house from top to bottomus.

    Behind closed doors.
    Under chairs.
    Hippo could be anywhere.

    My oh-so-clever hippopotamus
    disappears an awful lot-amus

    But I don’t fret
    she’ll come back
    when she’s hungry for a snack.

    Liked by 1 person

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