The #50PreciousWords 2023 Official Contest Post


The Contest is Officially Closed for 2023
Our judges are hard at work and we’ll share the results on March 20.
Thank you to all who participated – your stories are wonderful!

I love the enthusiasm and positive energy that this contest generates. Every year there are thousands of comments on the contest blog post – and all of them are encouraging and supportive and positive – and that’s not something you find in many places these days.

This year we are continuing the #50PreciousWords Literacy Initiative! I’m asking participants to purchase a children’s book from BALIN BOOKS, one of my local indie bookstores. This is a request, not a requirement. Whether or not you donate a book, I want EVERYONE to join in the fun, Last year, because of the generosity of this amazing kidlit community, we were able to deliver 410 brand-new books to three local schools in need. You can order any children’s book you’d like to donate by calling
(603) 673-1734
or emailing them: Please make sure you tell them the book is for the #50PreciousWords Literacy Initiative.

Happy children and staff at McDonough Elementary School, Manchester, NH


  1. Write a story appropriate for kids ages 12 or under.
  2. Total word count of 50 words or less.
  3. It can be prose, rhyme, free verse, silly or serious…whatever works for you.
  4. This needs to be a story, with a beginning, a middle, and an end.
  5. Title is not included in the word count.
  6. No illustration notes please.
  7. If you have children who want to write a story, please hold onto their stories until the kids’ challenge in May, #50PreciousWordsforKids.
  8. Between March 3 at 12:01am EST and March 5th at 11:59pm EST, post your story in the comments of this #50PreciousWords 2023 OFFICIAL CONTEST POST. Please make sure you use a new comment…please don’t put your entry in a reply to someone else’s story. If you have a blog of your own and want to post it there also, you can add the link to your comment so we can all go and visit you there. But you must put your entire story in the comments of this 2023 OFFICIAL CONTEST POST, even if you are posting it on your blog. And if you want to create a graphic for social media, that’s terrific. I absolutely LOVED them last year! But please don’t post the graphics on this contest post.
  9. Please make sure you put your name in the post so that I know who wrote it – if you have a social media handle that you want to include also, please do.
  10. Only ONE entry per person, please. For very prolific writers, I know that it’s hard to choose. But we had 750 entries last year – that’s a lot of stories for me and my judges to read and comment on. Just think, if everyone had submitted two, that would have been 1600 entries to read. 😊

Speaking of judges, please let me introduce you to these fabulous folk! Many have been with me since the beginning of the contest and ALL are avid readers, seasoned writers, and dear friends.

And here are four more items to remember:
1. Deadline for posting the story is Sunday, March 5th, at 11:59pm EST. If you have trouble posting your entry, please email me and I’ll be glad to help: But please don’t wait until 11:59pm on March 5th to ask for help.
2. The 50+ prize winners will be announced on the first day of Spring, Saturday, March 20 as long as the internet and life cooperate. There will also be a comprehensive list of Honorable Mentions. And even though it might sound corny, please remember: Even if you don’t don’t receive a prize or an Honorable Mention, everyone who participates is a winner because you wrote, you revised, and you submitted – and if you keep doing that – you will succeed in your goal to be a published author! And that’s a promise!!
3. First place winner will choose first. Second place winner goes next and can choose from the remaining prizes. And so on.  There are critiques with EDITORS and AGENTS and PUBLISHED AUTHORS, seats in WRITING CLASSES, Author coaching sessions, a 2-night Personal Retreat at Highlights Foundation in Pennsylvania…and more. Some authors are offering a choice of critique/Zoom chat or books. If you choose a book prize please remember that book prizes are limited to USA addresses only.
4, When you post your entry, take a screen shot or photo or at least copy the specific url link of your entry – you can find that by hovering your cursor over the date stamp of your comment and copying it. That will help you locate your entry in the future. A few years ago, I tried to create a hyperlinked list of all of the entries – but there were so many comments (over 10,000) that WordPress divided the comments into several pages and the hyperlinked list crashed. I won’t be creating a hyperlinked list this year because doing that is labor-intensive and I have no guarantee that it won’t crash again.

HERE IS THE LIST OF PRIZES – Editors and Agents are mostly in the first group, seats in picture book writing classes in the second group, and author critiques and Zoom Ask-Me-Anything sessions in the third. Just because something is Prize 1 or 2 doesn’t mean it’s the best prize…if you are one of the 50+ winners, the best prize is the prize that is best for you.

Prize 1: A 2-night personal retreat at the Highlights Foundation. It includes two nights lodging plus meals (based on availability).

The Highlights Foundation offers personal retreat opportunities for our community at our campus in northeastern Pennsylvania, The Barn at Boyds Mills.


On your personal retreat, time is yours to focus on your work, be in nature, and spend as you please. No structure. No schedule (unless you make one).  You can come as an individual, or in groups (friends, critique groups, writing partners, interest groups, and more).

PRIZE 2: Five (5) winners for above the slush pile submissions to The Little Press, an independent children’s book publisher, publishing picture books through YA. The Little Press is typically by invitation only, so this is a great opportunity to present your work to this fast growing company. 

Michele McAvoy is a multi-award-winning author, attorney, educator, and publisher from New Jersey. Her publishing company, The Little Press, publishes picture books through YA. She is also the host of the popular kidlit podcast, My Messy Muse, and the creator of #GirlPowerHour, an annual event celebrating strong women and diversity in children’s literature. Michele’s titles include Buckingham Gets A New Shell, (Pigman Books), multi-award winning Cookie & Milk (Cardinal Rule Press), The Gorilla Picked Me! (The Little Press), and the award-winning My Superhero Grandpa (The Little Press.) You can find Michele on social media @michele_mcavoy (Twitter) and @michelemcavoy (Instagram.)

PRIZE 3: A Picture Book Critique, Fiction or Nonfiction from Charlesbridge editor KAREN BOSS.

Karen Boss is a senior editor at Charlesbridge where she works on fiction and nonfiction books, from board to YA. She holds an MA in Children’s Literature from Simmons College and has been a mentor for their Writing for Children MFA program. Karen also has an MA in higher education administration and worked at colleges and in the nonprofit sector for 15 years. In her free time, Karen often plans “Auntie Karen adventures” for her four nieces.

PRIZE 4: THREE (3) Winners can choose a Picture Book Critique with Little Bee Books editor, ALEXA CARTER

Alexa Carter is an Editorial Assistant at Little Bee Books, helping publish books for their Yellow Jacket, Little Bee, and BuzzPop imprints. She has a passion for children’s books, specifically graphic novels. On her days off, Alexa enjoys writing, painting, and reading. She currently lives in New Jersey with her dog, Hugo. Little Bee Books website 

PRIZE 5: A Picture Book Critique from Essie White, founder of Storm Literary Agency

There isn’t enough room on this page to detail how amazing my beloved agent, Essie White is. This is an unbelievable opportunity to get your manuscript in front of a stellar agent who is currently closed to submission.

PRIZE 6: A PB Critique with the lovely Helen Wu, editor at YeeHoo Press.

Helen H. Wu is a children’s book author, illustrator, translator and publisher. She is the author of Tofu Takes Time, illustrated by Julie Jarema (Beaming Books, 2022), and Long Goes To Dragon School, illustrated by Mae Besom (Yeehoo Press, 2023). Helen is the associate publisher of Yeehoo Press, an independent children’s book publisher. Being fascinated by the differences and similarities between cultures, Helen loves to share stories that can empower children to understand the world and our connections. Born and raised in Hefei, China, Helen moved to the US in her 20s. Currently, she resides in San Diego, California, with her family and two kids. Learn more about Helen at and follow her on Twitter at @HelenHWu and on Instagram at @HelenHWu.
Yeehoo Press is dedicated to publishing fun, enchanting, and socially responsible children’s books for audiences around the world. Yeehoo Press has offices in Los Angeles and San Diego, California, and Shanghai in China. Yeehoo books are currently being published and sold in English and Simplified Chinese editions. 

PRIZE 7: 20-minute Zoom Chat with James McGowan, agent at Bookends Literary

James McGowan began his career right where he is: at BookEnds. He joined the team as an intern in the summer of 2015, and as the joke goes, they couldn’t get rid of him. He has worked in all departments at the agency and is now a literary agent representing a talented list of award-winning authors and illustrators. James’ list focuses on illustrated projects for young readers (board books, picture books, chapter books, and middle grade) as well as adult nonfiction and mystery/suspense novels.In addition to being an agent, James is a children’s author. His debut picture book Good Night, Oppy! launched from Astra BFYR in 2021. He is born, raised, and currently living in Staten Island, NY. He is a professional snacker, a huge fan of Jeopardy!, and fluent in sarcasm. To learn more about James, his wishlist, or upcoming client books please visit the BookEnds website or his personal website. To send a query, please use QueryManager. And to find a growing archive of thoughts no one asked for, follow James on Twitter and Instagram.

PRIZE 8: Picture Book Critique from Thalia Leaf, Associate Editor at Calkins Creek/Astra (Thalia is my editor for ONE GIRL’S VOICE: How Lucy Stone Changed the Law of the Land which launches in 2025)

Calkins Creek Books
 introduces children to the many people, places, and events that shaped our country’s history. Our picture books, chapter books, and novels—nonfiction and historical fiction for ages seven and up—combine original and extensive research with creative, energetic writing. History is key at Calkins Creek—front and center. Our authors transport their readers back in time to recognizable places with living and breathing people.

PRIZE 9: A PB Manuscript Critique (600 words or less, fiction, rhyming or nonrhyming) from Kaitlyn Sanchez, Literary Agent at Bradford Agency

Kaitlyn Sanchez is a mom, wife, agent with Bradford Literary Agency, and middle school math teacher. She’s also the proud co-creator and co-host of the Spring Fling Kidlit Contest and Kidlit Zombie Week as well as creator and co-host of the Kidlit Fall Writing Frenzy Contest. In her free time, she loves to play soccer, binge-watch TV shows, and, of course, read. Especially when she’s all cozied up with her husband and daughter reading together.
Twitter: @KaitlynLeann17
Please follow my clients on social media:

PRIZE 10: Critique of PB, CB, MG or YA (she’ll let the winner know the details of what to send depending on the type of manuscript the winner wants to submit) from Heather Cashman – Associate Agent and Agent Mentor at Storm Literary

Surrounded by books from her earliest memories, Heather reads picture books, biographies and select nonfiction, poetry, and all genres of fiction. While she devours any book that tells a good story and introduces a new world, she especially loves the ones that make her want to be the heroine of her own life. She was a professional editor for Cornerstones Literary Consultancy, helped authors by working as Managing Director of Pitch Wars, and interned for three years at The Bent Agency. She’s now an Associate Literary Agent and Agent Mentor with Storm Literary Agency. You can find her latest deal announcements on her website, but many more have yet to be announced.

Storm Literary Agency​ 520-850-5043  ​​
Way-Word Writer | Twitter | LinkedIn | Instagram | Facebook

PRIZE 11: A Picture Book Critique with Lisa Amstutz – Associate Agent with Storm Literary

Lisa Amstutz is the author of more than 150 books for children, including Mammal Mania, Plants Fight Back, and Amazing Amphibians. After 16 years as an author and freelance  editor, she joined Storm Literary Agency as an associate literary agent in 2021. Find her online at

PRIZE 12: A PB, CB, or MG Critique OR a YA Publishing Package Opportunity with author/editor DONNA L. MARTIN, founder of Story Catcher Publishing

Author and editor Donna L. Martin is offering something very special…a choice of a PB, CB, MG Critique OR a YA Publishing Package. Donna says:
The YA publishing package allows the winner to submit their manuscript to SCPublishing for possible publication if I feel we can do their story justice. Starting this fall, I’m going to 
start taking submissions for publication. This package will include working with the winner to edit and get the manuscript ready for publication. It will also include the cover design, formatting, preparation of ebook and print production files, distribution through KDP (ebook) and IngramSpark (print) to ensure the book is available to over 80,000 online and/or brick & mortar stores around the world. It also includes my services helping the winner set up things like their website, blogging, social media accounts, and basic marketing like promos, giveaways, author events, sales sheets, submitting to legitimate book awards, etc.

You can check out this link to get more detailed information:

PRIZE 13a: A PB or CB or MG Critique with Brunella Castagiola, founder of The Military Editor Agency.

Brunella Costagliola is an award-winning children’s book author, best-selling editor, and translator. Raised in Bacoli, a small coastal town west of Naples, Southern Italy, Brunella is passionate about sharing her home country’s culture, traditions, and history through her stories. Founder and owner of The Military Editor®Agency, LLC, a ghostwriting and editing agency catering to military authors and military-related manuscripts, and recognized by Forbes NEXT1000, Brunella helps fellow writers tell their stories and achieve their publishing dreams. Author of A Stroke of Magic: The Dinosaur Woman, a chapter book series that celebrates diversity and marginalized historical figures, Brunella is a proud Mamma of her two Italian American children, who are an endless source of inspiration for her stories, and devoted Air Force wife to her now-retired husband. Brunella lives in Florida with her family and their three dogs.

PRIZE 13b: A Picture Book Critique with author and editor Patricia Stockland, founder of Kind World Publishing

Founder and CEO Patricia Stockland is a seasoned executive in children’s publishing. Prior to starting Kind World Publishing, she led change and growth initiatives as publisher for Capstone, VP and editor in chief for Lerner Publishing Group, and editorial director for Red Line Editorial, among other roles. She’s authored more than 80 books and edited and concepted numerous others. Her expertise spans creative work and continual improvement across operations. She has a secret love of metadata and a not-so-secret love of baked goods, which she shares with her family in Minnesota. Connect with her on Twitter (@pstockland) and LinkedIn and follow Kind World on Instagram @kindworldpublishing. 

PRIZE 14: Seat in Making Picture Book Writing Magic course from the founder of Perfect Picture Book Friday, New York Times Best-selling author Susanna Leonard Hill.

What can I say about Susanna? Her class was the first picture book writing course I took – and it provided an amazing foundation for me. She is a mentor to all, providing challenges and contests to keep us motivated and inspired!

PRIZE 15: A seat in the self-paced Lyrical Language Lab course from RENEE LA TULIPPE

I took Renee’s Lyrical Language Lab class in 2014…it helped me with every word that goes into my picture book manuscripts, whether they are rhyming or prose. And her website offers tons of videos and resources – she’s a shining light for this kid lit community!

PRIZE16: Seat in Master Class in Picture Book Writing from author Karla Valenti

Karla was born and grew up in Mexico City. Since then, she has had the great privilege and opportunity to live in a number of places: the U.S., Japan, France, and most recently Germany. She currently lives in the Chicagoland area where she keeps herself busy with lots of words and big ideas (both in her job as a lawyer and author).
Her writerly self focuses on picture books and middle grade novels. She also offers a Master Course on Picture Book Writing and Editing and Picture Book critique services.
She is rep’ed by the inimitable Ammi-Joan Paquette at Erin Murphy Literary Agency.
Find her on Facebook or Twitter

PRIZE 17: A 30-minute phone or video call to ask anything about publishing or editing with Independent YA & Children’s Book Editor Julie Scheina

Julie Scheina is a former senior editor at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers with over fifteen years of experience editing acclaimed and bestselling books for children and young adults. Julia has edited more than 200 titles across a variety of genres, from picture books and poetry collections to middle grade and young adult novels. Please visit to learn more about Julie’s work. Julie also recently launched a free resource for writers,, a series of weekly letters filled with writing guidance, revision advice, and encouragement.

PRIZE 18: Promotional opportunity – Mel Rosenberg, host of the Children’s Literature Channel of the New Books Network and co-creator of OurBoox is offering a one-on-one consultation on either ‘techniques for inventing ideas for picture books’ or ‘how to create and edit dummy books in minutes’, or a video interview which may subsequently appear as an NBN podcast.

Mel Rosenberg is a scientist-inventor-musician turned children’s book writer. He is founder and host of the Children’s Literature Channel of the New Books Network and co-founder of Ourboox, a free platform for creating and sharing picture books and dummies. His new picture book, Emily Saw a Door is due out this year in Hebrew (Tal May Publishers). Mel is offering a one-on-one consultation on either ‘techniques for inventing ideas for picture books’ or ‘how to create and edit dummy books in minutes’, or hosting a video interview which may subsequently appear as an NBN podcast. 
Children’s Literature Channel
New Books Network.

PRIZE 19: A 15-minute Digital Presence Feedback Session from Sarah Maynard to do some first look feedback on your website or social media profile.

Sarah Maynard is a passionate storyteller and lifelong learner. She is a children’s book writer and illustrator, a digital marketing strategist at the Start Effect, and postcard artist at Cardifully. As she prepares for a big birthday, she is sharing 40 postcards in 40 days on Instagram at @cardifully. She is excited to connect online and off with others through this project! 

Sarah is the ARA of SCBWI Pennsylvania: West, and the former President of the Pittsburgh Chapter of IAW. After living in New York, Vermont, Virginia, Texas and Maryland, Sarah now lives in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband, their four kids, two dogs, and books in every room. You can connect with Sarah about all things digital presence @thestarteffect on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

PRIZE 20: A PB Critique, plus a signed copy of PEDRO & DANIEL author/illustrator Federico Erebia’s debut YA novel that launches June 6, 2023.

Federico Erebia is an author-illustrator, artist and woodworker. His works have been featured in various magazines [including Boston Spirit Magazine, Boston Globe Magazine], newspapers [including The Boston Globe, Boston Home], television [Greater Boston] and radio [NPR-Boston]. The Pepito The Squirrel books have received critical recommendations from Kirkus, Booklife, and other editorial reviewers. His debut YA novel is schedule for publication on June 6, 2023 by Levine Querido.
Amazon Author Page:

PRIZE 21: PB Critique from award-winning author Lindsay Leslie.

A diary keeper, a journalism major, a public relations executive, now a children’s author—Lindsay Leslie has always operated in a world of written words. She likes to bring her unique outlook on life, quirky humor, and play with words to the page in picture books. Lindsay is the award-winning author of THIS BOOK IS SPINELESS, NOVA THE STAR EATER, DUSK EXPLORERS (an SCBWI Crystal Kite Award winner, Bank Street Best Book of 2021 with Outstanding Merit, and Amazon Editors’ Pick), and SO YOU WANT TO BUILD A LIBRARY. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, two kiddos, two fur-beasts, and a guinea pig.

PRIZE 22: A Picture Book Critique (fiction/nonrhyming) from author Laura Roettiger

 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, as a mentor for new teachers at a STEM school, and as a tutor in the adult literacy program Boulder Reads. She is a judge for Rate Your Story. Her superpower is encouraging curiosity in children and her students, letting them know she believes in them.
She can be found on Twitter and Instagram @ljrwritenow 
Website which includes a blog with author interviews, giveaways, and photography.

PRIZE 23: Picture Book Critique from author Maria Marshall (Maria is one of my long time critique partners – her thoughtful feedback has helped me take my manuscripts to the next level)

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.

PRIZE 24: ASK-ME-ANYTHING AUTHOR Zoom chat and a signed picture book from author Ellen Leventhal. (Ellen is another of my long-time critique buddies – I love her feedback!)

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. Her picture book based on the many flood disasters she and her family endured, Flood of Kindness, has helped many children cope with loss. And her newest book, Debbie’s Song: The Debbie Friedman Story, illustrated by Natalia Grebtsova, launches from Kar Ben on April 4th! 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

PRIZE 25: Picture Book Critique from award-winning author Tina Cho (Tina is one of my long-time critique partners – her insights are spot on!)

Tina Cho is the author of four picture books– Rice from Heaven: The Secret Mission to Feed North Koreans (Little Bee Books 2018), Korean Celebrations (Tuttle 2019), My Breakfast with Jesus: Worshipping God around the World (Harvest House 2020), and The Ocean Calls: A Haenyeo Mermaid Story (Kokila/Penguin Random House Aug. 2020). Her lyrical middle grade graphic novel, The Other Side of Tomorrow, debuts from Harper Alley in 2023. After living in South Korea for ten years, Tina, her husband, and two teenagers reside in Iowa where Tina also teaches kindergarten. 
Twitter: @TinaMCho
IG: @TinaMCho

PRIZE 26:  A First Chapter Critique of a MG novel (not to exceed 8 pages) and a Signed Copy of Daddy, Can You See the Moon? from author Gayle Krause

Named the 2022 MG first place winner of the Kid’s Choice KIDLIT Writing Contest, I’m a PAL SCBWI member and currently write PB, MG and YA novels. My YA novel, Ratgirl:Song of the Viper, a retelling of The Pied Piper in a globally-warmed future was nominated for the Boston Globe /Horn Book and The International Reading Association Award. My picture book Rock Star Santa was performed as a play in Australia and presented at Storytime in Montserrat, British West Indies with a real British Rock Star. My picture book Daddy, Can You See the Moon? shares royalties with Our Military Child, an organization that helps veteran’s children deal with their parent’s war injuries/deployment. And my new picture book, Zadie and the Witch’s Tea will be available for pre-order August 31, 2023.
Website –
Blog –
Facebook –
Twitter – @GeeCeeK

PRIZE 29: 30 Minute Ask-Me-Anything Zoom from author Rosie J. Pova

Rosie J. Pova is a multi-published, award-winning children’s author and kid lit Writing Coach. Her picture book, Sunday Rain, was featured in The New York Times and recommended by Parents magazine. Her newest picture book, The School of Failure: A Story About Success was released in both China and the USA.
Rosie loves to visit schools and her interactive workshops empower students to unleash their creativity and grow in confidence through reading, writing, and creating. 
She has been featured on TV, radio, podcasts, and print media, and also speaks on women’s and moms topics.

Join Rosie’s Facebook group community for supporting unpublished writers, The Unstoppable Writer, or find out more about her work by visiting her website:
Website Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Instagram

PRIZE 30: A 30-minute Ask-Me-Anything Zoom chat with award-winning author Carrie Finison (Carrie is one of my long-time critique buddies…her insights are amazing!)

Carrie Finison writes picture books with humor and heart, including Dozens of Doughnuts (2020), Don’t Hug Doug (2021), and Lulu & Zoey: A Sister Story, and Hurry, Little Tortoise, Time for School! (2022). She lives in the Boston area with her family. For updates and giveaways, subscribe to her newsletter, check out her website, or follow on Twitter or Instagram.

PRIZE 31: A 30-minute Ask-Me-Anything Zoom chat from award-winning author Hannah Holt. (Hannah is also one of my long-time critique partners – her feedback helps me make my manuscripts sing).

Hannah Holt is a children’s author with an engineering degree. Her picture books weave together her love of literature and lifelong learning. They include, The Diamond and the Boy (HarperCollins), A Father’s Love (Penguin), and A History of Underwear with Professor Chicken (Macmillan). She lives in Oregon with her husband, four children, and a very patient cat.
Find out more about Hannah and her books here.

PRIZE 32: A 30-minute Ask-Me-Anything Zoom Chat and a signed copy of Forever Home plus adorable kitten swag from author Cathy Stenquist.

Cathy Stenquist won second place in the 2020 Boston Author’s Club Picture Book Discovery Award for her MS “I Wish I Were” and had the chance to work with Peter H. Reynolds, who called her a “Magical wordsmith.”  Her debut picture book “Forever Home,” a story about two orphaned kittens searching for a place to be loved was recently published. She was delighted to work with her talented daughter @ericaleighart who illustrated it.  Cathy is a longtime member of SCBWI, The Writer’s Loft in Hudson, Mass. and Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Challenge. You can find her at: and on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter: @cathystenquist.

PRIZE 33: A Picture Book or Board Book Critique from award-winning author (and the person who won 1st Place in the very 1st #50PreciousWords Contest, Julie Abery

Throughout the many years of teaching English to her classes in international schools, picture books have been Julie Abery’s friends and allies bringing rhyme, rhythm, and repetition to the ears of her young students. She also teaches in French, where she shares her joy of picture books, storytelling and song with her local community. It is the magic that picture books create for children that inspires her writing. To connect with Julie:
Twitter: @juliedawnabery • Facebook: • Website:

PRIZE 34: A Picture Book Critique or a signed copy of one of her books from author Jenna Waldman

Jenna Waldman is the author of the picture books, PURR-IM TIME! (Apples & Honey Press, 2023), LARRY’S LATKES and SHARKBOT SHALOM (Apples & Honey Press, 2021). Jenna is originally from Rhode Island, but now lives in the SF Bay Area. She shares her home with her husband, their two boys, and three felines. Jenna is represented by Joyce Sweeney of The Seymour Agency.

PRIZE 35: Author Zoom Chat and a signed book from author Cindy Williams Schrauben

Cindy writes books for kids ranging from truly serious to seriously silly. As a former teacher, administrator, and children’s museum developer, empowering kids has always been her thing. That’s why she was thrilled to accept a position as a speaker for Cardinal Rule Press’ new Bucket Filler series of books.
To learn more about Cindy and to connect with her:

PRIZE 36: An Ask-Me-Anything Zoom Chat with author Marzieh Abbas

Marzieh Abbas is a baker turned award-winning author. She loves adding magic to her creations— whether a seven-layer rainbow cake or the books she writes for children all over the world. She enjoys learning new skills, jumping rope, sipping chai, eating samosas, and observing nature. She is the author of several upcoming children’s books, a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and a graduate of the Children’s Book Academy and Lyrical Language Lab. She lives in Pakistan. You can find out more about her on and follow her on social media–

PRIZE 37: 30 Minute Ask-Me-Anything Zoom chat and a copy of WE LOVE FISHING from author ARIEL BERNSTEIN

Ariel Bernstein is the author of such picture books as WE LOVE FISHING!, which received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, and the upcoming YOU GO FIRST, a Junior Library Guild Selection, both illustrated by Marc Rosenthal. She also wrote the WARREN & DRAGON chapter book series, illustrated by Mike Malbrough. Ariel lives in New Jersey with her family. Find out more at

PRIZE 38: A Signed Copy of DEEP DEEP DOWN Plus a Picture Book Critique (under 1000 words, no rhyming) OR a 30-minute Ask-Me-Anything Zoom chat from author Lydia Lukidis

Lydia Lukidis is the author of 50+ trade and educational books for children. Her passion for reading and writing began at a very young age, when she was a voracious reader and composed poem after poem in her journals. She volunteers as a judge on Rate your Story, co-hosts the annual Fall Writing Frenzy competition, and is an active member of SCBWI, CANSCAIP, 12 x 12, and The Authors Guild. Another passion of hers is fostering a love for children’s literacy through the writing workshops she regularly offers in elementary schools across Quebec with the Culture in the Schools program. This program is organized by the Ministre de Culture et Communications Québec and the workshops are subsidized by the Quebec Government.

PRIZE 39: An Ask-Me-Anything Zoom chat and a signed copy of one of her books from author/illustrator Ellen Tarlow

Ellen Tarlow writes stories for young children, including the picture books Looking for Smile and Becoming Blue. She has been a teacher and for many years worked as an editor of early childhood classroom materials. In that job, she got to create hundreds of stories for young children. Now, she is excited to work on stories of her own. Ellen lives in the Hudson Valley with her husband, David, a painter. 

PRIZE 40: Picture Book Critique or Ask-Me-Anything Zoom Chat with author Tina Shepardson

An award-winning teacher for 33 years, Tina was privileged to share her love of books with many students. She is the author of Walkout, a picture book, with Clear Fork Publishing (2020). Forthcoming is Canines Unleashed, a chapter book with CFP (2024), and The Sorry Seeds, a picture book, with Gnome Road Publishing (2024). She is an active member of 12×12 and a Rate Your Story judge. When Tina, a winter enthusiast, isn’t writing, she enjoys Upstate New York and the Catskills with her husband, daughter, and two Akitas, one snowstorm at a time. Learn more about Tina at

PRIZE 41: A Picture Book Critique, Fiction or Nonfiction, Rhyme or Prose from author Jocelyn Rish

Jocelyn Rish is a writer and filmmaker who loves researching weird and wonderful animals and sharing what she learns. Her debut was BATTLE OF THE BUTTS, about ten animals that do weird things with their butts. Her latest book is BATTLE OF THE BRAINS, a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection about ten animals with mind-blowing brain abilities. When she’s not writing, she tutors kids to help them discover the magic of reading. Jocelyn has won numerous awards for her short stories, screenplays, films, and novels and lives in South Carolina with her adorable dog. Learn more at:

PRIZE 42: A Picture Book Critique (non-rhyming) from author Mary Boone

Mary Boone has ridden an elephant, jumped out of an airplane, hung out backstage with a boy band, and baked dozens of cricket cookies – all in the interest of research for her books and magazine articles. She’s written more than 65 nonfiction books for young readers, ranging from inventor biographies to how-to craft guides. Her most recent book is BUGS FOR BREAKFAST: How Eating Insects Could Help Save the World (Chicago Review Press, 2021). She has two picture books slated for publication in 2024.

PRIZE 43: A Zoom Chat and a copy of WHEN WATER M AKES MUD from author Janie Reinart

Janie is a word gatherer. She can sweet-talk a phrase here and surprise a pun there—finding the words to hold a feeling. She revels in playing with words for the sheer joy of writing, cultivating the writer/reader connection—heart to heart. A former Poetry Day Liaison for OCTELA (Ohio Teacher of English Language Arts), a Teacher Consultant with the National Writing Project (NWP), and member of the NWP Writers Council, Janie shares hope filled poems on her website using her own photos at

PRIZE 44: A Picture Book Critique from author Jessica Stremer

Jessica Stremer is a mom, military spouse, and author of two forthcoming nonfiction picture books – GREAT CARRIER REEF (Holiday House, 2023) and LIGHTS OUT (Paula Wiseman Books, 2024). Jessica obtained a B.S. in Biology, with an emphasis in Ecology, from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. She enjoys combining her love of science and writing to create books that inspire kids to explore the world around them and beyond. Jessica received honorable mention for the SCBWI 2021 Ann Whitford Paul award, and took first place for her nonfiction entry in the 2021 Rate Your Story writing competition. When not writing, Jessica loves spending time with her family traveling, hiking, and camping. Jessica currently resides in Okinawa, Japan.

PRIZE 45: A Picture Book Critique or an Ask-Me-Anything Zoom chat from author Jocelyn Watkinson

Jocelyn Watkinson is the author of THE THREE CANADIAN PIGS: A HOCKEY STORY (Sleeping Bear Press, 2022) and co-author of TRAVEL GUIDE FOR MONSTERS PART DEUX: A CANADIAN ADVENTURE (Sleeping Bear Press, Spring 2023).  When Jocelyn isn’t writing in rhyme, she’s playing sports, crafting or sipping on a used to be hot cup of tea. Through her writing, Jocelyn hopes to bring a little humour into the lives of kiddos of all ages, parents and grandparents alike.

PRIZE 46: A Picture Book or Poetry Book Critique Plus a Picture Book from author Lee Wardlaw

Lee Wardlaw claims that her first spoken word was ‘kitty.’ Since then, she’s shared her life with 30 cats (not all at the same time!), and published 30 books for children and young adults, including Won Ton – A Cat Tale Told in Haiku, an NCTE and ALSC Notable poetry book, and recipient of both the Lee Bennett Hopkins Award for Children’s Poetry and the CLCSC Myra Cohn Livingston Poetry Award.

Lee’s books have sold more than a million copies world-wide. In 2019, the CLCSC honored Lee with the Dorothy C. McKenzie Award for Distiguished Service to the Field of Children’s Literature for her work collecting 6,000 autographed children’s books to help rebuild the school libraries destroyed by the deadly inferno in Paradise, CA.

A popular speaker at schools since 1986, Lee continues to do both on-site and online workshops and presentations for students, teachers, parents, librarians, and writers.
FB Author Page:
FB Personal Page:

PRIZE 47: A Nonfiction Picture Book Critique and her new board books from author Jilanne Hoffman

Jilanne Hoffmann is the author of A River of Dust: The Life-Giving Link Between North Africa and the Amazon, a Junior Library Guild Gold Selection (Chronicle Books, July 2023). She’s also the author of two new board books for young explorers, Happy Camper and The Honey Bear Hive. Jilanne is a member of 12×12, SCBWI, and the Writing Barn’s Courage to Create community, and a member of the @StoryJammer, @PBSpree, and @SteamTeam marketing groups. She reviews children’s books from her home office in San Francisco, where she lives with her husband, son, and Wrigley-the-rescue-dog. Find links to Jilanne’s books and more info here: Follow her on Twitter: @Jill_SF and Instagram: @jilanne2694.

PRIZE 48: An Ask-Me-Anything Zoom plus a copy of one of her books from author Ana Siqueria

Ana thinks she’s still a child at heart, Her grandson says she’s super silly. Her family thinks she’s goofy. So, what can she do? All the adventures in her head and heart need to come out on paper. And, children are the best. Also, being a member of a Brazilian-Cuban-American family, she makes sure all her stories have latinx children. As a co-founder of @Latinxpitch, she believe all children need to see themselves in stories.
Bonus: Educators, Librarians, and parents, check some activities, including her teacher’s guide activities for her two first books. She will be completing the Abuela one soon, but most ideas can be used for Abuela too.  Check them HERE.

PRIZE 49: A Picture Book Critique from author Chloe Ward

Chloe Ito Ward is a Japanese American author. A former curriculum director, she has a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction. Chloe has spent the last decade teaching kindergarten, where she discovered her passion for picture books. She has some *vague publishing news* in the works and loves helping authors elevate their writing. Chloe enjoys critiquing lyrical and humorous picture books. 
To find out more and connect with Chloe:
Twitter: @ChloeItoWard
Instagram: ChloeItoWard 

PRIZE 50: An Ask-Me-Anything Zoom Chat plus a signed novel in verse from Darlene Beck Jacobson

Darlene Beck Jacobson is a former teacher and speech therapist who has loved writing since she was a girl. She is the author of the middle grade historical novel WHEELS OF CHANGE (Creston 2014) which is a 2015 Notable Social-Studies Trade Book from the Children’s Book Council (CBC), A 2015 Mighty Girl Pick, and The Grateful American Book Prize Honorable mention for 2015. Her middle grade novel-in-verse WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY (Creston 2020) is a Notable Verse Novel for 2021 from the CBC. 
Darlene lives and writes her stories in New Jersey with her family and a house full of dust bunnies. When she’s not writing , she enjoys baking and eating pies, dancing to the oldies in the supermarket, and discovering new things. She’s caught many fish, but never asked one to grant her a wish. She’s a firm believer in wishes coming true, so she tries to be careful what she wishes for. 
Her blog features recipes, activities, crafts, articles on nature, book reviews, and interviews with children’s book authors and illustrators. 
Twitter: @DBeckJacobson

PRIZE 51: A Rhyming Picture Book Critique or a Bundle of Signed Books from author Erin Dealey

Erin Dealey’s original career goal was Olympic Gold Medal tetherball player. When that didn’t pan out, she became a teacher, theater director, actor, mom, screenwriter, and author of over a dozen children’s books (so far), including DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5 (Harper Collins/ Illus. Luisa Uribe), and the upcoming HALF BIRTHDAY BOOK (Genius Cat / Illus. Germán Blanco) & CHRISTMAS AHOY! (Sleeping Bear/ Illus. Kayla Stark). She lives in northern California with her husband, and welcomes any opportunity to visit schools around the world. You can find her online at and on social media as @ErinDealey. (She will follow you back!)

PRIZE 52: A Picture Book Critique or an Ask-Me-Anything Zoom Chat from author Katey Howes

Katey Howes is an award-winning picture book author. She’s passionate about raising kids who love to read, and about helping kids recognize that they are makers, inventors, and creators! A former physical therapist, Katey is fascinated by physics and biology, reads everything from classic children’s lit to modern neuroscience, and has strong opinions about commas.  wh
When not writing for children, Katey contributes to websites such as Nerdy BookClub, KidLit411, STEAM-powered Family, and Imagination Soup. She has presented at NCTE and several nErDcamps and taught picture book writing and revision at the SCBWI NJ Fall Craft Weekend.
You can hear Katey interviewed on podcasts such as Reading With Your Kids, Lu and Bean Read, and All the Wonders

PRIZE 53: The Paula Cohen Martin Big Dreams Mentorship – for an older (over 50) un-agented and unpublished writer who has been plugging away for 5+ years and would like to work with me to polish a manuscript, pitch and cover/query letter. The mentorship includes written feedback on at least one manuscript and Zoom chats.

I created this mentorship last year after author/illustrator Paula Cohen Martin passed away right before BIG DREAMS, SMALL FISH, her debut book as an author/illustrator, launched. Paula epitomized this kid lit community – she was passionate about sharing her stories and her talent with children – she was devoted to polishing her craft and helping others with theirs. This mentorship honors her work ethic and celebrates her beautiful life.

WOW! What do you think about these amazing prizes? I’m overwhelmed by the generosity of this kid-lit community. Thank you to all the prize donors. And to all those who are participating, please remember that the best gift you can give an author or illustrator is to buy their books, review their books, tell friends about their books, and ask your local library to purchase the books for their collection.

As I mentioned, this year I’m partnering with my local independent bookstore, Balin Books in Nashua, NH, to continue the literacy initiative that will put books in the hands of children who need them. I’m asking each participant to purchase a children’s book when they post their entry on the Official Contest blogpost. Every book will be donated to three local schools in need – an elementary, a middle, and a high school. That way, you can buy whatever type of book you prefer – a board book, picture book, chapter book, middle grade, or YA. You can buy a book written by a friend. If you are a published author, you can buy a copy of your own book and it will become part of one of the school’s libraries.

Balin Books is updating their website. To order a book, please call: (603) 673-1734 or email them at: And if you are not able to buy a book or you’d rather not, please remember, this is not a requirement and I still want you to join the contest. But if you buy a book, either via email or over the phone, please let them know that this is for #50PreciousWords. That way, the bookstore will be able to put it aside in the #50PreciousWords pile. This is a win-win-win for the independent bookstore, for the schools, and of course, for the students. And also for the authors and illustrators of the books that are purchased.

Several author and illustrator friends have asked if they can donate their own books for the Literacy Initiative. YES! That would be lovely. I will add your name and the name of your book in a special section on this blog post. You can mail the book to me and I will deliver it to the schools when the contest is over. And if you are just stopping by to enjoy reading the contest entries and perhaps commenting on them (it’s so lovely for writers to read encouraging words!) and you’d like to donate a book to schools in need, I’d be thrilled to accept it. You can mail a book to me or order it from Balin Books for the #50PreciousWords Literacy Initiative.

Dear friends, if anyone has questions, please email me. I will be happy to answer them:


3,756 thoughts on “The #50PreciousWords 2023 Official Contest Post


    Alexandra Millarhouse
    Nonfiction – 50 words

    Inside a warbler’s nest
    lay five speckled eggs.

    One is not like the others.

    Crack! It’s first to hatch.

    Heave ho! Four eggs tumble
    into the water below.

    This mystery chick grows,
    feathers overflow…


    She towers above her borrowed parents’ eyes,
    now five-times their size,
    calling, “CUCK-OO!”

    Liked by 5 people

    By Sarah Atherton
    (50 words)

    “I wish I was like the others,” said the irregular shape.
    He s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d…
    “Circle, now I’m like you.”
    “I’m so uncomfortable!”
    He squeezed…
    “Square, we’re the same.”
    “I feel strange!”
    He relaxed…back to being irregular.
    “I feel great!”
    Circle and Square smiled.
    “You’re perfect the way you are.”

    Liked by 6 people

  3. I’m posting this entry for Lauren Jane Redmond

    by Lauren Jane Redmond
    Twitter: @LaurenJRedmond

    Cat was fat.
    He sat and sat.
    Armadillo hated that.

    He teased and spat and threw things–
    to lure the cat into combat.

    Along came rat
    who liked big hats.
    He scared away the mean old brat.

    Friends Fat Cat and Tall-Hat Rat
    Were both completely fine with that.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. The Hanger
    50 Precious Words 2023
    Samantha Bremekamp

    Explosive words began the day

    Feelings grew and ricocheted.

    “Get out!”




    “He’s touching ME!” She lied.

    “It’s the hanger!” He cried.

    Growls VS Groans.

    Harrumphs VS Moans.

    “Take that!”


    Pancakes flew through the air.
    Catching their prey.

    Just in time
    for school.

    Not all heroes wear capes.
    This hero wears sweatpants.

    Liked by 5 people

  5. Loud Clouds
    By Alia Saleh-Kirsch

    The clouds are too loud!
    While they go BOOM, I hide in my room
    Under the covers
    Until Mama discovers
    Me holding my teddy bear tight.
    I stay buried away until Mama says,
    “Look out the window. Nature has given us a light.”

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I’m posting an entry for Joan Leotta

    Red Truck Was Happy
    by Joan Leotta

    Red truck started home.

    A big rock

    fell onto the road,

    Little Yellow truck and little Blue truck

    drove up: “Go around rock.”

    “I can’t .”

    Blue said “ Together

    we can push rock away.”

    They did.

    Red truck went home

    happy with

    two new friends.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. So many amazing prizes! Thanks Vivian, and all your amazing donors!

    Road Trip (49 words)
    by Sarah Heaton

    Packing, stacking, nothing lacking.
    Hauling, sprawling, weather squalling.
    Reading, pleading, forward speeding.
    Road tripping in the rain.

    Mapping, yapping…rubber flapping?
    Rearranging, tire changing.
    Shushing, hushing, onramp rushing
    Never-ending dull terrain.

    Yelling, telling, start to smelling.
    Weeping, beeping, fast-asleeping.
    Singing, springing, fast-food slinging.
    Next time we will take a plane!

    Liked by 6 people

  8. Try a Smile

    When the lonely
    Doesn’t end
    A smile brings
    A brand new friend.

    When you don’t
    Have words to share,
    A smile says
    “I really care.”

    When it’s rainy —
    the sky is gray,
    A smile lights
    A darkish day.

    When a frown
    Is what you battle
    A smile makes
    The sad skedaddle

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Nobody Hugs Like Mom
    by Amy Willers

    “Ahhh!” yelled David.
    “You’re not my mom! You’re an imposter!”

    “I am not an imposter!” David’s mom said, laughing.
    “I just changed my hairstyle!”

    David was not convinced.
    So his mom wrapped her arms around him.

    “Oh, you are my mom,” said David, smiling.
    Because nobody hugged like his mom.

    50 words

    Liked by 2 people


    By: Carol Porter-Peszko

    Spring at last!
    No more snow

    Raindrops fall
    And puddles grow

    The sun calls run
    Harley’s fast

    I can’t catch him
    He runs past

    Not a speck of white to see
    Where or where
    Could Harley be?

    Something’s moving
    Brown and wet

    Muddy Harley
    Now a bath you’ll get

    Liked by 2 people

  11. On Rainy Days
    Liz Rice
    43 words

    Raindrops race
    down the windowpane.
    I tap to catch them
    before they can splash up
    at the bottom.

    They’re too fast.
    On the other side of the glass.

    The rain stops.
    It’s dark now.

    There’s nothing else to see
    on my Cat TV.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. The Babysitter’s Surprise Guest
    by Joan Swanson
    50 Words

    Jenny was horrified as popcorn flew into the air and Maribell and Tamara jumped
    screaming onto the couch.

    Willow, their plump cat, scurried past, bumping the table and spilling
    movie night candy onto the floor.

    Just then, the Jamison’s returned home stunned by the scene.

    “A mouse!” they all declared.

    Liked by 2 people

    By Joyce Frank
    50 Words

    Sara brings braided berches bread.
    Enrico serves a Ribollita soup.
    Anastasia treats us to tender turnips.
    Welcome. Willkommen. Benvenuto. dobro pozhalovat’.

    We slurp Shen’s savory noodles.
    Anh surprises us with spring rolls.
    Jemal tempts our taste buds with Tashreeb stew.
    Huānyíng. Chào mừng. Haleh.
    All are welcome at this table.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. My Hands
    By: Susan Summers
    WC: 49

    When I’m happy, my hands wave.
    When I’m mad, they’ll misbehave.

    If I’m sad they’ll hold my tears.
    If I’m silly – rabbit ears!

    They fold tightly when I nap.
    When I’m playful—sing and clap.

    The best thing that my hands can do?
    Give a great big hug to you!

    Liked by 4 people

  15. SNOW DAY
    by Marty Bellis
    WC: 49

    Snowflakes? Many!
    Snowdrifts? Plenty.
    Snowing steady.
    Sleds are ready!
    Zip downhill.
    Chills, spills, thrills.
    Lace up skates.
    Make figure eights.
    Build a snowman.
    Call him Stan.
    Build a snow kid.
    Name him Sid!
    Brrrr! My toes,
    think they froze!
    Warm up. Cocoa, cookies. Then . . .
    . . . race you back outside again!

    Liked by 4 people

  16. Butterflies Without Borders
    by Hannah Roy LaGrone
    47 words

    flutters by,
    garnet blaze
    in sapphire sky.

    She lands upon
    a sea of jade
    to lay her huevos:
    pearl parade.

    orugas hatch,
    feasting on
    the milkweed patch.

    Emerald shells
    hide new creation—
    crisálidas bring

    New monarchs make
    their first ascent,
    across a jeweled

    Also posted on my blog:

    Liked by 9 people

  17. Shy Melt
    by Alex Messicci

    I was shy that first summer we went camping. Four kids, two parents, one beagle, and an old school bus. After dinner, Dad pulled out his guitar. The music beckoned people to join us around the campfire. Clapping, singing, smiling, roasting marshmallows, the shyness melted away.

    46 words

    Liked by 2 people

  18. BE A MAKER TODAY (50 words)
    By Danielle S. Hammelef

    I paint portraits, fashion masterpieces.

    I draw and measure treasure maps,
    excavate at X marks the spot.

    I climb cliffs,
    rescue Kitty clinging high.

    I sail armadas across angry seas.

    I assemble snacks— oodles to share.

    “You made a mess!”

    “Success! I’m a maker!”

    Extra evidence,
    I make you smile.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. The Knight
    by Peggy Jaegly
    Word Count: 49

    Armor in place, Great Helm donned.
    Horse galloping into battle.
    Brave Knight of the Round Table,
    Welding his sword against foe.
    Defending the castle,
    Protecting the Princess.
    Riches promised to the Victor.
    He dreams of his future.
    “Jeremy,” his mother interrupts,
    “Put that book down and finish your homework.”

    Liked by 2 people

    By: Jeanette O’Toole

    What if I forget you?
    Close your eyes. Breathe. Feel your heart. That’s our heartbeat.
    What if I can’t see you?
    Walk barefoot through grass, face the clouds. See me.
    What if I can’t hear your voice?
    Listen to gentle breezes, hummingbird kisses and birdsongs. I’m here, Love.

    Liked by 3 people

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