Susanna Hill’s 7th Annual Halloweensie Contest

One of the most important things a writer can do is…WRITE!

Perhaps you set aside a large chunk of time every day to write. Or maybe, because of family and other obligations, you snatch precious minutes whenever you can.

Jane Yolen advises writers to BIC…Butt in Chair.

And one way that encourages writers to do that is to enter contests and writing challenges. One of my dear friends and favorite picture book authors, Susanna Leonard Hill, is holding her 7th Annual Halloweensie Contest.

halloweensie-pumpkin

If you are interested in joining in the fun, there is still time to do so. And even if you aren’t able to participate, you’ll have so much fun reading all of the entries.

The rules are simple: Write a 100 word Halloween story for children using the words monster, candy-corn, and shadow. For more details, go to Susanna’s website by clicking the link above.

I decided to take a trip around the world via the internet to see how Halloween is celebrated in other countries. Interestingly enough, it began in Ireland and has spread, in various forms, to many parts of the world. In some places it is celebrated on different days and in others, it is a more religious holiday to honor the dead. But costumes and candy seems to be present in most of the celebrations.

Here is my entry. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Maybe I need to do a picture book about HALLOWEEN AROUND THE WORLD.

THE HALLOWEEN CONNECTION (100 words)

It’s time to search for Halloween

Around the globe and in-between.

Jack-o-lantern in the shadow

Glowing eyes and burning smile.

Trick or treat,” a monster shouts.

Halloween—American style

Chinese children say Teng Chieh.

Lanterns glow to light the way.

Special foods are offered up.

Spirits come on Halloween Day.

In Mexico, kids decorate

With posies bright and candy-corn

And shout “Queremos Halloween.”

They trick or treat from dusk till dawn.

Disguised, Greek children come to call.

“Do you know who I am?” they ask.

A guessing game begins until

The treats are served and they unmask.

Hurray for Halloween!

Haloween-worldwide-web-e1445546580957Photo courtesy: https://www.google.com/search?q=halloween+around+the+world&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjqk-qr3ZTXAhVHSyYKHR3MBJ8Q_AUIDCgD&biw=1094&bih=408#imgrc=ZK8axJblvt5XUM:

And hurray for Susanna Leonard Hill and her wonderful contests!

Valentiny Contest Entry: A Valentine’s Day Cake for the Queen

Today’s post is a treat…my story for Susanna Leonard Hill’s 2nd Annual Valentiny Contest.

valentinywriting-contest2017

Before you read my entry,  it might be fun for you to see a bit of the process I used in writing it.

  1. I read Susanna’s guidelines. Whether you are entering a contest or submitting a story to an agent or editor, ALWAYS make sure you follow the guidelines.
  2. When my kids were young, I loved baking cakes for their special occasions…and they loved eating them. I figured that a story about a cake might be something kids could relate to.
  3. Since the guidelines called for confusion on the part of one of the characters, I thought that it would add a bit of humor and tension to have the pastry chef perplexed by the stacking of the layers of the cake.
  4. Children need to identify with a character in the story so I added a young kitchen boy who saves the day.
  5. I wanted to add some fun words, so I checked the thesaurus for alternative terms for confused…I found a LOT and chose two that made me smile: befuddled and discombobulated…I hope they make kids smile also. I also gave her a name that’s a play on the famous Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. Kids may just laugh at the name, DOUGHLITTLE, but parents and teachers may enjoy the deeper joke.
  6. I wanted the reader to know that Eliza, the pastry chef, was a bit arrogant and full of herself…but in picture books, we are not supposed to TELL…we are supposed to SHOW. I didn’t say: Eliza was arrogant. Instead, I said: Eliza STRUTTED into the kitchen. If you close your eyes, you can just imagine how she entered the room. And before she began, she PUFFED UP HER CHEST. Yes, she’s quite vain about her baking abilities. When the young boy wants to help, Eliza PURSED HER LIPS AND RAISED HER EYEBROWS. Quite hoity-toity (hmmm…that’s another fun word…maybe next story).
  7. Keeping within the 214-word limit was a challenge…but I made it! I hope you enjoy my little story. If you want to read a whole bunch of wonderful Valentine’s Day tales or enter with your own story, please hop over to Susanna’s post.

 

A Valentine’s Day Cake for the Queen (210 words)

 

Pastry chef Eliza Doughlittle strutted into the castle kitchen. Valentine’s Day was tomorrow. The king had ordered a 7-layer cake for the queen.  Eliza snapped her fingers. She puffed up her chest—she could do it!

She pulled out pans. She lined up ingredients. She studied the recipe.

“Can I help,” said a small voice from behind the flour sacks.

“How can you help me?” Eliza told the kitchen boy. “You scour pots and pans!”

Eliza measured. She mixed. She poured. She baked. She frosted. Perfection!

Eliza stacked the layers.

The cake leaned to the left.

Befuddled, Eliza tried again.

It leaned to the right.

Discombobulated, Eliza rearranged the layers.

The tower teetered

                                    and

                    tottered.

“Please,” said the kitchen boy. “Let me help.”

Eliza pursed her lips. She raised her eyebrows. “What do you know about making cakes?”

“Not much,” said the boy. “But I stack stones by the riverbank.”

Eliza moved aside. The kitchen boy set the largest layer on the platter.

One

by

one,

he

stacked

each

layer.

Eliza peered at the cake from every side.

No teeter.

No totter.

Perfection!

“Thank you,” said Eliza. “Now I have a Valentine’s Day cake to present to the queen.”

“You’re welcome,” said the boy. “Now I have a job as assistant pastry chef.

##

I HOPE YOU ENJOYED THE STORY.

If you’d like to read the other entries, please hop over to Susanna’s blog. The contest ends on February 14.

And on February 15th…HOLD ON TO YOUR HATS…we are going to unveil the 2nd Annual #50PreciousWords contest. You’ll have plenty of time to prepare your entry…the contest opens on March 2nd, the birthday of Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS THAT POST!

The First Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest

It’s always a thrill to participate in one of Susanna Leonard Hill’s writing contests. They are a wonderful way to connect with other writers, they are a great exercise in saying a lot in a few words, and there are always awesome prizes.

Today I’m sharing with you my entry into Susanna’s First Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest. Here are a few of the basic rules: 214 words or less, appropriate for children ages 12 or under, and one of the characters has to be grumpy. If you are interested in participating or just want to read a bunch of fun stories, you can go here: http://susannahill.com/2016/02/08/be-still-my-heart-the-1st-annual-valentiny-writing-contest-is-here/

valentiny-logo

So how do you write a story about a grumpy character and Valentine’s Day? I started thinking of what makes people grumpy. Getting older, right? And having wrinkles, right? So I Googled wrinkles and got lots of animals that have lots of wrinkles. And then I thought, what would happen if one of those animals wanted to get rid of his wrinkles.

I love elephants…they have lots of wrinkles. What if an elephant wanted to propose to his ladylove on Valentine’s Day, but thought she might not want him because of his wrinkles. And what if he was a scientist and had an assistant who was given the job of finding the formula. And what if the assistant found the formula, but by that time, the professor had already realized that his wrinkles served an important purpose. What would the assistant do?

I hope you enjoy my little story…please let me know what you think of it…and don’t forget to hop over to Susanna’s website so you can enjoy all of the fun.

 

FOR THE LOVE OF SCIENCE (211 words)

     Clutching a mirror, Professor Pachyderm glared at his assistant.

     “Wrinkles and crinkles! Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day!”

     “How can I propose to my ladylove with a face that’s folded and furrowed?”

     “This is the last night to come up with the formula, Mortimer!” Slamming the door, the professor stomped downstairs.

     Mortimer stared at the rattling test tubes. He shivered. He shuddered. He squeaked.    “Eek!”

     Mixing and measuring, he added a bit of this. He poured the formula onto a piece of wrinkled paper. Instantly it became…

a gob of soggy paper.

     Stirring and shaking, he took away a bit of that, brushed the formula onto a folded metal fan and waited. Nothing.

     Upending every jar and jug, Mortimer swirled and whirled the ingredients. He dipped a creased cloth into the big bowl and stared as the material smoothed out. Aha!

     Just then, the professor returned. “Forget about it, my dear fellow!” he trumpeted. “I Googled wrinkles on elephants. Did you know I need them to keep me cool?  My Valentine’s Day will be A-OK – she wouldn’t have me any other way! Sorry I wasted your time.”

     “No problem,” Mortimer said, as he filled out a patent application for Permanent Press Fabrics. “Exploring the possibilities of science is never a waste of time.”

 

Thanks so much for stopping by, everyone…I hope you will check on the contest during the week…more entries will be coming in until the deadline on Friday. And then next Monday will be the announcement of the finalists on Susanna’s blog and you’ll have a chance to VOTE for your favorite.

Have a beautiful week!

 

Holiday Writing Contest – The Christmas Seed

Guess what? It’s December! Do you know how I know?

It’s time for Susanna Leonard Hill’s Annual Holiday Writing Contest! YAY!

holiday contest

And this is the fifth year I have participated! Sorry for all the exclamation marks…but it’s one of my favorite writing challenges.

Here are some of the basic rules from Susanna website: the contest is open to everyone and there is still time to enter—deadline is Friday, December 11.  Write a children’s story (children here defined as approximately age 12 and under) beginning with any version of “Rocking around the Christmas tree at the Christmas party hop.”  You may use that actual opening, or you may change it to any similar version “[Verb of your choice]ing [any preposition you choose] the [any item you choose] [any preposition you choose] the [venue of your choice].”  For example, “Surfing along the wind-whipped waves at the Yuletide barbeque,” or “Wandering through the pine-sweet woods at the cut-your-own tree farm,” or “Quarreling in the checkout line at the local Toys R Us,” or “Waltzing among the candy canes at the Holiday Bazaar”….   You get the idea, I’m sure 🙂 And the maximum word count is 350. There are PRIZES galore! For more information: http://susannahill.blogspot.com/2015/11/monday-munchdayan-exciting-announcement.html

Those of you who know me know I love to write in rhyme. Here’s my entry—I hope you like it!

 

The Christmas Seed (341 words)

 

Circling round the planet Mars on their space craft RV-3,

the children begged and pleaded for a real live Christmas tree.

“There is no way,” cried Maw and Paw, “for that to come about.”

So Sue and Lou and Baby Boo would have to do without.

No Christmas tree? That cannot be…they vowed to find a way.

Sue climbed up high and searched the sky, but only saw a sleigh.

And Lou got tangled in the lights while looking in a drawer.

And Baby Boo picked up a seed as he crawled on the floor.

“Take that away,” cried Maw and Paw, “that’s not for Boo to eat”

But Boo skedaddled like a flash to the ejection seat.

Maw screamed! Lou tripped! Sue scrambled down! Paw reached to

save his kid.

They heard a BOOM! It shook the room! The spaceship blew its lid!

They watched as Boo flew through the air; it was a fearful sight.

This wasn’t quite the way they’d planned to spend this Christmas

night.

And Maw, she moaned, and Paw, he groaned, and Sue and Lou,

they cried.

But then they heard a HO! HO! HO! and Santa slid inside.

He opened up his big red sack – plucked out a doll for Sue,

a watch for Paw, a book for Maw, a bat and ball for Lou.

But Maw and Paw, their faces drooped, and Sue and Lou, they

frowned,

until they heard, deep in the sack, a most familiar sound.

Then Santa reached way down inside and pulled out Baby Boo.

“I saved the best for last,” he said. “This one’s for all of you!”

And scrambling up onto his sleigh, he pointed straight at Mars

The seed Boo found had grown into a Christmas tree with stars.

And Santa’s booming voice rang out as he rode out of sight,

“May peace and love and joy be yours on this and every night.”

So if you get a telescope, please aim the lens towards Mars,

and you might see Boo’s Christmas tree, adorned with twinkling

stars.

 

I hope you get a chance to visit the other contest submissions…they are sure to be fantastic!

And before I forget, a couple of weeks ago, I was part of a book blog tour for Margret Peot’s new picture book,  Crow Made a Friend. I promised there would be a GIVEAWAY of a copy of this precious story. And the winner is….

LESLIE GOODMAN

Congrats, Leslie!

I will get in touch with you for your address so they can ship the book to you.

Have a wonderful week—pass along a smile, give someone a hug, and be kind to yourself.

The 4th of July Secret Mystery Writing Contest

There’s been lots of traveling in the last few months…new grand-baby…Singapore…family visits.

4th of Jul Secret Mystery Writing Contest

I’ve missed my regular blogging and social media connections – but I’ve had so much fun!

To get back on track, I’m going to try a new blog schedule:

Monday will be geared towards picture book writing – sharing helpful articles and links for other writers as well as contests, submissions and highlights from my works in progress.

To kick this off, I’m thrilled to post my entry to children’s author Susanna Leonard Hill’s 4th of July Secret Mystery Writing Contest. Contests are a great way to exercise your writing craft and connect with other writers…and Susanna’s contests are super cool. Please click on the link to get the details and find out what GREAT prizes she is offering. There is still time to enter!!!!

The Fourth Of July Secret Mystery Writing Contest!

We were asked to write a children’s story with any July 4th setting, 400 words or less, in which there is a mystery is solved or a secret is revealed. Here is my 199-word story…I hope you like it!

THE MONSTER FAIR or Why Christmas Is Celebrated in July on Gollywhomper Square Continue reading

Two Top Kids Easter Crafts and a Story of Hope

Spring is just around the corner! Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal. My signs-of-spring-checklist goes something like this:

  • Growing things: Green shoots push up from the ground, tiny buds appear on trees and tulips and daffodils are breaking ground.

  • Birds: Robins and bluebirds greet me in the morning and I hear the welcome cry of geese overhead, returning from their winter holiday in the south.

  • Daylight: The days are noticeably longer…the sun is still casting its warming rays after 6pm here in Colorado Springs.

  • Susanna Leonard Hill’s In Just Spring Contest is starting! Her holiday writing contests are infamous legendary…I wouldn’t miss one for the world. The instructions for this one are: write a children’s story with a spring theme in 350 words or less and make sure the last line says, “(Character’s name) knew spring was here at last!” There is a super prize as well…a chance to submit a picture book manuscript to KidsBooks editor Laura Galvin! WOW! I’ll be linking up on her blog where you can go to check out everyone’s stories. I hope you enjoy my entry.

spring chick

Years ago, most soldiers were men…and most of the time, if they had families, their wives tended house and home and children until they returned. But things have changed! These days, many of our brave soldiers are women…and a good number of them are mothers of young children. According to the government:

 “The demands on military members and their families are increasing and are becoming more complex. Military families sacrifice their personal comfort and experience tremendous upheaval when soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, reservists and National Guard members are called to serve our country here or abroad. Children are especially vulnerable when separated from parents due to deployments. Their unique developmental perspective and limited life experience put them at a heightened risk for emotional distress during the separation period.”

There are very few picture books out there that address this issue…I’m excited to offer this story (344 words…phew!) to little ones who are missing that special person in their lives.

 

WAITING FOR SPRING

“I’ll be back when it’s spring” whispered Rachel’s mom. As the old pick-up disappeared down the hot dusty road, Grandmother gave Rachel’s arm a little tug. “Come on, girl! We need to get busy making cookies for the Labor Day picnic.”

Rachel loved baking with her grandmother. The smell of fresh cinnamon tickled her nose reminding her of the fragrance of her mother’s cinnabar soap-scented skin. Mama hadn’t even been gone an hour and Rachel was already missing her.  How could she wait until spring?

The trees turned scarlet and gold as the weeks passed. Rachel’s dad pushed her in the swing…so high she thought she might touch the sky. Rachel loved her daddy and loved the sound of the wind as it whistled past her, but it made her think of her mother, laughing and singing. Rachel missed her mama’s sweet voice. Spring seemed so far away.

One morning, Rachel awoke to the sound of sleigh bells. The world outside her window was covered in snow and Rachel hurried to get dressed. She loved the snow! She built a snow princess and put her scarf around the princess’ neck. A gust of wind brushed the scarf across Rachel’s cheek…it felt like mama’s soft touch. Would spring ever come?

The yard was a muddy mess for the next few weeks. “It’s the spring thaw,” said her daddy. It can’t be spring, thought Rachel, because mama’s not home yet.

Her grandmother filled a vase with daffodils. “These are the first spring flowers,” she told Rachel. Rachel didn’t believe her because if it was spring, mama would be here.

Rachel went to the barn. “We have four spring lambs,” her dad explained. Rachel was happy to see the baby lambs, but she knew they weren’t SPRING lambs because mama wasn’t there. She walked back to the house. The scent of cinnamon reached out to Rachel. Was Grandmother baking cookies without her?

Rachel ran up the porch steps. The music of a lilting voice filled her ears. “Mama, you’re home!” Rachel knew spring was here at last!

RELATED ACTIVITIES

colored easter eggs

Photo courtesy of www.etsybaby.blogspot.com

NATURAL DYE COLORED EASTER EGGS (a craft from my book)

Coloring Easter eggs is lots of fun…you can turn this activity into an educational one by using natural dyes. You will need three bowls. For yellow, use 1tsp turmeric in a cup of hot water. For blue, crush a bunch of blueberries and cover with hot water. For red, crush a bunch of cranberries and cover with hot water. Be careful to cool the water before the children dip their eggs. You can also use food coloring if you don’t have the time.

After the eggs are colored (or you can use plastic eggs), you can add pieces of foam and felt to make these animal-inspired Easter eggs…use a marker to draw in the lines

easter egg animals.

Photo courtesy www.glueguncrafts.com

Here are some resources for families who have members deployed:

The Association of the US Army http://www.ausa.org/resources/familyprograms/resources/InternetResources/Pages/ChildrenDeploymentResources.aspx (for children who are experiencing separation problems)

From Sesame Street: http://www.sesamestreet.org/parents/topicsandactivities/toolkits/tlc

From the Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org/find-help/military-families/deployment-services

From Military One Source: http://www.militaryonesource.mil/deployment/military-and-family-support-programs

Substance abuse and mental health services administrationhttp://www.samhsa.gov/dtac/dbhis/dbhis_military_intro.asp