The #50PreciousWords Writing Contest is OPEN: March 2-6

Strike up the band! Sharpen your pencils! It’s time to show the world that:

MAGIC HAPPENS WHEN YOU MAKE EVERY WORD COUNT

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Today is the day, dear friends! Ready! Set! Go!

The #50PreciousWords 2019 Writing Contest is now OPEN!

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For those of you who have not participated before, let me give you a bit of back story. March 2nd is the birthday of the incredible Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. For the last three years, I’ve hosted a little contest based on Bennet Cerf’s challenge to Seuss to write a children’s book using only 50 words. To answer that challenge, Seuss wrote Green Eggs and Ham. It’s true that the story has over 700 words…but only 50 unique words.

In 2016, I thought it would be fun to try to write a story for kids with ONLY 50 words. With a beginning, a middle, and an end. I wondered if I could do it. And then I opened the challenge to everyone. Much to my surprise and amazement, there were 128 entries! The next year, there were 253 entries. And last year, there were 298.

To backtrack a bit, in 2012 I had a dream. I wanted to write picture books. And I wanted to be traditionally published.

And one of the most important things I did was to participate in writing challenges like Susanna Hill’s contests.

Why was that important?

Because it got me writing. It got me revising. It got me submitting.

Hmmm….writing/revising/submitting. I believe that if we do those three things enough times, our writing improves and agents and editors get a chance to see our work. And as much as I am thrilled with my own success, nothing makes me happier than to hear about the success of others in our kidlit community.

So, please sharpen your pencils. Fire up your computers. And share your #50PreciousWords with us.

#50 PRECIOUS WORDS WRITING CHALLENGE GUIDELINES

  1. Write a story appropriate for kids ages 12 or under, using only 50 words…they can all be different words, or you can use some of them over and over…just as long as the total word count of the story is 50 or less.
  2. It can be prose, rhyme, free verse, silly or serious…whatever works for you.
  3. Title is not included in the word count.
  4. No illustration notes please.
  5. IMPORTANT: Post your story in the comment section below. If you have your own blog and want to post your story there also, please do. And let us know your post link.  I ask for the link so that people will visit each other and find new friends in the kid lit community. But no matter how many other places you want to post your story, make sure at least one of those places is in the comment section of this blog post…and please make sure you put your name in the post because some of you have very creative emails/avatar names and I won’t know who you are. If you have any trouble at all posting the story, please email me and I will be happy to do it for you: viviankirkfield@gmail.com.
  6. Deadline for posting the story in the comments is Wednesday, March 6, at 11:59pm. And if you plan to ask me to post it for you, please send it at least the day before.
  7. As many of you know, I am in New Zealand right at this moment on a round the world trip of a life-time. I am hoping to announce the winners on March 16th, but I ask for your patience and understanding in case something comes up and it doesn’t happen that day. Also, although I will be posting the winners on March 16th,  I won’t start awarding the prizes until after I return home, on April 8th. But believe me, these prizes will be worth the wait! 
  8.  When I do start contacting the winners, 1st place will choose whichever prize he/she wants. Then I will contact 2nd place with the remaining prizes to choose from. And so on down the line. And here, for your dining and dancing pleasure are the wonderful prizes.

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  • A seat in Susanna Leonard Hill’s MAKING PICTURE BOOK MAGIC: This is the first picture book writing class I took in February 2014..it was a stellar foundation and it has served me well. Susanna is an amazing mentor and a seat in her class can be life-changing!

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  • A complimentary viewing of Alayne Kaye Christan’s latest webinar: Top Ten Reason’s for Rejections.  
    If you want tips on some corrective action that you might take to improve your chances of submission success, and/or if you would like to deepen your understanding of plot and arc, this webinar is for you.

    http://www.alaynekaychristian.com/

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Alayne Kay Christian is the content and developmental 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. She has been a professional picture book and chapter book critique writer since 2014. And worked as a critique ninja for Julie Hedlund’s 12 X 12 for three years. Alayne is a graduate of the Institute for Children’s Literature and she has spent the last eleven years studying under some of the top names in children’s literature.

 

  • Picture Book manuscript critique from author Lindsay Metcalf

lindsay h. metcalf (credit anna jackson)Photo courtesy: Anna Jackson Photography

Lindsay H. Metcalf is a children’s author, poet, reporter, and former editor for The Kansas City Star. She will debut with two nonfiction picture books in 2020. In the fall of that year, Charlesbridge will release Taking the Mic: Fourteen Young Americans Making History, a poetic anthology co-edited by Lindsay, Jeanette Bradley, and Keila V. Dawson, and illustrated by Bradley. It features fourteen contemporary young activists, each spotlighted by a well-known poet. Subjects include literacy activist Marley Dias, water protector Jasilyn Charger, Scout for Equality founder Zach Wahls, and immigration reformer Viridiana Sanchez Santos. Contributors include Nikki Grimes, Joseph Bruchac, Lesléa Newman, and Guadalupe García McCall. Details about Lindsay’s second nonfiction picture book will be forthcoming. To learn more about her books and paid critique services, please reach out on lindsayhmetcalf.com or on Twitter @lindsayhmetcalf.

 

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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 2019); and the picture books Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush and Ready, Set, GOrilla! (Clear Fork, 2018). Upcoming releases include Return of the Magic Paintbrush and Sadie’s Shabbat Stories (Clear Fork, 2019). She is also the co-author of The Parent-Child Book Club: Connecting With Your Kids Through Reading (HorizonLine Publishing, 2009). 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. 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 The Hewitt School and at Temple Shaaray Tefila. Melissa lives in New York City with her husband, three daughters, and one puppy.

www.MelissaStoller.com

www.MelissaStoller.com/blog

http://www.facebook.com/MelissaStoller

http://www.twitter.com/melissastoller

http://www.instagram.com/Melissa_Stoller

http://www.pinterest.com/melissa_Stoller

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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, and by the age of 11 she was writing and binding her own “books”.  Amber is the author of Sophie and Little Star (Clearfork/Spork 2018) and two yet to be announced picture books.  Amber has worn many hats in her career : Army wife, Mother, Visual Merchandiser, Certified Pharmacy Technician, and most recently, Childcare Professional.  But she has always circled back to her first love of telling stories.  Amber currently resides in Missouri with her husband and two children.
  • Picture Book manuscript critique from author Sherry Howard.

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Sherry Howard lives in Middletown, Kentucky, in a household busy with kids and pets. She worked as an educator, and now has the luxury of writing full time. Her debut picture, Rock and Roll Woods, released in October, 2018. And her middle grade NF, Deep Sea Divers, just released. She has quite a few books in the pipeline for publication soon.

Sherry Howard | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

 Meet Kuda and Rock and Roll Woods here.

Deep Sea Divers

Julie Abery

Mother. Writer. Teacher of the very young. I live in Switzerland with my partner and Tilly, the Springer Spaniel.

I ❤️ my job (it’s not every day you get to be an honorary five year old!)

I ❤️ chocolate  (I live in Switzerland after all!)

I ❤️  walking the dog (well, I did eat all the chocolate!)

I ❤️  picture books!

If you would like to learn more about me, please visit

http://www.stormliteraryagency.com/our-authors-and-artists/

  • Picture book critique from author Tina Cho.

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Tina Cho is the author of four picture books– Rice from Heaven: The Secret Mission to Feed North Koreans (Little Bee Books/Bonnier Publishing August 2018), Korean Celebrations (forthcoming Tuttle 2019), Breakfast with Jesus (forthcoming Harvest House 2020), and a new sale yet to be announced. Although she grew up and taught in the United States, she currently lives in South Korea with her husband and two children while teaching at an international school.

The Girls Guide to Manners

www.tinamcho.com

 

  • Picture book critique from author Carrie Finison.

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Carrie Finison began her literary career at the age of seven with an idea, a box of markers, and her father’s typewriter. She has been writing off and on ever since, though she has (somewhat regretfully) traded in the typewriter for a laptop. Her poems and stories for children have appeared in Babybug, Ladybug, High Five, and Highlights magazines, and her debut picture book,DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS, illustrated by Brianne Farley, will be published by Putnam in 2020. She lives outside Boston with her husband, son, daughter, and two cats who permit her to write in their cozy attic office. Find her online atwww.carriefinison.com or on Twitter @CarrieFinson.

  • Picture book critique from Maria Marshall

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Maria is a children’s author, blogger, and poet passionate about making nature fun for children. She was a round 2 judge for the 2018 & 2017 Cybils Awards. And a judge for the #50PreciousWords competition since its inception. Two of her poems are published in The Best Of Today’s Little Ditty 2016 and 2014-2015 anthologies. She is the parent of two amazing adults and lives in the Pacific Northwest with two Pixie Bob cats. When not writing, critiquing, or reading, she bird watches, travels the world, bakes, and hikes. The Picture Book Buzz

 

Website  Facebook  Twitter  Instagram

 

  • Signed copy of book by Laura Sassi

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Laura Sassi has a passion for telling stories in prose and rhyme.  Her picture books include  GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, 2015), GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, 2014), DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling, 2018) and LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, 2018). She lives in New Jersey with her husband, two children, and a black Cockapoo named Sophie. She is represented by Lara Perkins of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency and you can learn more about her and her books at https://laurasassitales.wordpress.com/

  • Signed copy of THE MASTERPIECE by Shelley Kinder

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Shelley lives in Indiana with her family and loves writing for little people. Not So Scary Jerry (2017) was her first picture book. The Masterpiece (2018) is her second. Its original version got eleventh place in Vivian’s #50PreciousWords Contest in 2016

www.ShelleyKinder.com

 

A big thank you to all of our amazing prize donors! Much appreciation to illustrator Vicky Fang whose awesome logo graces our challenge! And a grateful thank you to my dear friends and critique buddies, Maria Marshall, Julie Abery, and Diane Tulloch who will be helping me read and comment.

Last year there were almost 2000 comments – ALL OF THEM POSITIVE AND ENCOURAGING!  I am so proud to be a part of this amazing kidlit community. Our news stations and politicians could definitely learn something from us.

And before I leave you to post your stories and comment on those you have a chance to read, I thought it would only be fair if I posted my sample of a 50-word story. I hang my head in shame because I am using the same story I wrote for last year’s post. I hope you will forgive me, preparations for my book launches and trip did not allow me time to write a new one, but I did want to put up an example for those who haven’t participated before. And maybe it will be new to them!

WHY THE STARS TWINKLE (49 words)

It was Sun’s birthday.

Moon gathered paper, paint,

glitter and glue to make a card.

But Wind blew.

Glitter and glue covered the stars.

“Now I have no gift for Sun,” cried Moon.

“Twinkling stars are the best present of all,” said Sun.

And Moon glowed all night long.

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Remember, if you have any questions or concerns, please email me at: viviankirkfield@gmail

I ask for your patience and understanding if I don’t get back to you right away…but please don’t stress…if you write a story and have trouble posting it, just email me. As long as your email gets to me time stamped before the contest closes, I will make sure your story is entered. Right at this moment, I am in Auckland, New Zealand, participating in library and school story times, reading FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN: AN ANIMAL COUNTING BOOK, PIPPA’S PASSOVER PLATE, and SWEET DREAMS, SARAH! How lucky can aa girl get???

And I am so looking forward to reading all of your precious words!

 

Mira Reisberg: Will Write/Teach/Edit for Cookies

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

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INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

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MIRA REISBERG

Aspiring authors and illustrators often ask: what are the steps you need to take to climb the ladder of success in this industry. There is one thing the pros all agree upon: HONE YOUR CRAFT. And one of the ways to do that is to take classes. In 2014, I jumped in with both feet and signed up for five different picture book writing classes. Towards the end of the year, I realized that even though I was ‘only a writer’, it might be helpful to get the perspective of an illustrator. I thought this would help me become a better writer, especially with my pacing and page turns. So, in December of 2014, I signed up for Mira Reisberg’s Illustrating Children’s Picture Books, and was thrilled to connect with the mentor I had admired from afar. The class rocked. I did learn more about pacing and page turns…and even gathered my courage and posted a thumbnail storyboard at one of the interactive webinars that were part of the class. And now I have three pbs debuting in 2019 and two in 2020.  

 

Mira Reisberg has helped MANY authors and illustrators get published. She has worn just about every hat in the industry including award-winning illustrator, author, and literary agent. Mira holds a PhD in Education and Cultural Studies with a focus on children’s literature. She has taught children’s literature courses at Washington State University, Northern Illinois University, San Francisco City College Extension, and UC Berkeley Extension. Mira also works as an acquiring editor and art director at Clear Fork Publishing’s children’s book imprint Spork. Receive free goodies from her at bit.ly/CBA-Gift  and learn about the Children’s Book Academy here http://bit.ly/CreateKidsBooks

Hello Mira…it is such a pleasure to have you here. I know everyone is anxious to get an inside peek at this publishing industry from an editor’s POV

Hi Vivian, thank you for having me here. It was such a pleasure having you in the course and I’m so delighted that we’ve stayed friends and that you’ve been so successful.

ME: And what luck for me, Mira, that I will get to hug you in person next year at the Australia/NZ SCBWI conference in Sydney! I was lucky enough to take your Illustrating Picture Books class back in 2014. The content is fabulous. But can you tell us a bit about how you work with students in the course? Is it different from the way you work in your position as an editorial art director?

 

 MIRA: As you know I love helping people in a very hands-on, love-connected way. When I was a university professor, I wasn’t allowed to be so heart-centric but having my own school, I am. In both my teaching and art directing and editing I give very specific suggestions and provide examples. A long time ago I had a publisher who would just say “that’s not quite it yet,” which would make me crazy because I had no idea what “it” was. So I like to give very specific suggestions that the person can take or leave.

 

Our interactive courses, such as our upcoming illustration course, are very comprehensive with daily lessons that include worksheets and handouts for working with ideas, and creating children’s books along with video demonstrations teaching drawing, painting, collage, stamp making, dummy making, etc. along with interviews with experts sharing their techniques and experiences. It’s all the technical and business aspects of making a book and getting published.

 

There’s way too much to describe but besides sharing over 30 years of experience and learning in the biz, my favorite parts are about working directly with students in the courses and the folks that I acquire for Spork. In the courses, I get to do this through a very interactive Facebook group, the weekly live critiques, and the optional additional one-hour critiques that I do via shared-screen Skype and Photoshop. I do it this way so I can show and tell and teach at the same time.

 

In all aspects of my life, I am a teacher. In just the past 8 months I have art directed eight picture books from last year’s illustration course students including two writers who took the course and whose stories I fell in love with. I’ve developed a technique that I think has been very effective in art directing. I look at the work at each stage and make video critiques where I can literally point at things that I think can be strengthened. Sometimes I’ll take something into Photoshop and demonstrate how to make something recede or make a character cuter or play with body language and include that in the video as well. Then we’ll talk via email and also via Skype. It’s a wonderfully collaborative process where I often bring the author in as well because once the art stuff is happening the text often needs to change because it can be shortened or because the art will show that something isn’t clear in the text or that could be improved. I don’t want the author to be prescriptive about what the illustrator can or should do, but rather to have it be a collaborative love fest and it usually is.

ME: The Children’s Book Academy is a household word in our kidlit community. Why did you start CBA?

MIRA: The Children’s Book Academy started as the Picture Book Academy after I’d been a university professor teaching Kid Lit survey courses to future teachers and Children’s Book Writing and Illustration courses to graduate students. I didn’t like institutional teaching with grading and rubrics, where everyone needed to be on the same page at the same time. I really wanted to teach in a much more unconventional and love-centric way where people could learn at their own pace and in their own way and really help each other. I wanted my students to learn through pleasure and their own personal desire to grow and blossom, so I started the Academy. Because of my Ph.D. and university work, I knew how to set up comprehensive sequential systems of teaching and learning using scaffolding techniques, but the rest of it I developed myself through hard work and vertical learning curves. I am so grateful that it has paid off for our students.

 

ME: I know you’ve had a long and successful career as a mentor and teacher for kidlit. How have your own experiences as an author and illustrator, as well as an art director and editor and agent, helped you in your position as an instructor?

 

MIRA: I am very fortunate to have been in the business for over 30 years and to discover fairly early on my life’s work so that I could help others. I’m able to bring all of these experiences together to provide really rich experiences teaching both technique and business skills for my students to help them create fantastic books, many of which get published. I am so thrilled that my students have published over 220 books that I know of, and won many, many awards. It makes me feel like a proud mama.

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As a teacher, I continue helping my students long after the course ends as you can see in this video with just some of our now published students that we did a year ago – https://youtu.be/t3QRa3vovvI  With both the students that I hire to write and illustrate books for Spork, plus other now published former students, I’m doing all sorts of marketing stuff to help them succeed. It’s obvious, I do a little too much, but I truly love this work. I’m hoping to do less in the future but not sure how. I’ve also contracted two of my own books that I’ve written and am illustrating, which I’ll be sharing in the illustration course as well.

ME: What advice would you give aspiring authors and illustrators who are just starting their journey?

MIRA: There are three things I’d advise them to do. One, take courses like the Children’s Book Academy. The second is is to play, and experiment. If you take a playful approach rather than a work approach you’re going to be open to revising and experimenting, doing things over and over until you get your work where you want it to be. If you play and experiment, you’ll enjoy doing it more, you’ll get hooked on the endorphins and do it a lot, and this too will grow your skills. The third thing is to join a critique group so other eyes can see your work. We set these up for you in our interactive courses but you can also join a critique group through SCBWI.org, which is another fabulous resource for you.

ME: Oh WOW! This has been amazing, Mira! Lots of great insider info about the editing process and how your CBA Illustrating Chidren’s Picture Books class works. And I love your advice to play and experiment…I think sometimes we get so serious about our writing, we forget it needs to be fun!

MIRA: Vivian, thank you so much for interviewing me. I really got into this and it made me think about what I do and why. One of the things that came up for me is that when I die, I’ll go knowing that I’ve done a lot of good in the world, and that’s a wonderful thing.

ME: Oh my goodness…it’s always good to reflect on what we have accomplished as well as what we want to do as we move forward, Mira. But I’m planning on continuing our friendship for a good long time…so you’ll have decades more time to do more good things. 

And one good thing that appears at the end of our Write for Cookies post is always a recipe for a sweet treat. Since Mira doesn’t eat foods with gluten or with sugar, I’m sharing a link to a fabulous website with not one, not two, but FORTY Gluten-Free Sugar Free cookie recipes.

Paleo-Cookies-Horiz-728x381Photo courtesy: https://wholenewmom.com/recipes/paleo-cookies-sugar-free-cookies/

And dear friends, please let me know if you try any of them…I want to try ALL of them!

Thank you all for spending your precious time here – and I know we are all thanking Mira for stopping by. I hope this post gave you an inside peek at some of what goes on when a book is acquired by an editor. If  you are in search of online classes to help you hone your craft, I know Mira would be delighted to have you stop by CBA.  She often gives free webinars where she teams up with other editors to offer tips and techniques on writing picture books…and guess what? There is one coming soon:

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