Monthly Archives: February 2017

Another Valentine’s Day Contests

It seems like just yesterday that I was adding my entry to the inaugural Susanna Hill Valentiny Writing Contest. Here we are at year two (The Second Annual Valentiny Writing Contest). Hurray, it’s becoming a thing!

I will admit that I wasn’t planning to enter this time around. I am currently attending the SCBWI winter conference in New York City, and I wanted to spend my time preparing for and putting my energies into making sure I had a productive experience.

But who was I kidding? As soon as I read the rules –  “Write a Valentines story appropriate for children (children here defined as ages 12 and under) maximum 214 words in which someone is confused.”  – I was trapped. While I was not paying attention, my brain, behind my back, came up with this.



“Look,” said Manny Mooney. “I found a valentine on Penny Pepper’s desk. It says, ‘For my marvelous Manny. You do the funniest things!’”

“It must be for me,” said Manny Mackey. “I mimic messy monkeys.”

“Or, it could be for me,” said Manny Meany. “I march through muddy muck.”

“No, it’s for me,” said Manny Murphy. “I make myself milkshake mustaches.”

“You forget about me,” said Manny Mitty. “I moo to mixed-up music.”

“And what about me,” said Manny Moony. “I mumble with a mouthful of mini-marshmallows.”

All five Mannys held onto the valentine and performed their funny feats.

Penny Pepper pranced in and was perfectly perplexed.

“What are you doing with my valentine?” she asked.

All of the Mannys answered at once, “I’m proving this valentine was meant for me.”

“Oh,” said Penny Pepper, “this valentine is not for Manny Mackey, Manny Meany, Manny Murphy, Manny Mitty, OR Manny Mooney.”

“But there are no more Mannys,” said the many Mannys.

“If you look closer,” said Penny Pepper, “this valentine says, ‘For my marvelous Mommy.’ I’m bringing this one home.”


Thanks for reading, and go to Susanna’s Blog to read all of the other wonderful entries.

1000 Picture Books – Part 5: Final Thoughts

12 months, 1000 picture books, and 1 ton of fun! Click here to start at the beginning of this series.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but all of that listing wore me out. Now, I need to sit back and relax with a good picture book (or 1000 more).

Each time we complete an epic journey, there is always a lesson hidden somewhere, so… let’s figure this one out.

I was surprised at the number of comments I got, both here and on facebook, about this project. One comment that really stuck with me, went something like this:

When you look at these lists, don’t you feel overwhelmed that everything has been done before?

My initial thought was – Well now that you put the idea into my head, I do! There doesn’t seem to be any stone left unturned (and yes, there were even books about stones). As you browse through these statistics, everything is represented. Every format. Every character, Every plot. Every topic. Every point of view. And if something is not represented in these posts, it’s only because I didn’t share every little detail. If I had, this would have been a 10 part series.

In my own experience, I can’t count the number of times I have written an “original” story, only to see the same book released by someone else a few months later.

But think about it – of course this happens. Just look around you. In this business, we are surrounded by smart, thoughtful, imaginative, energetic, soulful, clever, industrious peers, both published and unpublished. The number of possible ideas generated by picture book writers and illustrators, each and every day, is staggering! Our combined brain energy could power a small planet.

I do not find this overwhelming. I find this thought – freeing.

The knowledge that everything has been done in some form, removes the constraints. Yes, I hope we all strive to be creative, and original, but now the pressure is gone.

This huge body of preexisting ideas gives us the drive to develop a stronger individual voice, and to work towards improving our craft. This is an opportunity to learn and grow. And we can use the work of others to help us get there.

Now, go read!

Be inspired. Learn about what you like and what you don’t like. If you find something similar to yours, that’s okay. Find ways to make yours unique.

It’s bound to be… it’s yours.


1000 Picture Books – Part 4: Point of View

This is the paragraph to skip if you have already been following this series.  In 2016 I decided to learn more about current trends in picture book market by reading 1000 books. As I did, book by book, this monster of statistics, began to grow into what you see before you. In case you missed any of the previous parts, click here: Part 1 – Picture book makers; or Part 2 – Characters; or Part 3 – Genre.

Now, we continue with point of view and settings.


442 – Past

430 – Present

34 – Future

5 – Multiple

25 – Wordless

I’m surprised that past and present are nearly equal. I felt like I read so many more written in past tense.



583 – Third

174 – First

53 – Third

88 – Conversation

8 – Lists

5 – Letters

2 – Questions

6 – Multiple

25 – Wordless



820 – Not in rhyme

161 – Rhyming

10 – Some rhyme, some not

We’ve all heard it – don’t write in rhyme. I do all the time, I love it. Maybe, I’m a glutton for punishment, and as we can see here, not nearly as many rhymers are making it onto the page. I would be interested to see statistics from a publishing house on the percentage of rhyming picture book manuscripts they receive. Of the books I read, 16% were in rhyme. If the percentage of rhyming books being submitted is smaller than 16% then it would be an advantage to write in rhyme. I’m guessing the opposite is true.


Time Period:

852 – Contemporary

96 – Past

5 – Prehistoric

2 – Future

2 – Multiple


Weather/Time of day/Seasons:

824 – Weather was not important to the story.

74 – Night or Dark

43 – Winter or Snow

27 – Across the 4 seasons

14 – Rain

10 – Summer

6 – Wind

5 – Storm

4 – Spring

4 – Autumn



158 – Multiple locations

151 – Home

81 – No clear location

78 – Woods

61 – Traveling around town

56 – School

51 – City

43 – Specifically, not is the USA (most popular not-USA locations: 8-Africa; 7-France; 5-Middle East; 4-Mexico)

34 – Ocean

28 – Yard

27 – Farm

25 – Jungle

20 – Kingdom

15 – Space

14 – Zoo

13 – Park

10 – Library

7 – Stage

6 – Around the world

6 – Book

5 – Garden


And some other stuff:

51 – Books with back matter

1 – Board books

2 – Comic Book Style

15 – Books that could be manipulated (flaps, pop-ups, turning book, etc.)


Phew! That’s it for the stats. Well, that was quick and easy.

I’ll write one more blog post to wrap everything up. Part 5 is right here.