Holiday Contest (Part 3)

Am I being completely ridiculous? Feel free to tell me if I am – but I’m doing this anyway. Here is yet another entry into Susanna Hill’s holiday writing contest.

I was struck by the holiday spirit, and couldn’t stop writing. I promise, this is my last one.



Twelve little daisies found a big stack of springtime books.

Eleven about lady bugs,

Ten about April showers,

Nine about baby chicks,

Eight about spring cleaning,

Seven about playful lambs,

Six about bicycle rides,

Five about butterflies,

Four about bird chirps,

Three about fresh air,

Two about picnics,

and one about Christmas. Christmas?!

The daisies were amazed.

They gathered around the Christmas book, pouring over each page.

Elves? Pine cones? Reindeer? Sleds? They had no idea such things existed!

A daisy’s life is all about spring – new growth, bunnies, Easter eggs – that kind of stuff.

But hot chocolate?! Honestly, who could resist?

Not these twelve daisies, so they headed off to explore an exciting new world.

First they came to summer.

They discovered sand and waves, beach balls, barbecues, and fireworks.

But it was so hot, they all developed a bad case of the wilts.

Next was autumn.

Autumn revealed costumes and candy, jack-o-lanterns, and turkey with stuffing.

But the chilly winds took their toll. They arrived at winter, broken and blotched.

Knowing they were close, The little daisies trudged on through the snow shedding petals with each step.

By the time they reached Christmas they were nothing but twelve brown sticks.

The inhabitants of Christmas were surprised. They had heard of daisies, but pictured something a bit more … healthy, but Santa new better.

“For your bravery and curiosity,” said Santa, “I give you a bit of Christmas magic.”

And with a touch of his nose, the daisies transformed back into their springtime glory.

The Christmas folk were merry hosts, and in return, the little daisies shared their fresh, bright enthusiasm, making it the springiest Christmas ever.

Thanks for reading, and a very springy holiday season to you all!

Holiday Contest (Part 2)

When this years holiday writing contest by Susanna Leonard Hill was announced, I sat down for a little brainstorming session.  The only restrictions were is must be 300 word or fewer, and should be based on the concept of The Twelve days of Christmas.

The Ideas came pouring out, and I am not one to let a idea go to waste, so I wrote everything that begged to be written.

Being a David, this title leapt into my head, and the story wasn’t far behind.



Twelve elves named Dave in Christmas Town

perform a simple task –

which every year saves Christmas time.

“But how?” I hear you ask.

Dave One puts sugar in a bowl,

Dave Two, he adds some more.

Dave Three pours milk and cracks the eggs.

The flour comes from Four.

Number Five then stirs the dough,

Six plops it in a pan.

Eight helps Seven bake it to

a lovely golden tan.

Nine spreads frosting, Ten shakes sprinkles,

Eleven sneaks a lick.

The cake is fetched by number Twelve

and given to St. Nick.

It has

Twelve shakes of cocoa,

Eleven juicy berries,

Ten curls of chocolate,

Nine crumbled cookies,

Eight small marshmallows,

Seven toasted almonds,

Six candied gingers,

Fiiiiive – jel – ly – beeeeeans,

Four toffee bits,

Three gum drops,

Two candy canes,

Leaving one huge smile on Santa’s face.

See, Santa never stops to rest,

he works till he’s run down.

Poor Santa Claus would starve without

the Daves of Christmas Town.


Thank you for stopping by!

Holiday Contest (Part 1)

Last Christmas I entered my first writing contest put on by Susanna Leonard Hill. I had so much fun that I entered her Valentin’s Day contest and her Halloween contest. Now I’m a bit of a junkie. In fact, I had so many ideas this time around, I couldn’t stop with just one. Please enjoy …


On the first day of Christmas, my mom dared me to smile.

I said, “No! I hate being nice.”

On the second day of Christmas, my mom dared me to clean my room.

I just ignored her.

On the third day of Christmas, my mom dared me to help her open a stuck cabinet.

I tuned to leave, but slipped, bumped the cabinet, and it popped open.

“Thanks,” she said.

“I didn’t mean to.” I said.

“I know, but thanks.”

On the forth day of Christmas, my mom dared me to play with my sister.

I didn’t like doing it, but my sister had fun.

On the fifth day of Christmas, my mom dared me to help our neighbor pull weeds.

I worked quickly to get it over with.

My neighbor brought me hot chocolate.

On the sixth day of Christmas, my mom dared me to help a woman carry a box.

The lady hugged me.

It wasn’t so bad.

On the seventh day of Christmas, I waited for my dare.

Plant a tree?


On the eighth day of Christmas, my mom dared me to pick up trash at the playground.

I cleaned up the soccer field too. Why not?

On the ninth day of Christmas, I asked, “What do I get to do today?”

“Bring cookies to the firemen.”


On the tenth day of Christmas, my mom dared me to give away some toys.

I did. Then, I asked for another dare. And, another!

On the eleventh day of Christmas, I made my bed, set the table, let someone pass me in line, and held a door. Mom didn’t even have to dare me.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my mom dared me to stop smiling.

I said, “No, thank you. I like being nice.”


Thanks for reading. And for more wonderful entries, or to enter yourself, go to Susanna’s blog.


November was among other things, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) during which writers attempt to write 50,000 words towards a novel. It is also Picture Book Month in which, everyday, a different picture book creator writes about why picture books are important.

I decided to take the hard work and dedication required for the first, and the inspiration from the second, to create my own challenge.

30 first drafts in 30 days.

I allowed myself to write a picture book, a contest entry, a magazine submission, a blog post, poetry, or anything else that lead towards improvement of my writing skills.

I did all of this.

After 30 days, I have 30 new pieces to work with.

With a little work (read – a lot of work), I will have a whole new batch of usable  pieces.

This wasn’t easy.

I do try to create every day, and for the most part I succeed. But the difference between simply doing some work every day, and creating something completely new is large.

I started the month with a list of possible topics. For the first few days, I ticked them off 1, 2, 3. But the list was quickly abandoned for fresh ideas. At this point in my writing, I don’t know why this surprises me, but it does. I have never spent much time without an idea, but every time I finish one, I worry about finding the next. Then suddenly I write something new.

I love creating something new every day, but it’s not something I can maintain for more than about a month. It doesn’t give me time to work on the drafts to turn them into something better.

Now I have some interesting new work, some things to submit to magazines, and the satisfaction of completing a difficult task.

My other big self-challenge for the year, reading 1000 picture books in the year is close to completion. Expect a big blog post (or several blog posts) about that soon.

Happy Halloween

It’s time for another Susanna Leonard Hill Halloween writing contest. This years criteria, are 1) 100 words or less, and 2) must include the words spider, moon, and ghost in some form.

I’m always up for a challenge, so here goes –



By David McMullin


Halloween is the night for ghosts to rise and seek out those who have wronged them.


Edgar had wronged many.


He had a plan – a walnut shell on his back, leaves for wings, twigs for antennae – a beetle costume. Beetles never wronged anyone.

As clouds engulfed the moon, the world dropped into darkness. The ghosts of hundreds of flies rose from their tiny graveyards.


They all turned towards Edgar.

How did they know? He looked down at his costume.

Too many legs! Eight, long, spidery legs – not very beetle-like.

Edgar tried to escape, but …


International Dot Day

Yesterday was Dot Day.the-dot

Dot Day is a celebration of creativity inspired by Peter H. Reynold’s 2003 picture book, THE DOT.

Over the past year, I have included several lists of wonderful books, but I have not yet listed my very favorites – my top 10. When I do print that list, THE DOT will be right near the top.

In the book, an artistically challenged girl discovers that she is truly an artist at heart – all because of a clever teacher.

Her progression is true and steady, and her evolution brings the story full circle. I find it both satisfying and inspirational. Reynold’s simple illustrations, compliment the book perfectly.

I am always working to improve my own illustration skills. Vashti, the main character, is a great example for me. She is constantly looking for ways to improve, ways to make a better dot. I find my own “dots” getting better and better. Each day I try something new, I make new discoveries.

Now if only I could reach Vashti’s level of success in 32 short pages. Here’s to turning another page!

Picture Book ***500***

So far this year I have read 500 picture books.

All of these books were published in the last 5 years. I’ve also read dozens of older picture books, and 20 or so middle grade novels, but my goal this year was to focus on the recent batch of picture books.

I wanted to see what the trends and styles are in the market today.  Although I have many take-aways from reading all of these books I’ll just mention the highlights.

Same or different people as Author and Illustrator:

  • Separate author and illustrator: 58%
  • Author/illustrators: 42%

Word counts:

  • Wordless – 3%
  • Under 100 – 10%
  • Under 500 – 60%
  • Over 800 – 25%
  • Over 1000 – 18%

Main characters:

  • Animals: 29%
  • Humans: 59%
  • Creatures: 6%
  • Inanimate: 5%
  • Male: 68%
  • Female: 32%
  • Asian: 5%
  • Black: 11%
  • Hispanic: 4%
  • White: 76%
  • Not sure: 4%


  • Fiction: 83%
  • Non-fiction: 13%
  • Both: 4%


  • Rhyming: 15%
  • Non-rhyme: 84%
  • Both: 1%

For those of you who are interested, my 500th book was THE SNATCHABOOK by Helen Docherty and Thomas Docherty. I really enjoyed it. Great rhyme. Fun story, Great art. It reminded me a bit of one of my stories.

If At First …

I have been working on an idea for quite some time now. By “working on” I mean that I thought of an idea for a story months ago but haven’t gotten around to writing it until now.

It was just a phrase I heard someone say. I didn’t know what to do with it, so I just added it to the list of many other ideas that I don’t know what to do with.

Two months ago was National Picture Book Writing Week or NaPiBoWriWee. The goal of NaPiBoWriWee is to write a new first draft of a picture book everyday for a week. By the end of the week you have 7 new first drafts to play with. I did OK. I wrote 5 new first drafts during the week. One of them was using the phrase I wrote of above.

I knew at the time it wasn’t very good, so I never went back to read it. Then this week I felt the need to re-explore the idea. I came up with two versions of how the story should go. Normally I would have brainstormed until I had what I thought was the best idea and then wrote that. This time I wrote both.

Now I have 3 stories based on the same idea. What I discovered is it is so much easier to decide which direction to go when you have something real. Three rough manuscripts instead of just three ideas. Now I can really see what works and what doesn’t. I can read them. See how they flow. Feel them on the tongue.

This method takes a lot longer, but I think in the end makes my decisions much clearer. What to use, what not to use, what to combine – I can see it right in front of me.

Now a little tweaking and it’s off to the critique group.

Getting It Right

There is a question that every writer asks. How do I know when it is ready?

I have asked myself this question a million times . Every time I write a new story,  I go through the whole process – I write, I revise, I revise again, I send to my critique group, I revise, I send to more critique partners, I revise, and revise, and revise.

I get to the point where I think it is ready, then I revise again.

I return to it a month later, and I revise.

Every step along the way I am confident it is in the best shape it can be, then I change my mind and rework, rewrite, revise.

With my latest manuscript things are different. I know this one is ready. I read it through and I am proud of every word.

Why is this time different? I’ve been confident with many of my other stories. I, in fact, love my other stories and am confident they are sellable, but this time something was different.

I’ve been working on this story for a year and a half. It started out as an experiment in sounds. There was no story, just voices and sounds. Then it started coming together. Characters appeared. They needed a plot, I gave them one. I was on my way. I loved what I had so far. In fact, I thought it was ready. (But I didn’t really.) Then I showed it to one more person. Their advice was what was hiding in the back of my head from the beginning.

I decided my darlings needed to die. I completely rewrote the manuscript. I didn’t like it. So I completely rewrote it again – in rhyme! I haven’t written in rhyme in a very long time. This time everything felt right.

The point is, you know. I loved what I had written,

  • but I wasn’t submitting it,
  • but I continued to show it to critique partners,
  • but I continued to tinker with every word,
  • but something nagged at the back of my head.


I know now what it feels like when it is ready.