write what you know, Writing Picture Books

A BEDTIME STORY

On October 15, 2012, I put my middle child, Natalie, to bed in my usual nighttime routine: snuggles, kisses, and blanket tucks. I then gave her hopes for a great sleep, prayers, and more kisses. It was getting late so I didn’t read her a book, but she asked me to talk about my childhood. Being tired, I couldn’t really think of a single story to tell her, at least not a new one.

o-whisper-in-ear-facebook

So I leaned in close and whispered her a story that came pouring out of my mouth—a character was developing, adventure was happening, conflict was occurring. As the story progressed, my eyes started to well up. I was amazed at what was transpiring. The story ended and Natalie looked at me with wide eyes.

“Is that a true story?”

“No, I just made it up,” I replied.

“Well, that was the best story I’ve ever heard,” she said sweetly.

It wasn’t until the next morning when I thought this story might have potential. It was a subject I knew something about.  I’ve heard time and time again to write what you know. So I fleshed it out over two years. Since then, I’ve been editing, writing more stories, editing some more, researching, receiving feedback and critiques, attending writing conferences, and working toward publishing my first picture book. This whale might give you a little hint on what one of my stories is abowhaleut. Spending time in Hawaii where these beautiful humpback whales live, inspired me to write an adventurous tale.

There have been many, many drafts of this story. Names, titles, rising action, climax have been altered- all because of great feedback I’ve received. I’m working hard and continuing to learn until something sticks. And I’m writing many more stories too!

 

 

Writing Picture Books

Susanna Hill’s 2019 Valentiny Contest

Susanna Leonard Hill, Children’s Author is hosting Oh, Guilty Heart! – The 4th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest!

The rules are: write a 214-word Valentine story appropriate for children in which someone feels guilty. Here is my 212-word entry:

MIMI’S MIXED-UP VALENTINE

“Leave the cards alone, Charles!” Mimi roared at her brother.

Charles mixed up Mimi’s Valentine’s Day cards on the kitchen table and hid some in his pocket.

“Mine!” laughed Charles.

“Charles, you are T-R-O-U-B-L-E!” huffed Mimi ripping a card out of his hand.

“Mimi is my favorite.”

She kept signing cards not looking up and Charles crumpled more cards.

 

Her brother poked at everything on the table.

“Mom! Charles won’t stop!”

“Honey, you know Charles just wants to be with you. Be kind.”

Mimi whispered to her mom, “He’s just out-of-control all the time. Annoying, really.”

Mimi gathered all the cards and slammed the door when she left for school.

“What a start to Valentine’s day! Ugh!”

 

Later that day, Mimi put a card in her classmates’ decorated boxes.

“One for you. And one for you.”

When she looked through all the cards she received, she saw a crooked mixed-up Valentine.

“What’s this?”

 

The card was crumpled and scribbled in black marker.

“I love Mimi. Love, Charles.”

Mimi’s heart sank low.

“I didn’t make a card for Charles!”

After school, Mimi ran into the house and wrapped her arms around Charles.

“I love you everything about you, little bro. Thanks for the card!”

“Mimi is my favorite Valentine!”

“And you’re mine!”

Writing Picture Books

2018 HALLOWEENSIE Contest- Susanna Leonard Hill

Susanna Leonard Hill, Children’s Author is hosting the 8th Annual Halloweensie Contest. The rules are: write a 100-word Halloween story appropriate for children using the words cauldronshiver, and howl. Here is my entry:

WEREWOLF & THE HALLOWEEN RACE

Witch tapped her cauldron three times.

CLINK! CLINK! CLINK!

“Welcome to the Halloween race!”

Werewolf’s knees knocked as he took his place on the starting line.

“On your marks, get set, GO!”

Ghost zoomed off the line, but then disappeared.

Vampire tumbled over his cape.

Skeleton’s bones clanked, falling apart.

Werewolf stumbled and then found a steady pace.

His fur flew.

Slobber drooled.

Ghost appeared again swooshing in and out of Werewolf’s lane.

“Watch out!” shouted Werewolf.

He darted and shivered right through Ghost as he crossed the finish line.

“AHHHH! What happened?”

“Congratulations, Werewolf! You’re the winner!”

HOOOOWL!”

 

Writing Picture Books

HOLIDAY WRITING CONTEST

Susanna Leonard Hill’s holiday writing contest is underway! Here is my entry:

HOLIDAY NEIGHBORS

In November my email DINGS! It reads:

“Sam, I can’t deliver Christmas this year. I broke my back! All the doctors at the North Pole say I have to stay in bed for six weeks! I don’t know what to do. The elves stopped making toys and Mrs. Claus went on vacation. This is a total disaster! Please write back.”

Santa needs my help? Doesn’t he have a lawyer, psychologist or dermatologist or someone else to ask?

Mom says Santa knows I’m organized and that is why he asks me for my help.

I ask the social worker at my school what to do. She looks at me funny and then says she’ll be seeing me quite a bit in the new year.

I ask the lunch lady what to do, she says, “Lay off the sugar, kid.”

The nurse checks my temperature. “Normal, kind of,” she replies under her breath.

Oh, no! Christmas is in big trouble!

I remember there are other holidays around this time, so I call up Hanukkah and Kwanza.

Hanukkah says, “Happy to help! We don’t start lighting candles until January this year. We’ll bring the gifts, one for each child.”

Kwanza says, “One of our main principles is to create unity in the world. We’ll bring the food as it brings us all together around the table.”

Hurrah! It’s all coming together. Presents and food arrive at homes everywhere.

Christmas day is a huge success—thanks to our holiday neighbors.

A couple months later, Cupid texts me…

 

Writing Picture Books

TREASURED PICTURE BOOKS

My critique group, appropriately named the PBJs (Picture Book Junkies), talks about, reviews and studies picture books. All. The. Time. Every week we bring books to the table and we learn from and drool over the fact that we are holding years of effort, sweat and love.

In early December we have our annual Christmas Tea to celebrate our year-end. We laugh at all the fun we’ve had, the minor successes, the heart break rejections, the nominations, the mentorships, our writing news. It is a wonderful celebration!

We also have a gift exchange and everyone leaves with full bellies and either a craft book, picture book, MG or YA to enjoy. This year we will also bring a list of our top 15 favorite picture books. This is a challenge for me, but I’ll sort out the ones that have stood out over time or new ones just hitting the charts as best books of the year. Here are some of my most favorite time-treasured picks:

  1. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (will probably remain #1 forever!)
    *the rest are in no particular order*
  2. Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel
  3. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
  4. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
  5. Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems
  6. On the Day You Were Born by Debra Frasier
  7. The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak
  8. Finding Winnie by Lindsay Mattick
  9. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
  10. The Wolf, the Duck and the Mouse by Mac Barnett
  11. The First Dog by Jan Brett
  12. Owen by Kevin Henkes
  13. Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback
  14. Train by Elisha Cooper
  15. Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena

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One day, I hope to add my name to this list or be on someone else’s list of top picks. Until then, I will work diligently at my craft and enjoy the beautiful (and sometime agonizing) process along the way.