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SUSANNA HILL’S 10th Annual Holiday Contest- ENTRY #1

I just love participating in these contests. They help keep me motivated throughout the year. So here is ENTRY #1 for the holiday contest. Word count needs to be 250 or less with the theme of holiday helpers. This year I have two entries, because hey, I’m not going anywhere!

by Lori Himmel
245 words

Oliver sleeps in room 245.
The hospital blanket tucks under his chin.
And while he dozes, his parents set up the game Monopoly on his hospital tray.

When Oliver wakes, he helps set up all the properties.
Equipment beeps and medicine drips, while they play.
Nurse Jocelyn checks the machines and takes Oliver’s temperature.
This is Oliver’s new normal since he was diagnosed.

He wishes he could be home for Christmas.
To wake up in his own bed.
To wrestle his sweet dog.
The noises in the hospital are far from the quiet he loves in his bungalow on 6th Street.

To try to raise spirits, Oliver’s parents buy matching pajamas and Santa hats.
They decorate the room with lights that reflect off Oliver’s sunken cheeks.
He tries to smile through the pain that runs through his body.

On Christmas morning, Oliver has little strength to walk to the window.
The floor is cold.
The grass dusts with snow, and the trees frost with white.
Oliver hears rustling in the hall—jingle bells and scratching.
“Ooo, maybe it’s Santa!”

Suddenly, a black nose pushes open the door.
A large dog, wearing a Santa hat, prances to Oliver’s side.
He jingles and jangles when he shakes.

“Merry Christmas, Oliver,” says Nurse Jocelyn. “This is Luca. He’s works at the hospital.”
Luca jumps on Oliver’s bed and licks his face.
“Whoa! Hi, big boy!”

Oliver’s pain disappears for a brief moment while he cuddles his new friend.

contest, Susanna Hill, writing contest, Writing Picture Books

SUSANNA HILL’S 10th Annual Holiday Contest- ENTRY #2

I just love participating in these contests. They help keep me motivated throughout the year. So here is this year’s holiday contest entries. Word count needs to be 250 or less with the theme of holiday helpers. This year I have two entries, because hey, I’m not going anywhere!

by Lori Himmel
248 words

The honey-bee Christmas celebration was in two days.
The flower plague shriveled up so many flowers that it left the honey supply dismally low.

“I don’t think I have enough honey to make my honey-filled cookies,” one bee buzzed. 
“My honey is almost gone,” said another.

Bees tried to prepare their dishes for the feast, with no luck.
Even Queen didn’t have enough for her honey cake.

Queen summoned the bees.
“Because of the honey shortage, the honey-bee Christmas celebration must be cancelled!” she announced.

All the bees hummed slowly back to their hives.
But not Pomelo.
She gathered her worker friends and they all zoomed to Pomelo’s hive.

Little did the honey-bee population know, but Pomelo had a secret storage spot in her honeycomb.
She learned about how to save at Bee Elementary.
Every time she deposited honey in her honeycomb, she added a third of it in her secret storage spot.

“I’ll get the hive slippers I’ve been saving for another day. Christmas can’t be cancelled!”
Pomelo and her friends worked day and night.

On honey-bee Christmas morning, bees swarmed around the town center, hoping for a miracle.
Without any food, it didn’t feel or smell like Christmas.
Pomelo and her friends buzzed down to the crowd, holding trays filled with honey-filled dishes and desserts.

“Christmas isn’t cancelled!” Pomelo shouted.
“Queen, we now present your honey cake for all to share!”
Queen smiled.

Bees crowded around Pomelo and friends, shouting cheerful congratulations. 
“You saved Christmas!”

Writing Picture Books


Rules of the contest: write a 100-word Halloween story appropriate for children, using the words skeleton, creep, and mask. Here is my entry:

by Lori Himmel
100-words (exactly!)

Spiders creep as the sky shifts to black.
Ghost hovers over the lawn and calls for Skeleton,
“Rise up bones! Time to rattle and quake!”
“Let’s go, Humerus and Tibia!”

Vertebra stacks bone-to-bone along the grass.

Shoulder Bone squares up below Clavicle.
Pelvis wobbles into place.

Patella clicks.
Tarsal shimmies down to the foot.
“Nice job!” shouts Ghost.

“Almost complete! But where is Skull?”
Ghost looks everywhere!
Finally, Spike sprints to the lawn wearing Skull as a mask.

“You silly dog!”
Spike shakes and Skull rolls into place.

“Oooo! It’s a bone-tastic Halloween!”

Writing Picture Books

RMC-SCBWI Letters & Lines 2020

Covid-19 Pandemic took the world by storm. Every day we watch the news, trying to make sense of the numbers and the lack of federal response across our country (U.S.). Like everyone, our family spent the better part of spring and summer staying safe, wearing masks, staying socially distant from other people, and if we did get together with anyone, staying outside when possible. Trips were cancelled and out-of-state mostly family stayed put. But you know what happened flawlessly?

2020 RMC-SCBWI Letters & Lines conference

The Letters & Lines conference!

A major round of applause go out to the these lovely ladies:

Without their tireless work, the conference would not go on. And another round of applause to the faculty made up of authors, illustrators, agents, and editors!

I’m going to soak in all the great presentations, review my notes, polish more stories, and be on the lookout for links to presentations I missed. Thankfully, we have a month to listen all the presentations, because you can’t be in two places at once, even on Zoom.

I’m grateful to have been in the same Zoom room as author Mitali Perkins, editor Megan Ilnitzki, author Nancy Turner Steveson, author Olivia Chadha, author/illustrator Pat Cummings, agent Aneeka Kaila, author Jean Reidy (winner of the Crystal Kite award 2020), and so many more. And a special congratulation goes out to one of my critique partners, Darcee Freier, who is a Golden Pen finalist! Her resume is growing and I’m so excited for her.

I don’t know if there was talk of a 2021 conference, but I’m sure I stepped away from the Zoom when it was announced. I’ll definitely be looking forward to it again next year. Until then, happy writing!

Writing Picture Books

Rate Your Story

Rate Your Story (RYS) has been a great resource for me as a writer! The service gives writers an opportunity to submit a story where an author (or judge) reviews the story, rates it, and provide valuable feedback to help improve the story.

The rating scale goes from 10 to 1.

10 is: Consider this story as practice and write a new one.

1 is: Great story!  You should consider submitting this.

I have been a member of RYS for a few years now and I value every ounce of feedback I receive. When I first submitted a story to RYS, I received a 7. And subsequently, each story has improved. One story received a 1 and I about fell off my chair. It’s a great gauge on how your story reads and sounds to a professional in the field. I’m so grateful to all the judges at Rate Your Story, and their time and effort to help writers, like me.

Rate Your Story- Rating 1

Writing Picture Books

Mix ‘n Match Mini Writing Challenge

Susanna Leonard Hill always has amazing writing opportunities on her website. If you ever need a boost, hop on over to Susanna Leonard Hill and be amazed at her writing resources, contests, guides for teachers, and more! Every Monday, for seven weeks, Susanna will post a writing prompt. Writers will pick a character, setting, and a feeling in the Mix ‘n Match lists and write a story with 100 words of less. I hope you enter too!

Here is my entry:

Week #1:
I picked camel, school, jubilant. School is used in the story.
Zara means “blooming flower” in Arabic. 99 words

By Lori Himmel

Zara’s smile was bigger than her crayon box in art school.
But now, class was online.
Ms. Barbary organized calls for her students.

But Zara’s hooves fumbled on the keyboard.
Her drool slobbered the computer.
“Why can’t I go to class like before!” she cried.

Everyday she tried to log on.
“Dreaded dromedary!” she yelled.
Then, one day, feeling annoyed, Zara said,
“Computer! Open my class!”

Now Zara could see Ms. Barbary and her friends.
Zara dipped her brush and mixed colors.
Her smile was bigger than her canvas as she admired her
blooming flower painting!

Week #2:

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bear

By Lori Himmel

Little Bear’s (Ursa Minor) POV

142 words

Twinkle, twinkle!

I’m Little Bear, or to be more precise, Ursa Minor.

And some call me the Little Dipper.

I live in the sky next to my mom. She has many names too:

Big Bear, Ursa Major, or the Big Dipper.

She watches over for me.

This winter I was almost hunted by Orion, so we ran to the middle of the sky and hunkered down. Safe and sound.

I love my sky. Star friends twinkle hello everyday.

I can also see the Earth twinkle, twinkle lots of lights. 

Many lights in many places. Mom says those are cities.

I shine as brightly as I can, squeezing the light down for all to see.

But the Great Haze rests above Earth.

I hope people can still see me, twinkling up here.

Twinkle, twinkle Little Bear, my mom always says.

So I do.

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Honorable Mention – Vivian Kirkfield 2020 #50 Precious Words Contest

I was so excited to be an honorable mention in the adventure category for this fun contest. Thank you Vivian Kirkfield for being so generous with your time on these contests!


#328: Big Ride by Joy Pitcairn
#267: Let’s Take a Walk by Lori Himmel 
#291: Search for Life by Jilanne Hoffmann
#11: Wombat Rescue by Robin Currie
#91: To Catch the Moon by Jenny Buchet

by Lori Himmel

Let’s take a walk
Down the street
around the block
up a trail.

Where paths twist and turn
and rock beds and mud
slop our shoes.
Look under logs
Collect secret treasures
Until pockets are heavy and
legs grow weak.

Let’s take a walk,
little one
Only hand-in-hand
with you.

viviankirkfield said:
I love that you took us along on this walk also, Lori. And I like that you let us feel what they were feeling: until pockets are heavy and legs grow weak. Thanks for sharing your precious words with us.

Really love that their pockets are heavy with “secret treasure.” Nice imagery, Lori.

Nothing like exploring and finding treasures with a kid. Great job putting us in their shoes – slopped with mud – and heavy pockets. Good luck!

Great visuals on this lovely walk. Good luck Lori.

I really enjoyed walking with you Lori – this is lovely to read :o)

Nancy Riley said:

I can se the whole walk. So fun for a little one. Nice job.

jillburns7 said:

Sounds like a lot of fun! Cute story!

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 heartbreak 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 sometimes agonizing) process along the way.



The Contest: write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children, using the words potion, cobweb, and trick.  So grateful to announce that my entry was an honorable mention for unique character!

2019 Halloweensie Contest - Lori Himmel


100 words

House worked for days decorating herself for Halloween.

She mixed up bubbly potions in the kitchen and watched them ooze to the floor.

She hung ghosts in the living room and set a timer for the booing sounds.

House hung cobwebs in every corner of every room.

She saw that it was scary, but not scary enough.

It had to be perfect.

She added vampire bats! Skeletons! Ghouls and goblins!

Then drops of blood, bones, and slime!

Scream machines and mummies wrapped tight!

There! That would do the trick!

Now, House wasn’t just a house anymore.

She was…