Susanna Hill’s 2021 Halloweensie Contest

Create a story in 100 words or less using the words glow-in-the-dark, goosebumps, and goodies.

Glowing cockroaches live at the base of a volcano in Ecuador. And they’re practically extinct.

By Lori Himmel
100 words

Cockroach bumped his glow-in-the dark carapace on a log.


“No light! Can’t mimic Click Beetle! I’ll be eaten for sure. And on Halloween!”
“Bioluminescence burnout?” asked Firefly.
“No glow? Not safe!” said Railroad Worm, emitting colorful lights.
“Copycat,” grumbled Click Beetle.

Cockroach skittered to the entomologist.
“Golly, goosebumps! Bad case indeed.”
“OH, dread! Will I ever light up the night again, Doc? What’s the cure?”
“Take two bacteria-filled gummies to restore your glow.”

Goodie gumdrops!”
Cockroach glowed as yellow as the full moon.

“Finally safe from predators! Let’s trick-or-treat, Click Beetle!”

Glowing cockroaches mimic the bioluminescent click beetle, whose glow warns predators of its toxicity.

A carapace is a bony case or shield covering the back or part of the back of an animal.

#50PreciousWords 2021

Every year Vivian Kirkfield hosts a 50 precious words contest. A challenge, yes, and one that pushes me to consider how a story can be told in very few words. Writing picture books is really hard, and it still comes as a surprise when I can slash words from my story to make it even tighter. Ever word matters. My entry this year points to an article I read back in 2017, but the article came out in 2015, about a 109-year old Australian man who knit sweaters for injured penguins. It really tugged at my heart so I wanted to write a little something in honor of that sweet man.

Penguin Sweaters

By Lori Himmel (50 words)

Wings are for flying, but you don’t soar.
The ocean is your sky. Zip. Zoom.

Do those scratches hurt?
Bandages slip off your wet suit.

Knit one, purl two.
Vibrant colors collide.

I am old.
You should live long too.

Here, a sweater.
Wear it in good health, penguin friend.


RULES: Write a story for children in 214 words or less about someone being brave.

By Lori Himmel
202 words

“I can’t wait to hear all your Valentine’s Day poems tomorrow,” announced Ms. Morris.
Juliet wanted to disappear like chocolate in a heart-shaped box.

At home, she stumbled over her already written words.
She tried again.
“Double UGH!”
“This isn’t working!”

Juliet climbed up to her treehouse crying raindrop-sized tears.
Just then, a paper airplane flew into the treehouse window.
There was something written inside.
“Be brave. I believe in you. Love, Mom”

Juliet calmed, dried her eyes, and practiced reciting her poem all afternoon.
She chewed her favorite blue candy in between lines.
Confidence began to burst in Juliet’s voice like cherry-filled chocolates.
“OK! I’ve got this!”

On Valentine’s Day, Sam raised his hand first.
Then Gwen, then Sara.
It was Juliet’s turn.

Still nervous, she began by saying:
“Writing a poem can be hard
especially when you’re shy
I wasn’t sure what to say
But I needed to give it a try

Here it goes.
Roses are red
Puppies are sweet
You may be hungry
So here is a treat

They’re all different colors
My favorite is blue
Guess what they are?
Yes, Fruity-Ka-chew!”

Whew, I did it!
Juliet popped more candy while passing out Fruity-Ka-chew Valentines to her class.

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.

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!”


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!”

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!

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

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.

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!