Oh, Guilty Heart! – Susanna Hill’s 4th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest!

It’s almost Valentine’s Day and that means it’s time for Susanna Hill’s Annual Valentiny Writing Contest! I love holidays and writing contests, so this one was a perfect fit for me. Here are the rules:

“. . .write a Valentines story appropriate for children (children here defined as ages 12 and under) maximum 214 words in which someone feels guilty!  Your someone can feel guilty themselves or make someone else feel guilty.  They may feel guilty for good reason, or just because they think they should!  Your story can be poetry or prose, sweet, funny, surprising or anything in between, but it will only count for the contest if it includes someone guilty (can be the main character but doesn’t have to be) and is 214 words (get it? 2/14 for Valentines Day).” 

Hope you enjoy what I came up with. . .

 

Woa, Diddle, Diddle! 

By Patti Richards

 

On Valentine’s Day

I wanted to play

A tune for my very best girl.

 

So, I ran down the hill,

To give her a thrill

And said, “Cat, can I give it a whirl?”

 

“You want THIS violin?”

The cat said with a grin,

“I know you can’t handle the magic.”

 

But Jill loved a good tune.

And if I couldn’t croon

The results would be terribly tragic.

 

So, when I stole that fiddle

To play “Diddle, Diddle,”

The guilt was quite strong, I’ll confess.

 

‘Cause when I began playing

That cow started swaying

And jumping and making a mess.

 

She bounced off the moon,

Then clomped on the spoon,

Tripping over the dish on the way.

 

As she toppled the dog

Her hoof stuck on a log,

Where Miss Muffet was eating her whey.

 

Now hear these wise words

(While I’m raking up curds),

Be careful when playing a tune.

 

If a cow is around

Her love for the sound

Could mean more than just jumping the moon!

 

A dance may ensue

And cause you to rue

The time you and a fiddle cut loose.

 

‘Cause you’ll spend the day hearing

The thing you’ve been fearing,

A lecture from your Mother Goose!

 


Sensibility- It’s fun to take familiar stories, nursery rhymes and fables upside down and make them your own.

Sense-When writing fractured folktales, fairy tales, nursery rhymes and fables that have strong main characters for an immediate reader connection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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STORYSTORM 2018!

I just signed up for STORYSTORM 2018, and I’m looking forward to 30 brand-spanking-new story ideas by the end of January! Thanks for hosting again this year, Tara Lazar, and happy 10th Storystorm Anniversary!

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Susanna Hill’s 8th Annual Holiday Writing Contest! MAZY’S CHRISTMAS MIRACLE

I love the holiday season! And what better way for a writer to celebrate than by entering a holiday writing contest! This is children’s author, Susanna Leonard Hill‘s 8th year of sponsoring this fun event, and the rules are as follows:

Theme: Holiday Heroes

Ages: 12 and under

Words: 250 or less

 

And here’s my submission. . .hope you enjoy!

 

MAZY’S CHRISTMAS MIRACLE 

By Patti Richards

 

The stable was damp.

There was leftover hay.

No one would help

On that December day.

 

Snoring sheep snuggled

All warm in their stalls.

Mice dreamed sweet dreams,

In their nests in the walls.

 

But one mouse woke up

When it heard the soft cry

Of a baby just placed

In a manger close by.

 

“That little one’s cold,”

Tiny Mazy could see.

She grabbed knitting needles

And called out to Bea,

 

Her very best friend

Of all the barn beasts.

“We need to act fast,

Give me some of your fleece!”

 

Mazy carded and spun

As quick as she could.

Her fingers were flying,

While Bea calmly stood

 

As her wool became yarn.

Then row after row,

Mazy knit swaddling clothes

For the small one below.

 

Now, when Mary gets

Credit for wrapping her babe,

Mice and sheep the world ‘round

Know it’s what Mazy made.

 

 


Sensibility- Use the holiday season to spark new ideas for writing projects in the coming year.

Sense- Pace yourself and your writing based on the demands of the holiday season. Don’t fret if you’re not as productive as usual. Embrace this time and be present in each moment with family and friends.


 

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Happy Thanksgiving from Sensibility and Sense!

I just wanted to take a moment and thank you all for being part of my publishing journey this year. It’s had its ups and downs, but I love what I do and am glad I get to keep on doing it! I hope your Thanksgiving is full of every good thing. Life is a gift, and I’m glad for this season where we can pause for a while with family and friends and be grateful! Have a lovely Thanksgiving week:)

 

Photo courtesy of Teresa Kogut/Pinterest

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Happy Publishing News!

I’ve already announced this on social media, but I wanted to share here as well that I’m over-the-moon excited to be part of a new poetry anthology for children called, THANKU: POEMS OF GRATITUDE, edited by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Marlena Myles (Lerner/Millbrook, Fall 2019).

I’m humbled to be one of 32 contributors to the anthology including: Renee LaTulippe, Sylvia Liu, Joseph Bruchac, Margarita Engle, 신 선 영 Sun Yung Shin, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Naomi Shihab Nye, Charles Waters, Jane Yolen, Edna Hokunaauao Cabcabin Moran, Kimberly M Blaeser, Traci McClellan-Sorell, Baptiste Paul, Gwendolyn Hooks, Vanessa Newton, Chrystal Giles, Carolyn Flores, Liz Garton Scanlon,Charles Ghigna, Becky Shillington, Diana MurrayJaNay Brown-Wood, Carole Lindstrom, Padma Venkatraman, Janice Scully, Megan Elizabeth Hoyt, Jamie McGillen, Lupe Flores, Ed DeCaria, Sarvinder Naberhaus andKenn Nesbitt.

 

 

 

Congratulations to everyone, and a special thanks to Miranda Paul for making this possible. I can’t wait to see it all come together!


Sensibility- Trust your inner muse and write from there. Your best work comes from the most authentic you! 

Sense- Never give up. The next thing you draft, revise and submit could bring you something totally unexpected. 


 

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It’s a Picture Book Critique Giveaway!

I’m celebrating hitting the 2000-follower mark on Twitter this morning with a Picture Book Critique Giveaway! Be one of the first five people to comment on this blog post and receive a picture book critique (800 words or less) absolutely FREE! That’s a $50 value completely free! So comment below and I’ll reply with submission instructions!  Thanks so much for being part of my writer journey:)

Happy Writing!

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Of Contests and Such…

Back in October, I received the news that my picture book manuscript, CUPINE’S PERFECT DANCE PARTNER, had been awarded an Honorable Mention in the 86th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition. There were over 5100 entries across several categories, and I was over-the-moon excited that my porcupine story had been selected! Today, they sent me a little swag as a reminder:

I post this today as an encouragement to each of you to keep on keeping on. You never know when that next submission is going to bring you some happy publishing news!

Happy New Year, and Happy Writing!


Sensibility- Persistence always pays off, even if it seems like it’s taking forever!

Sense- Find new places to submit your writing this month. Contests, magazines, newsletters and publishing journals provide important credits and the motivation you need to keep going!


What are some contests or places outside of publishing houses or agents where you’ve submitted your work? 

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STORYSTORM 2018 Registration is OPEN!

Looking forward to Storystorm 2018!

Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)

What a glorious feeling!

It’s that time of the year again, when you will be showered with inspiration!

Story ideas are gonna rain down like cats and dogs! (And maybe some will be about cats and dogs!)

Last year I changed the name and month of my annual writing challenge, from Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) to Storystorm. Why? Answer’s here.

Any writer interested in brainstorming new story ideas in January is invited to join. Any genre, any style; student, amateur, hobbyist, aspiring author or professional.

How does STORYSTORM work? It’s simple…

  • Register here by signing your name ONCE in the comments below. Teachers participating with a class can register under the teacher’s name.
  • Registering makes you eligible for prizes.
  • Visit this blog daily (right here at taralazar.com) in January for inspirational essays by guest bloggers—professional authors, illustrators and experts in creativity.

  • Instead of visiting the blog directly, you can…

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Happy Holidays from Sensibility and Sense!

It’s smack in the middle between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and I’m looking out my office window at a winter blue sky and fresh snowfall. It’s a white and wonderful around here, and I’m enjoying having my daughters home from college for a few more days and looking forward to our family New Year’s Eve celebration. I wanted to take this opportunity to wish all of you Happy Holidays and especially a Happy New Year! Thank you for making this writer’s journey so pleasant by visiting here and sharing your comments along the way. I appreciate each of you!

In the New Year, look for more installments on Writing for Today’s Child, author interviews, great giveaways and new services from PGWRites Critiques as I approach my 100th Sensibility and Sense post! I hope you’ll visit often and let me know your thoughts as we learn and grow together!

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2018!


Sensibility- Find a quiet moment between holiday activities to just think, breathe and be. Turn your heart to thankfulness for all the blessings in your life.

Sense- Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, consider making a list of reachable goals for each month of 2018. As long as you’re moving forward, even baby steps are steps in the right direction!


 

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Writing for Today’s Child, Chapter 1- Kids in Need

Photo courtesy of Bread for the World.

I’ve been doing some research about the lives of today’s children in my efforts to learn more about my audience, and I’ve come across some pretty startling statistics. For example:

  • 1 in 6 people in America face hunger. That means more than 1 in 5 children is at risk for being hungry during a regular school day. Among African American and Latino American children, the risk is 1 in 3.
  • For every 100 school lunch programs, there are only 87 breakfast sites and 36 summer food programs.
  • Nearly half of the 1 in 7 people enrolled in SNAP programs are children.
  • Over 20 million children receive free or reduced-price lunches each day at school. Less than half of these kids get breakfast, and even less than that have access to a meal program in the summer.
  • 40 percent of food is thrown out in the United States each year. That’s about $165 billion, and that amount could feed 25 million people.[1]

Yep, you read that right…$165 billion…enough to feed 25 million hungry people; and a grotesquely large number of those are children. Pretty overwhelming stuff, considering we’re at the end of the season of thankfulness and just opening the door on the season of giving.

So what do these numbers have to do with writing for kids? Well, think about that for a minute. One in 5 children ARE hungry during the regular school day. That means when little Johnny or Susie picks up a book during library time, most days all he or she can think about is, “When’s lunch?” And I don’t know about you, but when I’m hungry, reading, thinking or any kind of concentrating is almost impossible. Now imagine if that same child picks up a book about making pancakes, or having a meal with family, or sitting down to a table laden with holiday goodness? I mean, don’t we all get a little bit hungry, even when we’re not if food flashes in front of our eyes?

Now let’s talk buying books. If more than 20 million children across America receive free or reduced-priced lunches, how many of them have ever or will ever hold a book in their hands that they’ve purchased with their very own money? And how does that figure into school book fairs where some families must choose between paying the rent or buying groceries, much less finding some extra cash so a child can be like his or her classmates and visit the book fair? Part of developing a life-long love of reading is the feeling that comes when you crack open a book of your very own. The smell. The sound of pages turning. The brightness of brand new pictures and paper that isn’t stained or torn. All of this creates memories that draw adults back to books. I know ebooks have their place, but for book lovers, there’s just nothing quite like it. If this love of books never develops because books aren’t accessible or kids are too hungry to read them, how is this impacting society as a whole?

When I was a teacher I wrote a different inspiring quote on the chalkboard each day (you know, that long green thing that used to hang in the front of the classroom:). One of my favorites was, “Readers are leaders.” But even the child with the absolute most potential for greatness in the world can’t lead when she’s hungry, because all she thinks about is, well, being hungry.

It would be great if the answer were as simple as putting hungry children in our stories so they can see themselves in what they read. Or don’t put hungry children in our stories so they won’t feel marginalized. Or don’t put food in our stories so we don’t create more hunger. Or put more food in our stories, or, or, or… you see the problem here, right? I guess, as with many other types of social injustice, writing in the most thoughtful way possible with the goal of shining some light on the problem without singling out children and making their lives more difficult is the best approach. Pretty tall order, but you’re a writer for children, remember? In your heart, you’ve taken a sacred oath to do just that. And if you haven’t you should, or find something else to do with your time.

The other thing you can do is put legs on your prayers for hungry children by seeking out ways to help. I read a really great suggestion on Facebook the other day about going to your local school and paying off outstanding lunch charges for children in need. You may not know this, but hungry kids fall through the cracks all the time, and not all families who need free and reduced-priced lunches get them for a variety of reasons. When these kids’ lunch charges exceed a certain amount, they can no longer get lunch and are forced to eat a dry cheese sandwich or a bowl of Cheerios. Yep. It’s the truth.

Another great idea is to help your local school start a sharing table! Sharing tables are no-judgment zones in school cafeterias. They help reduce food waste by encouraging children to place the food they don’t like or don’t want to eat on the table and choose something they do like instead. At the end of the day, any extra food is donated to charity to help feed the hungry in the community. It’s a win-win because kids who didn’t get quite enough can feel free to pick something off the sharing table without feeling embarrassed, and food that otherwise would have gone in the trash gets eaten. Some schools even pack up the leftovers and send them home with needy kids so their families can have just a little more that night. You can read more about Sharing Tables here:

http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/news/a46885/school-share-tables/

Writers are doers. We “do” every day without having to punch a time clock. As long as we meet our deadlines, it’s all good. Put that writer “do” into finding ways to help end childhood hunger.

Then what will we have? More kids with satisfied tummies and books in their hands (the ones with your name on them). More readers. More leaders who remember what it’s like to be “that kid” and who work to change their world.

[1] “11 Facts About Hunger in the US.” DoSomething.org | Volunteer for Social Change. Accessed November 28, 2017.


Sensibility- Writing is a reflection of life, and sometimes life isn’t pretty. Reflect it, as often as possible, with grace and kindness.

Sense- Find out what your community does to fight childhood hunger and get involved.


  What are some things your community or school district does to fight childhood hunger? 

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