Tag: writing challenges

All Hallow’s Eve

A moment of inspiration became an hour of perspiration as I fashioned an entry for Susanna Leonard Hill’s 4th Annual HALLOWEENSIE CONTEST! 

The challenge? Write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (title not included in the 100 words), using the words pumpkin, broomstick, and creak.

Challenge accepted.

Kinsale Mixes It Up
by Jim Hill

Kinsale’s sisters cackled.
“I’ll turn that one into a toad!”
“The other shall sleep until awakened by a Prince!”

Straddling her broomstick, she bid farewell to the coven.

“As if there were any princes left to do the waking…”

She glided, accompanied by only the creak of trees, the rattle of leaves, and the flickering wink of pumpkins. Until she saw the children.

With a sprinkle of amalgamated toadstool, powdered batwing, and a touch of Eldritch rhyme, Kinsale mixed things up a bit.

“Safe ye shall be
On All Hallows’ Eve
As those that dish out
At last shall receive!”

Poetry Friday Roundup – 1/27/12

Welcome poets! I’m your host for the Poetry Roundup. Please leave your URLs in the comments, and I’ll add links throughout the day.

There’s no cover charge, settle in and and enjoy the show. To get things going here’s one I wrote last year.


What’s That Sound?

by Jim Hill

“Did you hear a bump?
Or was it a crash?”

“Nobody’s crying.
There’s no broken glass.

I bet it was only
A big stack of books.
There are plenty of those.”

“You should go look.”

“Get up out of bed?
No way it’s too chilly,
I’m sure it was books
No need to be silly.”

“I’m trying to listen.
It’s becoming a chore,
When the only thing heard
Is the sound of your snore.”

“Whatever it is, it
Can wait until morn
I’m not getting up…”



The Roundup

TeachingAuthors.com is the early bird today, with a post and poem about WINNING!

Joy Acey’s Poetry for Kids is the other early bird with a fun piece about a golfing giraffe.

Today at A Poem a Day the great Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska explains the joy of writing.

Polly shares a video of her boys doing their ‘party piece’ of ‘Jim- Who Ran Away from Nurse and was eaten by a Lion’ by Hillaire Belloc

Heidi has a poem in two languages by Antonio Machado: “Last Night As I Was Sleeping.”

Mary Lee has a pair of rain poems today. One is Langston Hughes’, the other is my original, inspired by Langston Hughes’

Renee of No Water River has an original poem inspired by an illustration of a sad pig (and an interesting interview with the artist).

Linda shares a new poet this week “because she wrote a poem about a train.”

Robyn Hood Black has a poem and thoughts from Maryland’s (and Poetry Friday’s) talented, generous Linda Shovan.

Laura from AuthorAmok and her daughter had fun with Haikubes. (I need to get some of those.)

Tara is sharing poem-videos from the Favorite Poem Project. Cool!

Liz Steinglass has an original winter rhupunt. I’m going to look up what an rhupunt is when I’m done adding links. 😉

Carol has twitchy fingers and a poem that everyone who is a parent (or has ever had a parent) will appreciate.

Tabatha Yeatts says, “Today I have a mishmash of poetry intersections.”

Laura Salas is in with “Juvenile Court,” a Hansel and Gretel poem by Sara Henderson Hay. And also with 15 Words or Less poems. Everyone’s welcome to come play!

Jama’s Alphabet Soup celebrates National Tea Month today with a nice warm cup of your favorite brew, treats, and two tasty poems.

Mandy Webster shares an original poem titled “Saturday Scratch-Off.”

Katya Czaja says, “The awful weather here in New England reminded me of an Emily Dickinson Poem.”

PaperTigers is in with a post on the Scottish poet Robert Burns.

Joyce Ray says, “Today on Musings I’m sharing my review of Eloise Greenfield’s The Great Migration, Journey to the North.”

Karen Edmisten has a short Anne Porter poem for us this week.

Charles Ghigna is watching icicles in the wind today @ The FATHER GOOSE Blog.

Amy, at The Poem Farm, has a little poem called “…and then we play” – about loss and life too.

Alice@Supratentorial reviews a poetry book for kids, Dear Hot Dog, by Mordicai Gerstein.

Myra from Gathering Books offers a paranormal-inspired book of poems from Bobbi Katz and illustrated by Adam McCauley: “The Monsterologist” – perfect for our Circus, Carnivale and Paranormal twists for January/February.

Barbara says, “Today at The Write Sisters I have The Snowman, by Wallace Stevens.”

Greg is up with an original today, all about whipped cream.

Sylvia from Poetry for Children says, “I’ve posted my annual ‘sneak peek’ list of upcoming 2012 titles of poetry for young people– and there are 50, so far!

Elaine from At Wild Rose Reader has an original poem about Newt Gingrich titled “Newt’s Poem to Poor Kids.”

Today at ThinkKidThink Ed presents his Top 10 Worst Poem Ideas for Kids, complete with poems centered on bad puns, one with an “uckin'” rhyme scheme, and one that would almost certainly offend the good folks at P.E.T.A. (where A stands for “Ants”).

Donna of Mainely Write has original poem about her trip to the beach two days ago – Summer Sun.

David Elzey comes through with nonsensical homage in recipe form.

Charles Van Gorkom offers a poem written during a rain storm in the rain forest yesterday called “An Island Of Our Own.”

Janet Squires says, “My selection is ‘A Kick in the head: an everyday guide to poetic forms’ selected by Paul B. Janeczko with illustrations by Chris Raschka.

Final Poetry Friday of 2011

It’s the final Poetry Friday of 2011. This week’s host is Julie Larios, please visit her site to read all of the fascinating Poetry Friday posts. You’ll find new poems, essays and reviews of all things poetical in the links. Good stuff!

This week’s poem was influenced by a late night with sleepless preschooler, Jack Prelutsky and JonArno Lawson. I wanted to start every word with the letter W. Why W? I don’t know. It was late. Very late. I added the opening stanza after the fact, breaking the W rule, as the idea morphed into something bigger. More on that next week. Don’t you love a teaser?


by Jim Hill

Late at night,
In long hand,
In a secret journal,
Willa wrote and wondered.

Wicked Willoughby Woodward wandered with wanton Wanda,
Wicked Willoughby Woodward whispered with wanton Wendy,
Wicked Willoughby Woodward whistled with wanton Whitney.

Willfully, wanton women.
Wicked Willoughby Woodward.
Why? Why? Why?



Want to jump-start your 2012 poetry output? Check out Kathryn Apel’s Month of Poetry challenge – a poem a day for the month of January.

Thanks for stopping by, and Happy New Year!

photo credit JoelMontes

Clapper and the Christmas Bats

Clapper and the Christmas Bats

by Jim Hill

‘Twas the night before Christmas
And all was not great.
Santa’s crew was befogged
And Christmas was late.

Rudolph tried, yes he did,
To glow, oh so bright,
But a murk filled the sky,
An unlightable blight.

On nights such as this
Even Rudolph gets lost,
But the toys they must go
Whatever the cost.

Nine nervous reindeer shook
Their bells all a-jingle.
“Gadzooks! That’s the answer!”
Hoot-n-hollered Kris Kringle.

“Dash away to the cavern
of North Polarous Wonder;
Find the crusty old gnome
Residing down under!”

In a wink, Blitzen’s back
‘Midst a flap and a flutter,
With an odd little chap,
The pale color of butter.

An elf, at a guess,
Half-a-Kringle in size,
And he came with a team
Of most welcome surprise.

Squeaks, chitters and tweets,
Beats of multiple wings,
Filled the air all around,
Such marvelous things!

White, whispery wingspans,
As small as your fists,
Had come to the rescue
Of childrens’ wish lists!

Old, elf Clapper begrudged,
“My bats steer without sight,
So Happy Christmas to all,
And to all a good-night!

Susanna Leonard Hill (no relation) is running another holiday themed writing contest (see my Thanksgiving entry here). This one is a riff on ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas.” Here are the rules, straight from the source:

The First Annual Holiday Contest is officially open!  Post your own version of Clement C. Moore’s traditional poem ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas.  Your entry must be at least 12 lines/3 stanzas, not to exceed 40 lines/10 stanzas.  Entries may refer to any winter holiday you celebrate (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc.) or to any combination of winter holidays, or no holiday – just a good winter-time story if you’re not comfortable with a holiday.

I had fun with this. A side note: this idea came out of PiBoIdMo and is one of the first that I’ve had the chance to expand on. I’d do more with this for a picture book. I was limited to 10 stanzas (see rules, above), and at 183 words I have room for a few more as needed.

The Blizzard Came in Fast

Here’s my entry for Susanna Leonard Hill’s Thanksgiving Writing Contest (no relation). The rules are, “250 (or fewer) word kids’ Thanksgiving story, beginning with “They were supposed to go to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving, but the blizzard came in fast…”  – I hope you like it.


They were supposed to go to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving, but the Blizzard came in fast. The Blizzard, you see, is middle-child Amy’s name for the family pet Samoyed, unironically named “Snowball” by her baby sister, Jill, whilst still a pup (the dog, not the girl) who grew into a hyper-active, obedience-school-dropout (again the dog, not the girl).

So when we say, “the Blizzard came in fast”, we mean this dog, this alabaster freight train of kinetic energy, launched itself through the space that should have held a kitchen door, straight away into a family overloaded with side-dishes and desserts intended for the small army of cousins, aunts, uncles and otherwise semi-related celebrants of the annual giving of thanks.

Can you see it in your mind’s eye? Slow the scene down, rotate your point of view, Matrix-like, and observe; the father, twisting sideways to avoid a flying pie while dropping the green bean casserole; the mother, eyes-wide in shock, arms flailing, falling backward, baby gherkins and tiny onions floating in space before her; Amy, slipping on cranberry sauce, sliding on candied carrots, and finally sweet, little Jill, arms wide ready to embrace the barreling, bundle of fur.

Capture that, hold that silent scene in your head like a memory of a the craziest Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover ever. Now, action!



“Oh, that dog!”

“Blizzard, how could you!”

“I told you to chain him up!”

“I thought Jill did it!”

“Hey, Snowball likes pickles!”

Patience is a Four Letter Word

PiBoIdMo is chugging along and I am loving it. It’s very cool to see so many people engaged in the act of creating picture books. It wasn’t that long ago that I was convinced I only had one or two story ideas in me. Certainly not enough to consider actually jumping into the kidlit world.  And because I thought I had so few, I would hold them close, sheltering them from the world. And other writers. And definitely from editors.

Joining writer challenges like PiBoIdMo, and working intently on my own the other eleven months of the year, has shown me that the ideas will come. Heck, not only that they’ll come, but that I can hardly stop them. Ideas are everywhere, in fact, once you develop the habit it’s kind of hard not to notice them. Yet another reason to always carry a notepad to capture those idea in the wild. Bring them home and worry about taming the wee beasties later.

So, yes, it’s awesome that we’re cranking out ideas, but here’s the thing. Not every idea needs to be submitted. Some of our ideas, while fun at the time, just might not be good enough to see print. I’m not just deflating your balloon; mine’s losing pressure too. Let’s take a shot at re-inflating them a bit.

One of the more exciting sessions I went to at LASCBWI 11 was a panel by Jon Sciezka and Stephen Malk. They covered a lot of ground while talking about a career plan, but the real takeaway was the point that I echoed above. Not everything needs to be submitted. Say it with me, it’ll take the sting off.

Not. Everything. Needs. To. Be. Submitted.

Band-aid off? Ready to go? Great. If the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature (emeritus) doesn’t submit every one of his ideas, maybe we should pay attention to that thought.

You see, at the end of PiBoIdMo you’re going to have a big pile of ideas to weed through. Some are going to sparkle like diamonds. Some are going to stink on ice. A handful will be worth a first draft, revision and development into well-honed manuscripts. You will (rightfully) feel awesome that you stuck with it, found the gems and pursued your craft, turning that brain-burp into a full blown story. This is what we do. We write, we revise. And then, if we’re truly brave, intelligent hardy souls, we think about submitting. And sometimes that answer’s going to be “no.”

Chin up, kid, the process has been worth the effort.

Why wouldn’t you submit your manuscript? I mean, you’ve just worked your proverbial butt off, you’ve got stamps, a well-worn copy of Writer’s Market
chock full of post-it notes and box of envelopes. Let’s go!

Hold on, little chum, let’s look at why we shouldn’t submit. This might hurt a bit, but that’s how we grow. Remember, chin up!

  1. There are too many books like yours out there in the marketplace.
  2. Your idea is preachy. We all want kids to benefit from our books, but being ham-fisted just isn’t the way to go. Take this tip from Seinfeld, “no hugging, no learning.” It worked for them, it’ll work for you. One of the top books of 2011 features a bear that eats the antagonist. Talk about no hugging, no learning!
  3. Your rhyming stinks. This is a tough one to swallow. Editors say they don’t want rhyming books, but we still see a ton of them published every year. And kids love them. “Let me rhyme”, you cry to the heavens! Well, unless you’re rhyming is flawless, unforced and serves the story, step away from the couplets, Joel.
  4. Your writing just isn’t there. Yet. This is probably the hardest one to deal with, and the most difficult to recognize. We have to be brutally honest with ourselves about our brilliant words. Are they really as good as the best picture books you’ve seen? Don’t give yourself an out by citing the books you don’t like that get published (because there are some bad ones out there). Aim high, find the writers that you like best and try to kick their butts. In a friendly, non-competitive way that involves a personal challenge of writing quality and not actual fisticuffs.
  5. If you’re submitting an idea you came up with this month you haven’t worked on it long enough. Write it up, tinker and revise. Then let it sit for a week or two. Even better, bring it to your critique group and let them have at it. Then revise again. Whittle that word count, polish those plot points, and let your manuscript mature like a fine wine.

I know the itch to send it out. I know what it’s like to bask in the glow of accomplishment from hitting “send.” But I also trust that taking a breather between the time you type the final period and the moment you get that teeny-tiny paper cut on your tongue from licking the envelope can mean the difference between “no response means no” and escaping the slush pile.

To paraphrase the immortal words of Johnny Cochran, “If it didn’t sit, you must not submit.”

UPDATE  – If you’re just starting out you might want to read this old post of mine (the same one I linked to in the comments, but I wanted to get it in the post too).


Three for Irene

Sunday saw Irene come and go here on Cape Cod. Lucky for us there was not a lot of damage, and almost no rain. With both power and internet access I was busy scanning Twitter while my son watched Netflix on the iPad and the TV showed the New England weather action (hey, I said it wasn’t bad here…).

While on Twitter, I saw Katie Davis tweeting short poems and thought I’d join in with some of my own. Then I saw that Kate Messner was looking for other folks creating during the storm and figured I’d add my little bits to her collection.

Hope you made it through the storm safely. We’re incredibly grateful to have gotten away with a bit of yard work.


Irene is a tease
who tosses the trees
who skirted the coast
and toured the valleys


I watch the trees bend,
I watch them bounce back.
I wonder which ones might break.
One thing’s for sure,
This week will involve,
Quality time with a rake.


Branches bouncing off the roof.
Children bouncing off the wall.
Blustery, blowing, billowing blasts,
This storm’s a pretentious squall.

There’s a Cardinal

Yesterday was the last day of Kat Apel’s Month of Poetry challenge. Here’s my last pass, image above, words below. I think just about everyone in the U.S. is with my sentiments on our Winter season. Of course, with today’s new snow storms I may have to amend this with a wish for March to start. We can skip February all together. Right?

There’s a Cardinal

There’s a cardinal in the holly
looking like the King of Winter
and I’m so very ready
for January to end

One more thing…
I guess the month of poetry had me revved up for more. When I saw Mike Jung tweet about a haiku contest on Ellen Oh’s blog for Cindy Pon’s books, Fury of the Phoenix and Silver Phoenix, I was ready. I’m still under the influence of red birds apparently. Can you guess what this is about?

fury of red birds
anger rising over pigs
phoenix save the eggs

OK, last thing. I promise.
The picture above is a quick sketch using Art Rage. I’ve been experimenting with Manga Studio too. I like Manga Studio for initial sketching and drawing, but I need to give Sketchbook Pro a real test before fully committing. Any opinions out them?

The #MoP Don’t Stop

I’m having a great time with the Month of Poetry challenge put together by Kat Apel. Writing a poem per day has been fun and I’ve been bouncing between styles, formats and subject matter. Yesterday’s was an ode to those Friday night Dungeon & Dragons games of my youth (Hey, you try and come up with twenty-two days of interesting subjects sometime).

Besides, if Patton Oswalt can make base a career on being a nerd/geek/dork, I can weigh in to the topic too.

I Was a Teenage Nerd

bounce and spiral
across the table
our stand-in for
the dungeon floor

tiny lead heroes
arrayed to
simulate our
assault on the

the dragon that
breathes a deadly
cone of fire

that melees for
more damage than
a mid-level
ranger can take

make a save
check your hit points
stuff handfuls
of sugary goodness
down your throat
guzzle caffeinated soda
stay up until 3 am
or later

battling the forces
of evil
hauling in troves
of treasure
turning Friday nights
into epic

Robots, Rockets and Trains

Today my son is three, and I’m participating in a month long poetry writing challenge. So, that explains this. Enjoy.

robots, rockets and trains

tomorrow you’re three
and it feels like both an eternity
and only moments ago
that you came out
and unfolded
and unfolded again
so long and slimy and squirmy
so wonderful and beautiful
so life changing
so life affirming

we battle
already a clash of wills at 6 am
with tantrums and tears
over the right cereal bowl
(the orange one)
and whether the oatmeal
is any good
(it is)

by six-oh-five
we’ve rediscovered teamwork
and hugs and smiles and whispers
and all the drama that just happened
is forgotten –
“that’s silly, Daddy”