Giveaways for writers of all ages!

April is National Poetry Month so it seemed only fitting that to win this month’s giveaways (did you notice the plural?!–giveaways, not giveaway), that you write a poem. It need only be a couplet or a haiku, but it can be longer if you prefer. I’ll leave the length and format up to you. The poem can be for adults or children. Also, the poem can be written by either an adult or a child this month, as I’m giving children an opportunity to win also.

Prizes are the following books on writing:

Prize for the adults age 18 and up

Adults can win this book. Alternatively, they may choose the second book in this series entitled “712 More Things to Write About.”

Or the adults way opt for this prize.

Here’s the prize for 11-18 year olds:

11-18 year old entrants can win this book

And now the prize for 0-10 year olds:

Here’s what 0-10 year olds can win.

I hope you’ll join me in celebrating National Poetry Month by writing a poem. Happy writing!

Rules:
Open worldwide, but poems must be in English. Poems can be in any format and any length. Three books will be given out to three different winners. You can submit either in the comments or via my contact page. Regardless of how you submit, all winners must agree to having their poem and name published on my blog. Proof of age may be required. Entries must be received by Saturday, May 20, 2017 at 11.59pm GMT.

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March Giveaway

I’ve just chosen the winner for the February giveaway, and it’s Eszter Molnar. Congratulations, Eszter!

And thank you to everyone who participated! It was a tough decision. If you want to read the entries for the first line contest, they can be found in the comments of the previous blog post.

Now it’s time to move on to March’s giveaway. This is a quick Rafflecopter entry for a £10 (or $12 USD) Amazon Gift Card. Rules are as follows:

One entry per person. Open worldwide, HOWEVER, the gift card will only be purchased through Amazon.com OR Amazon.co.uk. Closes 11 April, 2017 at 1159pm GMT.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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February Giveaway

Another month, another giveaway! But first, if you’re wondering who won the lucky draw for the waterproof notebook and smart bracelet last month, it was Jenny S.

This month I thought we’d try a skill comp. One of the suggestions was to have a first line contest, and as I think that’s a brilliant idea, that’s what we’re going to do.

If you want to enter, all you need to do is share the first line of your picture book in the comments below. One sentence—no more, no less. Whoever does the best job of hooking me with their first line will be the winner. She or he can choose from a basic picture book manuscript critique, a query letter critique, or a signed copy of either of my published books.

Anyone in the world can enter, but you’re only allowed one entry per person. The competition closes on St. Patrick’s Day, Friday, 17 March at 11:59pm, Greenwich Mean Time.

I look forward to reading your entries!

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Cover Reveal and Another Giveaway!

Today I’m revealing the cover of my forthcoming book, MOTOR GOOSE (Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, July 2017) over at Lynne Marie’s My Word Playground. If you’d like to see the cover, read the interview, and/or be in with the chance of winning a picture book manuscript critique, then be sure to stop by. Here’s the link: http://literallylynnemarie.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/cover-reveal-and-under-cover-with.html

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A Year of Giveaways!

I love competitions! It all started when I was in elementary school and my mother made me enter a Daughters’ of the American Revolution (DAR) writing contest. Although I enjoyed writing songs and poems at that age, the idea of writing a story–and a historical-based one at that–held no appeal. But the more I researched facts for my story, the more interesting the task became and to make a long story short, I won the contest. What a thrill! The DAR gave me prize money and a free lunch with their local chapter. (Who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch?!)

Over the years I went on to enter more writing contests, as well as lucky draw competitions that didn’t require a creative task. Sometimes I’d win and sometimes I’d lose, but on those days that I won, that overpowering thrill would come back. While I’m not a gambling woman (except for the occasional small bets with family members), I do like to satisfy my thrill of gaining more than I started with by entering competitions.

By now you’re probably wondering why I’m telling you this (or are at least saying to yourself, “Get on with it, woman!”). It’s because I also love the thrill that comes with giving to others, and this year I plan on spending the entire year doing just that. Every month on my blog, there will be a new giveaway. Some of the giveaways will be lucky draws and some of the giveaways will require you to do a creative task, such as write a poem, story pitch, etc. The plan is to have a mix of competitions.

As January is more than half way through, let’s get the ball rolling. I have two items to giveaway to one lucky winner: a TW64 Bluetooth Smart Bracelet and a Chartwell waterproof notebook.

If you haven’t used a waterproof notebook before, you’re missing out. They’re great for taking notes while walking in the rain, or for jotting down ideas while in the bath. Living in England, I walk in the rain a lot, so having a notebook that won’t get soggy is a must!

A must for jotting down ideas in the bath!

To be in with a chance to win, just enter the Rafflecopter below.

This month is purely a lucky draw but watch out for next month when I’m going to ask you to put in a bit of effort to win. If you want to be the first one to hear of my giveaways each month, then be sure to sign up for my newsletter (and confirm the subscription, or you won’t be signed up).

There’s one entry per person and the giveaway runs worldwide, finishing at 11.59 GMT on Monday, 20 February.

PS If you follow my blog, you’ll know that my daughters entered a “Create a Gingerbread Cottage” competition in December to win a holiday voucher. I’m pleased to say they won! Just one more reason for me to give back to the universe this year. But remember, you’ve got to be in it to win it! Good luck everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Query Letter Critique Winners

Christmas is nearly here and it’s time to give out presents–or in my case, prizes! Earlier today I drew the names of the two lucky winners of my Christmas is Coming Query Letter Critique Competition. The winners are Linda H and Jen W. Congratulation, ladies! You should both have received an email from me by now.

Thank you to everyone who entered and be sure to keep checking the blog next year as I plan to run several giveaways in 2017!

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Our Christmas Gingerbread Cottage

Today I decided to take a break from my usual creative outlet of writing and do something equally creative but a lot more challenging for me–help the children make the annual gingerbread cottage. We create a gingerbread house every year, but this year we knew we had to up our game. We discovered Sykes Cottages was running a competition to create a gingerbread cottage with the incentive of offering one lucky family a £500 voucher towards one of their holiday cottages, and after looking at their website and the cottages on offer, we were keen to enter. Here are the details of the competition and here is their website with some amazing properties to hire.

I’m not the least bit artistically inclined, but thankfully my daughters had strong ideas about how they wanted to decorate the gingerbread cottage. Effectively, they wanted to add every sweet and biscuit we could find from the shops and then cover the cottage in icing sugar to look like snow.

Here are the many sweets and treats my daughters chose. Fortunately, we didn't quite use all of them!

Here are the many sweets and treats my daughters chose. Fortunately, we didn’t quite use all of them!

After I assembled the cottage, my six year old placed the first sweet in position.

A very excited six year old putting on the first decoration.

A very excited six year old putting on the first decoration.

Before placing any further pieces on the main body of the cottage, my 11 year old decided we should decorate the roof. She chose to cover it with Party Ring biscuits.

gingerbread-sasha

The Party Rings were filled with bright candy discs, and then surrounded by rainbow-coloured strings of balls. For the chimney, they chose half a Twirl bar because only using half of it meant they could eat the other half. And still on a rainbow theme, they topped the roof with gumdrops in a rainbow sequence.

We like our bright colours and rainbow sequences!

We like our bright colours and rainbow sequences!

The girls then tackled the sides with more bright-coloured balls, asking me only to outline the windows and doors so they could cover the icing in candy snowflakes and white and blue pearl balls.

gingerbread-front

And now a side view.

And now a side view.

I thought we were finished at this point, but the girls informed me that we needed to add lots of snow, as well as our snowman and Father Christmas. The youngest sprinkled icing sugar on the cottage, while licking at the air as it floated down, and the eldest poured caster sugar on a baking tray.

Next came Santa and Frosty. As you can see, our snowman didn’t start white. He got a good dusting as well.

gingerbread-snowman

Because we still had some chocolate buttons we hadn’t used, the girls laid them down as a path to the cottage. Last but not least, they piled up white candies in front of Father Christmas and the snowman so that they could have a snowball fight–something my girls LOVE to do but haven’t had the opportunity to do yet this year.

Let it snow, let is snow, let it snow!

Let it snow, let is snow, let it snow!

They were very pleased with their final creation and couldn’t wait to show it off. Here it is–we hope you and Sykes Cottages like it as much as we do! And if we do win the voucher, we’ll be sure and tell you all about our holiday in a post next year. If not, we’re still winners because we had a blast making it and can’t wait to eat it. YUM! Happy Christmas all!

gingerbread-with-girls

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The “Christmas is Coming” Query Critique Giveaway

The holiday season is here and by way of spreading good cheer, I’m offering two picture book writers a free query letter critique. The giveaway is open worldwide to both published and pre-published picture book writers. All you need to do to enter is to complete the rafflecopter below by midnight on 20 December, 2016, GMT.

GOOD LUCK!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Which is more important–your query letter or your manuscript?

Well, that’s easy. Your manuscript, right?

Not necessarily. By way of answering that question, I want to share a story with you about my experience writing query letters. The excerpt below was taken from a blog post I wrote on writing query letters for the Sub It Club in 2014. You can read the full post here.

In 2013, I wrote two query letters that “worked.” By that I mean that the first one landed me an agent, and the second one got me a publishing contract.

Some might argue that it wasn’t the query letters that sold my work. Perhaps my writing was finally up to par. Or my timing was good and I put just the right manuscripts in front of the right people at the right time. Or any number of different reasons that have nothing to do with my query letters.

And I wouldn’t deny that any or all of these things may have played a contributing part, but I also know that if I hadn’t written a good query letter, that the agent and editor wouldn’t have taken the time to read my work.

Why? Because half my story was in the query letter.

Not the best way to start a query letter.

NOT the best way to start a query letter.

That’s right. The query letter tells an agent or editor just as much about your work as your manuscript does—sometimes more.

For example, is your manuscript the correct length for the age group you’ve written it for? Have you researched this agent or editor to know if they will be a good fit for your work? Can you sum up your work in one sentence? What’s your “voice” like? Are you someone who is easy to work with?

And the list goes on.

However, I didn’t always feel this way. It took me the better part of seven years of writing and submitting picture books to realize how vital a good query letter is to a submission. I was stubborn and unprepared to spend more time on my query letters than my manuscript.

But then I won a free critique. Yippee! Someone else was going to cast a helpful eye over my work—except it wasn’t a free critique of a manuscript, it was a free critique of a query letter. That’s when the ball dropped. It finally dawned on me that I should be prepared to spend as much time on my query letter as my manuscript–if not more.

From that point on, I got serious about query letter writing.

I went back through my files and looked at my old query letters. They were absolutely cringe-worthy. With few exceptions, my early letters opened like this: “Dear Submissions Editor”. I couldn’t even be bothered to find out the name of the editor in charge of acquiring picture books.

A folder with only two years' worth of rejections.

A folder with ONLY two years’ worth of bad query letters and rejections.

Another early letter started with this paragraph: “Please find enclosed three picture book manuscripts. The first two manuscripts were written with a series in mind. I have enclosed a CD with illustrations by a local artist to accompany the third manuscript.”

What was I thinking by enclosing illustrations with my picture book manuscript? And what made me believe suggesting a series before I’d even made a sale was a good idea? Worse still, I hadn’t even tried to make a personal connection. I knew nothing about the editor and her interests and my query letter clearly indicated that fact. My letter also clearly indicated the fact that I was still very much a beginner. Yes, my query told that editor everything she needed to know about me and my work.

Over time, my queries changed more and more, while continuing to tell editors and agents the other half of my story.

“She sounds cold and impersonal…”

“She hasn’t studied the other books on our list…”

And the biggie—“She’s not prepared to invest enough time in her query letter…”

Once I truly saw how much of my story these letters were telling—not to mention how much I didn’t like the story they were telling—I changed tack and got serious about sprucing up my query letters. What would I want to read if the tables were turned?

My queries still didn’t “work” right away, but they were getting attention. An agent would write a personal note. An editor would invite me to send another manuscript. I knew they finally liked the other half of the story I was sharing with them.

Less than a year later, I landed both an agent and a publishing contract. So if you ask me which is more important, I would say they’re equally important. A well-written manuscript is vital, HOWEVER, even the best manuscript in the world may go unnoticed if the agent or editor you’re submitting it to doesn’t like the story your query letter is telling.

Two contracts, as a result of two query letters that finally told the right story!

Two contracts as a result of two query letters that finally told the right story!

What does a good query letter look like? Here’s a list of my suggestions of what to include:

-address your letter to an actual person rather than generically to The Submissions Editor
-an opening paragraph that further personalizes the letter and tells the person you’re writing to specifically why you’ve chosen to submit to him or her
-a picture book synopsis that is a succinct three sentences
-your word count (and make sure it’s the appropriate length for the type of book you’ve written)
-a paragraph about yourself, your credits, and any professional organizations you belong to (mentioning SCBWI on a query letter goes a long way in establishing your credibility even if you don’t yet have any writing credits)
-always, always, always thank the person you’re writing to for their time and consideration of your work

As an example, you can view one of my successful query letters on the Sub It Club blog post mentioned above, alongside a breakdown of the story it told this agent.

If you have any questions about query letters, I’ll try my best to answer them in the comments below. Also, if anyone wants a professional critique of their query letter, see my critique services page for more information.

I wish you all the best with submitting and I hope your next query letter is one that “works!”

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Picture Book Mentorship WINNER announcement

Thank you to everyone who entered the competition to win a six month picture book mentorship. There were 97 entries in total! I wish I could offer 97 mentorships but I’d never get my own writing done if I did. So unfortunately, I had to stick with one winner.

Without further ado, here is my eldest preparing to draw a name out of her festive hat:

Preparing to draw a name from her festive hat.

My eldest playing Santa Claus.

And here’s the name she drew out:

And the winning name is....

And the winning name is….

Congratulations, JILL GIESBRECHT! (I’ll be in touch by email shortly.)

Although the competition is over, I’m still answering questions about writing picture books on the original “Ask a Picture Book Author” blog post here. Also, if you’re looking for a critique, please know that my fees are currently reduced.

Thanks again to everyone who entered, and a big thank you to the members of the kidlit community who have helped me on my own picture book writing journey!

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