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March Madness

31 Mar

March has a bipolar reputation to say the least, with her “In like a lion, Out like a Lamb” famed celebrity status among the months of the year. Believe me, I for one am thrilled to finally see the Spring Lamb frolic in my neighborhood. Although I must admit, the last few hours of March have been hectic in their own way. With the deadlines for the SCBWI Work-In-Progress grants and the Rate Your Story Writing Contest today, I was furiously revising, editing, and submitting until well into the morning hours last night. So, yes… welcome little lamb!


Then, of course there are the competitions to claim the coveted titles. Oh, did you think I meant basketball? No, I meant the coveted picture book titles! This month, in addition to updating my new BOOKS ALIVE! page with recently published picture books and follow-up activities for kids (See the tab at the top of the page to find some terrific 2015 titles.) I have also been working on a writing challenge to use picture books as mentor texts for my own writing. Carrie Charley Brown has organized the wonderful ReFoReMo, Read For Research Month challenge. She invited 30 wonderful writers and published authors to share a little piece of their insight to writing and recommendations for reading. As participants, our challenge was to read and respond to every daily post and to use the recommended reading list as a jumping off point for our own research. We discussed such topics as plot, pacing, point of view, rhyme, beginnings and endings, hooks, illustrations, humor, and diversity… just to name a few. 2015-03-31 11.08.52Here’s a pile of the books I haven’t even gotten to yet this month. (Thank you, Cincinnati Public Library.) See all the little orange tabs? Those indicate the new releases this month. If you check back with me in a few weeks, many of those should be posted under the BOOKS ALIVE! tab.  So, although I count myself as a winner, with the duly presented Winner’s Badge of Honor, you can see that my research is NOT over! I plan on reading and studying great picture books for a very long time. Join me, won’t you? 9437785

Jackie and the Beanstalk

20 Mar

Three Cheers for Spring!

Hip-hip-hurray!  Hip-hip-hurray!  Hip-hip-hurray!

Today is the First Day of Spring! And Susanna Leonard Hill is having a spring writing contest on her site, details below.

Basically, The March Madness Writing Contest is a challenge to write a fractured fairy tale in 400 words or less.  Having a spring theme is optional, and I decided to give it a try since today is the official first day of spring… at least on the calendar!  My story is based on an old favorite, Jack and the Beanstalk.  Now, before you get all outraged at using a familiar folk tale, remember that fairy tale is the umbrella for fables, folk tales, myths, and legends.  Besides, on her own website, Susanna uses a picture of The Three Little Pigs, and her sample story (which is great, by the way) is based on The Gingerbread Boy, both folk tales under the fairy tale umbrella.  

So without further ado, I present to you a 400 word fractured fairy tale….

Jackie and the Beanstalk

(A fractured fairy tale formally known as Jackie and the Three Beans)


Jackie’s mother sent her to buy milk, eggs, and bread for the umpteenth polar vortex of the year.  Obviously, she was preparing French toast for breakfast.  Along the snow-covered path to the market, Jackie met a kindly old man; I think his name was Winter.  He offered to sell Jackie three magic beans, which he assured her, would trumpet the arrival of spring.  Removing her gloves, Jackie traded the man the coins her mother had given her for his mysterious magic beans.

Jackie raced home; okay, maybe she slipped and slid and skated home.  Either way; she kicked the snow off her boots, unwrapped the scarf from her neck, flung her overcoat on the table and announced, “Good News: Spring is on the Way!”

Upon hearing her freezing child’s tale, Jackie’s mother raged.  “How could you fall for that old geezer’s trick?”  She opened the door, letting in another cold blast of artic air, and flung the beans into the snow.

Well, you know where this is going, right?  Overnight, a giant beanstalk grew outside Jackie’s door.  In the morning she saw that it reached up, up, up, over fresh-fallen snow, above frosted trees, and past crystal clouds.  Jackie donned her gay apparel, which wasn’t a gay as it had been three months earlier, and climbed the sturdy beanstalk.

When she arrived at the top, breathless and a little dizzy, Jackie saw a radiant glass castle shimmering under the sun.  A lively elf with green thumbs greeted her.  “Come in,” he welcomed her.  “We were just preparing breakfast.”

Jackie, tired and extremely hungry from her long ascent, accepted.  She filled her belly with the most delicious French toast she had ever eaten and then immediately laid down for a quick morning nap.  She dreamt of lush green lawns, fragrant flowers, and warm sunshine on her face.  Waking up, she noticed that she was in a greenhouse.  Why she didn’t realize that earlier, we’ll never understand.  Regardless, Jackie tracked down the elf and pleaded her case.  Joyfully he explained that this was Mother Nature’s greenhouse.  He sprinkled a little magical soil over her and sent her home.

As Jackie descended, she could feel the sunshine on her back and a warm breeze in her hair.   She noticed the buds on the trees and the robin’s return.  She jumped into a puddle and ran into the house.

“Spring has sprung!” she proclaimed.

Flash Fiction

19 Dec

OK friends, here’s another holiday contest entry!  This one is more difficult than it looks – you have to write a children’s story about why and where Santa is running in 150 words or less!  The contest is sponsored by the Institute of Children’s Literature and the entries can be read on their Facebook page.


You are allowed up to three entries… so of course I wrote three!  Please read and enjoy!  I would love to hear back from you on which one is your favorite.


Grandfather’s Clock

(150 words)

Anyone who’s ever tried to stay awake on Christmas Eve knows it can’t be done.  And I know why.  Many years ago, my family spent Christmas at my grandparents’ house.  They had this old, old grandfather clock in the hallway.  I checked that clock every five minutes.  Finally I declared, “Grandpa, your clock is broken!”

Grandpa just laughed and took me onto his lap.  “There’s nothing wrong with that clock,” Grandpa said.  “Don’t you know that on Christmas Eve time runs slowly?  Santa made a deal with Father Time to extend the hours and minutes so he could make all his deliveries.  He starts his trip with the first evening star and travels west around the world until the sun catches up with him.”

Laying in bed that night, I listened to the tick-tock of the grandfather clock dragging out time, and I imagined Santa racing to beat the sun.


Santa’s Final Stop

(149 words)

Santa gathered his bag and slid down the last chimney of the night.  He landed with a thump that echoed in the house.  Santa shook himself and looked around.

“Oh no,” he thought.

Santa glanced up and spied a note propped up on the mantel.

“Dear Santa, We have moved to New York City.  Here is my new address.”

“Jingle Bells!” Santa exclaimed looking at his watch.  “It’s almost morning in New York City!”

“Let’s fly boys,” Santa shouted.  The team lifted and sped eastward.  The sun was slowly making its ascent.

“We can do this!” he shouted.

Dawn was breaking over the water.  Santa made a hasty landing.  Grabbing his bag, he descended the chimney. Amid the boxes stood a small, decorated tree.  Quickly Santa unloaded his bag.  Overhead he heard footsteps running for the stairs.

“He came! He found us!” Santa heard as he disappeared from sight.


Santa’s Run

(149 words)

Harper stood at the corner waiting for the runners in the annual Santa Run to pass by.  She bounced on her tiptoes to keep warm.  Her new hat was pulled tightly down to her eyebrows and her scarf wrapped up to her nose.

“Here they come!” Harper shouted.  She clapped her mittened hands together.

The first runners dashed around the corner in a blur.

Then the second round of skinny runners sprinted by wearing Santa hats.

The third group jogged past in Santa suits and fake Santa beards.

The final group walked dogs with reindeer ears and elf hats.

Just as the crowd turned to go home, one last hopeful rounded the corner.

“It’s Santa!”  Harper cheered!

His belly bounced as his boots hit the pavement.

“I just knew he would be here!” Harper exclaimed.

She stepped forward and gave Santa her Thank You note.


“Merry Christmas, Santa!”


Seriously folks, leave me a note.  I really want to know what you think.  I’m thinking about reworking at least one of these ideas into a full manuscript for a picture book, and I’d love some feedback from you on which one you think has the most merit.  I promise, if you write a comment I’ll put a good word in for you with the big guy.  There just might be a little something extra in your stocking.  Merry Christmas!


Winter Lights

11 Dec

This week, Susanna Leonard Hill is hosting a holiday writing contest on her blog. The rules dictate that the story be about a holiday (Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanaza) mishap, mix-up, miscommunication, mistake, or potential disaster not to exceed 350 words.

You can read more details about the contest at

I’ve already read some really amazing stories submitted this week, but I’m going to see what my little holiday gem brings.  I’m taking a chance by not mentioning the holidays in my 346 word story, thereby allowing the reader to make inferences through the text.  That being said, I’m having trouble giving my little story a title.  After you read it, I would love to get some title suggestions from my astute readers.


Winter Lights

by Juliana Lee

Nico brushed the snowflakes off his shoulders.

Picking up his bundle, he hurried toward the barn.

Meow, Meow, Meow

The sound came through the icy air.

Meow, Meow, Meow

Nico’s whiskers trembled.

Meow, Meow

There near the holly bushes, Nico saw a large ball of fur shivering.

A tail twitched.  A head poked up.  Then two.  Then three.

How many were there? Nico wondered.

Meow, Meow, Meow

Nico stepped forward.

Meow, Meow, Meow

“Follow me,” he said.  “You can stay in the barn tonight.

Meow, Meow

Nico started off.

Eight kittens tumbled after him ears over tails.

Cow gave them fresh milk.

Meow, Meow, Meow

Donkey gave them dry straw.

Meow, Meow, Meow

Sheep gave them soft wool.

Meow, Meow

Nico searched the starless sky.

He saw only one light, shining in a window.

In the morning, the world was painted white.

Meow, Meow, Meow

The snow continued to fall.

Meow, Meow, Meow

Nico strung berries and leaves together.

Meow, Meow

The second night Nico searched the cloudy sky again.

He saw two lights shining in the window.

The snow continued to fall.

Meow, Meow, Meow

The world outside looked like a snow globe.

Meow, Meow, Meow

The barn was warm and smelled of evergreen.

Meow, Meow

Every evening Nico searched the dark sky.

Every evening Nico saw one more light shining in the window.

The snow drifted against the barn.

Meow, Meow, Meow

Nico mixed seeds and nuts.

Meow, Meow, Meow

The kittens played with thistle ornaments.

Meow, Meow

On the eighth night the snow stopped.

The moonlight reflected the snowy world.

Nico led the kittens out of the barn.

Meow, Meow, Meow

A ribbon of kittens trailed through the snow.

Meow, Meow, Meow

Tiny paw prints marked their path.

Meow, Meow

Nico counted eight candles in the window.

The light glistened on the frosted pane.

“What have we here?”

Meow, Meow, Meow

“A gift for a lonely old woman!”

Meow, Meow, Meow

“Come in, Come in.  You must be freezing!”

Meow, Meow

Nico saw the star in the sky.

It was a good night.

Halloweensie Challenge

28 Oct

TRICK OR TREAT!  Susanna Leonard Hill is having a contest to write a short (less than 100 word) children’s story, poem, or prose for Halloween which must include the words spooky, black cat, and cackle.   There are great prizes involved.  So even though I have never tried my hand at this before, I decided to give it a go!  After all it’s not really Halloween if you’re not scared.  If you’re not scared (or even if you are) and you want to join in the fun, here’s her link.


Before I started, I looked through a great facebook page called Once Upon for inspiration.  This is a site devoted to artistic illustrations.  This is the painting that spoke to me.  (Notice the little black cat walking on the rooftop.)  It’s called Witch’s Moon by  Hazel Billingsley, I have included it for your enjoyment and the added dimension it gives my prose.

Don’t forget to leave me a comment (tab on the left).


Sleepless Hallow’s Eve

by Juliana Lee


Full moon shining in the grey-black night

Ghostly shadows slip silently overhead

Barren tree branches scratch the sky

Spooky noises fill the air


Rattle Clatter Cackle


Bats on velvet wings swoop low

Black Cat pads soundlessly on the roof

Deep sighs inhale then release

Spooky noises fill the air


Rattle Clatter Cackle


Midnight hour tolls warning

Footsteps fall outside your door

Heavy hinges creak unknowing

Spooky noises fill the air


Goodnight dear

Sleep tight





Lazy Bones

20 Oct

Happy Fall Everyone!

I’m in a festive fall mood and so I’m going to share with you a rhyming story I wrote called,  Lazy Bones.  I wrote it last week.  After a trip this weekend to the Cumberland Gap in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky and the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, I decided to add some photos to my story.   Where I didn’t have a photo, I added images from google.

Just for fun, I added two videos from youtube.  The first is a cute skeleton cartoon dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller.  The second is an easy craft for Q-tip skeletons.

I hope you enjoy the story.  Please share it with your little ones and leave me a comment.



by Juliana Lee


“Lazy Bones get out of bed!”

Mama Bones, Papa Bones, Baby Bones said.

“Let’s go to the pumpkin patch.”

“Let’s go sleepyhead!”

Three orange faces giving off light.

Lazy Bones slumbers, sleeps through the night.


“Lazy Bones get out of bed!”

Mama Bones, Papa Bones, Baby Bones said.

“Let’s go the apple farm.”

“Let’s go sleepyhead!”

Handpicked bushel, caramel apples crunch.

Lazy Bones dozes, naps until lunch.


“Lazy Bones get out of bed!”

Mama Bones, Papa Bones, Baby Bones said.

“Let’s go to the mountain trail.”

“Let’s go sleepyhead!”

Leaves, red, orange, purple, yellow, brown.

Lazy Bones blinks, eyelids falling down.


“Lazy Bones get out of bed!”

Mama Bones, Papa Bones, Baby Bones said.

“Let’s go to the park hayride.”

“Let’s go sleepyhead!”

Long bumpy trail, bouncing on the bales.

Lazy Bones drifts on his dreamboat sail.


“Lazy Bones get out of bed!”

Mama Bones, Papa Bones, Baby Bones said.

“Let’s go to the dried corn maze.”

“Let’s go sleepyhead!”

Right turn, left turn, all turned around.

Lazy Bones snores, doesn’t hear a sound.


“Lazy Bones get out of bed!”

Mama Bones, Papa Bones, Baby Bones said.

“Let’s go to the haunted house.”

“Let’s go sleepyhead!”

Screech, screech, howl, howl.  Shiver, shiver, shake.

Lazy Bones snoozes, just won’t wake.


“Lazy Bones get out of bed!”

Mama Bones, Papa Bones, Baby Bones said.

“Let’s go to the graveyard dance.”

“Let’s go sleepyhead!”

Rattle-clatter, conga.  Hip, bump-bump.


Salsa-samba, swing.  Jazz-jive-jump.

Funny Bones, Crazy Bones


Riff-rhumba, rump.

Silly Bones, Skin n’ Bones


Shimmy-swing, stump.

Haunted Bones, Spooky Bones


Wiggle-waltz, wump.

Groovy Bones, Funky Bones


Dip-disco, dump


Lazy Bones got out of bed.

Music rocking in his head.

Rhythm, beat, lyrics, tones

Boogie, Mojo, Footloose Bones!

Hope you liked the story.   (Don’t forget to leave me a comment.)

Here are the youtube videos promised!

Cartoon skeletons dancing to Thriller:

Q-tip skeleton craft:

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