2008 Picture Book Writing Competition

The Competition

Sylvan Dell Publishing’s Picture Book Writing Competition offers homeschooled students working at a high school level a unique opportunity to explore the world of children’s literature and try their hands at writing picture books. The winning author will receive a $200 prize, and the manuscript will be seriously considered for publication.


Because Publishers Lee and Donna German homeschooled their three daughters, they understand that each child learns at his or her own pace. As a result, this competition is open to any homeschooled student working at a high school level. Manuscripts from students of any age will be accepted as long as the appropriate level of study is presented.

Manuscript Specifications


Sylvan Dell picture books are usually fictional stories that relate to animals, nature, the environment, science and math. Submitted manuscripts should fall into this description. All books should subtly convey an educational theme through a warm story that is fun to read and that will grab a child’s attention.

That said, we are NOT looking for manuscripts about:

* pets (dogs or cats in particular) and/or new babies
* local or state-specific book
* religion
* magic
* biographies
* history-related books
* ABC books
* poetry books
* series
* young adult books or novels
* holiday-related books

Manuscripts that convey moral values within an educational context are acceptable.

Submissions must meet all of the following three criteria:

* Fun to read – mostly fiction with non-fiction facts woven into the story
* National or regional in scope
* Must be able to tie into early elementary school curriculum in some way

* We encourage you to explore our Web site to learn more about our books. If you click the “Online Store” button on the left side of the homepage, a page will then display all of Sylvan Dell’s titles. You can click on the title cover page of any of our printed books to be taken to that book’s page. From there, you can preview parts of the title and even see the accompanying “For Creative Minds” section.


* Microsoft Word document ONLY
* Font: Arial, size 12, black
* Single line spacing

Length/text breaking

* Manuscripts of more than 1,500 words will not be accepted.
* Break your story into paragraphs only. Please do not distribute text into pages or chapters.
* Please run spelling and grammar check and fix errors before submitting document.
* Remember to put your name and the title of your manuscript at the top of the word document.

Submission Specifications


Sylvan Dell will accept submissions between March 1 and March 31, 2008 only. Please do not submit your manuscript before March 1.


Contest submissions will be accepted via e-mail only to Maggiestuart@sylvandellpublishing.com. Manuscripts are to be attached as a word document to the submission e-mail (see example below). An e-mail will be sent back to participants within a few days of their submission confirming their manuscript was received.

Submission E-mail Guidelines

The subject line must read “Homeschool Writing Contest Submission” and the manuscript title

The e-mail message MUST include all of the following information:

* Participants first and last name
* Manuscript Title
* Word count of manuscript
* Participant’s date of birth (month/day/year)
* Grade Level
* Home Phone Number
* E-mail address
* Mailing Address
* The following message (you can copy the following text and paste it into your e-mail message)

“I, (insert your name here), have read all competition submission guidelines with at least one parent/guardian. I understand that my manuscript must meet all of the criteria to be considered as one of the winning entries. My manuscript is entirely composed by my own effort.”

* Parent or Guardian first and last name
* Parent phone number
* Address (if different from child)
* E-mail address of parent or guardian
* The following message (the text can be copied from here and pasted into the e-mail message)

“I have read all competition submission guidelines with my child and I understand his or her manuscript must meet all of the criteria to be considered as one of the winning entries. I agree with the guidelines. By allowing my child to enter into this competition gives Sylvan Dell Publishing permission to include my child’s name, age, and city and state of residence in any press materials and on the Sylvan Dell Publishing Web site.”

An example submission e-mail can be found below.

*Note: Sylvan Dell Publishing will NEVER give you or your child’s detailed contact information or birth date to any other company, organization or individual. If your child is one of the finalists or the winner of the competition and a member of the press is interested in more information or desires an interview, we will only give the press contact the home phone number and parent’s e-mail address if asked.


Sample Submission E-mail

From: submissionkid1@aol.com

To: MaggieStuart@Sylvandellpublishing.com.

Subject: Homeschool Writing Contest Submission—Manuscript Title

Name: First and Last Name

Title: Manuscript Title

Word Count: number of words

Date of birth: month/day/year

Grade Level: sophmore (example)

Home phone: area code and phone number

Email: submissionkid1@aol.com (example)

Address: mailing address

Participant’s Message

“I, (insert your name here), have read all competition submission guidelines…”

Parent name: First and Last Name

Parent phone: cell or home if different than child’s

Parent Address: (if different than child’s )

Parent e-mail: e-mail address of parent or guardian

Parent’s Message

“I have read all competition submission guidelines with my child…”


Frequently Asked Questions

What if I am not homeschooled?

One of our publishers’ primary goals in developing this contest was to motivate homeschooling students to write. We’ve received many requests from local schools and other individuals in the past asking us to open the competition to public school students, but we are currently not capable of handling the thousands of entries that we would receive.

Should I include illustrations for my manuscript?

No. We will not be accepting any illustrations with submitted manuscripts. It is normal in the industry for authors to only submit the text. The publishers hire professional illustrators to complement the work.

Are you looking for manuscripts written for a particular age range?

We are looking for books written for age ranges: 3-7, 4-8, 5-9 or 6-10. As you write, try to zero-in on one of these four age groups and select age appropriate words. You can use the reading level presented in Microsoft Word’s “Readability Statistics” dialogue as an indicator.

Should I include a “For Creative Minds” educational section?

While every Sylvan Dell title contains a “For Creative Minds” educational section, it is not necessary for students to submit one with their manuscript. We welcome all well-researched ideas for the section, but there is no obligation to send them. Traditionally it is the responsibility of Editor Donna German to compose the supplement. If you do chose to include potential ideas for a “For Creative Minds” section, do not include that information in the word count.

What length should I aim for?

Typically, picture books are less than 1,000 words.

Every Sylvan Dell title is 32 pages, including the title page and the three to five page “For Creative Minds” educational section. As we review manuscripts from students, we are looking to be sure that the text fits into this format. But as we mentioned before, we will not be accepting manuscripts of over 1,500 words, and we would not like text to be broken into pages.

How can I find the word count for my manuscript?

In Microsoft Word, go to the Tools menu on the menu bar and click on “Word Count”. A document’s word count can also be found in the Readability Statistics dialogue box that should appear after the document as been checked for spelling and grammar errors.

Your manuscript’s approximate word count will serve as a general indication for Sylvan Dell’s editor.

What if I don’t have Microsoft Word on my computer?

Your local public library will most likely have Microsoft Word on its computers. Consider typing the final draft of your manuscript at your local library or find a friend who will let you type the final draft on their computer.

Can I submit more than one manuscript?

No, select the best one to submit.

Can I submit the same or one of the same manuscripts that I submitted in last year’s competition?


Will I receive feedback or comments about my manuscript(s)?

The editor generally does not provide comments to authors about manuscripts they submitted.

When and how will the announcement be made?

The winner, 2nd and 3rd place participants and any honorable mention recipients will be contacted directly by e-mail. Their names will also be posted on the homeschool page of our Web site in late April.

Will I get to read some or part of the winning manuscript?

Sylvan Dell may or may not post an excerpt from the first place or finalist manuscripts on the Sylvan Dell Web site.

Can I be a judge?

Although we appreciate your interest, the Sylvan Dell editorial staff will review each submission. You may be interested to know that Sylvan Dell receives about 30 manuscripts a day from authors across the country. For this reason, we feel comfortable with the reviewing and judging process.

I have a question that you haven’t addresses, who do I contact?

You may contact Maggie Stuart at MaggieStuart@Sylvandellpublishing.com – no phone calls please. Maggie works flex hours and will respond within one week of your e-mail.

GoNorth! Fennoscandia 2008 kicks-off 2-11

This is an awesome program that I have written about in the past. To read my previous entries on the subject, click here: Follow Arctic Explorers on a Dogsled Expedition
Below is an update sent to me from the program that I wanted to pass on!

Greetings from Education Basecamp!

It is that time of year again! The dog yard is buzzing with Polar Huskies training for the expedition trail and we are on the final stretch getting ready for the LIVE program ahead…

GoNorth! Fennoscandia 2008 kicks-off Monday, February 11th at 8:00AM CST!

We are thrilled to announce that the changeover at PolarHusky.com for the upcoming adventure learning expedition has launched. This means a couple of things-

You will now be able to find information about the upcoming program taking us all on a journey to Arctic Sweden, Finland and Norway. The change-over is a work in progress and the site will continue to be updated on a daily basis with new sections and updated content.

Make sure to set your browser to “automatically refresh” whenever you log on (and at the same time clear your history). This will ensure that you are not seeing “old pages.”

The changeover also means that if you are looking to access last year’s program GoNorth! Chukotka 2007, you will have to click on one of the ‘spots’ provided that link to this past adventure learning program – or go to the Past Programs page in the Adventure Learning section of Support and select it there.

As for the GoNorth! Curriculum and Activity Guide 2008, the wait is almost over. We are very hesitant to put an exact day out there simply because we do not want to disappoint – but we feel confident that we shall be able to deliver by the end of next week. We will alert you immediately as the modules become available.

This years Guide will again consist of four modules – which will all become available then. The environmental question we set out to explore is “deforestation and sustainable development” as we travel with the Sámi people in the Sápmi region of Fennoscandia. The modules are:

Module 1 – Arctic Explorations: Planning an Expedition Almost every corner of this plant has been explored… and mapped. The making of maps and other navigational skills have played a significant role in the study of exploration. Less recognized is the importance of the traditional knowledge form the Native Arctic peoples. These people have lived in and survived the harsh Arctic conditions for thousands of years.
Their knowledge, passed from generation to generation, is critical to each culture’s lifestyle, identity, and social structure. Today, like other explorers before, we continue to learn from their knowledge and experiences. Through field explorations and scientific study we will search for clues to discover the effects of modern day problems like climate change. Chat topic: Arctic Exploration.

Module 2 – People & Culture: Self-Determination One way to view history is as a struggle to extend basic, inalienable human rights to every person, regardless of ethnicity, color, or creed. This is certainly the story of the Sámi, who have overcome centuries of political disenfranchisement to emerge as a whole and vibrant culture. It’s also a true description of the African American struggle to achieve full civil rights in the United States. In this section, we will explore the concepts of human rights and the freedom of expression, not only as it related to the Sámi peoples and the American Civil Rights Movement, but as it applies to your students’ classroom and school halls. Chat topic: Globalization.

Module 3 – Natural Resources: Sustainable Development The world’s population is not only growing, but industrializing-and placing increasing strains on the planet’s natural resources. This growing demand for minerals, fuels, forest products, and even water and air, has changed the value that we give to land. In this module, we explore the notions of “place” and “value,” focusing not only on sustainable natural resource extraction, but also on the personal and cultural connections that we place on natural spaces. Chat topic: World Resources.

Module 4 – Flora & Fauna: Climate Change Fennoscandia, where Team GoNorth! is traveling, includes high mountainous regions, Arctic tundra, and vast tracts of boreal forests. The animals and plants of these ecosystems have adapted to the harsh northern climate. The Sámi people, too, have developed cultural adaptations, including a special relationship with reindeer, that help them thrive in the harsh conditions.
The climate and ecosystems of Fennoscandia are changing rapidly, however, and have an uncertain future. Exploring the dynamic of climate change and Arctic ecosystems, we investigate the consequences of these changes to the region of Fennoscandia, and to the daily lives of its inhabitants. Chat
topic: Climate Chaos.

As always, thank you for being part of the team and please do not hesitate to contact Education Basecamp with any questions you may have.

Think Snow!

-Education Basecamp

GoNorth! – Adventure Learning for the K-12 Classroom

University of Minnesota
130D Peik Hall
159 Pillsbury Dr SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455

P: 612-625-8550
F: 612-624-8277
E: info@polarhusky.com

Explore the Arctic and experience adventure learning online!
Visit: http://www.polarhusky.com

TheaterWorks Plays Coming to Vegas

Hi All,

Here is the list of plays that TheaterWorksUSA is making available to the Las Vegas area. We will probably try to go to the Paul Revere one at the very least.

Seats are $10 a piece but if you have 15 or more it is $7.

Feb. 1 Aesop¢s Fables

Feb 4 The midnight Ride of Paul Revere

Mar. 24 Winnie the Pooh

Apr. 21 Henry and Mudge

All performances are at 10 and 12 noon and are at Cashman¢s except Henry and Mudge which is at Ham Hall.