Valentiny Contest

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It’s contest time again! The first writing contest for 2021. Author and blogger extraordinaire Susanna Leonard Hill is hosting her 6th annual Valentiny Writing Contest, and I’m so excited to be entering for the first time this year! Read more about the contest here:

Basically, this contest has 3 rules:

  1. Your story must be about Valentine’s Day.
  2. Your story must include someone being brave in some way.
  3. Your story must be 214 words or less (because 2/14…get it?).

I hope you enjoy my short and sweet story! My entry is below:

Valentine’s Gotcha Day

By Jessica Hinrichs

(213 words)

Valentine sat in her kennel, nervously thumping her tail against the floor.

Was today the day? She’d gotten her hopes up before, but everyone always said her fur was too scruffy, her nose was a funny shape, and her size was just too much to love.

Day after day, she remained at the shelter, watching families adopt her friends and hoping one day it would be her turn too.

Just then, Valentine’s ears perked up. She heard a girl’s voice. Her heart beat faster as the girl approached.

“Look, Mommy!” The little girl squealed. “Her fur is red! Her nose is shaped like a heart! And there’s a lot of her to love! She’s perfect.”

The little girl knelt down and smiled—the prettiest smile Valentine had ever seen. 

Valentine’s eyes pleaded with her. Could this be my Gotcha Day? I’m too scared to even hope. Be brave! She trembled, but she held the little girl’s gaze.

As if the little girl understood, she reached out her hand and gently whispered, “Sweet Valentine, will you be mine?”

Will I ever! Valentine’s fears faded in a split-second and she lunged into the little girl’s arms, peppering her face with wet kisses.

The little girl giggled. “You’re the best Valentine ever!”

No, thought Valentine, you are.


Rate Your Story

I joined Rate Your Story ( as a 2021 member.

Rate Your Story is a panel of agented, published authors who act as Judges. Members can submit manuscripts and queries and the Judges will award a rating from 1-10, showing how ready they feel your work is to submit to agents or publishers.

At the start of the year, I submitted a manuscript and my query letter that goes along with it. I’ve been anxiously waiting to hear back.

Last night, I finally did.

Y’all…I was blown away to see that I had received a rating of 1 on both my query and my manuscript! 🤩🙏🏻💃🙌🏻

1 is the highest rating!!!

That means, they feel that I should start querying this manuscript!!!

I was literally jumping for joy in my kitchen last night when I saw the email! 🥰

To be clear, I’m still unagented and unpublished. But this feels like a big step in the right direction.

Let the 2021 querying begin!!

Critique Giveaway!

If there is one thing I know about the #KidLit writing community, it’s that everyone is super supportive and loves to give back! And my critique group wants to get in on the fun! 🎉

I love these ladies and count myself so fortunate to be a part of this group. ❤️Each person brings something special to the table and each person is supportive, kind, honest, and constructive in their criticism. Follow these language-loving word-wizards on Twitter!

Lindsey “Pitch Perfector” Hobson @LindseyBHobson

Gennie “Comp Queen” Gorback @GennieGorback

Molly “Pun Princess” Ippolito @MollyIppolito

Now for the fun stuff! 🙌🏻 Could you use an extra set of eyes on your work-in-progress? What about FOUR extra sets of eyes? 👀 What about FOUR extra sets of eyes for FREE?!?

That’s right! 🤩 Our group is giving away a🌟FREE🌟picture book manuscript critique! Must be non-rhyming, can be up to 1000 words. All FOUR of us will read and critique your manuscript! All you have to do to enter is follow each of us on Twitter and retweet my pinned tweet.

The contest is open through Tuesday 1/19 at midnight ET.

And who knows? Depending on the response we get, maybe we’ll do it again soon!! 😉

Stay tuned! 🌸

The Easiest Potato Soup You’ll Ever Make

Happy New Year! 🎉

Did you breathe a sigh of relief, or even shed a tear, when the ball dropped on NYE? I did. I know 2020 was such a tough year for so many people, and I’m glad it’s behind us. I have so much hope for 2021!

Which isn’t really the point of this blog….

But, it’s January now, the dead of winter for much of the country. Who could use a quick, simple meal idea for a cold winter’s night? 🙋🏼‍♀️

Here in Florida, it definitely doesn’t feel like winter (I’m fine with that!!), but we have had several fall-like days.

And I’ve figured out how to make the easiest potato soup you’ll ever make—the perfect dinner for a cold day!

What?! Yes, I did. I used microwave mashed potatoes. No peeling, chopping, or boiling potatoes for this soup!

I did chop some carrots and celery, and I sautéed that in some butter while I microwaved the potatoes. Then I added bone broth, the hot mashed potatoes, milk, salt, and pepper. I heated through until the soup was smooth. That’s it. Super easy, super yummy!

Let me know if you try it! 😋

My Writing Year in Review: 2020

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Though I’ve been writing as a hobby for quite some time, 2020 was the year I really started to get serious about it. I’ve often heard that it takes years and many, many rejections to break into the publishing world, and my journey is proving this theory correct.

In 2020, I’ve received:

  • 13 Picture Book manuscript rejections
  • 1 magazine submission rejection
  • 0 offers for agent representation

But…I feel like I’m further along than I ever have been! Here are all of the cool, amazing things that DID happen in 2020!

  • I met my dream critique group! The four of us clicked immediately and everyone is so supportive and encouraging, while always offering insightful, helpful critiques so that we each improve our writing. Follow these language-loving word-wizards on Twitter! @KindlingEducat1, @LindseyBHobson, @MollyIppolito
  • Speaking of Twitter – in 2020, I managed to grow from a nearly inactive Twitter account with under 20 followers to approaching 1000 followers. The #writingcommunity is huge on Twitter and I feel fortunate to have connected with so many wonderful peers.
  • I participated in 6 Twitter Pitch Parties (PitMad x2, PBPitch x2, FaithPitch, and WMPitch)
  • I won 3 Thursday Read-Through Giveaways, hosted by @MarynaDoughty and @SarahJWMeade. It’s a little surreal to hear your manuscripts read aloud. It really makes your stories seem like real books! And it’s been helpful to hear where revisions may still be needed. Follow these ladies on Twitter too and enter to win their weekly giveaway!
  • I won 3 picture book giveaways! Support these authors by giving them a follow on Twitter.
    • LET’S DANCE by Valerie Bolling (@valerie_bolling)
    • GOD BLESSES ME by Della Ross Ferreri (@DellaRF)
    • REX THE WE DON’T KNOW by Heather Macht (@AuthorHMacht)
  • I won a picture book critique of my work by author Lauren Kerstein (@LaurenKerstein).
  • I entered 2 writing contests
    • Fall Writing Frenzy Contest, hosted by Kaitlyn Sanchez (@KaitlynLeann17) and Lydia Lukidis (@LydiaLukidis)
    • 2020 Holiday Contest for Children’s Writers, hosted by Susanna Leonard Hill (@SusannaLHill)
  • To my surprise, I received an Honorable Mention for my story in the Holiday contest! I earned a $10 Amazon gift card (my first “money” made writing!😄) and some very positive and helpful feedback from the contest host.
  • I’ve written many stories this year, both for the general market and the Christian market. Some may never see the light of day, but everything I write is strengthening my writing muscle and improving my writing overall.
  • I queried 3 picture book manuscripts and I submitted 5 short stories to children’s magazines.
  • I started this blog!
  • I learned to navigate MSWL and Query Tracker.
  • I joined SCBWI, Rate Your Story (@Literally_Lynne), and will be registering for 12×12 in January (@JulieFHedlund).
  • I’ve watched SCBWI webinars, PB Palooza panels, and various literary YouTube videos.
  • And I’ve participated in/signed up for a few freebies like PB Train (@MindyAlyseWeiss), Story Storm (@taralazar), and 12 Days of Christmas (@JulieFHedlund).
  • Somehow I’ve also found time to read a few books just for me. Because, as they say, you can’t be a writer without also being a reader.

Wow! Even though I haven’t “made it” yet, writing this all out really helps to see how far I’ve come this year. And let’s face it, I’ve always loved a good list! 😀 I encourage you to write out your accomplishments from the year too! It might just help salvage what has otherwise felt like a pretty tough year.

Now, Adios 2020! So long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu.

Merry Christmas!🎄 Happy Holidays!❄️

See y’all in 2021. I can’t wait! ❤️

Ma’s Rolling Pin

I love to bake. And I love to write. So what’s better than writing about baking?

I inherited this rolling pin from my maternal grandmother. We called her Ma.

Ma and Pa lived in a rural hollow in eastern Kentucky, deep in the Appalachian Mountains. They married very young. My Pa worked in the coal mines and my Ma stayed home with the children, eleven of them to be exact! When he wasn’t in the mines, Pa loved to sit on the front porch in his rocker and pick his banjo. He could really play! And Ma was always cooking or baking something scrumptious. She was known for her homemade biscuits and gravy.

That knack for cooking and baking was passed down to my Mom, and to an extent, to me. But, while I love to bake, I’ve usually avoided anything that required a rolling pin and cookie cutters. It feels arduous and tries my patience, I guess. And I’ve never cared much about perfect presentation. Homemade and rustic suits me just fine.

However, this Christmas season, I got out my Ma’s old rolling pin and made gingerbread cookies with my family. I rolled the dough again and again, and carefully cut out cookies in various holiday themed shapes. And I didn’t hate it. I thought about Ma as my forearms ached from rolling, and how many times she must’ve felt the same way. I remembered family trips to that old hollow in Kentucky, and the good times spent with extended family there.

My son loved the fruits of our labor – his first tastes of gingerbread cookies. And, you know what? I think I’ll use the rolling pin a little more often now.

The 2020 Holiday Contest WINNERS!!!

The winners have been chosen! Y’all! I’m blown away to see my story listed among the Honorable Mentions!! 🙌🏻 That validation means so very much to me. AND…one of my talented critique partners won 3rd place overall!! Congrats Molly! 🎉 There were around 223 entries overall, so this is a big win! Check out Susanna’s blog post below! 😀

Well hi there, my little snowflakes! You’re just in time for some high jinx and shenanigans! I’m always on the lookout for those fun holiday quizzes,…

The 2020 Holiday Contest WINNERS!!!

Pitch Parties!

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Who loves pitch parties?!

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, let me explain. Pitch parties take place on Twitter on set dates and within a set time frame. Unpublished authors can pitch their manuscripts, making sure to stay within Twitter’s 280 character limit (this includes the hashtags, so it can be challenging to write a catchy blurb within the limited character count). There are so many different pitch events, depending on genre, etc. Each event has its own rules and its own hashtags that must be used.

As an aspiring author, Twitter pitch events are a fun way to try to catch an agent’s or publisher’s eye. If an agent or editor “hearts” (or likes) your tweet, that is your invitation to query them for an “above the slush pile” look at your work. Nothing is guaranteed, but pitch events are a fun supplement to the usual querying process. And you just never know! I’ve heard some success stories where authors have connected with agents during these events!

At the very least, these events are FUN! And they offer opportunity for TONS of networking! I’ve connected with so many people in the writing community through pitch events. They are also good PRACTICE! We all have to be able to write a blurb about our manuscripts every time we send out a query, so why not write a pitch and at least TRY during a pitch party, right?!

Tomorrow, I’ll be participating in #FaithPitch for the first time. #FaithPitch is for authors of fiction and non-fiction written from a Christian worldview. I’ll be pitching 4 picture book manuscripts. Check out more about Faith Pitch here:

I’ve previously participated in these pitch events:

#PBPitch for authors of picture books :

#PitMad for all genres :

#WMPitch for children’s fiction from picture book to young adult :

And there are many others! This isn’t a comprehensive list, but here are the links to some others I’ve heard of, for your reference:

#DVPit :

#KissPitch :

#LatinxPitch :

#PitDark :

Happy writing! And happy pitching!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

It’s fall baking season! These oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are a favorite in my house and I make them every year. I love to mix up a double batch all at once. I flash freeze half, then transfer the cookie dough balls to a freezer bag. It’s nice to have them ready to go in the freezer for those times when I just want to pull out a few to bake. They bake up great from frozen! I just add a few extra minutes of baking time. Now, let’s be honest, no one likes to read through a blog for half an hour just to get to the recipe. So let’s dive right in!


1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

1 large egg

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 tablespoon molasses

1 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

a few tablespoons of ground flax seed (optional-I like to add it “for health”)

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips or chopped chocolate (I like to mix and match-I often will chop some milk and dark chocolate bars and/or use a variety of different types of chocolate chips)


Cream the butter and brown sugar together until smooth. Add the egg and mix until combined. Add the vanilla and molasses and mix until combined. (The molasses really takes these cookies up a notch, in my opinion. Yum!😋)

In a separate bowl, combine the oats, flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and flax seed. Add to the wet ingredients and mix on low until combined. Fold in the chocolate. Then chill the dough in the fridge for 30-60 minutes. This step is important because it allows the oats to soak up moisture and flavor.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Roll balls of cookie dough. Bake for 12-16 minutes (or until lightly browned on edges).

*Remember, you can freeze the unbaked cookie dough balls, then bake from frozen at a later time. Just add a few extra minutes to your baking time.

Cookie dough after being flash frozen
Transferred to freezer bag and ready to store for another day!

Enjoy!! Happy Baking!

Halloweensie Contest

Check out this Halloween writing contest entry by my friend and critique partner, Lindsey Hobson! She has a knack for spooky creative writing! Great job, Lindsey! 🎃

Lindsey Hobson, author

Image courtesy of Pixabay

I love fall, especially Halloween – all the spooky decorations, candy, and scary movies are so much fun! One of my new favorite Halloween traditions is writing my entry for Susanna Leonard Hill’s Halloweensie contest! For this contest, you have to write a super short (100 word max!) story that must include three specific words. This year those words are skeleton,creep, and mask. Last year, my entry received an Honorable Mention for Good Kid Voice! My entry for this year’s 10th Annual Halloweensie contest is below. Good luck to everyone who enters! I can’t wait to read all the amazing stories!

A Spook-tacular Party
Word count: 99
By Lindsey Hobson

The witches have gotten
New hats that are black.
They open their spellbooks
And whip up some snacks.

The skeletons creep up, 
Their bones go click-clack.
They carry in pizzas
In towering stacks. 

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