Valentine’s Day Rocks

UPDATE 2/22/2021: Congratulations to the 14 finalists and 35 honorable mentions from the 200+ submissions! I’m thrilled to share my story “Valentine’s Day Rocks” was among the finalists!**

Congratulations, Samantha! We loved Marjorie for her kindness and understanding, and Roger for bravely (and intelligently) coming up with valentines that worked for him!

– Judges of the contest on my 14th place entry


Until now, this blog has mainly been a journal for my photography. Today, I’m also adding something new: a children’s story. And I hope it’s a trend that continues. It seems fitting that I’m launching this on Valentine’s Day, because reading and writing picture books is something that has truly captured my heart over the last couple of years.

For Christmas I self-published Life Before You, a personalized story for my nieces, nephew, and the kiddos my husband and I sponsor with their own illustrations (their interpretation of “love” is shown in the photo above). I’m currently querying one polished manuscript inspired by my trip to the Galapagos (that has taken me dozens of drafts and hundreds of hours of writing and editing) and working on a few others with my SCBWI Wisconsin critique group. But, the story I’m sharing here was finished in two days for a writing contest, which has been a challenging exercise in both brevity (only 214 words) and bravery (posting publicly).

In this post, I will share the rules and prizes of the 6th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest (there’s still time to enter until midnight), my submission, my extended version (because I fell in love with the characters and *shocker* wanted to write more), and links to some of my favorite submissions by other talented writers. Enjoy!


Write a Valentine’s story appropriate for children (ages 12 and under) with a maximum of 214 words (no illustration notes) in which someone feels brave!


Picture book manuscript critiques from agent Hannah VanVels and authors Renee LaTulippe, Dawn Young, Kirsti Call, Melissa Stoller, Becky Scharnhorst, Ellen Leventhal, Rebecca Kraft Rector, Julie Abery and signed copies of various books.

My Submitted Story:

Valentine’s Day Rocks – 214 words

By Samantha Haas

“Time for show-and-tell!” Ms. Carla announced. “Who wants to share their Valentine’s Day craft first?”

Arms sprang toward the ceiling like balloons. But Roger’s hands stayed hidden inside his sweatshirt. 

Dylan held up a homemade flower. “I painted pasta for the petals and used a pipe cleaner for the stem.”

Then Jade chimed in. “Mine is a clothespin butterfly with glitter tissue paper for wings.”

Roger’s fingers fidgeted inside his pocket while the others went around the circle — each project more colorful than the last. 

Marjorie nudged Roger. “Psst. Your turn.”

His face turned as red as the rose on his teacher’s desk.

“Roger, did you forget yours at home?” asked Ms. Carla.

He cradled something in his palm, weighing what to do next.

Marjorie leaned over and whispered, “It’s okay. I don’t have craft supplies at my place either.”

Roger took a deep breath and showed the plain rock to the class. “I read a library book about penguins who give out pebbles like people do with candy when they like somebody.” 

When the students giggled, Marjorie jumped up to distract them with her project: a bent and twisted paperclip. 

This is my heart,” she beamed. “I’m giving it to the bravest person I know.” 

Roger scooted closer to Marjorie. “Psst. You rock.”

My Favorite Submissions

At the time of publishing this post there have been over 200 stories submitted, but I’ll try to check back tomorrow after the deadline to read more that come in and add any favorites here. It has been SO fun to see everyone take such a different approach on the same topic. I love the creativity!

One Comment

  • To See, Or Not To See – Samantha Cora

    […] about more and more writing contests. I may have had some beginner’s luck with the last Valentine’s Day writing contest (my 214-word story placed in the finals), so I’m tempering my expectations […]

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