Thursday, February 13, 2020


It's contest time again. I just can't get enough of them. They force me to sit down and complete a draft so, I just couldn't pass up the chance to enter Susanna Hill's 2020 Valentiny contest again.
 A Yeti story has been sitting in my idea file for quite some time, so I thought, why not? I hope you enjoy it. Read the rules below. 
 Write a Valentines story appropriate for children (children here defined as ages 12 and under) maximum 214 words in which someone feels curious!  Your someone can feel curious themselves or make someone else feel curious.  The curiosity may be about a person, place, thing, quality, idea, event, or about whether something will happen or something is true or real, or anything else under the sun you can think up!  Think beyond the obvious!  Your story can be poetry or prose, sweet, funny, surprising or anything in between, but it will only count for the contest if it includes someone curious (can be the main character but doesn’t have to be) and is 214 words (get it? 2/14 for Valentines Day. You can go under the word count but not over!

If you are interested in entering the contest, or want to read more entries check out her blog here.

Let me know if you like my story in the comments below.

 word count 210

                                                       YETI WANTS A VALENTINE   
By MaryAnn Cortez

Yeti wants a Valentine,
a friend who thinks he’s dear.
But every time he finds a pal,
they run away in fear.       

Kids are so afraid of me.
Perhaps it is my size. 
If they got to know me,
they’d be in for a surprise.

Yeti plots a hopeful plan,
in dirt beneath a pine.
If I sneak inside the school,
I’ll get a Valentine.

Can I pull it off? he thinks.
Can I find friends at school?
Could there be a kid out there
who thinks a Yeti’s cool?

He buffs his fur down to a shine.
He puts on pants and shoes.
A baseball cap - he looks divine.
But still, there are some clues.

A bristly back -eight big sharp teeth.
A face blue as a berry
Yeti tells the class a lie.
“Hi, I’m the new kid, Gary.”

At recess time he swings on bars -
climbs ropes and jumps off swings.
At craft time he makes Valentines
with sentiment and bling.

At last the party hour arrives,
but Yeti’s head hangs low.
Not one single Valentine.
His tears fall cold as snow.

“Gary, wait! Your Valentines
 do not fit in your box.”
To our new friend Gary
A Yeti who really rocks!  

Tuesday, December 10, 2019


It feels like I just finished writing the story for the Halloweensie contest and packed away the pinecone turkey centerpieces from Thanksgiving, and here I am again with another contest entry. I love KidLit contests and can't get enough of them. Here's the link, if you'd like to check out the other entries.

This one is a winter holiday contest. Rules state that there can be no illustration notes. It must written for kids (12 or under) and be about a holiday treat. Also, it can not be more than 250 words.  Hope you enjoy reading it. Leave a comment in the box below to let me know what you think.

By MaryAnn Cortez   (250 words)

“Where’s the candy cane?”
“One-minute Santa’s magic candy cane was in my hand and the next, POOF! It was gone. PLE-E-E-ASE Tinsel, make another one, quick!”
“Sorry, Chip. I can make a normal candy cane lickety-split, but a time-bending candy cane - that takes a whole year to cure.”

Chip scratched his head. “But, doesn’t it speed-UP time?”
Tinsel sighed. “It all has to do with fancy physics, something called a relativity cloud, stretching and shrinking time and precise planning.”

Chip’s heart sank. “First day on the job, and Santa’s going to fire me. How can I fix this?”

“I’ve got it.”
“Everybody in the sleigh. Santa’s going to need lots of help.”

“Nope. Everybody out. Put the presents back in the bag.” Chip rubbed his temples.
“Fifty elves might have been pushing it.” Tinsel said.
“You think?”

Santa checked the reindeer’s gear.
Chip paced. “Maybe, if he shrinks himself…”
Tinsel frowned.

Chip slumped. “Well then, that’s it. I’m fired.”

“Where’s my cocoa?” Santa boomed. “We’re late.”
Chip scooped up his cap and went to confess.

“Sugar cookies! It’s been stuck on here all along!”
“Sorry, Santa. I thought I’d lost the candy cane, but I found it.”

Chip dusted off the fuzz and handed the candy to Santa. “Can I have another chance… Sir?”
Santa stirred his cocoa, then took a sip. “Perfect! No time to waste. I’ll need your help, Chip. Hop on. We’ll make this Christmas merry for all.” 

Monday, October 28, 2019

Halloweensie Time! LET'S GO SCARECROW!

Wow, it's been a while. I do admit I have let my blog posts wane, but that's because I've been so busy writing. Anyway, what a way to come back with my favorite time of year, Halloween.
Ah, and yes a HALLOWEENSIE story for Susanna Leonard Hill's world-famous Halloweensie story contest.
Here are the rules cut and pasted right from her site.

The Contest: write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (children here defined as 12 and under) (title not included in the 100 words), using the words potion, cobweb, and trick.  Your story can be scary, funny, sweet, or anything in between, poetry or prose, but it will only count for the contest if it includes those 3 words and is 100 words (you can go under, but not over!)  Get it?  Halloweensie – because it’s not very long and it’s for little people 🙂  (And yes, I know 100 words is short, but that’s part of the fun and the challenge!  We got over 235 fantastic entries last year, so I know you can do it!)  Also, you may use the words in any form – e.g. potions, cobwebbed, trickery, whathaveyou 🙂  NO ILLUSTRATION NOTES PLEASE! (And yes, you may submit more than one entry if you’re so inclined 🙂 ) 

Also, here's the link to her blog, should you be interested in joining.

And now my story entry (Let me know what you think in the comments below)

                                                                                                                         word count 90

By Mary Ann Cortez

Let’s go, Scarecrow. There’s nothing to be afraid of.
Through the autumn leaves.
Over the creaky bridge.
Come on! Let’s go, Scarecrow.

Past the oozing potion. 
Let’s go, Scarecrow.
Under drooping cobwebs.
There’s the door.
TIP-toe TIP-toe
Shhh, Let’s go, Scarecrow.
Let’s go! Let’s go!
Under the cobwebs.
Past the potion.
Through the maze.
Over the bridge.
Down the path.
Through the leaves,
Finally, safe at home again.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Author Interview Sherry Howard plus BOOK GIVEAWAY

Happy Autism Awareness month! I hope you all are wearing blue and showing support for the Autism community.

Most of you know Autism awareness is a topic very near and dear to my heart. Today I’m very excited to introduce you to our guest, children’s book author Sherry Howard.

Welcome Sherry, I’m so excited to be interviewing you today. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Thanks so much for having me! Awareness and acceptance of all differences is an issue close to my heart! I received an award from Council for Exceptional Children and was recognized as a Kentucky Colonel for my advocacy for children. Autism is so misunderstood, and can be so hard for families. I’m hoping ROCK AND ROLL WOODS shines a little light on differences.

   How did you come up with the idea for ROCK AND ROLL WOODS?

My granddaughter, Kamora, is acknowledged in the book for coming up with the idea for the character, and for naming him Kuda. I was ready to start a new draft for 12x12 in November 2016, and asked her what she wanted the next story to be about. She wanted a bear, named Kuda, after her bearded dragon. Kamora, and my daughter, and I did a lot of brainstorming for the story. In writing the book, I had the vision of one particular student in my heart. That student was the most lovable grump I’d ever worked with, and I think my love for that young person came through in the characterization of Kuda.

ROCK AND ROLL WOODS is one of the few picture books that poured out pretty quickly. I have others I’ve worked on for ten years that I’m still not satisfied with.

  Why do you write for children?

I missed the children when I was injured, and had to leave my job as a principal early. It took a bit, but I found my way back to the schools as an author. It was probably my volunteer work at an elementary school, reading picture books to second graders, that tipped the scales, and gave the nudge to go all-in and learn the craft.

Where do you like to write?

I love to write at home, and often brainstorm with my family while writing. I’ve tried writing at places like Starbucks, and I get too distracted.

Do you prefer to use pen and paper or computer to get that first draft down?

I use whatever is handy! I have both physical and electronic notebooks full of first efforts! At first, I wrote everything by hand. (I started with novel length work.) Then, I realized how inefficient that was. I didn’t think I could make the switch to all electronic, but I do the majority of drafts on the iPad now. The exception to that is often picture books, and poetry, which seem to need my sensory involvement more.

Where is your favorite writing spot? 

I have physical problems that keep me lying down a lot. A lot of writing is done on my couch. Except when I’m dummying a picture book, or deep in edits on a longer manuscript. Then my kitchen table is my spot. I experience huge guilt when I tie up the kitchen table for very long, so I’ve tried to develop a system. I have a gorgeous, huge desk set-up, but seldom use it.

 How do you schedule your writing?

I don’t schedule my writing. I remember when I first began to consider myself a writer that people talked about a scheduled commitment making all of the difference. But, I feel such a strong urge to write that I basically write any time I’m not doing something else, until my brain tells me to replenish. When I see people who have the will-power to get up at 4:30 AM to write, I’m BLOWN AWAY. You will sometimes find me writing at 4:30 AM, but it means I haven’t gone to bed yet!

What are you working on now?

I’m always working on a lot of different projects at once. Projects I don’t have contracts for: I have two middle grades, a few chapter books, and more picture books than I can keep track of. For the manuscripts I have contracts for, it’s more about popping in when needed for edits. And, that includes the sequel to ROCK AND ROLL WOODS, and a chapter book with Spork.

I’m working on edits for a six-part series with an educational publisher. I can’t say much about it, other than it’s high interest/low reading level, a passion of mine.

What is the main thing you want readers to take away from your book?

I don’t know that I can say one main thing—but if I have to, I’d say I want the take-away for a young reader to be fun. ROCK AND ROLL WOODS is written to be a fun read-aloud, and school visits have shown me it lives up to that. There are lots of other takeaways, too, though. I want kids to feel empathy for Kuda’s struggle, and be inspired to be brave and try new things. I want them to see what it’s like to be a good friend like Rabbit. I want them to love the language—BOOM WHAPPA WHAPPA.

For parents and teachers, I hope the book can help open discussions about embracing differences, and about how each of us “feels” the world in a different way.

Although this book doesn’t directly address autism, it does address sensory processing, which can be an area of struggle for children with autism. In that way, ROCK AND ROLL WOODS can help shed a little blue light of awareness on one possible point of struggle for children with autism. (The back matter has some details about this.)

What were some of the challenges you faced on the road to publication?

Maybe one of the biggest hurdles for me was physical. With a physical disability already, I got a spinal cord injury over twenty years ago that changed my life. I can’t sit, walk, or stand for very long, and I’m walker/wheelchair dependent. That made the physical act of writing challenging.

So, until I got my first iPad years ago, writing was hard physically. Now, I have several iPads, so one is always charged, and I have special pens that allow me to write lying down.

That injury has also made it difficult to be as active in real life as I’d love to be. If I were more mobile, I’d like to think I’d attend every conference and retreat available all over the country. Instead, I’m pretty selective about where I go.

I still face the challenge of finding an agent. I hope someday to be agented. That would require more active querying on my part!

Sherry Howard | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Meet Kuda and Rock and Roll Woods here.

Deep Sea Divers

Sherry Howard lives with her children and silly dogs in Middletown, Kentucky, a stone's throw from the beautiful horse farms Kentucky is always bragging about.
During her career in education, she served as a middle school principal in one of the largest metro school districts in the US. She was an award-winning educator, serving as teacher, consultant, and principal in one of the largest urban-suburban school districts in the US. Sherry specialized in working with children with special needs, and believes that all children face learning challenges and have their own unique gifts.
Sherry loves to read, write, cook, and sit in the sand watching the waves when she can. She credits her ability to write a complete sentence in English to her training in classical Latin. Sherry is the author of the picture book ROCK AND ROLL WOODS, which delves into Sensory Integration through a story relatable to kids. Her poems and stories have appeared in multiple journals and anthologies, and she writes for the educational market.

Sherry has graciously offered to give away a free copy of ROCK AND ROLL WOODS or (and this one is awesome for you kid lit writer's out there.) A free picturebook critique!

Just enter the rafflecopter below. Winner will be chosen at random.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, March 8, 2019

Hi Everyone, today I have the pleasure of interviewing Suzi Olsen. Suzi will be telling us about her journey as a children's indie book author.

Welcome, Suzi, I'm so glad you could join us today.  I can't wait to hear about your books and your writing journey.

First, Mary Ann thank you for having me on your blog. I appreciate it. 

Second, I’m delighted I get to share my books with your readers!

Tell us what your books are about.

I have a series of math picture books for preschoolers to early elementary schoolers that include Annie Aardvark, Mathematician and Annie Aardvark: Adding Ants. The Annie Aardvark books are about a female aardvark (named Annie Aardvark) who is named after fellow STEM professional Annie Easley and who loves math and who decides to go on math adventures during her daily forage.  As a female engineer, this series draws on my passion to encourage kids, especially girls, in math.

What has your experience been like as a new Indie Author? 

I’m still coming off the high of having completed a fully funded Kickstarter campaign for Annie Aardvark: Adding Ants! As an indie author, that was a huge accomplishment for me.  I had learned a lot from my first book (Annie Aardvark, Mathematician) in terms of how to reach your audience and what kind of marketing returns the most readers.  For the first book, connecting with bloggers (like you Mary Ann) was one of the best ways for me to connect with new readers. So, trying a new approach to reach readers for the second book, a Kickstarter campaign, was a little scary.  But I did research and read lots of articles on how to have a successful Kickstarter. That’s probably my overall lesson learned as an author, indie or traditional: do research.  It helps you know what you’re getting yourself into, haha! 

What is your favorite part of the writing process? 

My favorite part of the writing process is coming up with new story ideas.  There’s so much hope and promise with a new idea. It’s rewarding to see an idea become a physical book. 

Least favorite? 

My least favorite part is revising and editing.  I can be impatient at times, so it’s like let’s just get Annie Aardvark: Adding Ants out there already!  Thankfully, my co-editor (aka my husband) helps me slow down and quadruple check the proof before printing the final book. 

Who are some authors in your genre that inspire you? 

Andrea Beaty, author of Rosie Revere, Engineer; Andrea’s a retired tech professional!  Her books are fun while teaching STEM concepts.  I also admire two other tech professionals who’ve turned authors, Josh Funk author of How to Code a Sandcastle and Laurie Wallmark, author of Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code.  Yes, as an engineer, I have a bit of a STEM bias when it comes to picture books; introducing kids to STEM, especially girls, is my passion after all!  

What are you working on now?

I just released Annie Aardvark: Adding Ants this past October, and I’m currently revising two picture book stories that were inspired by real events.  And of course, like most of us writers, I have many ideas floating around in my head and have jotted down some of those ideas on a piece of paper somewhere. Tara Lazar’s Storystorm has helped me accumulate a lot of ideas and pieces of scrap paper this month. 
I love Tara Lazar's Storystorm. 

Tell me, What does your writing space look like?

I write on my couch mostly, with my laptop on one of those laptop trays.  There’s a bookcase next to my couch, filled with journals, pens, books, and those pieces of scrap paper.  The lighting in the room is great though, and the couch is most comfy, so to me, it’s the perfect writing spot. 

What keeps you motivated during creative slumps?

Being in groups like 12x12 Challenge, KidLit 411, Multicultural Children’s Book Day, SCBWI, and Storystorm help me stay motivated.  Having a supportive writing tribe really lifts me up on the days that I’m struggling and thinking about quitting. Their words of encouragement keep me going.

I totally agree. Surrounding yourself with a supportive writing community makes all the difference on those difficult writing days.


What is the biggest surprise you’ve experienced after becoming a writer?

I felt like an outsider big time when I first started joining writing communities and groups, like hey engineer get in your own lane, you don’t belong in kid lit, but that was all my old childhood insecurities and fears about fitting in.  The kid lit writing community is very nice and supportive of each other, and I’ve made lots of friends in the community! 

What has been one of your most rewarding experiences as an author?

Hands down seeing a child enjoying one of my books.  Friends will share photos of their children reading my books, smiling and laughing while they read, and my head explodes from the cuteness and my heart melts into a big pile of slime (slime being the new goo).  And my own child proudly tells people about Annie Aardvark and loves carrying around his stuffed animal aardvark (who he named Annie of course).  I’m not sure it gets
better than that as a children’s writer. 

Is there anything about the writing life that you think is misunderstood by the public?

That I’m automatically cool.  I’m not; I’m still a big dork.  But there is a misconception that having one book out in the world means you’ve made it in some way, either money or fame.  Unfortunately, not all books can end up on the New York Time’s Best Seller List.  However, I embraced my dorkiness years ago, so when I didn’t get famous or rich from my first or second book, I was still content with what I had accomplished. I still had put a book out into the world.
It's Suzi's birthday month! You can wish her a Happy Birthday on her website or in the comments. 
 Suzi Olsen is a systems engineer in Phoenix, AZ! She currently works on the search and rescue system for the US Coast Guard. She is also the author of Annie Aardvark, Mathematician and creator of STEM Spark. 
To learn more about Suzi and her books check out her website.
If you are interested in purchasing Suzi's books you can buy them here.

BUT WAIT! THERE"S MORE! For a chance to win a FREE copy of ANNIE ARDVARK ADDING ANTS just enter the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, February 13, 2019


 Hi Everyone, Can you feel the love?  I'm so excited about Valentine's Day and it's not because of wine and chocolates, (although I love wine and chocolates) It's because of Susanna Leonard Hill's Annual Valentiny Contest! 
She makes writing contests fun. Here are the rules.

Write a Valentines story appropriate for children ages 12 and under maximum 214 words in which someone feels guilty!  Your someone can feel guilty themselves or make someone else feel guilty.  They may feel guilty for good reason, or just because they think they should!  Your story can be poetry or prose, sweet, funny, surprising or anything in between, but it will only count for the contest if it includes someone guilty and is 214 words (get it? 2/14 for Valentines Day. You can go under the word count but not over! (Title is not included in the word count.) 

Here's the link to her website. (It's quite wonderful.)

And here's my entry. If you like it leave me some love in the comments. 

By MaryAnn Cortez

Papa bought Mama new earrings for Valentine’s day.
Little red hearts that sparkle.
“They’re from both of us.”
Mama will know they weren’t from me.
Papa thinks he loves Mama the most.
But I love Mama more.
“Mama loved me first,” Papa teases.
He grins a big ole grin.
I don’t see the funny in that.
I close the door to my room.   
Snip-snip. Paste-paste.
I thread a string through the red paper heart.
Just enough room for her face and mine.
Papa’s big ole grin flutters to the floor.
In the morning Papa makes heart shaped pancakes.
He tops them with strawberries and whipped cream.
Then sings a song about a girl and her dad.
He places a present next to my plate.
“For you,” Papa says.
 “From both of us,” Mama says.
The pancakes stick in my chest.
“I’ll be right back.”
I take the envelope for Mama back to my room.
I open it, quick.
Snip. Paste.  
Color. Fold.
Mama puts the paper locket over her head. She opens it. Two faces smile up at her. One with a big ole grin.
My Papa puts the picture I drew of us in his wallet.
We eat our pancakes. There’s enough love for all of us. 

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Imposter Syndrome

Have you ever heard of Imposter Syndrome? 

If you are a writer, then it’s very likely you have.  If you haven’t then let me bring you up to speed.

Have you ever won an award for something you would have done without any thought of a payoff? Have you been honored for your work? Been touted as a hero because you happened to be in the right place at the right time and did the right thing? If your answer is yes then in the aftermath you may have experienced Imposter Syndrome. 
Here is the definition as it reads in the Google dictionary. 
 im·pos·tor syn·drome
Dictionary result for impostor syndrome
noun: imposter syndrome
the persistent inability to believe that one's success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one's own efforts or skills.

You don’t have to be famous to feel like an imposter.

On rare occasions when I meet a new person and they discover that I am a published author, they get this look. A look of admiration. (It’s the same look I get whenever I meet other authors.) That look that says you must have it all together. You’ve achieved your dream.  

My first reaction is to look behind me to see who they are smiling at. Surely it can’t be me. I don’t deserve such praise. 
If they really knew me, they would think: Man, this woman is a mess and they’d be right.

Most days I am a mess. I have to write everything down or I forget to do it. Return this call. Pay that bill. Make an appointment.
I try to fit in little bursts of writing between laundry, cleaning, work schedule, research, figuring out what I’m going to make for dinner.  And Lord help me, somewhere in there I have to fit in social media marketing.
But when I go on a book signing or do an author interview I’m as cool as a cucumber. I really sound like I know what I’m talking about.

It’s like the Brad Paisley song says, I’m so much cooler online.

You don’t have to be a writer to have imposter syndrome. In the age of social media, we all have a public presence. And it’s usually just a glimpse into who we are. Sometimes the pictures aren’t even real. 

But does that really make us an impostor?

 A friend of mine who’s recently published book made her kind of famous, shared that the success of her book was a dream come true. But now she’s falling into a bit of a depression.
She’s doing all these public appearances, signing books and giving talks. She says that she feels like she’s being fake. Like she just got lucky and the success of her book was a fluke. It wasn’t. She worked hard on it for years and deserves the accolades.

But after her appearances, she still has to go home and do laundry. She still has to drive to the store and get groceries like the rest of us.
“Which one of those am I?” She asks. The happy fun lady who writes picture books or the Mom drives her kids to school in a wrinkled T-shirt and a bed-headed bun threating to stop and make them walk the rest of the way if they don’t stop fighting?”

My answer to that is both. Two sides of a real-life person. No one says you have to be one or the other to be genuine. The seemingly put together one is you at work. You rock at work, right?
The sometimes overwhelmed Mom is you at home. Where you can let down your hair, and be a little crazy. The kids don’t care they’re used to it.
You don’t have to pick one identity over the other. Like diamonds, are all made up of many facets. So polish up those suckers and let them shine.

M.A. Cortez lives with her family in Colorado. She spends her days drinking gallons of coffee, reading, and writing or wishing she was writing.


Y.A. Romance

Y.A. Suspense, Supernatural, and Mystery
Watch the trailer:

Holiday Short Story



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