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Announcing the 3rd Annual Kids' Choice KidLit Writing Contest!

Hello, friends! And happy new year!! Can you believe it's 2024??


Last year was my debut year and I loved launching THE MONSTER ABOVE THE BED into the world. I LOVED doing read alouds, school visits, launch parties, and more. It was all really magical and surreal.


But can I be real with you for a minute? Being a debut author is difficult. There are so many amazing books out there and the market is tough to stand out in. I honestly feel like I'm screaming into the abyss sometimes. And it was especially tricky around the holidays. I was Because MONSTER didn't land on a single "best of" list. I didn't get any orange banners or make any other best seller lists. My sales numbers don't seem to be stellar... I say "seem" because there's no REAL way to know how your book is doing until the publisher sends a report (which I haven't gotten yet) so I'm basing my worry off of a lot of smoke and mirrors.


All that to say... debut authors worry that no one is reading their book. That it's flopping. That we'll never sell another story because this one didn't live up to standards. All while being slightly alone on the journey. Only a tiny number of books get great marketing support behind them. The rest of us have wonderful marketing teams who are juggling so many books that we don't actually hear about what they're doing for our book, so we worry that we're fully on our own. And soon, we are. Because marketing teams have to move on to the next projects. It's a lonely path. I'm grateful for my debut group for talking openly and honestly about how tricky it has been because otherwise it would be so tough. That's why I wanted to be a little more transparent here... because it's tough out there.


But you know what's the most amazing part of it all? What makes it all worth it?


THE KIDS.


Because even though I didn't hit a best seller list, or make a "best of 2023" round up, I DID have kids write to me telling me that THE MONSTER ABOVE THE BED was their favorite book of the year.


I did run in to kids at the grocery story who excitedly tugged on their grownups arms and whispered "MOM! She's the one who wrote MONSTER. She came to my school!"


I did have kids mob me at school visits, begging me to sign scraps of paper.


I did have kids ask their grown ups to read MONSTER every single night for weeks on end.


I did have kids creating Blossom and Ivy fan art, asking me if they would ever be made into a cartoon, and coming up with fabulous ideas for potential sequels.


And that's when I knew. I HAD to continue the Kids' Choice Kidlit Writing Contest. Because this is what it's all about! Getting our stories into the hands of kids who need and love our books. So here I am, announcing the THIRD annual Kids' Choice KidLit Writing Contest. And honestly, no matter how busy my life and career get, I think this is going to be something I hang on to no matter what, because THIS is where I find the joy in it all. Working with the kids who make it all worth it. THEY are our WHY, kidlit creators!


That said, things will have to look a little different this year. The contest exploded last year which brought me so much joy, but it also meant organizing 50 prizes for the entrants, mailing over 220 unique gifts, and unfortunately, I made some mistakes. SO we are simplifying, remembering that the greatest prize in this contest is getting your words in front of KIDS. So make sure to read this entire post in great detail to know exactly how it's going to work and how the prizes specifically will change this year.


ANNOUNCING THE 3RD ANNUAL KIDS' CHOICE KIDLIT WRITING CONTEST!



The #KidsChoiceKidLitWritingContest puts KID readers in the driver's seat. The KIDS get to judge your entries and choose their favorites in a series of voting rounds until we crown the winners. It's so fun because pretty much all of the awards, best-of lists, and best sellers are because of the choices adults make. But this contest is all about finding out what Kid Readers love and helping them know just how important their voices are.


How things will work this year (NOTE THAT WE HAVE SOME CHANGES!)


Instead of having multiple posts, the rules for THIS year's competition are included below in this announcement post. (The rules have changed slightly, so please read through in GREAT DETAIL).


You have just over 3 weeks to work on your entries and get them ready to submit.


Then, I will open a GOOGLE FORM through my blog on Monday, January 29th that will stay open through 11:59 PM Pacific Time on Wednesday, January 31st. This is like last year so that your entries don't have to be public. This way, EVERYONE will submit to the same form, and then you will have the CHOICE if you also want to submit it in the comments section for others to read and encourage you.


PLEASE NOTE THAT THE SUBMISSION WINDOW IS SMALLER THIS YEAR AND PLAN ACCORDINGLY.


OPTIONAL: post your story in the comments section on the entry blog post (going live on January 29th) so that everyone can read your story and give you positive feedback while you await the Kids' choices. This is a fun way to build community, but not necessary. Also, the GREAT NEWS is that Wix has fixed their notifications settings, so you will NOT be getting HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS of emails when someone comments on the post. HOORAY!!!


I will then take the weekend to divide all the entries into manageable chunks for our kid judges (about 10 entries each or LESS). I will send them their first round of entries on February 5th and they will have 2 weeks to read and vote for their favorites.


We will then have a middle round of judging for any really close calls. This will be a small set of entries (3 to 5), just to make sure that we know exactly who the kids choose for the final round. Kid judges will receive this set of entires on February 20th and will have 10 days to read and pick their favorites.


Finally, on March 4th we will announce the finalists in each category (as well as the honorable mentions) and the kid judges will receive the link to finalists' stories and have 2 weeks to read and choose their favorites.


NEW THIS YEAR:

Finalists will be proportional to how many entries we receive. Based on numbers from the last two years, my guess is that we will have:


10- PB finalists

7- MG finalists

3- YA finalists


We will have LOTS of honorable mentions.



Winners of the #KidsChoiceKidLitWritingContest will be announced via my blog on March 20th.


NEW THIS YEAR:


ALL winners will receive the SAME prizes (I simply do not have the bandwidth to organize and hand out 40+ prizes like I have the last two years). But they are INCREDIBLE Prizes...


ALL winners will receive:

  • 1 hour group AMA with agent Emily Forney via zoom

  • Query Pass to agent Kaitlyn Sanchez. Kaitlyn is currently CLOSED to queries, so this is a major opportunity.

  • I'm hopeful to add in another submission opportunity, so watch this space


ALL honorable mentions will receive:

  • 1 hour group AMA with author Kailei Pew (me! haha)


This event was SO fun last year, and I cannot wait to do it again.


Like last year, I will be suggesting (NOT requiring) that all entrants make a donation to help get the kid judges a thank you gift for their hard work. To do so, you can venmo me (@Kailei-Pew) or make a donation through my website HERE. No amount is too small!


For now, I need one thing from the amazing writing community... KID JUDGES!


INFO FOR FOR KID JUDGES:


This year, Kid Judges will be receiving a digital gift certificate to buy a book (instead of a physical, mailed book) as well as some fun digital downloads and virtual opportunities with Kailei as thank you gifts.


Applications for judges MUST be filled out by a parent/guardian. I am looking for judges in PB, MG, and YA categories and I especially hope to get a diverse panel of judges. Once again, this contest will be fully virtual, so kid judges can come from anywhere in the world, but must speak English since this contest will be hosted in English (apologies for that. I do still hope to find a way to be even more inclusive in the future, but translating right now isn't going to be an option for me... if you have a child who wants to participate but does not speak English and you would be willing to translation for them, I'd be more than happy to make that happen).


***Kids will need to read (or be read to) a total of about 15-25 entries over the course of a month and a half as judges. We will be dividing up the work into 3 rounds this year:


- 8-10 entires in round 1 (over the course of 2 weeks)

- 3 to 5 entires in a "close call" round (over the course of 10 days)

- 3-10 entries in the final round (over the course of 2 weeks)


NEW THIS YEAR:

Word counts will vary for each group. MANY of our MG judges last year were disappointed in the extremely small word counts, so I'm allowing slightly larger word counts for MG and YA as indicated, but will try to keep the number you have to read lower (and you'll have two full weeks to get through an absolute MAX of 10 entries):


WORD COUNT LIMITS

PB entries: 250 words

MG entries: 500 words

YA entries: 500 words


NOTE, this will be more of an "excerpt" for MG and YA or a small scene. Many of the entries will end with a cliff hanger of some sort.


Grown-ups can apply for their kiddos to be judges at this link HERE.


Thank you in advance to all our kid judges! I cannot wait to work with you all again! And if this will be your first year, WELCOME! You are going to love this!!





RULES AND INFO FOR ENTRANTS


The Basics:

The Kids' Choice KidLit Writing Contest is a writing contest like no other. PB, MG, and YA authors will submit entries through a Google Form from January 29th through January 31st.


I am also encouraging entrants to post all or some of their entry in the comments section on the contest post that will go live on the 29th. Building community is what I love 2nd most about this contest. (First being working with the awesome kid judges). AND, I fixed my website, so you won't get a million notifications about comments. HOORAY!


Note that ONLY entries submitted through the Google Form will be judged. Comments will be exclusively for showcasing your work to the world and fostering connection.


Then, (with the express permission of their parents/guardians), KIDS will judge the entries in a series of rounds until we arrive at the finalists. We don't want any kid to have to read hundreds of entries, so each kid will read a set of approximately 10 entries in the first round of judging. All entries will be read and voted on by multiple kids the first round (exact number of readers in round one will depend on how many total entries and how many total judges we get, but it will be enough to have a consensus).


Then, there will be a second round of voting based on the top votes from round 1 to ensure that we give everyone an equal shot at being seen by as many kid judges as possible.


Then based on the votes from the middle round, I will send ALL the kid judges the finalists in their chosen category (PB, MG, and YA) for final voting.


NEW THIS YEAR: The number of finalists in each category will be proportional to the number of entries received.


All of the kid judges will then read and vote on the finalists from their specified category.


Since we do have kid judges and don't want to overwhelm them, we will give them plenty of time to read and judge. Winners will be announced sometime in March, hopefully around the 20th. (Rules continue below)


THE DATES:


January 29th: 12:01 am Submission window opens

January 31st: 11:59 PM Submission window closes

February 5th-18th: Round 1 Judging

February 20th-March 1st: Round 2 Judging

March 4-March 17th: Round 3 Judging


March 20th (ish): Winners announced


THE RULES:


PLEASE FOLLOW THESE RULES! Know them. They are your friends (and mine). Follow them, please. I know some of them seem tedious, but please remember that this is a lot for one person to organize and know that these rules are in place to make life just slightly easier for me.


  1. Write a story for PB (approximately ages 3-8), MG (approximately ages 8-12), or YA readers (approximately ages 13-18). This might be a scene more than a complete story for the older readers, but try to have a sense of beginning, middle, and end. The story can be humorous, heartfelt, gut-wrenching, quirky, meta, lyrical, STEM, nonfiction, etc. Pretty much anything that YOU think kids will love.

  2. Note NEW word count maximums:

  3. Title does not count towards word count

  4. Contest is open to all authors... agented, pre-agented, published, not published, veteran, or brand new.

  5. Art notes are NOT allowed this year. (It was too complicated for our kid judges last year. Figure out how to bring those things into the story).

  6. Come to my website between January 29th and 31st to find the link to the Google Form entry page as well as to (optionally) post your story in the comments section of the Contest Page.

  7. While it's not required, I hope you will subscribe to my blog to make sure you don't miss the Contest Page to enter on. I will email out a link when the Contest Page opens and blog subscribers will be the first to get that.

  8. Only ONE entry per person. You must choose between the categories. Last year, we had a few authors enter once in the PB category, once in the MG category, and once in the YA and they were sadly disqualified. ONE entry total. Choose wisely.

  9. You may post your entry to your own personal blog, but you must ALSO enter through the Google Form linked on my website You may include a link to your blogs/websites in the comments section of the contest page.

  10. Submission Window will open Monday, January 29, 2024 at 12:01 am Mountain Time. The deadline for posting your entry is Wednesday January 31, 2023 at 11:59 PM Mountain Time. I know this window is much shorter than last year, but again, I have to make just a few things a little easier on myself.

  11. If you have any problems with the Google Form, please fill out the contact form on my website and I will get back to you ASAP and help get your entry in.

  12. OPTIONAL BUT ENCOURAGED: Post your entry (or a portion of your entry) in the comments section on the contest page. I hope that the Google Form will make things a little smoother without taking away the fun community aspect of this event, so I really hope you will consider doing this! (***NOTE: If you have a PB entry that you are planning to query/submit as is, you should ONLY post about 50-60 words as a sample in the contest post. Make sure to post the ENTIRE ENTRY in the Google form, knowing that it will be kept private).

  13. Have fun reading other entries and commenting on other's work while you wait to hear the results of the contest. It's a confidence boost to hear from other writers that they like your stuff.

  14. Be patient while the kids read your work. I don't want this to be a burden on any of our kid judges, so we are giving them ample time to read and make their choices.

  15. Winners will be announced around March 20th, depending on the judges.

  16. NEW THIS YEAR: All winners will receive the same prizes, including group AMA and query opportunities with agents.

  17. If you would like to include links to your social media handles on the contest page, feel free to do so. You never know who might stumble on your work here and what connections you might make!

  18. Follow all guidelines within the Google Form. The entry page is extremely clear and straight forward if you read and follow it carefully.

  19. Do NOT try to be sneaky and enter a PB in the MG or YA categories because the competition is slightly less there. The kids know INSTANTLY if the story is for younger readers.

  20. If your child is judging, you may NOT enter in the same category that they will be reading. However, you may enter in a different category (i.e., if they are judging PB, you may only enter in the MG or YA categories, if they are judging MG, you may only enter in the PB or YA categories, and if they are judging YA, you may only enter in the PB or MG categories).

  21. You may NOT enter the same entry that you entered in a previous Kids' Choice Contest.

  22. You may NOT enter a piece that has been previously published (including self published) or that is currently under contract for future publication.

  23. You MAY enter a piece that is currently being queried or submitted, so long as it is NOT currently under contract or previously published, including self published.



I know this is all very specific, but please remember that I am coordinating this by myself with 200+ kid judges. I will be creating groups of judges, sending out hundreds of emails with the stories for each group, receiving their decisions, putting together the list of finalists based on their votes, and collecting the kids' final votes. So please, please, please help me out by following the above guidelines. Failure to do so will disqualify you.


Finally, I'll leave you with some interesting stats... Our first year we had:


217 PB entries

42 MG entries

24 YA entries


Our second year, we had:


179 PB entires

61 MG entires

29 YA entries


I'm so excited to see how many entries we receive this year and what the distribution is.


Now for some FAQs to finish out this MASSIVE blog post!


Q: Can I submit the same story from last year's contest if I have changed it a little bit?

A: No. You need to submit something new so that none of the judges are swayed from reading your story last year. If you took a very small element from last year's story (character name, setting, or something like it) and wrote an entirely new story, then you may submit that this year.


Q: Can I submit a story that has been published?

A: No. You may not submit a story that has been officially published in a book, journal, magazine, or online, whether traditionally published or self-published.


Q: Can I submit a story that is currently under contract to be published but not yet published?

A: No. Even if the story is not yet published, it is still going to be published. You may not submit stories that are currently under contract for publication. Trust me, you don't want to get in trouble either.


Q: Can I submit a story that has been queried to agents or submitted to publishers but never published?

A: Yes. So long as you stay within the word count, you may submit stories (or portions of stories) that you have queried or submitted that have NOT gone on to be published.


Q: Can I still enter the contest if my child is a judge?

A: Though you may not enter in the same category that your child will be judging, you MAY enter in a different category. If your child is judging Picture Books, you may enter a Middle Grade or Young Adult story. If your child is judging Middle Grade, you may enter a Picture Book or a Young Adult story. If your child is judging Young Adult, you may enter a Picture Book or Middle Grade story.


Q: Can I use art notes?

A: No. Absolutely NO art notes this year.


Q: Will I get feedback from the kid judges?

A: Most likely not. This is a HUGE endeavor for the kids and they will be reading SO MANY ENTIRES. While there is an option on the judging form for kids to leave any comments, it is not required, only there for those who have a deep desire to pass comments along. I DO send comments along to the authors who receive them, but I would say that was less that 1% of entrants last year. All of the winners did receive at least a couple of comments on the final round, so they all received those.


Q: Did any of last year's winners go on to get book deals, agents, etc. with the pieces they used for the Kids' Choice contest?

A: YES!


Q: Do I have to post my entry on your blog?

A: No, you do not. If you choose to enter only through the Google Form, that is more than okay. I do encourage you to post your story (or an excerpt of it) on my blog to foster community. Then everyone can read and encourage each other while we wait for news from the kid judges. NOTE: IF YOU ARE PLANNING TO QUERY THE PB ENTRY YOU SUBMIT TO THE CONTEST AS IS, YOU SHOULD ONLY POST ABOUT 50-70 WORDS OF IT ON MY BLOG.


Q: How do you decide which kids read which entries?

A: Since we receive hundreds and hundreds of entries, it's too many for all of the kids to read. So I randomly create groups of 10 entries and send them to groups of 7-15 kid judges (depending on how many entries we get and how many kids are judging) who will vote on that set. Then the top 2-3 winners from each of those groups go on to a middle round where again they are put with 10 entries and voted on by about 15 kids. Then the winners of that round go on to the final round. In that round, ALL of the kids in each category will read and vote on the final entries in each age group.


Q: What if I submit something longer than the max word count?

A: Any entries that don't follow the word count guidelines will be disqualified by Kailei and will not be considered by our kid judges. Please note the new word count allowances:

PB- 250 words

MG- 500 words

YA- 500 words


Q: Why is the submission window shorter this year?

A: Honestly, to make the contest a bit more manageable on the administrative side. I know it's a lot shorter this year, but it is still three full days, so hopefully you can find time to submit within that window.


Whoo! That was a lot. But how fun, right?? I feel so very blessed to be doing this for the THIRD year and I cannot wait to read your amazing stories and see what the kids love.


Comment below letting me know how excited you are for this event!! Or hop on over to this tweet to get the excited conversation started!



About Kailei Pew



Kailei Pew is the author of THE MONSTER ABOVE THE BED (illustrated by Steph Lew) and the forth-coming KID-VENTORS (illustrated by Shannon Wright) and I SEE COLOR (co-authored with Valerie Bolling and illustrated by Laylie Frazier).


Kailei believes in the power of books and hopes that her stories will help kids know they can do anything they set their minds to.


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