Posted by: Kathy Temean | February 25, 2011

Free Fall Friday – Contest

Starting with this week, we are going to try something new with Free Fall Friday.  For March and April, visitors can use the picture of the week to write a first page and or the first two lines of a story and submit it for consideration in a contest.  There will be one for both months.  If there are more than 10 submissions in a month for each (First Page and First Lines), a separate prize will be given for a full first page and one for the first two lines.  Prizes are as follows:

$5 off a future NJSCBWI event for the first two lines.

$10 off a future NJSCBWI event for the first page.

Prizes can not be used for any previously booked event, the summer networking dinners or for a First Page Session, but they can be used at the NJSCBWI conference in June to purchase raffle tickets, bid on editor critiques or additional critiques you might decide to purchase before the conference starts.

Winners will be announced and the winning entry posted on this blog.  You do not have to be from New Jersey to enter or win.  To submit, please make sure you put Free Fall Friday and that Friday’s date in the subject line and send it to

This week’s inspiration is an illustration from the master illustrator Chris Van Allsburg.  His picture books are so wonderful, that you almost want to tear out the pages and hang them all over your house.   He earned a graduate degree in sculpture at the Rhode Island School of Design.  Shortly after he received his degree, Van Allsburg began to show his sculptures in New York City galleries, where their surreal imaginativeness quickly won him a reputation as an artist to watch. He didn’t begin drawing until his teaching commitments at RISD and a cold studio too far across town kept him from his sculpture.

To his wife, Lisa, and other friends, Van Allsburg’s pictures showed a strong narrative style that they thought would translate well into illustrations for a book. Houghton Mifflin thought so, too, and quickly signed Van Allsburg on for his first book. The rest, as they say, is history. Thank goodness.  I can’t image a world with out his beautiful artwork.

Houghton Mifflin has published fifteen of Van Allsburg’s books — from his Caldecott Honor Award — winning first book, THE GARDEN OF ABDUL GASAZI, to his most recent space adventure, ZATHURA.

The success of Van Allsburg’s JUMANJI and THE POLAR EXPRESS is no less than phenomenal: both received Caldecott Awards, JUMANJI was made into a movie in 1996, and THE POLAR EXPRESS has become a classic with millions of copies sold and will be released as a major motion picture in November 2004. THE WIDOW’S BROOM, THE SWEETEST FIG, and ZATHURA have also been optioned for the movies.

Over the course of his stellar career, Van Allsburg’s books have never failed to fascinate the intellect, pique the senses, and emphasize the power of imagination. Each one showcases his unfettered imagination, “a place where an ordinary world of comfort and regularity meets a world of fantasy, magic, and sometimes even menace.”

And I read somewhere that he almost didn’t do illustration.  Now the world would have been a much duller place if that had happened.

Here’s Betsy with her tips:

For this week’s challenge:

  1. Find a quiet place.
  2. Study the picture for two minutes.
  3. Close your eyes and let the picture come to life in your mind.
  4. Open your eyes and write.

Write for five or fifteen minutes, but write something. If you don’t have time to write a

one-page response, focus on the first paragraph only or the first two lines.

As for the story, you can start something new with all new characters or use a character from a WIP and have them observe this man in action. Do they know him? How do they feel being around him? Would they rather be somehow else, and if so, where?

So step up to the challenge! I know you can do this!  Have a great week! Betsy

I’m looking forward to reading your submissions.  Good Luck!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. OOOOOOooooo, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick! I’ve owned this book for about 20 years now and it’s amazing! EVERY illustration sparks emotion and stirs the imagination! How WONderful!


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