Robby Robin wins his first award; now he needs your help

RobbyRibbonI am excited to share the news that my first Robby Robin story, No More Worms For Supper, has won first place for Children’s Literature in the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick annual literary competition.  I love the idea of calling my Robby stories literature!!  One valuable outcome of this competition is that if you come in the top five, you get some feedback.  Other times when I’ve entered competitions I’ve heard nothing back; that’s clear enough in one regard – the judges didn’t like it – but not constructive for trying to improve.  So I’m happy on a few fronts: I finally got some unbiased encouragement (well, to their credit, my young readers have given me pretty good encouragement) and also some useful advice.

What have I learned?  Maybe first and foremost was the revealing experience of having to revisit my stories without the illustrations, because competition (and publisher) submission rules stipulate that no illustrations are allowed.  In fact, if you include even one illustration you are disqualified.  That exercise in itself brought me up short because  I suddenly realized that my illustrations were telling part of the story, and that without them I needed to add some small but significant details to the narrative.  I had never noticed that omission. Duh!  I happen to be one of those people who spends as much time looking at the pictures in kid’s books as the words, talking to my young reading companions about what’s happening in the pictures.  I love it when there are lots of intriguing little details, like the picture of the Run-away Bunny on the wall in the bedroom of Goodnight Moon.  But, of course, the words do need to stand on their own! That was an important lesson for me to learn.

The other feedback I got was exactly what my son – the father of my primary audience – told me the very first time he read it nearly 5 years ago: “It’s great, Mom, but it could be shorter.”  Spoken like a true parent who has to read the story!  The review I received said the same thing: each bird food choice is worthy on its own, but the story would benefit from fewer of them.  Sigh.  So this is where Robby and  I need your help.  Which bird and favourite food – or more than one bird – should be stricken from the story?  It can’t be worms, since that’s what robins eat.  It can’t be seagulls and french fries, because that’s central to the story.  So we are left with these choices:

ChickadeeSeeds1.  Sarah Chickadee likes seeds.  Robby thought he’d like them better than worms.  But when his mother gave him some he said, “Ugh.  I don’t like these seeds.  They’re too hard.  They slide around on my plate and fall out of my beak.”


EagleFish2.  Eddie Eagle likes fish.  Robby thought maybe he’d like fish best.  But as soon as he tried it he said, “Blech.  I don’t like this fish.  It smells funny and it’s hard to pick up with my beak.”



NuthatchBugs 3.  Nelly Nuthatch likes bugs.  Robby thought bugs had to be better than worms.  But as soon as he tried one he said, “Yuck.  I don’t like these bugs.  They’re too creepy.  They fly away while I’m trying to eat them.”


HummingNectar4.  Hubie Hummingbird likes nectar.  Robby thought he’d like that until he tried it.  But as soon as he took a sip he said, “Ick.  I don’t like this nectar.  It’s too sweet and it’s too hard to drink.”



WoodyFat 5.  Wendy Woodpecker likes fat.  Robby thought surely that would be the best meal.  But when his mother put it on the table he said, “Waaa.  I don’t like this fat.  “It’s gross.  It’s too smooth and it has no taste.”


So, my question to you, dear readers, is: which one or ones should be turfed?!  You can give your suggested choice(s) in a comment below or by completing my survey at this Robby’s Food Survey Link.  I’d love to get your input.

One of the recommendations given when you attend writing workshops – or read the excellent advice in the One Wild Word blog and other writing blogs – is to enter writing competitions regularly.  I’m convinced!  It turns out to be great advice, and although it’s truly gratifying to win, being provided with feedback may be the biggest prize.  Another recommended way of getting feedback is to join a writers group.  I haven’t got my nerve up for that yet, and I’m not sure if people writing serious prose and poetry want to hear my children’s stories, but I may give it a try.  There is no doubt that reading your work out loud brings out the positives and the negatives, even if you read out loud to yourself.  With me it took reading out loud knowing the illustrations weren’t there to gain clarity.  Some of us are slow learners!


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42 Responses to Robby Robin wins his first award; now he needs your help

  1. Heyjude says:

    Late to this one, but I have read your stories (I too have grandchildren) and love them! (The grandchildren AND the stories) I think eliminating ANY of the birds on account of length is wrong because you can always skip one or two if time is short. However I would agree with a few other people that the eagle (much as I love eagles) is the odd-man-out and also the woodpecker and the fat should go. Bugs definitely should stay!

  2. Wowza, that is super awesome…congrats, Jane! I vote to ax Wendy and the fat. Hubie definitely needs to stay because hummingbirds rock. : )

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Britt. Wendy and her fat are getting quite a few votes, but the eagle and his fish seem to be getting even more. Needless to say I have a soft spot for them all, having created them!

      • Oh, I totally understand. I didn’t want to even vote, but I knew you needed some tough love to help you out.

        Tell Wendy “I’m sorry” for me if she doesn’t make the cut.

  3. jane tims says:

    Hi Jane. I am so happy you won First Place! Very deserving too. I personally think all the characters should stay. Stories are diverse and need different sizes, shapes and personalities to respond to various circumstances. Again, great!!!!!! Jane.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks so much, Jane. I was surprised and pleased. I wish I could attend WordsSpring in May, when I would get to read (!!), but that is the weekend our family is all running together in Toronto. I think if I decide to submit to publishers I would probably be smart to leave one out. It’s just that I hate to lose one of my drawings, but I can’t submit those anyway!

  4. Pingback: Do Book Review Blogs Make Money (and Other Questions)? | The Misfortune Of Knowing

  5. Steph says:

    Congratulations!! How wonderful!!

    Do you truly have to get rid of some of the birds/foods? They don’t seem long (granted I haven’t read a book to a child in ages)…and are educational. I’ll leave it to the others to offer suggestions. 🙂 congrats again!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Steph. For sure, I can keep them all, but based on feedback from judges, I figure I should think about whether it could be “tightened up”. We’ll see. It’s fun to see what everyone thinks!

  6. Congratulations Robby and Jane 🙂 I agree that the feedback is priceless. I love that you did Survey Monkey. I’ve got to get brave enought to try that one day. Oh – when you create a hyperlink how about checking the box that says open in another window. That way readers won’t get knocked off your blog when they go somewhere else and forget to click the back arrow. LOL – more feedback.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Fran. Hmm, check the “open another window” box; what a good point. I got used to ignoring that option in other contexts about 15 years ago because I had students whose home operating system went mad when another window was required. I need to move ahead to this decade where tech options are concerned! This is my first use of SurveyMonkey; I’ll pay more attention next time. Thanks.

  7. Anne Rimmer says:

    Congratulations, Jane! I’d remove the eagle because it’s the ‘odd man out’.: it’s huge, whereas the other birds are closer to the robin’s size; it lives in a different environment, ie around water, not in the forest or grasslands; and it is a hunter of big prey – fish, whereas the other birds eat small food items. – OK one eats live bugs but it’s not in the same category as an eagle catching fish.

  8. Elaine Mayer says:

    So exciting to be recognized for your good work! Congratulations!
    I’m torn over which I would leave out. I suppose it would be either Hubie Hummingbird eating nectar (What is that?! most kids would say) or Wendy Woodpecker eating fat. (Where would a bird find fat outside?!)
    Another new accomplishment!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Elaine. I can’t begin to tell you how much entertainment I’m getting from the careful analysis everyone is giving me! We’ll see where the vote takes me. 🙂

  9. alesiablogs says:

    Congrats! I love the whole idea of the book . My choice would be the pull the eagle. Most kids know about eagles, but not so much about other birds that are smaller….I hate to even give an opinion … But that would be it…

  10. Martha Merrill Wills says:

    Jane! I’ve been out of the loop for a while, but I’m so happy to have re-discovered you today. Congratulations to you and Robby Robin. I took the survey. No bugs or fat for me! 🙂

  11. jennypellett says:

    Congratulations Jane! Winning the competition must be immensely satisfying. I love the illustrations and the repetitions of the food scenarios. I think if I really had to pick one to get rid of, I’d have to choose the hummingbird on account of them not being seen in English gardens…but then neither are Eagles…oh dear, I’m not being very helpful, sorry!
    I belong to a writer’s group and found reading out my work to others very daunting at first, but people are generally so encouraging that I look forward to the weekly sessions now and find the feedback very helpful. Competitions also make one focus, so I’m hoping to enter a few this term to help the writing discipline. Good luck with your editing!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Jenny. And thanks for the encouragement about joining a writer’s group. I’ve heard that it is immensely enjoyable; I just need to get past the daunting part. I hadn’t thought about there not being hummingbirds in England. I am now enchanted with the vision of an eagle in an English garden. I think there’s the beginning of a new story there!! I’ll give you a credit. 🙂

  12. Roy McCarthy says:

    Congratulations Jane! I’ve zapped the Hummingbird on the grounds that nectar might not be instantly recognisable to a child, but now I feel guilty…

  13. I’d hate to lose any of them. In fact I’d consider adding a gull or a crow–a less discriminate eater…one that I could identify with :>)

    • Jane Fritz says:

      LOL. Actually, there is a gull, Simon Seagull. I left him off the list because he is the clincher in the story, or at least his french fries are. But I do love crows. I’ve been trying to come up with a fable about crows for quite awhile now, but I haven’t found a good ending. Maybe I should give that idea up and go with a story about Robby and his new friend Mr. Crow. Hmm. Stay tuned. Thanks, Maurice.

  14. Emilia says:

    No matter what, it always feels good to get recognition…well done!
    Now to the task at hand. A children’s book should always, in my opinion, be educational while creating a sense of fun in the young reader (or listener). So, when I look at the foods presented all of them, except one, give you some information on where they originate: seeds from bushes, fish from rivers and oceans, bugs from trees, nectar from flowers. In some cases you used feeders associated with it as well but in only one case did you use feeders alone – the “fat”, which begs the question, where does the woodpecker get their fat if they are in the wild and have no access to feeders? So for that reason Wendy Woodpecker would be gone!
    Now, my only other comment would be: it is normally difficult to get kids to start liking fish, maybe our best protein, so saying that fish “smells funny” does not help….
    I didn’t like that description of fish the first time I read it but didn’t have “courage” to make that comment. Now that you asked…..
    I’m an adult but it has been a lot of fun reading your children’s stories. I guess I’m trying to get ready for when (or if) I have grandchildren!

    • adamfritz says:

      Emilia nails it. This is what I was thinking exactly. The key is to focus on the learning message that you want conveyed. The fat feeder is the odd one out. You know how I feel about fish, but I agree with that point too. Congratulations again!

      • Jane Fritz says:

        I do indeed know how you feel about fish, which is why I thought you’d relate to Robby’s reaction! When you and Emilia are joined in making your case, I know I’m in trouble. 🙂

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Emilia, you win the prize for the most complete analysis, although I am enjoying all of the carefully considered responses enormously. It IS a good point about the fat. Needless to say, that was meant to appeal to my strange sense of humour. I could change it to say sap and fat, and explain more fully, as you point out I do with the others. Excellent observation! 🙂 I particularly like your defense of eating fish, which your replier below has always refused to eat! I was thinking of him when I wrote that. However, I’d hate to be responsible for causing kids to not want to eat fish, one of my favourite foods. It is true that it’s something kids eat, as opposed to worms, bugs and seeds. Well, they do eat some seeds, and they certainly eat french fries! Anyway, you definitely have me thinking!! 🙂

  15. Turf none in my opinion. Apart from the fact that I like all of them anyway, you will get all sorts of opinions along the way from a variety of readers. I really think that you should leave the book just as it is – it’s cool – and taking away is not always the way to go.

  16. Karen Annett says:

    Congratulations Jane. This is great! I’m responding to you directly regarding my first choice for elimination —- Eddie Eagle (’cause he’s a predator…. not that I dislike eagles). If you need to remove others, here are my choices (in order): Nelly Nuthatch; Wendy Woodpecker.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Karen. I love your reasoning for the eagle. Poor Eddie does seem to be getting the most “votes”. maybe I should rededicate the story in his honour?!

  17. Michelle McNeil says:

    Way to go, Jane!! I did the survey and chose Sarah Chickadee. But I wanted to comment here that removing Eddie Eagle might be a mistake because the kids I’ve read it to all react excitedly to the illustration of the eagle catching the fish in his talons. Also, the concept of eating bugs (Nelly Nuthatch) elicits giggles and lots of great questions from Dylan. Finally, we have spent a lot of time talking about what nectar is as a result of reading your book, so I would be sad to see that one go.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks so much for this terrific analysis, Michelle. It is especially valuable as an experienced reader of this great work of fiction. I’m glad to see a vote of confidence for Eddie!! My 5-year old great-niece in Colorado (on Facebook) said she thought it should be the eagle beause it’s not a girl! A valid reason, don’t you think?!

  18. A.M.B. says:

    Congratulations! That’s very exciting! I’m afraid I’m no help on which bird to cut; as a birdwatcher, asking me to choose a bird is like telling me to pick one of my kids (well, not quite the same thing, but you get the idea!). My only suggestion is to keep the nuthatch because kids love bugs, at least mine do.

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