With Picture Book Author & Mentor, Susanna Leonard Hill
By Traci Bold
The ABC song is one of the first fun songs we teach our children since the alphabet is the backbone for learning to read and write. For some people, though, reading and writing is not much fun. Which is how I came up with the ABC game. My new series, ABC’S OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD offers a new way to have fun with the alphabet. Every week, a children’s author, illustrator, literary agent or editor will play the ABC game by answering each ABC category off the top of their head from A to Z. Following the answers, I asked a few questions to gain a little insight into some of those answers.
Feel free to play along, maybe your answer off the top of your head will match theirs. Enjoy!
Helping me kick off this new weekly feature is the talented, animal loving, picture book author and owner of the wonderful website, https://susannahill.com, Susanna Leonard Hill!
Susanna recently published three children’s books back to back,
keeping her exceptionally busy, but she happily agreed to be my first contestant.
ME: Susanna, thank you for playing the ABC game with me by filling in the blanks below to each category A-Z.
Susanna: My pleasure! It was tons of fun!
ABC GAME CATEGORY LIST
BOOK: Anne of Green Gables
DOG BREED: mutt J
EVERY CHILD SHOULD HAVE: love and books
FISH: clown fish (is that what Nemo is?)
GARMENT: blue jeans
HAPPINESS IS: family
JAM OR JELLY: jam!
KNOW HOW TO: bake
MOVIE: Love Actually
NAME A BOYS & A GIRLS NAME STARTING WITH N: Nick & Nancie
ONOMATOPOEIA WORD: WOOF!
PLACE: Blueberry Hill
QUICK, NAME A ‘Q’ WORD: quilt
READING IS: escape
SYNONYM FOR GREAT: stupendous
TOY: pogo stick
UNUSUAL COMBINATION: video games and live bait
X WORD: xylophone
YEAR THAT HAS SPECIAL MEANING AND WHY: 1980 – I got a horse!
ZANIEST THING YOU’VE DONE: believe I can be a children’s author
ME: Did you enjoy the ABC game and how long did it take you to fill out the answers?
SLH: I enjoyed it immensely and since it said “top of your head” it took me about 2 minutes… which was partly why I enjoyed it so much!
ME: Believing you can be a children’s author has paid off for you. Not only are you a beloved published children’s author of many books, you also run a successful, creative blog, https://susannahill.com, based on your love of writing for children. Teachers, parents, writers, illustrators, etc. love your website and all it has to offer. (For me personally, your website is bookmarked as a favorite). Do you have a favorite section of your website and why?
SLH: Oh gosh! That’s a hard question! I don’t know if I do have a favorite. I like everything for different reasons – Would You Read It, Perfect Picture Books, Oh Susanna, Short & Sweets, Making Picture Book Magic (which probably qualifies as my favorite because I love teaching)… If there was something I didn’t like, I’d stop doing it. But I do love running the writing contests. I think they foster a nice sense of community and encouragement, I get to meet a lot of new writers, and I love seeing the level of creativity that people reach – so amazing and impressive, and there’s so much talent out there!
ME: Your writing contests are stupendous fun to participate in; I’ve done a few! And the stories written…! They encourage writers to think in a different way. Your HALLOWEENSIE writing contest is coming up the end of October!
ME: I gather from two of your answers that you like horses. Will you elaborate please?
SLH: I was one of those girls who was just born loving horses. I have no explanation. I grew up in New York City – not a place where you see horses on a daily basis, not exactly conducive to owning a horse or even to riding. But there is something about horses that has always called to me. I was lucky enough to eventually get a horse when I was 15, and I was a serious competitor in Three-Day Eventing for many years. But I don’t have to ride to enjoy horses. I like just being around them. They’re such old souls – warm and solid and comforting. I like their company.
ME: Wow! Equestrian competitions are no easy feats, no doubt you did well in them. I am in awe. Myself, I like to be around them, just not ride them. As you said, they are old souls and are indeed comforting to be around.
ME: Do you play the piano? If so, when did you learn to play?
SLH: I DO play the piano. I started on my own at age 3, climbing onto the piano bench and picking out tunes by ear. So my mom assumed I had a yen to play and signed me up for lessons when I was 4 with Mrs. Knerr who lived across the street. Then when I was 6 I moved to Diller-Quaille School of Music and took lessons from Miss Weed until I went to college. Pretty much all classical except for some Scott Joplin and some Rogers & Hammerstein. I was a complete trial to poor Miss Weed, who was about 80 when I started taking lessons from her. She was determined to teach me discipline and make me read music, and I was just as determined to play for fun and do everything I could get away with by ear. I’m afraid I won most of the time. Nowadays I don’t play that much because there are books all over my piano. But occasionally I pile the books on the floor so I can lift the lid and make some music.
ME; I sense a picture book here. 😊 Playing for fun and by ear sounds perfect.
ME: Your quick ‘Q’ word was quilt. Is there a story behind that word choice?
SLH: Hmm… Interesting question. I didn’t really think about it – just quickly chose a “q” word as instructed… But I do LIKE quilts. They’re beautiful and cozy. And I loved all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books when I was growing up (well, I still love them, truth be told) and they were always sewing patchwork quilts. I also love How To Make An American Quilt (I confess I haven’t read the book, but if you haven’t seen the movie I highly recommend it!) So maybe it was a subconscious choice based on a secret desire to be able to make quilts .
ME: Makes sense. Thank you for the book/movie recommendation!
ME: I love the song, BLUEBERRY HILL. Based on the lyrics, I always wanted to go there, wherever it is. Is this a fictional place or real place for you?
SLH: There’s a song??? Really??? I’ll have to look into that! Of course most kidlit folk probably think of Blueberries For Sal when they think of Blueberry Hill, but for me it’s a real place. It’s where I live!
ME: There is a song! Fats Domino sang BLUEBERRY HILL. And the fact that you live in Blueberry Hill is seriously sweet. 😊
ME: Last question. What is one thing you would like people to know? (This category is wide open.)
SLH: About me: in my opinion, the best candy bar ever invented is Snickers!
About writing: do it for yourself, first and foremost, not for fame or fortune, and if you want to be published keep writing and improving and never give up!
About life in general: there are few things that can’t be made better by a good dog!
ME: My go to candy bar is a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup but Snickers is an excellent runner up. Your ‘about writing’ answer is spot on and you are correct: there are few things that can’t be made better by a good dog.
Thank you again Susanna for helping me kick off this new series!! I am happy you had fun and am joyful that you continue to write and that you keep us writers and readers coming back to your website!
SLH: And thank YOU, Traci, for inviting me to participate in your wonderful new series!
You can learn more about Susanna, her books, writing contests, and her blog at:
You can also find her at:
If you are a children’s writer and would like to learn more about writing picture books check out her picture book writing course at :
Thank you reader, for taking the time to read this blog. I hope you stop back each week.
To all of you who enjoy writing…