The In Just Spring Contest Finalists! – Vote For Your Favorite!

The In Just Spring Contest!

Well folks, the voting day has arrived, and I barely survived the selection process to tell the tale!

My goodness!  I must tell you that narrowing down this FANTASTIC field of entries to a manageable number of finalists was nearly impossible.


I had to call in an extra assistant judge!

There was much gnashing of teeth debate as we argued calmly discussed the merits of each entry and fought tooth and nail for presented our favorites.

Before I present the list of finalists for you to vote on, I would like to thank each and every one of the 42 writers who submitted a story to this contest.  It was such a pleasure to read so many wonderful stories from so many talented people.  There wasn’t a single entry that was easy to discard, and we really agonized over our decision.  You all deserve a prize.  Reading these stories really helped make it feel like spring was coming in spite of the exceedingly wintry weather we’ve been having 🙂

I’d also like to remind you that judging this contest is no different from the overall editorial process that happens in publishing houses every day.  Ultimately the judges’ (or editors’) opinions are subjective – what one doesn’t care for particularly, another loves.  If your story did not make the list of finalists, it is NO REFLECTION on your abilities as a writer, or even on this particular story, which another set of judges might have chosen.  Every one of you should feel proud of your efforts!

Now, to the finalists.

The criteria we used to choose the finalists were:
1. Kid friendliness – this is, after all, a contest for children’s stories.  Entries which made reference to something too mature for a child audience, or whose content or ending we deemed a little harsh for our young readers, had to be cut no matter how much we loved the rest of the story and writing.
2. Spring-ness 🙂 – how well did the story evoke spring?  This was tough, because some of the stories that evoked spring the best, didn’t measure up as well in terms of kid-friendliness and overall quality of writing.  Ah, compromise, compromise!
3. Overall quality of writing – which, across the board was pretty darn good 🙂
4. Completeness/satisfaction level of story – I realize the 350 word limit was the culprit in a lot of endings that felt a little hurried and incomplete.  There are quite a few stories here that would be fabulous at 400 words 🙂

So here they are.  We narrowed the 42 down to 7 (for which I think WE deserve a prize… or at least a little something for the ulcers we developed whilst agonizing 🙂  how about chocolate? :)).  Please read through them and then vote for your favorite in the poll below.  You will have until midnight Saturday March 23rd to cast your vote.  The winner will be announced on Monday March 25th.  And since we got so many entries, prizes will be given through 3rd place, or maybe more, depending on what goodies I have kicking around 🙂


#1 Breakfast Time For A Hungry Bear

When Bear awoke from a long winter’s sleep, he poked his head outside his den; he expected spring to whack him on the nose. But all he saw was white. Snow. Everywhere.

Bear clambered out of his den. A faded sun hung high in the gloomy sky. “The woods seem to be stuck in winter,” Bear thought. 
“No smell of grasses in the air.
And it’s breakfast time for a hungry bear.”
Then Bear saw a rainbow in the distance and he plodded through the snow until he came to the rainbow’s end.

The bright rainbow colors were flowing into a swirling pool. Bear stuck his paw into the pool and raised it to the sky. He painted the faded sun yellow, and the air grew warm.

Bear placed his paw into the pool again and painted the sky and the river blue. The ice melted and the river began to flow.

Fish began jumping and orioles began singing. Bear painted them orange.

Bear dunked his paw back into the pool and painted the trees and grasses green. A flock of bunting birds flew from the trees and Bear painted them indigo.

Bear dabbed again and painted a field of red tulips and yellow daffodils.
With a dainty stroke of his paw, Bear painted yellow and violet patterns on fluttering butterfly wings.

Bear climbed a pine tree and settled on a thick branch to gaze at his colorful handiwork. A swarm of bees buzzed his nose.

“Mm, mm, mm.
I smell honey in the air.
 It’s breakfast time for a hungry bear!”

A beehive hung above Bear’s head. He stood on the branch and stretched and stretched, but he could not reach the hive. Then Bear slipped. Kerplop! He landed softly on his back among the daffodils.
Grateful to Bear for melting winter away, the bees dropped a sweet, golden piece of honeycomb into Bear’s hungry mouth.

”Mm, mm, mm.

Wintertime is in the past.

Spring,” sang bear, “is here at last!”

#2 Best Buds

Sam skipped across the kitchen. “Squitch! Squitch!” Froggy feet tracked muck across gleaming white tiles. “Mum! Look what I found,” she exclaimed, thrusting out her fist.
Her mother grimaced. “Samantha Ann Davis,” she screeched through gritted teeth, “see what I found, after I spent my entire morning spring cleaning.” “Boots, off! Outside with your mess!”
Cheeks flushed, shoulders slumped, Sam turned towards the door. Even the blossoms in her sweaty palm seemed to droop.
“Woah! Watch where you’re walking, kiddo,” Dad cautioned. “Don’t wanta bop you with this bat.” “Dad! Look what I found,” Sam exclaimed, thrusting out her fist.
“Cool, Sam,” Dad replied, as he rummaged for a water bottle. “See ya later. Gotta run! First team practice. Tim! Hurry up! I’ll be in the car!”
Tim sprinted past, bumping Sam’s arm. Daffodils dropped, crocuses careened, and grape hyacinths tumbled across the floor. “Sorry, sis,” he mumbled through a mouthful of Lucky Charms. “Team’s waiting!”
Sam scrambled to reassemble the bedraggled bouquet. CLOMP! CHOMP! A daffodil dangled between clenched teeth. Pumpkin quivered; her tail thumped; she eyed Sam.
“Pumpkin! No!” Sam hopped towards the hound. Off she bounded. The chase was on!
“One fewer won’t matter,” Sam sighed, tossing daffodil remains into the compost bucket. “The rest won’t last anyway, unless I set them in water.”
Sam stared at the high shelf where vases shimmered in the sunlight. She spied the stepstool on the far side of the kitchen. Could she drag it over, climb up and grab just one tiny vase?
But she could imagine glittering glass blanketing tiles, Pumpkin shrieking in pain, and Mum screaming, “Samantha Ann Davis…”
Sam collapsed on the back stoop. Sun-warmed bricks eased the chill seeping through her worn jeans and torn hoodie. Robins wrestled worms from steaming soil as chick-a-dees chattered.
Sam heard a “tap, tap, tap.” Glancing around, she spotted Mrs. Young waving from her curtained window. She was pointing a gnarled finger towards a plate of steaming cookies.
With a broad grin, Sam raced towards her neighbor. “I picked these for you!”
Sam knew, Spring was really here!

#3 What Henry Knew

Henry spotted snowdrops unfurling their leaves and bobbing their little white heads.
“Look, Pappy,” he said to his grandfather. “Spring is here!”
Pappy scratched his white-as-snowdrops head. “I don’t know, Henry,” he said. “Sniff the air; does it smell like spring yet?”
Henry took a deep breath. “I smell snowy clouds and drippy icicles,” he said.
Pappy nodded. “Me, too.”
“Not spring yet,” said Henry.
The next morning, Henry awoke to a light snow covering everything, including the brave little snowdrops that had tried to bloom yesterday.
But the sun came out and melted the snow. Henry spied some pointy crocus leaves piercing the soil.
“Look, Pappy,” he said to his grandfather. “Spring is here!”
“I don’t know, Henry,” said Pappy. “Does it smell like spring yet?”
Henry took a deep breath. “I smell frosty air and frozen ponds.”
Pappy nodded. “Me, too.”
“Still not spring yet,” said Henry.
The next morning, Henry awoke to a frosted yard and icy plants. The crocus tips sparkled like glass.
But the sun came out and thawed the frost. Henry saw the golden glint of daffodils up by the house.
“Look, Pappy,” he said to his grandfather. “Spring is here!”
“I don’t know, Henry,” said Pappy. “Does it smell like spring yet?”
Henry took a deep breath. “I smell wriggly worms and muddy grass.”
Pappy smiled. “Me, too. And look, there’s a grape hyacinth!”
Henry knew Spring was really here!

#4 Spring

Up squirmed the worms from their homes in the ground,

Inching along never making a sound.
Down plopped the ducklings in puddles to play,

Splishing and splashing on this rainy day.
Under the leaf with its dainty wings dry,

Butterfly hung looking up at the sky.
Over its web stretching fuzzy legs out,

Spider watched raindrops fall gently about.
Into their hives for the afternoon showers,

Bees dreamed of nectar in blossoming flowers.
Out of the earth waking up from the rain,

Blades of green grass were appearing again.

Raindrops and clouds disappeared without trace.

Sunshine and blue skies smiled down in their place.
Spreading her wings gently butterfly flew.

Bees dreamed no more. There was now work to do.
Spider inspected her web with most care.

Worms found their homes to have no water there.
Ducklings fluffed feathers to dry in the sun.

Another new season of spring had begun.

#5 The Sweet Smell Of Spring

Everyone was talking about SPRING, but Roxy had no idea what that meant.
She trotted to the treat cupboard. No one paid any attention. SPRING couldn’t be about food.
She dropped her rubber bone in a lap. It fell to the floor. SPRING wasn’t about fetch.
She flopped on her bed and sighed. SPRING obviously wasn’t for dogs.
Her leash jingled.
“Come, Roxy. Let’s go on a Spring walk,” said her girl.
Roxy danced through squishy grass. She barked at a bright-chested bird. And she stared longingly at a ball slapping into a boy’s gloved hand.
Which one was SPRING?
“Mmmm,” said her girl. “It smells like Spring.”
SPRING was a smell? Roxy absolutely loved smells. But there were so many.
The leftover people smell of a soggy mitten.
The earthiness of a wriggly worm.
Puddles. Leaf shoots. New grass. Rubber boots.
Which one was SPRING?
Roxy caught a whiff of something fresh. Something different. That had to be it!
She lunged for the smell. Her leash slipped free.
“Roxy, wait!”
But Roxy had to find SPRING.
She splashed through trickling water.
A fat bird snapped. A whole line of little ones peep, peep, peeped.
Roxy sniffed, but they were not SPRING.
She scrambled up a muddy bank.
A small, spotty lump hop, hop hopped.
Roxy sniffed, but it was not SPRING.
The fresh, sweet smell of SPRING filled her nose. She was close.
Her girl called, “Roxy, stop!”
But Roxy couldn’t. SPRING smelled too delicious.
Her nails clicked on the sidewalk.
Ding-a-ling! Ding-a-ling! Wheels gritted to a stop.
Roxy’s nose twitched. She drooled. She shook off the mud, ready to sniff up SPRING.
“Euw!” someone said.
“Get that muddy dog away from the ice cream!” cried someone else.
At last! SPRING! Roxy licked as fast as she could.
Her girl snapped on her leash. “Roxy, you found the ice cream truck! Now I know Spring is really here.”

#6 Little Fox’s Springs

Little Fox was almost one year old.
LIttle Fox remembered summer. He played in the sun and swam in the brook.
Little Fox remembered fall. He hid in the leaves and ran with the wind.
Little Fox remembered winter. He cuddled with his mama and tunneled in the snow.
But he didn’t remember spring. It was so long ago!
“What’s spring?” he asked his mama.
“Spring is when you were born,” said his mama.
“Hmmmm,” said Little Fox.
Little Fox tiptoed out of his den. He found Jackrabbit.
“What’s spring?” he asked Jackrabbit.
“A spring is a bounce!” said Jackrabbit. “Here, I’ll show you.” And Jackrabbit sprung around the meadow and back to Little Fox.
“Hmmmm,” said Little Fox.
Little Fox now had a spring in his step. But he still wasn’t sure how he would know when spring was here. He found Raven.
“What’s spring?” he asked Raven.
“A spring is a coil that wiggles and jiggles. Here, I’ll show you.” And Raven flew to his nest, rifled through twigs and toys and carried a spring back to Little Fox.
“Hmmmm,” said Little Fox.
Little Fox now had a spring in his step and a new toy spring in his paw. But he still wasn’t sure how he would know when spring was here. He saw Moose.
“What’s spring?” he asked Moose.
“A spring is delicious!” said Moose. “Here, I’ll show you.” And Moose trod to a small hole in the moss where clear water was bubbling. Little Fox took a drink.
“Hmmmm,” said Little Fox, licking his lips.
Little Fox now had a spring in his step and a toy spring in his paw and some fresh spring water in his tummy. But he still wasn’t sure how he would know when spring was here. He saw Deer.
“What’s spring?” he asked Deer.
But Deer couldn’t talk. She was busy with two very tiny, very spotted fawns.
Little Fox remembered what his mama had said. He was born in the spring. The fawn gave Little Fox a slobbery kiss.
Little Fox knew spring was here at last.

#7 Spring’s Promise
Since Dad’s accident, Mom was at the hospital all the time.

Instead of pizza Friday night, Maya and Pearl had to eat whatever the neighbors had kindly delivered.
It had only been a week, but nothing was the same.
“I want to go outside,” Pearl complained. “Grandma promised. But she fell asleep.”
Maya forced a smile. “C’mon,” she said. She couldn’t make Dad better. She couldn’t cook dinner. But she could play with Pearl.
She flipped her collar up against the wind.
“Look!” Pearl pointed to a nest on the ground.
“It probably came down in the wind,” Maya said. “Don’t worry. It’s from last year. Most birds haven’t come north yet.”
She walked toward the metal pole in the middle of the yard. The bottom half of the pole to their purple martin houses. Purple martins were Dad’s favorite birds. He even talked back to them, imitating their joyful gargling sound. She helped him clean the houses each winter.
“We’ll put the houses back up on Saturday,” Dad had said last weekend. “To be ready for the scouts.” 
Then the truck rear-ended Dad’s van.
What would happen if a scout came, and the house wasn’t up?
Dad would be sad. Their yard would be quiet. And buggy. Purple martins ate a lot of mosquitoes. Maya thought of Dad again.
He wanted the houses up.
Maya could barely lift the houses. Another pole attached to the underside. She couldn’t balance it over her head to slip it onto the pole in the ground.
“Let’s go!” she told Pearl.
“I don’t want to go in,” Pearl groused.
Maya took Pearl’s hand and went next door.
Mr. Landers answered her knock. “What can I do for you?”
Maya explained the problem.
Before Mom came home, Mr. Landers had the house up.
“You shouldn’t have,” Mom said. “Everyone has done so much already.”
“Just glad to hear Don is doing better,” Mr. Landers said.
“Look!” Maya pointed to a lone bird circling overhead. “It’s a scout!” And she smiled for the first time in a week.
Maya knew Spring was here at last.

The In Just Spring Contest 2013I would also like to extend Honorable Mention to the following writers:
To Vivian for Waiting For Spring – a lovely, poignant story.
To Erik for Spring Schming – what a great twist to have story told from the POV of a melting snowman 🙂
To Bradin for Spring And The Bear With Golden Fur – a creative story told in a wonderful fable/folk tale style
To Delores for Maddy’s Spring Surprise – so perfectly kid – we could completely imagine Maddy speaking!
And to Meg for Stella’s Spring – full of lovely language and imagery that made us feel spring was knocking on our door – “tweet tweedle wicka wicka wicka” 🙂

Again, thank you all – the writers who worked hard to entertain us with these amazing stories, the readers who took the time to read and comment on them all, and everyone who takes the time to vote.  Someone is going to have the chance to put a picture book manuscript in an editor’s hands 🙂

I can’t wait to see who the winner will be.  The suspense will be thrilling 🙂

Happy voting! 🙂

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71 thoughts on “The In Just Spring Contest Finalists! – Vote For Your Favorite!

  1. Iza Trapani says:

    Congrats to the finalists and honorable mentions! It was almost impossible to choose. I had to sleep on it, re-read and vote- though I am still second-guessing my choice a bit. Great job everyone!

  2. Clarike Bowman-Jahn says:

    Now I know spring is here! All these great stories make spring definite. Congratulations to the finalists and for everyone who participated. It was wonderful fun reading through the stories and the vote was hard. 🙂

  3. mike allegra says:

    I just want to take a moment to lobby for #5. That writer sure knows how to get inside a dog's head. Well done, whoever you are!

  4. Carrie Finison says:

    OK, I'm really out of it…just came back and voted again because I couldn't remember if I voted the first time. And I have no idea if I voted the same way because they're all so good, I can't remember which one I finally chose the first time! Anyway, Susanna hopefully your system has a way of catching this. 🙂

  5. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    Well, Carrie, as you might expect from someone who is as fond of dessert as I am, my computer operates on a cookie system 🙂 Supposedly it won't let you vote twice… but if you fooled it by using a different computer you might have gotten away with it 🙂 Thanks so much for reading and voting and caring enough to come back just in case 🙂

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