Ho! Ho! Ho! The 7th Annual Holiday Contest is HERE!


Deck the halls!

Light the menorah!

Fill the Kikombe cha Umoja!

It’s time for…


Kangaroo sleigh


The Contest:  Write a children’s holiday story (children here defined as approximately age 12 and under) about A Holiday Surprise!  Any kind of surprise – anything at all! – the more unexpected the better! 🙂  Squirrel in the Christmas Tree?  Snowstorm in Jamaica?  Santa delivering toys from an excavator pulled by a herd of worms?  Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever you celebrate, but is not to exceed 250 words (I know!  So much freedom after the Halloweensie Contest 🙂 )  (It can be as short as you like (the judges will be grateful 🙂 , you are welcome and encouraged to write shorter, but no more than 250!  Title not included in word count.)  The field is wide open!  Have fun!  The more creative the better!  No illustration notes please. (And yes, if you feel compelled to submit more than one entry you may, just remember you’re competing against yourself!)


Post:  Your entry should be posted on your blog between right now this very second and Sunday December 10 at 11:59 PM EST, and your post-specific link should be added to the link list below.  This post will remain up through Friday December 15 for your reading pleasure.  There will be no Perfect Picture Book or Would You Read It posts for the duration of the contest so the links will stay up for everyone to visit and enjoy.  If you would like to enter but don’t have a blog you are welcome to paste your entry in the comment section below (please be sure to include your byline so that if your posting handle is staysuplate2write or something I’ll be able to tell who you are!)  If anyone has trouble commenting, which unfortunately happens, please email me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com and I’ll post your entry for you! But please don’t send attachments!  Just copy and paste your story into the email.  Also, please only post your entry once – either in the comment section of my blog or on the link list or by emailing me and asking me to post it.  Multiple postings of the same entry get confusing.


The Judging:  My lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to 10-12 finalists (depending on the number of entries) which will be posted here on Friday December 15 (or, if we’re desperate for a little extra time, Saturday December 16) for you to vote on for a winner.  The vote will be closed on Sunday December 17 at 5 PM EST (or Monday December 18th if we need that extra time.)  Whoever gets the most votes will be first and so on down to tenth place, and the winners will be announced on Monday December 18 (or Tuesday December 19).

Judging criteria will be as follows:

  • 1. Kid-appeal! – These stories are intended for a young audience (ages 12 and under), so we’re looking for stories that children will enjoy and relate to.
  • 2.  Holiday Surprise! – the rules state a Holiday Surprise story, so it must be crystal clear that the story is about Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or whatever you celebrate, and it must contain a surprise! 🙂
  • 3. Quality of story – entries must tell a story, including a main character of some kind and a true story arc even if it’s tiny 🙂  Entries must not be merely descriptions or mood pieces.
  • 4. Quality of Writing: check your spelling, grammar, punctuation etc.  If you’re going to rhyme, give us your best 🙂  Overall writing quality and use of language are also important.
  • 5. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.


The Prizes!:  Ok.  This is the moment where I officially admit to probably having bitten off more than I can chew! 🙂   I’ve been in Brazil for the past week, and upon my return was met with some deadlines I have to add into the time equation, in addition to a couple of school visits and getting ready for the holidays and family coming etc.  I wrote my sample entry at the literal 11th hour just before midnight last night.  (That will be extremely obvious when you read it below 🙂 )  So.  I will add to the prizes today and probably have to update them.  My sincere apologies for having over-scheduled my time – it was not intentional! – but I figured you guys would rather have the contest even on a slightly loosey-goosey schedule than not! 🙂

– a critique of a picture-book manuscript or dummy by agent Rachel Orr of Prospect Agency!!!


– a spot in Renee LaTulippe’s fantastic INTENSIVE RHYME AND METER SELF-STUDY COURSE!!!

Renee-LaTulippeScreen Shot 2017-10-28 at 8.37.39 AM

– a Picture Book Manuscript Critique from the FABULOUS Vivian Kirkfield, author of the forth coming Sweet Dreams, Sarah and experienced and much-loved critiquer!


– a Picture Book Manuscript Critique from the amazing Lori Degman (NORBERT’S BIG DREAM – Sleeping Bear Press 2016, COCK-A-DOODLE OOPS! – Creston Books 2014, 1 ZANY ZOO – Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers 2010) – a terrific choice for any rhymers out there!

Lori Norbert

– a Picture Book Manuscript Critique from the wonderful Amy Dixon (MAURICE THE UNBEASTLY – Sterling Children’s Books 2017, SOPHIE’S ANIMAL PARADE – Sky Pony Press 2015, MARATHON MOUSE – Sky Pony Press 2012)

amy-dixon Maurice

– Enrollment in Making Picture Book Magic (my online picture book writing class – in January or a later month to be mutually agreed upon by the winner and me)

2018 Children’s Writer’s And Illustrator’s Market  and a $25 Amazon Gift Card.  (2 available)

– a bundle of books! (itemized list forthcoming, good lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise)

– a pack of Susanna Leonard Hill’s amazing What’s The Story Cards  (scroll about 1/2 way down the page… (2 available)

I can’t thank these authors and other industry professionals enough for their incredible generosity!  Please visit their sites, buy and recommend their books and services to your writer friends and/or friends with kids, write them nice reviews on Amazon, GoodReads etc if you’ve read and liked their books, and show your appreciation to them in any way you can!


The time has come for my sample.  And I think I can say that I have really outdone myself this time in the Worst Ever Sample department! 🙂  Are you ready?  Have some chocolate to get you in a good mood! 🙂  But this should be very comforting to all of you because you can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that ANYthing you wrote is better than this! 🙂

(And as I told you, I wrote it in a jet-lagged stupor at nearly midnight last night and I openly admit that it is 39 words over the word limit because I didn’t have time to make it shorter!)

So really.  Are you ready? 🙂

The Christmas Plan
(289 words because I ran out of time and also am not actually in the contest! 🙂 )

Christmas Eve in Santa’s barnyard,
Secret meeting underway.
Said the cow, “We’d better hurry –
Any time they’ll hitch the sleigh!”

Duck looked ‘round. “Are you all ready?
Everyone know what to do?”
All the others nodded gravely.
“Okay, then, let’s move out, crew!”

Each went in their own direction
Silently through dark and snow.
Pulled their parts off to perfection,
Met up in the workshop’s glow.

Quietly, they filed inside
Where elves were loading up the sleigh.
Santa called, “Let’s hitch the reindeer!
Time we headed on our way!”

Eight elves hurried to the stable
With intent to fetch the deer.
Soon came running back in panic.
“Sir! The team has disappeared!”

Santa bellowed, “Were they stolen?
Kidnapped? Hidden? Just set loose?”
“If you need a quick replacement,
I’ll step in,” said Christmas Goose.

Santa muttered, disbelieving,
“Why’d my team go on the lam?”
“Never mind, Sir, we can help you,”
Kindly offered Christmas Ham.

Moments later, in the harness,
Ham and Goose were joined by Hare,
Christmas Roast Beef, Duck, and Turkey.
Plan still working – almost there!

Santa, looking quite bemused, said,
“I can’t drive this motley crew!”
“Sorry, Sir, we’re out of options.
There is nothing else to do!”

So it was that not much later,
Waiting hidden in the night,
Josie, hoping to see Santa,
Saw a most surprising sight!

Santa’s sleigh with bells a-jingling
Flying high above her head,
Being pulled by. . . Christmas Dinner?!
“This must be a dream!” she said.

But all around the world next day
When fam-i-lies sat down to eat,
Christmas fowl and roasts were absent.
Served instead? Tofurkey feast!

Back inside the North Pole barnyard
Secret meeting once again,
Cow and Duck high-fived the others.
“Here’s to vegetarians!”


So now!  Is everyone filled with confidence about their entries?  I certainly hope so after that display!  Never let it be said that I’m not willing to make a fool of myself for you guys 🙂  It just proves how much I love you 🙂

I can’t wait to read all of your (much better!) stories!  I hope there will be a lot – the more the merrier!  And there are still over 3 days to write, so you have time if you haven’t written yet and want to join the fun.  Feel free to spread the word to your writing friends as well.  If you just want to enjoy reading, that’s great too!  We need all the readers we can get, so feel free to spread the word to parents and teachers!  And what better way to entertain yourself and your kids while waiting for the holiday goodies to bake?  Or get someone to read aloud while everyone else wraps presents 🙂

Rejoice! and let the festivities begin!!! 🙂

Happy Holidays to All! 🙂

And don’t miss the additional 34 fabulous entries in the comment section below!
(Scroll through comments to view)

  1. Santa’s Switches – Nina
  2. Sneak A Peek At Santa – Jennifer B
  3. Just Desserts – Jennifer B
  4. The Christmas Pageant – Carol
  5. A Magpie Holiday – Karen
  6. Foxy, Mr. Fox – Dianne
  7. A Timely Arrival – Beverly
  8. Not Even A Mouse – Ryan
  9. Waiting For The Winter Gift – Elizabeth
  10. Santa’s Christmas SSS-Surprise – Jenny
  11. Santa Patrol – Megan
  12. Vegan Cut-Out Cookies – Megan
  13. Essie The Hen And Her Christmas Surprise – Kaye
  14. La Navidad I’ll Never Forget – Carmen
  15. Santa’s Bad Day – Anne
  16. Tootsie The Wonder Dog’s Best Day Ever – Kathy B
  17. Holiday Mix-Up – Barbara
  18. The Very Last Gift – Judy S
  19. Family Is Home And Home Is Wherever It May Land – Mona
  20. Christmas With Aliens – Brian
  21. Here Comes… – Elaine
  22. The Ballad Of Bella La Frost – Nancy
  23. The Animated Elf – Marvin Strikes Again – Lucretia
  24. Santa’s Delivery Dilemma – Lucretia
  25. Christmas Cat’s SQUEEZE Day – Lily
  26. Christmas Eve DRAMA – Deborah
  27. Racing The Sun – Jen
  28. A New Day For Mrs. Claus – Laura
  29. The Given Gift – Sarah
  30. Surprise Guests! – Mary
  31. Christmas Eve Surprises – Jim
  32. A Visit From Santa – Judy V
  33. Favorite Day – Susan
  34. The Naughty Christmas Cookie – Britt

413 thoughts on “Ho! Ho! Ho! The 7th Annual Holiday Contest is HERE!

  1. Sarah Hoppe (@Sarahlhoppe) says:

    The Given Gift
    Sarah Hoppe
    237 words

    The town was asleep, they were ready that night,
    For presents and stockings and joyous delight.
    Dear Santa did visit each home, shack and shed,
    But came without gifts, bringing coal lumps instead.

    Morning dawned bright and the townspeople woke,
    They dove for their stockings, but nobody spoke.
    No games and no movies, no toys nor TVs,
    The worst that a Christmastime ever could be!

    They grumbled and moaned, threw that coal in the trash.
    Dear Santa had been so decidedly rash!
    They thought they deserved lots of gifts, wouldn’t you?
    While they thought of lost presents, a mighty wind blew.

    It whistled and whizzed, and it found every crack.
    They quickly forgot Santa’s cruel coal attack.
    Blankets and jackets were now the concern,
    And don’t forget flames, but there’s nothing to burn!

    Lamenting their state, they threw outrageous fits.
    Then Little Tom Teeper went out of his wits,
    “Giftless and freezing, we’re sure on a roll,
    But our old Dear Santa brought nothing but coal!”

    “You’re right!” they exclaimed, tossed their blankets aside,
    They raced to the garbage, found treasure inside.
    “Dear Santa’s a genius, there was no mistake,
    The gifts that we got are the gifts we will take!”

    The wind blew so fiercely, so strong, for so long,
    Inside it felt cozy, and nothing was wrong.
    Each home, shack and shed watched this Christmas depart
    While burning the coal Santa gave from his heart.

  2. Susanna Leonard Hill says:


    Surprise Guests!
    (248 words) Mary Warth

    Mom, Dad, Jewel and baby Kay sat near the Christmas tree surrounded by gifts, wrapping and bows. Kay was focused on a piece of tape that was stuck to her fingers while Jewel played with her new toy phone. It had sparkling buttons, a video screen and amazing sounds.
    Beep, Beep, Brring!
    Kay looked up. “Mine!”
    “No Kay, It’s mine. Play with your truck.”
    Kay threw the truck. The phone was much more interesting. She crawled after Jewel.
    “Kay, that’s a big girl phone.”
    “Look at this amazing box!” said Dad.
    Kay scooted toward the box while Dad took a video.
    “Why don’t we set up your new doll house Jewel?” said Mom.
    Dad put down his phone. “Great idea. It’s a good time too. Kay’s having fun with the box.”
    Mom, Dad and Jewel laid out the parts and started building.
    A few minutes later, they snapped in the final flag on top.
    “Jewel, get Kay. I’ll take a picture,” said Dad.
    But he couldn’t find his phone.
    “It was right next to Kay’s box…”
    All of a sudden, they heard, Weeoooee, Weeoooee!
    “Firetrucks!” cried Jewel. “At our house!”
    She looked at Kay.
    “Oh no! What did you do?”
    Kay held up Dad’s phone with a big “911” on the screen.
    Mom quickly cleared up the misunderstanding and offered the surprise guests a cup of Christmas cocoa.
    Dad promised to keep track of his phone.
    Kay spied a firefighter’s radio.
    “Not again!” said Jewel.

  3. Susanna Leonard Hill says:


    Christmas Eve Surprises

    By Jim Chaize

    Carrie and Hope loved Christmas Eve with their Grandma.

    “I can’t wait to see your Christmas tree,” said Hope.

    “Surprise! I decorated my jade plant instead,” said Grandma.

    “It’s beautiful,” said Carrie.

    The girls set their presents under the jade.

    “This year, I found you old treasures,” said Grandma.

    “Don’t you mean bought us treasures?” asked Carrie.

    “The stores are a madhouse. I couldn’t do it.”

    “We enjoyed shopping for you,” said Hope.

    Grandma unwrapped a yellow hat and mittens.

    “My favorite color! I love them!”

    Grandma handed Hope a puffy bag.

    “Yarn?” said Hope.

    “For knitting. Can you believe I found that hidden away?”

    Hope frowned.

    Grandma handed Carrie a small box.

    “Jade leaves?” asked Carrie.

    “Not just the leaves silly,” said Grandma.

    “You’re giving her your jade plant?” protested Hope.

    “You both got old treasures,” said Grandma. “Dinner in five minutes.”

    While they ate, Hope answered questions with nods and headshakes.

    “After dinner, I’m teaching you girls to knit,” said Grandma. “But first, I’m cutting everyone a piece of fruitcake?”

    Grandma’s knife hovered above the cake.

    “Stop!” yelled Carrie. “I have a surprise!” said Carrie. She hurried off, followed by Grandma and Hope.

    “I remembered my kindergarten teacher cut a jade, and made two plants,” said Carrie. “Let’s make one for Hope.”

    Grandma returned with a knife and planting pot.

    With a quick dig and a smooth cut, one plant became two.

    “You’re the best big sister,” said Hope.

    Carrie’s eyes twinkled like Christmas stars.

  4. Susanna Leonard Hill says:


    A Visit from Santa
    byJudy Valko

    Santa came to visit us
    on Christmas Eve last year.
    I left a plate of cookies
    and some eggnog as good cheer.

    He ate up all the cookies
    and gulped the ‘nog down quick.
    then ran into the bathroom
    ‘cause he was really sick!

    He stayed with us for two long days,
    my mom put him to bed.
    He had an upset stomach
    and a migraine in his head.

    The reindeer all got antsy
    left standing on the roof.
    Rudolph was the maddest one
    and stomped his big left hoof.

    Santa heard the racket
    and got up ‘outta’ bed.
    He put his coat and boots back on,
    his red cap on his head.

    He gave a little burp,
    and much to our surprise,
    he grabbed his sack of goodies
    and rubbed his sleepy eyes.

    He walked into the front room,
    put a finger to his nose
    and with a puff of dirty smoke
    up the chimney, Santa rose.

    He didn’t leave us presents
    or wish us merry cheer,
    he merely said, “I’ll be back again,
    but please no snacks next year!”

    © 2017 Judith Valko

  5. Susan Schade says:

    FAVORITE DAY (226 words) by: Susan Schade

    The Favorite Day Competition was beginning at the Annual Christmas Carnival.
    The audience was anxious.
    The judges juggled papers.
    The days were determined.
    Each one wanted to win.
    Tuesday tiptoed on stage with a tote.
    “Everyone loves Taco Tuesday!” She declared, and handed out holiday tacos.
    The judges snacked and smiled.
    Wednesday walked out in a wild winter wardrobe.
    “Wacky Wednesday is the best!” She whooped and whirled away.
    The crowd roared with laughter.
    Thursday thoughtfully explained why the middle of the week was best.
    “Middle is marvelous!” She mentioned as she marched off.
    The judges jotted notes.
    Friday frolicked fearlessly out.
    “Friday is the final school day AND pizza night. It’s everyone’s favorite.”
    The crowd cheered.
    Saturday and Sunday strolled out together.
    “We’re a team” they announced. “Everyone knows the weekend rocks!”
    Heads nodded in agreement.
    Monday sighed silently.
    She knew everyone hated Mondays.
    She never won the Favorite Day Competition.
    The audience, the judges and the other days forgot she was there until,
    Monday stopped on the stage and started to sing, “Silent Night.”
    Soft, colorful lights began to blink around the room.
    The curtains opened, and decorated trees sparkled.
    Before long, everyone was singing.
    At the end of the song, Monday remarked,
    “Monday is Christmas Day. Merry Christmas!”
    When Monday was named the Favorite Day winner,
    She was the most surprised of all.

  6. blbachmann says:

    The Naughty Christmas Cookie (250 words)

    Salted Caramel Snickerdoodle was the most naughty Christmas cookie in the cookie jar.

    He plopped powdered sugar on the Pecan Snowball Cookies.

    He sprinkled sprinkles so Chocolate Chunk Cookie would slip and fall.

    And he pushed the Gingerbread Man’s buttons and ran away as fast as he could shouting, “You can’t catch me, I’m the Snickerdoodle Man!”

    Being a Snickerdoodle, he especially loved to snicker and doodle unflattering pictures of the other cookies.

    He doodled Peppermint Twist Cookie having bad breath. And then snickered.

    He doodled Cinnamon Eggnog Cookie as a rotten egg. And then snickered.

    And he doodled Sugar Cookie Cutouts snoring because he said they were “so cookie-cutter boring.”

    “Cut it out, Snickerdoodle!” sang Angel Cutout.

    “You’re a NAUGHTY COOKIE!” cried Oatmeal Raisin.

    But not only was Snickerdoodle naughty, he was boastful, too.

    “I’m stupendously, spectacularly, sensationally super!”

    In fact, he wanted a Christmas present for all his salty splendidness. So he doodled Santa Claus a letter:

    “Dear Santa,

    I’m the best cookie in the world. Just thought you should know.


    Snickerdoodle set off to mail the letter, but slipped on a sprinkle and fell off the counter. He was floored.

    “Help! I’m a crummy cookie!”

    That’s when Betty found him.

    Betty pieced him back together with pink frosting and added gumdrops and marshmallows and candy cane pieces and rainbow sugar.

    “Now you’re the sweetest cookie in the cookie jar!”

    Snickerdoodle snickered. And doodled Betty the Yeti a thank you note.

  7. Megan Walvoord (@mjwalvoord2) says:

    Fantastic story! I love all the wonderful cookie flavors and Snickerdoodle’s salty personality. I think the doodles Snickerdoodle did to make fun of the others are hilarious even thought they are mean. It seems like sweet justice that the saucy Snickerdoodle slipped on sprinkles.and got what he deserved, however I’m glad Betty decided to give him a second chance. I love that she’s a Yeti by the way! Great job!

  8. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    (arrived after the entry deadline but please enjoy! 🙂 )

    Beren’s Big Imagination (215 wrds) by Jean Richardson

    Beren’s big imagination

    stretched bigger—and bigger each year,

    especially during christmastime.

    But the other bears knew

    it was Beren’s tall tales

    that grew

    even bigger.

    Christmas, indeed,

    was the trigger,

    they all agreed.

    Beren Bear told everyone

    his best friend

    walked on four legs,

    and had a tail.

    Though no one else ever saw it.

    “Come here, boy,” Beren called

    out into the distance.

    He’s right here, he’d swear.

    “Sure…sure,” each bear replied.

    But the bears lied

    under pretense.

    As the holiday drew near,

    Beren said he was having

    a big Christmas affair

    for the two of them.

    “I’ll try not to eat

    too much porridge

    so my belly won’t burst!”

    He added.

    This wasn’t true either.

    Just a ruse.

    Beren Bear had no animal

    or party planned.

    He always spent his Christmases

    in hibernation.

    What could Beren’s friends do?

    They gathered outside the entrance

    to Beren’s cave

    on Christmas Day

    with one thing to say:


    The special gift they gave?

    A box with a small hole and a big bow.

    Across the front his name had been scrawled.

    Something inside began to move.

    Then out it crawled.

    “Yay!” Beren said this was what he wanted most.

    Who needs an imaginary friend

    or an invisible pet,

    when you’ve got a real live dog.

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