So, a little over three weeks ago the person who runs this popsicle stand was ruminating on possible themes for the Holiday Contest.
She consulted her fellow judges.
They mulled over mischief, magic, misunderstandings, miracles, mayhem, and more.
And then somebody (who shall be nameless!) (Judge #2!) suggested heroes!
“Great idea!” the rest of the knuckleheads agreed.
And so Holiday Heroes it was!
Now I ask you.
What the flingin’-flangin’-fiction-factory were we thinking???!!!
Fast forward through three days of fabulous authors posting fantastic entries – each one better than the last – to The Moment Of Judgment!
And what happened during The Moment of Judgment?
Which was supposed to take a couple days?
And be completely finished by Thursday evening so the finalists could be posted on Friday?
Well, I’ll tell you…
Judge #1 said a hero was someone who was admired for achievements and noble qualities. Judge #2 said, well, yes, but also a hero was an illustrious warrior or at least had to show great courage. Judge #3 said, well, yes, but just plain kindness could count as heroism even if it didn’t accomplish much or require a great deal of courage because on its own it is noble. Judge #1 and Judge #2 said kindness alone wasn’t necessarily heroism. After some discussion, Judge #2 and Judge #3 agreed that some level of courage ought to be involved because that makes everything more heroic. To which Judge #1 countered that courage means different things to different people, as does heroism…
I’m sure you see where I’m going with this…
Hence, many days, Many pots of coffee and MANY pounds of chocolate later, we have agreed on one thing: we were nuts to pick heroism! 🙂
impassioned arguing civilized discussion (which included hardly any injuries and a bare minimum of bandages, splints, antibiotic ointment, sterile cotton, and tetanus boosters) we have arrived at 10 finalists.
No problem. At all! 🙂
We did the best we could to choose stories that showed true heroism, and were kid-friendly and well-written.
Narrowing the field to 10 was excruciatingly difficult. We could SO easily have posted an additional 10… and even then there would have been a whole bunch of others we would have wanted to include as well!
You guys write great stories.
But 10 it is. We have 10 prizes, and 10 seemed like the most number it was fair to ask you to read and vote on. So there you have it!
So, just quickly, before I post the actual finalists I want to say three things:
First, I want to thank EVERYONE who took the time and care to write an entry for this contest. You all did a fabulous job and provided great enjoyment for many!
Second, I’d also like to thank EVERYONE – writer, reader, or both – who took the time to go around and read as many entries as you could and leave supportive comments. This means so much to the writers who worked hard on their stories. It helps them see what they did well, as well as giving them the joy of knowing that their stories were read and enjoyed. I hope you all got as much delight and entertainment out of the reading as I did! Plus, we got to meet quite a few new people which was a wonderful added bonus! 🙂
Third, I want to reiterate how difficult it was too choose! There were so many amazing entries. Really. I could find at least something terrific about every single one. The sheer volume of entries meant that many good ones had to be cut. So if yours didn’t make the final cut please don’t feel bad. There was a huge amount of competition. Judging, no matter how hard we try to be objective, is always subjective at a certain point – we all have our own preferences for what makes a great story. And the fact that you didn’t make the final cut DOES NOT mean you didn’t write a great story. Everyone who plonked their butt in a chair and worked hard to write a story for this contest is a winner! You showed up. You did your best work. You practiced your craft. You wrote to specifications and a deadline. You bravely shared your writing with the world. And you have a brand new story that is now yours to expand beyond 100 words if you like and maybe submit at some point to a magazine or as a PB manuscript. A lot of people have successfully done that at this point – we have quite a few books in the world that were born in Halloweensie, Holiday, or Valentiny Contests, plus a chapter book series that came out of the Fractured Fairy Tale Contest one spring! So bravo to everyone who entered!
You will recall the judging criteria:
1. Kid-appeal! – These stories are intended for a young audience, so entries that were well-written but lacked child-friendliness did not make the cut. Same for entries where the appeal, humorous or otherwise, seemed more directed toward adult readers than children.
2. Holiday Heroism! – the rules stated a Holiday Hero story, so entries that failed to mention anything Holiday (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, etc.) or that did not contain a true hero/act of heroism did not make the cut even if they were well-written.
3. Quality of story – the rules stated that entries were to tell a story, so if they appeared to be more of a description or mood piece, they didn’t make the cut. We looked for a character and a true story arc.
4. Quality of Writing: we took note of spelling, grammar, punctuation etc. In addition, for the rhymers, we looked at rhyme and meter (for which we are sticklers!) We also looked at overall writing quality and use of language.
5. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.
As I said above, you all did a stellar job – there were no bad stories. But we had to pick the 10 we thought were the all-around best on all 5 counts listed.
So, without further ado, I present to you the 2018 Holiday Contest Finalists. A mix of poetry and prose, stories for younger readers and slightly older (but still kid) readers, funny, poignant, and cute. Please read through them carefully, take your time, think it over, and vote for your favorite. To help with objectivity, finalists are listed by title only, not by author.
And I’d like to be very clear about the voting process. You are MOST welcome to share a link to this post on FB, twitter, or wherever you like to hang out, and encourage people to come read ALL the finalists and vote for the one they think is best. Please do that. The more people who read and enjoy these stories the better, and the more objective votes we get the better. HOWEVER (and I want to be very clear on this) please do not identify yourself as a finalist on social media, please do not ask people to vote for a specific number or title, and please do not ask people to vote for the story about the sumo wrestling reindeer to the rescue or whatever. Trolling for votes or trying to influence the outcome is counter to the spirit of this competition which is supposed to be based on merit. I thank you in advance for respecting this.
So here we go!
#1 – CHRISTMAS IN THE PARK
Momma says, “It’s time to go.”
But I don’t want to go.
The park is cold.
“Time to go,” says Daddy.
I want to stay home
and make my Christmas list.
“People are waiting,” says Daddy.
I grab my coat,
cross my arms,
and sit in the back seat.
The food trays are warm.
They smell yummy.
The city lights shine bright.
But the park is dark.
It is supper time.
People start to gather.
I grab a big spoon,
and start serving.
They thank me.
Momma tells me to say,
“You’re welcome. Enjoy the meal.”
Millie squeezes my cheeks.
Her hands are scratchy,
not soft like Momma’s.
Momma and I bring food
to the lady in the bushes.
Her hair is messy.
She does not talk,
but she takes the food.
Abraham tells Daddy
the library won’t let him
take out any books.
He has no address.
Jimmy tells me
he sleeps under the stars
like a cowboy.
But it’s not like the movies.
I play checkers with Patrick.
He promises to
teach me how to play chess.
Will pulls out a
He reads his poems.
When I ask why we come,
“It’s good to help people.”
“People helped us.”
It is time to go.
I wave good bye.
On the way home
I start my Christmas List.
Millie – hand lotion
Lady in the bushes – hair brush
Abraham – books
Jimmy – tent
Patrick – chessboard
Will – notebook.
#2 – THE CHRISTMAS PICK-UP
With a sack full of gifts and some fresh fallen snow,
Santa started his journey with “Ho, Ho, Ho, Ho!”
The sleigh chugged along like a train on a track.
It was all going smoothly until he heard CRACK!
Underneath the soft snow was a pond filled with ice.
Santa grabbed for his list (both the naughty and nice).
He wrangled his sack and held all the toys tight,
and the nine deer pulled hard, using all of their might.
But the sleigh wouldn’t budge. It was sunken and stuck.
Just then, through the woods, came an old pick-up truck.
“Hi Santa, I’m Rusty. I heard your deer yelp.
I see you’re in trouble, so I’m here to help!”
Rusty revved up his engine. His wheels found their groove.
Then he heard Santa shout, “The sleigh’s starting to move!”
CRICK, CRACK went the ice. But with one final push,
Santa’s sleigh was on track with a SWOOSH and a WHOOSH!
There was no time to stop. He flew high in the sky,
and shouted to Rusty with twinkling eyes,
“You saved Christmas for all of the good girls and boys.
Thanks to you they’ll be getting their trinkets and toys.”
Rusty woke Christmas morning and found a wrapped gift,
with a note from the big guy, “Thank you for the lift.”
What came on the next line made him start to tear,
“I’ll pay you a visit the same time next year.”
#3 – ALEX & APPLE SAVE CHRISTMAS
Alex watched in wide-eyed horror as Papa ate the cookie meant for Santa before heading to bed.
Ducking back behind the couch, Alex lamented that the Santa-stakeout had instead led to witnessing a crime! And now, it was up to Alex to replace the cookie before Santa arrived and decided the Yusef family belonged on the Naughty List!
Alex groaned. Apple, feline best friend extraordinaire, meowed in sympathy.
Where to get a cookie now? The whole family had come over earlier in the day to bake and decorate but everyone had taken cookies home! The cookie left out for Santa was the last one in the whole apartment.
Alex took a deep breath. “No time for pity parties.” Apple twitched her tail in agreement.
Alex and Apple padded ever so quietly into the kitchen, picked the least-squeaky chair and stealthily pushed it to the kitchen counter. They took stock of their supplies:
– Open tub of white frosting
– 1 slightly burnt gingerbread woman (behind the coffee maker)
– 3 Graham crackers
– 4 Cinnamon candies
Alex looked at Apple. Apple looked at Alex. Oh yes, they could save Christmas.
“Oh Alex,” sighed Mama, waking Alex with a start. “Did you sleep behind the couch all night?”
Without answering, Alex and Apple rushed to the tree. Their Christmas-race-car (with cinnamon wheels and a slightly burnt driver) had a large bite taken out of it and a note laying next to it.
The most creative treat I’ve enjoyed all night. Nice save. Love, Santa
#4 – A CHRISTMAS SCENT-SATION
Two weeks before Christmas,
way out in the shed,
presents were stockpiled
and wrapped, green and red.
Behind the brick firehouse
was joy, guaranteed,
collected each Christmas
for families in need.
The firefighters planned
to deliver the gifts
the very next day
when they finished their shifts.
Then what did their
sensitive noses detect,
but a strong scent of skunk–
all the gifts had been wrecked!
A skunk made his burrow
out under the shed,
then an unwelcome
possum crawled in it instead.
Well, what would you think
that striped stinker should do?
He blasted the possum
with skunk musk—P-U!
And of course all the presents
soaked up the foul odor
as it seeped through the floorboards–
that furry exploder!
Now what could be done
to remove the aroma,
without putting everyone
into a coma?
“I’ll call my friend, Stan,”
the chief told the crew,
“He’s in wildlife control,
so he’ll know what to do.”
Stan was there in a flash
in his van full of tricks,
“I’ll fill up my fogger
with a mystery mix.
It’s my favorite concoction
for skunk residue.”
Then he put on a gas mask,
his coveralls, too.
Stan fogged and he fumed
till the stink disappeared.
They delivered the packages,
all the kids cheered:
“Hooray for old Stan,
he’s a Christmas scent-sation!
He rescued our presents
And they heard the skunk mumble
as he slunk out of sight,
“Guess I’ll find a new burrow.
Merry Christmas! Good night!”
#5 – HESTER SAVES CHRISTMAS
Hester loved jingling bells, the scent of sparkling pine trees, and the promise of present-filled stockings hung by Farmer O’Neill’s chimney. She especially loved stories of Santa and his reindeer.
“Mama, can I can pull Santa’s sleigh next year?” Hester asked.
“Flying reindeer pull Santa’s sleigh, Hester. And everyone knows Highland Cows can’t fly.”
But I can dream, thought Hester. And practice.
She hopped over heather and thistles.
She jumped across rocky streams…almost.
She trotted uphill, leapt, and…
tumbled down a steep slope.
Hester kept trying…
but not quite succeeding.
As Christmas drew near, Hester turned her nose from pine trees and looked away from the chimney. She hung her shaggy head. Large tears fell, freezing like a glistening beard.
“A blizzard,” sighed Farmer O’Neill on Christmas Eve. “No presents tomorrow. Santa’s reindeer can’t fly through this mess. Into the barn, girls.”
All but one shuffled into the warm barn.
Hester trudged through deep snowdrifts. She shivered in the blustery wind and slipped on icy paths until…
She heard a faint jingle-jingle. She scrambled and spied…
Santa in his sleigh with eight grounded reindeer stuck in a snow pile.
Hester pulled, tugged and led the reindeer, sleigh and Santa along the snowy trail.
The next morning, presents filled stockings. Laughter rang like jingling bells across the farm.
“Merry Christmas, Hester,” Farmer O’Neill said. “Wake up! Somehow Santa came!”
Hester yawned and wondered,
Can a cow hide Easter eggs?
#6 – NIPPYNOSE FLU
The night before Christmas, with no time to spare,
unparalleled storms spilled a chill in the air.
Amid all the bustle, two tinkering elves
coughed at each other and startled themselves.
The shivering, sneezes, and sniffles spread quick,
till every last elf in the workshop was sick.
The presents piled up, and the reindeer weren’t fed,
the list wasn’t checked, and the room filled with dread.
“Is everyone sick now? Is no one immune?
We need to do something, or get some help soon!”
Plain out of time, and with so much to do,
Christmas was threatened by Nippynose Flu!
“The snowmen can help us guys, all isn’t lost,”
said Tinselbelle, wiping her nose clean of frost.
As soon as the snowmen got wind of the fuss,
they hollered “Don’t worry, just leave it to us!
We snowmen enjoy a good frigid-frost chill,
we can’t catch a flu and we never get ill.”
So while all the elves were reclining in bed,
the snowmen saved Christmas, and worked in their stead.
Where elves had been chilly and starting to freeze,
the snowmen breezed through all the work with great ease.
They finished the wrapping and loaded the sleigh,
happy to help Santa off on his way.
To top it all off, they brought soup to the elves…
“We hope you enjoy it, we made it ourselves.
Our Nana’s own recipe: my, it tastes nice!
Chicken with snowballs, but we held the ice.”
#7 – A SPECIAL NEST
A distant donkey brayed. Mrs. Sparrow awakened. A silvery light flooded the stable.
How peculiar, she thought, and flew outside to find its source. A single star brightened the world below.
Two figures slowly picked their way along the stony path leading to the stable. Mrs. Sparrow flew near.
“Oh my!” she exclaimed, and raced home. “Wake up Mr. Sparrow. We must build a nest.”
“What?” he asked “Are you going to lay eggs?”
“No, Mr. Sparrow. Company is coming. The woman will soon give birth.”
“Where can we build a nest for an enormous egg?” he asked.
“Mr. Sparrow, people don’t lay eggs,” she said. “Quick, help me find a place for the nest.”
They circled the room. He went right, she went left, they collided and tumbled into an empty box.
Mrs. Sparrow chuckled. “The manger! It’s perfect. But where can we find clean straw?”
“I know,” chirped Mr. Sparrow. “The innkeeper put fresh hay behind the stable.”
The two birds gathered strips of hay and packed them snugly, until the silvery light was dimmed
by the couple’s shadowed form.
The man settled his wife beside the manger.
“Do you think it was enough hay, Mrs. Sparrow?”
A baby’s cry rang out in the room.
“Oh yes, Mr. Sparrow,” she answered.
The woman then wrapped her child in cloth and placed him in the manger. Exhausted, she lay down.
Her eyes caught the movement of two small birds huddled in the rafters above, and she smiled at them.
#8 – LARRY’S LATKES
Big Larry ran a latke shop
for tater loving gators.
Hot pancakes, piled on paper plates,
were plopped down by the waiters.
Applesauce and sour cream
made trails around the plate,
as gators licked their massive lips
with pleasure while they ate.
Hanukkah was coming fast,
Big Larry’s busy season.
But this year’s business hit a snag,
for one disastrous reason…
Spud supplies were running dry
from gator tater famine!
But gators need their latkes like
like a bagel needs smoked salmon.
Big Larry sat around his shop,
he moaned and groaned, “oi vey!”
“Our Hanukkah won’t be the same
if spuds don’t come our way.”
He vowed to find an answer fast,
and keep the gators fed!
Potatoes may have gone away,
what else could work instead?
He tried a carrot pancake but,
it tasted far too sweet.
His hands turned pink, and stained the sink,
when he fried up a beet.
Zucchini was too boring and
the onions were a flop.
A yam, a pear, some camembert,
one more and then he’d stop!
The only thing that he had left:
A teeny tiny dud,
a little sad pathetic orb…
the last remaining spud!
But thinking of his patrons and
a Hanukkah disaster,
He made a dish that was delish,
a gator latke master!
The carrots, beets, zucchini, AND
some onions, yams AND pear.
The teeny, tiny tuber,
AND a dash of camembert!
“A miracle!” Big Larry cried,
“An absolute delight!
Chag sameach, everyone!”
The menorah shimmered bright.
#9 – SPARKLE THE SNOWFLAKE
Everyone knows that no two snowflakes are alike, but Sparkle was extra special. She shone and shimmered a little brighter than all of the other snowflakes that lived in her cluster of clouds.
Sparkle and her snowflake friends had an important job to do. They were to fall to earth on Christmas Eve. They would cover the hills and trees, and especially the rooftops of the houses, so that Santa and his reindeer would leave their footprints on the rooftops for children to see on Christmas morning.
The snowflakes were busy the day before Christmas. They carefully planned their journey from the clouds. They practiced floating and staying together so they could create a beautiful snowfall that evening.
Sparkle and all of the other snowflakes snuggled deep into the billowy clouds to get some rest before the busy night. Soon, Sparkle woke up and looked around in alarm. It was almost midnight! “Wake up!” Sparkle called. Then she soared from cloud to cloud, making sure that every snowflake was ready.
Just in the nick of time, they slipped from the puffy clouds and began to twirl and dance in the chilly night air. The snowflakes landed gently, and waited silently. When the sun peeked over the hill, the snowflakes heard children laughing as they ran from their houses and saw the glistening snow. Little did the children know that the snow that had greeted them this Christmas morning was all thanks to Sparkle, the shiny little snowflake.
#10 – A NEW YORK HERO
The sign flashed PIZZA/DELI. Christmas bells jingled as Rachel hurried inside. Shaking off snow, she slipped past cloth-covered tables. Warmed with the heat of a wood-fired oven, the room felt good, but Rachel wondered if this would ever feel like home.
Almost a year ago, Rachel and her family arrived in America. She was grateful to be in a safe place. But everything was different. She was different. Living over the store, Rachel always smelled like pastrami or salami or pepperoni pizza. Kids at school stared and glared and wrinkled their noses. Especially Mia, who lived over the laundromat next door. Mia smelled like flowers and sunshine and spring rain. Rachel sighed. Still, it was Christmas vacation – no stares or glares or wrinkling noses for a whole week.
That night, the wind howled and snow fell. In the morning, silence. Power was out all across the city. But the wood-fired oven burned merrily and Mama lit candles for each table. In the kitchen, Rachel layered pastrami and salami and thought about Mia. Without power, maybe Mia’s family would have no heat. Rachel remembered being cold.
“Can we invite Mia to eat with us?”
“Of course,” Mama replied. “Go ask.”
Soon, Mia and her family trooped in, stamping snow from their boots. Before long, everyone was biting into sandwiches piled high with meats and cheeses.
“Here in New York,” Rachel said, “this sandwich is called a hero.”
“Maybe,” Mia said as she moved closer. “But to me, you are a hero.”
Wow! Are your socks knocked off or what?! 🙂
Now that you’ve had a chance to read through the finalists, please vote for the entry you feel deserves to win in the poll below by 5PM EST Tuesday December 18.
Tune in Wednesday December 19 to see THE WINNERS!!!
Thank you all so much for taking the time to write (if you did), read, and vote! These contests simply wouldn’t be what they are without all of you!
I can’t wait to see who the winners will be!
Tune in Wednesday… same bat time, same bat station 🙂