All right, you guys.
Clearly there was a dastardly plan afoot.
A plot, one might say, involving sneaking, secrecy, and skulduggery!
I know what you’ve have been up to.
On a dark and stormy night, you all got together in a cobweb-covered barn and, sipping a delectable steaming potion concocted of chocolate and cream, with bobbing marshmallows and a dusting of cocoa powder, you rubbed your hands together gleefully and cackled, “Oh, what a trick we can play!”
Forthwith, you applied yourself to submitting 324 – yes, that’s THREE HUNDRED AND TWENTY FOUR!!! – amazing entries to the 9th Annual Halloweensie Contest!
I think it’s safe to say you nearly did us in.
We are but shadows of our former selves, haggard from a solid week of reading and re-reading, evaluating and re-evaluating, trying desperately to narrow the tremendous field down to 12 finalists.
I’m going to tell you straight out it was an impossible task.
There were SO MANY well-written, fabulous, entertaining, delightful entries. In order to pick 12 for you to vote on we had to put aside literally hundreds, many of which were of equal quality. So I recognize that many of you may feel you would have chosen differently. I get that. In the final analysis, try as we might to be objective, an element of subjectivity almost has to come in to play in order to choose between multiple entries of similar quality. Please know we admire everyone for their talent, throughly enjoyed every story we read, and that we did the best we could.
12 entries made the finals.
312 did not.
A mere 3.7% made it to the top. If you’re in that 3.7%, give yourself a congratulatory handshake. If you’re not, rest assured you’re in extremely good company.
We were ruthless about some things because we simply had to be.
The judging criteria were clear:
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. Halloweeniness – the rules stated a Halloween story, so entries that failed to mention anything Halloween-y did not make the cut even if they were well-written. Surprisingly 5-10 fell into this category and were stories that could have taken place at any time – not specifically Halloween.
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. There were a lot of problems in this department, and since the competition was so fierce, we did cut people for punctuation, capitalization, and word usage errors, as well as for relatively minor glitches in meter – one or two lines that threw the rhythm off – because there were so many that were perfect.
5. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.
A surprising number of this year’s entries were amazingly written… but in spite of the warning, still failed to really tell a story. This is SO TOUGH in 100 words – I totally get it. But some people managed better than others. There were any number of entries that were superbly written that we wanted to choose, but when we got right down to it, there really just wasn’t much story… not compared to some of the other entries that really managed to tell one. They were more descriptions, lists, or mood pieces. So as awesome as they were, we had to make some very hard calls. A couple were too adult. Some, because of the cruelly limiting word count were a little hard to follow. Some of the rhyming ones we really liked were too off-meter to make the cut. Some entries were just so close, but missed out because of one relatively small thing! GAH! So hard!
(There is nothing like reading through so many to give you an editor’s perspective. Read through 300+ stories and you’ll quickly see how there can be A LOT that are really quite good, so there has to be something to make them stand out. Something that sets them apart from the ocean of very-strong-nothing-particularly-wrong-with-them-but-nothing-that-makes-you-say-WOW submissions. It will make you realize exactly how important it is to make your manuscript fresh and heart -or mind-capturing in some way. You want yours to be the submission the editor (or contest judge) can’t stop thinking about.😊)
So now, just quick before we get to the finalists, 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, before I list the finalists, I want to say one final time how truly difficult it was too narrow such a field! 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. 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 or had new life breathed into them in Halloweensie, Holiday, or Valentiny Contests! So bravo to everyone who entered!
So, without further ado, I present to you the 2019 Halloweensie Contest Finalists. A mix of poetry and prose (weirdly weighted toward rhyme – just the way it panned out), stories for younger readers and slightly older (but still kid) readers, funny, spooky, 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 ask people to vote for a specific number or title, or for the story about the sombrero-wearing witch 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 – Sneaky Sister
My sister swore her potion
Was succulently sweet.
She whispered if I’d drink it, I’d grow feathers on my feet.
My skin would glow magenta,
My ears would multiply,
The cobwebs sprouting from my nose would smell like mildew pie.
My sister said “Don’t worry,
There’s not a thing to fear!
Tomorrow all the side effects will (mostly) disappear…
You’ll be the perfect monster
For this year’s trick-or-treat!
Just guzzle my concoction, and you’ll terrify our street.”
But now she’s flabbergasted
Because I’m feeling fine.
I guess she doesn’t know:
I poured it in her cup
#2 – A Halloween Visit
The pumpkin-moon rises on Halloween night,
A tiny black coffin with eight bats takes flight.
An eight-legged driver with dagger-fanged jaws?
That’s not old Saint Nick, it’s his pal Spider-Claws!
His cobweb-wrapped presents of potions and spells
Will flip-flop your tummy with nose-burning smells.
He creeps down the chimney with barely a noise
To leave scary gifts for all ghouls, girls, and boys.
He might bring you nightmares or haunt all your dreams
With hair-curling howling and spine-tingling screams.
Then Spider-Claws shrieks from his cold, coffin seat—
“Happy Halloween all, and to all Trick-Or-Treat!”
#3 – The Nickname Cure
Matilda’s nickname gave her a case of the gloomies.
Especially today on Halloween.
Since her first day at Spookamentary School,
the zombies, ghouls, and mummies called her
W A R T I L D A !
The name didn’t suit Matilda. After all, her wart was teensy-tiny.
Moments before trick-or-treating, Matilda slipped into the science lab.
She picked a sticky cobweb and two bat wings from a box.
She stirred them up with one juicy, lizard’s gizzard.
“This potion will do the trick!” said Matilda.
She dabbed the mixture on her chin and…
Matilda’s wart grew large and hairy.
“Perfect!” said Matilda. “Now my nickname suits me.”
#4 – Itchy Witchy Underwear
Every year on Halloween,
there’s pumpkins, costumes, and a scene
that thrills the region’s flight fanatics:
Myrtle’s Fright-Night Aerobatics!
But Myrtle’s stumbled on a hitch:
her witchy britches make her itch!
Charms and chants and incantations–
none relieves her aggravations.
Myrtle checks a cobwebbed cranny
for a brew to soothe her fanny.
“Use this potion if you dare.”
She pours it on her underwear.
“It’s done the trick! Oh, lucky witch!
Britches gone, but so’s the itch!”
Feeling breezy on her broom,
Myrtle zips to practice. Zoom!
On Halloween she wows the town–
DON’T watch Myrtle upside down!
#5 – Tricky Witch Test
It’s Halloween! Tonight’s my chance. I’ve got to join the witches dance!
If I can pass this potion test, at last I’ll with cackle with the rest!
Two strands of cobweb, eye of newt, a pinch of stinky goblin root…
Do you smell smoke? I feel a spark! I think I’m glowing in the dark!
What’s that? I passed? I got it right? I’m now a pumpkin burning bright?
Hooray! I’m glad I did so well, but how do I undo this spell?
That’s all it took to make the switch? Tonight I get to be a witch!
#6 – Let’s Go Scarecrow
Past the oozing potion.
Let’s go, Scarecrow.
Under drooping cobwebs.
There’s the door.
Shhh, Let’s go, Scarecrow.
“TRICK or TREAT!”
Let’s go! Let’s go!
Under the cobwebs.
Past the potion.
Through the maze.
Over the bridge.
Down the path.
Through the leaves,
Finally, safe at home again.
#7 – Tacky Trick
hanging by a thread.
Spiderling is spinning.
Can’t construct a cobweb.
Help! The strings aren’t sticky!
Searches for solutions,
while Halloween is new.
arachnid has no glue.
Witchy whizzes in then,
(broom repair, you see),
catches Spider sobbing
among the web debris.
Witchy comforts Spider
with a shushing motion.
Utters muttered verses,
promptly pours a potion.
Golden drop is plopped
on Spider’s little backy.
Silken threads appear.
Some twirl and tie—they’re tacky!
Spider’s on the broom now,
trying to repay.
Sticky silk will mend it.
Witchy’s on her way!
#8 -Vampire Stains
Curses! No! It can’t be so!
I need to get to my chateau!
Zis cloak is now adorned with stains
From zees night’s many spurting veins.
Vhere’s my blood removal lotion?
Bleh! I vill just make a potion.
To rid ze blood, resume abductions,
Follow zees precise instructions:
Curls of cobwebs, vings of bats
Vort of toad and tails of cats.
Zen a scoop of Oxyclean
To look my best on Halloveen.
Ah-ha! That vorked! A vondrous trick!
Now back to hunting very quick.
Bleh! I’m shiny as a spark!
I’m much too clean; glow-in-ze-dark!
#9 – Boo Quiet To Spook?
It’s Halloween, and Glenda Ghost
must face the thing she dreads the most:
to haunt tonight, each ghost and ghoul
must prove they’ve mastered Spooking School!
So Glenda waits to do her best
while witches pass their potions test.
Next up, the werewolves howl and growl,
and black cats hiss and monsters scowl.
As Glenda’s turn approaches fast,
she fears her timid “Boo” won’t pass.
Would trick-or-treaters shrink in fright,
or laugh if Glenda spooks tonight?
The spiders spin,
then Glenda’s next!
She LOOMS—nose twitching, fingers flexed.
With cobwebs clinging, quiet “Boo!”
becomes a spookier
#10 – Ghost’s Pest Problem
Ghost peeked out the window.
He picked up the phone and dialed the number.
WITCH: You’ve reached Lotions, Potions, and Other Solutions, how may I help you?
GHOST: I’ve got a pest problem!
WITCH: Okay, I’ll send the exterminator.
Ghost opened the door.
GHOST: Finally, you’re here! They’re all over the front porch!
SPIDER: It’s that time of year. Halloween always brings them out, especially to haunted houses.
GHOST: You’re sure the traps will work?
SPIDER: Oh yeah, they always get caught in them.
GHOST: They’re here! Quick! Spin the cobwebs!
#11 – Gloona The Grinchy Witch
Gloona the witch was a ghastly old soul-
more greed than a dragon, more warts than a troll.
On Halloween evening, she mixed up a brew
with lizard tail, bedbugs, and pickled worm goo.
From out of her potion, a ghoulish mist crept.
It oozed through the streets until everyone slept.
Beaming with glee, Gloona flew out unseen.
She swept through the city and stole Halloween.
She took every cobweb, each pumpkin and light,
the scarecrows, the sweets, the decor made of fright,
and inside her cottage, she laughed with conceit.
That is, ‘til she heard, “Ring-a-ding. Trick or treat!”
#12 – Broom Or Bust
The Witches-Who-Confer convene,
just once a year on Halloween.
The youngest witch to ever try
to earn her broom and learn to fly,
Sabrina stood before the crowd;
enacting words she spoke out loud:
“A pinch of cobweb, extra dusty,
metal shavings, not too rusty.
Put them in a pumpkin shell.
Add the potion; mix it well.”
Sabrina ducked behind the chair
as pumpkin pieces pierced the air.
And once the chaos came to rest
Sabrina said, “I tried my best!
I’ll go back home; I’ll hone my tricks
and I’ll be back when I am six!”
I know this is a tough choice! But please read and consider and choose your favorite and vote for it in the poll below by Monday November 11 at midnight Eastern time! That gives you 3 whole days to vote!
Due to the large number of entries and the amount of time it took to get the finalists posted, my schedule is a disaster. There will be a Tuesday Debut on Tuesday and a Would You Read It on Wednesday which were previously scheduled, so I will try to post the contest winners on Thursday. I am leaving for Brazil on Wednesday, however, which will make handling the prize distribution and related emails a bit tricky until I get back. So I beg your indulgence and appreciate your patience! I will get it all sorted out just as quickly as I can!