The 2019 Holiday Contest FINALISTS!!!



Is someone there?

What day is this?


It IS Monday.

So what brings you to this neck of the woods?  I don’t post on Monday.

Ah! I know!

You came for treats!

Hang on.  Let me rummage about for a moment and see what kind of goodies I have squirreled away.

Hmm. . .

The cupboard is alarmingly bare.

It’s empty of cookies.

It’s empty of pies.

It’s empty of gooey marshmallow surprise!

No gumdrops! Or twizzlers!! Or peppermint sweets!!!


OMG!!!!!!! EMERGENCY!!!!!!!


It’s okay.

I’m not panicking.

I just had a little . . . moment.

But all is well.

Nothing a little shopping trip and an hour or two of baking won’t fix in a jiffy!

I forgot that, in a desperate bid to maintain sanity, the other judges and I ate every single treat this weekend whilst trying to winnow your many, many amazing entries down to a handful of finalists.

Which, I imagine, is the real reason you’re here 🙂

So, I just want to say three little things before I post the actual finalists (shocking, I know, because normally I’m so quiet you can hardly get a word out of me 🙂 ):

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 revise, expand, and polish 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 (ages 12 and under), so we’re looking for stories that children will enjoy and relate to.
  • 2.  Holiday Treat! – the rules state a Holiday Treat story, so it must be crystal clear that the story is about a treat of some kind that is specific to Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or whatever you celebrate.  The story must center on the treat  – the treat must not be just an offhand mention/reference in a story about something else.
  • 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.


As I said above, you all did a stellar job – there were no bad stories.  But we had to pick the 11 we thought were the all-around best on all 5 counts listed.  (11 because we have 11 prizes)

So, without further ado, I present to you the 2019 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 or ask others to identify you 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 unicorn-riding gingerbread princess 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! Read! Enjoy! VOTE! 🙂

#1 – Gingerbread Family

The warm scent of ginger and cloves tickled Isabel’s nose. “Mami, the timer’s going off!”

“Okay, stand back, Isa. It’s hot.” Mami pulled the pan out. “Oh no!”

“What’s wrong?” Isa climbed up on a stool to get a closer look. The cookie dough had spread! All the little gingerbread men were plump and lopsided.

Mami put her hand on her hip. “They’re ruined. We can’t serve these.”

“Why not?” Isa licked her lips. They still looked yummy.

“Christmastime with family is special. I want everything to be perfect.”

“Can we make new ones?” Isa asked.

Mami shook her head. “We don’t have enough ingredients.”

“Can we fix them?”

“They would probably break.”

Isa thought for a moment. “Maybe the family won’t mind that they’re crooked.”

“I don’t know.”

Isa pointed at one of the cookies. “Look! This one looks exactly like Abuela with her poofy hair.”

“I guess.”

She pointed to another with a big round belly. “And that one looks like Tío Emanuel.”

Mami laughed. “You’re right. It does.”

“This crooked one looks like Abuelo.”

“Mija, I love the way you see things.”

Isa and Mami carefully decorated their unique treats. When the family visited, they each were delighted to get a cookie that looked like them.

Isabel felt so proud. “You were right, Mami. Christmastime with family is special.”

“Sí, Isa. Everything was perfect.”


#2 – A Christmas Treat For Mama

Melody grinned as she rushed home. She had planned the perfect Christmas treat for weeks. And today, Grandma helped her make a mountain of fudge for Mama.

“Wow!” Someone said from behind. “Is that a mountain of fudge?!”

Melody turned to see her new neighbor, Jason.

“Yes!” Melody boasted. “All for my Mama!”

“Oh,” Jason said, looking at his toes. “Sure wish I could make a treat like that for my Mama.”

“Go tell your Daddy.” Mindy suggested. “I’m sure you can make a fine treat for your Mama.”

“Yeah…” mumbled Jason. “Maybe…”

Melody continued on her way. But she slowed as she approached her house…

Maybe it was the way that Jason’s coat hung much too big around his small frame.

Or the way his sad eyes had never quite met hers.

Or perhaps something in her heart just told her…

…Jason couldn’t make a treat like this for his Mama.

She hurried back and clumsily pushed the fudge into Jason’s hands.

“I think your Mama would like this even more than mine,” she said hastily.

“Oh boy! Thank you!” He whooped. “Mama! Mama!” He called as he ran inside.

Melody raced back to her house, hot tears burning in her eyes.

She burst through the door and fell into her Mama’s arms. The entire story tumbled from her lips.

“And now,” she sobbed, “I don’t have a Christmas treat for you!”

“Oh baby girl,” Mama said, “Don’t you see? You’ve given me the greatest treat of all!”


#3 – Christmas Peach Pie

Twas the night before Christmas,
and I was in bed.
No visions of sugar plums
danced in my head.

All I could think of
was Grandma’s Peach Pie.
Just one slice remaining,
I’m not gonna lie….

I wanted that slice
to be mine alone;
to not have to share it
with big sister Joan.

Or Mama or Papa,
Uncle Bob or Aunt Sue.
Or my three little cousins,
John, Mark, and Lou.

Just thinking about
that perfect pie slice,
I crept out of bed
each step so precise.

Into the hall,
I moved like a snail.
Just one creaky floorboard
could cause me to fail.

I made it downstairs!
Just one room to go.
Crikey, that hurt!
I stubbed my big toe.

I limped to the fridge.
I opened the door.
Oh, peachy delight!
My tummy did ROAR.

Onto a plate
I set down my slice.
Wait just a second,
Warm pie would be nice.

OMG, that was close!
I almost forgot.
The microwave beeps;
I nearly was caught.

Now it’s just me
and my peachy pie.
A Christmas Eve treat,
I thought with a sigh.

“Naughty or nice?”
boomed a voice from behind.
I whirled around
And then lost my mind.

Santa was there
wagging his finger.
I looked at my pie,
and I didn’t linger.

I gobbled it up;
I shoved it right in!
“Naughty,” I said,
through my peachy-pie grin.

“No regrets,” I told Santa.
And to my surprise,
Santa agreed,
“I do love peach pies.”


#4 – Grandpa Ted’s Garden Shed

Grandpa Ted has a garden shed, but the door stays firmly closed,
Whenever I visit, I try to peek in, but he won’t even show Granny Rose.
Whatever it is Grandpa keeps inside, he will not let me see.
I beg to him: “pleeeeease let me in,” but he keeps it a mystery…
Maybe Grandpa’s a super hero, and it’s where he keeps his cape?
Then, when he thinks no-one’s looking, he quickly makes his escape…
Maybe Grandpa’s a time-traveler, and his shed is a time machine?
Transporting him far in the future, the things he must have seen…
Maybe Grandpa’s a secret spy, and it’s where he keeps his tools?
Night vision goggles, invisible ink – now, that would be really cool…
Maybe Grandpa’s an astronaut, and his shed is a rocket ship?
Whenever he steps inside, he takes an intergalactic trip…
Then, one afternoon when I visit, Grandpa opens the shed door wide,
“Come in,” he says, “I’m finished. Let’s see what’s hidden inside.”
Grandpa has made me a playhouse, as a special Christmas treat!
“It’s filled with all my favourite things! Oh, Grandpa, you’re so sweet!
A train track with a wind-up train… a doll’s house with four floors…
Jigsaw puzzles… board games… and picture books galore!”
So now the mystery’s over, but something’s made me pause:
A suit so bright tucked out of sight… is Grandpa…

Santa Claus?


#5 – All I Want For Christmas

Franny’s Big Front Tooth would not move.
Not a wiggle or a jiggle. Not a shimmy or a shake.

Its pearly white neighbor jumped ship on a regular old Tuesday.
The bottom chompers both popped out with the help of an apple.
Even the other Big Front Tooth had taken the plunge last fall.
One by one, each and every tooth bit the dust.
But not Big Front Tooth.

Franny tried tugging and tapping.
Even prodding and pleading.
Big Front Tooth WOULD. NOT. MOVE.

“All I want for Christmas is my tooth to come OUT!” Franny begged while sitting on Santa’s lap.
“Try a candy cane,” said Santa.
“…a molasses cookie?”
Chomp!…Still nothing.
“Peppermint bark will surely take the bite out of your bite!”
Crack!…The tooth stayed firmly rooted.

And so Franny woke up on Christmas morning, frantically feeling with her tongue.
There it was. Big Front Tooth, parked squarely in her gums.
She plodded downstairs, wondering if Santa had given her some magical dental equipment or something.

Instead, she found a package under the tree and a note that read:
“Dear Franny,
Please enjoy my famous fruitcake. No teeth can chew it. No glass of milk can soften it.
-Tooth Fairy”

“No teeth can chew it?” repeated Franny.

She took a bite.

Big Front Tooth wiggled and jiggled.
It shimmied and shook.
And POP!

That stubborn sweet tooth came right out.

Whistling through the new gap in her smile, Franny cried…

“Merry Christmas tooth all!”


#6 – Christmas Kitchen Chaos

Twas the week before Christmas, when all through the kitchen
Mom was so flustered; I just had to pitch in.
Church potlucks, class parties, and family dinners . . .
This volume of baking was not for beginners!

Treats for teachers and neighbors and coaches and sitters . . .
The list kept on growing. It gave us the jitters!
We Googled ideas for cookies and breads,
While lists of ingredients danced in our heads.

We spoke not a word, but went straight to our work.
Things started out fine, then they just went berserk!
The counter dusted with flour like new-fallen snow;
We were getting it ready to roll out the dough.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But our KitchenAid mixer, jammed in high gear!
I looked on in horror as eggs splashed everywhere
On the floor, on the walls, and of course in my hair!

And then, in a twinkling, I thought I smelled smoke.
Oh no! Not burned cookies! This must be a joke.
It was time for the icing, confetti, and such.
Slather, squirt, sprinkle! Oops! Did I use too much?

When the last gift was packaged, Mom plopped on a chair,
Asking, “Which Christmas treat is your favorite to share?”
I said, a bit puzzled, “I thought that you knew . . .
The best treat for me is just baking with you!”


#7 – The Gingerbread Sleigh

The day is drawing nearer,
for our yearly Christmas treat.
We’re heading off to Grandma’s
to whip up something sweet.

A gooey, sticky biscuit house,
with walls of gingerbread.
And a roof that’s draped in icing;
white and green and red.

We cover it in sweeties,
Pipe windows on, then doors.
And roll some golden marzipan
to carpet all the floors.

But my brother is not happy.
“We do this every year!”
So Granny gives him full control.
“Make something else, my dear!”

My brother looks delighted
(though I am not too keen).
He cuts out complex templates
and pipes a background scene.

Till, finally, I come on board
and help to mix and weigh
and bake and glue his good idea…

a jolly Christmas sleigh.

It stands so proud and regal
Piped with gleaming gold.
But still, it’s needing something more
and so we start to mould…

We sculpt and shape the marzipan,
we work till they appear.
We paint, then add the antlers…
a fleet of nine reindeer.

Our holiday treat is finished;
a sleigh of gingerbread,
but we never get to eat it…

for next day the sleigh has fled!

And still the neighbours whisper
about the strange-shaped sight…
a biscuit sleigh with reindeer
flying out into the night.


#8 –


#9 – Biscuit’s Christmas Treat

Biscuit the bulldog is taking a nap,
snoring and drooling on Oliver’s lap.
She rolls to the floor but continues to snooze
as he wipes off the slobber and laces his shoes.

She opens her eyes as he tickles her chin,
“Let’s go for a walk, it’s too nice to stay in.”
He strolls down the path, through the gate to the street.
She waddles behind, smelling good things to eat.

Turkey with stuffing at house number four.
Ham at the place with the wreath on the door.
Warm apple pie at the home with the tree.
Pudding with custard at house number three.

Gingerbread stars at the home with the lights.
Biscuit inhales all these Christmas delights,
Roasted potatoes and mixed berry crumbles.
Her tummy is hungry. It growls and it grumbles.

“It’s time to go home for it’s getting quite late.”
They turn and walk back to the house through the gate.
In Biscuits blue bowl – surprise! It’s a bone,
a fabulous Christmasy treat of her own.

After the feasting is done for the night,
Biscuit is tucked in her bed, snug and tight.
She snuffles and snorts while she dreams of her treat
and all of the wonderful scents from the street.


#10 – Christmas Eve Treats

We have a tradition, my Grandma and me,

To make a new treat every year Christmas Eve.

And each little treat comes along with some fun,

A story, a dance, and a mess when we’re done!


When I was three we made gingerbread friends,

We practiced the ginger waltz kitchen to den,

She told me a story of button gumdrops,

That made me so strong I could climb the treetops!


When I was four we made cinnamon swirls,

And while they were baking we practiced our twirls.

She told me a story of dresses so rare,

That when twirled fast took me up in the air!


When I was five we made candy cane sweets,

And we danced the twist arm-in-arm through the streets.

She told me a story of red-striped balloons,

That when I held tight floated me to the moon!


This year I’m six and in charge of the treat.

See, Grandma has moved, and she has a wheeled seat.


Grandma, I made us some gingerbread friends,

I’ll push you, and we’ll ginger waltz once again!


Grandma, I made us some cinnamon swirls,

I’ll help spin your chair into special wheeled twirls!


Grandma, I made us some candy cane sweets,

Now let’s go outside and roll-twist through the streets.


Grandma, I brought some more presents for you,

Button gumdrops, a dress, and a red-striped balloon.

Now you can climb, fly, and float up with me!

We’re the story this year, the best Christmas Eve treat.


#11 – Vinarterta with Amma

Góðan daginn! Hello from New Iceland!
Amma and I are making vinarterta for Þorláksmessa, Saint Thorlak’s Day, and Christmas.
We cream sparkling sugar into fluffy butter and sprinkle in spicy cardamom for warmth.

Crack! Each egg yields a yolk as precious as the winter sun,
which shines for only a few hours each day
in Manitoba
and Iceland.

Whoosh! Flour sifts into the bowl
like the drifts of snow
in Manitoba
and Iceland.

We roll the dough into seven pans and bake them in the oven.
Why seven?
Wait and see.

We hum “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” as the dried plums bubble into glossy jam.
Amma lifts the pans from the oven, two by two, and then the last, odd one out.
“Are we Icelandic or Canadian?” I ask.
“Já,” says Amma.
Amma smiles, her blue eyes twinkling, and squeezes my fingers in her warm palm. “Two hands, one heart.”

I spoon the plum filling on top of each layer.
It flows like lava over the warm cake.
We stack the seven layers,
pressing them paper-thin,
making stripes of fire and ice,
as red and white as the Canadian flag,
or the red and white cross of the Icelandic flag.

We slather the cake in icing and wrap it like a present.
Gleðileg jól! Merry Christmas!
Takk! Thank you for coming.
We hope you enjoy our vinarterta.
But you must wait a week before you eat it,
letting the seven layers soften
over seven long short days.



Wow! Did those entries knock your socks 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 7PM EST Wednesday December 18.



Tune in Thursday December 19 to see THE WINNERS!!! – same bat time, same bat station 🙂

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 you choose as the winner!  Good luck!!! 🙂

15 thoughts on “The 2019 Holiday Contest FINALISTS!!!

  1. Patricia Finnegan says:

    Although I did finally cast a vote, I found it very tough to choose my favorite among the finalists – They are all winners!
    SUSANNA: Thank you for dedicating your time and energy to the Holiday Contest during this ultra busy time of year. Your contests are treats for all of us. (As a special treat for a special someone, I picked up a copy of DEAR SANTA – I’m sure it will be a favorite:-)

  2. Penny Parker Klostermann says:

    Wonderful! I love these finalists and I also enjoyed reading others that didn’t make the finals. I made my way around to some, but not nearly all! There were so many entries, as usual, and I ran out of time.
    I voted! I have to admit it was tough but I found my favorite due to its strong ending! Thanks for all your hard work, Susanna. This is a holiday tradition that I look forward to each year!

  3. Kailei Pew says:

    Thank you so much, Susanna for such a fun contest! I am blown away by everyone’s entries. So fun to read them all. Thank you for always hosting such fun contests and for your amazing encouragement to us writers. I don’t know how you do it all with the business of life, but we sure are grateful!

  4. Jill Lambert (@LJillLambert) says:

    Congratulations to all of the finalists and thank you to Susanna, all the judges, and everyone that donated prizes for the contest. It is so much fun to write for and I love reading everyone else’s ideas on the theme–so thank you to all who entered and commented. I especially appreciate your efforts in spite of the loss of a pet, Susanna. I’m sure your dog had a wonderful life with you and I hope you take comfort in that.

  5. heavenlyhashformoms says:

    Oh, my! I am in awe of so much creativity! Each entry was really special. Wonderful job to each of you—what a treat to read and enjoy! Since I had to pick one, I chose the one with a theme that lingered in my mind—-pulled on my heartstrings. But, each of them could win 1st place in my mind. Thank you to Susanna for this yearly holiday treat—so fun and inspiring!

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