You’re probably wondering if you’re in the right place since, if you’re like the rest of the civilized world, you woke up thinking it was Tuesday.
But Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.
We (imaginative bunch that we are) are going to join in collectively choosing to believe that it is still Monday because that’s when I said I would post the Holiday Contest finalists. And by gum. . . I almost managed it!
About three more hours and I would have pulled it off.
You’re probably also wondering what happened to my hair!
Turns out that gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair is a real thing when you have to read and judge 223 AMAZING Holiday Contest Entries and cut 211 of them to get down to 12 finalists! Ouch!
So here I am, one day before the first real snowstorm in ages is predicted to occur, which is not a good time to be suddenly bald, looking like I could be Humpty Dumpty’s sister (in more ways than one 😊) but there you have it.
I think I will set a new trend.
(You know how fashion forward I am!)
I will be wearing my Santa hat at all times for the foreseeable future 😊
Feel free to join me!
You lose 7 to 10 % of your body heat through your head, you know, and it’s probably more when you have no hairsulation. Santa hats are our friends. 🤶
Have a great day, everyone!
Remember to wear your hats!
See you soon 😊
I KNEW I’d forget something!
You came for a reason!
It’s time to announce the finalists for. . .
THE 10TH ANNUAL HOLIDAY CONTEST!!!
~ for children’s writers ~
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 Helpers! – the rules state a Holiday Helper story, so it must be crystal clear that the story is about someone helping someone else in some way during Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, New Year’s, or whatever seasonal winter holiday you choose. The story must center on helping – the help 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 12 we thought were the all-around best on all 5 counts listed. (12 because we have 12 prizes)
So, without further ado, I present to you the 2020 Holiday Contest Finalists. A mix of poetry and prose, stories for younger readers and slightly older (but still kid) readers, funny, poignant, sweet, 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. A SPARK OF FRIENDSHIP
[Note: “Shamash” is pronounced “shah-MAHSH”]
The menorah’s “helper candle,” the Shamash, as she is known,
has never ever asked for help. She likes to work alone.
For all eight nights of Hannukah, Shamash ignites each candle.
“A gust of wind? A sneeze? A fan? There’s nothing I can’t handle!”
Shamash can’t wait to start night one! She’s luminous and strong!
She dazzles on the second night and hums The Dreidel Song.
Night three arrives. Shamash continues beaming, all aglow.
But on night four she flickers, fades. Her pacing starts to slow.
Her blaze begins to dim night five. She fights with all her might.
But on night six, she’s feeling faint. “I…mustn’t…lose…my….light!”
The seventh night, Shamash is snuffed. She’s lost all spunk and spark.
“I blew it! I’m extinguished!” she says, sobbing in the dark.
“Need a light?” A voice calls out from up upon the shelf.
“You mustn’t feel you need to do this job all by yourself!”
A little lighter flicks a flame, announcing: “Hi, I’m Bic!”
“And I’m Shamash!” She brightens, as he lights her wilted wick.
Shamash, at last, alight again, illuminates the rest.
She beams as all eight candles gleam. “I love night eight the best!
“Oh, Bic! You are a miracle! You saved our holiday!”
“I’m happy I could help,” he says, then tucks his torch away.
Shamash prefers to work alone. “But this year, I’ll admit,
that thanks to you, my new friend Bic, this Hannukah is LIT!”
2. The Christmas Owl
In the darkness of the forest,
the young owl swooped,
plunging his talons
through powdery snow.
In the warmth of a fire
Dara gazed at Christmas lights
dancing a rainbow
on the wintery world.
A shadow of wings flickered by.
* * *
Dara’s footsteps were silent
as she walked between the trees.
staring in awe.
An impression in the snow,
a perfect pair of wings.
* * *
Freezing rain fell,
coating every surface in crystal.
marveling at the frozen world.
A shadow caught her eye.
A stooped shape!
She tiptoed closer.
She watched, still and silent.
Her toes went numb.
The owl didn’t move.
Was it hurt?
Did it need help?
“I’ll be right back!” Dara whispered.
* * *
When Kaylee, the wildlife expert, arrived,
they watched the owl together.
“When the snow forms a crust,” she murmured,
“young owls can’t punch through to catch their prey.
They get too hungry to hunt,
too hungry to move.”
Dara’s heart felt as icy
as the world around her.
Would the owl be OK?
Was she too late?
towards the owl.
She enveloped him in a blanket,
gently placed him in a box.
Dara’s sigh of relief
made a puff in the wintery air.
* * *
On Christmas eve,
the ice melted.
into the dripping woods.
Kaylee held the owl high,
gently relaxed her grip.
The owl flew!
whispered Dara to the empty forest.
3. CHRISTMAS IMPOSSIBLE: AN UNQUIET NIGHT
‘Twas the night before Christmas
and all through the house
not a creature was stirri –
“Wait – what’s that noise?” Santa whispered and paused placing presents.
Chitter, chatter. Squeak!
“There it is again!” Santa froze and cupped his hand to his ear.
Chitter, chatter. Squeak!
“Oh no,” the jolly man groaned.
“That sounds like a-
Santa dialed the Christmas Tree Hotline.
The switchboard lit up like Rudolph’s red nose on a dark night.
“We’ve got a code 57,” stated Santa.
“Dispatching Elf Squirrel Division now, Sir.”
Gears, Ginger, Twinkle and Bob set their Santa Map coordinates
and dashed out through the frosty flakes.
They reached the house and whooshed down the chimney.
“So – ho happy you’re here,” said Santa.
“Glad to help,” said Gears.
They got to work while Santa snacked by the fire.
The elves climbed the tree
the squirrel scurried higher.
The elves swooped down from the star
the squirrel hid deeper.
Even Bob’s “never fail” tinsel lasso trick
“We’re doomed!” cried Twinkle.
“Is it snack time?” said Bob.
“Sweet sugar plums that’s it!” cheered Ginger.
She set a trail of cookie crumbs down the tree.
The squirrel sniffed.
It crept closer.
Crumb by crumb it climbed down and into the open carrier.
“Thanks team,” said Santa and up the chimney he rose.
The elves flew to the forest where
the squirrel found the perfect pine.
Meanwhile at another house-
“Finally,” sighed Santa. “Peace and –“
Chitter, chatter. Squeak!
4. FIRLING’S FRIEND
Firling breathed in the cold, crisp breeze. Though he stood only as tall as the park bench beside him, he could still sense the yuletide in the air.
Firling’s thin branches stood still. He could hear the warm laughter in the snow covered park.
His scarce pine needles vibrated with joy as the sweet notes of Christmas carols echoed off the frozen pond.
‘Tis the season! Firling thought.
Soon I’ll be dressed in my Christmas best!
Firling watched as rows of nearby trees were adorned with colorful ornaments.
Yards of beautiful garland twisted and twirled around his tree neighbors.
Bright stars twinkled and angels perched atop trees as far as Firling could see.
Who will decorate me? Firling worried.
Suddenly a small girl approached.
“Aw! Poor, little tree! You’re the only bare one in the park.”
Firling felt his bare branches sag.
“Oh Christmas Tree, I can help! You stay right here! I’ll be back!”
Time passed and Firling began to worry that the girl wouldn’t come back.
As the sun was just starting to set, the girl returned.
Carefully, she hung hand cut paper hearts from Firling’s branches.
She wrapped long strands of braided yarn from trunk to tree top.
Finally, she placed a brightly painted cardboard star on Firling’s highest branch.
The girl beamed at her work.
“Oh, little tree! How lovely are your branches!”
The little girl flashed Firling one last smile, before heading down the sidewalk.
Here I am, Firling thought. Dressed in my Christmas best!
5. Waddle Santa Do This Christmas?
The elves are tired out and in elf-isolation,
They’ve worked all year long with no chance of vacation.
Poor Santa is worried, but what can he do?
He opens a letter that’s come from the Zoo!
Dear Santa, We’re bored as the zoo is in lockdown.
Apart from the keepers the place is a ghost town!
The Penguins at London Zoo love Christmas cheer!
So, please can we help with your presents this year?
With very best wishes and warm fishy kisses,
Your best friends the Gentoo penguins
On reading the note Santa conjured a scheme,
To rest up his elves and bring on the new team.
My dear Gentoo Penguins, I think that sounds swell!
The elves will adore this, and I will as well!
I’ll send down my reindeer, who have herd immunity,
They’ll pick you up — what a great opportunity!
And everyone had such a wonderful day,
The penguins wrapped presents, and packed up the sleigh.
The elves made hot chocolate and played in the snow,
Then baked penguin shapes out of gingerbread dough.
The penguins all hope to go back there one day,
And the elves will come visit the zoo, so they say.
In the end for this Christmas it turned out alright,
Merry Christmas to all and make sure you sleep tight!
6. The Solstice Tree
Owl watches as
sunlight dims to a simmer, and
starlight scatters across snowdust.
Tonight is the longest night.
Solstice is here.
He swoops down
and calls from his perch in the frosted pine,
Whooo can help me shine the light,
Share gifts of hope on this long night?
I can help to shine the light!
Squirrel places nuts on branches,
gifts of hope for a plentiful harvest.
I can help to shine the light!
Duck tucks feathers amongst the boughs,
gifts of hope for cozy warmth.
I can help to shine the light!
Fox props icicles alongside pinecones,
gifts of hope for flowing energy.
I can help to shine the light!
Rabbit sprinkles bits of bark,
gifts of hope for strength and safety.
I can help to shine the light!
Chickadee wraps grasses round and round,
gifts of hope for rest and ease.
Bounding, waddling, soaring, hopping
They frolic and feast
around the tree.
A girl squeals, “Animals! And a beautiful tree!”
Rabbit trembles. “Should we run?”
Owl shakes his head and winks an eye.
Her wonder is a gift of light,
and hope for all
on this dark night.
7. The Twelve Sleighs of Christmas
Santa’s arm hurt, and his sleigh was kaput—
One runner bent sideways—all covered in soot.
A rooftop collision had totaled his rig.
One tiny mistake that turned out to be big.
He had only been trying to test some new gear—
To practice his landing for Christmas this year.
This awful dilemma stirred up the north pole.
Poor jolly old Santa —an unlucky roll!
But the elves didn’t fret, and they shouted with glee,
“Oh, don’t worry Santa, we’ve got a plan B!”
“Your sled may be broken, and so is your arm,
But wood from your sleigh wreck has true Christmas charm.”
“We’ve already hammered and chiseled for days.
Our elf crew has fashioned these twelve brand new sleighs.”
Sleighs one through three glowed with holly green paint—
Dressed up with berries, all simple and quaint.
Sleighs four through six sported stripey red flames—
A curvy design stamped with all the elf names.
Sleighs seven through nine all sparkled like snow—
Cup holders for cocoa and revving to go.
Sleighs ten through twelve were bedecked to look bright—
Festive with light bulbs—they sparkled with light.
The elves gathered gifts—from small to quite large.
They hooked up the reindeer—now they were in charge!
These holiday helpers would rescue the day—
Subbing for Santa with twelve jolly sleighs.
Zipping up in the sky, they sang out from their flight,
“Merry Christmas to all and to all an elf night!”
8. CHRISTMASAURUS HEX
Wanda looked out the window. It was Halloween, but there wasn’t a skeleton in sight, just Santas and strings of colorful lights. “Christmas season starts earlier every year,” Wanda grumbled. “But this time they’ve gone too far.”
For the next 55 days, Wanda planned and plotted and prepared a spell to ruin Christmas.
On Christmas morning, Wanda took a candy cane and waved her wand. “Halloween was skipped, and so I’m vexed. Give me a monster that runs, roars, and wrecks.”
Wanda clapped as a Christmasurus appeared. “Come with me and help,” she cackled.
But when the Christmasaurus ran through town, everyone smiled.
“You’re fast,” a child said. “Please pull our sled.” The Christmasaurus was happy to help.
Wanda grumbled and waved her wand. Needs to be louder.
But when the Christmasaurus roared, everyone cheered. “Your voice is the perfect pitch,” a caroler said. “Please sing with us.” The Christmasaurus was happy to help.
Wanda grumbled and waved her wand again. Needs to be bigger.
But when the Christmasaurus went to wreck the tree, everyone looked relieved. “You’re just the right height,” the mayor said. “Please put the star on top.” The Christmasaurus was happy to help.
Wanda flew home fuming.
The Christmasaurus followed with a note from the mayor.
“Dear Wanda,” it read. “Thank you for the holiday helper. I hope to see you both at the Christmas party. P.S. Sorry we missed Halloween.” Wanda grinned. “Why not?” she said. “I do like parties.”
9. The Christmas Corgi
Dash, the Christmas corgi,
Tries so hard to do his part.
He might be small in stature,
But he has a helpful heart!
But Dash can’t wrap the presents.
He’s too short to trim the trees.
And if he tries to shovel snow –
His stubby legs will freeze!
The cookies are too tempting,
And he can’t quite reach the lights.
And have you ever heard a corgi…
Singing “Silent Night?”
He can’t harness the reindeer,
Or help put together toys.
And Dash can’t read the letters
Sent by all the girls and boys.
He’s too small to pull Santa’s sled;
His nose will never glow.
So Dash can’t shine the way
Through storms of swirling, blowing snow.
But if you’ve had a long, hard night,
Of flying through the cold…
If climbing down chimneys and stairs
has left you feeling old…
If you need something soft and warm
to help you get some rest…
For snuggles, fluff, and love,
A Christmas corgi is the best!
10. NOT TOO LITTLE
I tried to help bake
While Mom answered the door
But SPLAT! Cookie dough spilled
All over the floor!
I tried putting lights
On the tree for my Dad
But I couldn’t reach high enough
It was so sad!
“You’re still just too little
To help us right now
But maybe next year
You can help us somehow!”
“Too little, too little
That’s all that I hear
I don’t want to wait
Until Christmas next year!”
Too little, too little,
Too little I’m not!
I know I can help
I just need the right spot!
Then Christmas Eve came
We had all gone to bed.
We were all in our dreams
Cookies danced through my head
My daddy snoozed, snoring
Mom mumbled in sleep
And my little brother
Was counting his sheep
When out of my slumber
I woke with a yelp
A clamorous crash!
Someone needed my help!
I bounded from bed
And raced into the den
As the clock struck twelve
I caught sight of HIM!
He was setting the Christmas tree
Back up and then…
I saw it was Santa!
White beard on his chin!
“I’m just bit late
Do a favor for me?
Fill up the stockings?
Put gifts ‘round the tree?”
“Yes sir!” I shouted!
“Just leave it to me!”
“Thanks for the help,”
Santa shouted with glee!
Up the chimney he went
And jumped into his sleigh
“Great helper!” I heard
As he went on his way!
11. Let it Grow! Let it Grow! Let it Grow!
Oh the weather outside was dreary
And the plants were looking weary.
Poor Santa was filled with woe.
“They won’t grow! They won’t grow! They won’t grow!”
“A Venus fly-trap for Tommy,
And a String of Pearls for Mommy?!
Their progress is much too slow!
They won’t grow! They won’t grow! They won’t grow!”
Rudolph finally came one night.
“How plants hate being out in a storm!
Northern climate just isn’t right–
The leaves and the roots should be warm!”
They ran around helter-skelter
And devised to build a shelter.
“Protected from ice and snow,
They will grow, they will grow, they will grow!”
Well they didn’t show signs of perking.
“Oh no, it isn’t working!”
“Dear Santa, don’t feel so low.
They will grow! They will grow! They will grow!”
“It’s not enough to be cozy.”
So Rudolph lit his nosey.
The greenhouse was set aglow.
“There they go! There they go! There they go!”
Santa finally cheered “Hooray!
Rudy’s light has again saved the day!
Little Tom and his mom will cheer,
And I can grow plants through the year!”
When the weather outside is nippy
Santa’s garden still looks zippy.
“With a greenhouse and Rudolph’s glow,
Let it snow! Let it blow! They will grow!”
12. The Sleigh-Awake Band
Santa packs up his sled for the long night ahead,
of lifting and gifting and being well-fed.
The cookies and milk make the big guy feel tired,
(but staying awake for his job is required!).
The sleigh teeters left and then sails to the right,
and loops through the air like a runaway kite.
The reindeer are dizzy, the presents are sliding –
“It’s time” shout the elves (who had all been in hiding).
Jingle’s on cymbals and Jangle’s on cello.
The sound shakes the sleigh just like jiggly jell-o.
Now Santa is stirring. Noelle grabs a drum,
and RAT-A-TAT-TATS til’ her thumbs become numb.
Then Eve heaves her tuba and gives it a blast.
BOOM, BOOM “Wake up Santa, and please make it fast!”
WHOOOSH! Just in time. He grabs hold of the reins.
The sleigh soars up high, past the birds and the planes.
The Sleigh-Awake Band jams across the night sky.
“You rock!” Santa shouts with a gleam in his eye.
You helped me make presents, baked cookies and cake,
but you helped me the most when you kept me awake!
Now, each Christmas Eve, Santa makes sure to pack
the Sleigh-Awake Band to help keep him on track!
BOOM BOOM, RATTLE RATTLE, A RAT-A-TAT TAT!
They’re off to spread joy with the tip of his hat….
Now YOU get to enjoy the agony of decision as you try to choose which of those amazing entries to vote for! You’re going to need that Santa hat!
Please vote for the entry you feel deserves to win in the poll below by 7PM EST Thursday December 17th.
Tune in Friday December 18th 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 truly cannot wait to see who you choose as the winner! Good luck!!! 😊