Guidelines for the 12th Annual Holiday Writing Contest!

Guess what time it is?

I realize, of course, that I have yet to post the Halloweensie Finalists. They are coming! I promise! Hopefully in a few days. What a perfect storm of downright insanity the last few weeks have been!

BUT

Time waits for no one, so I have to get the Holiday Contest Guidelines up so you have a couple weeks to write your entries!

Which brings me to the fact that someone (besides me) is in BIG Trouble!

This Dastardly Duo is charged with:

  • Identity Theft (Jingle and Dingle were found like icicles, dressed in garbage bags, doing jumping jacks to keep warm!)
  • Knowingly Impersonating an Elf (not very well, I might add!)
  • Breaking and Entering (emphasis on breaking)
  • Burglary (No. There is no turkey left. None. So don’t keep asking!)
  • Breaking and Leaving (not a usual charge but when the dog collar fits…)
  • Fleeing the Scene of a Crime (and in the process…)
  • Assault with a Greasy Weapon (one of the perpetrators whacked an innocent bystander in the thigh with a large turkey haunch which left a significant bruise on her leg and a stubborn grease stain (which may be permanent!) on her favorite holiday skirt)
  • Willful Destruction of Private Property (knocking over a Christmas Tree, smashing ornaments, tangling Christmas lights, and causing a not-that-small fire due to sparks from the mistreated electrical outlet igniting the dry conifer)
  • Necessitating a Bath (seemingly unrelated unless it was some part of the Elf Impersonation gone awry, but they’re GREEN! Seriously! In the manner of the Witch of the West and the Grinch! What is WITH that?!)


In short, they have been Very Bad Dogs!

Why, you ask, am I bringing this Wickedness to your attention?

Well, I’ll tell you!

As we enter the Holiday Season, there is always an emphasis on Holiday Parties, giving gifts, being kind to others, doing good deeds, sweetness and light., but . .

DUHN! DUHN! DUHN!

. . .what about the Bad Guys?

Because you know they’re out there, wreaking havoc whenever, wherever, and however they can! One look at that WANTED poster will tell you that!

It’s an outright example of Mischief and Mayhem! Tomfoolery! Skulduggery!

Exactly the kind of misbehavior you should be keeping in mind when you sit down to write your entry for the . . .

12th Annual Holiday Writing Contest

~ for children’s writers ~

The Contest:  Write a children’s holiday story (children here defined as age 12 and under) about a Holiday Bad Guy – think along the lines of The Abominable Snow Monster (aka The Bumble), Heat Miser/Snow Miser, Burgermeister Meisterburger, the Winter Warlock, The Grinch, Scrooge, etc…, but make up your own – someone you can have some fun with! An elf who laces Mrs. Claus’s cookies with Argu-mint so that everyone who eats them starts fighting! A Candle Kidnapper who holds all the candles for ransom just before Hanukkah! A pair of zebra gangsters who dress up as reindeer, planning to sneak onto Santa’s team and then steal the sleigh and keep all the toys for themselves! A taciturn girl who is found responsible for removing lights and ornaments from all the village displays…but turns out to have brought them to the Nursing Home to cheer the residents. Anything and everything you can think up – the badder the better 😊

  • Your bad guy can be human, animal, or any made-up creature you like.
  • They can wind up punished, or redeemed, or they can escape to attempt their mischief and mayhem another day.
  • They can be the main character or the antagonist, but they should play a significant role in the story.
  • Their badness can be due to extenuating circumstances that make them sympathetic, or they can be just plain naughty! 😊
  • We are aiming for lighthearted and entertaining so we don’t go down too dark a path – these are holiday stories for children, after all! – but you can be serious if you like as long as it’s not too grim!

Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, New Year’s or whatever you celebrate during the Holiday Season, 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 between 12:01 AM EST Friday December 9th and Sunday December 11th at 11:59 PM EST, and must be posted in the comment section of the Official Contest Post which will go up here on my blog on Friday December 9th. That post will remain up for your reading pleasure until I post the finalists.  There will be no regular posts (Tuesday Debut or Perfect Picture Book) for the duration of the contest so everyone will have plenty of time to visit and enjoy.  If you have trouble commenting, you can email me (we’ll go over this part in more detail on the December 9th post! 😊 ) but do not email me any entries before the opening of the contest on December 9th! They will not be accepted or read!

The Judging: My lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to approximately 12 finalists.  Due to the nature of life at the moment I am not going to hazard a guess as to when the finalists will be posted – they’ll be up as soon as I can get them up.

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 Bad Guy! – the rules state a Holiday Bad Guy story, so it must be crystal clear that the story, including your holiday bad guy, in some way relates to Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, New Year’s, or whatever seasonal winter holiday you choose.  Your bad guy must be central to the story  – not just an offhand mention/reference in a story about something else. Have fun creating your bad guy! Make him or her a real character whose wickedness we can enjoy 😊
  • 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. Please proofread! A typo may be the difference between being considered and being set aside.
  • 5. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.
  • 6. PLEASE FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS! Large numbers of entries make it easy to cut entries that haven’t been entered as we asked.

The Prizes!: Oh WOW!!!

⭐️ Rhyme & Meter Self Study Course – Renee LaTulippe Renée M. LaTulippe is the author of The Crab Ballet (Cameron Kids/Abrams, 2022) and Limelight: Theater Poems to Perform (Charlesbridge, 2024) and has poems published in many anthologies including No World Too BigNight WishesSchool People, National Geographic’s The Poetry of USOne Minute Till BedtimePoems Are TeachersThankU: Poems of Gratitude, and A World Full of Poems.

⭐️ Ask Me Anything Zoom Chat with Sandra Sutter, author of THE REAL FARMER IN THE DELL (Spork, March 2019) and STAN’S FRIGHTFUL HALLOWEEN (Spork, September 2020) and the Owner/Publisher/Editor of Gnome Road Publishing)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (author, illustrator, or both) from author/illustrator Julie Rowan-Zoch author/illustrator or I’M A HARE, SO THERE! (Clarion Books 2021), illustrator of LOUIS (written by Tom Lichtenheld, Clarion Books, 2020) and illustrator of NOT ALL SHEEP ARE BORING (written by Bobby Moynihan, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, September 2022)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (written/Zoom) OR Ask Me Anything 1 hour session about author websites from author and website creator Stacy Jensen (stacyjensen.com – currently undergoing revision), author of BEFORE I LIVED HERE (coming Fall 2024 from Neal Porter Books)

Author and website creator Stacy Jensen

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (fiction) from Melissa Stoller, author of SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH (Spork 2018), READY, SET, GORILLA! (Spork 2018), THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION (chapter books) (Spork 2017), SADIE’S SHABAT STORIES (Spork, 2020) and PLANTING FRIENDSHIP: PEACE, SALAAM, SHALOM

⭐️ 30 Minute Ask Me Anything Zoom Chat AND Signed PB from Janet Johnson, author of HELP WANTED, MUST LOVE BOOKS (Capstone 2020), BRAVER THAN BRAVE (Capstone, July 2022), and A BAD CASE OF THE ALMOSTS (Capstone, December 29, 2022)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique and Zoom Chat (especially STEAM) from Sue Heavenrich, author of 13 WAYS TO EAT A FLY (Charlesbridge 2021) and many nonfiction books for older kids.

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Penny Parker Klostermann, talented author of THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT (Random House 2015) and A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE (Random House 2017) as well as the forthcoming SPIDER LADY: Nan Songer and Her Arachnid WWII Army (Astra/Calkins Creek 2025) and another as yet unannounced 😊

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Roxanne Troup, author of MY GRANDPA, MY TREE, AND ME (Yeehoo Press, March 6, 2023)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Rosanne Kurstedt, author of KARATE KID (Running Kids Press, September 2019) and AND I THINK ABOUT YOU (Kids Can Press, September 20, 2022)

⭐️ 30 Minute Ask Me Anything with Rebecca Gardyn Levington, author of BRAINSTORM! (Sleeping Bear Press, 2022), WHATEVER COMES TOMORROW (Barefoot Books, Mar 7, 2023), I WILL ALWAYS BE…(HarperCollins, Spring 2024), and AFIKOMAN, WHERE’D YOU GO? (Penguin/Rocky Pond, Spring 2024)

⭐️ Ask Me Anything Zoom Chat and signed book from Cindy Schrauben, author of THIS COULD BE YOU (Cardinal Rule Press, April 2022) and the just announced HANK’S CHANGE OF HEART (scheduled for February 2025 from The Little Press)

⭐️ Signed copies of LISTEN (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books July, 2021), COUNT ON US (Barefoot Books, September 20, 2022), and the new TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE board book (Harry N. Abrams, October 18, 2022) – 1 prize 3 books from author Gabi Snyder

⭐️ 15 minute AMA with Teresa Robeson, award-winning author of QUEEN OF PHYSICS: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom (Union Square Kids 2019), TWO BICYCLES IN BEIJING (Albert Whitman 2020), and the forthcoming CLOUDS IN SPACE: THE NEBULA STORY (scheduled for Spring 2024 from Candlewick/MIT Kids Press)

⭐️ A signed copy of SLEEPY HAPPY CAPY CUDDLES (Page Street Kids, October 18, 2022) by Mike Allegra AND a signed copy of DIWALI IN MY NEW HOME (Beaming Books, September 27, 2022) by Shachi Kaushik

Please join me in thanking these very generous authors and other writing professionals for contributing their books and writing expertise as prizes by visiting their websites and blogs, considering their books and services for birthday, holiday or other gift purchases, rating and/or reviewing their books on GoodReads, Amazon, B&N, or anywhere else if you like them, recommending them for school and library visits, and supporting them in any other way you can dream up! 😊

So! Butt in chair! Snack and beverage near to hand! Writing implement ready! Mischief-making, Mayhem-creating Thinking Caps on!

One. . .

Two. . .

Three. . .

WRITE!!!!!!!

22 thoughts on “Guidelines for the 12th Annual Holiday Writing Contest!

  1. Colleen Owen Murphy says:

    Don’t be too hard on Jingle and Dingle. They are just doing what comes naturally!! LOL. This should be a fun challenge for all.

  2. viviankirkfield says:

    HURRAY! The famous Holiday Writing Contest!!!! I still have drafts of several I wrote in past years that I really need to flesh out and turn into picture book stories. I’m not sure how you do it, Susanna…but the kid lit community is exceedingly grateful, that’s for sure. Happy Thanksgiving, dear Susanna…we are thankful for you! (and if you need another prize, just let me know)

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