The 5th Annual Holiday Contest Finalists – Vote For Your Favorite!!!

The 5th Annual Holiday Contest!!!!
FINALISTS!!!
Darlings!
I must apologize!
Just look what I’ve done to you!
You look haggard!
Bags under your eyes!
Hair in a disarray!
Nervous tics and twitches popping up at every turn!
And chocolate of all kinds being consumed in an uncontrolled fashion!!!
(Well, okay, I admit that around here the chocolate thing is pretty much par for the course, not confined to anxiety over waiting for contest finalists to be posted… uncontrolled chocolate consumption is a good thing :))
But I do sympathize!
Bad enough that I always make you wait the weekend to find out who the contest finalists are, but this time I made you wait a WHOLE EXTRA DAY!  I’m so sorry!
Is that a jam stain on your blouse?
Please.
Go take a shower and put on clean clothes.
We’ll wait. . . 
. . .
. . .
. . .
There now.

Isn’t that better?

And now, at long last, the waiting is over!
Almost 🙂
Because as always, we must begin with a few words from the people in charge around here.
First, I want to thank EVERYONE who found time in their busy holiday season schedule to write an entry for this contest – all 96 of you!  The overall quality of the entries was amazing!  There were no easy cuts.  My assistant judges and I found something to like in every story and hated having to cut anyone!

Second, I want to thank EVERYONE who took the time to go around to as many of the 48 different blogs as you could, as well as the 48 entries posted in the comments here, and read and leave supportive comments for the writers who worked so hard on these stories.  In this business where rejection is a common and unavoidable part of the process, it means a great deal to writers to know that their work was read and enjoyed, and to receive a few kind words about their writing.  It is one of the best things about this community – that people are so generous and kind to each other.

Third, before I list the finalists, I want to say again how really difficult it was to choose.  There were so many fabulous entries.  The sheer volume meant that many great stories 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.  You bravely shared your writing with the world.  And you have a brand new story that is now yours to hone and tweak if you like and maybe submit at some point to a magazine or as a PB manuscript.  So bravo to everyone who entered!

Finally, I’d like to be very clear about the voting process.  Due to the large number of entries, there are 12 finalists listed below.  I have deliberately listed them by title only, so as to help with objectivity.  Please read through them and choose the one you feel is best and vote.  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 Mrs. Claus dancing the makaraina with Rudolph 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.

Now, without further ado, here are your finalists.  There is a mix of poetry and prose, funny, cute, and poignant – quite a spread!

Remember that the judging criteria were:

1. Kid-appeal! – These stories are intended for a young audience, so entries that were well-written but lacked child-friendliness or whose humor or content felt more appropriate for an older or adult audience did not make the cut.
2.  It (hopefully) goes without saying that you must follow the contest rules – there were very specific instructions about the opening line which almost all of you followed to the letter… but a couple of strong entries did not.  I thought the instructions were clear because of the multiple examples given… but one entry in particular caused serious debate among the judges as to whether the rules had been followed or not – the opening line was clearly modeled on the song but did not follow the pattern spelled out.  In the end, we did not add that entry to the finalist list because some people who weren’t sure emailed for clarification and this author did not, and about 90 of the 96 entries followed the correct pattern flawlessly.  So… executive decision… although we weren’t entirely happy about it.
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 true story arc, and unfortunately there were quite a few lovely, well-written entries that failed to meet this criteria.
4. Quality of writing – use of language, correctness of tense, spelling and grammar, quality of rhyme and meter for the poetry entries, and overall impression of writing were factored in.
5. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.

We cut 84 entries to leave you with these 12.  It was very hard!  We did the best we could.  T
here were a number of stories where the judges loved the concept, but the rhyme/meter needed too much work to make the finals.  And there were some that modeled the song beautifully with perfect meter and rhyme that failed to tell a story.  In any case, I hope you’ll all find at least one of your favorites on the list below.

#1 CITY CRITTER CHRISTMAS


Soaring over skaters at the Rockefeller Rink,
Pigeon spies a Christmas tree and stops to have a think.
Perched upon a frosty branch that twinkles red and blue,
he wishes that the holidays were meant for critters, too.
Dashing through the Christmas tree in front of 30 Rock,
Squirrel bumps into Pigeon and he stops to have a talk.
“Why so sad?” he asks the bird. “It’s Christmas Eve, you know.”
“Not for critters,” Pigeon says. “Hey, look who’s right below!”
Trudging home from Macy’s (where he worked a double shift)…
it’s Santa Claus! He slips, he slides, he winds up in a drift!
Squirrel and Pigeon watch him fall—it’s not a jolly sight.
They scurry down the Christmas tree to see if he’s all right.
Twisting on the sidewalk while the critters yank his boot,
Santa Claus begins to yell, “Lay off my Santa suit!”
“We’ll help you up,” the critters say. “We know you’re in a rush!
You should be heading to your sleigh, not stuck here in the slush!”
Getting to his feet as shoppers shop and skaters twirl,
Santa grins at Pigeon, then he turns and grins at Squirrel.
“Thanks,” he tells the critters, gently wringing out his hat.
“I’ll give you both a Christmas gift!” They like the sound of that.
Sharing roasted chestnuts Santa purchased on the street,
Squirrel and Pigeon sit upon their Christmas tree and eat.
They look out at the city, filled with angels, while they chew,
agreeing that the holidays are meant for critters, too.


#2 Red Berries in the Snow


Hopping along the twisty trail in the quiet, wintry woods,
Rabbit spied red berries poking through the snow. “The Giver will be here
soon,” he squealed. Then a heavy branch dropped snow on his head. Rabbit’s
whiskers froze into tiny icicles.
He hopped to Mole’s house and thumped his foot on the cold
ground near the door. Thump, Thumpity-Thump, Thump. “I saw red berries in the
snow!” Rabbit hollered down the hole. “Please tell the Giver that I’d like a warm
scarf this year. I’m going home to thaw my whiskers.”
Mole was dizzy from Rabbit’s wild thumping, but he clawed
his way through his dark tunnel and popped out next to Mouse’s tidy nest. “Red
berries in the snow,” Mole announced. “Kindly tell the Giver that Rabbit would
like a scarf to keep his whiskers warm. And I would like a lamp for my tunnel. I’m
going to sit in my favorite chair until my aching head feels better.”
“Oh dear, oh dear,” stammered Mouse as she pulled on her boots.
“Rabbit and Mole are so impatient. Red Berries in the snow! Scarves and lamps!
I’ve no time to waste.” She scurried up an oak tree and teetered on a tiny
branch. “Good evening Owl,” she said. “It’s the sharing season and we must send
the Giver a message. Tell him that Rabbit would like a warm scarf and Mole would
like a bright lamp. Since I never seem to have enough time, I would like a
watch.”
Owl listened carefully, then he lifted his strong wings and
flew North until he saw the tallest evergreen in the woods. He circled it three
times and landed deep within its boughs.
In the warmth of the morning, Rabbit found his scarf. Mole
switched on his lamp and Mouse admired her watch. Beside each present lay a
note that read: Your greatest gift will be found just outside your door. “Hooray!”
said Rabbit, and he threw open his door. Mole and Mouse were staring back at
him, and he knew the Giver’s words were true.

#3 The Incident

Fleeting through the crowded aisles 
Of the mall – both hands held tight,
‘Cause Mom and Dad are really mad 
About “the incident” tonight.
It all started with a fun-filled trip 
To sit on Santa’s knee
So I could tell him all the things 
I hoped he’d bring for me.
But when I saw the line of kids 
Went far past Santa’s sleigh,
I knew somewhere, someway, somehow, 
I had to get away.
So I thought up an escape route,
‘Cause I think it’s so unfair, 
For kids to wait instead of play
When toys are everywhere.
Quick – I bolted up the steps,
Down aisles, and through a store.
I figured it was better than 
that long line – what a bore!
But the store was NOT a fun one. 
It was filled with frilly things,
Stuff that grown-up ladies wear, 
NO TOYS like Santa brings.
And then . . . my parents found me.
I knew it wasn’t good.
So I hid inside a clothes rack 
Like any smart kid would.
Then without so much as looking, 
Mom reached in and grabbed my collar
While Dad stood with his lips pinched tight, 
trying not to holler.
They yanked me from that clothes rack, 
Past holiday displays,
Down the escalator, 
And ’round people like a maze.
And as we fled past Santa, 
I thought I saw him grin –
I guess I’ll send a letter 
About how good I’ve been.

#4 The Hanukkah Elf

Tapping on the window pane at the Klein family home was Max, Santa’s hungriest elf.  He was waving a jar and a letter.  It read:
Dear Santa,
Potato pancakes, jelly donuts, games and light.  Please come to my house on Hanukkah.
Love, Joe
“Santa has to deliver presents tonight,” the elf stepped inside.  “So he sent me, Max.  And this oil.  When do we eat?”
“After we light the menorah,” Joe said.  “Bring the jar.”
Max filled each of the eight cups with Santa’s gift.  The boy and the elf lit the wicks.
The menorah glowed bright, but Santa’s oil was gone.
Joe frowned.  “We need more to make the latkes and sufganiyot.”
Max’s stomach growled.  “Time for a little elf magic.”
Twinkle.  Wiggle.  Clap.
The jar refilled.  “Okay, Joe.  Let’s get cooking.”
Max flipped the potato pancakes.  Joe fried the donuts.
The boy and the elf devoured their feast.
Bellies full, faces sticky with applesauce and jam, Max and Joe settled their stomachs with a game of dreidel.
“I think I’ll save my chocolate winnings for the ride home,” Max said.
Joe read the letters on the top.  “Nun.  Gimel.  He.  Shin.  In Hebrew that stands for A Great Miracle Happened There.  Thank you for the oil.”
“I came for the food and made friend,” Max smiled.  “I hope we can celebrate Hanukkah together again.  Santa will be flying by soon.  I should get to the roof.”
But Max didn’t move.
“What’s wrong?” asked Joe.
“How will Santa know where to find me?  This isn’t one of his usual stops.”
“Yes it is.”  Joe grinned and pointed to the stockings on the mantle.  “We celebrate Christmas too.  Merry Christmas, Max!”
“Happy Everything, Joe!”


#5 The Christmas Seed

Circling round the planet Mars on their space craft RV-3,
the children begged and pleaded for a real live Christmas tree.
“There is no way,” cried Maw and Paw, “for that to come about.”
So Sue and Lou and Baby Boo would have to do without.
No Christmas tree? That cannot be…they vowed to find a way.
Sue climbed up high and searched the sky, but only saw a sleigh.
And Lou got tangled in the lights while looking in a drawer.
And Baby Boo picked up a seed as he crawled on the floor.
“Take that away,” cried Maw and Paw, “that’s not for Boo to eat”
But Boo skedaddled like a flash to the ejection seat.
Maw screamed! Lou tripped! Sue scrambled down! Paw reached to
save his kid.
They heard a BOOM! It shook the room! The spaceship blew its lid!
They watched as Boo flew through the air; it was a fearful sight.
This wasn’t quite the way they’d planned to spend this Christmas
night.
And Maw, she moaned, and Paw, he groaned, and Sue and Lou,
they cried.
But then they heard a HO! HO! HO! and Santa slid inside.
He opened up his big red sack – plucked out a doll for Sue,
a watch for Paw, a book for Maw, a bat and ball for Lou.
But Maw and Paw, their faces drooped, and Sue and Lou, they
frowned,
until they heard, deep in the sack, a most familiar sound.
Then Santa reached way down inside and pulled out Baby Boo.
“I saved the best for last,” he said. “This one’s for all of you!”
And scrambling up onto his sleigh, he pointed straight at Mars
The seed Boo found had grown into a Christmas tree with stars.
And Santa’s booming voice rang out as he rode out of sight,
“May peace and love and joy be yours on this and every night.”
So if you get a telescope, please aim the lens towards Mars,
and you might see Boo’s Christmas tree, adorned with twinkling
stars.


#6 Randolph, Not A Reindeer

“Packing up the presents at the North Pole workshop.” The elves and reindeer sang the traditional Christmas song. But Randolph couldn’t sing. Tears made the words stick in his throat.
Randolph was thinking about when Santa had told him that Randolph had not been chosen to pull the sleigh. “It’s not that you’re not fast enough, Randolph,” Santa had said, his eyes sad. “It’s…”
“Yes, I know, Santa,” Randolph had said, blinking back the tears. He had heard the rumours already. How all the children had cried, because Randolph had melted all the snow as he flew by.
Because Randolph was not a reindeer, but a raindeer, it rained wherever he went.
So instead of singing with the elves and reindeer, Randolph was doing what he did best: cleaning.
The elves started to chatter about the snowstorm that had taken place the night before in Canada.
“I’ve heard the snow is all the way to the rooftops,” said one elf.
“Santa is bringing extra food along,” said another.
The Christmas sleigh flew off , and everyone listened to the radio as it gave updates on Santa’s progress. All was well.
Then Santa hit Canada. The radio crackled, “Santa here, over. We’ve got an emergency, over. Send over everyone, over.”
Santa wanted everyone? Even Randolph?
Randolph flew high in the sky. Faster, faster, faster until he reached Santa and his sleigh.
Snow was not only up to the rooftops, but it was also covering the chimneys. That meant that Santa could not deliver the presents and food!
Elves were digging out the chimneys as fast as they could, but it was not fast enough. Randolph knew what he must do.
He flew over a house. The rain from the raindeer’s clouds melted the snow from the roof. Soon the chimney was exposed.
“Ho ho ho, well done, Randolph,” laughed Santa.
Santa went down the chimney, and then Randolph flew to the next house. And the next one.
“Packing up the presents at the North Pole workshop.” The elves and reindeer sang as they worked, and this time Randolph sang along.


#7 No Peeking!

Sneakin’ around the present stash
At the bottom of the tree,
In stealth mode, got my ninja on,
Look how black-ops I can be!
I shouldn’t look, but too late now,
Hey, I think this one’s for me!
Later I might regret this choice,
But right now I’ve got to see.
Santa, please forgive me sir, it’s awfully hard to wait.
Voices saying, “It’s not Christmas – put that present down right now, Miss!”
Sneakin’ around the present stash
Is the most fun thing to do.
Parents are at their office bash,
If you were me, you’d peek too!
Here I go, I’m gonna open just one little gift.
Peel the tape slow, careful – don’t tear…
Jokes on me now, I got UNDERWEAR!

Wrap it back up, no time to waste
Hide this sneaky thing I did.
I’ll call St. Nick and plead my case,
“Please remember, I’m a kid!”


#8 The Gift Of The Magpie (And Friends)

Flitting around the birdfeeder at the tiny woodland house, birds of all kinds shared the feast that appeared like magic when winter arrived. Chickadee dipped and swooped while spreading his dee dee dee cheer. Goldfinch called po-ta-to-chip. Titmouse tap-tapped his seed. Magpie noticed Sparrow whose feathers slumped as she stared in the window.
“What’s wrong dear friend? In this season of chill, these people feed us from their goodwill. You should chirp, you should sing, you should eat your fill.”
“It’s the boy,” Sparrow cried.
The birds loved the boy. He watched them whenever he was home, and he spent his allowance on birdseed.
“His mom said there isn’t enough money to buy a Christmas tree this year.”
Magpie peered into the house. The boy was drawing birds, but Magpie saw him wipe his eyes.
“We’ll help him smile, I do decree. We’ll get our friend a Christmas tree.”
The closest trees to the house were maples and oaks whose leaves had fallen for the winter. Squirrel nibbled the stem of a young cedar tree so they could take it to the boy. But the whole flock of birds couldn’t lift one tree.
“Plan B is better, this I know. You’ll still need your muscles though,” Magpie enthused.
They practiced making tree-shaped pyramids, but the bottom birds got tired or hungry before the star-bird could settle on top. On their third attempt the neighbor’s cat almost got her own Christmas treat! Feathers flew; Cat missed, but Magpie got an idea!
“Who says we need an evergreen? Come all my friends, it’s time to preen!”
On the dawn-quiet of Christmas morning, the boy donned boots and a coat. He went to the closest maple by his window to hang birdseed ornaments for his friends. He gasped and smiled. From it’s naked branches hung colorful, delicate feathers gleaming with the new day’s light. He sang out loud as he added his ornaments. “Merry Christmas my woodland friends!” The morning air filled with bird song in reply.

#9 A New Classic?

Waiting in line for Santa’s knee
At the mall we always shop.
Suddenly, someone nudges me.
It’s an undercover cop!
You will not believe this crazy story when you hear…
He’s dressed like an elf, by golly!
In my shock, I drop my dolly.
The cop asks for my help, you see.
This is what he has to say:
“Three bullies have been on a spree.
For their stunts they now must pay!”
“They must be stopped,” I do agree
“What kind of help can I bring?”
He replies, “Teamwork is the key.
We will organize a sting.
“Those creeps are smashing candy canes swiped from little kids.
Wait ‘til you get to Santa’s chair.
Then get your cane, and I’ll be there.
“They’ll grab your treat and try to flee.
It will really make my day
To catch them in the act—all three—
And propel them on their way.”
Our plan works out just perfectly.
We make an unlikely team:
An elf cop and a little girl.
Sounds just like a wacky dream!
The mall’s now very safe, you’ll find;
So hop up on Santa’s lap.
Watch out if mischief’s on your mind,
For we’ll set another trap!


#10 Clucking Christmas

Sneezing around the reindeer pen on the night before Christmas… AAAAACHOOOO! HOOONK! Santa blew his nose for the 50th time that Christmas Eve. “You’re done with your bath, Donner. Now you’re sparkling clean for our big… ACHOOO! HONK! …night.”
Mrs. Claus, with Agnes, her favorite backyard chicken, clucking behind her, said, “Santa dear, you’re allergic to those reindeer. There’s no way they can lead your sleigh tonight.”
A triple sneeze shot out of Santa and onto Donner. “Hogwash,” Santa muttered weakly.
Agnes scurried back to the henhouse. “Santa’s allergic to the reindeer. We have to help him!”
“Poor Santa! He’s a good egg,” Beaker moaned.
“Should we buy him allergy pills?” Lovey asked.
“This is our big chance!” Dixie flapped.
“Everyone in favor say ‘squawk,’ ” said Agnes.
“Squawk!” It was unanimous.
The chickens bustled outside and took a place in front of the sleigh.
Santa sighed. “I guess I have no choice. Reindeer, you get the night off.” He grabbed the reins. “On Agnes! On Bertha!”
The chickens weren’t listening. “Agnes! Why did he call your name first?!” Dixie clucked.
“Jiminy Christmas! You chickens don’t rule the roost,” Santa sputtered. “On Lovey! On Beaker!”
The chickens frantically flapped their wings. The sleigh crept forward, then moved faster and faster. It lifted a foot off the ground and Santa breathed a sigh of relief.
But CRASH it fell back to the ground.
“On Dixie! On Betty!” The chickens started flapping, and again the sleigh gained speed. Faster and faster it went, until—
“To the left! To the left!” Santa shouted as Mrs. Claus rolled out of the way.
And THUD, a bottle of Reindeer Wash that Santa left in the sleigh fell over and spilled.
“ACHOO!” he sneezed.
“Why, Santa,” Mrs. Claus said, “you must be allergic to the Reindeer Wash, not the reindeer!”
“Whew! Chickens, thanks for your service, but…On Donner! On Blitzen!”
The chickens watched the sleigh glide off into the sky. “Well, it looks like they flew the coop,” Agnes said. She turned on their favorite song. “Squawking around the Christmas tree in the Clauses’ chicken coop.”

#11 JUGGLIN’ HIGH FOR PUMPKIN PIE

Glidin’ aside this luscious grub 
at the festive Christmas Feast.
I’ll indulge in every dish. 
One small bite, at least.
I love stuffing, beans, and squash,
but treats are always last.
Pumpkin pie’s my favorite prize. 
I’d better get there fast.
Stacking food up tall and wide, 
I’m hoping it won’t slop.
Ham and yams and tators mashed,
it’s one big goopy glop.
The massive mound slants, slopes,
and slides, the situation’s bleak.
Guess it’s time to pull off my best
juggling technique.
Swivel left and sway back right, 
can’t let this mountain slip.
The butter in my pocket’s warm,
it’s just about to drip.
Seems I’ll need another plate, 
can’t manage one more crumb.
I’ll balance it atop my head, 
an olive on each thumb.
Berries slide right down my nose
and plop on my new shoe.
Deviled eggs are in my hair 
with greasy gravy goo.
A drumstick’s safe beneath my arm. 
Rolls are in my shirt.
Thought I’d never make it but, 
at last, I spot dessert.
Almost there. I’m getting close. 
There ‘s lusciousness in sight…
lick my lips and take a whiff, a
holiday delight.
Slow and steady, grab the last 
of Nana’s pumpkin pie.
Trap it tight between my chin 
and snazzy blue bow-tie.
I sneak beneath the food buffet, 
can’t make it to my seat.
Got my pie, but now I’m simply 
too wiped out to eat.


#12 NED’S CHRISTMAS WISH

Chipping through the ice of the glistening forest pond, Ned the turtle finally breaks through and inhales deeply. This is the year, he thinks. Timmy Elf will finally call my name for the sleigh loading.
Ned arrives at the clearing as Timmy says, “And that’s it. Thank you for helping us each Christmas Eve. We couldn’t load the sleigh in time without you.”
Ned inches closer and sees the usual foxes, hares and bobcats high-fiving each other as they wait in Vixen’s sled. Timmy takes the reins and Ned cries,
“WAAAIITTTT!”
“Not again,” Timmy mutters.
Ned gasps,
“You didn’t call my name? Please give me a chance.”
Timmy considers.
“OK – if you promise to stay put, you can finally come see for yourself why this is no job for a turtle.”
When they land at the North Pole, Ned stays in Vixen’s sled while the others spring into action. He watches as a flurry of hands, paws and hooves stack presents in the sleigh. Suddenly, it’s jostled and a small doll flies through the air and lands right below Ned. The tag says,
For Mary: Next year will be better. Love, Santa
“Two minutes to take off!” cries Timmy.
Ned raises his claw.
“Excuse me? There’s a doll here.”
In their frantic rush, nobody hears him. Ned knows this doll is important. Carefully he climbs off the sled.
I can do this, he thinks.
Ned reaches the doll and gently nudges her onto his back. He keeps his eyes on the sleigh and plods with determination.
Timmy calls, “Hooves up in one minute!”
Ned surges forward and bumps smack into Santa’s boot. He looks up.
“Wow,” says a stunned Ned.
Santa smiles and takes the doll.
“Thank you, my friend. This one is special.”
They take off and Ned beams as he watches the sleigh glide across the sky.
Timmy rushes over and snaps,
“I told you to stay on the sled.”
Then he sighs.
“Now do you understand why turtles could never help with this job?”
Ned doesn’t listen. He did help tonight. His Christmas wish came true.



*  *  *  *  *  



PHEW!  Now that you’ve had a chance to read through the finalists, please vote below for the one you think deserves to win by Thursday December 17 at 5 PM EST.  Winners of all kinds will be announced on Friday December 18!  (Possibly a bit late, I forewarn you, as I will be out of office all day on the 17th!)  I know.  That gives you a little less voting time than usual (because I took up an extra day with judging) but I want to be able to announce the winners on Friday so we can then all go off happily to our holiday celebrations 🙂

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 Friday (no PPBF!)… same bat time, same bat station 🙂

The 2015 Halloweensie Contest FINALISTS! – Vote For Your Favorite!!!

Darlings?

Is that you?

I can’t see that far…

…from my spot on the floor…

I’m delirious after an agonizing weekend of trying to choose 10 finalists out of more than 10 times that number of entries, all of them wonderful in one way or another!  (And no.  We did not choose 10.  We chose a baker’s dozen – 13 for Halloween!)

The fact that I am flat on the floor is nothing to worry about.  Really.  I’m fine.  And so are the other judges.  You just can’t see them because they crawled off to bed in the wee hours and have yet to emerge.

Seriously.  There is no need to worry about us.  But we won’t say no to chocolate if you wish to send some our way and help us recover 🙂

We had the biggest turn out we’ve ever had in terms of number of entries – 145! – and the overall quality of the entries was fantastic.  Really, it is readily apparent that the quality of entries in these contests is improving every time.  This means there are fewer obvious standouts, almost none that are easy to cut, and there a LOT of very good ones that we have to get very nit-picky over!  It is agony, I tell you!

Before we get to the actual list of finalists, I have a couple things to say.  (I know you’re shocked :))

First of all, 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 again 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.  So bravo to everyone who entered!

Now.  Onto the judging criteria which were as follows:
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.
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.
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.

A surprising number of this year’s entries were amazingly written… but failed to really tell a story!  They were more descriptions, lists, or mood pieces.  So as awesome as they were, we had to make some very hard calls.

Without further ado, I present to you the 2015 Halloweensie Contest Finalists.  A mix of poetry and prose, 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 pumpkin ballerina 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.

#1.  Leila’s First Halloween

Tears puddle in Leila’s dark eyes. Tomorrow is the Halloween costume parade at her new school.
“Costumes cost money,” Mama sighs. “I can’t buy something you wear once for this strange holiday. Any extra money must be sent to our sisters and brothers in Aleppo.”
Halloween haunts Leila’s thoughts. A stomach ache? Mama never lets her miss school. A costume from Teacher’s bin? Her classmates will laugh.
“I know!” she cries, grabbing a navy pullover and red leggings.
As her classmates don costumes, Leila asks Teacher for 50 stars and white tape.
“I’m an American now, an American flag!”

#2 Pirate Prepares For Halloween
Pirate wonders what to wear.
Knitted cap with dreadlocked hair?
Striped pajamas? Bandoleer?
Same old shorts she’s worn all year?
Black bandana? New tattoo?
She can’t dress like pirates do!
But a costume would delight
on this dark and haunted night.
Zombie? Werewolf? Ninja? Cat?
Too cliché, she can’t wear that.
Pirate wants to go disguised,
but her friends should be surprised.
Pirate gathers what she needs:
old bandana, borrowed beads,
Jolly Roger, tattered lace.
Then she snips and sews with grace.
When her tutu is all set.
Sauté, plié, pirouette.
Pirate plans a dance routine
to perform on Halloween.
#3 Spooky Spies
He focused a triangle on the approaching costumed family.
“That Jack-O-Lantern is watching me,” said Franz.
“Don’t be silly,” said his mother, “It’s just a pumpkin.”
“It winked at me!” yelped Tess, “Creepy, haunted pumpkin!”
“Impossible,” scoffed their mother, ”On to next house!”
Hours later, after the last trick-or-treater had gone home,
a lone man waltzed down the dark street.
“Report, Jack-O,” he murmured.
“Evening, sir. I have your list. 100 kids said trick-or-treat. 95 kids said thank you. Five kids took their candy and ran,” reported Jack-O-Lantern.
“Excellent.” said the man, “See you next October.”
“Goodnight, Santa,” replied Jack-O-Lantern.
#4 Nothing To Wear
It was Halloween day,
soon to be night.
Where darkness would lurk,
between Halloween lights.
But Harry and Ava
had nothing to wear.
No colourful costume,
to give folks a scare.
So off they both set,
to “Costumes’R’us”.
Hitching a ride, on the
666 bus.
They said to the driver,
“Your costume is cool.
Totally haunting,
just like a ghoul”
He smiled and he nodded
“it’s Costumes’R’us”
then he drove them both there,
and they jumped off the bus.
But the shop sign said “closed”,
How could that be?
Then the driver and bus,
disappeared from the street.
#5 Grow-A-Ghoul
“Grow-a-Ghoul in 31 days. Guaranteed to be a hit on Halloween. Keep your Ghoul in a dark closet, and feed them a cup of fruit punch every day,” read Meredith.
“Oh goody,” said Ethan, “I can’t wait to scare the pants off Franz Findley.
“My ghoul is going to haunt the whole town,” boasted Sarah.
On October 31st, the ghouls floated out of the closet.
“WOOOOOOO,” wailed Meredith’s ghoul.
“AAAHHHHOOOOO,” moaned Ethan’s ghoul.
“Let’s be best friends! We can hold hands and wear matching princess costumes!” exclaimed Sarah’s ghoul.
“Oh dear,” said Sarah, “My ghoul is broken.”
#6 The Unicorn Ate My Candy Corn: A Halloween Tall Tale
My costume’s crumpled in a heap,
My candy’s in the pail.
Blinking eyes, I’m close to sleep
Until I hear a wail.
And then a snort. And clacking feet.
I think my room is haunted.
A voice neighed out, “I NEED A TREAT!”
I ask what kind it wanted.
“The sweetest treat, shaped like my horn.
With bands of orange and yellow.
I’m craving all your candy corn!”
I hear the creature bellow.
My room is dark, but now I see
Four legs, a mane. . . a horn?
Who ate the treats? It wasn’t me.
I blame the unicorn.
#7 Paisley The Ghostling
Paisley loved Halloween.
What other day could a ghostling wear a costume, trick-or-treat, and play in the
dark?
Paisley wished she could join the fun, but she had scare duty like all the other ghostlings.
Boo-hoo. What’s a ghost to do?
An idea came as quick as a spook.
She’d wear a costume and haunt the kids trick-or-treating.
Paisley dressed as broccoli.
Vegetables were sure to bring a fright.
Paisley yelled, “Eat your vegetables!”
All the kids screamed.
Paisley had a spooktacular time.
Next year she will go as parsnip.
#8 A Meaty Trick-or-Treat
Once upon a Trick or Treat,
T. Rex set out to get some meat.
He and friends went door to door,
Until their bags could hold no more.
“T” raced home past ghosts and clowns,
Costumed pets, and haunted frowns.
When safely home, he dumped his treats:
Frog legs, pork, and scrumptious meats,
Gizzards, ribs, roast beef, and turkey,
White meat, dark meat, Jamaican jerky!
Then “T” saw something quite bizarre…
A package labeled, “CHOCOLATE BAR.”
He grabbed it, halved it, took a bite,
But something simply wasn’t right.
He stuffed some bacon in between,
And CHOMPED his Halloween Supreme!
#9 An Alien Goes Trick-or-Treating
Allen the Alien has landed on Earth on a cold, dark October night.
“Cool costume!” shouts a princess.
“Take me to your leader,” quips a vampire.
“Beep. Boop. Bop,” greets a robot.
Allen is confused.
“Where did his mother find that outfit?” remarks a witch dragging along a little ghost.
The Earthlings are playing dress up!
Allen puts on his costume – jeans, t-shirt, cap, sneakers. Aliens love to dress up as Earthlings.
Allen follows four ninja turtles to a haunted house.
“Trick or Treat!”
“Poor kid doesn’t have a costume,” whispers the ogre handing out candy.
Allen smiles.
#10 Spider’s Halloween Debut
Spider spun her sticky web
and scrutinized the scene below.
A ghoulish ghost and ghastly witch
were putting on a scary show
to entertain a costumed crew
who bravely watched the chilling sight.
The audience heard gruesome groans
and shivered in the cold, dark night.
Spider itched to join the fun,
to haunt, to scare, to steal the show.
She dropped a line and skittered down,
but no one looked… so she let go
and landed on the witch’s neck.
Spider scampered, spider crawled,
She heard a screech! She heard a howl!

Creepy spider spooked them all.
#11 The Haunting

Tonight when children go to bed,
I’ll be that thing that they all dread.
I’ll creep into their darkened room,
A spirit from the grave exhumed.
For this is Halloween tonight,
When even darkness shakes with fright,
But I’ll be laughing with delight
When frightened children bolt upright!
What’s that in the children’s room?
A gang of youngsters in costume!
They’re waiting for me in the dark,
A clown, a monster,
…is that a shark?
Now it’s me who shakes with fright!
The children laughing with delight,
I bolt back to my burial site,
I won’t be haunting them tonight!

#12 The Teensy-Weensy Witch

On Halloween night: October thirty-one,
A teensy-weensy witch shrieked “Let’s have fun!”
She packed her tiny spell book in her pointy purple hat,
Put on her witch’s costume, grabbed her broomstick and her cat.
They left the tiny house in the thickening gloom,
And zoomed in the air on her itsy-bitsy broom.
Out of the dark came a haunting “Whoooooo…
Watch out witches we’re after you!”
The witch gave a wobble, the broomstick took a crash,
Landing in a puddle with one ginormous splash!!!!!
DAGNABIT YOU GHOSTS OUT IN THE BLACK!!
Next Halloween I’ll get you back!!!

#13 Goodnight Halloween

In the dark gray room
Lay a tattered costume
A dim glow-stick
And a bent witch broom
And the smell of
Fresh chocolate’s sugar perfume
And there were three little ghosts
Haunting a house
And a pair of black cats
With a little toy mouse
And a sad saggy pumpkin, flame guttered out
Goodnight room
Goodnight broom
Goodnight sweets I can’t consume
Goodnight mouse
Goodnight cat
Goodnight house and witch’s hat
Goodnight glowstick
Goodnight ghosts
Goodnight pumpkin-love you most
Goodnight socks and tired feet
Goodnight Halloween
Goodnight trick or treat

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 Wednesday November 4.


Tune in Thursday November 5 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 Thursday… same bat time, same bat station 🙂

(And we will have a regularly scheduled Would You Read It on Wednesday too!)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to lie on the couch and eat bonbons all day.

Okay.

Not really.

I’m actually driving to Vermont as we speak and will be in the car all day, so forgive me if I don’t reply to your blog comments until later!

But don’t worry – I have plenty of miniature Halloween chocolate bars to keep my sustained whilst I drive… and A Clash Of Kings on audible to listen to (yes, I’m officially hooked on the Game of Thrones series! :))

Have a marvelous Monday everyone!!!

The 2014 Halloweensie Contest Finalists – VOTE For Your Favorite!!!

Holy Jack-O-Lanterns, Batman!

Look at me!  A mere shadow of my former self!

A pumpkin who has fallen off her creaky broomstick!

Wrung out and harrowed after an entire weekend of trying to decide how to rank the incredible entries y’all submitted for Halloweensie 2014.  What a job!!!

It’s a miracle I’m even here to tell the tale!

Thank goodness for the sustaining chocolate provided (via Face Book) by Joanna and Kathy 🙂  Thank you both, from the bottom of my chocolate-loving heart!  (And no, they did not receive “special consideration” for their entries as a result – they are both just lovely people who didn’t want me or my assistant judges to keel over :))

And speaking of the assistant judges, I had to call in a fourth!  I’m not kidding!

Because here’s the deal: we had the biggest turn out we’ve ever had in terms of number of entries – 132! – and the overall quality of the entries was fantastic.  Really, it is readily apparent that the quality of entries in these contests is improving every time.  This means there are fewer standouts, almost none that are easy to cut, and there a LOT of pretty good ones that we have to get very nit-picky over!  It is agony, I tell you!

Before we get to the actual list of finalists, I have a couple things to say.  (I know you’re shocked :))

First of all, 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 again 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.  So bravo to everyone who entered!

Now.  Onto the judging criteria which were as follows:
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.
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.
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 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.

This time around, 5 entries sadly had to be cut because of rule problems: one was 3 words over the word limit (I counted 6 times, by hand and with Microsoft Word’s word count tool, because it was otherwise a strong entry! but 131 other people managed to stay at 100 or under so I had to be strict!); two used “broom” but not “broomstick“; and 2 did not use “creak” in any form.  (And yes, I checked the word count on all 132 entries and made sure the required words were present.)

After that, the going really got tough.  Some of the stronger stories were written in rhyme where the meter didn’t work as well as it needed to.  Some of the most beautiful rhyming entries with great use of language were more mood pieces than stories.  So we had to make some very hard calls.

Without further ado, I present to you the 2014 Halloweensie Contest Finalists.  A baker’s dozen – 13 for Halloween! 🙂  A mix of poetry and prose, 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 pumpkin ballerina 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.

#1 Halloween SMS (Short Messaging Scariness)

Halloween SMS

#2 Creaky Cackle

Ever since Winnie Witch crashed into a creek, her cackle was creaky. 
Ah ha ha…hack…cough, cough…
Hallowe’en hijinks were hindered.
Broomstick in hand, she wobbled into the witch doctor’s office.
“Whoa,” said the doctor as she peered into Winnie’s mouth. “It looks like you’ve got a frog in your throat.”
“Chew this pumpkin lozenge,” the doctor decreed.
“Yuck,” Winnie gagged. Splutter, cough, cough…
Out bounded a bullfrog.
“Ba–ruump,” protested the frog and hopped off.
Ahhh ha ha ha ha…Winnie Witch whooped.
“Stay out of creeks,” the doctor yelled as Winnie Witch bounded off on her broomstick.

#3 Full Moon Rising

Full moon rising in the sky,
Owls are hooting, bats fly by.
Mummies moaning in the night,
Goblins groaning give you fright.
Milo walking down the path,
Up the steps, he hurries fast.
Floorboards creaking,
Milo’s sneaking,
Across the moonlit porch.
Past the pumpkin,
Past the cat,
Past the broomstick,
Past the rat.
To the door where spiders lay,
Waiting for their cowering prey.
Milo hears a frightening sound.
He doesn’t even turn around.
Glowing eyes behind him stare.
Ring the doorbell, if you dare!
Door creaks open.
Better not run.
Trick or Treat!
Now, let’s have some fun!

#4 Home Alone Halloween
I came home from school very excited. Halloween, my favorite day of the year.

I almost trip over the sixteen pumpkins on the porch.
With a creak, I swing the door open while calling out, “Mom?”  No answer.
The aroma of bat stew fills the house.
She’s not in the dungeon, or napping in her coffin. She must be here somewhere.
I look throughout the house, running from room to room.
Suddenly it hits me.
I fling open the broom closet. Empty. Even her broomstick is gone.
“Of course,” I said, hitting my forehead and smiling. “She is working tonight!”

#5 Sulky Spider’s Spooky Webs

Sulky Spider planned a scheme 
For making trick or treaters scream.
Spider silk began to spin
A Jack ‘o Web with wicked grin.
“Pretty pumpkin,” cowgirls said. 
“Pretty?” Sulky hung her head.
“A webby ghost will do the trick!”
She spun a spooky ghoul up quick.
Pirates shouted, “Ghosts are neat!” 
She gobbled up her web. “Defeat.”
   
Spinnerets began to twitch.
“A warty-broomstick-riding-witch!”
A princess cooed, “That witch is sweet.”
She stomped all eight offended feet.
“I need a buggy snack,” she frowned.  
Sticky thread went round and round.
She didn’t hear the stairway creak.
“A spiderweb!” they hollered, “Eek!”


#6 This Year’s Halloween Mascot

“Me!”
“No, me!”
Witch School should have been brimming with excitement. But everyone was sick of hearing Broomstick and Pumpkin argue over who should be Halloween mascot.
“No one flies higher,” said Broomstick.
“No Jack-O-Lantern shines brighter,” said Pumpkin.
Black cats cowered, paws over ears. Cauldrons bubbled their disapproval.
C-r-e-e-e-e-a-k– the courtyard door opened to an assembly of witches.
“The time has come,” Head Mistress said. “The night awaits my decision.”
“This year’s mascot shines the brightest…” (Pumpkin’s head swelled.)
“…and flies the highest.” (Broomstick’s spirits soared.)
“Our Halloween mascot is…”
“… the Moon,” who silently took a bow.


#7 Halloween Chase

The pumpkins were glowing, but I still couldn’t see
There was someone or something coming for me
I glanced over my shoulder when I heard the stair creak
My heart leapt from my chest and my legs became weak
I gasped when I saw her, all ghoulish and green
She was staring right at me, eyes angry and mean
Her broomstick was poised to crash down on my head
I wished I could fly, but my feet felt like lead
My fists began swinging, I was ready to fight
My sister took off her mask and just laughed with delight!


#8 Halloween Hide-and-Go-Seek
It’s Halloween! It’s dark, it’s spooky, it’s perfect for a game of Halloween Hide-and-Go-Seek!
Blurp! Bloop! Blub!
Are you in the cauldron?
No, just some toadstool stew.
Rustle! Swish! Swoosh!
Are you in the closet?
No, just an old broomstick.
Creak! Crack! Bang!
Are you behind the curtains?
No, it’s just the wind blowing the windows open and closed.
Scritch! Scratch! Raow!
Are you behind the chair?
No, just the cat settling down.
Giggle, Giggle
Are you upstairs?
Sssshhhhhhh!
Are you in the bedroom?
Hmmmmm.
Boo!
There are my little pumpkins!
You’ve had your trick, now how about your treat?

#9 The Shadow

Once upon a pumpkin moon
a rocker creaked,
the wind sighed, Soon….A Shadow stole across the lawn
and stopped upon the stair.
Ghosts and goblins roamed the streets.
They rang each bell
for tricks or treats.
As they approached they didn’t see
the Shadow waiting there.
Through the dark the children stepped,
not knowing where
the Shadow crept.
They stumbled over Shadow and
their screeches pierced the air.
Broomstick tail puffed wide with fright,
poor Shadow fled
into the night.
On Halloween a small black cat
should NOT sit on the stair!

#10 Halloween In A Box

“Skeleton!! It’s here!” Witch cackled. “Halloween in a Box! I ordered it on the Making Potions and Brew Magic website. ‘Fun Guaranteed!’”
Witch looked inside. “Pumpkin centerpiece? Broomstick garland?? Party plates??? That’s it????” She flopped onto the floor and wailed, “My party is ruined!”
Skeleton picked up the box. “I’ll be back.”
Skeleton returned with the box. “Open it.”
Witch lifted the flaps. Out jumped Black Cat, Ghost, Monster from Under-the-Bed, Zombie, his mother Mummy, and Hairy Spider.
“Now THAT’S a Halloween in a Box!” Witch screeched.
“Fun Guaranteed!” Skeleton said, dancing a creaky jig.
#11 Devious Dads And Halloween
Devious Dads and Halloween
Pumpkin creations
Under the stars,
Mama carves goblins,
Papa carves cars.
Kids from our condo,
Itching for treats,
Navigate hallways
            Bound for the streets.
            Roger plays Batdude.
            Orville’s a ghost.
            Omar rocks Elvis,
            Milly is toast.
            Sam’s owl is skittish,
            Tim acts the clown.
            Ike rides a broomstick,
            Cruising our town.
            Kids in cool costumes
Creep through the night,
Rack up the candy,
Eat just a bite.
After, in jammies,
Kids hide the rest,
Eager to keep
Dads far from the best!
#12 Snack-O’-Lantern
“Nibbles,” sighed Chester Cat. “You’re supposed to carve a pumpkin.”
“They’re too big,” the guinea pig replied. “So I am carving a Halloween-o Jalapeño. Scary, huh? Does it make you want to run away?”
“No,” Chester sniffed. “That wouldn’t make anyone run away.”
They heard the creak of floorboards and the clatter of the broomstick Buster used for fetch.
“I bet it’ll make Buster run.”
“No way.”
“Let’s see,” Nibbles challenged. Then he shouted. “BUSTER! SNAAACK!”
Buster galloped in. He gobbled the jalapeño.
His eyes sprang open.
Yelping, he dashed to his water dish.
“Told you he’d run,” Nibbles giggled.
#13 Snip, Snap, Crack
In a deep dark corner, an old lady sits.
She cackles, and snarls, and frantically knits.
Click clack go her needles.
Snip snap go her bones,
As she rocks and she creaks
and her kitty cat moans.
She conjures up spiders, and pumpkins, and ghosts
All spun from her yarn –
“I’m so wicked!” she boasts.
Don’t dare approach her,
She’s all trick and no treat.
What are you doing??
Come hither, my sweet.
Get away from that broomstick! Skedaddle! Shoo!
You’re tiptoeing closer??
Snip
Snap
Crack
BOO!


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 Wednesday November 5.

Tune in Thursday November 6 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 Thursday… same bat time, same bat station 🙂

(And we will have a regularly scheduled Would You Read It on Wednesday too!)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take a nap.

Okay.

Not really.

I’m SO not a napper.

But I might eat some leftover Halloween candy 🙂

Have a marvelous Monday! 🙂

The 2013 Halloweensie Contest Finalists! – Vote For Your Favorite!

Holy Halloweensie!

You guys sure know how to give a judge a run for her money!

Gone are the days of the first Halloweensie Contest when we got 7 or 8 entries!

My assistant judges (yes, I called in reinforcements!) and I agonized over winnowing this amazing field of entries down to a manageable number for you to vote on.

And I have a few comments.  (Don’t I always :))

First of all, I want to thank EVERYONE who took the time and care to write an entry for this contest.  It was far and away the most well-subscribed contest we’ve ever had.  79 entries at the final count (because yes, I counted wrong on Friday :)) and the quality of the entries across the board was fantastic.  There were no easy cuts.  (Except, sadly, for one that went over the word count to 114 and had to be disqualified.)

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 – SURPRISE! – as a result of the quality and quantity of entries, I have decided to give prizes through 6th place instead of only through 3rd.  I have also decided that you might need a little extra time to vote and that the post that announces the winners should be exclusively devoted to that celebration.  So the post with the winners will go up on THURSDAY November 7 (not with WYRI on Wednesday as I originally planned.)

Before I list the finalists, I want to say once again how difficult it was too choose!  There were so many fabulous entries.  Really.  I could find at least something terrific about every single one.  There were so many good ones that in the end some got cut on the basis of a word or phrase that we felt was a little off, or a concept we weren’t quite sure a child would get.  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.  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.  So bravo to everyone who entered!

Now, without further ado, here are your finalists.  There is a mix of poetry and prose, stories for youngest readers and stories for older kids, funny, cute, and spooky – quite a spread!  We really tried to keep it to 10… but we couldn’t… though we came close 🙂

Remember that the judging criteria were:

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.
2. 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.
3.  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.
4. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.

Finalists will be listed by title and without author for now in case that helps you be more objective 🙂

#1 Are You Scared Yet?

“I’m ready, ” said the little black cat.

“Let’s hear it,” said the big black cat.

“Booooooo,” said Little Cat.

Big Cat curled up. “Not spooky enough.”

“Ah ha ha ha,” she cackled, wrinkling her nose.

Big Cat yawned. “Not creepy enough.”

Little Cat bared her teeth. “Mwah ha ha,” she said.

“I’m still not scared,” said Big Cat, closing his eyes.

Little Cat took a deep breath and growled from her belly, getting louder until her body vibrated.

“Rawr!” she bellowed, and Big Cat jumped straight into the air.

“Not bad,” Big Cat said.


Little Cat smiled. I’m ready.

#2 Treat Or Trick

Headstone Hill’s a spooky place.
Wanda Witch lives there.
It’s said she steals small children.
Little ones beware!
Dared to go on Halloween,
Rip approached her house.
He tiptoed past the black cat.
Quiet as a mouse.
Wanda pulled the creaky door,
Stretching a sly smile.
“My, a sweet young child is here!”
EWWW, they’re all so vile!
Shaking, Rip held out his bag,
Waiting for some stuff.
Wanda gave a sugared snake.
“This was not so tough!
I don’t need to be afraid.
You gave me a sweet.”
Then she yanked Rip in, cackling,
“BEAST, come get your treat!”

#3 Miss Sadie

A bumbling witch named Miss Sadie
yearned to be wicked and mean.
When she tried to be spooky,
she came off quite kooky,
the clumsiest witch ever seen.
“Perhaps what I need to be scary
is something eerie and dark!”
So she found a black cat,
and a tall pointy hat,
and hid in a tree in the park.
“Trick or treaters, beware,” cackled Sadie,
“I’m here to give you a fright!”
Sadie laughed with such glee,
she fell out of the tree,
and “boo hoo-ed” on Halloween night.

#4 Drusella, The Black Spooky Cat

Drusella, the Black Spooky  Cat waited all year for this day…HALLOWEEN!
KNOCK KNOCK
 “BOO!” she screamed.
“Cute nose!” the goblin said.
“I’m SCARY not CUTE!” Drusella cried.
KNOCK KNOCK
“BOOO!” Drusella yelled.
“Beautiful eyes!” the dragon said.
“I’m SCARY not BEAUTIFUL!” Drusella hollered.
KNOCK KNOCK
“BOOOO!” Drusella screamed.
 “Pretty nails!” the Witch said.
“I’m SCARY not PRETTY”
KNOCK KNOCK
“BOOOO!” Drusella shouted.
 “Perfect ears,” the Witch cackled.
“I’m SCARY not PERFECT!”

“I give up!” Drusella sighed, “Next year I’m gonna be a Princess!”

#5 Black Cat, Black Cat

Black Cat, Black Cat

where are you going

this Halloweensie night,

a foul wind blowing?

Off to join the witchesfor their spooky spree.

Every Hallows Eve – a creepy jamboree.

Black Cat, Black Cat

who’s that on the broom

sat twixt the witch and you,

spewing words of doom?

That’s my bud, Ghoul One,

he plans his hex all year.

Ghouls Two, Three & Four

join in to up the fear.

Black Cat, Black Cat

what’s that in the pot,

cackling & bubbling,

oozing smoking hot?

Tis my Haloweensie meal –

tuna bake with spice.

Me and the neighbor kits

we like it with fried lice.

#6 The Dare

Joseph walked out in the dark of night.
The thought of his quest gave him a fright.
Shouldn’t have taken that dare.
The street was damp and empty as well.
The cold breeze blew up in a big swell.
Shouldn’t have taken that dare.
The air filled with a spooky thick mist.
Joseph jumped back when a black-cat hissed.
Shouldn’t have taken that dare.
The full moon shone in a bloody red.
The cemetery gate was ahead.
Why did I take this dare?
Tombstones and graves abruptly appear.
A dead voice cackled in Joseph’s ear.
“Shouldn’t have taken that dare.”

#7 Foe Or Friend?

October chill.
Argyle night.
Spooky shadows.
Black Cat’s delight.
Panther-like.
Freeze in a crouch.
Whiskers twitch.
Ready to pounce.
Leaves crunch.
Beginning to doubt.
About to bolt…
A cackle rings out.
A pointed hat.
A wide, black brim.
Gnarled hands.
A sharp, warty chin.
A hiss. An arch.
Fur stands on end.
A reach. A pat.
A new-found friend?
“It’s only me.”
A whisper is heard.
“Do you like my costume?”
Black Cat just purred.

#8 One Ghostly Halloween

Halloween was Billy’s favorite holiday. “I’m gonna scare someone good!”
But Billy was a ghost in the spookiest ghost town west of Texas. And ghosts don’t scare easy. She tested costumes:
black cat,
“Ain’t you adorable,” said Sheriff.
A witch with a mean cackle,
“Ooooh…spooky,” said the cowboys guffawing.
A tarantula, a headless cowboy, a were-coyote. But nope, nada, not even a whimper.
Billy frowned. A ghost who couldn’t scare wasn’t worth a penny – especially on Halloween.
She thought and thought until…
“AIYEEE! Float for your lives!” cried the town-ghosts.
“Trick or treat!” said Billy, the ghost hunter.

#9 Witch And Ghost

Witch and Ghost walk hand in hand.
They pass Black Cat, sleek and grand.
A tree branch rattles.  Cold winds blow.
But Witch and Ghost have far to go.
Their shoes clip clop on long, dark roads.
Their backs are bent with heavy loads.
Witch climbs the steps.  She pulls the gate.
Ghost slips through.  They can’t be late.
They hear a cackle!  A spooky shriek!
A dark door opens with a creak.
Witch grips her broomstick.  In Ghost glides.
What frightful sights await inside?

#10 The Scary Spell

“Harrison!” cackled Leona. “Time to get scary for the witches’ ball.”
Harrison flicked his pointy ears. Oh no. Leona’s wand broke after the wart-away spell.
She waved it over him. “Abracadarey, big and scary!”
What? Now he was a boring, black cow.
“Mooo!” said Harrison, wishing he still had claws.
Leona waved again. “Abracaglarey, mean and hairy!”
Stamping tiny goat hooves, Harrison growled. “Naaa!”
Leona tried one more time. “Abracadat, spooky black cat!”
Sparks flew. Harrison’s fur crackled. He bared his teeth.
“You’re scarier than me!” Leona said. “You’d better stay home.”
Perfect. He could have a monstrous cat nap.

#11 On Halloween

On Halloween,

The moon was full,

And the night was still.

Raccoon and Badger crept up the lonely path.

A cackle echoed from the trees,

And Raccoon froze. “A witch?”

“A bird,” said Badger.

A dark streak dashed across their path,

And Raccoon jumped. “A monster?”

Badger shook his head. “A black cat.”

Up ahead, glowing eyes flickered,

And Raccoon trembled. “A goblin?”

“A Jack O’ Lantern.”

They approached a spooky old house.

The door slowly opened.

Creeeaaak

Raccoon stuttered. “A g…g…ghost?”

Badger laughed. “My Grandma!”

And Raccoon giggled.

Raccoon and Badger raced to the door.

“Trick or Treat!”

#12 Hallowontsie

Halloween colors are orange and black,
but Spooky Black Cat was tired of that.
“Why can’t I be pink? Or salmon? Or bronze?”
she said as she stepped in the beauty salon.
Before you could cackle, that cat was festooned
with sparkly fur that left all in a swoon.
“You’re not going to scare anyone, pretty as that!”
“That’s what I want,” said the former Black Cat.
“Halloween is for goblins, monsters and ghosts,
but also for princesses, which I like most.”
She found an angel that night with wings of foam
who petted her till she purred all the way home.
So ready?  Get set… VOTE!  And PLEASE!  We will need all the votes we can get even though I know the choice is very, very hard!  Please cast your vote by Wednesday November 6 at 5 PM EST.
Thank you all again!  For writing, reading, commenting, and voting, and generally participating to make this such a fun contest!

I can’t wait to see who the winners will be!  And I have some more surprises planned for Thrusday’s Special Halloweensie Contest Winners post, so stay tuned!!!  (And don’t forget WYRI on Wednesday :))

Perfect Picture Book Friday PLUS Please Vote!

Happy first Friday of spring, everyone!

I am not letting the fact that it continues to be 20 degrees, windy, and snowy get me down.  It is officially spring!  Time is on our side 🙂  I haven’t seen Phyllis is days… she’s keeping a low profile.  I think she might actually be on the lam, hiding out in sunny Mexico where it feels like spring has arrived.  She and I are going to have words when she gets back! 🙂

Speaking of spring, if you have not yet had a chance to vote for your favorite finalist in the In Just Spring Contest, please go HERE – the voting is open until tomorrow – Saturday Match 23 at midnight.  It’s quite a tight race, and there’s an amazing prize on the line, so pretty please vote!

The In Just Spring Contest!

Please read the fantastic finalist stories and vote for your favorite HERE!!!

I had actually intended to skip Perfect Picture Book Friday today, so that the post with the vote would stay up until the poll closed, but I realized I forgot to say that ahead of time, and I thought some of you dedicated bloggers probably had PPBs scheduled to post today and I didn’t want to stand you up.  My compromise, such as it is :), is to not post a PPB today myself, but put up the contest voting reminder in pretty colors, and then post the link up list for you all to attach your wonderful books to so we can all come visit 🙂

So please add your post-specific link to the list below and we’ll all come add to our weekend library list! 🙂

Have a great weekend, everyone, and stay tuned Monday for the announcement of the In Just Spring Contest winner!  Ooh, the suspense!!! 🙂