So, there we were.
A group of esteemed judges gathered around our computers, armed to the teeth with cafe au lait and heart-shaped double chocolate brownies, chatting away about entries, extremely hopeful that we would reach a unanimous decision on the Valentiny finalists in a timely fashion…
…except Judge #1 ended up with a whole lot of extra family stuff – some expected, some not…
…Judge #2 had sudden unexpected actual job-related work that had to be attended to (since getting fired would adversely affect their ability to pay the rent)…
…and Judge #3 has a new puppy and is therefore suffering from extreme sleep deprivation! 🙂
Judge #4 was the only one showing up to get the job done!
As a group, we were less available, organized (and awake 🙂 ) then we’d intended!
Add to that the fact that you guys wrote such overall great entries that you threw us into a total tailspin over narrowing the field and it’s no wonder it took us so long to come up with a list of finalists! It is possible that some of us (who shall not be mentioned!) are still arguing over the finalist decision, feeling that there were other deserving entries that could have been included!
But at a certain point (preferably before the 4th of July) decisions have to be made and finalists have to be posted.
So here we are on Wednesday evening instead of Monday morning.
But we’re here! That’s the main thing, right?
And it is my pleasure to present to you . . .
The 3rd Annual Valentiny Writing Contest
And may I just say, once again, 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! Agony!
Before we get to the actual list of finalists, I have a couple things to say. (I know you’re shocked as I’m normally so spare with my words :))
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 so 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 214 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:
- Kid-appeal/Kid-friendliness – remember, this is a story for kids!
- Creativity in using hopefulness and success in making us feel the hope! (Not enough just to use the word hope!)
- Valentine’s Day appropriateness – this is a VALENTINE story and as such must feel like it is connected to Valentine’s Day/has something to do with it being Valentine’s!
- Quality of story – we will look for basic story elements and a true story arc
- Quality of writing – use and flow of language, correctness of mechanics
- Originality – surprise us with something new and different! 🙂
We really tried to choose stories that did the best job of fulfilling ALL the judging criteria. There were some truly wonderful stories that didn’t have much to do with Valentines Day even if Valentine’s Days was mentioned in passing – they just didn’t seem connected to Valentines – or that didn’t seem to really showcase hope although they may have used the word “hope”, or that didn’t seem particularly kid-oriented even though they were very creative and well-written, or that really had us…until the last line or two when things sadly fell apart. We tried our best to select finalists that checked all the boxes.
So without further ado, I present to you the finalists in the 2018 Third Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest! Please read through them carefully, take your time, think it over, and vote for your favorite in the poll below by Sunday February 25 at 12 PM (noon) Eastern time.
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 littlest velociraptor with the biggest hopeful heart 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 A Valentine for Leaf
Leaf had been dangling alone from a branch all winter. He watched his friends get called down to the earth one by one. He trembled in the wind, hoping for his chance. Would the earth ever call him down?
“I can’t believe I’m still up here. I hope Earth wants me at all,” he thought with a frown.
Leaf spotted children on their way to school. They held paper hearts and cards. “Happy Valentine’s Day!” they shouted to the mailman across the street.
“Valentine’s Day? We’re half way through February!” Leaf imagined all the leaves snuggling with the earth, whispering sweet nothings to one another. He was losing hope.
He pitied himself for the next few hours. Suddenly, he felt a breeze. And then a snap! Leaf was floating down. He was being called!
Leaf smiled as he picked a spot to land. “What’s that? A heart? A Valentine just for me!”
Sure enough, there was a gray heart moving across the earth below Leaf. The heart got smaller and smaller until he landed right on top of it.
“Oh, Earth! What a special Valentine you gave me! You do want me after all!” Leaf closed his eyes and nuzzled the Earth in a big hug. “I never gave up hope! Happy Valentine’s Day.”
#2 The Valentine’s Rooster
At the animal shelter, Rooster trembled.
His Valentine’s wish was for someone to take him home and love him.
On the inside, Rooster was as soft and cuddly as a chick.
But when people stopped at Rooster’s cage, they only saw his outside.
“He was a fighting rooster.”
Rooster’s heart sank. Maybe he was unlovable.
The day before Valentine’s Day, a girl stopped at Rooster’s cage. “He’s trembling. Why is he all alone?”
“He’d peck another animal,” answered a man.
Rooster slumped. He would always be alone.
“Could a person hold him?” she asked.
Maybe I can be loveable. I’ll show her!
Rooster cocked his head and cooed.
Only his coo came out as “BAWK!”
“See?” said the man. “Ornery.”
“I’m not sure…” said the girl.
Then the girl went away, and night came.
Long. Dark. Lonely.
But a peck of hope had lodged in Rooster’s heart.
In the morning, the girl returned. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Rooster!”
The girl stroked his neck, and Rooster almost stopped trembling.
“Ahh,” she said. “You’re a lover, not a fighter.”
Rooster snuggled into the girl’s arms.
She rocked him and sang, “Rock-a-bye Rooster…”
He trilled softly and closed his eyes.
“You’re going home with me,” she whispered.
And Rooster lived happily, and cuddly, ever after.
#3 Valentine Handyman
Mom’s been quiet since Grampa died. Sometimes I see tears on her cheeks.
Dad says she’ll be ok, but that her heart is broken.
I know that it must be serious because I know hearts are important. I wonder if it hurts.
At school we decorated paper Valentine’s hearts. Mine ripped when I was cutting it out and I was mad that it was ruined. Miss Kelly taped it together but it’s not the same.
I bring Mom some tape.
She smiles, but she’s just not the same either.
I bring her a Band-Aid. Band-Aids make my cuts feel better.
Maybe it’s broken enough to need super glue.
Maybe a hammer and nails. Or a screwdriver. Or a drill.
I don’t know how to fix a heart.
As I’m falling asleep I see my Valentine heart poking out of my backpack. When I tiptoe into Mom and Dad’s room to leave it for Mom, I find her sitting on the edge of the bed. I crawl up beside her and I hand her my heart. I climb into her lap and listen to stories about Grampa. When we snuggle I know her heart is less broken because I can hear it working: tha-thump, tha-thump. Maybe it was the tape?
#4 The Hope Of Spring
Little Miss Bright-eyes Chickaree
hopped out of her nest in the cottonwood tree.
She was kind of hoping it would soon be spring
And all the birds would start to sing.
The sky would be blue, the sun would shine
And she would dance with her Valentine.
But Jack Frost nipped her nose and her toes
She snuffled and sneezed and her whiskers froze.
“I’m sure spring will soon be here,” she said
as she popped back into her cosy bed.
A day or two later she looked out again.
This time she was soaked by the icy rain.
“Forget about spring,” cried the squirrel next door.
“Winter will stay for evermore!”
Poor little Bright-eyes Chickaree,
hid in her nest in the cottonwood tree.
The world was wintry, cold and grey,
But surely spring would arrive one day!
On Valentine’s morning she opened her eyes
And goodness gracious, what a surprise!
Squirrel Bushtail was there at her door,
With a posy of flowers clasped in his paw.
“Oh, Miss Bright-eyes, look what I found.
“Snowdrops poking their heads through the ground.
“When these brave little flowers start to appear
“We can be sure that spring is almost here!”
“The sky will be blue, the sun will shine,
“And I’ll dance with you, sweet Valentine!
#5 A VALENTINE’S DAY FOR MILTON MONSTER
“Go on ahead, Matilda,” Milton prodded.
“What are you up to?” asked his sister.
“Searching for worms,” said Milton.
Alone, he emptied his backpack. Hopefully, I’ll get others to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Even if I need to sway them one monster at a time.
He counted supplies.
He placed the gifts, then peeked from behind a tombstone.
Myrtle Magog stopped, read and ran. AHHHHHHHHHH!!!
He sifted through the toppled trinkets.
With a heavy heart, he headed to school.
“I saw what you’re up to,” said Matilda. “Holidays are for humans. No monster eats chocolate hearts. YUK!”
“Thanks for the idea!” Milton exclaimed.
“Oh, no!” said Matilda.
Hope soaring, Milton raced off.
He dug and dipped.
He snipped and sewed.
He ruined and rhymed.
After school, Matilda found several items by her cubby:
a zombie doll,
a thorn bouquet and
Candy is rotten,
Presents are worse.
To my great horror,
I’m writing in verse.
Be my Malentine!
Slugs and Hisses,
“So maybe Malentine’s Day isn’t the worst idea ever.” Matilda took a bite of her chocolate-covered worms. “Yum, not bad.”
Milton smiled from his hiding spot. One monster at a time…
#6 HOPING FOR SNOW
When Dad says, “There’s a chance of snow!”
I dance around and whoop and cheer.
But just as I begin to hope,
I think, “We never get snow here.”
My Valentines are neatly stacked.
I’ve made each friend a special treat.
So if it doesn’t snow tonight,
at least school will be fun and sweet!
When Mom and Dad tuck me in bed,
I toss and turn and sigh all night.
As minutes tick-tock off my clock,
I peek outside and look for white.
Then suddenly, tomorrow’s here.
Mom sings, “It’s time to rise and shine!”
I look outside again. No snow.
But here’s a lovely Valentine!
At school, my friends have sleepy eyes;
it looks like no one slept last night.
“No snow—no FAIR,” they all complain.
“There goes our epic snowball fight!”
“Cheer up!” I say. “It STILL might snow—
the news guy said so on TV.”
I hand each friend an envelope.
“Now here’s a special treat from me!”
They open up their Valentines
and smile when they see what’s inside:
a cookie heart for everyone
and heart-shaped snowflakes made with pride.
“Let’s find some string and hang these up.
We’ll make it snow ourselves,” I say.
But as we work, I look outside.
“It’s snowing now for real! HOORAY!”
#7 Heart-Shaped Butt
“Help!” hollered Hen, “I must make a valentine for Cow, so she’ll love me and let me ride around on her magnificent horns. But look at this place! There’s not a speck of glitter or a scrap of ribbon! No red paper, no glue!”
“How about a feed sack and string?” Suggested Cat.
“UGH,” moped Hen. “Those horns deserve fabulous, not feed sack.”
“Scratch a heart in the dirt!”
“Dirt?! She’ll walk right through it and break my heart.”
No, no, no, Hen moaned hopelessly.
“Well,” Cat said, “even if you can’t make a valentine, you still have the biggest butt in the whole barn. It’s fantabulous! It’s glorious! It’s the fluffiest butt ever!”
Hen sighed, comforted. She did have the fluffiest butt.
A red feather fell from the rafters, one of Hen’s own.
She shoved her butt in Cat’s face. “My butt! Is it heart-shaped?”
Hen primped and preened and braided all night.
She waited on the fence for the sun to rise. As Cow came over the hill, Hen presented the prettiest, poofiest, floofiest valentine the farm had ever seen.
“Will you be my valentine?”
Cow swooned. She’d been feeling so unappreciated.
Hen perched her glorious behind on Cows magnificent horns, and off they went, best friends forever.
She read my face,
with just one look.
My bright red face-
an open book!
She read my face
And now she knows.
I sent the card,
without my name.
but now my face
takes all the blame.
She read them all
And now she knows.
I hope that what my good friend read,
will please, please stay inside her head!
She gave a nod, a smile, a wink.
My bright red face cooled down to pink.
#9 MUMS THE WORM
Wendell Worm squiggled up to the Valentine’s Day cards.
A sign said, SOLD OUT!
“Oh NO!” thought Wendell. “How will I let Juanita Worm know I want her to be my Valentine?
Worms don’t talk. We can only think.
I have no feet so I can’t dance to show my feelings.
I have no hands to write down a love poem.
I hope I can think of some way to let Juanita know I want her for my Valentine!”
Wendell thought and thought. Before long he was all twisted up into a knot. That’s when he came up with his plan.
Soon, Juanita came inching up the sidewalk.
“Here goes,” thought Wendell.
He turned and squirmed until from one end to his other end he formed a heart.
When Juanita saw what Wendell did she thought, “That’s the sweetest thing any worm has ever done!”
She stretched herself straight across the heart to show Wendell that Cupid’s arrow had struck her, too. She loved Wendell!
Together, Wendell and Juanita wriggled off to spend the rest of their lives together digging in the earth.
Sometimes, on rainy days, whenever they get washed up onto the sidewalk, Wendell twists himself into a heart and Juanita stretches herself into an arrow…just to show their squirmy, wormy love.
#10 Timberdoodle Valentine
“I hope the Timberdoodle finds his Valentine,” I say.
We are going to watch the birds in the field that gets smaller every year. It’s Valentine’s Day.
“We have to be there before sunrise,” Mom says. “That’s when the Timberdoodles show off their sky dance.”
Quietly, we walk along the path. No one else is awake.
The tall grass tickles my hands. I see lights beside the field.
“It used to be very dark here in the mornings. Those houses are new,” Mom whispers, worried. “The birds need lots of land to survive.”
Will the Timberdoodle be able to find his Valentine?
“Let’s listen,” she whispers. “He will dance, and she will watch.”
We wait in the cold dark. And wait. And wait.
My ears hope to hear. My eyes hope to see.
“Peent!…Peent!…Peent!” a bird calls from the dark grass.
“It’s them! They’re here!” I whisper. Will he dance?
SWISH. I see him lift from the ground, and my heart soars with him. He flies high over our heads.
I hear his wings twittering like music. His sky dance makes a big circle, and he lands.
“Did he find his Valentine?” I ask.
“Peent!” the Timberdoodle calls again. Two dark shapes waddle away.
“I think he did!” Mom answers.
The sun wakes up.
#11 Antsy Valentines
“Oh no!” Mason stared at the calendar on the anthill wall. “Valentine’s Day and I didn’t get a gift for Abeegail. She’ll be stinging mad if I show up empty-legged,” he moaned. “I hope I find something on the way to school!”
He searched the meadow for clover, Abeegail’s favorite flower. Nothing, only dead grass and crunchy leaves. He checked the flower shop, but they didn’t sell clover. Losing hope, Mason walked on in the cold February wind. “My feelers are going to freeze and fall off.” He scurried across the playground, staring up at the giant humans on their way to school.
Plop! Clickity plop! Candies tumbled from a girl’s backpack. One crashed in front of him and he smacked into it. His six legs tangled together. He stared at the purple candy. “This is perfect!” he exclaimed. Mason grabbed the treat and dashed to his classroom.
“There you are,” said Abeegail, buzzing over to him. “I was getting antsy waiting for you,” she giggled. “Get it? Ant-sy?” She handed him a tiny jar, “Honey from my beehive.”
“Thanks,” said Mason, blushing. “Happy Valentine’s Day,” he said, handing her his gift. “Hope you like it.”
“I love it,” cried Abeegail, as she read the words on the purple candy heart. “Bee Mine.”
#12 A Fur-Ever Valentine
Cleo licked her paw and smoothed her fur for the tenth time. She wasn’t a kitten anymore, but it could still happen.
A family with three loud little boys passed by the banner reading “Adopt a Valentine”. Cleo shrunk back against the wall. Not them.
She returned the stare of a round lady with thick glasses. The lady smelled like so many other cats it made Cleo’s fur stand up a little. No way.
Cleo batted at the shiny red hearts taped to her fence and waited.
“Awww, look. She’s playing with the decorations!” The little girl was barely big enough to bend over the fence, but she smelled good. Maybe?
The girl held out her hand and waited for her. Cleo liked that.
“The sign says that her name is Cleo,” said the girl’s mother.
The little girl smiled. “Hi, Cleo! I’m Molly. You’re a pretty kitty,”
That was a good start. Cleo walked over to the edge of the pen and gave Molly’s hand a little bump. “She’s friendly,” Molly said, petting Cleo’s back.
“Can we take her home, Mommy?”
Cleo wrapped herself tightly around Molly’s arm and rubbed her nose against her hand.
Molly’s mother laughed. “I think that’s a yes, sweetie.”
Cleo purred. She was going to her fur-ever home.
Wow! Those were impressive, weren’t they? Good luck picking! 🙂
Please vote for your favorite in the poll below by Sunday February 25 at 12 PM (noon) Eastern time.
Tune in Monday February 26 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!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to lie on the couch and eat bonbons to recover from all that reading and agonizing and negotiating.
I will actually be frantically trying to catch up on things I shoved to the back burner whilst reading Valentiny stories… but I could probably manage a few bonbons at least 🙂
Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! . . . now that it’s basically Thursday 🙂