Good Morning, Everyone!
I know it looks like Monday, but let’s go with me here and pretend that it’s last Wednesday, because that’s when I said the finalists would be posted. So here they are, right on time! 🙂
I’m trying to remember whose idea this contest was…
(Oh right. YOURS! 🙂 )
…because holy pink glitter hearts on a doily, batman, we got a LOT of entries! 154, to be exact, the most we’ve ever had in any contest. I guess you guys weren’t kidding when you said you wanted a contest in February to chase away the winter doldrums – you really stepped up!
The overall quality of the entries was impressive. Really, if you were hoping to drive the judges to a completely irresponsible over-indulgence in chocolate as we agonized over our choices, you succeeded admirably 🙂 There isn’t a single morsel of chocolate left in the entire state of New York…or Connecticut… or Vermont… actually, we’ve had reports of people in chocolate withdrawal all the way up to Montreal! We wish to extend our sincere apologies to anyone who is without chocolate because of us!
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! Hence the irresponsible chocolate indulgence!
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 such a girl of few 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 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 grumpiness, and success in making us feel the grumpiness!
- 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 (remember – it was supposed to be a Valentines Day Story for kids), or didn’t have a particularly grumpy character, or didn’t seem particularly kid-oriented even though they were very creative and well-written. We tried our best to select finalists that checked all the boxes.
So without further ado, I present to you the finalists in the 2016 First 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 Thursday 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 grumpiest tiger in 1st grade 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 JASPER AND ABIGAIL
Jasper Turtle wanted to look dashing.
He would be escorting his best friend, Abigail Mink, to the Village Valentine Bash. She always looked so sleek in her soft furry coat.
He pulled his tuxedo shell from the closet and tried it on.
“It’s a little snug,” he squeaked.
Perhaps he should shed a few pounds before the bash. He glanced at the calendar. And soon!
Jasper nibbled on greens.
His tummy rumbled.
He jogged through the park.
He tripped and tumbled.
Jasper stepped on the scale,
and grumpily grumbled!
Grrrrr! Jasper wasn’t a snapping turtle, but…
He SNAPPED at the mailman.
He SNAPPED at his cat…fish.
He SNAPPED at Abigail.
Abigail huffed. “Well!” She stormed off.
Jasper felt too grumpy to say he was sorry.
So he didn’t.
The night of the bash, Jasper slipped into his tuxedo shell.
It fit. He was a dashing sight.
“But what good is it without my best friend?” He sighed.
Jasper knew what he had to do.
He knocked on Abigail’s door.
He brought flowers.
Lots of chocolates.
Abigail smiled. “Silly, Turtle. I like you just the way you are. You’ve always looked dashing to me.”
Jasper’s heart swelled so big, he almost burst his tuxedo shell.
#2 PIRATE GETS A VALENTINE
Winter comes by northern breeze.
Nights grow longer. Harbours freeze.
Pirate gets the winter blues,
red-hot temper, shortened fuse.
So Pirate hides from winter’s wail.
‘Til she reads her Love Day mail.
Boats are brown. The sea is blue.
All your friends are missing you!
Pirate shivers, peeks outside,
sees her friends all smiling wide.
“Come out Pirate,” call her mates.
“Bundle up and bring your skates!”
But Pirate’s skate is way too tight.
and nothing fits her peg leg right.
Pirate grumbles. Pirate gripes.
Friends all stop and Viking pipes,
“Come on Pirate, try these skis,
glide across the snow with ease!”
But Pirate cannot bend both knees,
manage hills, or dodge the trees.
Pirate whimpers. Pirate whines.
But can’t deter her Valentines.
Nanuk offers. “If you like,
“we could take a snowshoe hike.”
But Pirate’s snowshoes are too small.
They don’t help her out at all.
Pirate kicks and Pirate cries.
But Jack has brought a sweet surprise.
He digs right down into his pack,
“Pirate, would you like a snack?”
Steaming cocoa, heart-shaped treats.
Friends all wait while Pirate eats.
Pirate snickers. Pirate smirks.
Sharing cookies always works.
Pirate rumbles, “Snowball fight!”
Heaves the snow with all her might.
Pirate sparkles. Pirate shines.
and she delights her Valentines.
#3 KANDIE’S KISS
Kandie buried herself as deep as possible. She wiggled and squirmed until she was hidden by her heart-shaped friends.
What kind of Valentine’s Day surprise am I? Kandie scowled from the bottom of the bowl. She peeked out. That just made her even crankier.
“I’m all wrong!” she wailed, eyeing the other sweets. “How can you smile and feel sugary at a time like this?!”
Old Man Tart chuckled from across the way, “What’s yer bellyaching about?”
“You all have such beautiful words. I’m a fructose failure,” Kandie sulked.
She had a point. Old Man Tart’s tummy boldly stated: HUG ME! Pinky’s bragged: TOO CUTE! Why, Honey’s phrase even proposed: MARRY ME!
Kandie glanced down irritably at her own letters. “HISS ME? Seriously. HISS ME?” she pouted. “Someone at the factory cannot spell! Whoever heard of a candy heart that says HISS ME? I’ll never find a Valentine! No one will want me!”
Old Man Tart waited for her to finish complaining. He cleared his throat and said, “A wise person once said there is someone for everyone. Kandie, I’m sure you’ll find your match.”
I should try to be optimistic, Kandie thought, scooting back to the top of the bowl. And the first person she spotted was Gummy Snake smiling shyly at her.
#5 Come In For The Cold
“Hot chocolate is for kids who get to play outside in the snow!” Sheena yelled back down the stairs. “I’m not cold and I don’t need warming up!”
“Sounds like you do,” her mother replied cheerfully.
“Sorry. I’m missing ALL the fun.” A deep Valentine’s snow had fallen and everybody was sledding on the driveway beneath Sheena’s window. She puffed on the pane and drew a frowny face. “Stupid broken leg.”
Sheena heard the door open and the stomping off of snow in the hall. Her brother came up the stairs.
“Go away!” She snapped without turning around, then shrieked as Joey dumped handfuls of snow over her head.
“Lighten up!” he laughed as Sheena frantically dusted icy flakes from her neck, “I can’t let you miss ALL the fun!”
“What ARE you doing?” Sheena sputtered, reaching for her crutches.
“Since you can’t come out and play, we’ll make a snowman here,” Joey chirped as he emptied a bucket of fluffy snow into the bathtub.
Sheena grinned. “You’re nuts!”
“I love you, too!” he retorted, smiling broadly.
Sheena hobbled to the bathroom shaking icy drops from her hair.
Joey returned with more snow.
The cold felt wonderful in Sheena’s bare hands. “Mom,” She called, “I’m earning my chocolate! But first… I need a carrot!”
#6 No Valentines for Porcupines
Pip would not go to school today.
He would not ride the bus.
He would not hand out heart-shaped cards
and join in all the fuss.
For every year it was the same.
Each glittered, heartfelt greeting
was passed around with candy treats
for sharing and for eating.
Freddy Fox would slyly smile
at Katy Kangaroo,
while Lucy Lark made googly eyes
at Carl Cockatoo.
But there’d be no note for Pip,
not one small Valentine.
Pip knew no one could ever love
a prickly porcupine.
“Blech!” groaned Pip. “I cannot stand
this lovey-dovey day.
I think I’ll just go back to bed
and wish it all away.”
But Mom and Dad said, “Off you go!”
and kissed their son goodbye.
Pip sulked and moped his way to school,
arriving with a sigh.
The room was full of sugary treats
and Valentines galore.
But Pip sat at his empty desk.
His heart sank to the floor.
“Eh-hem,” Pip heard a tiny voice
and lifted up his head.
Henrietta Hedgehog stood before him
and she said-
“I don’t like pink or candy hearts,
Or Saint Valentine.
But there IS one thing I like,
That’s you, Pip Porcupine.”
Pip smiled a gigantic grin
that chased his blues away.
Maybe he would have to
reconsider Valentine’s Day.
#7 The Lonely Hearts Club
It was Valentine’s Day, and Candy Heart Box sat stewing on the drugstore shelf.
“This is ridiculous,” she grumbled. “All I want to do is spread love, but no one will buy me.”
“Tell me about it,” said a voice on the shelf below.
“Who are you?” she asked.
“Noseless Teddy Bear,” said the voice. “I’m missing my nose.”
“I’m still here too!” piped in another voice. “Nobody seems to want to buy a chocolate and beet rose.”
“Gross,” said Noseless Teddy Bear.
“I’m peeved because someone messed up my lettering,” groaned Candy Heart Box. “Instead of Love Bug, it says Glove Rug. Instead of I’m Yours, it says Time Fours.”
“We will never be bought,” moaned Gross Rose.
“This one says, “You and Pee,” whined Candy Heart Box.
Just then, a girl stopped in front of the shelves.
“Hmmm.” said the girl, “What Valentine’s Day gift says I love my brother, but he is still a pest?”
She searched the shelves.
Noseless Teddy Bear puffed out his chest.
Candy Heart Box pushed “DANGER” to the front of her box.
Gross Rose displayed her ingredient list.
“Ah ha! A noseless teddy bear, a gross rose, and a weird candy heart box. Perfect!” said the girl, bringing them up to the register.
#8 A Colorful Valentine’s Day
The crayons were crazy.
The box was a buzz.
Pink and Red wrestled to the front.
Purple pushed past Periwinkle.
Yellow yodeled , “You are my sunshine.”
February 14th was THE day to make Valentines.
Every color was eager.
All except one.
Black was on the bottom when he was bumped.
“OUCH! Watch it or I’ll give you something to be blue about!” He grumbled.
Blue bellowed, “It’s Azul to you! What’s got your wrapper in a bunch?”
Black’s voice was thick with the grumps, “Valentines are covered in color. No one draws black hearts. No one sketches black flowers. I wish there was NO VALENTINE’S DAY!”
His dark words shook the box.
The crayons cringed!
The box went silent.
Black slouched back to the bottom.
But others wanted to brighten his day.
The colors put their sharpened tips together and thought carefully.
They quietly started a special valentine with all the right words.
They finished just before the children arrived.
Black was baffled when tiny fingers searched just for him.
His wrapper was warm by the time he was finished.
His valentine was hung up for all to admire.
The title read “I’m batty for you.”
“Happy Valoween!” Cried the crayons.
The grumpy crayon cracked a smile.
#9 XOXO, YOUR SECRET ADMIRER (LARRY)
I like your hair. You smell like chocolate. Will you be my Valentine?
You smell like chocolate?
How do I love thee? Let me count the sand in the sandbox.
Your face is nice. Like ice cream in the summer. Or hot dogs.
Yours truly, Larry
I love you. Do you love me?
Xoxo, Your Secret Admirer (Larry)
I like you. Do you like me?
Lots of love!
Larry is a great guy.
Miss Petunia Picklebottom,
You’re the rainbow to my dark day.
With all the colors of the world and love in my heart, Larry
What’s up? I was just thinking, maybe, you’d be mine? You know, if that’s cool with you and all.
Laters baby, Lar-dawg
You smell like enchiladas and sour cream.
Meet me at the swings.
#10 No Snacks for Max
Once upon a Valentine,
A grumpy dog began to whine.
He yelped and barked for heart-shaped snacks.
His owners said, “Calm down, dear Max.”
They rubbed his ears. And tummy too.
Then, out the door, the couple flew.
“They’re buying yum yums!” Max was certain.
He sat for hours by the curtain.
Max was angry. Lonely too.
He ate a rose. He chewed a shoe.
He knocked a vase onto the floor.
And that was when he heard the DOOR!
Uncle Harry stepped inside.
“Happy Valentine’s!” he cried.
He plopped his suitcase in the den.
Max’s fit began AGAIN.
He ripped apart a Teddy Bear.
Fuzzy stuffing everywhere!
Harry yelled, “NO TREATS FOR YOU!”
Max went to bed. His dreams were blue.
Harry stayed for one more night.
Max did his best to be polite.
But Max was still a canine grump.
A car door made him jump!
Max’s tail wagged. They were back!
Did they bring his favorite snack?!?
They had a bag. And something blue.
A blanket moved and said, “AH-CHOO!”
“Meet our little sweet bambino!
Also known as Valentino!”
Max was grumpy. Max was glum.
But soon enough, he had a chum.
#11 GRUMPY BADGER’S VALENTINE
Spying a red card with pink hearts inside his mailbox made Badger grumpy.
“I don’t want a Valentine,” he muttered.
Back in his burrow, he folded the offensive red square this way and that, attached a bit of string, and scurried back outside, hoping for a little bit of wind.
Badger’s new kite took flight and flew away. “Good riddance,” he grunted.
The next day the valentine appeared in his mailbox again. Badger felt grumpier.
“Valentines are silly,” he protested.
Back in his burrow, he folded the repulsive red square this way and that, attached a paper clip, and lumbered back outside, hoping for a little bit of wind.
Badger’s new paper airplane took flight and flew away. “Goodbye forever,” he huffed.
The next day the valentine appeared in his mailbox yet again. Badger felt grumpier than ever.
“I don’t like Valentine’s Day!” he grumbled.
Back in his burrow, he folded the horrible red square this way and that, attached a little flag, and scuttled back outside, hoping for a little wind.
Badger’s new boat sailed down the stream and away. “Don’t come back!” he growled.
The next day his neighbor, Lovey Badger, found him on his porch. She kissed him, thanking him for her three valentines.
Badger’s not so grumpy anymore.
#12 THAT’S NOT A VALENTINE!
Drawing time was almost over. Marco sat with his head down on his desk.
“I hate Valentine’s Day!” he grumbled.
His friend Asha leaned over. “You’d better draw something fast. You’re running out of time.”
“I know that!” He scowled. “I just can’t draw a silly heart. . . or much else.”
He stabbed his red paper with a black crayon and drew circles.
Asha giggled. “I’ll make one for you.” In a snap, she drew a perfect heart.
“It’s really good,” he said. “But it’s not big enough.”
He mumbled the words for his mama’s Valentine.
Mrs. Ling clapped. “OK, everyone! Time to clean up!”
Everyone had made a gazillion Valentines. Except Marco. Not even one.
On the way home Asha offered him one of hers.
“No thanks.” He imagined where the words would go.
When they got to his house, he asked Asha, “May I borrow your chalk?”
Mama would be home from work soon.
He drew a huge circle in the middle of the sidewalk.
Standing back, he was pleased.
Asha stared. “That’s not a Valentine!”
“Yes, it is,” said Marco.
Then he wrote words around the circle in a different color:
“MY LOVE FOR YOU IS BIGGER THAN THE WORLD.”
Asha smiled. “Your mama will love it!”
And she did.
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 12PM EST Thursday February 25.
Tune in Friday February 26 to see THE WINNERS!!! (Though we will have a brief contest interruption Wednesday for our regularly scheduled Would You Read It!)
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 on a cruise 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… right after I pick up a dear friend from the train and spend a good portion of the day visiting since she is in my time zone for only a few hours and we have been waiting YEARS to meet in real life! But after that, yes, definitely back to work! 🙂
Have a marvelous Monday everyone!!!