The 6th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest FINALISTS!!! – Vote For Your Favorite!!!

I know, I know!

You’ve been up all night, wearing holes in your carpet, nibbling your nails to nubbins, refreshing your browser every 10 seconds in case the blog notification you’re waiting for somehow needs a nudge to load, picking the clock up to make sure you read it right because YIKES! how long can it BE until MORNING!

And when at last it is actually time for that blog post to arrive. . .

. . .it DOESN’T! (You had to wait until 11 AM!)

(Gnashing of teeth, tearing of hair, rending of garments, howl of frustration! GAH!!!)

I know. I understand. I really do.

Because here, on the other side of the blog post, the other judges and I have spent the past several days (and nights) reading and re-reading 252 amazing, wonderful entries, trying to narrow them down to a mere handful of finalists when there are SO MANY we’d like to choose. It is agony, I tell you, sheer AGONY!

It makes me realize that apparently I am a glutton for more than chocolate! Who knew? I must also be a glutton for punishment to put myself through this every contest!

Because every contest you guys amaze me with your talent and creativity. Each time I think I can’t be more impressed with the entry pool, you prove me wrong.

So. . .

. . .gnashing of teeth, tearing of hair, rending of garments, howl of frustration! GAH!!! and consumption of a LOT of sustaining chocolate and caffeine 😊

Because entering a contest is a kind of practice for submitting to agents and editors, I thought you might be interested to see a bit of breakdown so you know what you’re up against when you submit. This contest (popular as it is 😊) got 252 entries this year – a mere drop in the bucket compared to the number of submissions agents and editors get. Approximately 240 entries had to be cut. Only the tiniest percentage of entries make it to the finalist list. It is even more competitive among agents and editors. I do not say this to discourage you! But it does show how important it is to submit your best work. When making a choice, it is much easier to cut the ones that didn’t follow the submission guidelines, weren’t proofread, have subpar writing mechanics with mistakes in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and word usage, or simply don’t feel special enough to stand out from a crowd of excellent entries.

This contest the entries seemed to fall into topic categories more than usual.

We had many groups of 2 or 3 entries relating to robots, spiders, bees, lions, seeds/flowers, snails/slugs, color blindness, dragons, and zombies.

Then we had bigger groups about:

Birds (4)
Cats (5)
Chickens (5) (I think that was because of the bravery theme 😊)
Grumpy/Scary Neighbor (5)
Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity (6)
Fear of Public Speaking (7)
Nursing Home/Elderly/Ill/Dementia/Dying/Dead Grandparent (8)
Sick/Injured Child (particularly cancer) ((9)
Dogs (10)

(and I don’t claim to have counted exactly right 😊 there may have been a few more in each group)

I thought it might be helpful to you in your continued writing so see how many writers’ minds go in similar directions in order to help you distinguish your writing from that of others by looking for ways to make those topics fresh and new, and to write them in ways that truly enhance the topic and make it shine so that a judge, agent, or editor can’t get it out of her mind. What (for example) will make your dog story funnier, more heartfelt, more original, more…whatever, than the other X number of dog stories it’s up against?

Anyway, with apologies for being unable to winnow the finalist pool to 12 and therefore settling on 14 (which is the number of Valentine’s Day after all 😊) (and yes, I will see if I can scare up two more prizes!) I present to you the finalists in the 2021 Sixth 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 21 at 5 PM 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 tell people you are a finalist.  Please do not ask people to vote for a specific number or title, or for the story about the brave little alien who faced certain peril at the launch of the Valentine Roboblaster 2000 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.  We operate on the honor system.  I thank you in advance for respecting this. Your win will mean more if it’s honestly earned.

So now, here are the 2021 Valentiny Contest Finalists!!! 7 rhyme, 7 prose (total accident!), some for younger readers, some for older (but still kid) readers, some funny, some sweet, some sad, some thought-provoking but all fabulous! 😊

The 6th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest

~ FINALISTS!!! ~

#1 – Percy’s Valentine

“Hello NASA, Percy here,
I’m on approach to Mars.
I’ve come to meet my valentine
out here among the stars.”

Suddenly his dash went dark.
He lost communication.
The rover now was on his own
to reach his destination.

“The next ten minutes are the worst.
It’s called the time of terror.
I’ve calculated all the risks
and have no room for error.”

He used an extra thruster burn,
to slow his rate of speed.
He changed his orbit, pitch, and slope
to plot the course he’d need.

But then alarms began to blare.
He cried, “I’ve overshot!”
His heat shields glowed a brilliant white.
“I’m coming in too hot!”

With only seconds left to save
his Valentine’s Day mission,
he saw “Range Trigger” on a knob,
“That’s how I change position.”

He pulled the knob and felt a thunk,
the parachute deployed.
The sky crane lowered him to Mars
beside another droid.

He smiled at Curiosity.
“I had to persevere.
Please say you’ll be my Valentine,
now that I made it here!”

“Your entrance was spectacular.
It won my heart and soul.”
She said, “We’ll be the best of friends.
Come on, let’s rock and roll.”

#2 – Valentine Delivery

Mail Truck’s engine flutters with nerves. Today is Valentine’s Day and his mailbags are overflowing.

But… snowflakes swirl and twirl around him. Mail Truck has never driven on snowy, slick roads before.

Wheels spinning, he begins his route.
He slips to the left,
then slides to the right.
His shocks shake.
He fogs up in fear.
He carefully shuffles back and parks.

The snow will melt tomorrow. I’ll deliver the valentines then, he thinks. I’m sure nobody will mind.

Across the street, a child darts to her mailbox. She slips in a homemade valentine for pickup. Mail Truck’s tires deflate with guilt.

Further down, an old lady trudges to her mailbox. Seeing it empty, she wipes away a tear. Watching her, Mail Truck’s lights turn red in shame.

Determined, Mail Truck fills his tank.
He turns on his brightest lights.
His wipers zip back and forth.

“My job is to deliver the mail – snow or shine!”

Bravely, he rolls down the street. His heart races as he inches from mailbox to mailbox.

The child runs outside, yelling “Happy Valentine’s Day, Mail Truck!”

When the old lady sees her mail delivered, her face lights up.

On this cold and snowy day, Mail Truck feels warm inside…
and remembers why he loves his job.

#3 – Most Valuable Valentine

This year I’ll make baseball cards instead of valentines,
to honor a brave player who transcended racial lines.
Henry Louis Aaron batted well above his weight,
his legend soaring over those who needled him with hate.

Henry grew up poor but loved, down south in Mobile Bay.
Thwacking bottle caps with sticks, he’d pop them far away.
Though he had no bat or glove, he had great strength within,
but he was barred from Little League because he had dark skin.

Henry’s high school had no team, so he went semi-pro.
When he unspooled his mighty swing, he made the crowd go “Oh!”
Henry slid into home plate, and he’d sew up the win,
yet some hotels and restaurants would not let Henry in.

Henry Aaron never quit, his hopes pinned to his dream,
working hard to do his best, to always help his team.
With his eyes glued on the ball, he’d shut out racist jeers,
and with the cracking of his bat came loud, wholehearted cheers.

Henry was the Home Run King, a diamond for his court.
He rose above the foul done him and championed good sport.
My ball-entines will be a hit, a home run, no debate,
because they’re threaded through with love and not a stitch of hate.

#4 – Stella & Hank

Stella was the perfect cat:
Gorgeous,
And charming,
And oh-so-soft.

She was loved by all,
Especially Hank.

Hank was the perfect dog:
Huge,
And drooly,
And oh-so-playful.

He was loved by everyone…
Except Stella.

Hank tried to win
Stella’s affection
With rope-pulls,
And slobbery bones,
Even his favorite stuffie.

But Stella flattened her ears,
Wrinkled her whiskers,
And turned her tail.

When Hank came near,
Stella’s claws came out.

When Hank whimpered,
Stella HISSSSSSSSED.
When Hank howled a love tune,
Stella SMACKED.
And when he tried to give her a bath…
YIKES!

Poor Hank.

Then, one February day,
Stella
Went
Away
And
Hank
Sighed
And
Waited
And
Sighed
And
Waited
Until…

She finally came back
With a big plastic collar
That went up instead of down.

Stella was sore,
And sad,
And sleepy,
And it broke Hank’s heart.

He gathered his courage,
And his bones,
And his stuffie.

He risked a HISS,
And a SMACK,
And even a SWIPE,
To put his offering at her feet.

Stella opened one eye.
She considered him closely.
And
Scooted
To
The
Right.

Enough room for a large dog
(If he stayed very quiet). Hank barely dared to breathe.
Stella started to purr.
It was the best Valentine’s ever
Because he spent it next to her.

#5 – Octopus Hugs

Octopus was floating by,
when a flyer caught his eye.

Clown fish, dolphins, sting rays, slugs,
are you good at giving hugs?
A Valentine’s Day hug contest.
The prize, a sunken treasure chest!
Contestants, meet at Aqua Park.
Test all your hugs on me!
Love, Shark.

“A treasure chest? Oh what a prize!”
But hug a shark, would that be wise?

With 8 strong arms he’d be the winner,
or he might wind up— shark’s dinner!

He squirmed his way to Aqua Park
to see who dared to hug a shark.

But not one creature stood in line
Only shark—who held a sign.

Hug contest. Enter, please!
I’ve never had a single squeeze.

Shark’s head hung low, he looked so blue,
Octopus knew what to do.

He swam up slowly feeling wary,
shark was big, and very scary!

He stretched his shaking arms out wide,
and whispered, “Here shark, swim inside.”

He wrapped shark up, all tight and snug,
and gave him the most perfect hug.

“Oh what a hug! The very best!
You win this sunken treasure chest.”

But Octopus had fixed his eyes
on something else, a shark-sized prize!

“Though the treasure chest looks great,
I’d rather win— a new best mate!”

#6 – Untangled Valentines

This Valentine’s day is
tangled
like my hair…
like
my
thoughts.

One last time,
I brush
my bangs.

Put on
the gift
from my sister—
a new red
headband.

She’s been
in the hospital
a lot.

My sister
worries…
no one
will want
to be her
valentine.

My sister
worries…
no one
will think
she is
pretty
anymore.

Clumps
of her hair
fall out—
rest
on her pillow.

Today,
we leave for
another
appointment.

I promise her
—cross my heart—
I will hold
her hand
the whole time…

First,
they tie her hair
into ponytails.

Scissors
snip,
snip.

Then clippers
buzz,
buzz.

My heart beats
ba-boom,
ba-boom,
ba-boom.

What’s left
of her soft curls
fall
to
the
floor.

I clutch her hand.

In minutes
her little head is …
bald.

I blink fast.
Squeeze
my eyes
closed.
And swallow
hard.

Her small mouth
quivers
into a half smile.
“Want to rub my head for good luck?”

I exhale.

Slowly,
I take off
my new headband.

The words
untangle
on
my
tongue.

“Better than that,” I say softly.
“I’m next.”

#7 – The Ballad of Bad Bart

High noon
Western town
Bad Bart stares the sheriff down.

Empty street
Dusty square
Tension crackles in the air

Spurs jangle
Fingers shake
Bad Bart’s heart begins to quake.

Overhead
Buzzards fly
Shadows in the clear blue sky.

Down below
Bad Bart stands
Lasso twisting in his hands

Palms sweaty,
Mouth dry,
Bad Bart catches Sheriff’s eye.

Hesitation –
Can he do it?
Deep breath in–nothing to it!

“Tell me, Sheriff Caroline,
Will you be my Valentine?”

Buzzards pause
Wind stops
Bad Bart’s stomach flips and flops

Sheriff frowns
Seconds drag
Bart’s high hopes begin to sag

Sheriff brightens
Hope revives!
Bad Bart’s dearest wish survives

Sheriff says
to her cowboy
Words that fill his heart with joy:

“Put aside your life of crime–
Then I’ll be your Valentine!”

#8 – Someone Special!

“Yoo-hoo, Blowtorch,” Danny calls into the cave.
A dragon appears. “YAWN! I was napping—what’s up?”

“Tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day. I want to show someone special I’m brave.” Danny waves a striped bag. “Pretend to fight me and these fireball-jawbreakers are yours.”

“Ooo—my favorite.”

Next day—

“Danny,” Princess Dawn says, “are you sure about this? Your Valentine card, flowers, and candy were plenty.”

“But I want you to see I’m brave.”

CLINK—CLANK—CLUNK—

—rattles Danny’s armor as he approaches the cave.

“Come out, fiery dragon—brave knight Sir Danny challenges you!”

Blowtorch appears—

ROARRRR

Danny’s silver sword flashes—Blowtorch’s golden claws rip the air.

“Oh my—” Princess Dawn gasps.

All day they fight like tigers.

“OH MY!” Princess Dawn squeals.

Blowtorch rises onto his back legs, and—

WHOOSHHH

—giant flames flare from his nostrils.

“YYIII!” Danny shrieks.

The flames melt Danny’s armor and burn away his clothes. Stumbling backward, he sprawls on the ground in his charred, smoking underpants.

“OHHH! Blowtorch, why did you do that?”

Blowtorch winks at a dragon with glittering pink scales standing beside Princess Dawn.

Giggling, she waves her silver claws and flutters her violet eyelashes at him. “My handsome, brave dragon-hero.” Blowtorch sighs and flames flare from his nostrils, forming a heart. “I have someone special too!”

#9 – Charmadillo

Charmadillo sniffed the air
And smelled the lovely Shelly there.
She snorted dirt while pigging out.
He loved her soft pink digging snout.

He should say “hi” or “whatcha eating,”
But his heart was loudly beating.
Too shy to speak, he hatched a scheme
To tell sweet Shelly she’s his dream.

He would write some words of love
And pass the note from up above.
“Your snout is pink, your bands are fine,
Won’t you be my Valentine?”

He watched the letter fall below…
But then his fear began to grow.
He tried to snatch it back again,
But it was deep inside her den!

The situation turned him pale.
He rolled himself and hugged his tail.
His armor wasn’t tough enough –
Inside he felt all squirmy stuff.

He tried to dig a hole and hide,
But something stirred from deep inside.
What if his dreadful doubts were wrong,
And sharing feelings made him strong?

He paced nearby for her reply,
Jumping when he heard her cry:
“Charmadillo, I can’t read.
You want a candied centipede?”

The lunch of termites he prepared
Showed his love how much he cared.
She didn’t know the words he wrote,
But showed her love and… ate the note.

#10 – Valentine’s Gotcha Day

Valentine sat in her kennel, nervously thumping her tail against the floor.

Was today the day? She’d gotten her hopes up before, but everyone always said her fur was too scruffy, her nose was a funny shape, and her size was just too much to love.

Day after day, she remained at the shelter, watching families adopt her friends and hoping one day it would be her turn too.

Just then, Valentine’s ears perked up. She heard a girl’s voice. Her heart beat faster as the girl approached.

“Look, Mommy!” The little girl squealed. “Her fur is red! Her nose is shaped like a heart! And there’s a lot of her to love! She’s perfect.”

The little girl knelt down and smiled—the prettiest smile Valentine had ever seen.

Valentine’s eyes pleaded with her. Could this be my Gotcha Day? I’m too scared to even hope. Be brave! She trembled, but she held the little girl’s gaze.

As if the little girl understood, she reached out her hand and gently whispered, “Sweet Valentine, will you be mine?”

Will I ever! Valentine’s fears faded in a split-second and she lunged into the little girl’s arms, peppering her face with wet kisses.

The little girl giggled. “You’re the best Valentine ever!” No, thought Valentine, you are.

#11 – Lemur In Love

Trevor is an AYE-AYE and he’s ready for some love.
But sadly he’s so SHY-SHY, hiding in the leaves above.
He’s got his eyes on Rita, it feels more than just a whim.
But what if she won’t love a scruffy GUY-GUY just like him?

Trevor knows that AYE-AYEs aren’t the handsomest of males.
He gives a great big SIGH-SIGH as he polishes his nails.
But maybe looks aren’t everything, he needs to make her see
The fluffy little TIE-TIE wearing GUY-GUY up the tree.

Trevor must impress her but an AYE-AYE’s skills are few.
He gives a mournful CRY-CRY. He just hasn’t got a clue.
But then a lightbulb moment, Trevor’s great at French cuisine!
He’ll bake a splendid PIE-PIE, soon she’ll be his jungle queen!

Trevor looks up HIGH-HIGH where the moon is shining clear.
He makes his way to Rita, trying hard to show no fear.
He offers her his PIE-PIE, Rita smiles then takes a bite
And hearts begin to FLY-FLY on this very special night.

#12 – Valentine’s Day Rocks

“Time for show-and-tell!” Ms. Carla announced. “Who wants to share their Valentine’s Day craft first?”

Arms sprang toward the ceiling like balloons. But Roger’s hands stayed hidden inside his sweatshirt.

Dylan held up a homemade flower. “I painted pasta for the petals and used a pipe cleaner for the stem.”

Then Jade chimed in. “Mine is a clothespin butterfly with glitter tissue paper for wings.”

Roger’s fingers fidgeted inside his pocket while the others went around the circle — each project more colorful than the last.

Marjorie nudged Roger. “Psst. Your turn.”

His face turned as red as the rose on his teacher’s desk.

“Roger, did you forget yours at home?” asked Ms. Carla.

He cradled something in his palm, weighing what to do next.

Marjorie leaned over and whispered, “It’s okay. I don’t have craft supplies at my place either.”

Roger took a deep breath and showed the plain rock to the class. “I read a library book about penguins who give out pebbles like people do with candy when they like somebody.”

When the students giggled, Marjorie jumped up to distract them with her project: a bent and twisted paperclip.

“This is my heart,” she beamed. “I’m giving it to the bravest person I know.”

Roger scooted closer to Marjorie. “Psst. You rock.”

#13 – Brave Little Friends

Little raccoon spent all afternoon
making cards that he’d soon give away.
For tomorrow at three, the forest would be
all a twitter for Valentine’s Day.

He put names on each card and tried very hard
to make certain that all were included.
Then Raccoon had a thought that maybe he ought
to give one to his friend who’s secluded.

Poor Mr. Bear, was quite unaware
of the Valentine’s Day celebration.
He was curled in heap, in a winter deep sleep—
his annual bear hibernation.

Little Raccoon arrived around noon
to deliver the card to Bear’s cave.
He shivered and shook as he took a quick look;
he knew that he had to be brave.

He set the card down by the bear—big and brown,
then left in a tippy-toed dance.
His friends all stood near shaking with fear,
“Why would you take such a chance?”

“Cause he’s my friend, too, and so wouldn’t you
like to make a kind gesture toward Bear?”
The rest found their “brave” and went to the cave
to leave goodies and cards everywhere.

When Bear opened his eyes and saw the surprise,
he knew the exact words to say.
“Friends…
I’m very elated to wish you a ‘Belated’ but
Most Happy Valentine’s Day!”

#14 – Jana’s Valentine Visit

Almost there.
Mom sings along to love songs on the radio as she drives.
Jana stares down at her sparkly red fingernails.
They match her Valentine’s Day dress.
She thinks about last time,
even though she doesn’t want to.
How scared she’d been.
The strange smells,
scary sounds,
sad faces.
Jana shivers.
She doesn’t want to go back there today.
When the car stops,
Jana feels her breath catch.
“I’m scared,” she whispers.
“I’ll be with you,” Mom says.
Jana carries her valentine in shaking hands.
They step
up the sidewalk,
through the sliding doors.
Inside.
The strange smells,
scary sounds,
sad faces.
Again.
Jana swallows.
She slides behind Mom,
tries not to breathe,
or hear,
or see.
Outside Gram’s room, they pause.
“See? You’re OK,” Mom says.
Jana nods, her face hot.
She goes to Gram’s bed.
“Happy Valentine’s Day,” she whispers.
Gram’s same small smile.
Jana places the valentine in Gram’s hands.
“Thank . . . you,” Gram murmurs.
She grabs Jana’s hand and squeezes.
Jana gasps.
“Pretty. . . nails,” Gram whispers.
Jana smiles. “Sparkly red like valentines. It’s your favorite holiday.”
Gram nods.
“Gram?” Jana says. “Want me to paint your nails, too?”
Gram’s face lights up.
Jana’s hands don’t shake at all as she begins to paint.


Please vote for your favorite in the poll below by Sunday February 21 at 5 PM Eastern time.

Tune in Monday February 22 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’m going to . . .

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. . . . 😴 😴 😴

(right after I see what I can do about 2 more prizes so all these well-deserving finalists get they’re just desserts 😊)

Have a thrilling Thursday, everyone!

The 2020 Holiday Contest Finalists Are HERE! Vote For Your Favorite!

Hi there!

Happy Monday!

You’re probably wondering if you’re in the right place since, if you’re like the rest of the civilized world, you woke up thinking it was Tuesday.

But Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.

We (imaginative bunch that we are) are going to join in collectively choosing to believe that it is still Monday because that’s when I said I would post the Holiday Contest finalists. And by gum. . . I almost managed it!

So close!

About three more hours and I would have pulled it off.

You’re probably also wondering what happened to my hair!

Turns out that gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair is a real thing when you have to read and judge 223 AMAZING Holiday Contest Entries and cut 211 of them to get down to 12 finalists! Ouch!

So here I am, one day before the first real snowstorm in ages is predicted to occur, which is not a good time to be suddenly bald, looking like I could be Humpty Dumpty’s sister (in more ways than one 😊) but there you have it.

I think I will set a new trend.

(You know how fashion forward I am!)

I will be wearing my Santa hat at all times for the foreseeable future 😊

Feel free to join me!

You lose 7 to 10 % of your body heat through your head, you know, and it’s probably more when you have no hairsulation. Santa hats are our friends. 🤶

Have a great day, everyone!

Remember to wear your hats!

See you soon 😊

What?

Oh!

Darn!

See?

I KNEW I’d forget something!

You came for a reason!

It’s time to announce the finalists for. . .

THE 10TH ANNUAL HOLIDAY CONTEST!!!

~ for children’s writers ~

So, I just want to say three little things before I post the actual finalists (shocking, I know, because normally I’m so quiet you can hardly get a word out of me 😊😊)

First, I want to thank EVERYONE who took the time and care to write an entry for this contest.  You all did a fabulous job and provided great enjoyment for many!

Second, I’d also like to thank EVERYONE – writer, reader, or both – who took the time to go around and read as many entries as you could and leave supportive comments.  This means so much to the writers who worked hard on their stories.  It helps them see what they did well, as well as giving them the joy of knowing that their stories were read and enjoyed.  I hope you all got as much delight  and entertainment out of the reading as I did!  Plus, we got to meet quite a few new people which was a wonderful added bonus! 😊

Third, I want to reiterate how difficult it was too choose!  There were so many amazing entries.  Really.  I could find at least something terrific about every single one.  The sheer volume of entries meant that many good ones had to be cut.  So if yours didn’t make the final cut please don’t feel bad.  There was a huge amount of competition.  Judging, no matter how hard we try to be objective, is always subjective at a certain point – we all have our own preferences for what makes a great story.  And the fact that you didn’t make the final cut DOES NOT mean you didn’t write a great story.  Everyone who plonked their butt in a chair and worked hard to write a story for this contest is a winner!  You showed up.  You did your best work.  You practiced your craft.  You wrote to specifications and a deadline.  You bravely shared your writing with the world.  And you have a brand new story that is now yours to revise, expand, and polish if you like and maybe submit at some point to a magazine or as a PB manuscript.  A lot of people have successfully done that at this point – we have quite a few books in the world that were born in Halloweensie, Holiday, or Valentiny Contests, plus a chapter book series that came out of the Fractured Fairy Tale Contest one spring!  So bravo to everyone who entered!

You will recall the judging criteria:

  • 1. Kid-appeal! – These stories are intended for a young audience (ages 12 and under), so we’re looking for stories that children will enjoy and relate to.
  • 2.  Holiday Helpers! – the rules state a Holiday Helper story, so it must be crystal clear that the story is about someone helping someone else in some way during Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, New Year’s, or whatever seasonal winter holiday you choose.  The story must center on helping  – the help must not be just an offhand mention/reference in a story about something else.
  • 3. Quality of story – entries must tell a story, including a main character of some kind and a true story arc even if it’s tiny 😊  Entries must not be merely descriptions or mood pieces.
  • 4. Quality of Writing: check your spelling, grammar, punctuation etc.  If you’re going to rhyme, give us your best 😊  Overall writing quality and use of language are also important.
  • 5. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.

As I said above, you all did a stellar job – there were no bad stories.  But we had to pick the 12 we thought were the all-around best on all 5 counts listed.  (12 because we have 12 prizes)

So, without further ado, I present to you the 2020 Holiday Contest Finalists.  A mix of poetry and prose, stories for younger readers and slightly older (but still kid) readers, funny, poignant, sweet, and cute.  Please read through them carefully, take your time, think it over, and vote for your favorite.  To help with objectivity, finalists are listed by title only, not by author.

And I’d like to be very clear about the voting process.  You are MOST welcome to share a link to this post on FB, twitter, or wherever you like to hang out, and encourage people to come read ALL the finalists and vote for the one they think is best.  Please do that.  The more people who read and enjoy these stories the better, and the more objective votes we get the better.  HOWEVER (and I want to be very clear on this) please do not identify yourself or ask others to identify you as a finalist on social media, please do not ask people to vote for a specific number or title, and please do not ask people to vote for the story about the unicorn-riding gingerbread princess or whatever.  Trolling for votes or trying to influence the outcome is counter to the spirit of this competition which is supposed to be based on merit.  I thank you in advance for respecting this.

So here we go! Read! Enjoy! VOTE! 😊

1. A SPARK OF FRIENDSHIP

[Note: “Shamash” is pronounced “shah-MAHSH”]

The menorah’s “helper candle,” the Shamash, as she is known,
has never ever asked for help. She likes to work alone.
For all eight nights of Hannukah, Shamash ignites each candle.
“A gust of wind? A sneeze? A fan? There’s nothing I can’t handle!”
Shamash can’t wait to start night one! She’s luminous and strong!
She dazzles on the second night and hums The Dreidel Song.
Night three arrives. Shamash continues beaming, all aglow.
But on night four she flickers, fades. Her pacing starts to slow.
Her blaze begins to dim night five. She fights with all her might.
But on night six, she’s feeling faint. “I…mustn’t…lose…my….light!”
The seventh night, Shamash is snuffed. She’s lost all spunk and spark.
“I blew it! I’m extinguished!” she says, sobbing in the dark.
“Need a light?” A voice calls out from up upon the shelf.
“You mustn’t feel you need to do this job all by yourself!”
A little lighter flicks a flame, announcing: “Hi, I’m Bic!”
“And I’m Shamash!” She brightens, as he lights her wilted wick.
Shamash, at last, alight again, illuminates the rest.
She beams as all eight candles gleam. “I love night eight the best!
“Oh, Bic! You are a miracle! You saved our holiday!”
“I’m happy I could help,” he says, then tucks his torch away.
Shamash prefers to work alone. “But this year, I’ll admit,
that thanks to you, my new friend Bic, this Hannukah is LIT!”

2. The Christmas Owl

In the darkness of the forest,
the young owl swooped,
plunging his talons
through powdery snow.

In the warmth of a fire
Dara gazed at Christmas lights
dancing a rainbow
on the wintery world.
A shadow of wings flickered by.

An owl?

* * *

Dara’s footsteps were silent
as she walked between the trees.


She stopped,
staring in awe.
An impression in the snow,
a perfect pair of wings.

An owl?

* * *

Freezing rain fell,
coating every surface in crystal.
Dara explored,
marveling at the frozen world.
A shadow caught her eye.
A stooped shape!
An owl!

She tiptoed closer.
She watched, still and silent.
Her toes went numb.
The owl didn’t move.

Was it hurt?
Did it need help?

“I’ll be right back!” Dara whispered.

* * *

When Kaylee, the wildlife expert, arrived,
they watched the owl together.
“When the snow forms a crust,” she murmured,
“young owls can’t punch through to catch their prey.
They get too hungry to hunt,
too hungry to move.”

Dara’s heart felt as icy
as the world around her.
Would the owl be OK?
Was she too late?

Kaylee crept
towards the owl.
She enveloped him in a blanket,
gently placed him in a box.
Dara’s sigh of relief
made a puff in the wintery air.

* * *

On Christmas eve,
the ice melted.
Kaylee called.

At dusk,
they walked
into the dripping woods.

Kaylee held the owl high,
gently relaxed her grip.

The owl flew!

“Merry Christmas!”
whispered Dara to the empty forest.

3. CHRISTMAS IMPOSSIBLE: AN UNQUIET NIGHT

‘Twas the night before Christmas
and all through the house
not a creature was stirri –

“Wait – what’s that noise?” Santa whispered and paused placing presents.
Chitter, chatter. Squeak!

“There it is again!” Santa froze and cupped his hand to his ear.
Chitter, chatter. Squeak!

“Oh no,” the jolly man groaned.
“That sounds like a-
SQUIRREL!”

Santa dialed the Christmas Tree Hotline.
The switchboard lit up like Rudolph’s red nose on a dark night.
“We’ve got a code 57,” stated Santa.
“Dispatching Elf Squirrel Division now, Sir.”

Gears, Ginger, Twinkle and Bob set their Santa Map coordinates
and dashed out through the frosty flakes.

They reached the house and whooshed down the chimney.
“So – ho happy you’re here,” said Santa.
“Glad to help,” said Gears.
They got to work while Santa snacked by the fire.

The elves climbed the tree
but
the squirrel scurried higher.
The elves swooped down from the star
but
the squirrel hid deeper.
Even Bob’s “never fail” tinsel lasso trick
failed!

“We’re doomed!” cried Twinkle.
“Is it snack time?” said Bob.
“Sweet sugar plums that’s it!” cheered Ginger.

She set a trail of cookie crumbs down the tree.

The squirrel sniffed.
It crept closer.
Then…
MUNCH!

Crumb by crumb it climbed down and into the open carrier.
“Thanks team,” said Santa and up the chimney he rose.

The elves flew to the forest where
the squirrel found the perfect pine.

Meanwhile at another house-
“Finally,” sighed Santa. “Peace and –“

Chitter, chatter. Squeak!

4. FIRLING’S FRIEND

Firling breathed in the cold, crisp breeze. Though he stood only as tall as the park bench beside him, he could still sense the yuletide in the air.
Firling’s thin branches stood still. He could hear the warm laughter in the snow covered park.
His scarce pine needles vibrated with joy as the sweet notes of Christmas carols echoed off the frozen pond.
‘Tis the season! Firling thought.
Soon I’ll be dressed in my Christmas best!

Firling watched as rows of nearby trees were adorned with colorful ornaments.
Yards of beautiful garland twisted and twirled around his tree neighbors.
Bright stars twinkled and angels perched atop trees as far as Firling could see.
Who will decorate me? Firling worried.

Suddenly a small girl approached.
“Aw! Poor, little tree! You’re the only bare one in the park.”
Firling felt his bare branches sag.
“Oh Christmas Tree, I can help! You stay right here! I’ll be back!”

Time passed and Firling began to worry that the girl wouldn’t come back.
As the sun was just starting to set, the girl returned.
Carefully, she hung hand cut paper hearts from Firling’s branches.
She wrapped long strands of braided yarn from trunk to tree top.
Finally, she placed a brightly painted cardboard star on Firling’s highest branch.
The girl beamed at her work.

“Oh, little tree! How lovely are your branches!”
The little girl flashed Firling one last smile, before heading down the sidewalk.
Here I am, Firling thought. Dressed in my Christmas best!

5. Waddle Santa Do This Christmas?

The elves are tired out and in elf-isolation,
They’ve worked all year long with no chance of vacation.
Poor Santa is worried, but what can he do?
He opens a letter that’s come from the Zoo!

Dear Santa, We’re bored as the zoo is in lockdown.
Apart from the keepers the place is a ghost town!
The Penguins at London Zoo love Christmas cheer!
So, please can we help with your presents this year?
With very best wishes and warm fishy kisses,
Your best friends the Gentoo penguins

On reading the note Santa conjured a scheme,
To rest up his elves and bring on the new team.

My dear Gentoo Penguins, I think that sounds swell!
The elves will adore this, and I will as well!
I’ll send down my reindeer, who have herd immunity,
They’ll pick you up — what a great opportunity!

And everyone had such a wonderful day,
The penguins wrapped presents, and packed up the sleigh.
The elves made hot chocolate and played in the snow,
Then baked penguin shapes out of gingerbread dough.
The penguins all hope to go back there one day,
And the elves will come visit the zoo, so they say.
In the end for this Christmas it turned out alright,
Merry Christmas to all and make sure you sleep tight!

6. The Solstice Tree

Owl watches as
sunlight dims to a simmer, and
starlight scatters across snowdust.  
Tonight is the longest night. 
Solstice is here. 

He swoops down 
and calls from his perch in the frosted pine,
Whooo can help me shine the light, 
Share gifts of hope on this long night?

I can help to shine the light!
Squirrel places nuts on branches, 
gifts of hope for a plentiful harvest. 

I can help to shine the light! 
Duck tucks feathers amongst the boughs, 
gifts of hope for cozy warmth. 

I can help to shine the light!
Fox props icicles alongside pinecones, 
gifts of hope for flowing energy. 

I can help to shine the light!
Rabbit sprinkles bits of bark, 
gifts of hope for strength and safety. 

I can help to shine the light!
Chickadee wraps grasses round and round, 
gifts of hope for rest and ease. 

Bounding, waddling, soaring, hopping 
They frolic and feast 
around the tree.
Until… 

Footsteps thump. 
Twigs snap. 
Everyone freezes. 
A girl squeals, “Animals! And a beautiful tree!” 
Rabbit trembles. “Should we run?”

Owl shakes his head and winks an eye. 
Her wonder is a gift of light,
and hope for all 

on this dark night.

7. The Twelve Sleighs of Christmas

Santa’s arm hurt, and his sleigh was kaput—
One runner bent sideways—all covered in soot.

A rooftop collision had totaled his rig.
One tiny mistake that turned out to be big.   

He had only been trying to test some new gear—
To practice his landing for Christmas this year.

This awful dilemma stirred up the north pole. 
Poor jolly old Santa —an unlucky roll! 

But the elves didn’t fret, and they shouted with glee,   
“Oh, don’t worry Santa, we’ve got a plan B!”

“Your sled may be broken, and so is your arm,
But wood from your sleigh wreck has true Christmas charm.”

“We’ve already hammered and chiseled for days.
Our elf crew has fashioned these twelve brand new sleighs.”

Sleighs one through three glowed with holly green paint—  
Dressed up with berries, all simple and quaint.

Sleighs four through six sported stripey red flames—
A curvy design stamped with all the elf names.

Sleighs seven through nine all sparkled like snow—
Cup holders for cocoa and revving to go.

Sleighs ten through twelve were bedecked to look bright— 
Festive with light bulbs—they sparkled with light.

The elves gathered gifts—from small to quite large.
They hooked up the reindeer—now they were in charge! 

These holiday helpers would rescue the day—
Subbing for Santa with twelve jolly sleighs.

Zipping up in the sky, they sang out from their flight,
“Merry Christmas to all and to all an elf night!”

8. CHRISTMASAURUS HEX

Wanda looked out the window. It was Halloween, but there wasn’t a skeleton in sight, just Santas and strings of colorful lights. “Christmas season starts earlier every year,” Wanda grumbled. “But this time they’ve gone too far.” 

For the next 55 days, Wanda planned and plotted and prepared a spell to ruin Christmas.

On Christmas morning, Wanda took a candy cane and waved her wand. “Halloween was skipped, and so I’m vexed. Give me a monster that runs, roars, and wrecks.” 

POOF!

Wanda clapped as a Christmasurus appeared. “Come with me and help,” she cackled. 

But when the Christmasaurus ran through town, everyone smiled. 

“You’re fast,” a child said. “Please pull our sled.” The Christmasaurus was happy to help. 

Wanda grumbled and waved her wand. Needs to be louder.

POOF!

But when the Christmasaurus roared, everyone cheered. “Your voice is the perfect pitch,” a caroler said. “Please sing with us.” The Christmasaurus was happy to help.  

Wanda grumbled and waved her wand again. Needs to be bigger. 

POOF!

But when the Christmasaurus went to wreck the tree, everyone looked relieved.  “You’re just the right height,” the mayor said. “Please put the star on top.” The Christmasaurus was happy to help.  

Wanda flew home fuming. 

The Christmasaurus followed with a note from the mayor.

“Dear Wanda,” it read. “Thank you for the holiday helper. I hope to see you both at the Christmas party. P.S. Sorry we missed Halloween.”  Wanda grinned. “Why not?” she said. “I do like parties.”

9. The Christmas Corgi

Dash, the Christmas corgi,
Tries so hard to do his part.
He might be small in stature, 
But he has a helpful heart!
But Dash can’t wrap the presents.
He’s too short to trim the trees.
And if he tries to shovel snow –  
His stubby legs will freeze!
The cookies are too tempting,
And he can’t quite reach the lights.
And have you ever heard a corgi…
Singing “Silent Night?”
He can’t harness the reindeer,
Or help put together toys.
And Dash can’t read the letters 
Sent by all the girls and boys.
He’s too small to pull Santa’s sled;
His nose will never glow.
So Dash can’t shine the way
Through storms of swirling, blowing snow.
But if you’ve had a long, hard night,
Of flying through the cold…
If climbing down chimneys and stairs 
has left you feeling old…
If you need something soft and warm 
to help you get some rest…
For snuggles, fluff, and love,
A Christmas corgi is the best!

10. NOT TOO LITTLE

I tried to help bake
While Mom answered the door
But SPLAT! Cookie dough spilled
All over the floor!

I tried putting lights
On the tree for my Dad
But I couldn’t reach high enough
It was so sad!

“You’re still just too little
To help us right now
But maybe next year
You can help us somehow!”

“Too little, too little
That’s all that I hear
I don’t want to wait
Until Christmas next year!”

Too little, too little,
Too little I’m not!
I know I can help
I just need the right spot!

Then Christmas Eve came
We had all gone to bed.
We were all in our dreams
Cookies danced through my head

My daddy snoozed, snoring
Mom mumbled in sleep
And my little brother
Was counting his sheep

When out of my slumber
I woke with a yelp
A clamorous crash!
Someone needed my help!

I bounded from bed
And raced into the den
As the clock struck twelve
I caught sight of HIM!

He was setting the Christmas tree
Back up and then…
I saw it was Santa!
White beard on his chin!

“I’m just bit late
Do a favor for me?
Fill up the stockings?
Put gifts ‘round the tree?”

“Yes sir!” I shouted!
“Just leave it to me!”
“Thanks for the help,”
Santa shouted with glee!

Up the chimney he went
And jumped into his sleigh
“Great helper!” I heard
As he went on his way!

11. Let it Grow! Let it Grow! Let it Grow!

Oh the weather outside was dreary
And the plants were looking weary.
Poor Santa was filled with woe.
“They won’t grow! They won’t grow! They won’t grow!”

“A Venus fly-trap for Tommy,
And a String of Pearls for Mommy?!
Their progress is much too slow!
They won’t grow! They won’t grow! They won’t grow!”

Rudolph finally came one night.
“How plants hate being out in a storm!
Northern climate just isn’t right–
The leaves and the roots should be warm!”

They ran around helter-skelter
And devised to build a shelter.
“Protected from ice and snow,
They will grow, they will grow, they will grow!”

Well they didn’t show signs of perking.
“Oh no, it isn’t working!”
“Dear Santa, don’t feel so low.
They will grow! They will grow! They will grow!”

“It’s not enough to be cozy.”
So Rudolph lit his nosey.
The greenhouse was set aglow.
“There they go! There they go! There they go!”

Santa finally cheered “Hooray!
Rudy’s light has again saved the day!
Little Tom and his mom will cheer,
And I can grow plants through the year!”

When the weather outside is nippy
Santa’s garden still looks zippy.
“With a greenhouse and Rudolph’s glow,
Let it snow! Let it blow! They will grow!”

12. The Sleigh-Awake Band

Santa packs up his sled for the long night ahead,
of lifting and gifting and being well-fed.
The cookies and milk make the big guy feel tired,
(but staying awake for his job is required!).

ZZZZZZZZZZ….

The sleigh teeters left and then sails to the right,
and loops through the air like a runaway kite.
The reindeer are dizzy, the presents are sliding –
“It’s time” shout the elves (who had all been in hiding).

Jingle’s on cymbals and Jangle’s on cello.
The sound shakes the sleigh just like jiggly jell-o.
Now Santa is stirring. Noelle grabs a drum,
and RAT-A-TAT-TATS til’ her thumbs become numb.

Then Eve heaves her tuba and gives it a blast.
BOOM, BOOM “Wake up Santa, and please make it fast!”
WHOOOSH! Just in time. He grabs hold of the reins.
The sleigh soars up high, past the birds and the planes.

The Sleigh-Awake Band jams across the night sky.
“You rock!” Santa shouts with a gleam in his eye.
You helped me make presents, baked cookies and cake,
but you helped me the most when you kept me awake!

Now, each Christmas Eve, Santa makes sure to pack
the Sleigh-Awake Band to help keep him on track!
BOOM BOOM, RATTLE RATTLE, A RAT-A-TAT TAT!
They’re off to spread joy with the tip of his hat….

Now YOU get to enjoy the agony of decision as you try to choose which of those amazing entries to vote for! You’re going to need that Santa hat!

Please vote for the entry you feel deserves to win in the poll below by 7PM EST Thursday December 17th.

Tune in Friday December 18th to see THE WINNERS!!! – same bat time, same bat station 😊

Thank you all so much for taking the time to write (if you did), read, and vote!  These contests simply wouldn’t be what they are without all of you!

I truly cannot wait to see who you choose as the winner!  Good luck!!! 😊

The 2020 Halloweensie Finalists Are Here. . . At Last!

You know, I really like to be trendy.

You’ve probably noticed that about me.

Always with the most up-to-date, hip fashions, always with my finger on the pulse of current events, absolute master of the newest technology (snort! ok, I can’t pull any of these off with a straight face 😊)

But today, I am trendy.

Why? you may ask.

Because as some of you may have noticed, voting is extremely trendy this week.

It’s all anyone is talking about. Going to vote, talking about how you voted, counting votes, speculating about the outcome of votes, waiting for the outcome of votes. . .

And just when you were worried you might run out of voting-related things to do and discuss, I have something else for you to vote on in the nick of time so you don’t go into voting withdrawal 😊 . . .

The 2020 Halloweensie Contest Finalists!

After many grueling days of reading the 289 fabulous entries you submitted and being forced to winnow them down to 12 (oh! cruel and terrible fate!), (interrupted only by our obsession with following the election coverage which lost us all a big part of Tuesday and is responsible for why the finalists didn’t get posted sooner) my fellow judges and I are mere skeletons, creeping toward bed now that our work is done, and waiting for YOU to unmask the winner! (See what I did there? 😊)

There were SO MANY well-written, fabulous, entertaining, delightful, and spooky entries.  In order to pick 12 for you to vote on we had to put aside literally hundreds, many of which were of equal quality.  So I recognize that many of you may feel you would have chosen differently.  I get that.  In the final analysis, try as we might to be objective, an element of subjectivity almost has to come in to play in order to choose between multiple entries of similar quality.  Please know we admire everyone for their talent, throughly enjoyed every story we read, and that we did the best we could.

12 entries made the finals.

277 did not.

A mere 4.15% made it to the top.  If you’re in that 4.15%, give yourself a congratulatory handshake.  If you’re not, rest assured you’re in extremely good company. (And if you’d like to question how I arrived at 4.15% because I failed to Show My Work, please don’t because I’m pretty sure I invented some “math” to arrive at that number. Math is not my strong suit unless it’s If Susanna had one of those gorgeous boxes containing 6 Godiva chocolates, what percentage did she eat? because that answer is always 100% 😊)

We were ruthless about some things because we simply had to be.

(Following is the part where I remind you of the judging criteria and rationalize, explain, and apologize for the fact that we had to cut some of you even though you’re awesome – it is not required reading unless you need a little emotional bolstering before you look at who the elite 12 are – feel free to skip a bit, Brother Maynard 😊)

The judging criteria were clear:

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.  Same for entries where the appeal, humorous or otherwise, seemed more directed toward adult readers than children.

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. Unfortunately, as always seems to happen, there were some stories that could have taken place at any time – not specifically Halloween. Two of the entries all the judges loved fell into this category – we were SO disappointed not to be able to include them with the finalists.

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.  There were a lot of problems in this department, and since the competition was so fierce, we did cut people for punctuation, capitalization, spelling, and word usage errors, as well as for relatively minor glitches in meter – one or two lines that threw the rhythm off – because there were so many that were perfect.

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 in spite of the warning, still failed to really tell a story.  This is SO TOUGH in 100 words – I totally get it.  But some people managed better than others.  There were any number of entries that were superbly written that we wanted to choose, but when we got right down to it, there really just wasn’t much story… not compared to some of the other entries that really managed to tell one.  They were more descriptions, lists, or mood pieces.  So as awesome as they were, we had to make some very hard calls.  A couple were too adult.  Some, because of the cruelly limiting word count were a little hard to follow.  Some of the rhyming ones we really liked were too off-meter to make the cut.  Some entries were just so close, but missed out because of one relatively small thing!  GAH!  So hard!

(There is nothing like reading through so many to give you an editor’s perspective.  Read through 300+ stories and you’ll quickly see how there can be A LOT that are really quite good, so there has to be something to make them stand out.  Something that sets them apart from the ocean of very-strong-nothing-particularly-wrong-with-them-but-nothing-that-makes-you-say-WOW submissions.  It will make you realize exactly how important it is to make your manuscript fresh and heart -or mind-capturing in some way. You want yours to be the submission the editor (or contest judge) can’t stop thinking about.😊)

So now, just quick before we get to the finalists, 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 one final time how truly difficult it was too narrow such a field!  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.   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.  A lot of people have successfully done that at this point – we have quite a few books in the world that were born or had new life breathed into them in Halloweensie, Holiday, or Valentiny Contests!  So bravo to everyone who entered!

So, without further ado, I present to you the 2020 Halloweensie Contest Finalists.  A mix of poetry and prose (weirdly weighted toward rhyme – just the way it panned out), 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 werewolf Snow White or whatever.  Trolling for votes or trying to influence the outcome is counter to the spirit of this competition which is supposed to be based on merit.  I thank you in advance for respecting this.

So here we go!

#1 – A Night Out…

This will be fun
I’ll just jump in the dish,
Like a chocolate delight
Or a red Swedish Fish.

No one will notice
I’m not like my peers,
As I creep through the wrappers
Without any fears.

All the skeletons, witches,
And mask wearing folk,
Will think I’m a treat
It’s my little joke.

That all of the children
Perhaps parents too,
Will happily eat me
I’m one of the crew.

I did it! I did it!
I’m sly like a fox,
“Hey raisin,” Twix shouts.
“Get back in your box.”

#2 – TRICK OR TEETH

She flits through the air
in the still of the night,
once tricksters and treaters
have turned out the light.

No cape on her shoulders,
no mask on her eyes,
a dusting of magic
provides her disguise.

She slips by the skeletons
guarding the door
and creeps past the pumpkins
while Mom and Dad snore.

At last she approaches
the head of the bed.
In search of a tooth,
she discovers instead…

the fang of a goblin—
half-rotten and green!
The Tooth Fairy wishes
she skipped Halloween.

#3 – Hola Halloween!                     

Morty McCreak was a skeleton freak
who just didn’t dig darkness or doom.
The mere squeak of a rat or the flap of a bat
sent him clattering out of the room.

Halloween Balls made him put up his walls
and a creep-tastic mask wasn’t fun –
Trick or Treat was a strain, so he jumped on a plane
to go whiten his bones in the sun.

Morty was shocked, his bones pleasantly rocked,
all the beaches and streets were alive.
This ol’ Mexican rave brought some glitz to the grave,
Yep, this ‘Day of the Dead’ was his jive!

#4 – Bones: A Love Story

“A Halloween Ball!” Lafta longingly sighed,
“What clever maneuver could get me inside?”
(For Mummy decorum expressly forbade
A Skeleton guest at the Mum-masquerade.)
Undaunted, she crept in at seven o’clock,
Impeccably swathed in a masking tape frock.
She charmed the Queen’s son with a sweet pirouette.
“I might,” Lafta whispered, “Fool everyone yet!”
But catching her tape on a dowager’s shroud,
Her costume unraveled in front of the crowd!
The onlookers gasped—but their host cracked a grin,
“Your wrappings were hiding the treasure within.”
Their boundless romance has endured ever since,
The skeleton girl and her Halloween prince.

#5 – Halloween Surprise

Tonight was Halloween and Jojo was upset.

She had a costume she had made herself. She wore her sparkly pink tutu, a skeleton shirt, bones cut out of cardboard and a mask decorated with glitter.

But there was no trick or treating in her neighborhood.

To make matters worse, it stormed outside.

Suddenly she heard a horrible shrieking sound.

Were the Halloween monsters coming?

Would they creep up on her in the darkness?

She looked out the window …

and quickly opened the door to a tiny wet, black kitten.

She cuddled him close. “Maybe Halloween has come to me.”

#6 – THE ELETONKS                                                                     

A skeleton’s job on Halloween night

is making kids scream with terrible fright.

But this Halloween, poor skeleton stumbled,

as he crept down the hill, and got totally jumbled.

Now, eletonks’ bones are all out of place.

A mask full of tarsals makes up his face.

His femurs are feet. His skull’s near his knee.

His spine’s tangled up where his left arm should be.

His fidgety fingers hang down from his thighs,

and two broken ribs poke out of his eyes.

So, giggle at eletonks. Trust me you’d tremble

if skeleton’s bones could just

reassemble.

#7 – A SCARE A SKULL A SKELETON

a scare

            a skull

                        a skeleton

                                    I clatter down the street

a creep

            a crawl

                        a caterwaul                                    

I’m knocking for a treat

a rant

            a rave

                        an open grave                                    

I wear a scary mask

a trick

            a treat

                        a something sweet                                    

I TAKE! (and NEVER ask)

a bugaboo

            a witch’s brew

                        the treat I took is cursed…

a salty lick

            a yuck

                        an ick                                    

my brother is the WORST!

a snore

            a sleep

                        a sneaky peek                                    

a tippy-toe attack

a spider…

            SCREAM!

                        its Halloween                                    

and—yep!—I got him back


#8 – A Hollow Halloween  

’Tis Halloween night and next to the church,
Old skeletons exit their tombs with a lurch.

They creep through the graveyard and into the streets,
armed with a trick to get themselves treats.

Pretending they’re kids wearing costumes and masks,
they go door-to-door, holding out their big sacks.

When the candy’s collected, they scurry away,
dying to feast on their sugar buffet.

Gobbling up jawbreakers, chocolates and gummies,
they get mad when the treats fall right out of their tummies.

With no tongues in their heads and no sense of taste,
all that work getting candy was sadly…a waste!

#9 – MARINE HALLOWEEN

Deep in the ocean there’s quite a commotion;
what nautical nightmare is this?
Curious creatures with spine-chilling features
are slithering through the abyss…

With his powerful claws and his snippy-snap jaws,
skeleton shrimp creeps along.
Slimy and squirming, now hagfish comes worming
her way through the sinister throng.

An inky-black cape, a mean, mask-like shape –
vampire squid joins the pack.
Fangtooth soon follows, she lunges and swallows,
devouring a flavoursome snack.

With a flurry of fins, the party begins;
behold the spectacular scene!
So what’s this commotion deep down in the ocean?
That’s right – it’s Marine Halloween!

#10 – The Brown, Brown Boots on the Cold, Cold Floor  

I was slurping soup on Halloween night
When…
KNOCK…..KNOCK…..KNOCK
“Who is it?”

Creeeeeeeeeaaaaaaak

In stomped two brown, brown boots on the

cold, cold floor.

I crept to the corner, clutching my napkin like a mask
and waited.

KNOCK……KNOCK…..KNOCK….
“Who…..who is it?”
Creeeeeeeeeaaaaaaak

A bony, bony body floated in and placed itself on
brown….brown boots…..
on the
cold…cold floor……….

KNOCK……KNOCK…..KNOCK….
“Who…..who is it?”
Creeeeeeeeeaaaaaaak

A skull floated and sat on the bony, bony body
on
brown, brown boots
on the
cold……….cold floor.

“WHAT DO YOU WANT?!”

The skeleton pointed:

“You’re…eating…mysoup!

“It’s yours!” I said as I ran into
the shivering
night.

#11 – The Skeleton Creep                        

On All Hallows Eve
when I’m meant to be asleep
I peep out at the graveyard
where skeletons creep.
They push aside their gravestones,
rising from the ground.
Have they come to haunt us?
No!
They simply…
hang around.
They melt into the shadows
until they’re masked from view,
scaring one other
by playing…
PEEK-A Boo!
I really want to join them,
play their games, hang out!
But the teeny tiny problem is…
MY BODY’S INSIDE OUT!
If my bones were on the outside
would they let me play?

“No, but you’ll be welcome…

WHEN YOUR RIBS ARE ON DISPLAY!”

#12 – Trick or Treat


Who’s dancing down the street at night
This spooky Halloween?
The rattling sound she makes is like
A boney tambourine.

You might think she’s a little girl,
If you don’t get too near.
The dark night makes it look as though
There’s nothing there to fear.

She wears a mask, a sweet child’s face,
That covers up a grin
Of ivory teeth that clack inside
A skull that needs some skin.

So, if she creeps up to your house,
Don’t open up your door.
A skeleton’s shrieked, “Trick or Treat!”
Will stop your heart with horror.

I know this is a tough choice!  But please read and consider and choose your favorite and vote for it in the poll below by Sunday November 8 at 5 PM Eastern time!  That gives you 3 whole days to vote! (Which, as we’ve established, you’ve had plenty of practice at lately 😊)

I am so looking forward to seeing who you guys choose as your winner and how everyone will place! 😊 Enjoy reading and voting and have a great weekend!!! 😊

The 5th Annual Valentiny Contest -FINALISTS!!!

Every time I run a contest I have a great time reading fabulous entries from writers who have entered my contests before and being dazzled by new writers who are entering for the first time, visiting blogs I’ve been to many times and blogs I’m seeing for the first time, reconnecting with old friends and making new ones, and generally being blown away by the collective talent (and peer support) in the kid lit community.

It is SO MUCH FUN!

And everything is as lovely as lovely can be. . .

. . . right up until I have to choose the finalists!

Then, all of a sudden, I find myself saying, “Why? Why do I do this to myself?”

and, “Whose idea was this ANYWAY?!”

and “GAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!”

cd521-surprisedbabytiger

Because you are all creative geniuses, and your work is spectacular, but there are only 12 prizes.

So somehow the other judges and I have to winnow somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 entries (sometimes more than twice that) down to 12!

Ouch!

Is it any wonder that we are reduced to a state where only a roomful of puppies and chocolate can give us the will to go on? 🙂

But we have made it through and by sheer stubborn determination present to you

The 5th Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest!!!

Valentiny Writing Contest 2019!

~ FINALISTS!!!~

 

And it turns out, “curiosity” was much harder to incorporate well than I expected it to be!  Some terrifically-written entries missed it altogether, some were more self-examining or kind of wondering than really curious, some had one or two questions included but didn’t give rise to any real curiosity. . .  A curious state of affairs! 🙂

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 – about 150 entries of which only 12 made the finals.  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:

  1. Kid-appeal/Kid-friendliness – remember, this is a story for kids!
  2. Creativity in using curiosity and success in making us feel the curiosity!
  3. Valentine’s Day appropriateness – this is a VALENTINE story!
  4. Quality of story – we will look for basic story elements and a true story arc
  5. Quality of writing – use and flow of language, correctness of mechanics, excellence of rhyme and meter if you use it.
  6. 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 Day was mentioned in passing – including a couple that literally didn’t mention it at all – or that didn’t seem to really showcase curiosity although they may have used the word “curiosity” – several of which were very creative and well-written, or that were written in rhyme where the meter was off, or that didn’t seem particularly kid-oriented even though they were wonderful stories, or that really had us…until the last line or two when things sadly fell apart (which I know is often due to the tight word count requirement.)  We tried our best to select finalists that checked all the boxes.

So without further ado, I present to you the finalists in the 2020 Fifth 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 Saturday February 22 at 5 PM 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 tell people you are a finalist.  Please do not ask people to vote for a specific number or title, or for the story about the curious little kitty whose curiosity nearly landed her in the jaws of the big bad wolf 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.  We operate on the honor system.  I thank you in advance for respecting this. Your win will mean more if it’s honestly earned.

So now, here are the 2020 Valentiny Contest Finalists!!! Some poetry, some prose, some for younger readers, some for older (but still kid) readers, all fabulous 🙂

 

1 – Candy Conundrum

I wonder what they taste like.

The Hug Me heart looks good.

My mommy says, “Don’t eat them.”

My tummy says, I should.

I smell True Love and Kiss Me,

then give Be Mine a lick.

I chew up Smile and Soul Mate…Yuck!

I think I might be sick.

I wonder why they make them,

those pretty hearts I ate,

to give to someone that you love

…or someone that you hate.

 

2 – Seeds Of Love

“The world needs more love,” says Grandma.
She sets a flower pot on the table.
We paint it with hearts for Valentine’s Day.
I don’t know about love, but the world has more color at least.

The seed is tiny, but Grandma says not to underestimate it.
What kind of seed is it?
But she won’t tell me.
“Life is better when there is room for wonder,” she whispers.

Poke. Dig. Poke.
The dark dirt sticks under my fingernails.
Scoop. Scoop. Scoop.
Back over my seed. Like a cozy blanket.

See you soon, little seed.

You are my sunshine, I sing.
My watering can is a gentle rainstorm.
Push. Push. Up!
A tiny bit of green starts to show.
You can do it.

Grow.
Secrets, bunched and waiting on a thin green stem.
Grow.
A little taller each day.
Stretch.

At last!
A tiny star surrounded by pink.
Bright and delicate.
Lovely and strong.

“Who should we give it to?’ Grandma asks.
I want to keep it.
“Love is for sharing,” she insists.
We leave it on our neighbors doorstep.

“We did it,” laughs Grandma.
And she’s right.
I can feel it.
There’s more love now.

From just one seed.

 

3 – The Stinky Valentine

The box arrived,
we stood and stared.
It smelled so bad,
that no one dared,
to pick it up
or sniff their nose,
the contents likely decomposed.

The box was wrapped
with bows, and hearts,
a Valentine
that smelled like farts!

It was addressed
to our whole family,
posted from
our favorite Grammy.
But why would Grammy
send a cache
that smelled like
weeks old, rotting trash?

I don’t think that’s
a Valentine’s treat,
it smells like Grandpa’s
stinky feet!

Mom called out
for Volunteers,
but we replied
with loud Bronx cheers!

Mom grabbed the box,
and held her nose,
tore off the hearts,
ribbons, and bows.

We all leaned in,
a tight knit squeeze,
and eyed a block
of blue veined cheese!

“Ewww,” we cried!
Quite displeased,
to find this marbled,
Valentine Cheese!

Then “Knock, Knock, Knock”
tapped like a score,
from the knocker
on our door.

Now who is that?
We went to see,
why,
Mr. Mouse’s Family,
who held a box
adorned with hearts,
that smelled divine,
and not like farts.

“I think this box belongs to you!”
It seems the post
mixed-up the two,
and no offense,
but this box reeks
of sickly, sugary,
doughy treats.”

We all laughed,
relieved to find,
a much more palatable
Valentine!

 

4 – I Snorfle You

Zingle gripped Mama’s warm green hand.

“I snorfle you,” Mama said.

“Snorfle you too.”

Zingle didn’t like this planet.

Spaceships zoomed on the ground. HONK!

Everyone stared at him—with two eyeballs.

And cold bits of sky fell everywhere.Brrrr.

“What’s this? What’s this? What’s this?” Zingle asked.

“Flag. Squirrel. School.” Mama brought him inside. “I snorfle you,” she said before leaving.

Zingle’s eye teared up. But then he looked around. “What’s this? What’s this? What’s this?”

“Sand. Playdough. Hamster.” an Earthlittle replied.

Lucy taught Zingle everything. Zingle got used to Lucy’s second eye.

Then one day, school looked different.

“What’s this?” Zingle asked Lucy. “What’s this? What’s this?”

“Glitter. Heart. Valentine.”

“Why?” Zingle asked.

“It means ‘I love you.’”

“I zuv you?”

“Love.”

Zingle didn’t know what that meant, but he liked making things. And he liked his friend. Zingle would make a valentine for Lucy!

But the scissors wouldn’t listen to him. The glue was too sticky. Glitter was NOTa snack. A classful of double eyeballs stared at him. The valentine was all wrong, the sky was falling again, and Zingle wanted Mama. His eye teared up.

Then Lucy put something in Zingle’s hand. “Happy Valentine’s Day!”

Zingle read the crooked heart: I snorfle you.

Zingle hugged Lucy. “Snorfle you, too.”

 

5 – Finding A Friend

She booted up and rolled outside.
“Today’s a special day.
How can I find a Valentine?
There has to be a way.”

“My mission is to make a friend,”
explained the little rover.
“So, NASA I am signing off.
I’ll call you later—over.”

She rumbled up a Martian hill,
antennas on alert.
She caught a sound, but what she found
was only blowing dirt.

Then suddenly, her radar pinged.
What could that be ahead?
She saw a rover stuck in sand.
Its batteries seemed dead.

“Oh, who are you?” she beeped in code.
“I wonder when you landed?
You couldn’t see the sand is deep?
Is that how you got stranded?”

She stretched her robot arm to him
and scanned his power pack.
“Perhaps a jolt of megavolts
will bring your functions back.”

Her stream of power filled his heart.
In minutes he was ready.
She pressed the button labelled START
and then she told him, “Steady.”

His motors revved and servos whirred.
She helped him from the hole.
“I’m Spirit. Thanks, you rescued me
and won my heart and soul!”

“My name is Curiosity.
I tracked down every sign,
to find a friend—I hope it’s you.
Please be my Valentine?”

 

6 – Dear Cupid

Dear Cupid,

Just wondering…

How good is your aim?

How often do you practice?

If you miss, do you try again?

How many arrows do you have, anyway?

Do you take requests? From anybody?

Or, are you like Santa? Do I have to have been good?

(I promise to try harder if you help me out.)

Here’s my list of targets. It’s kind of urgent. Let me explain.

  1. Mr. Crabtree. I sorta trampled his prize tomato plants…totally by accident. (He’s a BIG man. It might take two arrows.)
  2. Dad. Minor dent, garage door. Nothing anyone else would notice But he will.
  3. Mrs. Crinkly. Her trellis is trashed. Ball went haywire. Craziest thing. ( I’d like to stay on her good side. She bakes great cookies. And gives you milk, too. Or did. Not sure now. )
  4. Mom. Her fudge cake. I tested it. Delicious. Apparently not for me.

I’m usually a lovable kid, but today’s been an exceptionally bad day.

Thanks.

Your friend, I hope!
Dennis, as in Grateful (no, NOT the menace guy)

P.S. Can you leave me some arrows? For when you’re on vacation?
Thanks again,
Dennis, as in Hopeful (and slightly Hungry)

PPS. I’ll save you some cake and a cookie, if I can.

 

7 – Sending Love

Today I sent you all my love
Boxed up in bubble wrap.
I wonder how it gets to you
On your side of the map?

Do mailboxes have secret slides
To subway trains below?
That rumble through the tunnels
With their heart-covered cargo?

Do elevators lift my love
To rooftops way up high?
Where helicopters wait
To take it whizzing through the sky?

Do parachutes let my love drift
And land upon a train?
That chugs and chugs its way across
The mountains and the plains?

And when the railroad tracks run out
Does my love take a trip
Across the rolling ocean waves
Aboard a pirate ship?

Do pirates trade my love
For cheesy pizza when they dock?
And does the pizza guy
Drive on his scooter down your block?

And leave my love upon your step
For you to come home to?
I wonder if that’s how my love
Travels from me to you?

No matter how it gets there
In a plane or bus or car,
I’ll keep on sending all my love
From me to where you are!

 

8 – Always. Every Day. No Matter What.

Johnny’s eyes kept POPPING open.
He couldn’t sleep.

“MOOOOOOOM,” he called out.

Mom cracked open the door and whispered,
“What?” into the darkened room.

Johnny had a really important question
that couldn’t wait till morning.

“Will you always love me? No matter what?”
“Always,” said Mom. “No matter what.”

“Not just on Valentine’s Day?”
“Every day,” said Mom.

“Would you love me if I were a naughty puppy?”
“I’d push you out of trouble’s way with my wet nose.”

“What if I were a scared kitten?”
“I’d lick you until you purred.”

“What if I were a wiggly octopus?”
“I’d wrap my tentacles around you and give you a big squeeze.”

“What if I were a goofy giraffe?”
“I’d twist my neck around yours and kiss the tippy top of your head.”

“Would you still love me if I was a hungry little boy who ate all of my Valentine’s candy before bed?”
“Always,” said mom.

“Would you still love me if I ate… all… of…. your…. Valentine’s chocolates too?”
“Well,”…. said mom, “first I’d nuzzle you with my wet nose, then I’d lick you, then I’d squeeze you with my tentacles, then I’d give you a kiss on the tippy top of your head. And, then I’d say: “I love you, and GOODNIGHT!”

 

9 – Whose Valentine Could This Be?

Whose Valentine could this be?

Is it yours, fox, down deep in your den?
Is it yours, rooster,
or yours, hen?

Is it yours, hawk, high up in your tree?
Is it yours, cricket,
or yours, bee?

Is it yours, shark, out there in the bay?
Is it yours, turtle,
or yours, ray?

Is it yours, frog, afloat on the lake?
Is it yours, fish,
Or yours, snake?

Whose Valentine could this be?

Why,
there’s one for each of you,
with love, from me.

 

10 – Gibbon’s Valentine’s Surprise

Meerkat, Marmoset, and Sloth were sharing stories when Gibbon burst in.

“I’m making a Valentine’s surprise, and I need your help!”

They set down their books.

“I wonder what it is…” Meerkat mused.

“Maybe Valentine’s candy?” Marmoset murmured.

“Or… something… elssssssssse,” Sloth whispered.

First Gibbon grabbed paint and brushes.

“I wonder what he’s going to paint…” Meerkat mused.

“Maybe Valentine’s cards?” Marmoset murmured.

“Or… something… elssssssssse,” Sloth whispered.

Next Gibbon gathered wood and his toolbox.

“I wonder what he’s going to make…” Meerkat mused.

“Maybe a valentines mailbox?” Marmoset murmured.

“Or… something… elssssssssse,” Sloth whispered.

“Paint something you love on your pieces of wood,” Gibbon instructed.

“I love stories…” Meerkat mused.

“Me too,” Marmoset murmured.

“Oh….yesssssss,” Sloth whispered.

Everyone planned and painted.

“Perfect! Thanks!” Gibbon gathered everything and gamboled off.

“I wonder where he’s going…” Meerkat mused.

“Maybe the post office?” Marmoset murmured.

“Or… somewhere… elssssssssse,” Sloth whispered.

The three friends waited.

They pulled out paperbacks and read together.

And waited.

On Valentine’s Day Gibbon gathered his friends.

“Surprise!” Gibbon pointed.

“A little library!” Meerkat cried.

The outside:

“Our paintings!” Marmoset cheered.

Inside:

“Bookssssss!” Sloth said with a slow smile.

“Something we all love,” Meerkat mused. “Thank you, Gibbon!”

“Thank you!” said Meerkat.

“Thanksssss,” said Sloth.

Gibbon grinned. “Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!”

 

11 – Beetle’s Valentine

Beetle bakes a Valentine,
Frosting letters spell, ‘Be mine!’
Picks a rose and ties a bow,
Signs, ‘Love, Beetle— X and O.’

Hopes to woo her with affection,
Scuttles off with his confection.
“Where could Caterpillar be?”
Scours milkweed, checks each tree.

Searches under, searches over,
Every leaf and every clover.
Sits beside her favorite flower,
Waits for hour after hour.

“Is she ever coming back?”
Spots a small, brown hanging sack.
“What is this?” Creeps close to see,
“Caterpillar?” Couldn’t be.

Turns to go, snap, “What’s that sound?”
Startled, Beetle whirls around.
Sack bursts open, color flies.
Beetle can’t believe his eyes.

Caterpillar, fluttering high,
Now a lovely Butterfly!
“Is that Valentine for me?”
Beetle blushes, “Yes siree!”

 

12 – Scraps Of Love

Jumping out of bed, Sergio announced, “Yay! Recycle day!”

Papa’s bushy brows wrinkled his forehead. “You’re up early for a Saturday! Taking out the green buckets?”

“Yup, but I have to beat the collection truck to everyone’s driveways!”

Sergio slipped a clipboard under his arm, grabbed a pen, and went into the garage. He carried the last bin of moving day packing paper to the curb.

“What do you think that boy’s up to?” Papa asked Curious, their cat, who watched from the windowsill.

Balancing a battered cardboard box on top of his creaking wagon, Sergio stopped at each house on the street.

“#6 Fitzpatrick”, Sergio wrote. “Good stuff!” he exclaimed, dropping a tennis magazine, ticket stubs, and birthday card into the box.

Hearing his enthusiastic outbursts, neighbors peeked outside. They phoned each other, wondering, “What’s he looking for? They seemed all set when we helped them move in!”

At home, Sergio stashed his trash treasures in a closet so Curious couldn’t shred them.

Sergio spent hours shaping cardboard scraps into hearts. Each became the canvas for a paper collage created from each family’s own junk.

On Valentine’s Day, Sergio delivered the personalized artworks to all the neighbors with a note that said, “Thanks for opening your hearts to my family. Your friend, Sergio.”

 

 

 

Wow!  Those were impressive, weren’t they?  Good luck picking! 🙂

Please vote for your favorite in the poll below by Saturday February 22 at 5PM Eastern time.

 

Tune in Monday February 24 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 lounge on my chaise and call upon Jacques, my personal masseuse, to give me a one hour foot massage. . . SNORT! As if!  I can’t even say that with a straight face 🙂

Ahem.  Let’s try again.

I’m going to go start plowing through the work that built up during all that reading and agonizing and negotiating over Valentiny stories!

Less indulgent, perhaps, but a lot more believable (and true) 🙂

Have a thrilling Thursday, everyone!

The 4th Annual Valentiny Contest FINALISTS!!!

So, I’m noticing a trend here.

This is at least the second year in a row when my best laid plans for getting the Valentiny judging done have found themselves up the creek without a paddle and no help in sight!

What is it about February?!

Once again, Judge #1 ended up with a whole lot of extra family stuff – some expected, some not…plus unexpected work…

…and Judge #2 had a ton of actual job-related work that had to be attended to.

(Judge #3 was awesome in every way and is probably the only reason the judging ever got finished! 🙂 )

But at this rate, we may have to start running the Valentiny Contest in July! 🙂

Add to that that apparently “guilt” was a tough topic! and we were seriously up against it!!!

Nearly all the entries fell into one of 5 categories:

– MC unintentionally makes a V-Day related mess

– MC accidentally ends up eating all the chocolates intended as a gift

– number of Valentines for class comes up short by one/one “mean” child is skipped on purpose

– MC didn’t make/purchase Valentines (either because V-Day is stupid or MC didn’t get around to it)

– a guilty dog is involved 🙂

I’m not sure we’ve ever had a contest where the entries could be so uniformly categorized.  This is not to say, of course, that ALL the entries fell into those categories – they did not! – or that there weren’t some very well written entries – there were! – or that the stories weren’t original – but it was interesting that the topic of guilt seemed to be harder than some others to come up with wide variety for.

Anyway, after much agonizing, torment, and second-guessing, we have come up with a list of finalists that we felt did the all-around best job of meeting all the judging criteria.  No doubt there will be some you’re surprised not to see – there were some very well written ones that did not make the cut, mostly because the guilt wasn’t strong enough. But we did the best we could!

So, at long last, and with sincere apologies for keeping you waiting 5 extra days, let’s have a look at….

The 4th Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest!!!

valentiny writing contest 2019!

~ FINALISTS!!!~

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 – about 170 entries of which only 12 made the finals.  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:

  1. Kid-appeal/Kid-friendliness – remember, this is a story for kids!
  2. Creativity in using guilt and success in making us feel the guilt! (Not enough just to use the word guilt!)
  3. 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!
  4. Quality of story – we will look for basic story elements and a true story arc
  5. Quality of writing – use and flow of language, correctness of mechanics
  6. 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 Day was mentioned in passing – they just didn’t seem connected to Valentines – or that didn’t seem to really showcase guilt although they may have used the word “guilt”, 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 2019 Fourth 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 Wednesday February 27 at 12 PM (noon) Eastern time.  I apologize for the fact that since I’m late posting the finalists, there will be a Tuesday Debut post on Tuesday and a WYRI post on Wednesday, so this post with the finalists and the poll will drop down the blog list – but it will still be there and the poll will be open for voting until midday Wednesday!

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 tell people you are a finalist.  Please do not ask people to vote for a specific number or title, or for the story about the tap-dancing troll who felt guilty for waking up the baby billy goat 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.  We operate on the honor system.  I thank you in advance for respecting this. Your win will mean more if it’s honestly earned.

Here are the 2019 Valentiny Contest Finalists!!! Some poetry, some prose, some for younger readers, some for older (but still kid) readers, all fabulous 🙂

#1 – The Valentine’s Day Mess & Cure

Dear Mom and Dad,

When you wake up,
you’ll see your tea and coffee cup.
(Don’t worry, ‘cause the broom worked well for cleaning up the plate that fell.) 

I made you toast with jam and butter, wiped the crumbs but left some clutter.
(Couldn’t get some sticky spots off counters, tables, chairs, and pots.)

A napkin holds a chocolate heart that you can simply break apart.
(Yes, there were two, but I concede, how much dark chocolate does one need?) 

This card is trimmed in frilly lace to put a smile upon your face.
(Oh, by the way, the sewing kit? It now needs straightening up a bit.) 

I hope your Valentine’s Day fun is nicer ‘cause of what I’ve done
(and sort of wondering if you might, push back my time for bed tonight?)

XOXOXOXOXOXO 

P.S. Uh-oh…I’m feeling bad. I wanted you to be so glad
but went about it like a jerk and caused you both a lot of work.
I wasn’t such a thoughtful kid. I should have cared—not like I did.
When you wake up, let’s make a plan, and I’ll correct what goofs I can.

With Love and Kisses,

You Know Who (I love you both a bunch, I DO!)

 

#2 – The Queen Of Hearts

Meg didn’t care about candy hearts or lacy cards. Tomorrow was the Valentine’s play!

All she wanted was to be the Queen of Hearts.

All she wanted was to wear the golden crown with the red sequins.

All she wanted was to win the role from Leah and Carly.

“I can’t decide,” said Mrs. Clark. “You would all make exquisite queens.” Then she wrote each girl’s name on a strip of paper and placed them in a basket.  “I’ll pick one of you tomorrow.”

The bell rang. Meg lingered.

No one will know.
I want it more than they do.
 Just this once.

Meg wrote her name on two more paper strips. Carefully, she replaced the names of her friends with her own in Mrs. Clark’s basket. She could almost feel the crown on her head as she skipped home.

At dinner, Meg couldn’t eat.

She tried rehearsing, but couldn’t remember her lines.

She went to bed early, but couldn’t sleep.

Her heart hurt.

When Meg arrived at school the next day, she was surprised to see a lacy, red-sequined Valentine on her desk.

Good luck to all of us today!
Love,
Leah and Carly

 Meg’s eyes filled with tears.

“Mrs. Clark,” she said, “I have something to tell you.”

 

#3 – Mother Knows Best

“Here, let me do the dishes Mom.”

“But you can’t reach the sink.”

“Then let me take the garbage out. I’m strong enough…I think.”

“Dad took the trash out yesterday. Son, what is up with you?”

“Um, nothing. Can’t I want to help?”

“Not when you never do.”

“I hope you liked the Valentine I worked so hard to make.

I cut a billion tiny hearts; I thought my hands would break!”

“I think I told you twenty times how much I loved your card.

Max, if you really want to help, then play out in the yard.”

“A great idea! While I’m out I’ll do some helpful deeds –

like rake the leaves or mow the grass or even pull some weeds.”

“It’s winter – there’s no grass to cut and no leaves anywhere!

Now Maxwell Walter Anderson, you sit down in that chair

and do not move a muscle ‘till you’re ready to confess.”

“Mom,

…if I’ve done something awful will you love my any less?”

“Of course I won’t! Now come on dear, just tell me what you’ve done.”

“You know your Truffles Daddy bought?

I only left you one.”

 

#4 – Single… Double… TRIPLE GUILTY!

Valentine’s Day tomorrow! Tony could hardly wait. Ms. Flinker was throwing an old-fashioned Valentine’s party with balloons and cupcakes, and a Valentine’s Box for each of them, so all the kids in the class could put in cards.

Tony dumped out his box of SuperZoomer Valentines. Uh-oh. 20 cards per box. 21 kids in his class.

He giggled. He wouldn’t give nasty Lisa one. She said he was too little for Kindergarten. She called him Tiny, even when he yelled MY NAME IS TONY!

On Valentine’s Day, a SuperZoomer Valentine superzoomed into nearly all the Valentine Boxes lined up along the front table. Nobody noticed that Tony didn’t put one in Lisa’s box. His stomach did, though. GUILTY, it told him.

They ate their cupcakes. They drank red juice. Then it was time for the Valentines. The first one out of his box was from – LISA! Oh no. His stomach said DOUBLE GUILTY. The Valentine said, “Tony – I’m sorry. Can we be friends?”

TRIPLE GUILTY said his stomach. He ran to the back of the room. Red construction paper. Markers. SuperZoomer fast, he made a Valentine.

“Lisa, my card for you wouldn’t fit in the box.”

She looked. “To my new friend. Happy VALENTINY Day!”

 

#5 – The Missing Pupcake

Brayden loved both of his dogs just the same.
They weren’t alike–one was wild, one was tame.
Mona made mischief, she didn’t know, “NO!”
Lisa obeyed because Brayden said so.

Brayden created some Valentine treats,
a doggy dessert made with eggs, oats, and beets.
The piping hot pupcakes were spread out to cool
all over the counter, but underneath—DROOL!

“Let’s grab a pupcake while Brayden is gone,”
Mona said. “I’m too short! Let me climb on.”
Lisa looked back toward the door with remorse.
Mona whined, “Help me out! You be my horse!”

Lisa stood steady while she climbed aboard.
Mona stretched upward, then seized her reward,
nearly inhaled the first pupcake she saw,
leaped down from Lisa’s back, “Got it! Hurrah!”

Lisa slunk out of the kitchen to hide.
She acted guilty, but Mona felt pride.
Brayden came in, heard their skittering feet,
glanced at the counter, saw one missing treat.

“Mona and Lisa!” he cried in dismay.
“I baked those pupcakes for Valentine’s Day.
Which of you took it? It’s time to confess!”
Lisa looked hangdog, her eyes blinked distress.

Brayden inspected them, solving the puzzle.
Mona had cake crumbs all over her muzzle.
“Mona, you’re busted! Now you go to bed!”
Then Brayden gave Lisa two pupcakes instead.

 

#6 – Cupid’s Last Card

Hands off, it’s mine.

I know what you’re thinking. He’s Cupid. He’s supposed to give out Valentine’s cards. It’s his job.

Well, maybe you’re right, but has anyone ever thought about me? Don’t I deserve some attention too?

It’s not easy flying around delivering all those chocolates and stuffed pandas, you know.

So I’m keeping the card.

Yes, I know it’s supposed to be yours. You’re my last delivery. But let’s just forget about that, okay? I’ll make it up next year. You’ll get a REALLY BIG stuffed panda.

Don’t look at me like that.

I’m sure you’re a nice kid. Eat all your veggies? Brush your teeth every night? That’s great.

But the card’s mine.

What’s that? No one else has given you a card? Well…

Phew. Kinda warm in here.

I’m sure you’re mistaken. Check your mailbox again.

Still nothing? Well…

How about we split it? I’ll take half and you’ll…

Oh, don’t cry.

I can’t stand seeing nice kids cry. If you start then I’m…

WHO’S CUTTING THOSE ONIONS?

How about borrowing it…? No?

Sniffing it…? No?

How about… uh…

OH, I CAN’T STAND IT! Here, take it! Just take it! I hope you’re happy now! And furthermore–

Huh? What’s that?

Oh. Thanks. Thanks, kid.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too.

 

#7 – Chadwick The Zombie Cooks Up A Valentine

Chadwick the zombie was often alone,
feeling quite lonesome and blue.
While all of his peers nibbled brains, eyes, and ears,
Chadwick baked bread and cooked stew.

“Nobody gets me,” young Chadwick complained.
“But next week is Valentine’s Day!
Instead of fresh hearts I’ll bring raspberry tarts,
That should bring new friends my way!”

Valentine’s came and his classmates gave out
boxes of brains and warm bile.
Chadwick left sweets at the kids’ assigned seats
then waited to see them all smile. 

“Ew!” “What is this?” “Who’d bring sweets to a party?”
Chadwick felt tears in his eyes.
His classmates went still when they saw those tears spill,
ashamed as they heard his soft cries.

Norbert, a boy in the back of the class
squeamishly reached for his treat.
He screwed up his face, then he took a small taste…
and smiled! “This is good! Let’s all eat!”

Zombies were gobbling those tarts in a flash.
“Chadwick, good job!” “Crust has flake!”
Chadwick then heard these delectable words:
“Hey, could you teach us to bake?”

Chadwick the zombie was often with pals,
smiling for hours on end.
Blending and stirring, kneading and whirring,
mixing up fun with his friends.

 

#8 – A Box Full Of Love

Max gave the heart shaped box a big shake.
Empty.
How could all of the candy be gone? He meant to eat only one piece but it had tasted so good…
“Hola, Max,” said Papi. “What is that in your hand?”
“Nothing,” sighed Max. “It was going to be a Valentine’s Day gift for Mama but, I ate all the candy so now it’s just an empty box.”
Papi opened the box. “This box is not empty,’ he said.
“Yes, it is,” said Max.
“No,” said Papi. “You thought of Mama and wanted to make her happy and that is what love is, thinking about others and wanting to make them happy. So you see, this box is full of love. Now how about we go to the kitchen and make Mama some special Valentine’s Day cookies? You get the flour and I’ll get the eggs and sugar.”
On the kitchen counter Max noticed another heart shaped box.
“What is that?” he asked
“That?’ said Papi, furiously mixing the eggs and sugar together. “Ahhh…That is another box of love for Mama.”
Max smiled. “You ate all the candy too, didn’t you Papi?”
“Si,” said Papi. “Now, hand me the flour so we can finish these cookies before Mama gets home. Rapido!”

#9 – Buffa-lonely Love Day

At the zoo, it’s party time:
zebras clamor, monkeys climb.
Elephants hang decorations—
time for Love Day celebrations.

Sending cards, they’re all gung-ho…
all except for Buffalo.

Looking for her valentine…
Doesn’t find one!
“So what?! FINE!”

Scrunched-up nose and pouted lips,
tucks her hooves into her hips.

“Such a wild, rambunctious crowd,
much too lively, much too loud.
Had enough of this commotion.
Too much lovey-dove emotion.”

Quick, she trots around the zoo,
making others cranky too.

Creeps up to the three baboons…
POP! There go their three balloons.

Finds two penguins on the ice…
steals their heart-shaped pebbles (twice).

One bear’s heart cake—Where’d it go?
Who would smash it?
“Buffalo!”

Party ruined: roars and growls.
Buffalo just sits and scowls.

Buffa-lonely, all alone.
“Still no cards, still on my own.
Wrecked their party, made them mad.
What a rotten day I’ve had.”

Maybe if she sent a letter…
she might feel a little better.

“Sorry that I wrecked your bash,
and tossed your goodies in the trash…
See, I found it pretty hard
when all but me received a card.”

Party mix-up, at the zoo…
“You got no card? We never knew!”
“Buffalo, look here and see:
your valentine fell in this tree!”

Buffalo is so excited!
Party re-do… All invited!

 

#10 –  Guess Who?

Who made their bed and fed the cat?
Almost.

Who cleaned up when the milk went splat?
Well, close.

Who carried out the trash with care?
Oops, whoa!

Who fixed the baby’s messy hair?
Oh no.

Who put a drawing at your place?
Rub, scrub.

Who found a flower for your favorite vase?
Mop slop.

Who saved a foil wrapped chocolate kiss?
Yum, yum.

And set it where you couldn’t miss?
“Dear Mum”

I guess you figured out it’s me.

I’m guilty, as no doubt, you see.

I tried to think of something good

but it didn’t turn out quite as it should. 

My valentine surprise is done.

With hugs and kisses from your son.

 

#11 – Heart Socks For The Win

Alex clutched her rainbow wallet. Inside the dollar store, she headed for the clothing aisle.

Her eyes widened. Perfect! Just what she wanted for the Valentine’s party. She gazed at the socks with rainbow-colored hearts. Her own heart raced.

A smaller girl stopped beside her. Through thick glasses, she peered at the heart socks. “Ooh! I’m gonna ask Grandma to buy them with my birthday dollar.” Alex heard the girl’s loose shoes slapping away.

“I saw them first!” Alex grabbed the socks, pressing them to her body. Head down, she marched to the check-out. The clerk gave her change from her $10. Alex barely mumbled “Thank you.”

On Valentine’s Day, she shoved the socks in her backpack. “I’ll put them on later,” she thought.

At school, the gym was open. A little girl with glasses cartwheeled in circles. Alex’s guilty heart did a somersault. She knew what she must do.

Walking quickly to the shoes lining the wall, she knelt and set a heart sock in each of two old sneakers.

Without the socks, the party was just okay. But Alex’s heart soared when she ran to the bus. On a playground swing, a pair of little legs covered in hearts the color of the rainbow flew high.

 

#12 – Love Bug At The Zoo

I’m know I’m just small, but I must confess,
I am the love bug who caused this huge mess.
I shouldn’t have gone out on Valentine’s Day,
I infected the zoo, I got carried away.
I’m sorry my nibbles caused such a commotion
My bites are much stronger than any love potion.
Now Monkey is gaga and Parrot is squawking
“I love you, I love you…” she doesn’t quit talking.
Poor Panda is spellbound, and Seal is lovesick,
and Frog is enamored with bright red lipstick.
The meercats are staring, with googley-eyes,
at Penguin, who suddenly really loves fries.
Giraffe has gone ape, and Ape is obsessed,
he keeps blowing kisses and pounding his chest.
Lion’s in love, and Emu is entranced
by Flamingo’s new fondness for ballroom style dance.
Bear is bewitched, and so is Baboon.
Zebra saw Peacock and started to swoon.
Peacock keeps prancing to get Snakes attention
But Snake has been charmed, and there’s more I won’t mention.
The bites will wear off, they’ll be fine before morning,
But watch out for love bugs, we strike without warning!

Wow!  Those were impressive, weren’t they?  Good luck picking! 🙂

Please vote for your favorite in the poll below by Wednesday February 27 at 12 PM (noon) Eastern time.

Tune in Thursday February 28 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, wrap a hot towel around my head, and get a nap 🙂 after all that reading and agonizing and negotiating.

Okay.

Not really.

I will actually be taking my dad’s car to get a recalled part replaced and frantically trying to catch up on things I shoved to the back burner whilst reading Valentiny stories in the dealership waiting room where they will hopefully have a Keurig!

Have a wonderful Sunday everyone!!! . . . now that it’s basically Monday 🙂

The 2018 Holiday Contest FINALISTS!!!

So, a little over three weeks ago the person who runs this popsicle stand was ruminating on possible themes for the Holiday Contest.

She consulted her fellow judges.

They mulled over mischief, magic, misunderstandings, miracles, mayhem, and more.

And then somebody (who shall be nameless!) (Judge #2!) suggested heroes!

“Great idea!” the rest of the knuckleheads agreed.

And so Holiday Heroes it was!

Now I ask you.

What the flingin’-flangin’-fiction-factory were we thinking???!!!

Fast forward through three days of fabulous authors posting fantastic entries – each one better than the last – to The Moment Of Judgment!

And what happened during The Moment of Judgment?

Which was supposed to take a couple days?

And be completely finished by Thursday evening so the finalists could be posted on Friday?

Well, I’ll tell you…

Judge #1 said a hero was someone who was admired for achievements and noble qualities.  Judge #2 said, well, yes, but also a hero was an illustrious warrior or at least had to show great courage.  Judge #3 said, well, yes, but just plain kindness could count as heroism even if it didn’t accomplish much or require a great deal of courage because on its own it is noble. Judge #1 and Judge #2 said kindness alone wasn’t necessarily heroism.  After some discussion, Judge #2 and Judge #3 agreed that some level of courage ought to be involved because that makes everything more heroic.  To which Judge #1 countered that courage means different things to different people, as does heroism…

I’m sure you see where I’m going with this…

Hence, many days, Many pots of coffee and MANY pounds of chocolate later, we have agreed on one thing: we were nuts to pick heroism! 🙂

After much impassioned arguing civilized discussion (which included hardly any injuries  and a bare minimum of bandages, splints, antibiotic ointment, sterile cotton, and tetanus boosters) we have arrived at 10 finalists.

No problem. At all! 🙂

We did the best we could to choose stories that showed true heroism, and were kid-friendly and well-written.

Narrowing the field to 10 was excruciatingly difficult.  We could SO easily have posted an additional 10… and even then there would have been a whole bunch of others we would have wanted to include as well!

You guys write great stories.

But 10 it is.  We have 10 prizes, and 10 seemed like the most number it was fair to ask you to read and vote on. So there you have it!

So, just quickly, before I post the actual finalists I want to say three things:

First, I want to thank EVERYONE who took the time and care to write an entry for this contest.  You all did a fabulous job and provided great enjoyment for many!

Second, I’d also like to thank EVERYONE – writer, reader, or both – who took the time to go around and read as many entries as you could and leave supportive comments.  This means so much to the writers who worked hard on their stories.  It helps them see what they did well, as well as giving them the joy of knowing that their stories were read and enjoyed.  I hope you all got as much delight  and entertainment out of the reading as I did!  Plus, we got to meet quite a few new people which was a wonderful added bonus! 🙂

Third, I want to reiterate how difficult it was too choose!  There were so many amazing entries.  Really.  I could find at least something terrific about every single one.  The sheer volume of entries meant that many good ones had to be cut.  So if yours didn’t make the final cut please don’t feel bad.  There was a huge amount of competition.  Judging, no matter how hard we try to be objective, is always subjective at a certain point – we all have our own preferences for what makes a great story.  And the fact that you didn’t make the final cut DOES NOT mean you didn’t write a great story.  Everyone who plonked their butt in a chair and worked hard to write a story for this contest is a winner!  You showed up.  You did your best work.  You practiced your craft.  You wrote to specifications and a deadline.  You bravely shared your writing with the world.  And you have a brand new story that is now yours to expand beyond 100 words if you like and maybe submit at some point to a magazine or as a PB manuscript.  A lot of people have successfully done that at this point – we have quite a few books in the world that were born in Halloweensie, Holiday, or Valentiny Contests, plus a chapter book series that came out of the Fractured Fairy Tale Contest one spring!  So bravo to everyone who entered!

You will recall the judging criteria:

1. Kid-appeal! – These stories are intended for a young audience, so entries that were well-written but lacked child-friendliness did not make the cut.  Same for entries where the appeal, humorous or otherwise, seemed more directed toward adult readers than children.

2.  Holiday Heroism! – the rules stated a Holiday Hero story, so entries that failed to mention anything Holiday (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, etc.) or that did not contain a true hero/act of heroism 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.

 

As I said above, you all did a stellar job – there were no bad stories.  But we had to pick the 10 we thought were the all-around best on all 5 counts listed.

So, without further ado, I present to you the 2018 Holiday Contest Finalists.  A mix of poetry and prose, stories for younger readers and slightly older (but still kid) readers, funny, poignant, and cute.  Please read through them carefully, take your time, think it over, and vote for your favorite.  To help with objectivity, finalists are listed by title only, not by author.

And I’d like to be very clear about the voting process.  You are MOST welcome to share a link to this post on FB, twitter, or wherever you like to hang out, and encourage people to come read ALL the finalists and vote for the one they think is best.  Please do that.  The more people who read and enjoy these stories the better, and the more objective votes we get the better.  HOWEVER (and I want to be very clear on this) please do not identify yourself as a finalist on social media, please do not ask people to vote for a specific number or title, and please do not ask people to vote for the story about the sumo wrestling reindeer to the rescue or whatever.  Trolling for votes or trying to influence the outcome is counter to the spirit of this competition which is supposed to be based on merit.  I thank you in advance for respecting this.

So here we go!

#1 –  CHRISTMAS IN THE PARK

Momma says, “It’s time to go.”

But I don’t want to go.
The park is cold.

“Time to go,” says Daddy.

I want to stay home
and make my Christmas list.

“People are waiting,” says Daddy.

I grab my coat,
cross my arms,
and sit in the back seat.

The food trays are warm.
They smell yummy.

The city lights shine bright.
But the park is dark.

It is supper time.
People start to gather.

I grab a big spoon,
and start serving.
They thank me.

Momma tells me to say,
“You’re welcome. Enjoy the meal.”

Millie squeezes my cheeks.
Her hands are scratchy,
not soft like Momma’s.

Momma and I bring food
to the lady in the bushes.
Her hair is messy.
She does not talk,
but she takes the food.

Abraham tells Daddy
the library won’t let him
take out any books.
He has no address.

Jimmy tells me
he sleeps under the stars
like a cowboy.
But it’s not like the movies.

I play checkers with Patrick.
He promises to
teach me how to play chess.

Will pulls out a
crumpled copybook.
He reads his poems.

When I ask why we come,
Daddy says,
“It’s good to help people.”

Momma says,
“People helped us.”

It is time to go.
I wave good bye.

On the way home
I start my Christmas List.

Millie – hand lotion
Lady in the bushes – hair brush
Abraham – books
Jimmy – tent
Patrick – chessboard
Will – notebook.

 

#2 – THE CHRISTMAS PICK-UP

With a sack full of gifts and some fresh fallen snow,
Santa started his journey with “Ho, Ho, Ho, Ho!”
The sleigh chugged along like a train on a track.
It was all going smoothly until he heard CRACK!
Underneath the soft snow was a pond filled with ice.
Santa grabbed for his list (both the naughty and nice).
He wrangled his sack and held all the toys tight,
and the nine deer pulled hard, using all of their might.
But the sleigh wouldn’t budge. It was sunken and stuck.
Just then, through the woods, came an old pick-up truck.
“Hi Santa, I’m Rusty. I heard your deer yelp.
I see you’re in trouble, so I’m here to help!”
Rusty revved up his engine. His wheels found their groove.
Then he heard Santa shout, “The sleigh’s starting to move!”
CRICK, CRACK went the ice. But with one final push,
Santa’s sleigh was on track with a SWOOSH and a WHOOSH!
There was no time to stop. He flew high in the sky,
and shouted to Rusty with twinkling eyes,
“You saved Christmas for all of the good girls and boys.
Thanks to you they’ll be getting their trinkets and toys.”
Rusty woke Christmas morning and found a wrapped gift,
with a note from the big guy, “Thank you for the lift.”
What came on the next line made him start to tear,
“I’ll pay you a visit the same time next year.”

 

#3 – ALEX & APPLE SAVE CHRISTMAS

Alex watched in wide-eyed horror as Papa ate the cookie meant for Santa before heading to bed. 

Ducking back behind the couch, Alex lamented that the Santa-stakeout had instead led to witnessing a crime! And now, it was up to Alex to replace the cookie before Santa arrived and decided the Yusef family belonged on the Naughty List! 

Alex groaned. Apple, feline best friend extraordinaire, meowed in sympathy. 

Where to get a cookie now? The whole family had come over earlier in the day to bake and decorate but everyone had taken cookies home! The cookie left out for Santa was the last one in the whole apartment. 

Alex took a deep breath. “No time for pity parties.” Apple twitched her tail in agreement. 

Alex and Apple padded ever so quietly into the kitchen, picked the least-squeaky chair and stealthily pushed it to the kitchen counter. They took stock of their supplies:
– Open tub of white frosting
– 1 slightly burnt gingerbread woman (behind the coffee maker)
– 3 Graham crackers
– 4 Cinnamon candies

Alex looked at Apple. Apple looked at Alex. Oh yes, they could save Christmas. 

“Oh Alex,” sighed Mama, waking Alex with a start. “Did you sleep behind the couch all night?”

Without answering, Alex and Apple rushed to the tree. Their Christmas-race-car (with cinnamon wheels and a slightly burnt driver) had a large bite taken out of it and a note laying next to it. 

The most creative treat I’ve enjoyed all night. Nice save. Love, Santa

 

#4 – A CHRISTMAS SCENT-SATION

Two weeks before Christmas,
way out in the shed,
presents were stockpiled
and wrapped, green and red.

Behind the brick firehouse
was joy, guaranteed,
collected each Christmas
for families in need.

The firefighters planned
to deliver the gifts
the very next day
when they finished their shifts.

Then what did their
sensitive noses detect,
but a strong scent of skunk–
all the gifts had been wrecked!

A skunk made his burrow
out under the shed,
then an unwelcome
possum crawled in it instead.

Well, what would you think
that striped stinker should do?
He blasted the possum
with skunk musk—P-U!

And of course all the presents
soaked up the foul odor
as it seeped through the floorboards–
that furry exploder!

Now what could be done
to remove the aroma,
without putting everyone
into a coma? 

“I’ll call my friend, Stan,”
the chief told the crew,
“He’s in wildlife control,
so he’ll know what to do.”

Stan was there in a flash
in his van full of tricks,
“I’ll fill up my fogger
with a mystery mix.

It’s my favorite concoction
for skunk residue.”
Then he put on a gas mask,
his coveralls, too.

Stan fogged and he fumed
till the stink disappeared.
They delivered the packages,
all the kids cheered:

“Hooray for old Stan,
he’s a Christmas scent-sation!
He rescued our presents
from contamination!”

And they heard the skunk mumble
as he slunk out of sight,
“Guess I’ll find a new burrow.
Merry Christmas! Good night!”

 

#5 – HESTER SAVES CHRISTMAS

Hester loved jingling bells, the scent of sparkling pine trees, and the promise of present-filled stockings hung by Farmer O’Neill’s chimney. She especially loved stories of Santa and his reindeer.

“Mama, can I can pull Santa’s sleigh next year?” Hester asked.

“Flying reindeer pull Santa’s sleigh, Hester. And everyone knows Highland Cows can’t fly.”

But I can dream, thought Hester. And practice.

She hopped over heather and thistles.

“Ouch!”

She jumped across rocky streams…almost.

            SPLASH!

She trotted uphill, leapt, and…

tumbled down a steep slope.

            Moooo…

Hester kept trying…

and trying…

and trying…

but not quite succeeding.

As Christmas drew near, Hester turned her nose from pine trees and looked away from the chimney. She hung her shaggy head. Large tears fell, freezing like a glistening beard.

“A blizzard,” sighed Farmer O’Neill on Christmas Eve. “No presents tomorrow. Santa’s reindeer can’t fly through this mess. Into the barn, girls.”

All but one shuffled into the warm barn.

Hester trudged through deep snowdrifts. She shivered in the blustery wind and slipped on icy paths until…

She heard a faint jingle-jingle. She scrambled and spied…

Santa in his sleigh with eight grounded reindeer stuck in a snow pile.

Hester pulled, tugged and led the reindeer, sleigh and Santa along the snowy trail.

The next morning, presents filled stockings.  Laughter rang like jingling bells across the farm.

“Merry Christmas, Hester,” Farmer O’Neill said.  “Wake up! Somehow Santa came!”

Hester yawned and wondered,

Can a cow hide Easter eggs?

 

#6 – NIPPYNOSE FLU

The night before Christmas, with no time to spare,
unparalleled storms spilled a chill in the air.

Amid all the bustle, two tinkering elves
coughed at each other and startled themselves.
The shivering, sneezes, and sniffles spread quick,
till every last elf in the workshop was sick.

The presents piled up, and the reindeer weren’t fed,
the list wasn’t checked, and the room filled with dread.
“Is everyone sick now? Is no one immune?
We need to do something, or get some help soon!”

Plain out of time, and with so much to do,
Christmas was threatened by Nippynose Flu!

“The snowmen can help us guys, all isn’t lost,”
said Tinselbelle, wiping her nose clean of frost.
As soon as the snowmen got wind of the fuss,
they hollered “Don’t worry, just leave it to us!
We snowmen enjoy a good frigid-frost chill,
we can’t catch a flu and we never get ill.”

So while all the elves were reclining in bed,
the snowmen saved Christmas, and worked in their stead.
Where elves had been chilly and starting to freeze,
the snowmen breezed through all the work with great ease.

They finished the wrapping and loaded the sleigh,
happy to help Santa off on his way.

To top it all off, they brought soup to the elves…
“We hope you enjoy it, we made it ourselves.
Our Nana’s own recipe: my, it tastes nice!
Chicken with snowballs, but we held the ice.”

 

#7 – A SPECIAL NEST

A distant donkey brayed. Mrs. Sparrow awakened. A silvery light flooded the stable.
How peculiar, she thought, and flew outside to find its source. A single star brightened the world below.
Two figures slowly picked their way along the stony path leading to the stable. Mrs. Sparrow flew near.
“Oh my!” she exclaimed, and raced home. “Wake up Mr. Sparrow. We must build a nest.”
“What?” he asked “Are you going to lay eggs?”
“No, Mr. Sparrow. Company is coming. The woman will soon give birth.”
“Where can we build a nest for an enormous egg?” he asked.
“Mr. Sparrow, people don’t lay eggs,” she said. “Quick, help me find a place for the nest.”
They circled the room. He went right, she went left, they collided and tumbled into an empty box.
Mrs. Sparrow chuckled. “The manger! It’s perfect. But where can we find clean straw?”
“I know,” chirped Mr. Sparrow. “The innkeeper put fresh hay behind the stable.”
The two birds gathered strips of hay and packed them snugly, until the silvery light was dimmed
by the couple’s shadowed form.
The man settled his wife beside the manger.
“Do you think it was enough hay, Mrs. Sparrow?”
A baby’s cry rang out in the room.
“Oh yes, Mr. Sparrow,” she answered.
The woman then wrapped her child in cloth and placed him in the manger. Exhausted, she lay down.
Her eyes caught the movement of two small birds huddled in the rafters above, and she smiled at them.

 

#8 – 

#9 – SPARKLE THE SNOWFLAKE

Everyone knows that no two snowflakes are alike, but Sparkle was extra special.  She shone and shimmered a little brighter than all of the other snowflakes that lived in her cluster of clouds.

Sparkle and her snowflake friends had an important job to do.  They were to fall to earth on Christmas Eve. They would cover the hills and trees, and especially the rooftops of the houses, so that Santa and his reindeer would leave their footprints on the rooftops for children to see on Christmas morning.

The snowflakes were busy the day before Christmas.  They carefully planned their journey from the clouds. They practiced floating and staying together so they could create a beautiful snowfall that evening.

Sparkle and all of the other snowflakes snuggled deep into the billowy clouds to get some rest before the busy night.  Soon, Sparkle woke up and looked around in alarm.  It was almost midnight!  “Wake up!” Sparkle called. Then she soared from cloud to cloud, making sure that every snowflake was ready.

Just in the nick of time, they slipped from the puffy clouds and began to twirl and dance in the chilly night air.  The snowflakes landed gently, and waited silently.  When the sun peeked over the hill, the snowflakes heard children laughing as they ran from their houses and saw the glistening snow.  Little did the children know that the snow that had greeted them this Christmas morning was all thanks to Sparkle, the shiny little snowflake.

 

#10 – A NEW YORK HERO

The sign flashed PIZZA/DELI. Christmas bells jingled as Rachel hurried inside. Shaking off snow, she slipped past cloth-covered tables. Warmed with the heat of a wood-fired oven, the room felt good, but Rachel wondered if this would ever feel like home.

Almost a year ago, Rachel and her family arrived in America. She was grateful to be in a safe place. But everything was different. She was different. Living over the store, Rachel always smelled like pastrami or salami or pepperoni pizza. Kids at school stared and glared and wrinkled their noses. Especially Mia, who lived over the laundromat next door. Mia smelled like flowers and sunshine and spring rain. Rachel sighed. Still, it was Christmas vacation – no stares or glares or wrinkling noses for a whole week.

That night, the wind howled and snow fell. In the morning, silence. Power was out all across the city. But the wood-fired oven burned merrily and Mama lit candles for each table. In the kitchen, Rachel layered pastrami and salami and thought about Mia. Without power, maybe Mia’s family would have no heat. Rachel remembered being cold.

“Can we invite Mia to eat with us?”

“Of course,” Mama replied. “Go ask.”

Soon, Mia and her family trooped in, stamping snow from their boots. Before long, everyone was biting into sandwiches piled high with meats and cheeses.

“Here in New York,” Rachel said, “this sandwich is called a hero.”

“Maybe,” Mia said as she moved closer. “But to me, you are a hero.”

 

Wow! Are your socks knocked off or what?! 🙂

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 Tuesday December 18.

 

 

Tune in Wednesday December 19 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 Wednesday… same bat time, same bat station 🙂

The 2018 Halloweensie Contest FINALISTS (…FINALLY!!!)

DARLINGS!

The day has FINALLY come!

Normally, I’d engage in a bit of tomfoolery to sidetrack you from our mission and make you think I’d forgotten why we were here on a Thursday.

But I have made you wait so long for the finalists that there will be no stalling today!  We shall get right to announcing the finalists and voting!

(Yes, it’s really me writing this post.  I haven’t been abducted by aliens 🙂 )

We had a huge turnout with 237 very high quality entries!  It is wonderful to watch the writers we see coming back contest after contest getting better every time… but boy does it make the judging hard!!! There are fewer obvious standouts, almost none that are easy to cut, and there are 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.  A lot of people have successfully done that at this point – we have quite a few books in the world that were born in Halloweensie, Holiday, or Valentiny Contests!  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.  Same for entries where the appeal, humorous or otherwise, seemed more directed toward adult readers than children.

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 in spite of the warning, still failed to really tell a story.  This is SO TOUGH in 100 words – I totally get it.  But some people managed better than others.  There were any number of entries that were superbly written that we wanted to choose, but when we got right down to it, there really just wasn’t much story… not compared to some of the other entries that really managed to tell one.  They were more descriptions, lists, or mood pieces.  So as awesome as they were, we had to make some very hard calls.  A couple were too adult.  Some, because of the cruelly limiting word count were a little hard to follow.  Some of the rhyming ones we really liked were too off-meter to make the cut.  Some entries were just so close, but missed out because of one relatively small thing!  GAH!  So hard!

When you read the finalists you will note that almost all of them are in rhyme!  This is partly because those just happened to be the best ones, but also because the entries as a group this year were heavily weighted toward rhyme.

Also worthy of note, we had 4 entries with witches named Wanda in the title, at least 3 entries entitled “Witches’ Brew” (plus one Horrid Witches’ Brew), 2 or 3 entries besides my sample that had hot chocolate in the cauldron, and 2 completely different entries written by different authors called “Potion Commotion”!  The vast majority of witches had “w” names – Wanda, Willa, Winni, Winnifred, etc, though we did have a Gwen and a Belinda and probably some others I’m forgetting right now too 🙂

So, without further ado, I present to you the 2018 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 sombrero-wearing witch or whatever.  Trolling for votes or trying to influence the outcome is counter to the spirit of this competition which is supposed to be based on merit.  I thank you in advance for respecting this.

So here we go!

#1 – Belinda’s Broken Brew

Belinda’s best cauldron went bonkers one night.
All her concoctions were full of…delight?
She dropped in a shiver–out popped a kiss.
She snuck in a slither–out poured some bliss.
In went a howl–out came a grin.
A giggle rang out when a wriggle fell in!
She dribbled in cackles, a moan, and a shrug–
Out sprang some cuddles, a wink, and a hug.
She threw up her hands, no more could be done.
She had to admit, the cauldron had won.
This was a curse, nasty and mean!
Belinda was stuck with a nice Halloween.

 

#2 – Witches’ Brew

The witches convened
in a clearing each fall,
to conjure the trickiest
spell of them all.
They gathered up bats
and black cats
and an owl.
Then sprinkled in shivers
and shrieks
and a howl.
The cauldron grew bubbly,
all spicy and hot,
creating a vapor
that rose from the pot.
The witches fell silent.
Their pointy ears perked
each anxious to hear
if the witches’ brew worked.
Then over the clearing,
came rollicking noise.
Ding-dong.
“Trick or treat!”
sang the sweet girls and boys.
The witches, they cackled.
They’d done their job well,
successfully casting
The Halloween Spell.

 

#3 – Broken-down Broom

While flying away to the Halloween Ball,
Gwen’s broom went CAPUT! and she started to fall.
She dropped with a crash into Skeleton Wood-
the creepiest place in the WHOLE neighborhood.
A shrill, nearby howl made her shiver in fright.
She thought, “Now I might miss the party tonight!”
She pulled out her cauldron and looked all around.
She grabbed molding mushrooms and worms from the ground.
Then just as another shriek echoed unseen,
Gwen whipped up a potion for broom gasoline.
She poured in the mixture and scrambled aboard.
“I’m bound for the ball!” She declared as she soared.

 
#4 – Dracula Wants Pie

Today is the day of the Halloween fair and Dracula is hungry.
His mom offers some of her famous red juice. Dracula shivers, “eewwww. I’m tired of juice, I’m in the mood for something new…”
Pie!
“Get your marshmallows here!” shouts Ghost.
No thanks, Dracula wants pie.
“Cauldron is bubbly, hot and delicious”, tempts Witch.
No thanks. Dracula wants pie.
“Care for a bite, do yooouuu?” howls Werewolf manning the grill.
No thanks. Dracula wants pie.
Only one stand left. Finally, he reaches Pumpkin.
Dracula smiles.
Dracula loves pie.

 

#5 – Stitchy Witchy Brew

Party time looming and closet shelves bare,
Hazel VanBazel howled, “Nothing to wear!”
Flipping through frocks, she fell down in a slump.
“This clothing won’t cut it. I look like a frump!”
She danced to her cauldron with sheets from her bed,
satchels of sequins, and spider-silk thread.
In flurries of fabric, she sang out a spell,
tumbled in buttons, then folded it well.
The pot gave a shiver and spit out a gown,
sure to make Hazel the talk of the town.
She twirled in her tulle and sashayed in her sash,
ready to shine at her Halloween bash!

 

#6 – Potion Commotion

One broom, one flight….one magical Halloween night.
“Swizzle-zee, swizzle-zum, sizzle and simmer till it’s done!”
Tabitha sampled her brew. Something was missing… garlic should do.
SPRINKLE
DASH
MUDDLE…
SPLASH!
The cauldron crashed. The potion pitched. The broom set aflame!
No broom, no flight! One horrid Halloween night.
WAIL
GROWL
MOAN
HOWWLLL!
Tabitha paced. Tabitha pondered.
Tabitha began again.
“Swizzle-zee, swizzle-zum, sizzle and shimmer till it’s done!”
Tabitha sampled her brew. Something was missing… dragon scales would do.
BOOM
CRASH
CRACKLE
BASH!
Tabitha laughed! Tabitha danced! Tabitha shivered with glee!
No broom? Alright! Tabitha soared on dragon wing that Halloween night.

 

#7 – The Scariest Night Of The Year

Painted faces.
Heartbeat races.
Trick-or-treat at spooky places.
Vampires,
villains,
ghosts galore –
follow me from door to door.
Cauldrons bubble.
Werewolves howl.
Ghouls and goblins stalk and prowl.
Caught in cobwebs,
swooping bats,
monsters, mummies, creepy cats!
Shivering!
Quivering!
What’s that slithering?
Witchy fingers, gnarled and withering.
All this spooky, scary, stuff –
Maybe I’m not brave enough!
Hold on.
STOP.
I’ll be just fine.
These spooks are all just friends of mine!
We’re dressed in costumes,
having fun.
Back to normal when we’re done.
I say good bye to all my fright
(but I’m still glad it’s just one night.)

 

#8 – If You Can’t Beat Them… 

Griselda banged on the caldron with an old bone. “Wake up. It’s Halloween.”
Around the graveyard ghosts and goblins stretched and yawned. Scratchy voices that hadn’t been used in a year yowled and howled.
“Here come children. Get ready,” whispered Griselda, shivering with excitement.
They leaped from their hiding places, bloodcurdling screams piercing the night air.
The children laughed.
“Forget them,” said Griselda. “Here come some more.”
Zombies wildly grasped for the children. Ghosts fluttered in their hair.
“Cool costumes,” the children said. “Are you going to the party?”
The creatures looked at each other and shrugged. “Might as well.”

 

#9 – The “Wolf” at the Door

On Halloween a pint-size witch
Went door-to-door without a hitch,
A plastic cauldron in her hand,
Collecting candy, as she’d planned.
But at the last house on the block,
In answer to her timid knock,
She heard a long and mournful howl,
Followed by a fearsome growl!
“Is that a wolf?” the young girl cried
As the front door opened wide.
She shivered as she looked around,
And then she saw ———— a basset hound!
She thanked his owner for the treat,
Then laughed and scampered down the street.

 

#10 – The Halloween Shack

10.1.18
Today,
beyond the woods,
a shack appeared.
“Halloween Goods,” read the sign.

10.5.18
Howling sounds from the shack today.
Gave me shivers!
Should I visit?

10.10.18
Peeked through the window.
Mist spewed from a cauldron.
Almost SURE I saw eyes…

10.18.18
Stepped inside today.
CREEPIEST PLACE EVER.
Skulls, spiderwebs, eerie pictures…
Something whispered, “Welcome,”
and I ran!

10.22.18
Walked past the shack today.
Something watched me from the window.

10.31.18
Trick-or-treated at the shack tonight.
Don’t ask why.
A veiled figure
handed me candy
through the door.

I saw its eyes.

11.1.18
Today,
beyond the woods,
the shack…was gone.

 

#11 – Monster Vacancy

My house lost it’s monster and I’m in a jam.
Halloween’s coming but I have a plan.
I called reinforcements. Demons and pests.
Howling wanted. Please come do your best.
I held my breath on Halloween night.
Only one ghost arrived, glistening white.
I put on the cauldron, set it to brew,
Safely conducted a quick interview.
Though doubtful about her blood-curdling skill,
I hired her instantly paying her bill.
To my satisfaction, my shivering fright,
I’d chosen wisely that October night.
When children approached to say ‘trick-or-treat’
Every kiddo ran screaming straight for the street.

 

#12 – Halloween Prize

Eve’s school gives a Halloween prize
for the costume with the best surprise.
Believe me competition’s hot
But she just might win with the idea she’s got.
With cardboard, scissors, paint and string
Eve could’ve made most anything;
A slime-filled cauldron, a spider-filled hat
But they’d been done so she didn’t make that.
Other outfits make kids shiver or scream
But Eve has gone for a different theme.
She attracts them with creative drama
All dressed up as a cute, little llama.
She may not howl, screech or hit
But they’d better watch out … because she sure can spit.

 

#13 – Gordie Goblin’s Potion

On Halloween morning Gordie Goblin awoke with an ACHOO!
“No!” he moaned. “I must do my fierce and frightening tricks tonight!”
Gordie headed out into the howling wind.
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK
“Winni Witch!” he shouted. “I need a healing potion!”
Winni ushered him in and did a quick examination.
“You need a strong brew indeed.”
Winni lit her cauldron while Gordie studied her shelves.
Cyclops lashes
Bat fur
Werewolf toenails
“Yuck!” he thought with a shiver.
Finally, Winni brought him a steaming goblet.
Gordie braced himself and took a sip.
“It’s … yummy!”
Winni smiled. “Chicken soup works every time!”

 

#14 – Next Week

Three friends marched along in the light of the moon:
One doctor, one witch, and one purple baboon.
They shivered and quivered in fear or in chill.
Each carried a colorful cauldron to fill.
With candy—sweet candy! They’d waited all year.
The night they’d awaited was finally here!
“Hello?”
“TRICK OR TREAT!”
“Dears, I’m sorry to say…
I haven’t got candy to give out today…”
“NO CANDY!” they howled.
“Now, my dears, let me speak…
You’ve come a bit early; I’ll have some next week.”

 

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 (Noon) Sunday November 18. (We’re going to skip PPBF to leave the poll post up because of the timing getting messed up by the judging taking so long – sorry about that!)

 

 

Tune in Monday November 19 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 Monday… same bat time, same bat station 🙂

The 3rd Annual Valentiny Contest FINALISTS!!!

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

Valentiny Writing Contest 2018

FINALISTS!!!

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:

  1. Kid-appeal/Kid-friendliness – remember, this is a story for kids!
  2. Creativity in using hopefulness and success in making us feel the hope! (Not enough just to use the word hope!)
  3. 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!
  4. Quality of story – we will look for basic story elements and a true story arc
  5. Quality of writing – use and flow of language, correctness of mechanics
  6. 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.”

“Looks mean.”

“Ugly.”

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.

Chocolate candy

Fuzzy lovey

Red roses

Mushy card

Check!

He placed the gifts, then peeked from behind a tombstone.

Myrtle Magog stopped, read and ran. AHHHHHHHHHH!!!

Milton wilted.

He sifted through the toppled trinkets.

Too sweet?

Too fluffy?

Too rosy?

Too mushy?

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:

Chocolate-covered worms,

a zombie doll,

a thorn bouquet and

a card:

Candy is rotten,

Presents are worse.

To my great horror,

I’m writing in verse.

Be my Malentine!

Slugs and Hisses,

Milton

“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.”

“Heart-shaped haystack?”

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?”

“Um…kinda?”

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.

#8  Red

She read my face,

with just one look.

My bright red face-

an open book!

Red cheeks

Red chin

Red neck

Red nose.

She read my face

And now she knows.

I sent the card,

without my name.

but now my face

takes all the blame.

Red hearts

Red paint

Red “X”

Red “O”s

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.

Okay.

Not really.

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 🙂

The 7th Annual Holiday Contest FINALISTS! – Vote For Your Favorite!!!

Alrighty.

So it’s not my usual posting time Friday.  I’m a little behind schedule.

But it IS still Friday!  So there’s that 🙂

Given the complete and total over-scheduling of late – not just mine, but my fellow judges and probably most of you guys because, let’s face it, Hanukkah is already underway and it’s only 10 days until Christmas! – it’s pretty much of a miracle that there’s a post going up at all!  I have an imminent appointment with a hairy scary tangle of Christmas lights on the agenda, and a recipe to try that involves actual yeast and letting things rise, and who knows how that kind of thing might end!

But here we are, and THAT means it’s time to discuss something of great importance!  Something we cannot go even one minute further without settling!

You know it and I know it!

And I know it’s really been weighing on your minds!

No, not the meaning of life (although clearly that is important too…)

I’m talking about something much less philosophical and much more immediately crucial!

Namely, which reindeer are you?

I tried three different quizzes.  Two of them said Cupid because for me the holidays are all about love and family.  (The other one said Prancer and that I would always be the best dressed person in the room for photographs… I don’t know what went wrong with THAT one because, well, have you SEEN me? 🙂 )

Since I know none of us can go another second without knowing where we are on Santa’s team, feel free to check out the quizzes and let me know how you line up! 🙂  Also, if you got consistent results!  Also, if anyone gets Rudolph, who in my book is technically not one of the hard core team since he was a recent addition to the original 8 who did the job unaided for time immemorial!  You’ll notice there is no mention of him in Clement C. Moore’s classic poem!  But I digress…  Take a quiz or two or three and let me know how it goes 🙂

Quiz 1

Quiz 2

Quiz 3

Alrighty, now that THAT’S settled, what do you want to talk about?

Chocolate?

(Always a good topic!)

Or maybe what’s on your Hope-I-Get-It gift list?

(I’m guessing either an agent or a book contract or both are at the top of most of our lists 🙂 )

Or maybe the insanity of ruining perfectly good chocolate by trying to make it taste like gingerbread?

(I am not making this up!  Lindor truffles has a gingerbread flavor!  I saw it in Kohls!  And of course I had to try one because I love chocolate (as you may have heard 🙂 ) and I also love gingerbread… but I’m sorry to say that in my opinion it was an extremely misguided idea!  Feel free to debate, but I’m going to take a lot of convincing.  However technically, I guess this isn’t really a separate topic but falls under the category of “chocolate” above…)

Or maybe…

…just maybe…

you’d like to know who the Holiday Contest Finalists are???????!!!!!!!

Far be it from me to disappoint you!  Ready or not, here they come! 🙂

The 7th Annual Holiday Contest

Kangaroo sleigh

FINALISTS!!!

Except first a few words from our sponsor.

Which is, er, me.

First, I want to thank EVERYONE who found time in their busy holiday season schedule to write an entry for this contest – all 78 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!  You guys did an amazing job and really rose to the occasion.  So much creativity and great writing!  You should all pat yourselves on the back and have a celebratory bonbon!  (I recommend something besides gingerbread-flavored chocolate 🙂 )

Second, I want to thank EVERYONE who took the time to go around to as many of the 44 different blogs as you could, as well as the 34 entries posted in the comments here, and read and leave supportive comments for the writers who worked so hard on these stories, and especially those who took the time to share many of those entries on social media to draw in other readers.  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.  (And remember – we had VERY specific criteria, so if you wrote a great story that just didn’t happen to fit the combined parameters it might not have made the finalists, but it’s still good!)  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!  I’d also like to point out that someone who entered the 6th Annual Holiday Contest in 2016 embellished on her story a bit and ended up selling it to an editor!  It is going to be a published picture book!  So that could be you, too! 🙂

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 Dasher and Dancer’s dreams of Broadway stardom 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.

Remember that the judging criteria were:

  • 1. Kid-appeal! – These stories are intended for a young audience (ages 12 and under), so we’re looking for stories that children will enjoy and relate to.  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.  Sadly there were several GREAT entries where the judges felt the emphasis was too much on the relationship between Santa and Mrs. Claus (too adult to be appreciated by kids) or where the humor was directed at things adults would find funny but were less applicable to kids, etc.  At least one of our favorites fell into this category 😦
  • 2.  Holiday Surprise! – the rules state a Holiday Surprise story, so it must be crystal clear that the story is about Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or whatever you celebrate, and it must contain a surprise! 🙂  Most people did a good job with this, but there were unfortunately some that felt predictable and some that just didn’t feel that surprising.
  • 3. Quality of story – entries must tell a story, including a main character of some kind and a true story arc even if it’s tiny 🙂  Entries must not be merely descriptions or mood pieces.  I’m happy to say you guys did a great job with that in this contest!
  • 4. Quality of Writing: check your spelling, grammar, punctuation etc.  If you’re going to rhyme, give us your best 🙂  Overall writing quality and use of language are also important.  Rhyme is so tricky!  Some of you do it amazingly well – really!  But there are always a few stories that are clever and fun and might have made the finals if written in prose, but problems with the rhyme (usually the meter) keep them from getting there.
  • 5. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.

We cut 66 entries to leave you with these 12.  It was very hard!  We did the best we could.  You’ll find some poetry (surprisingly little in this list of finalists – weird how that works out!) some prose; some for younger readers, some for older; some funny, some quieter; and a mix of holidays.  I hope you’ll all find at least one of your favorites on the list below.

#1 Waiting For The Winter Gift

“Mama, what will we do when winter comes?” Little asked.
“What deer always do,” Mama said, “slow down and eat what we find.”
“Can’t we hibernate like Bear?” asked Little.
“We’ll be cozy beneath the pines,” Mama said.
“We could dig snow tunnels like vole,” said Little.
“Our winter coat will block the chill,” said Mama.
“Let’s vacation like goose!” said Little.
“And miss the winter gift?” said Mama.
“What’s that?” said Little.
“A surprise to wait for,” Mama said.
Soon snowflakes fell.
“Is it time?” Little asked.
“Not yet,” Mama said.
“Are you certain the gift will come?” Little asked.
“It always comes,” Mama said.
Little tired of twigs, bark and pokey pine needles.
She dreamed of acorns, buds and spring flowers.
Finally, on the coldest of evenings, Mama’s whisper woke her.
They crept to the edge of the woods.
“I can’t see!” said Little.
“Shhh,” said Mama. “Wait.”
Little peered into the darkness at a lone pine.
Suddenly, it gleamed with light.
“The tree!” Little said.
“Shhh,” said Mama. “Wait. And listen.”
Little squinted.
Dim shapes gathered around the pine.
Soft voices filled the air.

“The first Noel, the angels did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay…”

As the carolers sang, a boy dragged a sled full of cracked corn toward them.
“Merry Christmas,” he whispered, leaving the sled behind.
Little’s tummy tingled hopefully.
“Is that for us?” Little asked.
“Yes,” said Mama.
And soon Little and Mama’s bellies matched their full hearts.

#2 Just Desserts

Every year at Christmas, it’s my job to pick a game,
so this year I suggested that we each should draw a name.
Last night we went shopping, then came home and wrapped the loot,
piled up mounds of gifts, and settled in to have a hoot.
No one knows the trick I played, to make me get the most
(and I’m not gonna tell them now- I’m not the one to boast).
What a plan! I bet I’ll get all kinds of awesome stuff.
Robots, nun chucks, tablets…I just hope I get enough.

Morning’s here, we all rush down, I feel like I could burst!
“Settle down,” Mom says. “Let’s all take turns. Now, who goes first?”
Looking at the shining paper, fluffing all the bows,
picturing the things we’ll get, I hope it’s good. Who knows?
Gracie picks her gift up first and shakes it in surprise,
tears off all the wrapping, “Oh, I can’t believe my eyes!
It’s everything I wanted! Thank you Mommy, thank you Dad.”
A doll? Who needs a doll? I guess for her, it’s not so bad…
Maybe Ollie’s present will be something more my speed.
Building blocks?! That’s baby stuff. It’s not quite what I need.
My turn! This one’s heavy! I just can’t believe my luck!
I yank the paper off and find… “A GIANT FRUITCAKE! YUCK!”
No big deal, there’s fifteen more, all labeled with my name.
But ripping each gift open, one by one… THEY’RE ALL THE SAME!

#3 Essie The Hen And Her Christmas Surprise

It was almost Christmas and Essie loved nothing more than chatting
and scratching and fussing over excited chicks.
Then one day, a horse trampled her foot.
The kind farmer made a bed for Essie in the kitchen.
Essie tried to tell Nettle the dog all about it, but Nettle hardly noticed her at all.
Each day, Essie waited for Nettle.
Then in the evenings, she did her friendliest best.
She chatted about her grand chicks.
Yawn.
She chatted about her great grand chicks.
Bigger yawn.
She even chatted about her great great great grand chicks.
Snarl!

Time went by, Essie began to hobble about while Nettle did nothing but sleep.
What a lonely Christmas this will be, thought Essie. So she decided perhaps she could help.
Essie tidied the woodchips by the fire.
She picked up Nettle’s spilt food.
She even watched for dangerous intruders.
Bagawk!
Nothing seemed to work.

That night, as the fire’s last embers glowed, Essie dreamed of a merry Christmas.
Then she noticed something strange.
Nettle was a big squirming monster!
Essie hid but then …
“One, two three, four, five … six glorious pups!” she squawked.
When Nettle went outside, the pups shivered and whimpered
and cried.
Essie hobbled straight to the basket …
and hopped on top of the pups.
“Cloork, cloork!” sang Essie.
Nettle stared at Essie sitting on her pups, sniffed her then sat beside the basket.
What a merry Christmas this would be after all! Brock!

#4 Travelin’ Blues

We’re travelers.
Mom writes books about different cultures. We’re home for a bit while we catch up with friends and school work. Then — off again!
The only time this is a problem is Christmas. Every year, a new place. I just want to be home.
This is how it goes before Christmas:
“Mama, can we go home for Christmas?”
“Not this year, Kels. This year we’re going to [insert name of faraway country].”
And then we’re off.

I’ve gotta admit we’ve been part of amazing Christmas celebrations.
When I was seven, fireworks and ice cream in Brazil: spectacular!
Thirteen desserts in France. YESSS!
A sauna on Christmas Eve in Estonia:   interesting?!
Last year, two Christmases.
Iceland in December: books and pretty fried bread. Perfection.
Ethiopia in January: 4:00 a.m. candlelight procession. Intense.

This year, I’ve had it. I wanna go home.

We’re in Australia. I say, with grump:
“Mom. Let’s go home for Christmas.”
She just gave a tired smile and kept typing.
Grrr.

Today we’re off to wherever we’re going. Don’t care where.
We’re late, rushing to get settled with our flight standbys: earbuds, neck pillows, books. Mom pulls out a gift bag.
“Open it.”
I know it must be her buttering me up for another traveling Christmas.
As the flight attendant says “…and then straight to the States,” I read the words “DTW” at the end of the printed itinerary that was in the bag. Detroit. Michigan. Home. Heaven on earth.
“Surprise,” Mom says quietly.

Best. Christmas. Ever.

#5 Santa’s Delivery Dilemma

On Christmas Eve, Santa awoke early, ready for his annual journey.

Nice list? Check—toys loaded for delivery. Naughty list? Done—coal on board. All the reindeer had their check-ups and international travel vaccinations last month. The sleigh had its annual tuneup last week. Just a pre-departure test flight remained.

But as the reindeer whisked him into the sky, Santa noticed Rudolph’s nose flickering. Then Rudolph sniffled and sneezed. The sleigh jolted, suddenly losing altitude. Clearly, Rudolph was too sick to fly!

“What are we going to do?,” worried the other eight reindeer. Laden with gifts, the sleigh needed another strong flyer to complete its deliveries before Christmas morning.

“I will summon some Arctic alternates!,” said Santa. “We must believe—in ourselves and in Christmas miracles.” Soon, a menagerie of candidates arrived at Santa’s snow-covered driveway.

A moose plodded up but had no flying experience. “Next!,” called an elf. An athletic polar bear volunteered but was dismissed for exceeding the weight limit. “Next!” A snowy owl eagerly fluttered up but wasn’t strong enough for the position.

As Santa considered his predicament, he sensed something behind him. “I’m well-suited for this task,” a voice whispered. Looking back, Santa stared…

a pink unicorn stood behind him!

“You’re…actually…REAL?,” Santa gasped. “I stopped believing…in unicorns…years ago,” he admitted.

Satisfied after one last test flight, Santa began his important journey—led by Trudy, the unicorn, who proudly flew with an LED light duct-taped to her horn.

#6 Racing The Sun

Mrs. Claus adjusted Santa’s hat.
“This night always makes me nervous,” she said.
“I’ll be fine,” Santa said. “Quick as a wink and back before the sun is up.”
They kissed goodbye just as the head elf opened the door.
“Lift off in 5 minutes!”
The reindeer were waiting.
Santa said, “Fly like the wind. We stay ahead of the sun tonight.”
They understood and soon galloped at full speed into the dark night.
The journey was smooth as Santa whooshed around the South Pacific. Packages flew from his nimble hands through Asia, Africa and Europe.
But then the sleigh was slammed by a meteor shower.
“We have to find shelter!” cried Santa.
The reindeer flew toward earth and landed in the Canadian Rockies.
Santa checked his watch and looked at the sky. We’re running out of time, he thought.
Finally, they could take off.
Santa worked at a frantic pace through Mexico and South America. An amber glow emerged from the darkness as he delivered the last present.
“Home! On the double!” shouted Santa
Dawn was breaking as the sleigh touched down at the North Pole.
“Ouch!” cried Santa as he touched a sizzling blister forming on his cheek.
The elves whisked him inside to Mrs. Claus.
“Tonight was too close,” Santa said as he quickly brushed his fangs.
Mrs. Claus pulled the drapes tight and opened his coffin.
“In you go,” she said. “I’ll see you tonight.”
She closed the lid and chuckled.
If the kids only knew.

#7 Rigby And Tuttle: The Pinecone

It was Christmas, and Rigby Bear still didn’t have a gift for his friend.
“What to get the otter who has everything?” Rigby wondered.
Something special,
incredible…
surprising!
He lumbered through the neighborhood, thinking….
and slathering peanut butter onto bread. (Rigby always brought a snack.)
Soon he passed a persimmon tree.
“Persimmon popovers!” said Rigby. “Tuttle loves them! Luckily, I’m the best baker in town.”
But Rigby had given popovers before–
on Valentine’s Day,
April Fool’s Day,
and even Teacher Appreciation Day.
“On second thought,” said Rigby. “Popovers aren’t surprising.”
He bit into peanut-buttery bread. (To help him think, of course.)
Rigby padded into the countryside…
and past a pumpkin farm.
“Pumpkin pie! Good thing I’m an excellent baker.”
But he had given pie, many times before–
on Tuttle’s birthday,
Halloween,
and even National Paperclip Day.
“Come to think of it,” said Rigby. “Pie isn’t surprising.”
He shuffled into the forest…
but couldn’t dream up a Christmas surprise.
Huckleberry tarts? No.
Granola bars? No.
Frosted eclairs? Nope.
Rigby plopped down and sighed. “I only know how to bake. I can’t make anything else.”
He reached for a slice of bread…
picked up a pinecone instead…
and slathered it with peanut butter.
“Oops.”
Just then, Tuttle appeared, wearing bird-watching gear.
Rigby waved.
The icky-sticky pinecone clung to his fur…
and thirteen little birds perched on his paw, happily pecking peanut butter.
Chirp!
“A pinecone birdfeeder, for me? Thanks, pal!” said Tuttle. “What a surprise.”
“It sure is,” Rigby agreed…
“Merry Christmas!”

#8 Binah’s Journey

It was the first night of Hanukkah and everyone had gone across to the Mazur’s for latkes, leaving Binah alone to think for the first time since she arrived.
She could still hear them through the walls. It was always noisy in the crowded tenement.
Binah missed the village where she’d lived with Zayde, Bubbe, and Papa. She could run through the nearby fields and breathe fresh air!
Last spring, the pogroms began. Every week bought destruction and fear. One day Papa disappeared.
In August, Binah was sent aboard a ship to join family in New York.
Kneeling near the stove on the cold kitchen floor, Binah dragged her overcoat from under the narrow bed she shared with her cousin Sally. She fumbled in the pockets until she found the large wooden dreidel Zayde tucked inside that day she had to say goodbye. It was large and lopsided, just like Zayde. Binah wondered if she’d ever see him again?She stood the dreidel on end and tried a spin but it toppled right over showing the lucky letter, gimmel. Looking closer, Binah noticed a tiny crack. She put her thumbs on the gimmel and pushed. The side slid open.
Tickling her fingers into wool batting, Binah pulled out a coin, then six more, a gold watch, pearl earrings, and a little paper scroll.
Unrolling it, she read: “Binah—Use these treasures to help build your shining future in America. Always remember I love you, zeisele. I know you will succeed.”

#9 Family Is Home And Home Is Wherever It May Land

Hazel found a safe spot, deep in the arm of a needly fir. She wove a fluffy nest and welcomed her new litter.
Winter winds blew. Swoosh! Whoosh!
Frost sparkled. Crickle! Crackle!
The field mouse and her growing family snuggled until…
Clomp!
Clomp!
Clomp!
Chop!
Chop!
Chop!
Hazel and her children held tight as they went topsy-turvy. Their home was dropped, dragged, then propped upright again.
The mice peered at their woodsy neighborhood from the inside out. Gasp!
Mesmerized, they peeked at the people dancing, decorating, stretching high to place a star.
Snap! Lights twinkled
Choo-choo! A train chugged.
Children hung stockings.
Parents pointed at the clock.
Everyone went upstairs.
After awhile, Hazel and her curious little ones jumped down to explore their new surroundings.
They hopped on the train and rode ‘round and ‘round the holiday town. Whee! Then…Bump! Thump! Thump!
Black boots tromped toward the tree.
Squeakkkkkk! Eeeeeeeek! Hazel and her family raced back to their nest, hoping the big guy with rosy cheeks, twinkly eyes, and white hair, hadn’t seen them.
He piled people presents high; books, blocks, dolls.
Then, he looked straight at the mice. Yikes!
He stretched his black-gloved hand toward them. They froze!
The big guy’s hand opened. Surprise!
Presents: coverlets of silky curls, bits of carrots and cookies, and mouse-sized cups of warm cocoa.
He winked, and waved and left.
Even though temporary, Hazel and her family celebrated the wondrous night at home, together.

#10 Vegan Cut-Out Cookies

Sammy was allergic to a lot of things. He couldn’t have milk or gluten. Peanuts made his face puff up and corn made him throw up.
His mother found a recipe for cut-out cookies called Zucchini Coconut Oil Vegan Sugar Cookies. It was a big deal to create something sweet.
He poured and mixed just the right amount. He rolled the dough out. He cut out a Santa, star, and stocking.
He baked them, cooled them and decorated them. He covered them with homemade frosting and fruit.
As he finished he started to worry. Would Santa like his treat? Would he be delighted with his sugary sweet?
He put out the Soy milk and Vegan cookies out on Christmas Eve. Hoping and praying that Santa would like them.
As He stayed awake in his bed. Thoughts of dread danced in his head. What if he was allergic to coconut?
As he was almost asleep he heard a BUMP! THUMP! Followed by STOMP! STOMP! STOMP! STOMP!
Wow! Santa was heavy. I wonder if I could sneak into see him trying my treat.
Sammy snuck quietly down the hall. He peeked around the corner. He had to muffle a yell.
Santa wasn’t human at all. The Santa Stegosaurus tromped around his living room gulping down the cookies and milk.
Santa Stegosaur turned to Sammy and said, “Thank you! Finally, a kid that knows I’m an herbivore.”
“Yyyou’re welcome,” said Sammy a smile crossing his face. Who knew that Santa was a dinosaur.

#11 Lizard In A Blizzard

Down south in December
It’s usually warm,
Except for the year of
The wicked snowstorm!

One lizard, Negrita,
(Which translates as “bold”)
Chose to take action,
To get out of the cold.

She peered in a window
And what did she see?
A cozy, warm house
With a huge indoor tree!

So she hid on the porch
And trembled and shivered
Then darted inside
When a box was delivered.

Straight for the tree,
She skittered so fast,
Ignoring the squeals
Of the people she passed.

She clambered up branches
And hid on a bough,
As somebody shouted,
“Get it out, now!”

Huge faces came near,
Peering in through the greenery,
But Negrita stayed still
To blend in with the scenery.

Big hands came in next,
Fingers grasping and groping,
“Don’t let them find me,”
Negrita sat, hoping.

The fingers came closer.
She thought she was doomed.
‘Til: “The thing’s disappeared!”
A jumbo voice boomed.

For hours she stayed there,
Continuing to hide,
Thinking, Maybe I would have
Been safer outside.

A branch below rustled,
A human was back!
But instead of chasing Negrita,
They brought her…a snack?

A tiny young human
Carried fruit on a tray.
“It’s not milk and cookies,
But I hope it’s okay.”

“You’re feeding the pest?”
Anger. Irritation.
“It’s not a pest,
It’s our new decoration!”

So, tucked amidst tinsel,
And safe from the blizzard,
Negrita became
The first Christmas Tree Lizard.

#12 Christmas Wildfire

Black bear pawed at the ground by a big douglas fir and snorted, “This one.”
Elk wrapped the tree with honeysuckle vines, carefully tucking in the ends with his antlers.
Bluebird dotted the needles with red Christmas berries.
Jackrabbit dangled wild carrots, joyously jumping to the highest branches.
Coyote paced around the tree and howled with delight.

Black bear grunted, “Quiet.”
Jackrabbit’s nose twitched, “Smoke.”
Elk raised his antlers, “Danger.”
Bluebird chittered, “Run, run, run!”
Coyote snapped at their feet to hurry.

After their long flight, the animals huddled under a strange tree on Christmas Eve.
Jackrabbit rubbed his long ear and squeaked, “Our Christmas tree?”
Black Bear let out a low growl and tucked jackrabbit under his arm.

In the morning Great Horned Owl swooped low and hooted, “Safe.”
The animals meandered through black trunks.
Puffs of ash followed Jackrabbit’s jumps.
Black bear shook soot from his fur.
Bluebird landed on Elk’s antlers and rapidly tweeted, “No. No. But Santa. Oh dear. No.”

Then they froze.

Their Christmas tree stood alone. The green needles were covered in Christmas berries, wrapped in honeysuckle, and dangled with carrots. Only one thing had changed. The tree glistened with a coating of Christmas snow.
Jackrabbit cried, “Saved!”
Black Bear nodded, “Unexpected.”
Elk bellowed, “Miracle.”
Bluebird trilled, “Santa! Santa! Santa!”
Coyote howled with delight.

Having read (and probably re-read and re-read!) through these 12 fabulous finalists, please VOTE FOR YOUR FAVORITE in the poll below by Monday December 18 at NOON EST.  I’m hoping the full weekend will give you enough time but I’m including Monday morning too just in case!  Winners will be posted on Tuesday December 19 and we can celebrate and then all get on with our busy holiday schedules!

Congratulations to the finalists!  And 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 Tuesday… same bat time, same bat station 🙂

The 2nd Annual Valentiny Contest FINALISTS!!!

Okay.  So this is the part where we pretend it’s Monday morning instead of Monday fashionably late evening 🙂

(Don’t look at the clock!  You’re only imaging that it’s nearly midnight and basically Tuesday for all intents and purposes!)

You have only yourselves to blame!

There we were. . .

Three innocent judges minding our own business, confident in our ability to choose a group of finalists for this contest, happily gobbling heart-shaped chocolates whilst sipping delicious coffee from writerly-themed mugs, glasses perched, pens in hand, ready to make informed decisions, and . . .

. . . WHAM!!!

We were blind-sided by such a landslide of unrivaled entries that we quickly found ourselves overwhelmed by awesomeness to the point where we had to drag in an extra judge to help settle disputes that threatened to become physically violent!

A certain amount of knock-down-drag-out-fighting confusion ensued over what, exactly, constituted “confusion” as opposed to frustration, indecision, lack of knowledge,  coordination and/or ability, or just plain ole mystery!  Someone, (ahem!), should have thought more carefully before choosing confusion as the emotion.  It will NOT happen again! 🙂

If it weren’t for the quick thinking of Judge #1 (moi) who cleverly thought to break up the fight with a box of glazed chocolate Munchkins (no comment on exactly how those Munchkins were used to break up said fight, but let’s just say some of us grew up with brothers and have experience with sling shots and very precise aim… 🙂 ), or it might have ended in injury!

Luckily for all involved, a little Munchkin magic was worked, we all simmered down, and by some miracle we managed to come to some kind of contentious consensus.

May I present to you . . .

The 2nd Annual Valentiny Writing Contest

valentinywriting-contest2017

FINALISTS!!!

 

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!  Hence the Munchkin mayhem!

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:

  1. Kid-appeal/Kid-friendliness – remember, this is a story for kids!
  2. Creativity in using confusion and success in making us feel the confusion!
  3. Valentine’s Day appropriateness – this is a VALENTINE story!
  4. Quality of story – we will look for basic story elements and a true story arc
  5. Quality of writing – use and flow of language, correctness of mechanics
  6. 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 seem to really showcase confusion, or 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 2017 Second 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 23 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 most confused baby in the playpen 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 Banana In Love: A Valentiny Knock-Knock Story

Banana gathered his courage. Flowers in hand, he stepped up to Orange’s door.
Knock! Knock!
“Who’s there?”
“Banana.”
“Banana who?”
“Banana who?!? I live next door!”
“Are you the red, shiny, popular guy who brought me flowers last week?”
“No…” Banana sighed and glanced at his flowers. “That’s Apple.”
“Oh. Are you the short, funny, fuzzy guy who brought me chocolates?”
“No!” Banana rolled his eyes. “That’s Kiwi!”
“Aw. So, you’re the squishy guy, who wrote me that poem, ‘What It Means to Be a Fruit’?”
“No, no, no! That’s Tomato! Look, never mind. I’m gonna split.”
“Wait!” shouted Orange. “If you’re not them… By chance, are you the tall, yellow, handsome guy that I find so….”
Orange flung open the door.
“….appealing?!”
Banana and Orange looked into each other’s eyes.
Banana cleared his throat. “Orange, you going to be my Valentine?”
“I thought you’d never ask.”

#2 A Mixed Up Valentine

Charlie Thomas carefully cut and pasted, glittered and glued, wrote and colored. Then, he sat back and admired the valentine he’d made for Rose. Charlie had adored Rose since Kindergarten, and every year he created a special card just for her.

When he finished admiring the card, he carefully placed it on her desk and returned to his seat. Just then, Sam passed down that aisle. The breeze he created when passing caused the card to float to the floor next to Jenny’s desk.

Jenny entered the class shortly afterwards and noticed what she thought was a note. She picked it up, looked around, and decided it was for her. Carefully she unfolded the heart shaped card and began to read. She smiled at the signature that said__ Love Charlie.

Jenny had adored Charlie Smith since kindergarten. She walked to Charlie’s desk, bent down so they were eye to eye, and hugged him around his neck. Charlie turned bright red. He wasn’t sure why Jenny had hugged him, but he had admired her since kindergarten, so he didn’t mind at all.

#3 Lilla, Not Just Vanilla (A Tiny Self-Love Story)

Lilla was a plain, ol’, donut hole.
Whenever a fancier donut rolled by, her tummy ached.
Strawberry icing…chocolate coating…snazzy sprinkles…nut topping…coconut flakes…
“I don’t even have a sugar glaze,” she sniffed.
“Cheer up, lil’ lump!” said Mini Muffin. “You’re just…vanilla. Vanilla is exotic! Vanilla comes from Madagascar.”
“But I don’t wanna be ‘just vanilla’!’” said Lilla.
She wanted to be a little something extra. But extra what?
On Valentine’s Day, Lilla decided a makeover was just the treat she needed.
She took the Rainbow Sprinkle Plunge.
The sprinkles wouldn’t stick.
She showered in powdered sugar.
COUGH-COUGH! COUGH-COUGH!
She even went cinny-dipping.
Aaaaaaaaaaaah-AACHOOO!
Lilla lolled about, lost. Her tummy only ached more.
She rolled, roly-poly-slowly, to the doctor’s.
“Flavor?” said Dr. Cruller.
“Plain,” said Lilla.
“Hmm…”  Flummoxed, Dr. Cruller ran one final test.
“Well, well, well. You aren’t so ‘plain’ after all, Lilla.”
Lilla peered at the x-ray. She saw a secret kiss of raspberry jelly, baked right inside her.
“I’m a surprise-inside kind of cake?!” she cried.
“No one will ever know unless you smile,” he said.
Lilla’s tummy ache faded.
BOING! She bounced out of the doctor’s, beaming.
“MINI! I’m not JUST vanilla!”
And from then on, everybody knew it.

#4 Never Text A Valentine

Happy V-Day to my BESTIE! Won’t you bovine?

Bovine?

No, I mean pea vine.
Beeline
Benign!
Stupid auto car wreck.

What???!!!
Are you OK?
What happened?

BFF? Are you there?
Hey! Why don’t you answer???

Sorry, phone died.

How did the car get wrecked?

What are you talking about?

You said your auto got in a car wreck.

What? No!  The car’s fine.

Whew!

It’s my phone. Keeps autocorrecting my worms.
words.

Oh, gotcha.

I was trying to say
Be
Mine

TY! Slime to you!

Um gist going to call.

K

 

#5 Sebastian, Say Something

Nell held in her hands three Valentine’s cards
She made in her class during Art.
Miss Polly, her teacher, had helped her to trace,
Then carefully cut out each heart.

Nell glued them on paper she’d folded in half.
Miss Polly had said they looked good.
She wrote on each inside, “I love you so much!”
As well as an eight-year old could.

But now as she held them, while perched on the bed
She slept in the end of each week,
Nell said to Sebastian, her step-mother’s cat,
“Sebastian, I wish you could speak!”

“I know I have known you for only two years.
And clearly, at first I was mad.
I wanted my parents to stay as they were,
But your mommy married my dad.

“I hated to come here; I hated you all.
Leaving my mother was hard,
But your mommy, Susan’s, been ever so nice.
Now, I want to give her this card.

“Sebastian, the problem’s my mother still cries.
I’m worried what harm I might do
By giving to Susan this Valentine’s card
And telling her I love her too.

“So, give me some signal, a simple meow
Or purr to convince me I’m right,
But hurry Sebastian; she’s coming in soon
To hug me and kiss me goodnight!”

#6 Too Many Mannys

“Look,” said Manny Mooney. “I found a valentine on Penny Pepper’s desk. It says, ‘For my marvelous Manny. You do the funniest things!’”

“It must be for me,” said Manny Mackey. “I mimic messy monkeys.”

“Or, it could be for me,” said Manny Meany. “I march through muddy muck.”

“No, it’s for me,” said Manny Murphy. “I make myself milkshake mustaches.”

“You forget about me,” said Manny Mitty. “I moo to mixed-up music.”

“And what about me,” said Manny Moony. “I mumble with a mouthful of mini-marshmallows.”

All five Mannys held onto the valentine and performed their funny feats.

Penny Pepper pranced in and was perfectly perplexed.

“What are you doing with my valentine?” She asked.

All of the Mannys answered at once, “I’m proving this valentine was meant for me.”

“Oh,” said Penny Pepper, “this valentine is not for Manny Mackey, Manny Meany, Manny Murphy, Manny Mitty, OR Manny Mooney.”

“But there are no more Mannys” said the many Mannys.

“If you look closer,” said Penny Pepper, “this valentine says, ‘For my marvelous Mommy.’ I’m bringing this one home.”

#7 A Picture-Perfect Valentine

Moose eyed the pile of valentines. On top was a handmade card from Maya. Honestly, he was surprised to see any valentines, let alone one from Maya.

On the card, she’d drawn a doughnut with sprinkles. “Sweet?” Moose whispered. “Sweetie? Sweet Thing?”

Next was a picture of something with wings. “A bee,” thought Moose.

Below that, a drawing of Maya herself. Moose stared, confused.

Why would Maya give him a valentine? He broke her crayons and stole her snacks. Well, not every day. “Sweetie, be mine.”

Moose grinned.

“Thanks for the valentine,” he told Maya. Now Maya looked confused. “I figured it out. See? Something sweet…”

“A doughnut,” Maya corrected.

“And a bee.”

“Actually…”

“And that’s you,” Moose continued.

“Well, sure, but…”

“So the message is, ‘Sweetie, be mine!'”

“Actually,” said Maya, her nose wrinkling, “that’s just a bug. Get it? ‘Donut bug me,’ like, leave me alone and don’t steal my candy today.” Maya walked away, shaking her head.

Moose blushed. He sank into a chair. Then he noticed another valentine on his desk, two candy hearts glued to construction paper. One said, “PUPPY LOVE.” The other said, “NO WAY.”  Signed, Chloe.

“No way,” he repeated. “Not puppy love? Then it must be true love.”

“Hey, Chloe,” he shouted “thanks for the valentine!”

#8 Cupid’s Heart Finds A Home

Dear Stupid Cupid,

Last year, you gave me a green candy cane. I barfed. Please don’t do that again.

Disgustedly Yours,

Gertie

*****************

Dear Hurty Gertie,

You hurt my feelings. It’s not nice to call someone stupid.

Sorry you’ve been sick. I know nothing about candy canes or the color green. I only know about chocolate, the color red, and hearts. Maybe you have me confused with someone else?

Cluelessly,

Cupid

******************

Dear Clueless and Confused Cupid,

Sorry to hurt your feelings, but I’m sure it was you. Speaking of red, you wear a red suit, don’t you?

Sincerely,

Gertie

******************

Dear Gertie,

No, I wear my birthday suit.

Warmly,

Bare-bunned Cupid

******************

Dear Birthday Suit Cupid,

Now I’m confused. My birthday’s in June, but I got the candy cane in December, along with a bunch of toys. Does your mom really let you go outside naked?

Flabbergasted,

Gertie

*******************

Dear Gertie,

I have no family, no home. I’m just a lonely cherub, spreading love and chocolate around the world, not toys.

Sadly,

Cupid

*******************

Dear Sad and Homeless Cupid,

Please come live with me! You can sleep in my room, and I’ll give you clothes to wear. We’ll hide the chocolates under my bed.

Your friend,

Gertie

********************

Dearest Gertie,

On my way! Happy Valentine’s Day!

All my love,

Cupid

#9 Misaki’s First Valentine

Misaki hugged her mother goodbye, went into school, and hung her coat. She was surprised to find many little envelopes and papers waiting in her locker. They were pink and red and white, and many were cut in the shape of hearts. On each there was writing — English letters that Misaki could not read yet.

Holding these pretty papers, Misaki walked into her classroom. She saw her friends were holding their own pink and red and white papers. She watched as Rosa handed a red heart to Sophia, and Caroline gave a pink note to Ramin.

Misaki looked at the papers in her hand. She wanted to keep them all, but she picked a white heart with red writing and gave it to Oskar.

Oskar smiled and gave it back. “This is your Valentine, Misaki. You don’t give it away. Ramin made this one for you. We give cards to our special friends on Valentine’s Day.”

Misaki looked again at her friends giving cards to each other. She smiled at Oskar, and took a red paper from the art tray. Misaki made 14 quick folds, just as her grandmother had taught her, and the paper became a delicate red heart. Misaki placed it in Oskar’s hand and said, “You are a special friend.”

#10 Valen-Rhymes

Hi, Didi!
Hi, Gogo! Want to help make valentines?
Sure! What do I do?
You draw a little picture, and write a little poem. Like this:
Roses are red.
Violets are blue.
Sugar is sweet,
And so are you!

Neat! Let me try.
Roses are red.
Violets are blue.
Sugar is sweet.
So brush your teeth later!
No, no, no. That doesn’t rhyme.
It doesn’t?
No. It has to rhyme.
It does?
Of course! Like BLUE – YOU – SHOE – TRUE. Those words rhyme!
If you say so.
Let’s try again.
Violets are blue.
Roses are red.
I dream of our friendship
Each night in my…

SLEEP!
No, not sleep. Bed! Like RED – BED – HEAD – FRED.
Who’s Fred?
Fred is no one.
Then why are you writing him a valentine?
Jiminy Cupids, Gogo! Pay attention.
Okay. I’m ready.
Are you sure?
Shoot.
Daises are white.
Some roses are too.
If I were a cow
I would stand here and…

STARE!
Forget it! I give up! You CANNOT rhyme!
Didi?
What is it, Gogo?
I made this for you.
Didi, you’re special.
You are my best friend.
I know I’m no poet.
But I love you a lot.
Oh, Gogo. Thank you.
Did I do it right?
You did it perfectly.

#11 Valentine Crush

I hope you’ll be my valentine.
You’re not so sure? I see.
You wonder why the card I gave
is crushed and crumpled?

Gee…

I fashioned it with you in mind–
with paper, sequins, glue–
then gently walked it to your house.
The next part’s strange, but true…

I tried to place it in your box.
(Yes, that’s what I had planned.)
Just then, a sentimental ape
removed it from my hand!

She lumbered down the street so fast
(your note crushed in her fist).
She seemed to think she’d won my heart
but in a crazy twist

a magpie spied your valentine
as ruby sequins flashed.
It stole her heart! She stole your card,
flew far away…

then crashed.

A smitten chipmunk found your note
and stuffed it down a hole.
It would have stayed there–disappeared–
except a lovelorn mole

insisted it was in his way
and swept it from his floor.
It popped up at my feet. What luck!
I bolted to your door.

Remember, it’s the thought that counts,
so don’t look so confused.
This valentine’s a fine design
it’s just a little…used.

And anyhow, it demonstrates
the kind of love I feel.
This crushed-up valentine is proof–
my crush on you is real!

#12 Love Bug

My sister Anna has been acting funny all day, working on some top secret card.
She’s been humming to herself, giggling, and was nice to me!
Anna even shared her Valentine’s chocolate with me.
Something must be wrong.

“Anna was bit by the love bug,” Mom said.
“Gross!” I said. I HATE bugs.
“Is she going to the doctor?” I asked. My Mom just giggled. Maybe she was bit too.

I wanted to find this bug.

I went outside with my butterfly net and a jar of leaves. This bug was mine.

I swished and I swooshed the net around until it was crawling with critters to fill up my jar.

Caterpillar, no.
Cricket, no.
Beetle, no.
Dragonfly, no.
Lady bug, no—Wait! The lady bug has a heart shaped spot on its wing! Love bug!

I was so excited that I ran inside to show Anna the love bug that bit her.

There was a boy sitting at the kitchen table with her eating cookies. Anna handed him the secret Valentine’s card, and he gave her one back. They were both giggling. She must be contagious!

“Who’s that???” I asked.

“That’s the love bug, sweetie,” Mom said smiling.

“Gross!”, I said. The only thing worse than bugs are boys!

 

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 23.

Tune in Friday February 24 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 a tropical island paradise to recover from all that reading and agonizing and negotiating.

Okay.

Not really.

I will actually be frantically trying to catch up on things I shoved to the back burner whilst reading Valentiny stories… right after I meet a dear writer friend for lunch and spend a good portion of the day gabbing since we have a LOT to catch up on and we have been waiting WEEKS to get together!  But after that, yes, definitely back to work! 🙂

Have a marvelous Monday everyone!!! . . . now that it’s Tuesday 🙂