Just When You Thought It Would Never Happen. . . The 2022 Valentiny Contest FINALISTS!!!

At last, my friends, just when you were probably beginning to suspect that the whole “family medical situation” was a cover story and I had actually disappeared to parts unknown having undergone plastic surgery to mask my identity whilst hiding out from the FBI, or gone into witness protection because of my secret past, I have materialized with the Valentiny Contest Finalists!

I know.

My secret past sounds intriguing.

And let me assure you, IT IS!

But it is a story for another day.

Today we need to focus on the finalists and the voting. It would be irresponsible of me to distract you from the task at hand by telling you about my days as an undercover operative, or about rescuing the princess of a country whose name I cannot divulge and restoring the throne and the government of said country, or the fact that my left pinky is registered as a lethal weapon, or any of the other things I did before I reinvented myself as a mild-mannered picture book writer as vanilla as they come. There will be no distractions today. No sirreee, Bob! Not one!

We’re going bare bones.

Here are your finalists. There are 14 because Valentine’s Day is on the 14th of February and I am finally posting finalists on the 14th of March. (Also because we couldn’t decide on only 12 and there were 13 prizes so I’ll just add one 😊)

Please read these amazing stories, choose your favorite, and vote by Wednesday March 16 at 9PM Eastern. Pride. Story. Kids 12 and under. Valentine’s Day.

A word about the voting. You are welcome (and encouraged!) to share today’s post anywhere and everywhere! The more readers and voters we get, the better because all these marvelous stories deserve to be read and enjoyed by as many people as we can get! But the finalists are listed by title only in order to preserve some anonymity so that the voting can be as merit-based and unbiased as possible. Please do not troll for votes. Please do not ask people to vote for entries by number, title, or description (i.e. the one about the lovesick unicorn who wept marshmallow tears 🦄) That goes against the spirit of the contest. Thank you so much in advance!

Now then! Prepare to have your socks knocked off!

#1 – Special Delivery

I am BEAUTIFUL!

Red construction paper hearts inside of pink construction paper hearts and glitter from top to bottom – that’s my front! My back says, “Made with love” and the “o” is a little red heart. Could I be any cuter?

My maker, Ali, is going to give me to someone special, I know it! I am so proud of how I turned out.

Inside, I say the sweetest thing: “Roses have thorns, Violet’s are tiny, but you’re just right, my Valentiney!”

Oh, she’s picking me up! Here we go!

Walking past her best friend? Ok, I was not expecting that. Past Javon? Hmm, he would have been special. Ok, who’s next? Sydney? Aaaand she keeps going.

Where in the world is she taking me?

We stopped. Whose desk is this? The new kid Jasmine?

Hey, her box is covered in glitter like me!

Am I going in? Wheeee, she’s putting me in! I knew she’d pick someone special.

#2 – The Valentine’s Cake

“Today,” said Miss Rabbit, “you’ll each get to make,
a yummy, fantabulous Valentine’s cake.”

Anteater frowned, “But Miss, who are they for?”
“For someone you’ve chosen who makes your heart soar.”

Anteater pondered, while whisks whizzed and whirled.
A someone who’s special, who lights up my world…?

“Eureka!” he cried. “I know just who to choose!”
And grinning, he mixed up a brown cakey ooze.

The ovens all roared as the cakes baked and browned,
til “Quick!” said Miss Rabbit. “Come gather around!”

Anteater’s tummy flipped, what would he see?
He hardly dared look, but then… Wow! Could it be?!

His cake was magnificent, tall, round and wide.
The flips turned to flutters, his chest swelled with pride.

“Such wonderful cakes,” said Miss Rabbit with glee,
“they’ll make someone happy, but who will that be?”

Anteater watched as his friends leapt away,
excited to celebrate Valentine’s Day…

… a fruitcake for Gran Bear, a loafcake for Miss,
and baby Racoon got a cupcake and kiss.

Then Anteater followed, his cake carried high,
to the someone he’d chosen who made his heart fly.

“Excuse me,” he whispered, “I wanted to say,
how special you are. Happy Valentine’s Day!”

The ants scurried out as the cake touched the floor,
and anteater feasted on someone’s galore.

#3 – Flicker’s Valentine

Flicker the dragon stomped past the valentines for sale in town.
“None of these work!” he fumed, but he needed valentines for the valentine party.

He bought chocolate heart valentines.
“Agh!” he cried, “They’re melting!”

He bought paper heart valentines.
“Agh!” he cried, “They’re burning!”

“Besides,” growled Flicker patting them out–he was ashamed so he felt angry–“They aren’t dragony enough!

“The dryad brings heart-shaped willow wreaths, so her valentines are dryad-y.

“The mermaid brings heart-shaped pearls, so her valentines are mermaid-y.”

“Nobody wants melty, singed, dragony valentines. Yuck!”

Just then he spied…
“Marshmallow hearts?”

“Oo!” thought Flicker.

“Is it valentine time?” Flicker gasped rushing into the party.
“Yes,” said the Dryad. “Did you bring some?”

“Yup!” grinned Flicker, “Can I borrow a stick?”

The dryad handed Flicker a slim willow branch from her wreath.

He pushed the heart-shaped marshmallow onto the tip of the stick.

Lifted it up and—Fwoosh!
A beautiful, toasted marshmallow heart.

“Here,” said Flicker, beaming. “A properly dragony valentine. It’s melty. It’s singed! And I made it just for you.”

The dryad popped the toasty treat into her mouth.

“It’s perfect!”

That year and every year after all the magical creatures looked forward to Flicker’s melty, singed marshmallow valentines. And he toasted them up–one by one–with great dragony pride.

#4 – Valentine Wins

Whistle blows,
racers run,
every kid
except for one.

Leo limps
and comes in last.
Kat takes first.
She’s rocket-fast.

Kat sees Leo
limping in.
He does not quit,
though he cannot win.

Kat likes Leo.
He is kind.
He helps with math
when she’s behind.

Teacher says,
“For Valentine’s Day,
let’s show love
in some new way.”

Back at class
it’s time for art.
Leo makes
a bright red heart.

He hands Kat
his Valentine
while all the kids
get back in line.

Whistle blows,
they race again.
Kat starts out
in first, but then…

She runs back
to Leo’s side.
Teacher’s face
lights up with pride.

Kat and Leo
run the race
arm-on-arm
and win tenth place!

Teacher gives them
both a prize:
a bag of mini
chocolate pies.

Walking home
along Pear Street
Kat and Leo
share their treat.

Both of them
know this is true –
fast or smart,
me or you:

It’s fun to win,
or ace a test,
but being someone’s
friend is best.

#5 – A Change Of Heart

Valentine’s Day is Mabel’s least favorite holiday.
The worst thing about Valentine’s Day…
Conversation hearts.
These hearts were bad enough without posters and stickers of them spread all over school.
UR CUTE
Ugh.
BE MINE
Ew.
KISS ME
Barf.
“They’re too lovey-dovey,” Mabel rolled her eyes.
“Agreed. Let’s do something about it,” said Lev.
“I’ve already got a plan!” Mabel smirked.
She filled him in, and they got right to work making a poster.
A CHANGE OF HEART
Conversation hearts are gushy and mushy!
Let go of the old sayings and make way for…
Mindful hearts!
Take some hearts, write your best encouraging sayings, and drop them in the box.
The contest created a flurry.
When they checked the box after school it was overflowing.
Mabel high-fived Lev.
“Let’s do this!”
They pulled the mushy, gushy hearts off the walls and replaced them with the new hearts.
The next day, students and teachers crowded the hallways, reading the hearts aloud.
DON’T QUIT
PROUD OF U
FEAR LESS
BE YOU
“Now that’s a conversation!” said Lev.
Mabel beamed.
Maybe Valentine’s Day isn’t so bad after all, she thought.

#6 – The Perfect Valentine

“It’s Valentine’s!”
said Mrs. Hughes.
“And so I’d like
for you to choose
a person who you
love real hard
to make an extra
special card.”

Cecilia chose her
cousin Sal
and Pablo chose
his closest pal
Patricia who
sat next to Brad,
who chose Brianne,
who chose her dad.

And as for me,
I chose someone
who truly cannot
be outdone.
The brightest bulb,
A-plus! First rate!
The pride of
P.S. 28.

The smartest kid
in all the school.
The fastest in the
swimming pool.
A star in art
and music class,
with talent no one
can surpass.

The bravest kid
in the whole grade
who’s super tough
and not afraid
of roller coasters,
snakes or sharks,
of monsters, bugs,
even the dark.

“Time for lunch!”
Mrs. Hughes said.
“So take your finished
cards and spread
them out to dry
on that shelf next
to all our other
art projects.”

Before I head on
out the door,
I gaze upon
my card once more.
It’s perfect as
I knew it’d be
because this one’s
addressed to me.


“You shouldn’t have!”
I tell myself
and place the card
up on the shelf
with all the other
Valentines
(that just aren’t quite
as good as mine).

#7 – Valentine Delivery – Part II

Last Valentine’s Day, Mail Truck bravely delivered the mail despite slick, snowy roads.
This year, he has a different problem: nothing to deliver!
All packages have been given to bigger, faster trucks.

Disappointed, Mail Truck spins his wheels.
“I’ll do my route anyhow. Maybe there’s mail to pick up!
I’d hate to let the neighbors down, especially on Valentine’s Day!”

As he pulls down 1st Avenue…
THUD! A delivery truck launches boxes into flowerbeds.
Mail Truck’s engine heats up. “That’s not where those belong.”
He shuffles over and carefully places the packages in mailboxes.

On 2nd Avenue…
ZOOM! A delivery truck speeds by.
“Whoa! There are kids around!”
Mail Truck’s blares his horn. “HOOOOOONK! Slow down!”

The delivery truck is busy on 3rd Avenue too.
SPLASH! A package lands right in a puddle.
The delivery truck doesn’t even notice (or care).
Mail Truck’s blinkers turn red. “A wet package will not do.”
He scoots over and dries it off.
As he puts it in the mailbox, a neighbor runs outside with an envelope.

“Ah-ha! Outgoing mail!”
Surprise! The envelope is addressed to him!
It’s his very own Valentine!

Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
We appreciate
All that you do.

Mail Truck wipes away a proud tear and remembers why he LOVES his job.

#8 – Sweet Valentine

The third-grade class all write their names
and doodle heart designs
on baggies colored red and pink
which hold their valentines.

They peek into each other’s bags
and chat about the treats.
Today they’ll exchange cards, but more
importantly eat sweets.

Millie glances nervously
at snacks her classmates bought.
She made cute cards with special notes,
but cards were ALL she brought.

Twenty unique valentines
specifically addressed,
she’d worked so hard creating them
she’d missed what kids like best.

One by one, the class delivers
mail to each other.
Candy wrappers crinkle as they
swap with one another.

Millie’s cards are tossed aside
for lacking sugar loot,
and her (once beaming) confidence
dwindles…dims… goes mute.

But then a nearby classmate shouts,
“Oops! This card fell behind.
No candy? Hmm… this one is from…
Millie!! You’re so kind!”

The whole third-grade then drops their treats
to shuffle through their piles,
and as they read what Millie wrote,
the room fills with sweet smiles.

“She likes the way I heart my i’s.”
“She noticed when I shared.”
“Millie saw I learned to draw!
I thought nobody cared.”

Millie shines as her friends say
they never would have guessed,
that candy’s nice, but feeling proud
is what they all like best.

#9 – V-Day!

When Radney Rat broke up with Vivian Vole on February 13th–
right before her Valentine’s party–
Vivian vented to her best friend, Morley Mouse.
“I’m done with love! The party’s canceled!
No conversation hearts!
No pink balloons!
No valentines whatsoever!”
Morley blinked.
“Absolutely no ooey-gooey or mushy-gushy.” Vivian sighed.
Morley patted her paw. “We could still celebrate . . . SOMETHING.”
He pointed to her calendar.
V-day was scribbled on February 14th.
“V-day?” Vivian mused.
Morley nodded. “Your favorite letter.”
“Morley, you’re a genius!” Vivian cried.
Morley’s ears turned pink with pride.
They called their friends.
No ooey-gooey. No mushy-gushy.
But V things were VERY encouraged!
Morley chopped vegetables.
Vivian placed violets in vases.
They donned new vests.
Would their friends come to a V-day party on Valentine’s Day?
Ding-dong!
They came!
And they delivered:
Vinegar.
A violin.
Vacuum cleaners!
Vanilla ice cream.
Vampire books.
A Venus flytrap!
And a Velveeta volcano!
Guests played volleyball and watched videos.
“Wow,” said Vivian. “This is better than a Valentine’s party! Thanks, Morley.”
Morley’s cheeks turned as pink as his ears with pride . . . and something sweeter.
He smiled. “My favorite V thing is . . . you!”
Vivian beamed at her best friend.
“Strike a pose!” someone called.
“Let’s dance!” Vivian pulled Morley’s paw.
Vivian, Morley, and all their friends vogued.
“Happy V-day!”

#10 – Percy’s Performance

Peacocks lookin’ fancy! (Gasp!)
Peacocks lookin’ fine! (Oh my!)
Tonight’s the night they’ll strut their stuff
and score a Valentine! (Aww!)

The ballroom is aflutter.
The party’s at its peak.
But Percy watches all the others
chatting cheek to beak.

He spent the whole day primping.
He memorized the dance.
Though maybe not the boldest,
Percy thinks he has a chance.

It’s time for the performance.
The ladies have a seat.
The four-piece band begins to play
a fresh and funky beat.

The gents unfurl their plumage.
There’s nothing left to lose.
With puffed-up chests they do their best
and peahens start to choose.

Strut strut strut and flick!
Turn and twist and shout!
All the peacocks are in sync,
but one is standing out.

Percy’s really grooving. (Oof!)
He thinks, “I’m in the zone!” (Watch out!)
But when the music fades away,
he finds himself…alone. (Sniff)

Every other birdie
has found a Valentine.
Percy leaves, his head held high,
but then he hears…
“Be mine?”

It’s shy but lovely Hilda!
She blushes with a smile.
“I don’t care much for dancing, but
I can’t resist your style.”

Percy’s feelin’ awesome. (Yeah!)
Hilda’s at her best. (Mm-hmm!)
Their hearts are full of love and pride, and now
so is their nest! (Cheep cheep!)

#11 – Oog Love Rock

One Valentine’s Day, Cupid set out to help Oog the Caveman find love.

But this was long, long ago, and Cupid was still getting the hang of his bow. He didn’t always hit his target…

His arrow missed Ugga.

It whizzed by Unk.

It flew over Froon.

But then, it struck!

A boulder.

“OOG LOVE ROCK!”

Oog made Valentines for Rock out of moss and bark.

He sang love songs to Rock.

He carried Rock everywhere. “Oog tired!” (Rock was very heavy!)

When spring came, it was time to move to a new cave, far away. Too far for Oog to carry Rock.

But Oog would not leave his beloved Rock behind.

He pressed his shoulder against Rock.

“Oog push!”

But Rock wouldn’t budge.

He made a rope and tied it around Rock.

“Oog pull!”

But the rope wasn’t strong enough.

SNAP!

Oog flipped Rock end over end, but it made him go very,

very,

sloooowwwly.

“Oog never get there!”

Then Oog had an idea.

He chipped and chopped, scraped and smoothed, until…

“Rock roll!”

Oog had invented the wheel!

“Oog proud.”

Cupid was proud too. He might not have been aiming at that boulder, but Oog and Rock were the perfect match.

“Oog love Rock.”

#12 – Showdown In Smoochalot

In the foothills of Smoochalot, Texas
Lived a cowboy called Honey Pie Pete.
He was dashing and thin
With a lopsided grin,
And, true to his name, he was sweet.

“I’m like syrup on biscuits!” he gloated.
“In this town, ain’t nobody sweeter.”
And he may have been right,
Except–one winter night,
He bumped into Sugar Lump Skeeter.

“I’M the sweetest!” ol’ Skeeter cried proudly.
“And that’s the way it’s gonna stay.
If you dare disagree
You can square off with me
In a showdown on Valentine’s Day.”

“What kind of a showdown?” Pete wondered.
“Valentine’s cards!” Skeeter said.
“Make your sweetest design,
And I’ll offer up mine.
We’ll see which one comes out ahead.”

“You got it!” Pete shouted with gusto.
“Can’t see that this breaks any law!”
So, when V Day came ’round,
Both men stood their ground
And hollered out: “3-2-1…DRAW!”

Markers and crayons went flying!
There were stickers and glitter and glue!
When Skeeter was done,
He said, “That was fun!
And, by the way…this card’s for you.”

“Oh, how sweet!” Pete exclaimed without thinking.
In an instant, he realized his sin.
Blushing five shades of pink,
He said with a wink–
“Fair enough, cowboy. You win.”

#13 – Hoppy Belated Valentine

It’s Valentine’s Eve!
There’s love everywhere!
It’s the (second) best holiday to be a hare.
Hoppy hopped as she shopped,
plucking flowers peak bloom,
with a zig and a zag past the folks in the room.

Hoppy was happy!
Her flowers looked great!
A gift for a friend… who is chronically late.
She clutched her bouquet
then bounced on her way
to proudly present them on Valentine’s Day.

When the morning arrived
and the sun rose above,
hopeful Hoppy was eager to soon share her love.
But her pride became guilt,
feeling hours tick by,
as the flowers wilted and the sun left the sky.

On the following day
burrowed deep in her trunk,
mopey Hoppy awoke to a THUNK! THUNK! THUNK! THUNK!
Upside-down from a bough
with a ginormous smile
hung her good friend Slow-Joe with a MUCH LARGER pile.

“…The one gooood thing about beeeing a sloth…
…By theee time I arrrrive everything is half-off…
…That’s twice as much candy for meee and yoooouuu…
…if we celebrate late by a day or twoooo…”

Her smile appeared,
but soon was erased.
She scooted in front of the sad drooping vase.
“…FLOWERRRS ARE PERRRFECT…
…THE FOLLOWING DAAAY!!!
…Beeesides, they taste better when wilted this waaaay!!”

[SLOPPY BITE! SHOVE! CHEW!] “Slow-Joe, I Love you, too!”

#14 – Cupid’s Confidence

My cherub classmates look my way.
I hear them whisper “Cupid … .”
They laugh at something I’ve said wrong.
“That archer sure is—”

NOPE!

Sure, numbers jumble in my mind
because my gears are turning.
I know, though, I’m a gifted chum.
Mistakes mean I’m still learning.

In basketball, my shot gets blocked.
I hear some seraphs snort.
And when my next one nicks the net,
they reason, “Cu’s too—”

NOPE!

So what if I can’t alley-oop
and rebounds find me last?
My layup’s featherlight and suave.
My breakaway is fast!

If teardrops drip, their eyebrows raise.
(I cry when sad AND happy.)
“Wah-wah,” they mock.
“Boo-hoo,” they squawk.
“Oh, Cupid, you’re too—”

NOPE!

They might not fathom feelings now,
but that’s about to change.
My arrow’s primed for Valentine’s.
I’ll keep their hearts in range.

Phew! Do you see how we had such a hard time even getting it down to 14?! Please vote for your favorite in the poll below by Wednesday March 16 at 9PM Eastern! Then go take a nap. That was hard work!

I will do my very best to post the winners before April 14 😊 Shall we say Thursday, Friday or Saturday? I’ll do my best!

Now then, my darlings! Go forth and VOTE! And share the post with everyone you know who might enjoy reading these stories to themselves or their children or their students – the more the merrier! 😊

The 2021 Holiday Contest Finalists Are HERE! Vote For Your Favorite!!!

Darlings!

This is no time for play!
This is no time for fun!
This is no time for games!
There is voting to be done! (just go with it and pretend voting is only one syllable 😊)
or
There are prizes to be won! (no, that doesn’t work either, although it’s true!)

Maybe we should go with:

Every writer
in Bookville
liked contests a lot. . .
But the judges
who judged all the entries
did NOT!
(although to be fair, we love the contests and we love reading the entries, we just hate having to cut them to get down to 12!)

The point is, we have done our valiant best to come up with 12 finalists (and let me tell you, it was a Herculean task!) and the time has come for you to read the entries that made the finals, choose your favorite, and vote for it!

Normally, I’d waste a little time with tomfoolery, but it’s been a desperate few days (and nights) of entry judging, which means not always paying as close attention to the puppy as I should, which means there is carpet steam-cleaning to be done. (Maybe I should have found a way to finish up my little stanza with that!)

So let’s just get right to it!

I know these entries are a little longer than the Halloweensie ones, so I truly thank you for taking the time to read through them and vote for your favorite. You won’t be sorry. They are all fabulous and I know you’ll enjoy them!

I will say THANK YOU to everyone who wrote an entry, took time to read other people’s entries and leave supportive comments, shared the contest with friends and family so that all our talented writers could get more readers, is taking the time now to read and vote, and who generally helped to make the contest so much fun, but I’m going to skip reiterating the judging criteria (you can check for it HERE) and save all my usual difficulty-of-choosing stuff for the winners post on Friday so you can get right to the entries!

Please read through the following 12 entries and vote for your favorite in the poll below by Thursday December 16 at 7PM Eastern so I can announce the winners on Friday! As always, I encourage you to share today’s link everywhere you want so that as many people as possible can read these stories and vote, but please do not attempt to influence the voting in any way. It is supposed to be based on merit, not on who can get the most people to come vote for their entry because they’re your friends and relations or they owe you for that time you babysat their kids 😊 If you’re a finalist, please don’t broadcast that on social media – just ask people to come read all the entries and vote for their favorite.

So here we go! Your 12 Finalists for

The 11th Annual Holiday Writing Contest

~ for children’s writers ~

1 –

2 – Phoebe’s Snowperson

Outside the city library, a flier flits in the wind. “Snowperson Contest!” it announces, catching Phoebe’s eye. She reads:

Kids, let’s spread a little cheer
and deck the library halls
with handmade “snow”-people
who won’t melt like snowballs!

The prize? Free popsicles at the pool this summer.

“Yes, please!” Phoebe exclaims.

Phoebe hurries toward home, her imagination firing with every step. What can she use to build a snowman? Perhaps she should create a snowgirl? How much glitter does she have? Is there any white paint in the garage?

“Hi, Mom! Bye, Mom!” Phoebe yells and dashes to her room. It might be December, but she can practically taste the watermelon-cherry-coconut flavors of summertime.

But when Phoebe starts to gather materials, she feels doubtful. She looks at the pillows scattered about and wonders how she’ll make a snowperson that stands up—and stands out.

Phoebe starts to hum an old song about a snowman who came to life. “He had a magical hat!” she recalls and races to her closet.

Then she remembers a story about snowmen’s nighttime adventures and another about a silly snowman in a hot tub. She smiles.

“The snowmen are in my books. What if my books are my snowman?”

Phoebe lays a chapter book flat with the pages facing out. She stacks on a fat collection of fairy tales and then some tattered picture books. Before long, a snowman built out of stories stares back at her.

“Perfection,” Phoebe whispers.

3 – A CHRISTMAS PICKLE STORY

Sentimental ornaments
trim our tree high to low,
but Christmas Eve tradition calls
for one to steal the show.

Dad dons a scruffy Santa hat
and gathers us around.
“I’ve picked the pickle’s hiding spot!
It’s waiting to be found.”

“Dance! Prance! Blitz and dash!
All may search until
the finder claims the first gift and
the title of ‘Big Dill’.”

Grammy prods each shimmery bough.
Mom browses round and through.
Baby pulls off ornaments
(to get a better view).

I snug myself beneath a branch
to peer up from the bottom.
A glint of green. A clumpy curve.
Yes! I think. I got ’em.

I pluck the pickle from its place,
eager to claim my prize,
then notice Dad off to the side
with sparkle in his eyes.

His festive fuss for all of us
makes everybody grin.
It doesn’t seem to bother him
that he will never win.

I put the pickle back, but shift
it where no one will see.
Then grumble, “Oh by golly, there’s
no pickle on this tree!”

“Ho ho, oh? Check near the stump–”
That’s when Dad’s eyes meet mine.
I toss a wink and, in a blink,
Dad’s rummaging through pine.

He tugs back on a tree skirt bump
revealing what I’d done.
The pickle found, I quickly cheer,
“Gosh, Dad, looks like you’ve won!”

He wraps us all up in a hug
and whispers in my ear,
“You can have the first gift because
I’ve got mine right here.”

4 – SIMPLY THE BEST

Christmas was Maise’s favorite time of year.
Awe-inspiring. Wonderful. Magical.
Simply the best.
Maise wanted to be awe-inspiring, wonderful and magical, too.

Maise entered the Gingerbread House Decorating Contest.
Her house had icing and gumdrops!
Sprinkles and sparkles!
It even had an entire reindeer family reunion!
“It’s very…. creative,” said the judges.
But, Catalina won with a classic design.
“Awe-inspiring,” Maise told her.

Maise entered the Holiday Baking Contest.
Peppermint sticks!
Mocha melts!
Orange and ginger shortbread!
“Quite the variety,” observed the judges.
But Lester won with his Yule Log cake.
“Wonderful,” said Maise, licking her lips.

Maise entered the Ice Skating Contest.
Wearing a very sparkly leotard,
she skated forward!
And backward!
She even did a twirl!
But Jozef had a routine that was…well…
“Magical,” admired Maise.

Maise smiled.
She hadn’t won any ribbons but it had still been a delightful day.

“We have one last ribbon to award,” announced the judges.
“The award for the Most Holiday Spirit goes to…
Maise!”
“Awesome,” said Catalina.
“Wonderful,” said Lester.
“Magical,” smiled Jozef.
And to Maise, it was simply the best.

5 – SO YOU THINK YOU CAN PRANCE

“Places, Rudolph. Jump in line.”
(That’s me! Contestant #9.)

“Welcome back to North Pole Live:
‘So You Think You Can Prance,’ season five.
I’m your host, the famous Prancer.
Please welcome back our champion dancer!
He’s shimmied chimneys—Seoul to Atlanta:
the man, the myth, the legend—SANTA!”

Santa’s back? Last season’s best!
His reindeer too? I should’ve guessed.
Dasher coasts. Dancer whirls.
(Prancer hosts.) Vixen twirls.
Comet? She was born a star.
Cupid is on point, so far.
Donner brings the beat, the boom.
Blitzen’s jig ignites the room.
Maybe I’ll sit out this year.
With four left hooves, I’m bottom tier.

Eight contestants soar. I sink.
They float. I flail. They curve. I kink.
They sway. I swoop. They strut. I stop.
They spring. I sprawl. They dip. I drop.
Showing off, they’re busting moves,
I spin and—
SPLAT.
I’ve busted hooves!

“Oh, DEAR!” I hear.
Yes, I’m aware—
my spill was broadcast on the air.
The crimson of my well-known nose
extends until my body glows.
Someone whispers, “not a dancer.”
Reindeer snicker—even Prancer!
“Can klutzy caribous compete?”
My antlers shrink. My legs retreat.

Halfway out the door, I hear,
“Rudolph! I need YOU this year!
Ho-ho-ho! That grit! That glow!
Prancer, change my choreo’:
Substitute those samba mixes.
No more formal foxtrot fixes.
Rudi’s riffs will spark my set—
a glow-in-the-dark-breakdance duet!”

*North Pole Live rewrote its jingle
to feature Ru’ and Kris-Kross-Kringle,
the prime-time prancing pair sensation,
who tours one eve—to every nation.

6 – Cinder-Latke

Cinder-Latke puts down her scrub brush and reads a letter on the kitchen table.

—EVERYONE INVITED TO ROYAL PALACE HANUKKAH PARTY—

—Prince Nudnik Will Wed Latke-Making Contest Winner—

Cinder-Latke sighs. “I wish I could go like Pishka and Kishka, my stepsisters—”

Pink lightning FLASHES—

A puff of smoke morphs into Fairy-Godmother Yenta. “—and you will!”

Yenta waves her wand—

Cinder-Latke rides in a gold carriage wearing a sparkling diamond-studded gown.

“The spell ends at midnight.” Yenta grins. “Have fun!”

At the palace, all the princess-wannabes cook potato-pancakes like crazy.

Finally, Prince Nudnik tastes Cinder-Latke’s latke. “It’s perfection—I love you!”

The tower clock chimes midnight—Cinder-Latke flees.

Next morning, Prince Nudnik searches every house in the kingdom.

“Ugh!” He spits out Pishka’s latke and gags on Kishka’s. “One’s heavier than lead and the other tastes like moldy sweat-socks.”

An irresistible aroma tickles Prince Nudnik’s nose, luring him into the kitchen.

Cinder-Latke flips her latke onto a dish. “I knew you’d come.”

Prince Nudnik, drooling, bites into the latke. “Heavenly—” He sinks to one knee and whips out a ring with a gleaming latke-sized diamond. “Please, be my Latke-Princess!”

Cinder-Latke’s eyelashes flutter. “Sure, why not?”

Cinder-Latke and Prince Nudnik wed on the eighth night of Hanukkah and dance the hora around the menorah.

After the honeymoon, they open a restaurant—

—PRINCESS CINDER-LATKE’S LATKE PALACE—

—and dine on latkes happily ever after!

(Pishka and Kishka become fabulously wealthy businesswomen selling their latkes as cannonballs and bug-repellent.)

7 – Christmas…by a Nose

Newspapers trumpeted!
Radios blared!
Cable news cried in alarm!
BIG CARROT SHORTAGE REPORTED TODAY:
CHAOS ERUPTS ON CLAUS FARM

And, indeed, Claus was troubled.
Perplexed, some might say.
To friends, he appeared worried sick.
(This was Sam Claus, who harvested just up the way
from his jollier brother, Old Nick.)

Christmas was coming,
And, with it, Claus knew,
The first of the season’s big snows.
But if carrots were lacking,
Joy would fade quick…
For no snowman could count on a nose!

Assistance was needed—
“A contest!” Claus thought.
No sense in lazing about.
“A trophy” he called. “To the barnyard friend here
Who can find the best substitute snout!”

“An apple!” said Horse.
(Goat and Donkey agreed.)
“It’s festive and rosy to boot.”
“But it’s round,” Claus reminded,
“And, also, it’s red. A not-at-all carrot-like fruit.”

“Maybe corn?” piped up Chicken.
“Oh, yes!” Pig enthused.
“I’ve got a few corncobs right here.”
“Not bad,” Claus conceded.
“A veggie, it’s true. But we need a good nose, not an ear.”

“’Wait, wait!” squeaked a voice. “Down here, take a look!
May I share my idea with you, please?
You need something pointy and orange-ish, and so…
Why not try wedges of cheese?”

“Yes, CHEESE!” Claus applauded. “A trophy for Mouse!
Or perhaps a large crumb would be better.
And while we’re addressing the subject of snacks:
…do we know if the reindeer like cheddar?”

8 – TREE NUMBER NINE

Sofie could barely contain her excitement. Today was Noel Knob’s first ever Christmas Tree Decorating Contest!

She had been gathering decorations for weeks —

Berries from the holly bush next door.

Strings of garland strung with white, fluffy popcorn.

Bows made from leftover ribbon.

She packed everything in her backpack and headed to the town square. 

There, evergreen trees lined the lawn. The smell of fir, spruce, and pine tickled her nose.

At the sign-in table, Sofie was assigned tree number 9.

She got right to work — a bow here, berries there, garland wrapped around and around, and a big pinecone right on top!

Proudly, she stood beside her tree. But soon her shoulders sagged.

Around her, trees twinkled with tiny lights, dazzled with store-bought decorations, and on top of each tree was a shining star.

She glanced at the ceramic teapot on the prize table and felt her hopes evaporating like steam.

Zipping up her bag, Sofie headed home. 

Behind her, the judges were ready to announce the winners. 

“Third place goes to… Tree 21, for most decorations!”

Everyone clapped. Sofie kept walking.

“Second place goes to… Tree 7 for most sparkly!”

Everyone cheered. Sofie kept walking.

“And first place goes to… Tree 9 for most creative!”

Everyone celebrated. Stunned, Sofie hurried to the stage.

“Which prize would you like?”

“The teapot, please.”

When she got home, Sofie carefully wrapped the teapot in red and green paper. 

Then, she filled out the gift tag —

To Mom
From Sofie
MERRY CHRISTMAS!

9 – A CREATURE WAS STIRRING

Twas the night before Christmas
and all through the house,
Every creature was stirring,
including, Wee Mouse.
Stirring and blending, creating sweet treats
for a contest to see which ones Santa will eat.
“Don’t even bother,” said Pup. “He’ll choose mine.”
“I don’t think so,” purred Kit. “Because mine are divine.”
But Wee Mouse said nothing. Her movements were nimble
as she tossed her ingredients into a thimble.
She had flour in her whiskers, some dough on her nose,
and a drop of molasses had dripped on two toes.
She placed all her cookies in a minuscule sack,
climbed up to the table then…UH OH! Fell back!
The cookies all crumbled except for one bite.
“I’ve barely a taste for Santa tonight!”
Wee Mouse dried her tears, climbed back up to the platter,
feeling her one little morsel must matter.
“It’s totally tiny,” said Pup. “Not ornate.
Santa will think it’s a crumb on the plate.
Mine have fun sprinkles on top of red icing.”
Kit purred, “That brown dot? Well, it’s just not enticing.”
Wee Mouse ignored them and went straight to bed,
exhausted yet hopeful for what lay ahead.
Christmas morning she woke to a gift and a note.
She opened it up to see what Santa wrote:
“Dear Wee Mouse, My thanks for your cookie so sweet.
It was far and away my favorite treat.
And the thing that I think set it so far above
all the rest was your secret ingredient—LOVE!”

10 – BEAR’S CHRISTMAS COOKIE

Of all the holiday traditions, Bear’s favourite was the cookie decorating contest. Hedgehog always won. This year Bear was determined to beat him. He’d been planning his cookie for months.

The animals lined up with their cookies displayed. The crows approached. They were notoriously picky judges. They started with Rabbit.

Rabbit had decorated his cookie with a garden of sugar spun carrots and roses.

Badger had created a glittering forest of silver and gold gumdrops and candy cane stars.

Hedgehog had outdone himself. On his cookie, he’d crafted a miniature ice-rink with tiny skaters, each holding cups of hot cocoa. You could even see the marshmallows.

Bear was last. The Crows approached his cookie. Their black eyes widened. Towering above them was layer upon layer of icing, chocolate, candy cane, marshmallows, toffee, sprinkles, sugar plums, and whipped cream. At the top, they could just make out a Christmas angel spinning in the wind.

“Did I win?” asked Bear.

Suddenly the cookie began to wobble. It leaned one way. It leaned the other.

“Look out!” cried the judges.

SPAAAALOOSH!!!!

Every inch of fur, feathers, and forest was drenched in icing, chocolate, whipped cream, and candy. The angel landed on someone’s head. Badger licked sprinkles off his coat. Rabbit brushed marshmallows from his nose into his mouth. Hedgehog wiped icing out of his eyes. He licked his paws with gusto.

“Actually,” he said, “I think we all won!” And that day they all enjoyed the most glorious candy feast, thanks to Bear.

11 – A Miscalculation

*Attention all children!
Come out in the snow
And bring all your shovels and gear
Join in the sport,
And build your best fort
For the holiday contest this year!*

We dig and we pat
We scoop and we splat
To build the best fortress of all
No torrent of snow,
No, nothing they throw
Will knock down our unyielding wall!

Two towering turrets
Three tactical windows
Four bunkers built into the floor
Snowballs piled high,
Stacked up to the sky
There must be two hundred or more!

We hold up a finger
So that we can tell
Which direction the cold wind is blowing
We take up our stance,
They don’t stand a chance
Let’s get this tournament going!

Whoosh, whoosh, THUD, THUD
Oh no, wait a minute!
We should have seen this from the start
The snowballs we chuck
Don’t have any luck—
Our snow forts are too far apart!

12 – THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS STAR

Last year? Measly fifth. Year before? Pitiful fifteenth.
But THIS year? I’ll capture the winning star for the Interstellar Christmas Tree Contest!
For 11 months, I’ve studied, analyzed, and scrutinized all things stars.
Nothing will stop me. Nothing will slow me down.
NOTH—
“Dagan,” says Mom, “this year, your sister joins.”
“But MO-OM!” I yelp.
“My two star-chasers—or nothing,” Mom says.
Rest of the week, I lecture Daphne on the fine art of star-catching.
For Daphne, my lessons are a fine time to nap.
I demonstrate proper blaze-proof glove attire.
Daphne proves gloves go on ears, too.
We practice swooping and swirling our star nets.
Daphne tangles her net into one big knot.
Sigh.
On Christmas Eve, we load gloves and nets into our Lunar Rocket 3000 and take off.
“Sit still and be quiet,” I say. Daphne’s head droops.
Just past the moon, I spy the perfect star! It glitters and flickers and zooms around our rocket.
But it’s too fast.
Can’t. Quite. Catch. It.
“Dagie!” says Daphne. She shuts her eyes. I do the same. The star thinks we’re napping! It slows down.
Daphne hangs gloves on her ears. The twirling star stops and giggles.
We tie our two nets with a knot. Together, we extend the oversize net and scoop up the twinkling light.
On Christmas morning, we place our winning star atop the Interstellar Christmas Tree.
“Next year,” I say to Daphne, “let’s enter the Christmas Ginger-Planet Contest! Together.”
Daphne’s face beams.
“Merry Christmas, Dagie!”

WOW!

Now YOU get to enjoy the agony of decision as you try to choose which of those amazing entries to vote for!

Please vote for the entry you feel deserves to win in the poll below by 7PM EST Thursday December 16th.

Tune in Friday December 17th 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 11th Annual Halloweensie Writing Contest – FINALISTS!!! – Vote For Your Favorite!!!

I love running writing contests.

I really do.

Right up until the moment when I have to narrow a field of 300 fabulous stories down to a finalist list of 12 or so!

That’s the moment when I say to myself (every single time!), WHAT WAS I THINKING???!!! WHOSE IDEA WAS THIS WHOLE CONTEST THING ANYWAY???!!!

It’s all fun and games when the entries are rolling in, and each one is better than the last, and I’m enjoying the stories and marveling over everyone’s talent and creativity.

But then I have to evaluate all those wonderful entries – dissect and weigh and nitpick (and hem and haw and dither over every single one I have to let go) – because really, everyone steps up and does an amazing job, and there is at least something to like about all of them!

So here I am, along with my fellow judges, doing our best impressions of the Pillsbury Dough Boy after all the chocolate we’ve consumed to get us through this torturous decision-making, having not gotten out of our pajamas for days as we read and re-read. . . really, it’s a very good thing you can’t see us right now! 😊

Please know that we did the best we could to make good choices – entries that met the contest criteria, that were kid-friendly and Halloween-y and had a strong element of story (because those were big reasons why many entries were cut – too adult, not Halloween-y enough, not enough story – which we know is VERY hard in 100 words!)

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 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!

So.

Are you ready for the finalists?

I hope you like them!

Please read through them all, then vote for your favorite in the poll below by Thursday November 11 at 3 PM Eastern (so I can post the winners on Friday!)

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 broomstick-riding vampire 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. JELLYFISH GEORGE’S HALLOWEEN                                    

Jelly George’s glow-in-the-dark skeleton costume arrived today.

He would FINALLY have bones!

“Just wait until my friends see how good I look. How creepy. And SOOOOO boney!”

George visited Susie Sponge’s house first. He rang her bell with excitement, full of goosebumps.

The door opened.

George could see envy seeping from Susie’s pores as she gave him candy.

She wanted bones too. And he was FULL of them.

George floated the night away, collecting goodies and passing his jelly buddies with their silly mediocre masks.

He felt like a king.

UNTIL he noticed …

David Dogfish eyeing him.

And DROOLING.

UH-OH.

2. SANTA’S HALLOWEEN

‘Tis Halloween evening, and up at the pole
ol’ Santa sneaks into his sleigh, with one goal.

“I know it’s not Christmas but I need a snack!
I’ll gather some goodies and—WHOOSH—I’ll be back.”

“Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer and—YIKES!
I didn’t expect to see skulls stuck on spikes!”

“Monsterly mayhem and ghouls on the streets?
Galloping goosebumps! Now where are the treats?”

But glow-in-the-dark decorations galore
shock Rudolph so much that he’s shook to his core.

“My poor little reindeer have had such a fright.
We’re outta this town—good riddance, good night!”

3. TRICK-OR-TREAT, NIGHT ANIMALS!: A HOLLOWEEN STORY  

Coyote was first to spot the stampede.
“Trick-or-Treaters! Hide!” he yelped with alarm,
hurrying into the big tree’s hollow.

Goose heard Coyote.
If Trick-or-Treaters scared fierce Coyote,
they must be goosebump worthy.
She honked and joined Coyote inside the tree.

Racoon heard Goose.
If Goose and Coyote feared Trick-or-Treaters,
Racoon couldn’t mask his nerves.
He chattered, then crammed into the hollow.

Cat heard Racoon.
She didn’t fancy herself a fraidy-cat,
but Trick-or-Treaters sounded ferocious.
She hissed, then jammed into the tree with the others.

Deep in the hollow, Coyote’s sharp teeth glowed-in-the-dark.

“Goody,” he drooled.

“Trick AND treats.”

4. A FEW OF THE SCARIEST THINGS: A Parody to the tune of My Favorite Things

Witches on broomsticks and vampires flying,
Frankenstein monsters and zombies not dying,
Ogres and aliens, all ghastly green!
I’m getting goosebumps ‘cause it’s Halloween!

Halloween night doesn’t make me feel merry.
Walking around in the dark is too scary.
Glow in the dark, that’s what I need to be.
Trick or treat goodies would all be for me!

Hey I’ve got it!
I could light up….
I know what I’ll be!
Bright lights and some tinsel, a glittering star!
A Halloween Christmas Tree!

5. BUNNY’S BORED!                             

“Won’t Easter ever come?” sighs Bunny. “I’m bored.”
He checks his calendar.
“Yay! Tonight’s Halloween—I’ll hide yummy glow-in-the-dark goodies.” Hopping through creepy woods, Bunny hears branches shake.
“What’s that?” Goosebumps spike up his back.
“ROARR!” Out jumps Monster.
“Eee-yoww!” Bunny dashes.
“Wait!” Laughing, Monster removes his mask.
“Santa?”
“I got bored waiting for Christmas.”
The ground trembles—
Killer-Robot clanks from the dark.
“Great costume!” cheer Bunny and Santa.
Red beams shoot from Killer-Robot’s eyes—
ZAAPPP!
Bushes explode into flames.
“Eee-yahh—he’s real!” Bunny and Santa skedaddle.
Killer-Robot’s head slides off.
“Tee-hee-hee!” Ms. Claus grins—
“HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE!”

6. HOW HANNAH SAVED HALLOWEEN                                                 

A wicked storm blows out the lights
up and down the street.
With costumes set, the children fret,
“They’ll cancel trick-or-treat.”
Except for hopeful Hannah who,
as always, starts to plan,
certain she will find a way
to shift from can’t to can.
She first imagines fireflies,
“Too scattered to control.”
She next considers candlelight.
“Too hard to hold and stroll.
Aha!” she says as goosebumps form.
“A perfect resolution!
We’ll use my sticks that glow-in-the-dark
for lighting substitution!
I’ll ride throughout the neighborhood,
deliver while it’s bright,
then everyone can still collect
their goodies when it’s night.”

7. MY LAST TRICK-OR-TREAT                             

It was the biggest house, once showy now spooky and scary with oodles of stairs that led to darkness; but this was my last Halloween.

Leaves crunched and the wind cried.

Alone except for goodies bumping in my bag.

Ahead, a glow-in-the-dark hand on a curtain at the window. A ghost? A ghoul? Goosebumps form.

Shadows surround me.

At the top a door – large and looming.

Knock, Knock.

CRRREEEEEEK.

A hand materializes from the darkness behind the door.

PLUNK.

I look in my bag.

I am filled with horror.

Looking back at me, one small box of … RAISINS!

8. THE HAUNTED HOUSE HIGH UP ON THE HILL 

Across a front door where no one dared roam,
Spider had woven a web-tastic home.
Dead in the middle, she stifled a cry.
“What?!” grumbled Goosebump, a ghost floating by.
“Halloween’s coming, the ONE night they call!
Children won’t notice… my cobweb will fall!”
Goosebump replied: “I know what to do…”
Then into the derelict mansion he flew;
He reappeared holding a luminous potion,
Splattered it over the web in one motion.
When tricksters arrived for their goodies, they spied
A cobweb that glowed-in-the-dark, stretching wide.
“Best not approach,” someone sounded unsure,
He scurried away…

To try the BACK door!

9. KIT’S COSTUME                                                                                            

“Finally, Halloween!”
Kit couldn’t wait to go trick-or-treating.
The ooey-gooey goodies, the goosebumps, the KIDS!
All he needed was a bit of black paint
and he could be part of it!
One last glob…
“Purrrrfect!”
Under the moon’s glow-in-the-dark light
Kit crept to the corner and peeked.
“Look Mum, a kitty!”
Kit beamed,
finally walking freely.
And with so many people in sight!
Kit marched with creative costumes,
devoured thrills, chills and too-much candy
Until…
He felt a wave of wet.
“SPRINKLERS!”
Kit raced to stay dry
but, the paint had…
“Run! SKUNK!”

“Well…that had been fun.” Kit sighed.

10. ASTRONAUT AIDAN                            

Spacesuit? Check.
Stuffed bear co-pilot? Check.
Rocketship? Almost.

Goosebumps covered Aidan’s arms.
This Halloween he was flying into space.

No huge piles of goodies like last year, he thought.
No parading through the streets with his brother either.

Nervously he waited to take flight.

“The nurses have a special surprise for you,” Mom encouraged.

Do all astronauts feel this topsy-turvy before take off, he wondered.

“Ready, Astronaut Aidan?” the nurse called.

Slowly the lights dimmed.
One by one, glow-in-the-dark stars shone from above.

Reassured, Aidan smiled.

From his seat aboard the radiation machine rocketship he bravely counted. “3, 2, 1 … blastoff!”

11. IT’S HALLOWEEN IN TOOTHYTOWN                     

It’s Halloween in Toothytown,
The ghouls and goblins gather ‘round.

Their trays arranged with cakes and pies,
In hopes of grabbing this year’s prize.

Miss Dragon’s Breath, the crusty judge,
Turns up her snout at Franky’s fudge.

She sneers at Ogre’s goosebump blintz,
And gags on Troll’s toejam with lint.

But Gremlin’s spicy pepper bread,
Makes Dragon hold her scaly head.

Her nostrils flare. She starts to wheeze,
And lets out a gigantic…

SNEEZE!

The goodies sizzle, snap, and spark,
Like pumpkins glowing in the dark. Miss Dragon’s eyes begin to brim,
“Now that’s a treat! Let’s all dig in!”

12. THE WITCH’S MISTAKE                     

OH, GOODY, my first victim! Goosebumps prickle my warty body.
“Trick-or-treat!”
At last I will turn these horrid children into delightfully frightful black cats!!
It was an easy potion: dog tears, firefly butts, swamp mud, and a fingernail of salt. Looks just like king-sized chocolate bars!
Yes, they all come running now. Greedy goblins!
I stifle a cackle and wait…
But instead of feline screeches and yowls, I hear…
“Woah! Check us out! We glow-in-the-dark! Best. Halloween. EVERRRRRR!!!”
OH, BOO! I can’t believe I mixed up the sugar and salt again. Worst. Halloween. Ever.

13. PUMPKIN’S HALLOWEEN                                                          

Alone near the farm truck, Pumpkin sagged and straightened his white tag like a tie.

Ryan zigzagged through the pumpkin patch. “Here’s the last one!”

Grandpa shook his head, “Cracked.”

Ryan touched Pumpkin’s white tag. “What’s it say?”

“Sound it out.”

Ryan traced the letters. “F-R-E-E. We’ll take Free home! Put two happy eyes and a great grin on his goose-bumply face!”

Glowing-in-the-dark on Ryan’s stoop, Pumpkin enjoyed the costumes. The giggles. “Halloween is beautiful…”

Ryan thanked her shining friend with goodies. “Your midnight snacks.”

Soon, Pumpkin’s light faded. His eyes drooped. But his smile didn’t. “I’m Free.”

So there you have them! Your 2021 Halloweensie Finalists!

(And yes, I realize we posted 13 finalists and 12 prizes, so I’ll dream up an extra prize!)

Please vote for your favorite in the poll below by Thursday November 11th at 3PM Eastern!

Tune in Friday November 12th 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 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 –

#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 –

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 🙂