2017 Valentiny Contest Winners!!!

Hurray!

It’s Friday!

And you know what THAT means! . . .

. . .

It’s National Tortilla Chip Day!

It is!  I would not tease you by making something like that up!  If you don’t believe me, you can go check!

It is also the 178th anniversary of Mr. William S. Otis receiving a patent for the steam shovel!

And as I’m sure you all know, the invention of the steam shovel is of EXTREME historical import not because of stuff like the Panama Canal but because without it we would never would have had MIKE MULLIGAN AND HIS STEAM SHOVEL! 🙂

(And did you know that William’s cousin Elisha thought up the elevator ?- those Otises were clever boys!)

 

Today is also featherweight boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s 40th birthday, so we should probably have cupcakes 🙂

cupcakes

All around great day, wouldn’t you say?

Ok!

Thanks so much for stopping by!  Hope you all have a great weekend!

 

 

Oh wait.

 

I have this nagging feeling I may have forgotten something . . .

 

think.  Think!  THINK!!!

 

OHHHHH yeahhhhhhhh!!!!!

valentinywriting-contest2017

WINNERS!!!

Seems like maybe we have a few winners to announce, and prizes to give away! 🙂

We had a great turnout for the 2nd Annual Valentiny Contest – 117 entries!

I was thrilled beyond measure to see so many wonderful stories and meet so many new writers!

But with large entry numbers come hard choices.  My assistant judges and I worked hard to winnow the total down to a manageable number of finalists that we felt were truly all-around deserving of that distinction, and those were the ones we presented to you on Monday for your vote.

There were, however, many other entries that were well-written, entertaining and very enjoyable even though they might not have made the finalists for one reason or another (one reason being that, at a certain point, we just had to stop adding finalists to the list! :))

So my assistant judges and I would like to award recognition and a small prize to the following authors for the following merits:

1.  For Honorable Mention In The Competition As A Whole:
All the terrific entries on this longer-than-usual list were well-written and within a hair’s breadth of being chosen for the finalist list and were cut for the nit-pickiest of details and judges’ inability to reach a unanimous consensus!

Meagan Friedman for Bob’s Valentine Dilemma

Jill Proctor for Val N. Tine’s Day

Kimberly Delude for The Shape Of Love (also original POV – shapes!)

Leslie Liebhart Goodman for Showing Love

Anne Sawan for What Is Love?

Cathy Ballou Mealey for Something’s Fishy – A Valentiny Tale (also clever and funny!)

Molly Golden McDonough for Fiona’s Day (also likable/relatable character!)

Jim Jones for Balingtine Day Mix Up

Congratulations to the All-Around Honorable Mention Winners!  Because of the outstanding quality of your entries, you are eligible for one of the 3 following special prizes should you prefer one of them to the regular honorable mention prize options below.

The Nuts And Bolts Guide To Writing Picture Books by Linda Ashman (for Kindle), OR

Writing For Children And Teens by Cynthea Liu (paperback), OR

$10 Amazon gift card

2.  For Fabulously Written Entry That Didn’t Seem Quite Confusing Enough But We Otherwise Loved:

Linda Evans Hofke for Punny Bunny’s Valentine Dilemma 

Vivian Kirkfield for A Valentine’s Day Cake For The Queen (also great use of language!)

Ingrid Boydston for Oh My Darling Valentine

Kimberly Delude for Ways To Say I Love You (also very sweet for younger readers!)

Allison Alley for Inseparable (also original POV – 2 halves of friendship necklace!)

Penelope Aaron for Abuelita’s Valentine’s Day Surprise (also lovely incorporation of Spanish!)

Jana Locke for Vampy’s Val-o-ween

Christyne Elizabeth for Love Makes Me Sick

 

3. For Stories That Had Us Until The Ending (for one reason or another):

Terri Ross for Mr. Zombie’s Undying Love (also great character!)

Christine Evans for A Martian Valentine (also humorous!)

Although in other contests here prizes are often awarded for best character or humor or kid appeal etc, in this particular contest the entries that would have qualified were chosen for overall good writing, so we did not feel the need for the extra smaller categories.

 

Congratulations to all of you for your wonderful stories!  You may all email me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com, subject line Prize Winner to collect your prize, which is your choice of one of the following: (the titles are all links so you can go see what they’re about)

Please email your HM prize choice within 2 weeks so we can wrap up the contest in a timely fashion 🙂

For Kindle:

Picture Books: The Write Way by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

Rhyming Picture Books: The Write Way by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

How To Query An Agent Or Editor: A Children’s Writer’s Insider Guide From Mentors For Rent by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

Getting Published: How To Access Editors: A Children’s Writer’s Insider Guide From Mentors For Rent by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

The Easy Way To Write Picture Books That Sell by Robyn Parnell OR

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi , OR

The Postitive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Attributes by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, OR

The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Flaws by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, OR

The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To City Spaces by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, OR

The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Personal And Natural Places by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi

The Ultimate Fiction Thesaurus by Sam Stone OR

In paperback:
if you choose an item that has to be mailed, please include your snail mail address 🙂

The Six Senses In A Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions From Bleak To Bold Narrative by Jessica Bell OR

Adverbs And Cliches In A Nutshell: Demonstrated Subversions Of Adverbs & Cliches Into Gourmet Imagery by Jessica Bell OR

Creating Extraordinary Characters by Angela Hunt, OR

Evoking Emotion by Angela Hunt, OR

Picture Books: The Write Way by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard, OR

Rhyming Picture Books: The Write Way by Laura Salas and Lisa Bullard

 

Now then.  A word about the prizes before I announce the winners.

We have 10 fabulous prizes, generously donated by authors and various professionals in the writing field.  My policy is to let the first place winner have first pick of all the prizes, the second place winner have second choice, etc.  That way hopefully nobody gets something they already have, and hopefully everyone gets something that’s valuable to them.  All prizes are listed at the bottom of this post for your convenience in perusing the goodies 🙂  Since we had a problem with follow-through in the last contest, I’d like to ask that winners who choose a critique please be sure to use it within a month so that the professionals who are generously donating their time and expertise are not left hanging! 🙂

And now…

…the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

…THE WINNERS OF THE 2017 VALENTINY CONTEST as chosen by you, our esteemed voters!!!!!

In First Place

Winner of the whole shebang…

who gets first choice of all the prizes…

Kayla Prochnow

for
Love Bug

Congratulations, Kayla, on a fabulous entry that was all around well done, and clearly very popular!!! 🙂

In Second Place

Ryan Roberts
for
Banana In Love: A Valentiny Knock-Knock Story!!!

Congratulations, Ryan!!  You get first choice of the prizes that are left after Kayla makes her choice.

In Third Place

Heather Kinser
for
Valentine Crush

Congratulations, Heather!  You get first choice of the prizes that are left after Kayla and Ryan choose theirs.

In Fourth Place

Geoffrey Hyatt
for
Misaki’s First Valentine

Congratulations, Geoffrey!  You get to pick after Kayla, Ryan, and Heather.

In Fifth Place

Jilanne Hoffman
for
Cupid’s Heart Finds A Home

Congratulations, Jilanne!  You get to pick after Kayla, Ryan, Heather, and Geoffrey.

In Sixth Place

Katie Frawley
for
Valen-Rhymes

Congratulations, Katie!  I’m sure you get the idea of how the prize picking goes by now 🙂

In Seventh Placea tie!!! between

          Colleen Murphy                       and                                      Katelyn Aronson
                     for                                                                                              for
    Sebastian, Say Something                                          Lilla, Not Just Vanilla (A Tiny Self-Love Story)

Congratulations, Colleen and Katelyn!  You get to pick next – we’ll negotiate 🙂

In Ninth Place,

Jen Garrett
for
Never Text A Valentine

Congratulations, Jen, on a humorous entry!  You get to pick your prize after Colleen and Katelyn.

In Tenth Place,

Aileen Stewart
for
A Mixed Up Valentine

Congratulations, Aileen!  You get to pick a prize after Jen!

 

And, I don’t think I need to remind anyone that in addition to all these fabulous prizes, everyone mentioned on this page has bragging rights as having won or placed in the 2nd Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Contest!  Not just anyone can say that 🙂

All the winners should email me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com with the subject heading Prize Winner so we can work out details for you to receive your prizes!  Finalists who did not finish in the top 10 (David, Joanne) may also contact me for their choice of the Kindle or paperback prizes listed above.

Congratulations again to all our winners – it was a stiff competition!! – and congratulations to EVERYONE who wrote and entered a story in the contest.  You all deserve a standing ovation, a glitter heart confetti parade, and a large amount of Valentine chocolate 🙂

Thank you to everyone who helped make this contest SO MUCH FUN, whether by writing an entry, reading people’s stories, leaving comments for the authors, and/or voting in the finals.  It’s because of all of you that this contest was such a success, so many, many thanks from the bottom of my heart!

Have a terrific weekend everyone, and thanks again for making the 2nd Annual Valentiny Contest such a smashing success and a wonderful time for all! 🙂

 

The Prizes:

– A Picture Book Manuscript Read and Critique from “Dear Editor” Deborah Halverson!!!

– A Picture Book Manuscript Read and Critique from children’s literary agent Jodell Sadler!!!

– A Picture Book Manuscript Read and Critique from Andria Rosenbaum, author of the forthcoming Trains Don’t Sleep (May 2017) and Big Sister, Little Monster (September 2017) as well as others!!!

– A Picture Book Manuscript Read and Critique from children’s author Jodi McKay!!!

– A Picture Book Manuscript Read and Critique from Amy Dixon, author of Marathon Mouse, Sophie’s Animal Parade, and the forthcoming Maurice The Unbeastly!!!

– A Picture Book Manuscript Read and Critique from children’s author Jason Kirschner!!!

–  A Picture Book Manuscript Read and Critique from Children’s Author Vivian Kirkfield!!!

– A Query Letter Read and Critique from SubIt Club founder Heather Ayris Burnell!!!

– a personalized signed copy of Jodi McKay’s delightful Where Are The Words?

– a personalized signed copy of Diana Murray‘s wonderful (and very seasonally appropriate!) Groggle’s Monster Valentine

Once again, please join me in thanking Deborah, Jodell, Andria, Jodi, Amy, Jason, Vivian, Heather, and Diana for their incredible generosity, and show your appreciation by visiting their sites, buying and recommending their books and services to your writer friends and/or friends with kids, writing them nice reviews on Amazon, GoodReads etc if you’ve read and liked their books, and showing your appreciation to them in any way you can!  I truly can’t thank them all enough!

The 2nd Annual Valentiny Contest FINALISTS!!!

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

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

You have only yourselves to blame!

There we were. . .

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

. . . WHAM!!!

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

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

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

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

May I present to you . . .

The 2nd Annual Valentiny Writing Contest

valentinywriting-contest2017

FINALISTS!!!

 

And may I just say, once again, that the quality of entries in these contests is improving every time.  This means there are fewer obvious standouts, almost none that are easy to cut, and there a LOT of very good ones that we have to get very nit-picky over!  It is agony, I tell you!  Hence the Munchkin mayhem!

Before we get to the actual list of finalists, I have a couple things to say.  (I know you’re shocked as I’m normally such a girl of few words :))

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

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

Third, before I list the finalists, I want to say again how difficult it was too choose!  There were so many amazing entries.  Really.  I could find at least something terrific about every single one.  The sheer volume of entries meant that many good ones had to be cut.  So if yours didn’t make the final cut please don’t feel bad.  There was a huge amount of competition.  Judging, no matter how hard we try to be objective, is always subjective at a certain point – we all have our own preferences for what makes a great story.  And the fact that you didn’t make the final cut DOES NOT mean you didn’t write a great story.  Everyone who plonked their butt in a chair and worked hard to write a story for this contest is a winner!  You showed up.  You did your best work.  You practiced your craft.  You wrote to specifications and a deadline.  You bravely shared your writing with the world.  And you have a brand new story that is now yours to expand beyond 214 words if you like and maybe submit at some point to a magazine or as a PB manuscript.  So bravo to everyone who entered!

Now.  Onto the judging criteria which were as follows:

  1. Kid-appeal/Kid-friendliness – remember, this is a story for kids!
  2. Creativity in using confusion and success in making us feel the confusion!
  3. Valentine’s Day appropriateness – this is a VALENTINE story!
  4. Quality of story – we will look for basic story elements and a true story arc
  5. Quality of writing – use and flow of language, correctness of mechanics
  6. Originality – surprise us with something new and different! 🙂

We really tried to choose stories that did the best job of fulfilling ALL the judging criteria.  There were some truly wonderful stories that didn’t have much to do with Valentines Day (remember – it was supposed to be a Valentines Day Story for kids), or didn’t seem to really showcase confusion, or didn’t seem particularly kid-oriented even though they were very creative and well-written, or that really had us…until the last line or two when things sadly fell apart.  We tried our best to select finalists that checked all the boxes.

So without further ado, I present to you the finalists in the 2017 Second Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest!  Please read through them carefully, take your time, think it over, and vote for your favorite in the poll below by Thursday February 23 at 12 PM (noon) Eastern time.

To help with objectivity, finalists are listed by title only, not by author.

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

#1 Banana In Love: A Valentiny Knock-Knock Story

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

#2 A Mixed Up Valentine

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

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

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

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

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

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

#4 Never Text A Valentine

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

Bovine?

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

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

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

Sorry, phone died.

How did the car get wrecked?

What are you talking about?

You said your auto got in a car wreck.

What? No!  The car’s fine.

Whew!

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

Oh, gotcha.

I was trying to say
Be
Mine

TY! Slime to you!

Um gist going to call.

K

 

#5 Sebastian, Say Something

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#6 Too Many Mannys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Penny Pepper pranced in and was perfectly perplexed.

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

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

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

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

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

#7 A Picture-Perfect Valentine

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

On the card, she’d drawn a doughnut with sprinkles. “Sweet?” Moose whispered. “Sweetie? Sweet Thing?”

Next was a picture of something with wings. “A bee,” thought Moose.

Below that, a drawing of Maya herself. Moose stared, confused.

Why would Maya give him a valentine? He broke her crayons and stole her snacks. Well, not every day. “Sweetie, be mine.”

Moose grinned.

“Thanks for the valentine,” he told Maya. Now Maya looked confused. “I figured it out. See? Something sweet…”

“A doughnut,” Maya corrected.

“And a bee.”

“Actually…”

“And that’s you,” Moose continued.

“Well, sure, but…”

“So the message is, ‘Sweetie, be mine!'”

“Actually,” said Maya, her nose wrinkling, “that’s just a bug. Get it? ‘Donut bug me,’ like, leave me alone and don’t steal my candy today.” Maya walked away, shaking her head.

Moose blushed. He sank into a chair. Then he noticed another valentine on his desk, two candy hearts glued to construction paper. One said, “PUPPY LOVE.” The other said, “NO WAY.”  Signed, Chloe.

“No way,” he repeated. “Not puppy love? Then it must be true love.”

“Hey, Chloe,” he shouted “thanks for the valentine!”

#8 Cupid’s Heart Finds A Home

Dear Stupid Cupid,

Last year, you gave me a green candy cane. I barfed. Please don’t do that again.

Disgustedly Yours,

Gertie

*****************

Dear Hurty Gertie,

You hurt my feelings. It’s not nice to call someone stupid.

Sorry you’ve been sick. I know nothing about candy canes or the color green. I only know about chocolate, the color red, and hearts. Maybe you have me confused with someone else?

Cluelessly,

Cupid

******************

Dear Clueless and Confused Cupid,

Sorry to hurt your feelings, but I’m sure it was you. Speaking of red, you wear a red suit, don’t you?

Sincerely,

Gertie

******************

Dear Gertie,

No, I wear my birthday suit.

Warmly,

Bare-bunned Cupid

******************

Dear Birthday Suit Cupid,

Now I’m confused. My birthday’s in June, but I got the candy cane in December, along with a bunch of toys. Does your mom really let you go outside naked?

Flabbergasted,

Gertie

*******************

Dear Gertie,

I have no family, no home. I’m just a lonely cherub, spreading love and chocolate around the world, not toys.

Sadly,

Cupid

*******************

Dear Sad and Homeless Cupid,

Please come live with me! You can sleep in my room, and I’ll give you clothes to wear. We’ll hide the chocolates under my bed.

Your friend,

Gertie

********************

Dearest Gertie,

On my way! Happy Valentine’s Day!

All my love,

Cupid

#9 Misaki’s First Valentine

Misaki hugged her mother goodbye, went into school, and hung her coat. She was surprised to find many little envelopes and papers waiting in her locker. They were pink and red and white, and many were cut in the shape of hearts. On each there was writing — English letters that Misaki could not read yet.

Holding these pretty papers, Misaki walked into her classroom. She saw her friends were holding their own pink and red and white papers. She watched as Rosa handed a red heart to Sophia, and Caroline gave a pink note to Ramin.

Misaki looked at the papers in her hand. She wanted to keep them all, but she picked a white heart with red writing and gave it to Oskar.

Oskar smiled and gave it back. “This is your Valentine, Misaki. You don’t give it away. Ramin made this one for you. We give cards to our special friends on Valentine’s Day.”

Misaki looked again at her friends giving cards to each other. She smiled at Oskar, and took a red paper from the art tray. Misaki made 14 quick folds, just as her grandmother had taught her, and the paper became a delicate red heart. Misaki placed it in Oskar’s hand and said, “You are a special friend.”

#10 Valen-Rhymes

Hi, Didi!
Hi, Gogo! Want to help make valentines?
Sure! What do I do?
You draw a little picture, and write a little poem. Like this:
Roses are red.
Violets are blue.
Sugar is sweet,
And so are you!

Neat! Let me try.
Roses are red.
Violets are blue.
Sugar is sweet.
So brush your teeth later!
No, no, no. That doesn’t rhyme.
It doesn’t?
No. It has to rhyme.
It does?
Of course! Like BLUE – YOU – SHOE – TRUE. Those words rhyme!
If you say so.
Let’s try again.
Violets are blue.
Roses are red.
I dream of our friendship
Each night in my…

SLEEP!
No, not sleep. Bed! Like RED – BED – HEAD – FRED.
Who’s Fred?
Fred is no one.
Then why are you writing him a valentine?
Jiminy Cupids, Gogo! Pay attention.
Okay. I’m ready.
Are you sure?
Shoot.
Daises are white.
Some roses are too.
If I were a cow
I would stand here and…

STARE!
Forget it! I give up! You CANNOT rhyme!
Didi?
What is it, Gogo?
I made this for you.
Didi, you’re special.
You are my best friend.
I know I’m no poet.
But I love you a lot.
Oh, Gogo. Thank you.
Did I do it right?
You did it perfectly.

#11 Valentine Crush

I hope you’ll be my valentine.
You’re not so sure? I see.
You wonder why the card I gave
is crushed and crumpled?

Gee…

I fashioned it with you in mind–
with paper, sequins, glue–
then gently walked it to your house.
The next part’s strange, but true…

I tried to place it in your box.
(Yes, that’s what I had planned.)
Just then, a sentimental ape
removed it from my hand!

She lumbered down the street so fast
(your note crushed in her fist).
She seemed to think she’d won my heart
but in a crazy twist

a magpie spied your valentine
as ruby sequins flashed.
It stole her heart! She stole your card,
flew far away…

then crashed.

A smitten chipmunk found your note
and stuffed it down a hole.
It would have stayed there–disappeared–
except a lovelorn mole

insisted it was in his way
and swept it from his floor.
It popped up at my feet. What luck!
I bolted to your door.

Remember, it’s the thought that counts,
so don’t look so confused.
This valentine’s a fine design
it’s just a little…used.

And anyhow, it demonstrates
the kind of love I feel.
This crushed-up valentine is proof–
my crush on you is real!

#12 Love Bug

My sister Anna has been acting funny all day, working on some top secret card.
She’s been humming to herself, giggling, and was nice to me!
Anna even shared her Valentine’s chocolate with me.
Something must be wrong.

“Anna was bit by the love bug,” Mom said.
“Gross!” I said. I HATE bugs.
“Is she going to the doctor?” I asked. My Mom just giggled. Maybe she was bit too.

I wanted to find this bug.

I went outside with my butterfly net and a jar of leaves. This bug was mine.

I swished and I swooshed the net around until it was crawling with critters to fill up my jar.

Caterpillar, no.
Cricket, no.
Beetle, no.
Dragonfly, no.
Lady bug, no—Wait! The lady bug has a heart shaped spot on its wing! Love bug!

I was so excited that I ran inside to show Anna the love bug that bit her.

There was a boy sitting at the kitchen table with her eating cookies. Anna handed him the secret Valentine’s card, and he gave her one back. They were both giggling. She must be contagious!

“Who’s that???” I asked.

“That’s the love bug, sweetie,” Mom said smiling.

“Gross!”, I said. The only thing worse than bugs are boys!

 

Now that you’ve had a chance to read through the finalists, please vote for the entry you feel deserves to win in the poll below by 12PM EST Thursday February 23.

Tune in Friday February 24 to see THE WINNERS!!!

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

I can’t wait to see who the winners will be!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to a tropical island paradise to recover from all that reading and agonizing and negotiating.

Okay.

Not really.

I will actually be frantically trying to catch up on things I shoved to the back burner whilst reading Valentiny stories… right after I meet a dear writer friend for lunch and spend a good portion of the day gabbing since we have a LOT to catch up on and we have been waiting WEEKS to get together!  But after that, yes, definitely back to work! 🙂

Have a marvelous Monday everyone!!! . . . now that it’s Tuesday 🙂

The First Annual Valentiny Contest FINALISTS!!!

Good Morning, Everyone!

I know it looks like Monday, but let’s go with me here and pretend that it’s last Wednesday, because that’s when I said the finalists would be posted.  So here they are, right on time! 🙂

valentiny logo

I’m trying to remember whose idea this contest was…

(Oh right.  YOURS! 🙂 )

…because holy pink glitter hearts on a doily, batman, we got a LOT of entries!  154, to be exact, the most we’ve ever had in any contest.  I guess you guys weren’t kidding when you said you wanted a contest in February to chase away the winter doldrums – you really stepped up!

The overall quality of the entries was impressive.  Really, if you were hoping to drive the judges to a completely irresponsible over-indulgence in chocolate as we agonized over our choices, you succeeded admirably 🙂  There isn’t a single morsel of chocolate left in the entire state of New York…or Connecticut… or Vermont… actually, we’ve had reports of people in chocolate withdrawal all the way up to Montreal!   We wish to extend our sincere apologies to anyone who is without chocolate because of us!

The quality of entries in these contests is improving every time.  This means there are fewer obvious standouts, almost none that are easy to cut, and there a LOT of very good ones that we have to get very nit-picky over!  It is agony, I tell you!  Hence the irresponsible chocolate indulgence!

Before we get to the actual list of finalists, I have a couple things to say.  (I know you’re shocked as I’m normally such a girl of few words :))

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

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

Third, before I list the finalists, I want to say again how difficult it was too choose!  There were so many amazing entries.  Really.  I could find at least something terrific about every single one.  The sheer volume of entries meant that many good ones had to be cut.  So if yours didn’t make the final cut please don’t feel bad.  There was a huge amount of competition.  Judging, no matter how hard we try to be objective, is always subjective at a certain point – we all have our own preferences for what makes a great story.  And the fact that you didn’t make the final cut DOES NOT mean you didn’t write a great story.  Everyone who plonked their butt in a chair and worked hard to write a story for this contest is a winner!  You showed up.  You did your best work.  You practiced your craft.  You wrote to specifications and a deadline.  You bravely shared your writing with the world.  And you have a brand new story that is now yours to expand beyond 214 words if you like and maybe submit at some point to a magazine or as a PB manuscript.  So bravo to everyone who entered!

Now.  Onto the judging criteria which were as follows:

  1. Kid-appeal/Kid-friendliness – remember, this is a story for kids!
  2. Creativity in using grumpiness, and success in making us feel the grumpiness!
  3. Quality of story – we will look for basic story elements and a true story arc
  4. Quality of writing – use and flow of language, correctness of mechanics
  5. Originality – surprise us with something new and different! 🙂

We really tried to choose stories that did the best job of fulfilling ALL the judging criteria.  There were some truly wonderful stories that didn’t have much to do with Valentines Day (remember – it was supposed to be a Valentines Day Story for kids), or didn’t have a particularly grumpy character, or didn’t seem particularly kid-oriented even though they were very creative and well-written.  We tried our best to select finalists that checked all the boxes.

So without further ado, I present to you the finalists in the 2016 First Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest!  Please read through them carefully, take your time, think it over, and vote for your favorite in the poll below by Thursday February 25 at 12 PM (noon) Eastern time.

 

To help with objectivity, finalists are listed by title only, not by author.

And I’d like to be very clear about the voting process.  You are MOST welcome to share a link to this post on FB, twitter, or wherever you like to hang out, and encourage people to come read ALL the finalists and vote for the one they think is best.  Please do that.  The more people who read and enjoy these stories the better, and the more objective votes we get the better.  HOWEVER (and I want to be very clear on this) please do not ask people to vote for a specific number or title, or for the story about the grumpiest tiger in 1st grade or whatever.  Trolling for votes or trying to influence the outcome is counter to the spirit of this competition which is supposed to be based on merit.  I thank you in advance for respecting this.

#1 JASPER AND ABIGAIL

Jasper Turtle wanted to look dashing.

He would be escorting his best friend, Abigail Mink, to the Village Valentine Bash. She always looked so sleek in her soft furry coat.

He pulled his tuxedo shell from the closet and tried it on.

SQUEEEEEEZE

“It’s a little snug,” he squeaked.

Perhaps he should shed a few pounds before the bash. He glanced at the calendar. And soon!

Jasper nibbled on greens.

His tummy rumbled.

He jogged through the park.

He tripped and tumbled.

Jasper stepped on the scale,

and grumpily grumbled!

Grrrrr! Jasper wasn’t a snapping turtle, but…

He SNAPPED at the mailman.

He SNAPPED at his cat…fish.

He SNAPPED at Abigail.

Oops.

Abigail huffed. “Well!” She stormed off.

Jasper felt too grumpy to say he was sorry.

So he didn’t.

The night of the bash, Jasper slipped into his tuxedo shell.

It fit. He was a dashing sight.

“But what good is it without my best friend?” He sighed.

Jasper knew what he had to do.

He knocked on Abigail’s door.

He brought flowers.

And chocolates.

Lots of chocolates.

He apologized.

And explained.

Abigail smiled. “Silly, Turtle. I like you just the way you are. You’ve always looked dashing to me.”

Jasper’s heart swelled so big, he almost burst his tuxedo shell.

Almost.

#2 PIRATE GETS A VALENTINE

Winter comes by northern breeze.
Nights grow longer. Harbours freeze.
Pirate gets the winter blues,
red-hot temper, shortened fuse.

So Pirate hides from winter’s wail.
‘Til she reads her Love Day mail.
Boats are brown. The sea is blue.
All your friends are missing you!

Pirate shivers, peeks outside,
sees her friends all smiling wide.
“Come out Pirate,” call her mates.
“Bundle up and bring your skates!”

But Pirate’s skate is way too tight.
and nothing fits her peg leg right.
Pirate grumbles. Pirate gripes.
Friends all stop and Viking pipes,

“Come on Pirate, try these skis,
glide across the snow with ease!”
But Pirate cannot bend both knees,
manage hills, or dodge the trees.

Pirate whimpers. Pirate whines.
But can’t deter her Valentines.
Nanuk offers. “If you like,
“we could take a snowshoe hike.”

But Pirate’s snowshoes are too small.
They don’t help her out at all.
Pirate kicks and Pirate cries.
But Jack has brought a sweet surprise.

He digs right down into his pack,
“Pirate, would you like a snack?”
Steaming cocoa, heart-shaped treats.
Friends all wait while Pirate eats.

Pirate snickers. Pirate smirks.
Sharing cookies always works.
Pirate rumbles, “Snowball fight!”
Heaves the snow with all her might.
Pirate sparkles. Pirate shines.
and she delights her Valentines.

#3 KANDIE’S KISS

 

Kandie buried herself as deep as possible. She wiggled and squirmed until she was hidden by her heart-shaped friends.

What kind of Valentine’s Day surprise am I? Kandie scowled from the bottom of the bowl. She peeked out. That just made her even crankier.

“I’m all wrong!” she wailed, eyeing the other sweets. “How can you smile and feel sugary at a time like this?!”

Old Man Tart chuckled from across the way, “What’s yer bellyaching about?”

“You all have such beautiful words. I’m a fructose failure,” Kandie sulked.

She had a point. Old Man Tart’s tummy boldly stated: HUG ME! Pinky’s bragged: TOO CUTE! Why, Honey’s phrase even proposed: MARRY ME!

Kandie glanced down irritably at her own letters. “HISS ME? Seriously. HISS ME?” she pouted. “Someone at the factory cannot spell! Whoever heard of a candy heart that says HISS ME? I’ll never find a Valentine! No one will want me!”

Old Man Tart waited for her to finish complaining. He cleared his throat and said, “A wise person once said there is someone for everyone. Kandie, I’m sure you’ll find your match.”

I should try to be optimistic, Kandie thought, scooting back to the top of the bowl. And the first person she spotted was Gummy Snake smiling shyly at her.

#4 GRUMPY BEAR’S VALENTINE 

Mr. Bear did not sleep well; his pillow way too lumpy.

He had nightmares.

He woke up scared.

So Mr. Bear was grumpy!

And when he reached for honey, and then realized he was out,

his tummy growled,

he sneered and scowled,

he moaned and marched about.

He huffed and puffed, with cheeks bright red, he crawled back into bed,

to take a nap

then heard TAP, TAP

A sound that hurt his head.

He shouted “STOP!” and so it did, soon he began to snore,

but then a ring

ding, ding, ding.

Who dared approach his door?

He stomped his feet and roared, “Who’s there?” The ground and gravel shook.

No voice was heard,

yet something stirred.

Intrigued, he took a look.

Laying there, outside his lair, with honey and a teddy bear…

a heart-shaped note,

that read, I quote,

“For you, because I care.”

His heart swelled up, he couldn’t speak, his chin fell to his chest,

He’d gotten mad,

and now felt bad,

he’d scorned his thoughtful guest.

Then tracking prints, he trailed them to a cave beside the pine,

he tip-toed in

and with a grin

he asked, “Will you be mine?”

#5 Come In For The Cold

“Hot chocolate is for kids who get to play outside in the snow!” Sheena yelled back down the stairs. “I’m not cold and I don’t need warming up!”

“Sounds like you do,” her mother replied cheerfully.

“Sorry. I’m missing ALL the fun.” A deep Valentine’s snow had fallen and everybody was sledding on the driveway beneath Sheena’s window. She puffed on the pane and drew a frowny face. “Stupid broken leg.”

Sheena heard the door open and the stomping off of snow in the hall. Her brother came up the stairs.

“Go away!” She snapped without turning around, then shrieked as Joey dumped handfuls of snow over her head.

“Lighten up!” he laughed as Sheena frantically dusted icy flakes from her neck, “I can’t let you miss ALL the fun!”

“What ARE you doing?” Sheena sputtered, reaching for her crutches.

“Since you can’t come out and play, we’ll make a snowman here,” Joey chirped as he emptied a bucket of fluffy snow into the bathtub.

Sheena grinned. “You’re nuts!”

“I love you, too!” he retorted, smiling broadly.

Sheena hobbled to the bathroom shaking icy drops from her hair.

Joey returned with more snow.

The cold felt wonderful in Sheena’s bare hands.  “Mom,” She called, “I’m earning my chocolate! But first… I need a carrot!”

#6 No Valentines for Porcupines

Pip would not go to school today.
He would not ride the bus.
He would not hand out heart-shaped cards
and join in all the fuss.

For every year it was the same.
Each glittered, heartfelt greeting
was passed around with candy treats
for sharing and for eating.

Freddy Fox would slyly smile
at Katy Kangaroo,
while Lucy Lark made googly eyes
at Carl Cockatoo.

But there’d be no note for Pip,
not one small Valentine.
Pip knew no one could ever love
a prickly porcupine.

“Blech!” groaned Pip. “I cannot stand
this lovey-dovey day.
I think I’ll just go back to bed
and wish it all away.”

But Mom and Dad said, “Off you go!”
and kissed their son goodbye.
Pip sulked and moped his way to school,
arriving with a sigh.

The room was full of sugary treats
and Valentines galore.
But Pip sat at his empty desk.
His heart sank to the floor.

“Eh-hem,” Pip heard a tiny voice
and lifted up his head.
Henrietta Hedgehog stood before him
and she said-

“I don’t like pink or candy hearts,
Or Saint Valentine.
But there IS one thing I like,
That’s you, Pip Porcupine.”

Pip smiled a gigantic grin
that chased his blues away.
Maybe he would have to
reconsider Valentine’s Day.

#7 The Lonely Hearts Club

It was Valentine’s Day, and Candy Heart Box sat stewing on the drugstore shelf.

“This is ridiculous,” she grumbled. “All I want to do is spread love, but no one will buy me.”

“Tell me about it,” said a voice on the shelf below.

“Who are you?” she asked.

“Noseless Teddy Bear,” said the voice. “I’m missing my nose.”

“I’m still here too!” piped in another voice. “Nobody seems to want to buy a chocolate and beet rose.”

“Gross,” said Noseless Teddy Bear.

“I’m peeved because someone messed up my lettering,” groaned Candy Heart Box. “Instead of Love Bug, it says Glove Rug. Instead of I’m Yours, it says Time Fours.”

“We will never be bought,” moaned Gross Rose.

“This one says, “You and Pee,” whined Candy Heart Box.

Just then, a girl stopped in front of the shelves.

“Hmmm.” said the girl, “What Valentine’s Day gift says I love my brother, but he is still a pest?”

She searched the shelves.

Noseless Teddy Bear puffed out his chest.

Candy Heart Box pushed “DANGER” to the front of her box.

Gross Rose displayed her ingredient list.

“Ah ha! A noseless teddy bear, a gross rose, and a weird candy heart box. Perfect!” said the girl, bringing them up to the register.

#8 A Colorful Valentine’s Day

The crayons were crazy.
The box was a buzz.
Pink and Red wrestled to the front.
Purple pushed past Periwinkle.
Yellow yodeled , “You are my sunshine.”
February 14th was THE day to make Valentines.
Every color was eager.
All except one.
Black was on the bottom when he was bumped.
“OUCH! Watch it or I’ll give you something to be blue about!” He grumbled.
Blue bellowed, “It’s Azul to you! What’s got your wrapper in a bunch?”
Black’s voice was thick with the grumps, “Valentines are covered in color. No one draws black hearts. No one sketches black flowers. I wish there was NO VALENTINE’S DAY!”
His dark words shook the box.
The crayons cringed!
Green gasped!
Fuchsia fainted!
The box went silent.
Black slouched back to the bottom.
But others wanted to brighten his day.
The colors put their sharpened tips together and thought carefully.
They quietly started a special valentine with all the right words.
They finished just before the children arrived.
Black was baffled when tiny fingers searched just for him.
His wrapper was warm by the time he was finished.
His valentine was hung up for all to admire.
The title read “I’m batty for you.”
“Happy Valoween!” Cried the crayons.
The grumpy crayon cracked a smile.

#9 XOXO, YOUR SECRET ADMIRER (LARRY)

Dear Petunia,
I like your hair. You smell like chocolate. Will you be my Valentine?
Love, Larry

You smell like chocolate?

Sweet P,
How do I love thee? Let me count the sand in the sandbox.
Larry

One, two…thirty-seven….eh.

Dearest Petunia,
Your face is nice. Like ice cream in the summer. Or hot dogs.
Yours truly, Larry

Not bad.

Pretty Petunia,
I’m hungry.
Be mine?
Larry

Argh.

To: Petunia,
I love you. Do you love me?
Xoxo, Your Secret Admirer (Larry)

Too much?

To: Petunia,
I like you. Do you like me?
Lots of love!
Larry

Better.

Petunia,
Larry is a great guy.
Cupid

Bah.

Miss Petunia Picklebottom,
You’re the rainbow to my dark day.
With all the colors of the world and love in my heart, Larry

Almost there.

Hey Petunia,
What’s up? I was just thinking, maybe, you’d be mine? You know, if that’s cool with you and all.
Laters baby, Lar-dawg

I quit.

Larry,
You smell like enchiladas and sour cream.
Meet me at the swings.
Petunia

#10 No Snacks for Max

Once upon a Valentine,
A grumpy dog began to whine.

He yelped and barked for heart-shaped snacks.
His owners said, “Calm down, dear Max.”

They rubbed his ears. And tummy too.
Then, out the door, the couple flew.

“They’re buying yum yums!” Max was certain.
He sat for hours by the curtain.

Waiting…
Waiting…
Salivating…

Dripping…
Drooling…
Hope deflating…

Max was angry. Lonely too.
He ate a rose. He chewed a shoe.

He knocked a vase onto the floor.
And that was when he heard the DOOR!

Uncle Harry stepped inside.
“Happy Valentine’s!” he cried.

He plopped his suitcase in the den.
Max’s fit began AGAIN.

He ripped apart a Teddy Bear.
Fuzzy stuffing everywhere!

Harry yelled, “NO TREATS FOR YOU!”
Max went to bed. His dreams were blue.

Harry stayed for one more night.
Max did his best to be polite.

But Max was still a canine grump.
UNTIL…
A car door made him jump!

Max’s tail wagged. They were back!
Did they bring his favorite snack?!?

They had a bag. And something blue.
A blanket moved and said, “AH-CHOO!”

“Meet our little sweet bambino!
Also known as Valentino!”

Max was grumpy. Max was glum.
But soon enough, he had a chum.

#11 GRUMPY BADGER’S VALENTINE

Spying a red card with pink hearts inside his mailbox made Badger grumpy.
“I don’t want a Valentine,” he muttered.
Back in his burrow, he folded the offensive red square this way and that, attached a bit of string, and scurried back outside, hoping for a little bit of wind.
Badger’s new kite took flight and flew away. “Good riddance,” he grunted.

The next day the valentine appeared in his mailbox again. Badger felt grumpier.
“Valentines are silly,” he protested.
Back in his burrow, he folded the repulsive red square this way and that, attached a paper clip, and lumbered back outside, hoping for a little bit of wind.
Badger’s new paper airplane took flight and flew away. “Goodbye forever,” he huffed.

The next day the valentine appeared in his mailbox yet again. Badger felt grumpier than ever.
“I don’t like Valentine’s Day!” he grumbled.
Back in his burrow, he folded the horrible red square this way and that, attached a little flag, and scuttled back outside, hoping for a little wind.
Badger’s new boat sailed down the stream and away. “Don’t come back!” he growled.

The next day his neighbor, Lovey Badger, found him on his porch. She kissed him, thanking him for her three valentines.
Badger’s not so grumpy anymore.

#12 THAT’S NOT A VALENTINE!

Drawing time was almost over. Marco sat with his head down on his desk.

“I hate Valentine’s Day!” he grumbled.

His friend Asha leaned over. “You’d better draw something fast. You’re running out of time.”

“I know that!” He scowled. “I just can’t draw a silly heart. . . or much else.”

He stabbed his red paper with a black crayon and drew circles.

Asha giggled. “I’ll make one for you.” In a snap, she drew a perfect heart.

“It’s really good,” he said. “But it’s not big enough.”

He mumbled the words for his mama’s Valentine.

Mrs. Ling clapped. “OK, everyone! Time to clean up!”

Everyone had made a gazillion Valentines. Except Marco. Not even one.

On the way home Asha offered him one of hers.

“No thanks.” He imagined where the words would go.

When they got to his house, he asked Asha, “May I borrow your chalk?”

Mama would be home from work soon.

He drew a huge circle in the middle of the sidewalk.

Standing back, he was pleased.

Asha stared. “That’s not a Valentine!”

“Yes, it is,” said Marco.

Then he wrote words around the circle in a different color:

“MY LOVE FOR YOU IS BIGGER THAN THE WORLD.”

Asha smiled. “Your mama will love it!”

And she did.

Now that you’ve had a chance to read through the finalists, please vote for the entry you feel deserves to win in the poll below by 12PM EST Thursday February 25.

Tune in Friday February 26 to see THE WINNERS!!!  (Though we will have a brief contest interruption Wednesday for our regularly scheduled Would You Read It!)

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

I can’t wait to see who the winners will be!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going on a cruise to recover from all that reading and agonizing and negotiating.

Okay.

Not really.

I will actually be frantically trying to catch up on things I shoved to the back burner whilst reading Valentiny stories… right after I pick up a dear friend from the train and spend a good portion of the day visiting since she is in my time zone for only a few hours and we have been waiting YEARS to meet in real life!  But after that, yes, definitely back to work! 🙂

Have a marvelous Monday everyone!!!