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 Halloweensie Finalists Are Here. . . At Last!

You know, I really like to be trendy.

You’ve probably noticed that about me.

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

But today, I am trendy.

Why? you may ask.

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

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

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

The 2020 Halloweensie Contest Finalists!

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

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

12 entries made the finals.

277 did not.

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

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

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

The judging criteria were clear:

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

2.  Halloweeniness – the rules stated a Halloween story, so entries that failed to mention anything Halloween-y did not make the cut even if they were well-written. Unfortunately, as always seems to happen, there were some stories that could have taken place at any time – not specifically Halloween. Two of the entries all the judges loved fell into this category – we were SO disappointed not to be able to include them with the finalists.

3. Quality of story – the rules stated that entries were to tell a story, so if they appeared to be more of a description or mood piece, they didn’t make the cut.  We looked for a character and a true story arc.

4. Quality of Writing: we took note of spelling, grammar, punctuation etc.  In addition, for the rhymers, we looked at rhyme and meter (for which we are sticklers!)  We also looked at overall writing quality and use of language.  There were a lot of problems in this department, and since the competition was so fierce, we did cut people for punctuation, capitalization, spelling, and word usage errors, as well as for relatively minor glitches in meter – one or two lines that threw the rhythm off – because there were so many that were perfect.

5. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.

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

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

So now, just quick before we get to the finalists, I want to thank EVERYONE who took the time and care to write an entry for this contest.  You all did a fabulous job and provided great enjoyment for many!

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

Third, before I list the finalists, I want to say one final time how truly difficult it was too narrow such a field!  There were so many amazing entries.  Really.  I could find at least something terrific about every single one.  The sheer volume of entries meant that many good ones had to be cut.  So if yours didn’t make the final cut please don’t feel bad.   The fact that you didn’t make the final cut DOES NOT mean you didn’t write a great story.  Everyone who plonked their butt in a chair and worked hard to write a story for this contest is a winner!  You showed up.  You did your best work.  You practiced your craft.  You wrote to specifications and a deadline.  You bravely shared your writing with the world.  And you have a brand new story that is now yours to expand beyond 100 words if you like and maybe submit at some point to a magazine or as a PB manuscript.  A lot of people have successfully done that at this point – we have quite a few books in the world that were born or had new life breathed into them in Halloweensie, Holiday, or Valentiny Contests!  So bravo to everyone who entered!

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

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

So here we go!

#1 – A Night Out…

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

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

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

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

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

#2 – TRICK OR TEETH

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

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

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

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

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

#3 – Hola Halloween!                     

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

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

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

#4 – Bones: A Love Story

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

#5 – Halloween Surprise

Tonight was Halloween and Jojo was upset.

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

But there was no trick or treating in her neighborhood.

To make matters worse, it stormed outside.

Suddenly she heard a horrible shrieking sound.

Were the Halloween monsters coming?

Would they creep up on her in the darkness?

She looked out the window …

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

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

#6 – THE ELETONKS                                                                     

A skeleton’s job on Halloween night

is making kids scream with terrible fright.

But this Halloween, poor skeleton stumbled,

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

Now, eletonks’ bones are all out of place.

A mask full of tarsals makes up his face.

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

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

His fidgety fingers hang down from his thighs,

and two broken ribs poke out of his eyes.

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

if skeleton’s bones could just

reassemble.

#7 – A SCARE A SKULL A SKELETON

a scare

            a skull

                        a skeleton

                                    I clatter down the street

a creep

            a crawl

                        a caterwaul                                    

I’m knocking for a treat

a rant

            a rave

                        an open grave                                    

I wear a scary mask

a trick

            a treat

                        a something sweet                                    

I TAKE! (and NEVER ask)

a bugaboo

            a witch’s brew

                        the treat I took is cursed…

a salty lick

            a yuck

                        an ick                                    

my brother is the WORST!

a snore

            a sleep

                        a sneaky peek                                    

a tippy-toe attack

a spider…

            SCREAM!

                        its Halloween                                    

and—yep!—I got him back


#8 – A Hollow Halloween  

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

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

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

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

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

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

#9 – MARINE HALLOWEEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creeeeeeeeeaaaaaaak

In stomped two brown, brown boots on the

cold, cold floor.

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

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

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

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

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

“WHAT DO YOU WANT?!”

The skeleton pointed:

“You’re…eating…mysoup!

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

#11 – The Skeleton Creep                        

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

“No, but you’ll be welcome…

WHEN YOUR RIBS ARE ON DISPLAY!”

#12 – Trick or Treat


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

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

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

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

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

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

The 2019 Holiday Contest FINALISTS!!!

hello?

Hello?

Is someone there?

What day is this?

Monday?

It IS Monday.

So what brings you to this neck of the woods?  I don’t post on Monday.

Ah! I know!

You came for treats!

Hang on.  Let me rummage about for a moment and see what kind of goodies I have squirreled away.

Hmm. . .

The cupboard is alarmingly bare.

It’s empty of cookies.

It’s empty of pies.

It’s empty of gooey marshmallow surprise!

No gumdrops! Or twizzlers!! Or peppermint sweets!!!

No chocolate!  NO CHOCOLATE!  NOT ONE CHOCOLATE TREAT!!!!!!!

OMG!!!!!!! EMERGENCY!!!!!!!

AAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

It’s okay.

I’m not panicking.

I just had a little . . . moment.

But all is well.

Nothing a little shopping trip and an hour or two of baking won’t fix in a jiffy!

I forgot that, in a desperate bid to maintain sanity, the other judges and I ate every single treat this weekend whilst trying to winnow your many, many amazing entries down to a handful of finalists.

Which, I imagine, is the real reason you’re here 🙂

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 Treat! – the rules state a Holiday Treat story, so it must be crystal clear that the story is about a treat of some kind that is specific to Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or whatever you celebrate.  The story must center on the treat  – the treat 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 11 we thought were the all-around best on all 5 counts listed.  (11 because we have 11 prizes)

So, without further ado, I present to you the 2019 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 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 – Gingerbread Family

The warm scent of ginger and cloves tickled Isabel’s nose. “Mami, the timer’s going off!”

“Okay, stand back, Isa. It’s hot.” Mami pulled the pan out. “Oh no!”

“What’s wrong?” Isa climbed up on a stool to get a closer look. The cookie dough had spread! All the little gingerbread men were plump and lopsided.

Mami put her hand on her hip. “They’re ruined. We can’t serve these.”

“Why not?” Isa licked her lips. They still looked yummy.

“Christmastime with family is special. I want everything to be perfect.”

“Can we make new ones?” Isa asked.

Mami shook her head. “We don’t have enough ingredients.”

“Can we fix them?”

“They would probably break.”

Isa thought for a moment. “Maybe the family won’t mind that they’re crooked.”

“I don’t know.”

Isa pointed at one of the cookies. “Look! This one looks exactly like Abuela with her poofy hair.”

“I guess.”

She pointed to another with a big round belly. “And that one looks like Tío Emanuel.”

Mami laughed. “You’re right. It does.”

“This crooked one looks like Abuelo.”

“Mija, I love the way you see things.”

Isa and Mami carefully decorated their unique treats. When the family visited, they each were delighted to get a cookie that looked like them.

Isabel felt so proud. “You were right, Mami. Christmastime with family is special.”

“Sí, Isa. Everything was perfect.”

 

#2 – A Christmas Treat For Mama

Melody grinned as she rushed home. She had planned the perfect Christmas treat for weeks. And today, Grandma helped her make a mountain of fudge for Mama.

“Wow!” Someone said from behind. “Is that a mountain of fudge?!”

Melody turned to see her new neighbor, Jason.

“Yes!” Melody boasted. “All for my Mama!”

“Oh,” Jason said, looking at his toes. “Sure wish I could make a treat like that for my Mama.”

“Go tell your Daddy.” Mindy suggested. “I’m sure you can make a fine treat for your Mama.”

“Yeah…” mumbled Jason. “Maybe…”

Melody continued on her way. But she slowed as she approached her house…

Maybe it was the way that Jason’s coat hung much too big around his small frame.

Or the way his sad eyes had never quite met hers.

Or perhaps something in her heart just told her…

…Jason couldn’t make a treat like this for his Mama.

She hurried back and clumsily pushed the fudge into Jason’s hands.

“I think your Mama would like this even more than mine,” she said hastily.

“Oh boy! Thank you!” He whooped. “Mama! Mama!” He called as he ran inside.

Melody raced back to her house, hot tears burning in her eyes.

She burst through the door and fell into her Mama’s arms. The entire story tumbled from her lips.

“And now,” she sobbed, “I don’t have a Christmas treat for you!”

“Oh baby girl,” Mama said, “Don’t you see? You’ve given me the greatest treat of all!”

 

#3 – Christmas Peach Pie

Twas the night before Christmas,
and I was in bed.
No visions of sugar plums
danced in my head.

All I could think of
was Grandma’s Peach Pie.
Just one slice remaining,
I’m not gonna lie….

I wanted that slice
to be mine alone;
to not have to share it
with big sister Joan.

Or Mama or Papa,
Uncle Bob or Aunt Sue.
Or my three little cousins,
John, Mark, and Lou.

Just thinking about
that perfect pie slice,
I crept out of bed
each step so precise.

Into the hall,
I moved like a snail.
Just one creaky floorboard
could cause me to fail.

I made it downstairs!
Just one room to go.
Crikey, that hurt!
I stubbed my big toe.

I limped to the fridge.
I opened the door.
Oh, peachy delight!
My tummy did ROAR.

Onto a plate
I set down my slice.
Wait just a second,
Warm pie would be nice.

OMG, that was close!
I almost forgot.
The microwave beeps;
I nearly was caught.

Now it’s just me
and my peachy pie.
A Christmas Eve treat,
I thought with a sigh.

“Naughty or nice?”
boomed a voice from behind.
I whirled around
And then lost my mind.

Santa was there
wagging his finger.
I looked at my pie,
and I didn’t linger.

I gobbled it up;
I shoved it right in!
“Naughty,” I said,
through my peachy-pie grin.

“No regrets,” I told Santa.
And to my surprise,
Santa agreed,
“I do love peach pies.”

 

#4 – Grandpa Ted’s Garden Shed

Grandpa Ted has a garden shed, but the door stays firmly closed,
Whenever I visit, I try to peek in, but he won’t even show Granny Rose.
Whatever it is Grandpa keeps inside, he will not let me see.
I beg to him: “pleeeeease let me in,” but he keeps it a mystery…
Maybe Grandpa’s a super hero, and it’s where he keeps his cape?
Then, when he thinks no-one’s looking, he quickly makes his escape…
Maybe Grandpa’s a time-traveler, and his shed is a time machine?
Transporting him far in the future, the things he must have seen…
Maybe Grandpa’s a secret spy, and it’s where he keeps his tools?
Night vision goggles, invisible ink – now, that would be really cool…
Maybe Grandpa’s an astronaut, and his shed is a rocket ship?
Whenever he steps inside, he takes an intergalactic trip…
Then, one afternoon when I visit, Grandpa opens the shed door wide,
“Come in,” he says, “I’m finished. Let’s see what’s hidden inside.”
Grandpa has made me a playhouse, as a special Christmas treat!
“It’s filled with all my favourite things! Oh, Grandpa, you’re so sweet!
A train track with a wind-up train… a doll’s house with four floors…
Jigsaw puzzles… board games… and picture books galore!”
So now the mystery’s over, but something’s made me pause:
A suit so bright tucked out of sight… is Grandpa…

Santa Claus?

 

#5 – All I Want For Christmas

Franny’s Big Front Tooth would not move.
Not a wiggle or a jiggle. Not a shimmy or a shake.

Its pearly white neighbor jumped ship on a regular old Tuesday.
The bottom chompers both popped out with the help of an apple.
Even the other Big Front Tooth had taken the plunge last fall.
One by one, each and every tooth bit the dust.
But not Big Front Tooth.

Franny tried tugging and tapping.
Even prodding and pleading.
Big Front Tooth WOULD. NOT. MOVE.

“All I want for Christmas is my tooth to come OUT!” Franny begged while sitting on Santa’s lap.
“Try a candy cane,” said Santa.
Crunch!…Nothing.
“…a molasses cookie?”
Chomp!…Still nothing.
“Peppermint bark will surely take the bite out of your bite!”
Crack!…The tooth stayed firmly rooted.

And so Franny woke up on Christmas morning, frantically feeling with her tongue.
There it was. Big Front Tooth, parked squarely in her gums.
She plodded downstairs, wondering if Santa had given her some magical dental equipment or something.

Instead, she found a package under the tree and a note that read:
“Dear Franny,
Please enjoy my famous fruitcake. No teeth can chew it. No glass of milk can soften it.
-Tooth Fairy”

“No teeth can chew it?” repeated Franny.

She took a bite.

Big Front Tooth wiggled and jiggled.
It shimmied and shook.
And POP!

That stubborn sweet tooth came right out.

Whistling through the new gap in her smile, Franny cried…

“Merry Christmas tooth all!”

 

#6 – Christmas Kitchen Chaos

Twas the week before Christmas, when all through the kitchen
Mom was so flustered; I just had to pitch in.
Church potlucks, class parties, and family dinners . . .
This volume of baking was not for beginners!

Treats for teachers and neighbors and coaches and sitters . . .
The list kept on growing. It gave us the jitters!
We Googled ideas for cookies and breads,
While lists of ingredients danced in our heads.

We spoke not a word, but went straight to our work.
Things started out fine, then they just went berserk!
The counter dusted with flour like new-fallen snow;
We were getting it ready to roll out the dough.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But our KitchenAid mixer, jammed in high gear!
I looked on in horror as eggs splashed everywhere
On the floor, on the walls, and of course in my hair!

And then, in a twinkling, I thought I smelled smoke.
Oh no! Not burned cookies! This must be a joke.
It was time for the icing, confetti, and such.
Slather, squirt, sprinkle! Oops! Did I use too much?

When the last gift was packaged, Mom plopped on a chair,
Asking, “Which Christmas treat is your favorite to share?”
I said, a bit puzzled, “I thought that you knew . . .
The best treat for me is just baking with you!”

 

#7 – The Gingerbread Sleigh

The day is drawing nearer,
for our yearly Christmas treat.
We’re heading off to Grandma’s
to whip up something sweet.

A gooey, sticky biscuit house,
with walls of gingerbread.
And a roof that’s draped in icing;
white and green and red.

We cover it in sweeties,
Pipe windows on, then doors.
And roll some golden marzipan
to carpet all the floors.

But my brother is not happy.
“We do this every year!”
So Granny gives him full control.
“Make something else, my dear!”

My brother looks delighted
(though I am not too keen).
He cuts out complex templates
and pipes a background scene.

Till, finally, I come on board
and help to mix and weigh
and bake and glue his good idea…

a jolly Christmas sleigh.

It stands so proud and regal
Piped with gleaming gold.
But still, it’s needing something more
and so we start to mould…

We sculpt and shape the marzipan,
we work till they appear.
We paint, then add the antlers…
a fleet of nine reindeer.

Our holiday treat is finished;
a sleigh of gingerbread,
but we never get to eat it…

for next day the sleigh has fled!

And still the neighbours whisper
about the strange-shaped sight…
a biscuit sleigh with reindeer
flying out into the night.

 

#8 –

 

#9 – Biscuit’s Christmas Treat

Biscuit the bulldog is taking a nap,
snoring and drooling on Oliver’s lap.
She rolls to the floor but continues to snooze
as he wipes off the slobber and laces his shoes.

She opens her eyes as he tickles her chin,
“Let’s go for a walk, it’s too nice to stay in.”
He strolls down the path, through the gate to the street.
She waddles behind, smelling good things to eat.

Turkey with stuffing at house number four.
Ham at the place with the wreath on the door.
Warm apple pie at the home with the tree.
Pudding with custard at house number three.

Gingerbread stars at the home with the lights.
Biscuit inhales all these Christmas delights,
Roasted potatoes and mixed berry crumbles.
Her tummy is hungry. It growls and it grumbles.

“It’s time to go home for it’s getting quite late.”
They turn and walk back to the house through the gate.
In Biscuits blue bowl – surprise! It’s a bone,
a fabulous Christmasy treat of her own.

After the feasting is done for the night,
Biscuit is tucked in her bed, snug and tight.
She snuffles and snorts while she dreams of her treat
and all of the wonderful scents from the street.

 

#10 – Christmas Eve Treats

We have a tradition, my Grandma and me,

To make a new treat every year Christmas Eve.

And each little treat comes along with some fun,

A story, a dance, and a mess when we’re done!

 

When I was three we made gingerbread friends,

We practiced the ginger waltz kitchen to den,

She told me a story of button gumdrops,

That made me so strong I could climb the treetops!

 

When I was four we made cinnamon swirls,

And while they were baking we practiced our twirls.

She told me a story of dresses so rare,

That when twirled fast took me up in the air!

 

When I was five we made candy cane sweets,

And we danced the twist arm-in-arm through the streets.

She told me a story of red-striped balloons,

That when I held tight floated me to the moon!

 

This year I’m six and in charge of the treat.

See, Grandma has moved, and she has a wheeled seat.

 

Grandma, I made us some gingerbread friends,

I’ll push you, and we’ll ginger waltz once again!

 

Grandma, I made us some cinnamon swirls,

I’ll help spin your chair into special wheeled twirls!

 

Grandma, I made us some candy cane sweets,

Now let’s go outside and roll-twist through the streets.

 

Grandma, I brought some more presents for you,

Button gumdrops, a dress, and a red-striped balloon.

Now you can climb, fly, and float up with me!

We’re the story this year, the best Christmas Eve treat.

 

#11 – Vinarterta with Amma

Góðan daginn! Hello from New Iceland!
Amma and I are making vinarterta for Þorláksmessa, Saint Thorlak’s Day, and Christmas.
We cream sparkling sugar into fluffy butter and sprinkle in spicy cardamom for warmth.

Crack! Each egg yields a yolk as precious as the winter sun,
which shines for only a few hours each day
in Manitoba
and Iceland.

Whoosh! Flour sifts into the bowl
like the drifts of snow
in Manitoba
and Iceland.

We roll the dough into seven pans and bake them in the oven.
Why seven?
Wait and see.

We hum “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” as the dried plums bubble into glossy jam.
Amma lifts the pans from the oven, two by two, and then the last, odd one out.
“Are we Icelandic or Canadian?” I ask.
“Já,” says Amma.
“Yes?”
Amma smiles, her blue eyes twinkling, and squeezes my fingers in her warm palm. “Two hands, one heart.”

I spoon the plum filling on top of each layer.
It flows like lava over the warm cake.
We stack the seven layers,
pressing them paper-thin,
making stripes of fire and ice,
as red and white as the Canadian flag,
or the red and white cross of the Icelandic flag.

We slather the cake in icing and wrap it like a present.
Gleðileg jól! Merry Christmas!
Takk! Thank you for coming.
We hope you enjoy our vinarterta.
But you must wait a week before you eat it,
letting the seven layers soften
over seven long short days.

 

 

Wow! Did those entries knock your socks 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 7PM EST Wednesday December 18.

 

 

Tune in Thursday December 19 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 can’t wait to see who you choose as the winner!  Good luck!!! 🙂

The 2016 Halloweensie Contest Finalists!

Monday.

Yawn.

Snooze button.

It’s Monday.

WHAAAT???

Wait!  It’s Monday?!

Oh my gosh!

Get out of bed!

CRASH!

Stupid bed covers!

Oh my goodness!  What time is it?

Good gracious!  Is it late?

Wait.  If the clocks turned back yesterday does that mean it’s an hour earlier than it was? or an hour later?  Whose idea was daylight savings time anyway?  All it does is confuse things!  Where are my pants?!  I’m moving to Arizona (where they are intelligent enough NOT to go on daylight savings!) as soon as I get untangled from the bed covers and stop tripping over my own feet!

This is what happens!!!  Long days and late nights of poring over entries, reading and re-reading, analyzing, weighing, comparing, contrasting, gnashing teeth, rending garments, and consuming large amounts of chocolate TAKE THEIR TOLL!

And now, here we are, very possibly both late and pant-less but who can tell because we don’t live in Arizona?!

On the off chance, however, that you’re interested in the results regardless of the time or the pants, get ready for the 2016 Halloweensie Writing Contest Finalists!

We had the biggest turn out we’ve ever had in terms of number of entries – 150! – and the overall quality of the entries was fantastic.  Every contest I am thrilled to see that the quality of the entries has gone up yet another notch.  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!

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.  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.

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.  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!

But, without further ado, I present to you the 2016 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 pumpkin ballerina 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  Night Fright

“Ah, perfect,” Webster the spider said as he put on his vampire costume. “This will scare everyone.”

Unfortunately, he didn’t scare anyone at all.

“Not a single scream,” he complained.

Luckily, he had backup costumes.

Now he’d be a ghost!

“Not a single scream.”

How about a mummy?

“Not a single scream.”

Monster?

“Not a single scream!”

Webster gave up and went home. If you couldn’t be scary on Halloween, what’s the point?

As Webster sat in the moonlight, everything started to shake.

“AAAAH! A SPIDER!” someone yelled as they walked through his web.

Webster smiled.

#2  Tree’s Halloween Costume

Halloween’s here. Kids trick-or-treat.
Witches, monsters, and ghosts fill the street.
Gnarly tree watches jealously,
wishing it could dress up. But tree’s a tree.

A Princess parades in satiny gown.
Gracing her head is a sparkly crown.
Tree has a crown but will never be
a Halloween princess. Tree’s a tree.

Two dressed as dogs bark and chase
one costume cat all over the place.
Tree has bark but, unfortunately,
can’t dress as a dog. Tree’s a tree.

Clouds disperse, revealing the moon.
Light shines down and very soon
tree’s shadow creeps, bigger and wider,
forming a black Halloween spider.

#3  The Dare

Jake paused before the ramshackle house. No ghosts or spiders decorated the porch. No light shone for trick-or-treaters. But there was no way he could back out now.

Breathing raggedly, he followed his shadow to the door and knocked.

The door opened. A stooped old woman stood in the moonlight. Witch? Or not? His heart beat witchwitchwitchwitchwitch…

“I’m afraid I haven’t any candy, young man.”

Not witch! He knew it!

Jake thought fast. “I have lots.” He held out his bag. “Would you like some of mine?”

“I’d love some,” she cackled, her gnarled hand tangling with his. “Come in.”

#4  The Witch’s Broom

The wicked witch she had an itch
to ride upon her broom.
She gazed into her crystal ball
and searched through every room.
She questioned “Boney” skeleton,
each spider, ghost and goon.
She even quizzed an alien
whose homeland was the moon.
Her broom was nowhere to be found.
The witch began to cry,
“With such a snag, seems this old hag
is never going to fly!”
Then wily witch, she improvised,
you really should have seen her.
That wicked witch, she pulled a switch
and rode the vacuum cleaner!

#5  Candy Korn

“Now this is more like it,” said Rolo. “A bowl with a view!”
“No, it’s bad! I heard about this,” said Twizzler. “They call it… Halloween.”
“Sounds fun!” said Airhead.
“It’s a once-a-year candy MASSACRE, Airhead!” said Twizzler. “First, we’re moved to a bowl under the moon, then a bag decorated with ghosts and spiders, then there’s jiggling and jostling…”
“See? Sounds fun!” insisted Airhead.
“Shh!” said Rolo.
“One by one we disappear,” said Twizzler. “With only our clothes left behind!”
“Spooky!” said Rolo.
Twizzler continued, “It’ll be okay unless we hear…”
TRICK OR TREAT!

#6  Spider and Ghost

On a moonless Halloween night,
Spider and Ghost clashed in a fight.
“My loudest boo,” Ghost declared.
“Causes thousands to be scared.”
“I’m clearly the scariest!” Spider screamed.
“A nightmare children have often dreamed.
Ghost boos flew with yowls and bangs.
Spider showed her venomous fangs.
Behind a tombstone, a monster rose,
with a bolted neck and ghoulish nose.
“You’re the scariest?” the creature chuckled.
As he stepped forward, their bravery buckled.
Spider’s legs shook, while Ghost shivered.
Feeling a fear they never delivered.
Spider and Ghost raced off in fright,
Knowing neither of them was right.

#7   Moon’s Halloween Surprise

In the middle of the night, Spider and Ghost prepared for Halloween.
Moon dropped down to join them.
“I’m going to make the biggest web ever,” Spider said.
“I’ll make the scariest sounds ever,” bragged Ghost.
Moon stayed silent. What could she do except hang in the sky?
The next day, while the children got ready,
Spider weaved.
Ghost practiced.
The sun went down, shadows lengthened, and Moon got an idea.
Halloween night,
Spider’s web was amazing.
Ghost’s sounds frightened.
But when Moon slid behind earth’s shadow,
Turning the night dark,
Everyone agreed, it was the best Halloween surprise ever.

#8  Little Miss Zombie

Little Miss Zombie
said “What a quandary!”
Eating her full-moon stew.
Along came ghost spider,
who sat down beside her,
hollering, “What will we do?!”

“Stay calm and be cool.
Don’t slobber or drool.
Remember they think it’s a game.
They wear costumes for fun;
take them off when they’re done.
They don’t know we are always the same.”

“We don’t have a choice
So lower your voice.
We’ll just give them candy to eat.
We can’t make a scene
for tonight’s Halloween!”
“Here they come! Open up…”
“Trick-or-Treat!”

#9  Little Witch’s Holiday

Little Witch loved this time of year.
She loved the bright glow of the moon over the swirling leaves.
And how the air smelled like smoke.
“My favorite holiday is tomorrow! I have much to do!”
Little Witch’s friends knew not to interfere.
Spider watched her gather pumpkins.
Ghost watched her unload sweet treats.
Cat watched her sweep her front steps.
Finally, Little Witch was ready.
The doorbell rang and she peeked out the window.
Her friends were dressed up and waiting on her doorstep.
She smiled. It was time.
Little Witch threw open her door and shouted,
“Happy Thanksgiving!”

#10  Spider’s Trick or Treat

The Itsy-Bitsy Spider walked up the moonlit street,
knocked on a door and hoped for something sweet.
Out popped a ghost, scared Spider off her feet.
Guess the Itsy-Bitsy Spider forgot it’s TRICK or Treat!

#11  Itsy and Bitsy’s Halloween Treat

Itsy and Bitsy scurried down the path and scuttled up separate trees. Working together, they spun a giant web that shimmered in the moonlight.
“I think it’s our best yet,” said Itsy.
“Quick! They’re coming!” said Bitsy.
They lowered themselves into position as doorbells dinged in the distance. Soon, they spied three little ghosts skipping toward them.
“Boo!” yelled Itsy.
“Trick or Treat!” yelled Bitsy.
“Spider!” yelled the ghosts.
The buckets flew up, the candy fell down, and all three ghosts raced back to town.
“Happy Halloween!” said the spiders as they climbed on their web to feast.

#12  The Spider’s Treat

Samuel scanned the starry night.
He spied the silver moon,
lighting bright the ghostly night.
Halloween comes soon!

With all his spider heart he wished
to stop the trick-or-treaters
from tramping up his quiet street.
Those noisy candy eaters!

On Halloween, one giddy witch
swung wild her candy bucket.
Sweet treats flew straight for Samuel’s web.
Three pieces neatly struck it!

While tidying up his tangled web,
one foot touched chocolate candy.
With one sweet lick, the spider said,
“This holiday tastes dandy!

*                    *                    *                    *                    *                    *                     *

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 Wednesday November 9.

Tune in Thursday November 10 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 Thursday… same bat time, same bat station 🙂

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to lie on the couch and eat bonbons all day.

Okay.

Not really.

I have to catch up with students, critique work, and stuff with a deadline!

But there might still be chocolate involved 🙂

Have a marvelous Monday everyone!!!  And make sure you VOTE!  It will warm you up for that other vote tomorrow 🙂