There’s no new pitch today, so we’re going to devote ourselves entirely to chocolate and pitch picks galore!
Let’s jump right in, shall we?
There are 4 Pitch Picks with a poll for each. Please read through each group of pitches (3 for Late Feb/Early March, 3 for Late March, 4 for April, and 4 for May), decide which one in each group that you think is best and most deserving of a read and comments from editor Erin Molta, and vote for it in the poll that follows that pitch group! And let’s try to get the voting done by Sunday June 13 at 9PM Eastern so it’s out of the way before next week’s new Mix ‘n’ Match challenge prompt! 😊
Late February/Early March
#1 – Deborah – The Bitter Tastebud (PB 4-8)
Amargo is a bitter tastebud who can’t stand to take another sweet, salty, or lip-puckering bite. But he is outnumbered and so is his vote on the CRAV-O-METER. Amargo must figure out how to change the vote or continue eating the food he detests.
#2 – Bru – THE STORY OF CITRONELLA (PLEASE HOLD YOUR NOSE) (PB 4-8)
In the Stinkbug Kingdom, Bee-utiful Citronella, an orphan worker bee, doesn’t smell which starts the stinky stepsister feud. She has choices; unveil who she is (Hard), go incognito lacking an invitation to meet the prince (Harder), or stay with the smelly stepsisters, Burnbetta & Rottina forever (Really?) With the stench of a wise-cracking fairy godfather, Citronella herself overcomes her fear of smelling different and learns certain odors (or lack of) do have their advantages.
#3 – Robin – But When She Opens the Door… (PB 4-8)
On an Irish March day, Katie O’Shea and her feline assistant, Shamrock, are surprised by the fickle weather shifting dramatically each time she opens the door. In rollicking read aloud rhyme, Katie keeps changing clothes until a look at the calendar reveals the perfect outfit!
#1 – Sally – Broccol-trees And Mac & Cheese (PB/Toddler Board Book 3-6)
Broccol-trees and Mac & Cheese is a rhythmic romp of playful poetry for manic and messy mealtimes! With sixteen silly scenes, it is a complete menu of mushy appetizers, flying entrees, dancing vegetables and dessert designs on tables and trays. This book serves as a reminder for parents to giggle, not grimace, when their little one gives them a chocolate pudding grin and promptly puts the bowl on his or her head.
Full of love, laughter and foodie fun, this can be read as a smorgasbord of silliness or served up a la carte to read the same delicious poem over and over again. It’s sure to please parents’ palates and tickle toddlers’ funny bones and bellies!
#2 – Diana – Wait For Cate (PB 5-8)
Cate promised her team she’d finally be on time for the championship kickball game. But when she encounters the new girl in her class, stuck in the sand on the playground in her wheelchair, she has to make a BIG decision. Should she help or hurry on by? The clock’s ticking.
#3 – Jamie – Goldilocks: A Very Tired Tale (PB 4-8)
Goldilocks is exhausted and knows deep down there is a solution, but she can’t quite put her finger on it. Mares? Pears? Stairs? Hijinks ensue as Goldilocks puts her quest for rest to the test in this fractured fairy tale.
Let’s take a break for a little Something Chocolate! Twix Cookies look like a good choice, don’t they? I mean, what could be better than a combination Twix bar and cookie?
Mmmmm-mmmmmm! Scrumptious! Perfect for dunking in coffee (hot or iced!) or a tall cold glass of milk! Please! Help yourself to as many as you like and let’s keep reading and voting!
#1 – Carol – Princess Lucille’s Castle (PB 3-5)
Princess Lucille gives you a tour of her castle beginning at the moat and drawbridge and takes you through each room to the exit where you can buy princesses souvenirs.
#2 – Marta – OH NO SCORPIONS!! (PB 5 – 8)
Roz and her Mom have planned the Best Most Special Mom-Daughter Holiday Ever in Mexico—until the hotel manager announces they have scorpions! Petrified, Roz is so convinced the tiny terrors could be hiding anywhere she “sees” them everywhere, from the beach to her shoes! Her shrieks of alarm leave hotel staff and guests in an uproar and the holiday close to ruin. To save it, Roz must conquer her fears, not just for herself but ultimately for her Mom.
#3 – Angela – Buddy And The Blue Crew (PB 3-8)
On Buddy’s first day at school, all he really wants to do is to just blend in. But the problem is, he seems to be the only Blue-Footed-Booby in town! And it doesn’t take long before the other kids start to notice. When Buddy meets Bill – a kid with an even crazier feature – will Buddy be able to convince the other children, and ultimately himself, that there’s so much more to him than his bright, blue feet?
#4 – Diane – Stop! Stop! (PB 4-7)
Friend’s, Sumaya Seahorse, Polly Puffer Fish and Delphin Dolphin each find themselves tangled, caught or trapped in a ghost net, a plastic ring and a sunken bottle. To escape they rely on each other and the handy help of Charlie Crab, Sally Swordfish, her seven sisters and Harriet Hag Fish. Together they must come up with a creative recycling solution to tidy their ocean home from the unwanted waste.
#1 – Patricia – TY’S TREASURES (PB 4-7)
A crystal. A marble. A feather. Ty growing collection of treasures is causing problems for his family. But where can he stash them? Not in the toybox. Not in the closet. Not in the bed. Mom wants them outside. In his search for a worthy spot, Ty observes birds, squirrels, even his dog hanging on to their treasures. But a visit with his grandma helps Ty discover the difference between a treasure and a memor,y and that there is a place for both.
#2 – Katie – FRIENDS ‘ROUND THE BEND (PB 4-8)
After friends laugh at his stinky bouquet, Prairie Pup Pip faces the fact that he has a no-good nose. His journey for a cure takes him from the prairie to the forest, encountering other misfit critters. His spunky spirit inspires his new friends, but his trailblazing days may be finished when he is unable to smell his way home.
#3 – Sandy – Simon Soars (PB 7-11)
Simon, a timid turkey vulture at Aviary Academy, eats formerly living earth creatures (F.L.E.C.) to the dismay of his classmates. When the jawing jays begin to tease and taunt, even Simon’s impeccable sense of smell and much hooted-over accomplishments won’t help. Simon hatches a plan to teach his classmates that rank fetid funkiness isn’t something to cry foul over. Suddenly FLEC is no longer BLECH!
#4 – Caitlin – Lucy And The Fearful Monsters (PB 4-7)
Lucy longs to participate in the fun happening around her, but her fears keep getting in the way. She clings to the edge of the pool, holds tight to the first monkey bar, and hangs back at the petting zoo. Lucy takes to art and draws her fears as monsters. When her monsters start showing up in real life trembling with fright and begging for her help, Lucy must help them cope with the very same anxieties she faces herself.
Thank you all for reading and voting – I know that was a lot all at once! You are all wonderful and the pitchers and I appreciate you so! ❤️
All the pitch participants are looking forward to seeing how the votes come out! I am looking forward to that too!!!
You’re probably wondering if you’re in the right place since, if you’re like the rest of the civilized world, you woke up thinking it was Tuesday.
But Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.
We (imaginative bunch that we are) are going to join in collectively choosing to believe that it is still Monday because that’s when I said I would post the Holiday Contest finalists. And by gum. . . I almost managed it!
About three more hours and I would have pulled it off.
You’re probably also wondering what happened to my hair!
Turns out that gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair is a real thing when you have to read and judge 223 AMAZING Holiday Contest Entries and cut 211 of them to get down to 12 finalists! Ouch!
So here I am, one day before the first real snowstorm in ages is predicted to occur, which is not a good time to be suddenly bald, looking like I could be Humpty Dumpty’s sister (in more ways than one 😊) but there you have it.
I think I will set a new trend.
(You know how fashion forward I am!)
I will be wearing my Santa hat at all times for the foreseeable future 😊
Feel free to join me!
You lose 7 to 10 % of your body heat through your head, you know, and it’s probably more when you have no hairsulation. Santa hats are our friends. 🤶
Have a great day, everyone!
Remember to wear your hats!
See you soon 😊
I KNEW I’d forget something!
You came for a reason!
It’s time to announce the finalists for. . .
So, I just want to say three little things before I post the actual finalists (shocking, I know, because normally I’m so quiet you can hardly get a word out of me 😊😊)
First, I want to thank EVERYONE who took the time and care to write an entry for this contest. You all did a fabulous job and provided great enjoyment for many!
Second, I’d also like to thank EVERYONE – writer, reader, or both – who took the time to go around and read as many entries as you could and leave supportive comments. This means so much to the writers who worked hard on their stories. It helps them see what they did well, as well as giving them the joy of knowing that their stories were read and enjoyed. I hope you all got as much delight and entertainment out of the reading as I did! Plus, we got to meet quite a few new people which was a wonderful added bonus! 😊
Third, I want to reiterate how difficult it was too choose! There were so many amazing entries. Really. I could find at least something terrific about every single one. The sheer volume of entries meant that many good ones had to be cut. So if yours didn’t make the final cut please don’t feel bad. There was a huge amount of competition. Judging, no matter how hard we try to be objective, is always subjective at a certain point – we all have our own preferences for what makes a great story. And the fact that you didn’t make the final cut DOES NOT mean you didn’t write a great story. Everyone who plonked their butt in a chair and worked hard to write a story for this contest is a winner! You showed up. You did your best work. You practiced your craft. You wrote to specifications and a deadline. You bravely shared your writing with the world. And you have a brand new story that is now yours to revise, expand, and polish if you like and maybe submit at some point to a magazine or as a PB manuscript. A lot of people have successfully done that at this point – we have quite a few books in the world that were born in Halloweensie, Holiday, or Valentiny Contests, plus a chapter book series that came out of the Fractured Fairy Tale Contest one spring! So bravo to everyone who entered!
You will recall the judging criteria:
1. Kid-appeal! – These stories are intended for a young audience (ages 12 and under), so we’re looking for stories that children will enjoy and relate to.
2. Holiday Helpers! – the rules state a Holiday Helper story, so it must be crystal clear that the story is about someone helping someone else in some way during Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, New Year’s, or whatever seasonal winter holiday you choose. The story must center on helping – the help must not be just an offhand mention/reference in a story about something else.
3. Quality of story – entries must tell a story, including a main character of some kind and a true story arc even if it’s tiny 😊 Entries must not be merely descriptions or mood pieces.
4. Quality of Writing: check your spelling, grammar, punctuation etc. If you’re going to rhyme, give us your best 😊 Overall writing quality and use of language are also important.
5. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.
As I said above, you all did a stellar job – there were no bad stories. But we had to pick the 12 we thought were the all-around best on all 5 counts listed. (12 because we have 12 prizes)
So, without further ado, I present to you the 2020 Holiday Contest Finalists. A mix of poetry and prose, stories for younger readers and slightly older (but still kid) readers, funny, poignant, sweet, and cute. Please read through them carefully, take your time, think it over, and vote for your favorite. To help with objectivity, finalists are listed by title only, not by author.
And I’d like to be very clear about the voting process. You are MOST welcome to share a link to this post on FB, twitter, or wherever you like to hang out, and encourage people to come read ALL the finalists and vote for the one they think is best. Please do that. The more people who read and enjoy these stories the better, and the more objective votes we get the better. HOWEVER (and I want to be very clear on this) please do notidentify yourself or ask others to identify you as a finalist on social media, please do not ask people to vote for a specific number or title, and please do not ask people to vote for the story about the unicorn-riding gingerbread princess or whatever. Trolling for votes or trying to influence the outcome is counter to the spirit of this competition which is supposed to be based on merit. I thank you in advance for respecting this.
So here we go! Read! Enjoy! VOTE! 😊
1. A SPARK OF FRIENDSHIP
[Note: “Shamash” is pronounced “shah-MAHSH”]
The menorah’s “helper candle,” the Shamash, as she is known, has never ever asked for help. She likes to work alone. For all eight nights of Hannukah, Shamash ignites each candle. “A gust of wind? A sneeze? A fan? There’s nothing I can’t handle!” Shamash can’t wait to start night one! She’s luminous and strong! She dazzles on the second night and hums The Dreidel Song. Night three arrives. Shamash continues beaming, all aglow. But on night four she flickers, fades. Her pacing starts to slow. Her blaze begins to dim night five. She fights with all her might. But on night six, she’s feeling faint. “I…mustn’t…lose…my….light!” The seventh night, Shamash is snuffed. She’s lost all spunk and spark. “I blew it! I’m extinguished!” she says, sobbing in the dark. “Need a light?” A voice calls out from up upon the shelf. “You mustn’t feel you need to do this job all by yourself!” A little lighter flicks a flame, announcing: “Hi, I’m Bic!” “And I’m Shamash!” She brightens, as he lights her wilted wick. Shamash, at last, alight again, illuminates the rest. She beams as all eight candles gleam. “I love night eight the best! “Oh, Bic! You are a miracle! You saved our holiday!” “I’m happy I could help,” he says, then tucks his torch away. Shamash prefers to work alone. “But this year, I’ll admit, that thanks to you, my new friend Bic, this Hannukah is LIT!”
2. The Christmas Owl
In the darkness of the forest, the young owl swooped, plunging his talons through powdery snow.
In the warmth of a fire Dara gazed at Christmas lights dancing a rainbow on the wintery world. A shadow of wings flickered by.
* * *
Dara’s footsteps were silent as she walked between the trees.
She stopped, staring in awe. An impression in the snow, a perfect pair of wings.
* * *
Freezing rain fell, coating every surface in crystal. Dara explored, marveling at the frozen world. A shadow caught her eye. A stooped shape! An owl!
She tiptoed closer. She watched, still and silent. Her toes went numb. The owl didn’t move.
Was it hurt? Did it need help?
“I’ll be right back!” Dara whispered.
* * *
When Kaylee, the wildlife expert, arrived, they watched the owl together. “When the snow forms a crust,” she murmured, “young owls can’t punch through to catch their prey. They get too hungry to hunt, too hungry to move.”
Dara’s heart felt as icy as the world around her. Would the owl be OK? Was she too late?
Kaylee crept towards the owl. She enveloped him in a blanket, gently placed him in a box. Dara’s sigh of relief made a puff in the wintery air.
* * *
On Christmas eve, the ice melted. Kaylee called.
At dusk, they walked into the dripping woods.
Kaylee held the owl high, gently relaxed her grip.
The owl flew!
“Merry Christmas!” whispered Dara to the empty forest.
3. CHRISTMAS IMPOSSIBLE: AN UNQUIET NIGHT
‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirri –
“Wait – what’s that noise?” Santa whispered and paused placing presents. Chitter, chatter. Squeak!
“There it is again!” Santa froze and cupped his hand to his ear. Chitter, chatter. Squeak!
“Oh no,” the jolly man groaned. “That sounds like a- SQUIRREL!”
Santa dialed the Christmas Tree Hotline. The switchboard lit up like Rudolph’s red nose on a dark night. “We’ve got a code 57,” stated Santa. “Dispatching Elf Squirrel Division now, Sir.”
Gears, Ginger, Twinkle and Bob set their Santa Map coordinates and dashed out through the frosty flakes.
They reached the house and whooshed down the chimney. “So – ho happy you’re here,” said Santa. “Glad to help,” said Gears. They got to work while Santa snacked by the fire.
The elves climbed the tree but the squirrel scurried higher. The elves swooped down from the star but the squirrel hid deeper. Even Bob’s “never fail” tinsel lasso trick failed!
“We’re doomed!” cried Twinkle. “Is it snack time?” said Bob. “Sweet sugar plums that’s it!” cheered Ginger.
She set a trail of cookie crumbs down the tree.
The squirrel sniffed. It crept closer. Then… MUNCH!
Crumb by crumb it climbed down and into the open carrier. “Thanks team,” said Santa and up the chimney he rose.
The elves flew to the forest where the squirrel found the perfect pine.
Meanwhile at another house- “Finally,” sighed Santa. “Peace and –“
Chitter, chatter. Squeak!
4. FIRLING’S FRIEND
Firling breathed in the cold, crisp breeze. Though he stood only as tall as the park bench beside him, he could still sense the yuletide in the air. Firling’s thin branches stood still. He could hear the warm laughter in the snow covered park. His scarce pine needles vibrated with joy as the sweet notes of Christmas carols echoed off the frozen pond. ‘Tis the season! Firling thought. Soon I’ll be dressed in my Christmas best!
Firling watched as rows of nearby trees were adorned with colorful ornaments. Yards of beautiful garland twisted and twirled around his tree neighbors. Bright stars twinkled and angels perched atop trees as far as Firling could see. Who will decorate me? Firling worried.
Suddenly a small girl approached. “Aw! Poor, little tree! You’re the only bare one in the park.” Firling felt his bare branches sag. “Oh Christmas Tree, I can help! You stay right here! I’ll be back!”
Time passed and Firling began to worry that the girl wouldn’t come back. As the sun was just starting to set, the girl returned. Carefully, she hung hand cut paper hearts from Firling’s branches. She wrapped long strands of braided yarn from trunk to tree top. Finally, she placed a brightly painted cardboard star on Firling’s highest branch. The girl beamed at her work.
“Oh, little tree! How lovely are your branches!” The little girl flashed Firling one last smile, before heading down the sidewalk. Here I am, Firling thought. Dressed in my Christmas best!
5. Waddle Santa Do This Christmas?
The elves are tired out and in elf-isolation, They’ve worked all year long with no chance of vacation. Poor Santa is worried, but what can he do? He opens a letter that’s come from the Zoo!
Dear Santa, We’re bored as the zoo is in lockdown. Apart from the keepers the place is a ghost town! The Penguins at London Zoo love Christmas cheer! So, please can we help with your presents this year? With very best wishes and warm fishy kisses, Your best friends the Gentoo penguins
On reading the note Santa conjured a scheme, To rest up his elves and bring on the new team.
My dear Gentoo Penguins, I think that sounds swell! The elves will adore this, and I will as well! I’ll send down my reindeer, who have herd immunity, They’ll pick you up — what a great opportunity!
And everyone had such a wonderful day, The penguins wrapped presents, and packed up the sleigh. The elves made hot chocolate and played in the snow, Then baked penguin shapes out of gingerbread dough. The penguins all hope to go back there one day, And the elves will come visit the zoo, so they say. In the end for this Christmas it turned out alright, Merry Christmas to all and make sure you sleep tight!
6.The Solstice Tree
Owl watches as sunlight dims to a simmer, and starlight scatters across snowdust. Tonight is the longest night. Solstice is here.
He swoops down and calls from his perch in the frosted pine, Whooo can help me shine the light, Share gifts of hope on this long night?
I can help to shine the light! Squirrel places nuts on branches, gifts of hope for a plentiful harvest.
I can help to shine the light! Duck tucks feathers amongst the boughs, gifts of hope for cozy warmth.
I can help to shine the light! Fox props icicles alongside pinecones, gifts of hope for flowing energy.
I can help to shine the light! Rabbit sprinkles bits of bark, gifts of hope for strength and safety.
I can help to shine the light! Chickadee wraps grasses round and round, gifts of hope for rest and ease.
Bounding, waddling, soaring, hopping They frolic and feast around the tree. Until…
Footsteps thump. Twigs snap. Everyone freezes. A girl squeals, “Animals! And a beautiful tree!” Rabbit trembles. “Should we run?”
Owl shakes his head and winks an eye. Her wonder is a gift of light, and hope for all
on this dark night.
7. The Twelve Sleighs of Christmas
Santa’s arm hurt, and his sleigh was kaput— One runner bent sideways—all covered in soot.
A rooftop collision had totaled his rig. One tiny mistake that turned out to be big.
He had only been trying to test some new gear— To practice his landing for Christmas this year.
This awful dilemma stirred up the north pole. Poor jolly old Santa —an unlucky roll!
But the elves didn’t fret, and they shouted with glee, “Oh, don’t worry Santa, we’ve got a plan B!”
“Your sled may be broken, and so is your arm, But wood from your sleigh wreck has true Christmas charm.”
“We’ve already hammered and chiseled for days. Our elf crew has fashioned these twelve brand new sleighs.”
Sleighs one through three glowed with holly green paint— Dressed up with berries, all simple and quaint.
Sleighs four through six sported stripey red flames— A curvy design stamped with all the elf names.
Sleighs seven through nine all sparkled like snow— Cup holders for cocoa and revving to go.
Sleighs ten through twelve were bedecked to look bright— Festive with light bulbs—they sparkled with light.
The elves gathered gifts—from small to quite large. They hooked up the reindeer—now they were in charge!
These holiday helpers would rescue the day— Subbing for Santa with twelve jolly sleighs.
Zipping up in the sky, they sang out from their flight, “Merry Christmas to all and to all an elf night!”
8. CHRISTMASAURUS HEX
Wanda looked out the window. It was Halloween, but there wasn’t a skeleton in sight, just Santas and strings of colorful lights. “Christmas season starts earlier every year,” Wanda grumbled. “But this time they’ve gone too far.”
For the next 55 days, Wanda planned and plotted and prepared a spell to ruin Christmas.
On Christmas morning, Wanda took a candy cane and waved her wand. “Halloween was skipped, and so I’m vexed. Give me a monster that runs, roars, and wrecks.”
Wanda clapped as a Christmasurus appeared. “Come with me and help,” she cackled.
But when the Christmasaurus ran through town, everyone smiled.
“You’re fast,” a child said. “Please pull our sled.” The Christmasaurus was happy to help.
Wanda grumbled and waved her wand. Needs to be louder.
But when the Christmasaurus roared, everyone cheered. “Your voice is the perfect pitch,” a caroler said. “Please sing with us.” The Christmasaurus was happy to help.
Wanda grumbled and waved her wand again. Needs to be bigger.
But when the Christmasaurus went to wreck the tree, everyone looked relieved. “You’re just the right height,” the mayor said. “Please put the star on top.” The Christmasaurus was happy to help.
Wanda flew home fuming.
The Christmasaurus followed with a note from the mayor.
“Dear Wanda,” it read. “Thank you for the holiday helper. I hope to see you both at the Christmas party. P.S. Sorry we missed Halloween.” Wanda grinned. “Why not?” she said. “I do like parties.”
9. The Christmas Corgi
Dash, the Christmas corgi, Tries so hard to do his part. He might be small in stature, But he has a helpful heart! But Dash can’t wrap the presents. He’s too short to trim the trees. And if he tries to shovel snow – His stubby legs will freeze! The cookies are too tempting, And he can’t quite reach the lights. And have you ever heard a corgi… Singing “Silent Night?” He can’t harness the reindeer, Or help put together toys. And Dash can’t read the letters Sent by all the girls and boys. He’s too small to pull Santa’s sled; His nose will never glow. So Dash can’t shine the way Through storms of swirling, blowing snow. But if you’ve had a long, hard night, Of flying through the cold… If climbing down chimneys and stairs has left you feeling old… If you need something soft and warm to help you get some rest… For snuggles, fluff, and love, A Christmas corgi is the best!
10. NOT TOO LITTLE
I tried to help bake While Mom answered the door But SPLAT! Cookie dough spilled All over the floor!
I tried putting lights On the tree for my Dad But I couldn’t reach high enough It was so sad!
“You’re still just too little To help us right now But maybe next year You can help us somehow!”
“Too little, too little That’s all that I hear I don’t want to wait Until Christmas next year!”
Too little, too little, Too little I’m not! I know I can help I just need the right spot!
Then Christmas Eve came We had all gone to bed. We were all in our dreams Cookies danced through my head
My daddy snoozed, snoring Mom mumbled in sleep And my little brother Was counting his sheep
When out of my slumber I woke with a yelp A clamorous crash! Someone needed my help!
I bounded from bed And raced into the den As the clock struck twelve I caught sight of HIM!
He was setting the Christmas tree Back up and then… I saw it was Santa! White beard on his chin!
“I’m just bit late Do a favor for me? Fill up the stockings? Put gifts ‘round the tree?”
“Yes sir!” I shouted! “Just leave it to me!” “Thanks for the help,” Santa shouted with glee!
Up the chimney he went And jumped into his sleigh “Great helper!” I heard As he went on his way!
11. Let it Grow! Let it Grow! Let it Grow!
Oh the weather outside was dreary And the plants were looking weary. Poor Santa was filled with woe. “They won’t grow! They won’t grow! They won’t grow!”
“A Venus fly-trap for Tommy, And a String of Pearls for Mommy?! Their progress is much too slow! They won’t grow! They won’t grow! They won’t grow!”
Rudolph finally came one night. “How plants hate being out in a storm! Northern climate just isn’t right– The leaves and the roots should be warm!”
They ran around helter-skelter And devised to build a shelter. “Protected from ice and snow, They will grow, they will grow, they will grow!”
Well they didn’t show signs of perking. “Oh no, it isn’t working!” “Dear Santa, don’t feel so low. They will grow! They will grow! They will grow!”
“It’s not enough to be cozy.” So Rudolph lit his nosey. The greenhouse was set aglow. “There they go! There they go! There they go!”
Santa finally cheered “Hooray! Rudy’s light has again saved the day! Little Tom and his mom will cheer, And I can grow plants through the year!”
When the weather outside is nippy Santa’s garden still looks zippy. “With a greenhouse and Rudolph’s glow, Let it snow! Let it blow! They will grow!”
12. The Sleigh-Awake Band
Santa packs up his sled for the long night ahead, of lifting and gifting and being well-fed. The cookies and milk make the big guy feel tired, (but staying awake for his job is required!).
The sleigh teeters left and then sails to the right, and loops through the air like a runaway kite. The reindeer are dizzy, the presents are sliding – “It’s time” shout the elves (who had all been in hiding).
Jingle’s on cymbals and Jangle’s on cello. The sound shakes the sleigh just like jiggly jell-o. Now Santa is stirring. Noelle grabs a drum, and RAT-A-TAT-TATS til’ her thumbs become numb.
Then Eve heaves her tuba and gives it a blast. BOOM, BOOM “Wake up Santa, and please make it fast!” WHOOOSH! Just in time. He grabs hold of the reins. The sleigh soars up high, past the birds and the planes.
The Sleigh-Awake Band jams across the night sky. “You rock!” Santa shouts with a gleam in his eye. You helped me make presents, baked cookies and cake, but you helped me the most when you kept me awake!
Now, each Christmas Eve, Santa makes sure to pack the Sleigh-Awake Band to help keep him on track! BOOM BOOM, RATTLE RATTLE, A RAT-A-TAT TAT! They’re off to spread joy with the tip of his hat….
Now YOU get to enjoy the agony of decision as you try to choose which of those amazing entries to vote for! You’re going to need that Santa hat!
Please vote for the entry you feel deserves to win in the poll below by 7PM EST Thursday December 17th.
Tune in Friday December 18th to see THE WINNERS!!! – same bat time, same bat station 😊
Thank you all so much for taking the time to write (if you did), read, and vote! These contests simply wouldn’t be what they are without all of you!
I truly cannot wait to see who you choose as the winner! Good luck!!! 😊
A group of esteemed judges gathered around our computers, armed to the teeth with cafe au lait and heart-shaped double chocolate brownies, chatting away about entries, extremely hopeful that we would reach a unanimous decision on the Valentiny finalists in a timely fashion…
…except Judge #1 ended up with a whole lot of extra family stuff – some expected, some not…
…Judge #2 had sudden unexpected actual job-related work that had to be attended to (since getting fired would adversely affect their ability to pay the rent)…
…and Judge #3 has a new puppy and is therefore suffering from extreme sleep deprivation! 🙂
Judge #4 was the only one showing up to get the job done!
As a group, we were less available, organized (and awake 🙂 ) then we’d intended!
Add to that the fact that you guys wrote such overall great entries that you threw us into a total tailspin over narrowing the field and it’s no wonder it took us so long to come up with a list of finalists! It is possible that some of us (who shall not be mentioned!) are still arguing over the finalist decision, feeling that there were other deserving entries that could have been included!
But at a certain point (preferably before the 4th of July) decisions have to be made and finalists have to be posted.
So here we are on Wednesday evening instead of Monday morning.
But we’re here! That’s the main thing, right?
And it is my pleasure to present to you . . .
And may I just say, once again, that the quality of entries in these contests is improving every time. This means there are fewer obvious standouts, almost none that are easy to cut, and there a LOT of very good ones that we have to get very nit-picky over! It is agony, I tell you! Agony!
Before we get to the actual list of finalists, I have a couple things to say. (I know you’re shocked as I’m normally so spare with my words :))
First of all, I want to thank EVERYONE who took the time and care to write an entry for this contest. You all did a fabulous job and provided great enjoyment for so many!
Second, I’d also like to thank EVERYONE – writer, reader, or both – who took the time to go around and read as many entries as you could and leave supportive comments. This means so much to the writers who worked hard on their stories. It helps them see what they did well, as well as giving them the joy of knowing that their stories were read and enjoyed. I hope you all got as much delight and entertainment out of the reading as I did! Plus, we got to meet quite a few new people which was a wonderful added bonus! 🙂
Third, before I list the finalists, I want to say again how difficult it was too choose! There were so many amazing entries. Really. I could find at least something terrific about every single one. The sheer volume of entries meant that many good ones had to be cut. So if yours didn’t make the final cut please don’t feel bad. There was a huge amount of competition. Judging, no matter how hard we try to be objective, is always subjective at a certain point – we all have our own preferences for what makes a great story. And the fact that you didn’t make the final cut DOES NOT mean you didn’t write a great story. Everyone who plonked their butt in a chair and worked hard to write a story for this contest is a winner! You showed up. You did your best work. You practiced your craft. You wrote to specifications and a deadline. You bravely shared your writing with the world. And you have a brand new story that is now yours to expand beyond 214 words if you like and maybe submit at some point to a magazine or as a PB manuscript. So bravo to everyone who entered!
Now. Onto the judging criteria which were as follows:
Kid-appeal/Kid-friendliness – remember, this is a story for kids!
Creativity in using hopefulness and success in making us feel the hope! (Not enough just to use the word hope!)
Valentine’s Day appropriateness – this is a VALENTINE story and as such must feel like it is connected to Valentine’s Day/has something to do with it being Valentine’s!
Quality of story – we will look for basic story elements and a true story arc
Quality of writing – use and flow of language, correctness of mechanics
Originality – surprise us with something new and different! 🙂
We really tried to choose stories that did the best job of fulfilling ALL the judging criteria. There were some truly wonderful stories that didn’t have much to do with Valentines Day even if Valentine’s Days was mentioned in passing – they just didn’t seem connected to Valentines – or that didn’t seem to really showcase hope although they may have used the word “hope”, or that didn’t seem particularly kid-oriented even though they were very creative and well-written, or that really had us…until the last line or two when things sadly fell apart. We tried our best to select finalists that checked all the boxes.
So without further ado, I present to you the finalists in the 2018 Third Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest! Please read through them carefully, take your time, think it over, and vote for your favorite in the poll below by Sunday February 25 at 12 PM (noon) Eastern time.
To help with objectivity, finalists are listed by title only, not by author.
And I’d like to be very clear about the voting process. You are MOST welcome to share a link to this post on FB, twitter, or wherever you like to hang out, and encourage people to come read ALL the finalists and vote for the one they think is best. Please do that. The more people who read and enjoy these stories the better, and the more objective votes we get the better. HOWEVER (and I want to be very clear on this) please do not ask people to vote for a specific number or title, or for the story about the littlest velociraptor with the biggest hopeful heart or whatever. Trolling for votes or trying to influence the outcome is counter to the spirit of this competition which is supposed to be based on merit. I thank you in advance for respecting this.
#1 A Valentine for Leaf
Leaf had been dangling alone from a branch all winter. He watched his friends get called down to the earth one by one. He trembled in the wind, hoping for his chance. Would the earth ever call him down?
“I can’t believe I’m still up here. I hope Earth wants me at all,” he thought with a frown.
Leaf spotted children on their way to school. They held paper hearts and cards. “Happy Valentine’s Day!” they shouted to the mailman across the street.
“Valentine’s Day? We’re half way through February!” Leaf imagined all the leaves snuggling with the earth, whispering sweet nothings to one another. He was losing hope.
He pitied himself for the next few hours. Suddenly, he felt a breeze. And then a snap! Leaf was floating down. He was being called!
Leaf smiled as he picked a spot to land. “What’s that? A heart? A Valentine just for me!”
Sure enough, there was a gray heart moving across the earth below Leaf. The heart got smaller and smaller until he landed right on top of it.
“Oh, Earth! What a special Valentine you gave me! You do want me after all!” Leaf closed his eyes and nuzzled the Earth in a big hug. “I never gave up hope! Happy Valentine’s Day.”
#2 The Valentine’s Rooster
At the animal shelter, Rooster trembled.
His Valentine’s wish was for someone to take him home and love him.
On the inside, Rooster was as soft and cuddly as a chick.
But when people stopped at Rooster’s cage, they only saw his outside.
“He was a fighting rooster.”
Rooster’s heart sank. Maybe he was unlovable.
The day before Valentine’s Day, a girl stopped at Rooster’s cage. “He’s trembling. Why is he all alone?”
“He’d peck another animal,” answered a man.
Rooster slumped. He would always be alone.
“Could a person hold him?” she asked.
Maybe I can be loveable. I’ll show her!
Rooster cocked his head and cooed.
Only his coo came out as “BAWK!”
“See?” said the man. “Ornery.”
“I’m not sure…” said the girl.
Then the girl went away, and night came.
Long. Dark. Lonely.
But a peck of hope had lodged in Rooster’s heart.
In the morning, the girl returned. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Rooster!”
The girl stroked his neck, and Rooster almost stopped trembling.
“Ahh,” she said. “You’re a lover, not a fighter.”
Rooster snuggled into the girl’s arms.
She rocked him and sang, “Rock-a-bye Rooster…”
He trilled softly and closed his eyes.
“You’re going home with me,” she whispered.
And Rooster lived happily, and cuddly, ever after.
#3 Valentine Handyman
Mom’s been quiet since Grampa died. Sometimes I see tears on her cheeks.
Dad says she’ll be ok, but that her heart is broken.
I know that it must be serious because I know hearts are important. I wonder if it hurts.
At school we decorated paper Valentine’s hearts. Mine ripped when I was cutting it out and I was mad that it was ruined. Miss Kelly taped it together but it’s not the same.
I bring Mom some tape.
She smiles, but she’s just not the same either.
I bring her a Band-Aid. Band-Aids make my cuts feel better.
Maybe it’s broken enough to need super glue.
Maybe a hammer and nails. Or a screwdriver. Or a drill.
I don’t know how to fix a heart.
As I’m falling asleep I see my Valentine heart poking out of my backpack. When I tiptoe into Mom and Dad’s room to leave it for Mom, I find her sitting on the edge of the bed. I crawl up beside her and I hand her my heart. I climb into her lap and listen to stories about Grampa. When we snuggle I know her heart is less broken because I can hear it working: tha-thump, tha-thump. Maybe it was the tape?
#4 The Hope Of Spring
Little Miss Bright-eyes Chickaree
hopped out of her nest in the cottonwood tree.
She was kind of hoping it would soon be spring
And all the birds would start to sing.
The sky would be blue, the sun would shine
And she would dance with her Valentine.
But Jack Frost nipped her nose and her toes
She snuffled and sneezed and her whiskers froze.
“I’m sure spring will soon be here,” she said
as she popped back into her cosy bed.
A day or two later she looked out again.
This time she was soaked by the icy rain.
“Forget about spring,” cried the squirrel next door.
“Winter will stay for evermore!”
Poor little Bright-eyes Chickaree,
hid in her nest in the cottonwood tree.
The world was wintry, cold and grey,
But surely spring would arrive one day!
On Valentine’s morning she opened her eyes
And goodness gracious, what a surprise!
Squirrel Bushtail was there at her door,
With a posy of flowers clasped in his paw.
“Oh, Miss Bright-eyes, look what I found.
“Snowdrops poking their heads through the ground.
“When these brave little flowers start to appear
“We can be sure that spring is almost here!”
“The sky will be blue, the sun will shine,
“And I’ll dance with you, sweet Valentine!
#5 A VALENTINE’S DAY FOR MILTON MONSTER
“Go on ahead, Matilda,” Milton prodded.
“What are you up to?” asked his sister.
“Searching for worms,” said Milton.
Alone, he emptied his backpack. Hopefully, I’ll get others to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Even if I need to sway them one monster at a time.
He counted supplies.
He placed the gifts, then peeked from behind a tombstone.
Myrtle Magog stopped, read and ran. AHHHHHHHHHH!!!
He sifted through the toppled trinkets.
With a heavy heart, he headed to school.
“I saw what you’re up to,” said Matilda. “Holidays are for humans. No monster eats chocolate hearts. YUK!”
“Thanks for the idea!” Milton exclaimed.
“Oh, no!” said Matilda.
Hope soaring, Milton raced off.
He dug and dipped.
He snipped and sewed.
He ruined and rhymed.
After school, Matilda found several items by her cubby:
a zombie doll,
a thorn bouquet and
Candy is rotten,
Presents are worse.
To my great horror,
I’m writing in verse.
Be my Malentine!
Slugs and Hisses,
“So maybe Malentine’s Day isn’t the worst idea ever.” Matilda took a bite of her chocolate-covered worms. “Yum, not bad.”
Milton smiled from his hiding spot. One monster at a time…
#6 HOPING FOR SNOW
When Dad says, “There’s a chance of snow!”
I dance around and whoop and cheer.
But just as I begin to hope,
I think, “We never get snow here.”
My Valentines are neatly stacked.
I’ve made each friend a special treat.
So if it doesn’t snow tonight,
at least school will be fun and sweet!
When Mom and Dad tuck me in bed,
I toss and turn and sigh all night.
As minutes tick-tock off my clock,
I peek outside and look for white.
Then suddenly, tomorrow’s here.
Mom sings, “It’s time to rise and shine!”
I look outside again. No snow.
But here’s a lovely Valentine!
At school, my friends have sleepy eyes;
it looks like no one slept last night.
“No snow—no FAIR,” they all complain.
“There goes our epic snowball fight!”
“Cheer up!” I say. “It STILL might snow—
the news guy said so on TV.”
I hand each friend an envelope.
“Now here’s a special treat from me!”
They open up their Valentines
and smile when they see what’s inside:
a cookie heart for everyone
and heart-shaped snowflakes made with pride.
“Let’s find some string and hang these up.
We’ll make it snow ourselves,” I say.
But as we work, I look outside.
“It’s snowing now for real! HOORAY!”
#7 Heart-Shaped Butt
“Help!” hollered Hen, “I must make a valentine for Cow, so she’ll love me and let me ride around on her magnificent horns. But look at this place! There’s not a speck of glitter or a scrap of ribbon! No red paper, no glue!”
“How about a feed sack and string?” Suggested Cat.
“UGH,” moped Hen. “Those horns deserve fabulous, not feed sack.”
“Scratch a heart in the dirt!”
“Dirt?! She’ll walk right through it and break my heart.”
No, no, no, Hen moaned hopelessly.
“Well,” Cat said, “even if you can’t make a valentine, you still have the biggest butt in the whole barn. It’s fantabulous! It’s glorious! It’s the fluffiest butt ever!”
Hen sighed, comforted. She did have the fluffiest butt.
A red feather fell from the rafters, one of Hen’s own.
She shoved her butt in Cat’s face. “My butt! Is it heart-shaped?”
Hen primped and preened and braided all night.
She waited on the fence for the sun to rise. As Cow came over the hill, Hen presented the prettiest, poofiest, floofiest valentine the farm had ever seen.
“Will you be my valentine?”
Cow swooned. She’d been feeling so unappreciated.
Hen perched her glorious behind on Cows magnificent horns, and off they went, best friends forever.
She read my face,
with just one look.
My bright red face-
an open book!
She read my face
And now she knows.
I sent the card,
without my name.
but now my face
takes all the blame.
She read them all
And now she knows.
I hope that what my good friend read,
will please, please stay inside her head!
She gave a nod, a smile, a wink.
My bright red face cooled down to pink.
#9 MUMS THE WORM
Wendell Worm squiggled up to the Valentine’s Day cards.
A sign said, SOLD OUT!
“Oh NO!” thought Wendell. “How will I let Juanita Worm know I want her to be my Valentine?
Worms don’t talk. We can only think.
I have no feet so I can’t dance to show my feelings.
I have no hands to write down a love poem.
I hope I can think of some way to let Juanita know I want her for my Valentine!”
Wendell thought and thought. Before long he was all twisted up into a knot. That’s when he came up with his plan.
Soon, Juanita came inching up the sidewalk.
“Here goes,” thought Wendell.
He turned and squirmed until from one end to his other end he formed a heart.
When Juanita saw what Wendell did she thought, “That’s the sweetest thing any worm has ever done!”
She stretched herself straight across the heart to show Wendell that Cupid’s arrow had struck her, too. She loved Wendell!
Together, Wendell and Juanita wriggled off to spend the rest of their lives together digging in the earth.
Sometimes, on rainy days, whenever they get washed up onto the sidewalk, Wendell twists himself into a heart and Juanita stretches herself into an arrow…just to show their squirmy, wormy love.
#10 Timberdoodle Valentine
“I hope the Timberdoodle finds his Valentine,” I say.
We are going to watch the birds in the field that gets smaller every year. It’s Valentine’s Day.
“We have to be there before sunrise,” Mom says. “That’s when the Timberdoodles show off their sky dance.”
Quietly, we walk along the path. No one else is awake.
The tall grass tickles my hands. I see lights beside the field.
“It used to be very dark here in the mornings. Those houses are new,” Mom whispers, worried. “The birds need lots of land to survive.”
Will the Timberdoodle be able to find his Valentine?
“Let’s listen,” she whispers. “He will dance, and she will watch.”
We wait in the cold dark. And wait. And wait.
My ears hope to hear. My eyes hope to see.
“Peent!…Peent!…Peent!” a bird calls from the dark grass.
“It’s them! They’re here!” I whisper. Will he dance?
SWISH. I see him lift from the ground, and my heart soars with him. He flies high over our heads.
I hear his wings twittering like music. His sky dance makes a big circle, and he lands.
“Did he find his Valentine?” I ask.
“Peent!” the Timberdoodle calls again. Two dark shapes waddle away.
“I think he did!” Mom answers.
The sun wakes up.
#11 Antsy Valentines
“Oh no!” Mason stared at the calendar on the anthill wall. “Valentine’s Day and I didn’t get a gift for Abeegail. She’ll be stinging mad if I show up empty-legged,” he moaned. “I hope I find something on the way to school!”
He searched the meadow for clover, Abeegail’s favorite flower. Nothing, only dead grass and crunchy leaves. He checked the flower shop, but they didn’t sell clover. Losing hope, Mason walked on in the cold February wind. “My feelers are going to freeze and fall off.” He scurried across the playground, staring up at the giant humans on their way to school.
Plop! Clickity plop! Candies tumbled from a girl’s backpack. One crashed in front of him and he smacked into it. His six legs tangled together. He stared at the purple candy. “This is perfect!” he exclaimed. Mason grabbed the treat and dashed to his classroom.
“There you are,” said Abeegail, buzzing over to him. “I was getting antsy waiting for you,” she giggled. “Get it? Ant-sy?” She handed him a tiny jar, “Honey from my beehive.”
“Thanks,” said Mason, blushing. “Happy Valentine’s Day,” he said, handing her his gift. “Hope you like it.”
“I love it,” cried Abeegail, as she read the words on the purple candy heart. “Bee Mine.”
#12A Fur-Ever Valentine
Cleo licked her paw and smoothed her fur for the tenth time. She wasn’t a kitten anymore, but it could still happen.
A family with three loud little boys passed by the banner reading “Adopt a Valentine”. Cleo shrunk back against the wall. Not them.
She returned the stare of a round lady with thick glasses. The lady smelled like so many other cats it made Cleo’s fur stand up a little. No way.
Cleo batted at the shiny red hearts taped to her fence and waited.
“Awww, look. She’s playing with the decorations!” The little girl was barely big enough to bend over the fence, but she smelled good. Maybe?
The girl held out her hand and waited for her. Cleo liked that.
“The sign says that her name is Cleo,” said the girl’s mother.
The little girl smiled. “Hi, Cleo! I’m Molly. You’re a pretty kitty,”
That was a good start. Cleo walked over to the edge of the pen and gave Molly’s hand a little bump. “She’s friendly,” Molly said, petting Cleo’s back.
“Can we take her home, Mommy?”
Cleo wrapped herself tightly around Molly’s arm and rubbed her nose against her hand.
Molly’s mother laughed. “I think that’s a yes, sweetie.”
Cleo purred. She was going to her fur-ever home.
Wow! Those were impressive, weren’t they? Good luck picking! 🙂
Please vote for your favorite in the poll below by Sunday February 25 at 12 PM (noon) Eastern time.
Tune in Monday February 26 to see THE WINNERS!!!
Thank you all so much for taking the time to write (if you did), read, and vote! These contests simply wouldn’t be what they are without all of you!
I can’t wait to see who the winners will be!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to lie on the couch and eat bonbons to recover from all that reading and agonizing and negotiating.
I will actually be frantically trying to catch up on things I shoved to the back burner whilst reading Valentiny stories… but I could probably manage a few bonbons at least 🙂
Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! . . . now that it’s basically Thursday 🙂