December 19, 2013

The 2013 Holiday Contest WINNERS!!!

Happy Thursday to you
Happy Thursday to you
Happy Thursday, Happy Thursdaaay...
Happy Thursday to you!

It was so nice of you all to come visit me on a non-posting day!  Can I offer you some non-denominational holiday cookies?

And perhaps a nice cup of cocoa to go with them?

I like to be neighborly and provide snacks to anyone who comes all this way through the snow and cold to visit :)

Now that no one is in danger of fainting from caloric deficit, let's get right to the purpose of today's post, shall we?

Normally I'd string you along for awhile and tease you with something... anything... that had nothing to do with why you're really here.

But in the spirit of the holidays, I'm not going to do that today.

Nope!

I'm going to get right to the point.

Yes sirree!

No beating around the bush today!

We're going to get right to it...

...as soon as we have a rousing chorus of Adeste Fidelis!

Adeste fideles læti triumphantes,
Venite, venite in Bethlehem.
Natum videte
Regem angelorum:
Venite adoremus (3x)
Dominum.

There's nothing like singing in Latin is there?

Want to do another verse?

Just kidding :)  I know you don't :)

Okay, seriously, would you guys stop singing holiday songs so we can get down to the business at hand?  Sheesh!

The 3rd Annual Holiday Contest!!!

WINNERS!!!

As you are all aware by now, we had a record turnout for the 3rd Annual Holiday Contest - 118 entries!

I was thrilled beyond measure to see so many wonderful stories!

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

There were, however, many other entries that were outstanding in certain areas even though they might not have qualified all-around for one reason or another.

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

1.  For Honorable Mention In The Competition As A Whole:
     Erik Weibel for Code Name: Kringle
     Michelle Senters for Cookies For Papa Noel
     Sue Heavenrich for Blue Latkes And Salsa
     Hayley Barrett for Not-So-Merry Sickmas

2.  For Best "Quiet"Story:
     Kristine Poptanich for Silent Night
     Leslie Colin Tribble for The Christmas Bird
     Teresa Robeson for A Home For The Holidays   
     Debbie Austin for Home For Christmas    
     Patricia Tilton for Toby's Shopping Rush
     Cindy Williams Schrauben for A Dark Night Before Christmas

3. For Best End-of-Story Twist:
     Cathy Mealey for Festive Feeding Frenzy (CPR on a chipmunk :))
     Rachel Stones for Fresh Frosting (toothpaste!)
     Tracey Cox for Breaking News: Santa Is Real (Emergency Broadcast Test!)

4. For Best-Written Original Point Of View:
     Kristen Fulton for Raisin's Christmas (excellent dog POV!)
     Sue Frye for Christmas Trappings (great rat POV!)

5. For Best Job Reworking Familiar Rhymes/Songs/Stories:
     Laura Renauld for This Is The Tree That Jill Trimmed
     Marcy Pusey for Monty The Mudman
     Buffy Silverman for The 3 Little Pigs Light The Chanukah Candles  
     Charlotte Gunnufson for Goldilocks's Night Before Christmas

6.  For Funniest Entry: (not already in the finals)
     Kathryn Cunningham for 'Twas The Stomach Flu Before Christmas
     Suzy Levinson for Reindeer In The Eggnog

7. For Best Wicked Humor:
     Julia Maisen for Catching Krampus
     Julie Rowan-Zoch for It's A Wrap

8.  For Great Kid Appeal: (not already in the finals)
     Mandy Yates for One Squirrelly Christmas
     Sharon Chriscoe for Hot Tub Santa
     Anne Cavanaugh Sawan for The Gingerbread House Disaster

9.  For Best Religious Entry:
     Bonnie Ogle for The Sound And Smell Of Christmas

10.  For Best Entry By A First-Time Writer:
     Angie Hawkins for NOEL
     Lucy Dixon for The Story Of An Elf (who didn't want to be on the shelf!)

11. For We-Loved-It-But-Thought-The Humor-Was-A-Little-Too-Grown-Up :)
     Teresa M.I. Schaeffer for Always Ready Or Not
     Kristen Foote for No Sleep For Santa
     B. Lee Draper for 'Twas The Accident Before Christmas

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

For Kindle:

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

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

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

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

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

The Ultimate Fiction Thesaurus by Sam Stone OR

In paperback:
Show & Tell In A Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions From Telling To Showing by Jessica Bell OR

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

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


And now...

...the moment you've all been waiting for...

The announcement of the WINNERS OF THE 2013 HOLIDAY CONTEST as voted on by you!!!

rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat

DDDRRRUUUMMM RRROOOLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!

In First Place...

Winner of the whole shebang...

who gets first choice of all the prizes...

DAWN YOUNG
for 'Twas The Night Baafore Christmas!!!

Congratulations, Dawn, on a fabulous and fun entry that was clearly very popular!!! :)

In Second Place...

Kristen Foote
for The Great Christmas Morning Mix-Up

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

In Third Place...

Laura Wolfe
for The Gift Horse

Congratulations, Laura!  You get first choice of the prizes that are left after Dawn and Kristen choose theirs.

In Fourth Place...

Heather Preusser
for Behind Schedule

Congratulations, Heather!  You get to pick after Dawn, Kristen and Laura.

In Fifth Place...

Cecilia Clarke
for The School Concert

Congratulations, Cecilia!  You get to pick after Dawn, Kristen, Laura and Heather.

In Sixth Place...

Ann Magee
for The Christmas Present

Congratulations, Ann!  I'm sure you get the idea of how the prize picking goes by now :)

And I have to mention the tie for 7th Place, because they were both only 1 point out of 6th Place...

Tied for Seventh Place:

Deborah Holt Williams for Seriously Santa? and Angela Pena Dahle for Three Little Kings!

Congratulations, Deborah and Angela!

All the winners should email me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com with the subject heading Prize Winner so we can work out details for you to receive your prizes!  Finalists who did not finish in the top 6 (Deborah, Angela, Cheryl, Patty, Marcie, Penny, Michelle Barnes, and Carrie) may also contact me for their choice of the Kindle or paperback prizes listed above.

Congratulations again to all our winners - it was a stiff competition!! - and congratulations to EVERYONE who wrote and entered a story in the contest.  You all deserve a huge round of applause, a tinsel parade, and a large amount of Christmas Pudding (which truthfully I don't know what that is, but it sounds like the right thing for this time of year :))

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

As I mentioned a while back, I'm taking a little blogging break so I can spend time with my family - I've got cookies to bake, Christmas presents to shop for and wrap, and my sister and her family are arriving form Georgia on Sunday! :) -  so I will see you all in a couple weeks - most probably Wednesday January 8th for Would You Read It unless there's a hue and cry over missing another PPBF on January 3rd.  If you're desperate for PPBF, please take it up with management :)

So now, I want to wish you all a happy and healthy holiday filled with love, laughter, joy, and family, and a happy, healthy and successful new year!  It is a pleasure and a privilege to get to spend time with you all, and I'm happy and grateful to know each and every one of you!

Looking forward to all the things we'll do in 2014!

Love,
Susanna



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December 16, 2013

The 2013 Holiday Contest Finalists! - Vote For Your Favorite!

The 3rd Annual Holiday Contest!!!


FINALISTS!!!

I know.

You didn't sleep a wink all weekend just desperate to know who would make the finalists list for the Holiday Contest!

It's okay.  You can admit it.  I understand :)

But now it's finally Monday!  And you can find out!

After a few words from our sponsors :)

First, I want to thank EVERYONE who found time in their busy holiday season schedule to write an entry for this contest.  With a final count of 118 entries, this was by far the most well-subscribed contest I've ever held.  The overall quality of the entries was absolutely amazing!  There were no easy cuts.  My assistant judges and I found something to like in every story and hated having to cut anyone!

Second, I want to thank EVERYONE who took the time to go around to as many of the 81 different blogs as you could, as well as the 38 entries posted in the comments here, and read and leave supportive comments for the writers who worked so hard on these stories.  In this business where rejection is a common and unavoidable part of the process, it means a great deal to writers to know that their work was read and enjoyed and to receive a few kind words about their writing.  It is one of the best things about this community - that people are so generous and kind to each other.

Third, before I list the finalists, I want to say again how really difficult it was to choose.  There were so many fabulous entries.  The sheer volume means that many great stories had to be cut.  So if yours didn't make the final cut please don't feel bad.  There was a huge amount of competition.  Judging, no matter how hard we try to be objective, is always subjective at a certain point - we all have our own preferences for what makes a great story.  And the fact that you didn't make the final cut DOES NOT mean you didn't write a great story.  Everyone who plonked their butt in a chair and worked hard to write a story for this contest is a winner!  You showed up.  You did your best work.  You practiced your craft.  You wrote to specifications.  You bravely shared your writing with the world.  And you have a brand new story that is now yours to hone and tweak if you like and maybe submit at some point to a magazine or as a PB manuscript.  So bravo to everyone who entered!

Finally, I'd like to be very clear about the voting process.  Due to the large number of entries, there are 14 finalists listed below.  I have deliberately listed them by title only, so as to help with objectivity.  Please read through them and choose the one you feel is best and vote.  You are MOST welcome to share a link to this post on FB, twitter, or wherever you like to hang out and encourage people to come read ALL the finalists and vote for the one they think is best.  Please do that.  The more people who read and enjoy these stories the better, and the more objective votes we get the better.  HOWEVER (and I want to be very clear on this) please do not ask people to vote for a specific number or title, or for the story about Vixen and the canoe 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.

Now, without further ado, here are your finalists.  There is a mix of poetry and prose, funny, cute, and poignant - quite a spread!

Remember that the judging criteria were:

1. Kid-appeal! - These stories are intended for a young audience, so entries that were well-written but lacked child-friendliness or whose humor or content felt more appropriate for an older or adult audience did not make the cut.
2.  Suitability of mishap to holiday/originality of mishap - the rules stated a holiday mishap, so entries that lacked a mishap 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 true story arc.
4. Quality of writing - use of language, correctness of tense, spelling and grammar, quality of rhyme and meter for the poetry entries, and overall impression of writing were factored in.
5. Originality and creativity - because that is often what sets one story above another.

We cut 104 entries to leave you with these 14.  It was very hard!  We did the best we could.  I hope you'll all find at least one of your favorites on the list below.

#1  THE GREAT CHRISTMAS MORNING MIX UP


‘Twas the morning of Christmas. Fresh snow sparkled bright.
Eager eyes, young and old, woke with hope and delight.
For THIS was the day it would all become clear!
Had their patience and kindness been noticed this year?

Old sweet gray-haired Granny, who lived down the street,
had asked for fur slippers to warm up her feet.
Wrapped under her tree was an iPod, instead.
“What’s this thing-a-ma-jig? Does it need to be fed?”

Confused, little Claire, sadly stared with a frown.
Men’s large tighty-whities? She wrote down a crown!
Max wished for a toy, not a stick carved from wood -
his whisper to Santa was misunderstood!

Poor four-year-old Nate wanted alphabet blocks.
He cried when he opened up argyle socks.
And old man McGee had requested a cane.
But how could he walk with a jet-propelled plane?

The neighbors all gathered outside in the square.
“Santa messed up!” “Does he no longer care?”
“Did he drink too much nog?” “Get confused in the fog?”
“Did his hand-written list become lunch for his dog?”

As they chittered and chattered, up hobbled McGee,
a plane in his hand, and a wobbly knee.
Max noticed a use for that stick in his hand.
He traded McGee, who could now proudly stand.

The rest of the town followed Max’s kind lead.
They searched with their gifts to find someone in need.
With an uproar of giggles, the Mayor said, “Claire!
I’ll give you my crown for the underwear pair!”

Then lastly, the iPod. Teens gathered around.
To Granny’s surprise, the small square produced sound!
As they patiently taught her to download a song,
she played Christmas classics. They all sang along.

The families set out their warm suppers to share.
No person left hungry, all plates were licked bare.
They toasted their glasses with “CLINKS” and with “CLANKS”.
They feasted, shared laughter, and offered up thanks.

Perhaps ol’ Saint Nick was no senile man.
Maybe this mix-up was really his plan.
For THIS Christmas season was not for receiving,

but gathering, giving, and mostly, believing.

#2  BEHIND SCHEDULE


Santa was used to getting letters, but this one was different.
“Antler Air was having a last-minute special, so we booked a trip to Europe! Don’t worry, Santa. We’ll be back to fly the sleigh. – The Red-Nosed Guy”
“But there’s only three days until Christmas Eve!” said Ernie the Elf.
“Rudolf’s responsible,” said Santa.
The next day Santa received a text message.
“Europe’s a hoot! Visiting the louvre.
Skiing in switzerland. Home tom 2 deliver toys :-) rudolf et al”
“They know how to ski?” asked Ernie.
Santa shrugged.
The next day Santa’s phone buzzed.
“Holland having sale on wooden clogs. Behind schedule, but will make it & have surprise 4 u! LOL ;-)” rudolf & co
“Behind schedule!” Santa bawled.
Christmas Eve arrived the next day, as did another text.
“OMG! All non-sleigh flying banned! May b spending 2nite in germany :-[ Rudy”
“How will we pull the sleigh?” bellowed Santa. His round belly shook, and his rosy cheeks turned blotchy.
“I have an idea!” said Ernie, and he scampered off.
He returned in the wink of an eye.
“You want me to use . . . moose?” asked Santa.
“Meet Amble, Shamble, Shuffle, Stroll, Dawdle, Dillydally, Linger, Lumber, and Bob,” said Ernie.
“They’re so . . . BIG. They’re supposed to be tiny reindeer.”
“We’ll use four,” said Ernie.
“Are they more rapid than eagles?” asked Santa.
“Good question!”
The moose stood still.
“If they can fly, the gig is theirs,” said Santa.
Ernie hitched the moose to the magic sleigh.
“To the house-top!” said Santa, and up they went.
Then down they plummeted through the roof.
“On second thought, looks like you won’t be dashing anywhere,” said Ernie.
There was prancing on the rubble. “I’ll guide the way.”
“Rudolf!” said Santa. “How did you—”
“We hitched a ride with Father Time. These are for you.” He held up a pair of extra-large Lederhosen.
On Christmas morning, Rudolf awoke to a letter:

“Kris Cringle Cruises was having a New Year’s deal. We’re off to the Greek Isles! Don’t forget to clean the factory. – Santa & the missus”

#3  SERIOUSLY SANTA


Dear Santa, Hi, remember me?

I asked you for a pet.

A goldfish or chinchilla,

That’s what I hoped I’d get.



But seriously Santa?

A reindeer? Really? Gee!

First he ate the ornaments

And then he ate the tree!



He ate the treetop angel

And the lights! Now that was shocking.

He swallowed all the garland down

And then he ate my stocking!



We couldn’t find a name tag.

Is he Vixen?  Is he Comet?

But when he barfed up tinsel,

I thought I’d call him Vomit.



So Santa, what’s your policy

On taking presents back?

 We just can’t keep this reindeer

Who eats curtains for a snack!



And after all that eating,

When he could munch no more,

He left a present of his own

Upon the hardwood floor.



You must be trying to downsize.

I guess you just don’t need him.

But gee, before you dropped him off,

How come you didn’t feed him?



I know you must be tired,

Too pooped to come yourself.

But please!  Come get this reindeer!

If you have to, send an elf!



Seriously, Santa,

Old Vomit has to go.

I tried to put him in the yard—

  He doesn’t like the snow!



He likes it by our wood stove

With a sofa for his head.

I must admit he’s comfy

When I use him for a bed.



He’s helpful with the firewood,

And holds our hats and coats.

I’m sure he keeps my bedroom safe

From alien zombie goats.



I went on-line for reindeer chow,

I guess we’ll be OK.

He’s so cute when he’s sleeping…

So Santa, he can stay.



P.S. Next year I’ll leave cookies

And cocoa in the kitchen.

But promise me I won’t wake up

and find you’ve left us Blitzen!


#4  A MIXED UP CHRISTMAS




#5  SANTA'S SPECIAL GIFT


Bags packed tight with Christmas gifts,
Loaded on his sleigh,
Santa called to Mrs. Claus,
“I’ll be on my way!”

But Mrs. Claus rushed to his side.
“Wait one minute, dear!
She dropped a present in his hands.
“A special gift this year!”

Perhaps she’d bought a new fur hat?
Warm and wooly socks?
Santa ripped the paper off,
Opened up the box.

“With years of wear,” said Mrs. Claus,
“Your maps are such a mess.
To help you find your way this time,
I’ve bought a GPS!”

“But how to hold it?” Santa asked.
“I need my hands to steer.”
“With this,” she said, and Velcro-strapped
it to a reindeer’s rear.

Fingers flying o’er the screen with
Rapid button presses,
Santa typed in names and streets --
thousands of addresses.

Lights and arrows flashed onscreen while
Santa sat there waiting,
drumming fingers while a tinny
voice said, “Calculating…”

The GPS began to shake,
smoke poured from its top.
Beep! Boop! Fizzle! Snap and sizzle!
Then a giant POP!

The startled reindeer jumped and jerked.
They lifted off to go.
But pulling back upon the reins,
Santa shouted, “WHOOA!”

“Now steady, boys!” He calmed his team
and motioned to an elf.
“Please run inside and grab my maps --
I’ll find the route myself.”

Elves and reindeer stopped to watch
enormous maps unfold.
A giant grid with children’s homes
Each marked with dots of gold.

So many good kids in the world!
It came as no surprise
that Santa’s map lit up and twinkled
like the starry skies.

He clapped his hands, snapped the reins.
“Now, dash away!” he cried.
With a whooosh the sleigh began
its global nighttime ride.

Each stocking stuffed and gift dropped off,
Soon Santa’s work was done.
He flew back to his frosty home
Before the dawning sun.

As Santa stood by Mrs. Claus,
He held a mangled mess --
tangled wires and plastic bits --
The broken GPS.

He kissed his wife and said to her,
“It was a thoughtful treat
But sometimes old things work the best --
Did you keep the receipt?”

#6  THE CHRISTMAS PRESENT


The puppy Santa left under my tree on Christmas Eve has been acting a bit weird. Don’t get me wrong…I absolutely LOVE him…his fur is brown, and he is as soft as my favorite fuzzy blanket. He has big brown eyes, skinny legs, and a cute stubby tail. I think he likes the way I taste because he licks me all the time.
When it was time to eat, though, he sniffed his dog food bowl, looked at me, and walked away. I was eating salad for dinner and
dropped a lettuce leaf on the floor. Guess what happened…my dog ate it right up and looked at me for more. So I put my whole bowl of salad on the floor. He loved it…I think my dog is
a vegetarian. He can eat my vegetables every day, no problem!
When it was time to drink, though, he sniffed his water bowl, looked at me, and walked away. I was drinking hot chocolate for
dessert. I even had a candy cane to stir it with. I poured a little into his bowl. Guess what happened…my dog drank it right up and looked at me for more. So I poured my whole cup of hot chocolate in his bowl, candy cane and all. He loved it!
When it was time to go to bed, though, he wouldn’t sit still. He kept running and jumping in the hallway. He leaped off the bed. He leaped off the dresser. Then guess what happened . . . he leaped off
the top of the steps! I must say, he’s a pretty good jumper. He stayed in the air for at least 5 seconds.
I still haven’t decided what to name my puppy . . . oh, wait a minute . . . he’s wearing a name tag. It says, “Blitzen Jr.”. That’s a cool name for a dog, don’t you think?

#7  THE LAST FLIGHT OF CHRISTMAS


‘Twas the night before Christmas and Papa was late,
Snowed in at the airport, stuck at the gate.
“My plane has been grounded. I’m sorry, my dear.
It looks like I’m going to miss Christmas this year.”
“But Papa,” I cried, as Mama drew near,
“It won’t be the same if you are not here!”
“Don’t worry,” said Mama, squeezing me tight,
“Maybe Dad will be able to catch the next flight.”
I had put on my jammies and climbed into bed
When a terrible thought entered my head.
“If snow’s going to keep us from being together,
How will Santa arrive in such wintery weather?”
“Santa will make it even if the snow’s deep,
But he won’t come to visit unless you’re asleep!”
Mama gave me a kiss and turned off my light,
Then I tossed and I turned the rest of the night.
I had just drifted off and was dreaming of toys,
When I woke with a start after hearing a noise.
“Santa!” I whispered and jumped out of bed.
“He made it for Christmas just like Mama said!”
In my robe and my slippers, I ran down the stairs
And found Papa, not Santa, in one of our chairs.
“Papa!” I cried. “When did you make it home?
You said you were stuck when we talked on the phone!”
 “Surprise!” exclaimed Papa, “but I found my way
With a jolly red elf who was driving a sleigh!”
“You met Santa?” I asked, “He gave you a ride?”
“With some help from his reindeer,” Papa replied.
“Mama!  I shouted, “You won’t guess who’s here!
Papa! He’s made it for Christmas this year!”
“Santa also delivered a present or two.”
“But Papa,” I cried, “the best present is you!”

#8  THREE LITTLE KINGS


On Dia de los Reyes, three boys dressed as little kings sit in la cocina, the kitchen, while Mama makes dough for Three Kings Cake—a large Rosca, a wreath, with plastic baby Jesus baked inside. Plop! Plop! Plop!
Into the dough, go one, two, three baby Jesus figurines. Three sets of eyes watch wide-eyed as Mama says, “Now we let it rise.”
“What will we do?  Jesus can’t go in the oven,” says king number one to kings two and three. They all nod their heads.
 Tip-toe. Tip-toe. The Little Kings take a peek. Mama is fast asleep…
Tip-toe. Tip-toe. Quick! Make the switch.
Aye yi yi! 
Too late! Papa is in la cocina getting a drink. When he leaves…
Tip-toe. Tip-toe. Quick! Make the switch.
Aye yi yi!
Uh oh! Now Sister is searching for a snack. The three Little Kings try not to make a peep. Soon she leaves… Tip-toe. Tip-toe. Quick! Make the switch.
Arriba los Reyes! Yea!
They escape la cocina right on time.
When Mama wakes she bakes the cake. When night arrives it’s time to cut the wreath.

One. . .two. . .three plastic dinosaurs instead—just as sweet!
#9  ELF EMERGENCY


The elves smiled and waved as the sleigh slipped past the moon and into the Christmas Eve sky.
“Let’s have some cocoa,” said CLEO, Chief Loader of Elf Operations.
But then he stopped.
In the corner, behind a bag of Reindeer Nibbles, was a toy.
“Oh My Gumdrops!” he said.
He looked at the Elf-Emergency Button on his belt.
“No,” he said. “Santa’s busy.”
“Surely I can deliver one toy.”
He whistled for Wanderer, Reindeer-In-Training. Wanderer was an excellent flyer, but sometimes got his directions mixed up.
So, they picked up ENZO, Elf of Navigation and Zooming Operations, and were off.
“There it is,” said ENZO. “Down there.”
Wanderer slowed and settled on the roof.
CLEO looked at the chimney.
“Well, here goes.”
Whoosh!
Flip!
Bounce!
Flumpph!
Headfirst into a stocking.
CLEO wiggled.
He squirmed.
He twisted.
“Wanderer . . . ENZO . . . Heeeelp!”
Whoosh-whoosh!
Flip-flip!
Bounce-bounce!
Thwack! Jingle!
“Wanderer?”
“ENZO?”
“Stuck!” said Wanderer. “Antlers entangled in Christmas tree.”
“Stuck!” said ENZO. “Swinging from garland by bell-bedecked booties.”
“And . . . stuck!” said CLEO. “Stuffed in a stocking.”
CLEO sighed.
“Speaking of stuck, I should’ve stuck to loading. I’m not good at chimneys.”
“I should’ve stuck to flying,” said Wanderer.
“I should’ve stuck to navigating,” said ENZO.
“Good thing we know someone who is good at chimneys,” said CLEO.
“Yep,” said Wanderer and ENZO.
CLEO wiggled.
He squirmed.
He twisted.
Finally he reached the Elf-Emergency Button on his belt.
Whoosh!
Black boots.
Red suit.
“Ho-ho-ho!”
Perfect landing.
“Mighty Mistletoe!” said Santa. “This is an emergency.”
When he was free, CLEO held out the toy.
“I’m sorry, Santa.”
“It’s OK, CLEO,” said Santa. “That’s why we have an Elf-Emergency Button. Go ahead. You put the toy under the tree.”
CLEO smiled.
Santa chuckled and said, “Thanks to a well-loaded sleigh, that’s the last delivery.”
“Let’s go home.”
“Wanderer, why don’t you fly with the team?”
“EZNO, will you drive?”
“CLEO, please sit right here by me.”
And as the sleigh slipped past the moon and into the Christmas Eve sky, Santa said . . .

“Let’s have some cocoa.”
#10  THE FLIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS


‘Twas a week before Christmas and all was not well.
While out on a test flight, the sleigh hit a swell.
An icy cold blast took St. Nick by surprise
and sent him careening through blustery skies.
Tossed this-a-way, that-a-way, capsized, upended,
a thought flashed before him as Santa descended:
What good are warm boots and a snazzy red suit,
if what you don’t have is a good parachute?

He called to his reindeer (though none were in sight),
“Come Dasher! Come Dancer!  Be swift in your flight!
Come Prancer and Vixen!  Come Comet and Cupid!”
But none of them came, and poor Santa felt stupid.
Through clouds of whipped cream, he kerplopped like a cherry;
his jolly demeanor, now somewhat less merry.

With huge, booming voice he exclaimed,
"HO HO HO!
 READY OR NOT…
 LOOK OUT BELOW!”

Unaware, until then, of the ill-fated flight,
the elves all looked up with their jaws dropped in fright.
Could it be?  Yes, it was!  Old St. Nick in free fall!
Those quick-witted elves wasted no time at all.
They worked as a team, without missing a beat,
to pile up snow, oh, at least fifty feet.

Would Santa Claus notice with everything white?
He needed a map he could read from great height.
So the elves in their hats of bright red and bright green
encircled the mound to make sure it was seen—
the red hats on one side, the green on the other.
At first they formed one word, and then came another:
the reds on the left side spelled L-A-N-D;
on the right were the green hats with H-E-R-E.

While Santa still dropped like a streak through the sky,
he saw this and gave a most gratified sigh.
He aimed, best he could, for the elves’ snowy mound
that cushioned his fall when, at last, he hit ground.
Nothing came close to the love Santa felt…

with a smile he said, “Guess I need a seat belt.”

#11  THE GIFT HORSE


Mistletoe clip-clopped past the reindeer’s empty stalls.  As Santa prepared to deliver presents around the world, Mistletoe dreamed of spreading Christmas magic too.  But horses can’t fly and Mistletoe’s nose didn’t glow.
Just before the reindeer ascended into the sky, Mistletoe noticed a present poking out of Santa’s sack.  It said, To Santa. Love, Mrs. Clause.  Mistletoe neighed, bucked, and whinnied to alert Santa of the mistake, but he was too late.  The sleigh was gone.
Mistletoe peered inside Santa’s cottage.  Mrs. Clause slept peacefully.  There wasn’t a single present for Santa under the Christmas tree.
This is horrible, thought Mistletoe.  Santa surprises everyone with presents on Christmas, but there are no  presents for Santa!
Then Mistletoe understood that he had the power to make Christmas magic.  He cantered to Santa’s barn.
“Santa is giving away his only present,” Mistletoe told Owl.  “Let’s surprise Santa with gifts on Christmas morning, just like he surprises us.”
“That’s a brilliant idea,” agreed wise Owl.
“But I don’t have anything to give him,” said Mistletoe.
“We all have gifts to give,” said Owl.  “I’ll pluck my fluffy feathers to make a pillow.”
“I’ll paint my eggs to make ornaments for Santa’s tree,” said Chicken.
“I’ll knit my wool into a cozy sweater,” said Sheep.
“I’ll whip my milk into creamy pudding,” said Cow.
Mistletoe polished one of his horseshoes until it sparkled.  He would give it to Santa for good luck.
The animals worked hard on their gifts.  When they heard sleigh bells in the distance, Mistletoe galloped to Santa’s cottage and arranged the gifts under the tree.  Mistletoe raced back to the barn where he and the other animals quickly went to sleep.
On Christmas morning, Mistletoe awoke to find TWO peppermints in his saddle bag!  But Mistletoe’s best gift was still to come.  He trotted to Santa’s cottage and watched Santa open his presents.  Santa and Mrs. Clause’s eyes twinkled brighter than the snow.  Mistletoe’s teeth stretched into a smile.

“Now you know my secret,” said Santa, winking at Mistletoe.  “Giving to others is the best gift of all.”

#12  A MERRY THANKSGIVING


’Twas Thanksgiving evening, and all through the house
not a creature was hungry…not even a mouse.
The remains of our feast were tucked safely away
in the fridge to make sandwiches for the next day.
A vision of leftovers danced in my head—
sliced turkey and stuffing on warm toasted bread,
when all of a sudden, I heard on the roof
a prancing and pawing that sounded like…hoofs?
Then, from the kitchen, arose such a clatter,
I raced down the stairs to see what was the matter.
And what to my wondering eyes should appear,
as I flipped on the light…but a herd of reindeer!
At the table sat Dasher, with Donder and Vixen,
devouring some leftover turkey-day fixin’s.
Cupid, that devil, perched high on a chair
and gobbled the peas with a satisfied air,
while Dancer and Prancer stood huffing and puffing,
engaged in a tug-of-war over our stuffing.
In the corner old Comet was filling his belly
with all of our leftover cranberry jelly.
And, taking our pumpkin pie down from the shelf,
dressed all in fur, was the big man himself.
I spoke not a word — just what does one say
when Thanksgiving turns into a reindeer buffet?
They looked up, mid-bite, and I watched Mr. Claus
turn exactly the color of Rudolph’s bright schnoz.
I hated to see what was left of our feast
being gulped by that gaggle of gluttonous beasts.
But I thought about Santa — I thought of the years
he’d braved winter snowstorms to spread Christmas cheer
with the presents he left me, and that’s when I knew
there was only one thing I could possibly do.
I took out a knife and I sliced up that pie,
and I said to him, “Santa, I’m glad you dropped by.”
He laughed, and we feasted till late, almost dawn,
and then Santa, our pie, and the reindeer were gone.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“’Twas the spirit of Christmas on Thanksgiving night!”

#13  THE SCHOOL CONCERT


This was the first time Dad had ever come to the end of year concert.
Annie peered between the shoulders of the two children in front of her in the choir.
The teacher had lined them up so they could all clearly see their parents in the audience.
Annie was so excited her skin felt too small to fit inside. Dad was finally going to hear her sing.
The teacher began to play the introduction on the old piano and everyone stood up straight ready to sing their best.
Annie had the solo and had practiced for weeks. She was going to sing her best for her Dad.
A movement at the back of the hall caught Annie’s eye and she saw the Dads whispering to each other and begin to stand up.
Annie felt her throat tighten as she watched her Dad stand up too.
Soon only the mothers were left in the hall with little babies and high school kids.
Annie couldn’t sing. Tears slid down her face.
She knew he had to go. Christmas was fire season in Australia.
All the Dads and some of the Mums had to leave. They fought bravely to save homes, farms and live stock.
Annie wished just once it could be cold and snowy at Christmas, like it was on the Christmas cards.
Then her Dad could hear her sing in the school concert.
The other children kept singing and soon it would be Annie’s turn but she just wanted to run off the stage and hide.
She closed her eyes and tried to hide behind the boy in front so the Mums couldn’t see her cry.
“False alarm” someone whispered loudly at the back of the hall and all the Dads and a few Mums came tiptoeing back into the hall.
Annie’s heart swelled with joy as she watched her Dad sit back down.
She lifted her voice to the stars above and sang like an angel.

#14  'TWAS THE NIGHT BAAFORE CHRISTMAS


It’s Christmas Eve night, and I’ve stared at the clock,
for hours and hours…it’s time for the flock.
“I’m desperate. I need you,” I yell to the sheep.
“Start jumping or something, I must get to sleep.
Tonight’s Christmas Eve and I want a new drum,
but if I’m not sleeping, then Santa won’t come.”
They jump and I count, but soon it gets boring.
Tonight more than ever, I need to be snoring.
They’re puffing and panting and I’m wide awake.
We finally agree what we need is a break.
The sheep want a drink, so we sneak out the door
and tiptoe until…they spot goodies galore!
Dashing and darting, they scatter like mice,
they slip and they slide, like the floor’s made of ice.
They skid toward the tree and then in a flash,
it tilts, and it tips, and it topples down CRASH!
Sheep 1, 2 and 3 start stuffing themselves
with branches and balls and breakable elves.
Sheep 5’s eating cookies, while 7 and 8
are licking up crumbs and chomping the plate.
Sheep 10’s busy munching, there’s green in his teeth.
Oh great, he just wolfed down my mother’s new wreath.
Sheep 9 blares the music, and now the whole flock
wiggles their wool to the Jingle Baaaaa-ell Rock!
I get them warm milk and I read them a book.
With milk they want cookies, so 6 tries to cook.
There’s flour and sugar and eggs on the wall.
Sheep 4 wants his mommy so he starts to bawl.
I do what my mom does, I sing lullabies.
As soon as he hears them, 11 just cries.
7 is wailing, then 8 and then 9.
Then all of a sudden, they all start to whine.
They’re worn-out, I’m tired. With so much to do,
It’s time to round up every ram and each ewe.
There’s 1, 2 and 34, 5, 6  and 7,
there’s 8 and there’s 9, and 10 and 11
Oh no, now the counting has put them to sleep.
Dear Santa, bring brooms, I’ve got so much to sweep.

PHEW!  Now that you've had a chance to read through the finalists, please vote below for the one you think deserves to win by Wednesday December 18 at 5 PM EST.  Winners of all kinds will be announced on Thursday December 19!

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Tune in Thursday... same bat time, same bat station :)

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