The 4th Annual Holiday Contest!!!
Look what I've done to you!
You're mere shadows of your former selves!
Bad enough that I always make you wait the weekend to find out who the contest finalists are, but this time I made you wait a WHOLE EXTRA DAY!
What with the nerves and anticipation and all, I know you haven't eaten. . .
. . . or slept. . .
. . . or showered. . . !
(That was maybe taking things a little too far... It wasn't like I was going to suddenly post while you were shampooing!)
I'm sorry to have done that to you, truly I am. In addition to what is always a Herculean task - choosing just a few finalists from such an array of wonderful stories and talented writers - it has been a difficult week on Blueberry Hill, so I apologize for the extra day.
But at long last, the waiting is over!
Because as always, we must begin with a few words from the people in charge around here.
First, I want to thank EVERYONE who found time in their busy holiday season schedule to write an entry for this contest - all 100 of you! 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 63 different blogs as you could, as well as the 37 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 meant 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 12 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 Mrs. Claus and the Force 10 gale 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.
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. Creativity of weather use in plot - the rules stated that wild weather must impact the holidays, so if weather appeared to be an afterthought or failed to convincingly impact the holidays in some way they 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 88 entries to leave you with these 12. It was very hard! We did the best we could. A few writers were, sadly, just a tad over the word count. There were at least 5 entries the judges loved that didn't make the finals because, in spite of being great stories, the weather was extremely peripheral or barely mentioned or didn't seem to affect the holidays. And there were a number of stories where the judges loved the concept, but the rhyme needed too much work to make the finals. In any case, I hope you'll all find at least one of your favorites on the list below.
#1 A Djiboutian Christmas
On Christmas Eve the desert wind howled and growled. Beth growled back.
“I want to go to our old home and build a snowman with Nana.”
“Sweetheart,” said Mom. “We can have Christmas in Djibouti too.”
“I hate Djibouti! It’s too hot for snow and too hot for Santa.”
“Santa will find us,” said Mom.
“But what if Santa’s reindeers get hot and can't fly? The only animals here are scruffy goats who climb trees and stinky dogs who live by the ocean. Santa can’t use climbing goats or soggy dogs to fly his sleigh.”
“Santa won’t come at all if you’re not asleep.”
“I don’t care if Santa comes,” huffed Beth. “Even Santa can’t make it snow in the desert!”
Mom sighed and pulled one of two dangling strings. The light went out, but the fan stayed on.
“Maybe Santa will surprise you.”
Beth grumbled as Mom closed the door, but the whir of the fan and the chick-chick-tap of sand caroled a desert lullaby.
All night the wind howled. All night the sand blew and in the morning…
Beth’s mom shook her awake.
“I’m waking you up on Christmas Day,” she laughed. “I think Santa heard you. Look out the window.”
Beth pushed aside her curtains. She could barely see her scraggly yard. Drifts of creamy sand frosted the walls like gingerbread icing.
“It’s a desert snow!” Beth squealed.
Dad held up a box dotted with prancing reindeer. “I think you should open this present first.”
Beth tore the wrapping off a new pail and shovel. She hugged her dad, slipped on her sandals and pushed her way out the door.
All morning Beth packed pail-loads of sand. All morning she molded and adorned until finally...
“I’m done,” she shouted. “Santa didn’t bring me snow for snowman, but he did bring me sand for a sandman.”
#2 Polar Woes
The icy water sloshed under the door of Santa’s workshop. Adelaide lifted her felt boot, soaked with melted snow.
Santa bustled in, pulling his beard in all directions. “Jumping Jingle Bells! The ice caps are melting fast. The reindeer can’t handle the knee-deep slush. The sleigh won’t slide without ice.” He slumped in a chair that creaked mightily in protest and buried his face in his hands.
Adelaide frowned. The whole world depended on his deliveries in three days. She set some magic mops to work. Would there even be a workshop next year? The elves already had to move to houses on stilts, and just yesterday, she woke to find a polar bear snuggling at her feet.
“I’ll think of something, Santa,” Adelaide said. The water swirled around her toes. The shadows swam and her reflection danced.
“Yes. I’ve got it!” She grabbed a bullhorn. “All elves to your stations. We have an emergency order to fulfill.”
She flung a swath of blueprint paper onto the worktable. She scribbled. She calculated. She measured and she drew.
She thrust the newly minted schematic to the chief engineer. “Make this happen.”
As hammering filled the workshop, she logged onto her laptop. She typed the addresses of her far-flung friends. She tapped her missive and hit “Send.” She drummed her fingers and waited for the . . .
Adelaide read the response and smiled wide. “Santa, take a break. I’ve got this covered.”
Santa was already snoring in his corner recliner.
Three days later, Adelaide paced back and forth. Where were they?
She opened the door to peer out at the sloshy, slushy mess.
And then they came.
In waddled the eight.
“Buenas noches,” they said.
They nodded in approval at the contraption before them, loaded with presents.
Adelaide roused Santa from his Christmas Eve nap.
And into the night they went. “Now, Diego! Now, Dona! Now Pablo and Viviana! On Carlos! On Marta! On Sergio and Eliana!”
#3 The Rumbledy Jumbledy Holiday Feast
The last week of school before winter vacation
Miss Chipper’s class planned a unique celebration.
“C’mon,” said Miss Chipper. “With your help, I bet -
we’ll make this a party we'll never forget!”
Ricardo piped up from the very last row,
“Why don’t we watch Rudolph and sing about snow?”
“Or maybe make gingerbread houses,” said Lee.
and string up some popcorn to hang on the tree.”
“But those are the same things we do every year.
There’s nothing unique about that!” said Jahir.
“I got it!” cried Rachel. “Why don’t we include
“our family’s traditional holiday foods?”
“Super-fantabulous!” Miss Chipper sang.
“Our first international winter shebang!”
The next several days all the children were busy –
They fried, fricasseed and sautéed themselves dizzy!
At last the day came; they set up their displays
with casseroles, baskets, and platters and trays.
“Bravo!” said Miss Chipper. “This feast looks delicious!
Now tell me about all these wonderful dishes!”
Imani presented a round flattened bread.
“We call it Chapati in Kenya,” she said.
Jose brought pasteles, a savory pastry -
In warm Puerto Rico, considered quite tasty.
Mei-Lin made some dumplings to bring New Year’s luck
prepared with fresh chickens she helped her mom pluck.
When all had presented, they lined up to eat,
but just then a tremor rose up from their feet.
The ground shook and shifted; it shimmied and shivered.
It wiggled and wobbled and trembled and quivered!
Miss Chipper was heard above all of the shaking:
“Take cover, my dears, ‘til the classroom stops quaking!”
The chairs began sliding, colliding, and bumping!
On top of the table the dumplings were jumping!
The rice balls were bouncing; they fell to the floor.
They whizzed passed the children then flew out the door.
Latkes were launched in an eastward direction;
They toppled a chocolaty Belgian confection.
A baklava rocket whooshed into the air,
and landed in Annabel Sanderson’s hair.
At last it was over; they rose to their feet.
The table still held plenty goodies to eat.
“Wahoo!” said Miss Chipper. “Time to dig in.Let the rumbledy jumbledy feasting begin!”
#4 Jack Quits
I quit. I'm tired of the complaints about the cold. Forward my mail to Hawaii.
Christmas is almost here. No snow means no Reindeer Games - it's too muddy and warm. Mrs. Claus says there's a palm tree outside! I'm afraid to
Aren't palm trees beautiful? I'm diggin' the heat!
Seriously, Christmas is coming and I'm not getting fat! It's a sauna here! I'm sweating out all of my jolly roundness.
Eat cookies! They’ll fatten you up! You should see me - I'm eating vegetables from my garden and I feel so good! Have you ever been in the ocean? It's so
There's no air conditioning here. The elves can't work in these conditions! It's simply too hot in my workshop. They might go on strike.
P.S. I can't make cookies - the butter keeps melting!
Tell the elves to take off those warm sweater things. Gotten any funny wish-lists from kids? Good golly some of those are funny!
You know what kids are wishing for now? Snow, ice and green Christmas trees! I can't make that stuff. They miss you, Jack!
I’m sure the kids don’t miss me that much. Now they don’t have to find their hats and gloves. It really is a pain to keep track of those things.
All of the m ail I’m getting is really for you, so I am sending it along. All thirty huge bags full. Hope this proves that kids want you back.
You win. I suppose I need to help the kids. I'll be home on the next cool breeze.
I'm not really cut out for surfing anyway.
On my way,
Merry Christmas. Enjoy your gift!
Thanks for the palm tree. The Christmas lights and ornaments are a special touch.
#5 Wish You'd Been There
So, this is Christmas, Joe. How do you like it so far? Wish you’d been here last year. That was some Christmas, for sure.
On Christmas Eve, Holly and I were supposed to be in a play. She was an angel with silver wings. I was a sheep in Gran’s rug.
We were getting ready when Mom called out, “It’s time! Come on quick, let’s go!”
Dad grabbed his phone and called up Gran and next thing we were off in the car. We roared down the road, but then, gurloop, gurloomph, we were swallowed by a thick fog.
“Keep going! Keep going!” shouted Mom.
“Keep going to where? asked Dad. “We’re lost and I can’t see a thing.”
“Well I can see lights up ahead,” Holly said. “All golden and fuzzy and blurred.”
Then we heard the sound of voices. All is calm, they sang … all is bright.”
“That could be angels,” said Holly. “They’re sure to be out tonight.”
Well all wasn’t calm inside our car and all wasn’t bright outside. Dad wound down his window. “Is there anybody there?” he cried. “We need to get to Saint Mary’s and we need to get there fast!”
The fog swirled in at the window, but a whiskery face appeared, too. “Sure, just follow our lanterns. We’re going to the same place as you.”
So we followed the lanterns through the fog and we followed the carollers’ song. Slowly, slowly, until at last, dozens of lights shone out.
“St Mary’s, yeah! We made it!” cried Dad.
“But only just,” said Mom.
Gran was waiting for us inside. Mom and Dad were whisked away. Everything was warm and shiny bright, the carollers stood round the tree. Gran gave a hug to Holly and me. “Happy Christmas, darlings,” she said.
“An angel and a sheep!” someone laughed. “Just what we needed tonight!”I wish you had been here last year, Joe. Boy, was that an exciting night? But I guess you were here, little brother. It was the night that you were born.
#6 'Twas The Stormy Night Before Christmas
'Twas the night before Christmas and out on the street,
the snow was still piling and mixing with sleet.
My siblings all blubbered and cried in despair,
“How can Saint Nicholas fly through this air?"
The wind was so wicked, the rain turned to ice,
Dad struggled to shovel the walk and failed twice.
Mom bundled inside her wool mittens and cap
and yelled at poor Dad for attempting to nap.
The fire had dwindled, the power was out,
I walked around saying, “Don’t cry and don’t pout”
Life is too grueling without any power-
the water's so cold that we can’t even shower!
Then all of a sudden we heard a small noise --
had Santa arrived with all of our toys?
I ran to the window and threw up the sash,
(secretly hoping he brought me some cash)
but what to my wondering eyes should appear?
This was no Santa, no magic reindeer!`
Just a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew right away, it was Snow-Plow guy, Nick.
Faster than sleigh rides, he plowed all the snow,
and just as he turned and got ready to go,
we heard a small ding, then a buzz and a beep!
The power came on- I wanted to weep!
On laptop! On lights! On Christmas tree, too!
On microwave -- please now, let's warm up that stew!
Now Santa could land his red sleigh in our road,
and without any trouble, go in our abode.
And as I turned into my bed for the night,
#7 Snow Swirls
A narrow ribbon of light jolted Snowbear out of a deep sleep.
“Penny!” he called in an urgent whisper. “Wake up! It’s almost time.”
Penny Penguin’s dazzling green eyes snapped open. The light spread further, sparkling brightly on the thick layer of white crystals at her feet.
“I’m so excited,” she giggled. “Hang on!”
Suddenly, all light disappeared. Trees shuddered. Snow slid. Penny and Snowbear braced themselves as their entire world began to shift.
The animals felt as much as heard the sounds as their forest, pond, earth and sky
and at last came to a stop.
“Wheeee!” Penny squealed in delight. “Nothing beats the annual earthquake!”
“I don’t know, Penny,” Snowbear answered. “I think the snow swirls are even more fun.”
“You could be right,” Penny cheerfully agreed. “I think we’re about to find out!”
This time, daylight broke all at once, almost blinding the two friends. It reflected from sparkling snow over, under, around and even on them.
Two shadows in the shape of giant hands cut across the shimmering sky. Penguin and polar bear laughed with joy as their world tipped and rose, snow sliding into deep piles.
A familiar voice rang out, loud as thunder across the sky. “Mommy! Daddy! I found them! I found the box with Penny and Snowbear! Here they are! Here they are!”
“Well, what are you waiting for?” another voice answered. “Give them a snow storm, honey!”
“A snow SWIRL, Mommy,” the first voice insisted. “They like when I call it a snow swirl.”
With that, the child lifted his snowglobe high and whirled it round and round. Penny and Snowbear watched the glistening flakes spin and dance in ever-faster spirals. They felt earth and sky tip and twirl, delighting in movement and light after a long season of darkness and stillness.
As the snow settled and the world grew still, Penny and Snowbear looked far out into the sky, beyond the edge of their world. Multicolored stars twinkled, distant bells rang, laughter filled the heavens.It was the most wonderful time of the year.
#8 Little Christmas, BIG SNOW
This is my island.
It has white sand beaches, and water that sparkles like a blue-green jewel.
But no snow.
I sit on the porch while Mami is in the kitchen, preparing a feast for Nochebuena—Christmas Eve.
I think about snow, and wonder what it looks like, falling from the sky.
I imagine my island covered in a soft, white blanket, icicles dangling from the palm trees, instead of coconuts.
And I make a wish.
To catch a snowflake on my tongue—on my island.
Mami is making arroz con gandules and platanos and pasteles.
I help Mami tie the brown paper and banana leaf with string, like a tiny, delicious present.
I am lucky. On my island, Nochebuena is just the beginning of twelve days of celebration—
twelve days of music and food and gifts and family.
Snow would make it even better. Just a little—enough to make a snow ball.
I say goodnight to the white scoop of moon in the sky and think,
What does snow look like falling into the ocean? Can snowflakes land on sand?
When I wake up, everything looks like it always does.
For ten nights straight, I make my wish.
But each morning, my island looks the same.
On the eleventh night, my scoop of moon is full and round in the sky.
I ask the Three Kings, and the moon, to grant my wish, but it’s hard to believe they will.
When I awake on Little Christmas, the light from my window fills the room with a flat blue, instead of yellow-gold.
I peel back the curtain.
My island is blanketed in white, fluffy snow. Enough to make a hundred snowballs!
I wrap up in a thick blanket, put on my tall rubber boots and run outside.
The snow goes crunch-crunch beneath my feet.
I turn my face to the sky, and catch one perfect snowflake on my tongue.
“Está navando!” says Mami.
“En Puerto Rico!” says Papi.I tell them, I wished to catch a snowflake, and it came true.
#9 Santa's Satnav
'Twas the week before Christmas and in the North Pole,
Santa's list was still short by ten thousand or so!
Letters from children so beautifully written,
With wishes for scooters and fluffy white kittens,
Were stuck at the post office tied in a sack,
Some children will not have a gift to unwrap!!
An elf called on Santa, had he heard the news?
Post vans were stuck, mail was not getting through.
The snow had been falling for many a week,
They said on the radio as much as six feet!
The fog and the ice storm had grounded all flights,
The Polar Express had no power for lights!
Santa declared he would fly into town
And try out the Santa-nav on the way down!
They harnessed the reindeer, programmed in directions,
The elves looked around in a final inspection.
"Up" called out Santa "Up, up and away!"
With a flick of the reins they were soon on their way.
The littlest elf who'd been loading the sack,
Popped up behind Santa quite taken aback!
"Ho, ho, ho little Jack" called out Santa with glee
"What are you doing up here with me?"
"In one mile..." said Santa-nav "left at the star"
But snow swirled around and they couldn't see far!
Jack looked on worried, and Santa just blustered
"But Madam, I can't see the stars, not a cluster!"
Grim as a blizzard! Jack heard a bell sound,
Gave a tug on the reins and he turned them around.
"Whoa" cried out Santa and straightened his hat,
"I hear the town bells...Good job little Jack!"
Down flew the sleigh with a bang and a clatter!
"You have arrived" the Santa-nav chattered!
They bundled the letters in Santa's big sack,
"Christmas un-cancelled! Thank you, little Jack!"
"Up" called out Santa "Up, up and away!"
The Santa-nav off, Rudolph's nose led the way!
The elves loaded presents for all girls and boys
And on Christmas Eve he delivered the toys,
With Santa-nav jingling all through the flight!!"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"
#10 The Night The Sun Stayed Up
Wren loved Christmas. She loved the smell of the pine tree where her family made their Chri stmas nest. She loved the taste of the berries on their holly wreath. And she loved to listen for the jingle of Santa’s sleigh bells in the darkness of Christmas Eve.
All day on Christmas Eve, Wren’s family was busy getting ready for Santa. They hung their tiny stockings. A plate of nutty cookies sat out for Santa, and Wren wrapped special gifts for her Mama and Daddy.
Once everything was in it’s place, Wren’s family gathered together to watch the sun fall asleep into nighttime.
They waited …
and waited …
and waited …
but this year, the sun did not go down.
“Something is wrong” Wren chirped to her mother. “The sun shouldn’t still be awake!”
And before Mama could raise a wing, off Wren darted, high into the sky to investigate.
The sun was much too hot for little Wren, so she flew towards the moon, who she found waiting, quite impatiently, behind a cloud.
“What is wrong with the sun??” Moon whispered from behind white fluffs. “I can’t come out until she goes to sleep! I would call to her, but she’s too far to hear me. If I don’t come out soon, Santa’s reindeer won’t take off for their Christmas Eve deliveries!”
No Christmas? Wren had to get that sun to sleep!
“Don’t worry,” she told Moon. “I may be small, but my voice is big, and I know just what to do!”
Perching in the highest tree she could find, Wren took a deep breath and began to sing the sweetest, strongest lullaby she knew. Her voice carried far above the clouds, drifting up to the drowsy sun.
Wren sang and sang. Sun’s eyes began to droop, and she slowly fell lower and lower in the sky, until at last she dipped behind the hill to sleep.Moon peeked out, ready to light up the night sky. As Wren fluttered quietly back towards her nest, she listened for the sound of sleigh bells. Christmas was coming.
#11 Hurricane Coal
Exhausted from scraping and shoveling snow,
old Santa moved south to a beachfront condo.
He shipped all the elves and the reindeer FedEx,
then chilled by the sea at his brand new address.
When Christmas arrived, he was ready to ride.
The toys had been crafted and lined up poolside.
Each gift had a label with boys and girls’ names.
So Santa would know who received toys and games.
Just then the wind howled, tipping each little elf.
Fat rain soaked the reindeer and Santa himself.
A hurricane swept through their outdoor workshop.
They tumbled and bumbled with no way to stop.
The presents, they scattered, the labels detached.
‘Til each banged up gift sat completely unmatched.
At last it was quiet, the rain slowed to drips.
The elves dislodged antlers and untangled gifts.
Sighed Santa, “there’s no time for sorting this mess.”
“Let’s load up the presents. We’ll just have to guess.”
Next morning, the wee ones jumped out of their beds
with hopes in each heartbeat and dreams in their heads.
They opened their presents then quickly exhaled.
Did Santa not get the fine letters they’d mailed?
“Skis?” said Malia, in sunny Kawaii.
With no snow in sight, she kept wondering, “why?”
“Whoopie!” cried her grampy with one in each hand.
“These crutches are perfect for getting ‘cross sand.”
Way up in Alaska, Koyuk did not see
the reason a surfboard was under his tree.
His sister, she snatched it and then promptly made
a reinforced snow fort, a fierce barricade.
Each boy and each girl saw their gifts with new eyes.
Their swimsuits as snow-flingers, scarves as neckties.
Old Santa and crew raced right back to the Pole.
Still cold, but much better than Hurricane Coal.
And nobody minded his mixed up night shift.‘Cause they were enjoying each repurposed gift.
#12 Sandstorm Santa
Marco sped home from school on his hoverbike. Every so often, he stopped and peered out the glass walls of the passageways at the pale orange sky of Mars.
The apartment door hissed open. “Mom, Dad,” he called. “I’m home! What does the weather report say?”
Mom looked at the holoscreen. “Looks like a sandstorm is coming.” She turned to Marco. “Don’t get your hopes up about SANTA. It might be too rough to land here.”
“SANTA has been through worse weather than this, Mom,” said Marco.
Dad agreed. “SANTA will make it,” he said. But they knew that sandstorms on Mars can be so bad, sometimes everything was shut down.
Marco kept looking out the windows as he ate dinner. The sky was now a burnt orange color. Small swirls formed and danced, then joined to become bigger whorls. Marco pressed his ear to the window and thought he could hear the howl of the winds.
“Is SANTA on schedule?” Marco asked when he was getting ready for bed.
Mom checked the computer. “Yes, honey,” she said. “But you need to go to bed.”
After Dad and Mom tucked him in and darkened the tint on his window, Marco continued to stare outside. He wasn’t so sure anymore that SANTA would make it. The red dust churned around the buildings wildly. It was like they were inside of a snow-globe filled with sand.
Suddenly, he heard a roar so faint he might have imagined it. He rushed to the window, breathing little round patches of fog on it.
There, braving the storm, was SANTA! SANTA descended and docked at the loading bay. People scurried to and from the tunnel leading to the dock, looking like tiny elves. Marco knew the present he’d been waiting for from his grandparents on Earth had been delivered.As SANTA rose into the sky, the words on its side came into view: Special Aeronautic New Transportation Association – S.A.N.T.A. Marco waved as it cruised close by. The pilot, in his red uniform and white beard, waved back!
* * * * *
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 Thursday December 18 at 5 PM EST. Winners of all kinds will be announced on Friday December 19! I know. That gives you a little less voting time than usual (because I took up an extra day with judging) but I want to be able to announce the winners on Friday so we can then all go off happily to our holiday celebrations :)
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 Friday (no PPBF!)... same bat time, same bat station :)