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!

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

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

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

Reactions:

128 comments:

  1. Congratulations Finalists!!!! Woo Hoo! I had a blast entering this contest ....even though I didn't make it, I have learned alot and the experience in itself is REWARDING! Everyone who wrote a story is already winner :)

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  2. I'm so glad you had a good time, Nata! Everyone did a terrific job, and we hated having to cut anyone. I agree - everyone who wrote a story is a winner!

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  3. Congrats to all the finalists! There are some amazing stories up there. ;)

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  4. Congratulations to all of the above- you are all winners!

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  5. I'm glad you think so, Mandy! And let me just say, we loved yours too! Really! But oh, nuts! !e had to cut... and cut... and cut...!

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  6. Haha! That's the way the PeaNUT Butter Cookie Crumbles. :)

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  7. Wow- congrats to all the winners! This has been such an amazing learning experience- thank you, Susanna!

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  8. This_Kid_Reviews_Books_ErikDecember 16, 2013 at 7:15 AM

    Congratulations to the finalists and everyone who entered! This was fun! I am still reading entries - I WILL get to them all! I voted for my favorite finalist!

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  9. Thank you Susanna! and you must be Super woman to do all that you do for us !!! lol

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  10. Took me 10 minutes to decide...I almost flipped a coin, it was so hard to choose! But I voted. :)

    Good luck, everybody!!

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  11. Wow!! I am so excited my entry made it to the finals!!! :) With so many creative and entertaining stories, I wasn't expecting to make the cut! Thanks Susanna and team!! :)

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  12. Such excellent entries! It was so hard to choose. Great job everyone!

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  13. Great job, everyone! You are all winners, in my eyes! Susanna - you had your work cut out for you and your assistants - that's for sure. I had a difficult time just choosing one of the fourteen. Thank you for an awesome experience - I really learned a lot! Merry Christmas to you and Happy New Year, too! :)

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  14. wooohooo, many congrats to all the finalists! excellent choices, can't wait to see who the lucky winners are. thanks for a very fun contest susanna. lots of work for you and your elves!

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  15. Oh I wish I could vote for them all

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  16. I had so much fun doing this! Thank you for the opportunity, Susanna Leonard Hill. This was my first entry to ANY of your contests, so I was not sure what to expect. All of these entries are so fun!

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  17. Such wonderful stories! This was a very tough decision! I hope all of these stories can get published somewhere, even magazines!

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  18. Like others, I am still reading entries! Congratulations to the finalists, somebody is going to have a very Merry Christmas!

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  19. Congratulations to the finalists! They are all so good, it was hard to vote for just one!

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  20. Congratulations to the Finalists and to all the wonderful writers who entered!!! Thank you, Susanna, for making it possible for all of us to take part in such fun. And thank you to the judges who helped Susanna make this difficult choice. Best wishes to all the Finalists!!!

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  21. Anne Cavanaugh SawanDecember 16, 2013 at 8:48 AM

    Voted! Good luck to all!

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  22. Terrific stories--congratulations finalists! And thanks to Susanna and her judging team for all their hard work.

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  23. Susanna, you and your team made fabulous choices. It's going to be difficult to chose a winner 'cuz they all are. Merry Christmas. :-)

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  24. Wow! 118! what a turn-out.... And the 14 finalists are well-chosen. I actually did manage to get around reading the stories last week... it was fun to see all the different takes on holidays. Congratulations to all who bravely and boldly submitted a story.

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  25. Well my vote is in. I'm just glad I didn't have to choose from all 118 entries! Congratulations to all the participants!

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  26. Hooray, I got to read and vote. I've felt so out of the blogging loop this holiday season. Thanks for roping me back in, Susanna.

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  27. Mike Allegra writerDecember 16, 2013 at 9:10 AM

    Voted! But 14?! You're getting a tad indecisive, eh? :)


    Congrats to all the finalists!

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  28. Wonderful entries all! Best of luck. :D

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  29. It was so, SO hrd to pick just one! These were all SO fabulous - what talent! Thanks so much for this opportunity, Susanna!

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  30. Those stories were all fantastic, and it was so hard to choose. I had tears in my eyes for several.
    Congratulations to all of the finalists.

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  31. What a FAB contest . . . full of merry mix-ups. Hard to pick just one.


    Thanks, Susanna! And congrats to one and all who spread Holiday Cheer with their giggle-icious entries this year.

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  32. Again, am wowed by the entries--and wondering how you narrowed it down, Susanna! Good luck to the contestants! :)

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  33. They were all such fun to read. Congrats to the finalists and thanks so much Susanna! Happy Christmas!

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  34. Congratulations, finalists!! And Thank You Susanna for running the contest again this year. It's such fun!!

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  35. Congratulations to all the finalists!! Good job with these pics! I voted and feel very excited about it :-)

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  36. Too bad I can't come back 14 times and vote for each one...they are ALL fantastic! Great choices, Susanna...I know it was hard, but YOU DID GOOD! It won't be easy to only pick one...but I'll be back later to do that. This was a super contest...thank you so much for inspiring us to write our best.:)

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  37. Michelle Heidenrich BarnesDecember 16, 2013 at 11:18 AM

    So many of these entries (and many more besides) make my heart smile! Congratulations to ALL my fellow participants! Now let's get our bells on and vote!

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  38. Thank you for participating, Lakshmy, with your wonderful story!

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  39. Congratulations to you, too, Erik, for a fabulous entry! Keep you eye out for the Thursday post :) And have fun reading all the remaining entries!

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  40. Far from Superwoman I'm afraid, but thank you! :)

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  41. Thank you for voting, Teresa, and for sharing your lovely story about Dora and Millie and Cousin Pip! :)

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  42. It's a wonderful, entertaining story with a lovely message, Kristen :) Congratulations!

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  43. I agree, Martha! Everyone who entered is a winner! And we loved your story! I'm glad you enjoyed the contest, and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you too! :)

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  44. Thanks so much for joining in, Sharon! We so enjoyed your true story about the kind man coming out xmas eve to bring the doll - such a nice message. As for the work, we love every part of it... except for having to cut people!

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  45. I know, it's very hard, isn't it? I'd be very hard-pressed to choose just one of these. Luckily, I don't vote at this point. My work is done :) Congratulations to you on a very touching entry!

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  46. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Angela! We certainly enjoyed your lively, kid-friendly story! Congratulations!

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  47. I know, Tina, wouldn't that be wonderful? A couple of people have asked me about publishing an ebook of the collection. I had thought of it myself, but figured a lot of people would want to keep their stories available for submission!

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  48. And congratulations to you, Wendy, on a very cute techno story! I have a couple versions of Joe living at my house! :)

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  49. And congratulations to you for a darling story, Pat! Thanks for voting - I know it was a tough choice!

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  50. And congratulations to you, Cheryl, on another sweet, fun, kid-friendly story that we all loved :)

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  51. Thank you so much for voting, Anne, and also for your wonderful Gingerbread House Disaster which we all really liked!

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  52. Congratulations to you, too, Buffy, for your very entertaining twist on the 3 Little Pigs :)

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  53. Thank you for saying so, Tracy! The decisions are so hard, it's nice to know someone thinks we got it close to right! :) Congratulations to you on a unique twist of The Partridge In A Pear Tree! :)

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  54. Congratulations to you, too, Sue! We hated to let go of your lovely, kind-hearted kid twist on the Gift of The Magi - such a sweet story!

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  55. Thank you for voting, Juliana! It's awful to have to choose, isn't it?! :) And thank you so much for your lovely Winter Lights story - we loved the mixing of holidays, and I'm still remembering the "ribbon of kittens"! :)

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  56. Aw! Thanks for coming, Kirsten! And thanks for voting! hope your writing deadlines are going well!

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  57. Them's fighting' words, Mike! You want a piece of this? We were pretty pleased with ourselves for cutting out ONE HUNDRED AND FOUR entries! We chose the top 11%! I'm going to make you help me judge next time and then we'll talk about indecision! :) Thank you for voting! :)

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  58. Yours was wonderful too, Meg. I'm sorry we ended up cutting abominable Betty!

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  59. And thank you for joining in, Joanne. I'm glad if you enjoyed it! And we enjoyed Annika's unusual upside down Christmas :)

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  60. WHAT TALENT! Congratulations to all finalists. I have cast my vote.

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  61. The whole contest was an amazing turn out of stories, Linda, including yours! We loved Ava and Emma's so true-to-life sibling relationship!

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  62. Thank you, Susanna. :-)

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  63. Congratulations to all the finalists! They were all so fun to read...again! :0)

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  64. It was an amazing turn out of fabulous stories, wasn't it Catherine? Not least of which was your very creative idea of hypnotized reindeer! I do wish everyone could win! Happy Christmas to you, too! :)

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  65. It was an impressive bunch, wasn't it Coleen? Maybe next time we'll write each title on a piece of paper, throw them all on the floor, and see which 10 the dogs step on first and choose that way :)

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  66. Oh, lord! Sorry Sue! Long night! i got you confused with one of the other Sue's! But I was right we loved your story - Blue Latkes and Salsa, right? - which was clever and fun and enterprising! Apparently I need a nap! :)

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  67. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Nancy! It was an amazing bunch of stories! I am still chuckling over #fatass :)

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  68. These are so great! I imagine you must've had a most difficult time getting it down to 14 finalists. Congrats to everyone who participated and to the finalists!! Can't wait to see if who I voted for will win!! :)

    Happy reading and writing! from Laura Marcella @ Wavy Lines

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  69. Thanks for voting, Kim, and thanks for your delightful story about feeding Santa popcorn instead of cookies :) Clever Mrs. C :)

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  70. It was a very, very, very, very, very! tough choice, Laura! Thank you for voting! I can't wait to see how the winners line up!

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  71. Thank you for the reassurance, Vivian! It's so easy to start second-guessing! I'm glad you approve of the choices. And I must say, we did truly enjoy your jack o'lantern elf! :)

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  72. Congratulations to you, Michelle, for a terrifically entertaining entry! :)

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  73. Thank you for voting, Joanna! It was an amazing group of stories!

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  74. It was a very tough choice, wasn't it Pat? And we loved your darling Paws story! :)

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  75. The true test of a good story, Donna - re-readability :) And thanks so much for your delightful and original Hiccapuff story! :)

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  76. Don't make me choose! Noooo! It's too hard to pick just one!
    Really, writers, the quality of stories in the contest is AMAZING. So much talent.

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  77. Yours included, Patty :) Congratulations :)

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  78. Wow, these are all SO good. Your contests have been great, Susanna, but I think this might be the best group of entries I've read. There are some here I missed the first time around - I think they must have been in the comments section.


    I'm going to read these to my kids and let them choose - and they don't know which one is mine (I didn't read it to them) so they'll be objective! :-)

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  79. Congratulations to all the entrants and especially to the finalists! Thanks so much for running this wonderful contest again, Susanna!

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  80. The true test of a good story, Carrie - whether the kids like it! I'd be interested to know which one(s) they like best! Congratulations to you on a fabulous entry! And I agree - the entries seem to get better and better with every contest!

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  81. It was my pleasure, Sue! I'm so glad you enjoyed it! :)

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  82. Thanks so much for this wonderful contest, Susanna! I thoroughly enjoyed all the stories!!!
    I appreciate all the time you and your assistants spent reading and deciding...what a tough job!

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  83. And we appreciate you for writing such entertaining stories and always joining in the fun :)

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  84. That is quite of crop of Christmas stories. I am impressed! It was hard to choose from so many good stories, so I can only imagine how hard it must have been to winnow down to the top 14. Congratulations to all the finalists.

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  85. It was very hard, Rosi! So very many good ones we hated to cut! But thank you so much for voting! :)

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  86. Congratulations to all the finalists and to everyone who submitter! Huge success this year.
    Susanna, glad you posted this on FB. I had to vote through FB. For some reason when I brought up blogger and you blogs, the last entry only showed yesterdays. Very strange. Never happened before. Got your e-mai.

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  87. Congratulations to you, too, Pat, for a lovely story with and important message. We really liked it. Sorry about my stupid blog. It apparently has a mind of its own and is extremely temperamental!

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  88. Congratulations to all the finalists! Will have fun reading and deciding and voting. Once again, I had a blast participating even though I didn't make the cut. This whole experience really puts me in the Christmas spirit. Susanna, I also like that you discourage trolling for votes. I think that makes the contest fair and the winner will truly be a winner based on the story. So kudos to you!

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  89. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Pia, and I thank you for your good sportsmanship. We loved Santa Baby and I truly wish we didn't have to cut so many good stories!

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  90. It took me until now to make a decision, but just voted. Looking forward to Thursday's post.

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  91. Thanks, Susanna! So happy to be a part of the festivities. Great fun!

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  92. T'was a difficult decision, ALL were so great. I can't wait to hear, which one won the debate...Happy Holidays!

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  93. Thank you! Motivation to write was my prize and I'll gladly take it. :D

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  94. Thanks Susanna! It was fun to write and I'm starting to like the 'word cutting' that has to be done to capture the right mood.

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  95. Omg, wish I could have picked a first, second, and third place instead of just one. Great job everyone!

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  96. All the stories were SO good - and these 14 are truly gems. Congratulations to all and especially Susanna for another fantabulous contest!
    Taking a page from Carrie's book and going to let my kiddos decide which story will get our vote!

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  97. God bless you and your little judging elves, Susanna! This was ridiculously tough. But so much fun! Thanks for all your hard work, and congratulations to everyone who entered.

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  98. Thank you so much for reading and voting, Genevieve! That makes you a helpful elf too :)

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  99. It is tough to pick, isn't it? I hope you were able to choose one, and thanks again for your entertaining story with those bickering elves, Frozentoes and Jinglejive :)

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  100. Hahaha :) Very good, Donna :) I can't wait either!

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  101. thanks Susanna. I had a wonderful time and I am so excited for everyone who wrote. I have just joined the world of children's writers this year and I am looking forward to an incredible 2014 creating stories amongst such a caring worldwide community. Thank you for the competition.

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  102. Congrats to all the finalists! You all did a lovely job--as did all the entrants. I didn't get to everybody's (holy moly, 118!), but found some truly awesome pieces. Some incredible writing, all round.
    Thanks to Susanna and her lovely assistants for making it all possible!

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  103. Thanks to Susanna and her team for running a fun contest with such fabulous prizes. It was a change of pace for me to write my entry and I'm so proud to be a finalist! :) Ann Magee

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  104. My favorite was chosen so I voted. These are great choices. Again, thanks for doing this. I will check to see the winner in a few days :D

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  105. Hey Sus, I voted this morning before heading out the door at *yawn* a very early hour for me. Thanks for all you do!

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  106. Another major success, Susanna! And I agree with everyone else, this year's ;event offered up some absolutely, fun reads. I am shocked you guys got it down to 14!! That in itself deserves an award. Okay, VOTED! Crossing my fingers.

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  107. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Pam - so many great stories! And thanks for voting! :)

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  108. Thanks so much for voting, Jackie! It will be exciting to see who the winners will be! :)

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  109. Congratulations on a delightful entry, Ann - so glad you joined in the fun! :)

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  110. Thank you for reading as many as you did, Stacy. I'm glad you enjoyed them. There really were a lot of amazing stories!

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  111. I would be very interested to know what the kids' picks are! After all, they are the ones we write for! :)

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  112. It's a wonderful community to be part of :)

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  113. It's a challenge, but it's amazing how much it tightens the story!

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  114. Me too! I can't wait to see who the winners will be! :)

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  115. Congratulations to all the finalists. I've voted. Susanna, I can't imagine what it was like for you and your elves trying to choose just 14 from such an astonishing array of stories. Thanks again for all you do.

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  116. Congrats to All the Winners! I have voted and have to admit it was very hard to decide...wonderful choices! the best of luck to all of you! and Happy Holidays!

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  117. Thanks so much for voting, Kelly - I know it was a tough choice! I'm glad you enjoyed the contest and hope you will have lots of fun singing Happy Birthday Bambino with your grandson :) (or was it your son... sorry - I'm having a senior moment!)

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  118. Thank you for voting, Beth. We really did get an amazing number of great stories - yours included with brave young Smallest :) - and it is always so hard to cut great stories!

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  119. I read the stories to my kids this afternoon. As predicted, neither one of them chose mine. :-) My 8-year-old liked #14 Twas the Night Baafore Christmas the best, though for a while his favorite was #6 The Christmas Present. My 4 year old liked #4 A Mixed Up Christmas the best. So congrats to those winning authors. :-)

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  120. Thanks so much for sharing, Carrie! I agree that #4 certainly seems like it would appeal to the younger readers, and I'm not surprised by your 8 year old's choice either. Very interesting!

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