2007 Christmas

All contests on this blog are mostly for fun. They are also a learning experience for you.

So. Here are some mistakes that were made by the authors submitting to this contest. Funny thing (or not so funny, depending on how you look at it), NONE of these items were singular events. More than one person made each of the mistakes listed below.

1. Submitting after deadline has passed. Deadlines were clearly stated in large, bold, colorful type. Submissions received after the deadline were excluded from the contest.

2. Word count too high. Before you submit, make sure you check your word count. Most software will do this for you. If your’s won’t, invest in new software. Most contests/magazines don’t give you a chance to fix and resubmit.

3. No title on your story. I didn’t explicitly state that each story needed a title, but these are short stories. Short stories need titles.

4. Additional submissions did not contain contact info. Your name, contact info, word count and, for this contest, whether you were a published or unpublished author, needs to be included in every submission. Treat each submission as if it was your only submission. Don’t assume the editor will know and/or remember that you’re the same John Doe who submitted a story a week before.

5. No title in Subject line. I didn’t specify that you include the title in the subject line of your e-mail, but it helps. Especially when an editor is looking for a specific story but can’t remember the author’s name, and 80% of the submissions say “Christmas Story” in the subject line.

6. Authors did not know if they were published/unpublished author. I thought the guidelines were clear on this. There was one person who had a situation that did need clarification from me, but the others should have been able to figure it out by reading the submission guidelines carefully.

7. Authors sent published stories. Again, I thought it was clear what was to be considered published and what was not. And again, there was only one request that really needed my clarification.

8. Authors asked where to send the submission/Authors asked where their stories would be posted. ??? I’m guessing someone told them about the contest, gave them my e-mail, but didn’t send them to my website. But still. All of that is covered in the submission guidelines for the contest. The funny thing is, the second question was asked several days after the story was submitted. Never submit your story anywhere if you don’t know the details of the contest.

9. Adding me to your joke list. You don’t know the editor. The editor is not your friend. The editor gets enough e-mail already. Do NOT send the editor jokes or sentimental e-mail spam. Don’t send them to me either.

10. Did not vote for yourself. The whole reason I gave you TWO votes in each category was so you could vote for yourself, and then vote for someone else. Okay, in real life, you rarely get the chance to vote on whether or not your story gets accepted for publication. But it’s the attitude of not voting that’s going to work against you. If you don’t believe in your story enough to “vote” for it, why should the editor?

I am now heading off for my Christmas vacation. I will be back after New Year’s.

Happy Holidays to each of you.


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Thanks again to all of you for participating in this contest. I hope you feel you’ve received some helpful feedback—either confirmation that you’re on the right track or some tips and pointers on where you need to improve.

I decided to pretend that I was looking for stories for an imaginary Christmas magazine. As I evaluated each piece, foremost in my mind was the question, Would I accept this story, as is, for publication in my magazine? I’ve included my answer in my commentary. If the answer was yes, that doesn’t mean the piece was perfect. It means it was close enough and would only need a slight bit of editing before publication. If the answer was no, I’ve tried to indicate what you’d need to do to fix it.

I also included what I liked best about your story, it’s strengths. As you consider rewriting your story for an actual submission, build on those strengths.

Although the majority of my comments are critical—pointing out what you did wrong—please know that I believe every single submission could be publishable with time and work. All of your stories touched me in some way. I hope each of you will come away from this contest feeling that you have learned something and with a renewed determination to continue writing.

With every contest, it gets harder and harder for me to choose a winner. Rarely is there a submission that stands out as a clear winner, without first having some debate with myself on the merits of the competition. This contest provided lots of debate.

For the first time in the history of this blog, the readers (you) and the publisher (me) actually agreed on who should be a winner in the Published Author category. Since Reader’s Choice takes precedence, that left me having to narrow down down my winner from six* very good stories. I liked each of them for different reasons. I finally chose by asking myself which one I would buy.

In the Unpublished Author category, I couldn’t make up my mind between two of them. I argued with myself all night and finally decided to make it a tie. (I’ll provide the extra prize.)

With all that said, let’s see who the winners are:

Readers Choice Published Author Category: Christmas Story #10—Arrows to Heaven by Tristi Pinkston

Publisher’s Choice Published Author Category: Christmas Story #21—The Crooked Christmas Tree by Roger Bonner

Readers Choice Unpublished Author Category: Christmas Story #14—A Dark and Cold Miracle by John Parmley

Publisher’s Choice Unpublished Author Category (tie):
Christmas Story #19—Believe Mr. Thomas by Don Carey
Christmas Story #11—Walking in a Weevil Wonderland by Melanie Goldmund

Winners: Please send me your mailing address within the next thirty days to claim your prize.

A very BIG thank you to the authors who provided prizes for this contest. I hope everyone who submitted a story took the time to read the sponsor bio page and to visit the websites of these very generous authors. If you haven’t, please do so today. It would also be nice if you sent them a message letting them know you appreciate their generosity.

For those of you who did not win, if you want to take credit for your work, please identify yourself in the comments section of your post.

*#4, #6, #7, #20, #21, #26

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Voting Has Ended

December 20, 2007

Voting has ended for the 2007 Christmas Story Contest. Thank you to everyone who participated. I will tally up the votes and post the winners tomorrow.

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Voting Starts December 16th!

December 16, 2007

All stories have now been posted. Voting is open. Voting Rules: VOTE between 12:01 a.m. December 16th and midnight December 19th. You may vote twice in each category: Published and Unpublished. You may only vote once per story. We’re on the honor system here. I suggest you click on the Submissions by Published Authors link […]

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Christmas 27: The Christmas Stocking

December 15, 2007

She had pretty much given up on Christmas. Sure, she liked all the trappings that came with the season – the trees, the ornaments, the lights. But it was all too…commercial, too fake. No one really meant any of the things they said when they wished you a Merry Christmas. It was just like someone […]

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Christmas 26: Anthropomorph

December 15, 2007

Wolf Man lay on his bed at 11:00 [p.m.], Christmas Eve. What if no one came? He could make a lot of noise and make sure someone came… [don’t use ellipses] but by the time he got their attention, it wouldn’t be quiet. It had to be quiet on Christmas Eve, for the change to […]

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Christmas 25: Stella Gratiae:* A Christmas Parable

December 15, 2007

Andrew sneaked into the living room before dawn Christmas morning and found it empty. Nothing. Only the tree, and even that looked dull and useless [lifeless?], its bottom half exposed, with cranberry strands and ribbons dangling off. Andrew went over to his limp stocking and fished around inside. Was anything there? Had he really been […]

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Christmas 24: Lydia’s Christmas Wish

December 15, 2007

The glow from the Christmas party filled her heart as Lydia entered her bedroom and twirled around, still hearing the music in her mind. What a wonderful evening, she thought, stopping and clasping her hands to her chest where she could feel her heart beating like a wild thing. Never had she enjoyed such company! […]

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Christmas 23: Christmas Once Again

December 14, 2007

The season is here,I can’t wait to be freeFrom this stuffed cardboard boxWhere she always stores me Along with all the others [awkward] Who can’t wait to get outTo decorate this homeBefore the next Christmas sprouts [punctuation] The ornaments are chattingAbout where they’ll be on the tree [punctuation] The star is bragging,He’ll be on top, […]

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Christmas 22: The Little Mouse that Almost Ruined Christmas

December 14, 2007

This is a story about a little mouse [punctuation]Oh, not an ordinary mouse,That finds his shield [huh?]in the woods or the field [punctuation]Or maybe even in your house [punctuation] Tom, Tom didn’t just live anywhere, [don’t repeat the name]He chose his hiding place with much care [punctuation]The Grand Central Restaurant,Is the best any mouse could […]

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Christmas 21: No Tree for Christmas

December 14, 2007

Poor! Too poor even to buy a Christmas tree. Mary sunk deeper into gloom as she heard a passing carriage outside the window of the small brick house she and her husband John had rented. She glanced up to see that the evening snow had begun falling. Mary felt guilty for the heaviness in her […]

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Christmas 20: I’ll Cry for Christmas

December 14, 2007

I don’t cry. And just because Christmas was five days away and I didn’t have a dollar to my name didn’t mean I was going to start. I lost my job a week ago because, let’s just say, me and my employer don’t get along the way he’d like. I know what you’re thinking. People […]

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Christmas 19: Believe, Mr. Thomas

December 13, 2007

Across the desk sat an older, well dressed man, and he was getting on my nerves. Our meeting had been arranged by my Board of Directors, and I silently cursed them when the man asked if I would run his brand new, as yet unnamed Christmas non-profit. I shook my head in disbelief. “You see, […]

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Christmas 18: Frederick Huckleberry and Christmas

December 13, 2007

He was from a family of the tiniest of ants, This Frederick Theodore Huckleberry the third lay in an almost warm pool of water created by dew that had been caught up in the depression of an old dry leaf. Frederick’s top hat sat off to the side. He smiled as he reached behind him […]

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