Holiday writing

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Third annual Farm and Dairy Holiday Writing Contest
You like writing them and we love reading them.

Send us your holiday stories and see if you have what it takes to get your tale printed in Farm and Dairy.
Share a fictional or personal story with us by Dec. 8, and winners will appear in the Dec. 22 and Dec. 29 issues. Children and young adult age groups will depend on the number of entries. Adults will be in a separate category. Winners and runners-up will be notified by phone.
Farm and Dairy staff will judge stories on creativity, originality and writing quality.
Send your typed story of up to 450 words (700 for adults) to Farm and Dairy, Holiday Story Contest, P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460, or e-mail it to khebert@farmanddairy.com. Be sure to include your name, age, phone number and hometown.
What are you going to come up with this year? We can’t wait to see.

Exclusive writing help for this year’s contest
By Kristy Hebert
Over the past two years, we’ve read approximately 250 Farm and Dairy holiday contest stories.
Some made us laugh, like 10-year-old Kelle Schafer’s dancing mouse last year.
Some made us stop and think, like when 15-year-old Gabriel Roberts told us about being homeless during the holidays.
Some made us cry, like Chet Cornman’s touching story about a girl and her pen pal in the Army.
And some made our hearts ache, like the tale Wynnona Stephenson told us two years ago in memory of her son.
But regardless of whether you won first place last year, whether you were afraid to even submit an entry, whether you’re 8 or 80, or whether you’re a professional writer, we all have something to learn.
That’s why we put together some help this year.

* Many of the same story themes come up each year, such as the boy who gets to spend Christmas Eve delivering gifts with Santa.
It’s fine to write these stories, but know that you have the hardest competition because you have to beat someone who is writing the same thing. Instead, try putting your unique spin on it. Here are some examples.

OK: A girl who wakes up Christmas morning and gets the horse she always wanted.
BUT THIS IS EVEN BETTER: A girl who wakes up on Christmas morning and finds that Santa accidentally left her a pot-bellied pig in the stall.

OK: Barn animals all decorate the barn for Christmas Eve.
BUT THIS IS EVEN BETTER: Barn animals who skip decorating the barn this year and take all their trimmings to the local animal shelter to decorate for those animals instead.

* The same thing is true for poems.
Many people submit their own variations of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. First, it’s very hard for any short poem to compete with a well-written story. And second, there are so many ‘Twas the Night poems entered that they all end up sounding too similar for any of them to really stand out.

* Clear, concise, good writing always wins, no matter the topic. Give your story to a couple friends to read. Ask them if they enjoyed it and if it made sense.

* A surprise ending is such a treat. Give us the unexpected.
Last year, Delbert Winkelman sent us a story about his holiday tradition of going to the local department store to tell Santa Claus what he wants for Christmas. He told us about sitting on Santa’s lap and asking for a Lionel train and then about his joy when he snuck downstairs Christmas Eve two years ago, tore open his package and found the very train he’d been dreaming about.
It wasn’t until the very last sentence that we found out this “boy” was actually 72 years old! Winkelman’s story took home honorable mention.

* We have word limits (450 for students, 700 for adults). But that doesn’t mean you need to keep writing to reach the limit. If you can tell us a terrific story in 200 words, do it. Sometimes stories are more powerful when they’re succinct.
Remember, “long” does not equal “good.”

Hope this helps get you started. Remember, sometimes it’s hard to find the story inside each of us, but it’s always there waiting. Good luck!

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