I just got the result for the Professional Validation Award. Before I reveal the winner, I’d like to take a moment and acknowledge and thank the person who put in the effort to not only be the judge for the award but also offered critiques of the three entries.
Meet our judge:
Lynn Dee Olsen, a Michigan native & overseas educator, reads voraciously: Young Adult novels, the classics, adult best-sellers, and self-help books. Her career as a school teacher started with three years of teaching high school English classes in Michigan, then fourteen years of teaching middle school English in Saudi Arabia, followed by two years of teaching high school in the United Arab Emirates, then back to Michigan for twelve years of teaching high school, and currently, another stint teaching middle school in the Arab world, this time in Doha, Qatar. Lynn Dee has spent her thirty-three-year career encouraging teenagers to organize and develop their ideas, stylize their sentences, and find their voice as writers. And she’s a self-proclaimed COMMA COP!
When she is on vacation or isn’t grading a huge pile of papers, Lynn Dee spends her free-time windsurfing, playing racquetball, skiing, walking her soulmutt (a Pomeranian named Tiki), and, of course, reading. She shares her life with three highly adventurous men: her husband Mike, an avid rock-climber, skier, and elementary school counselor; her 26-year-old son Blake, a sponsored kiteboarder and world-traveler; and her 24-year-old son Micah, a devoted hiker, park skier, and parkour longboarder. Although she aspires to be a writer herself, Lynn Dee is content making her 8th-grade students in Qatar cringe over her latest dumb pun. She loves a good laugh and will continue teaching as long as she still finds middle school shenanigans as wildly entertaining as she does now.
Lynn sounds like a highly accomplished person. Personally, the fact she plays racquetball is all the qualification I needed to highly value her opinion.
Well, what do you know? My story, Christmas Eve, takes the Professional Validation Award. Congratulations, me.
As mentioned, Lynn went a step further and provided critiques for each story:
First Place: “Christmas Eve”
Even though this one seemed a bit implausible, this is the one that audiences will remember and long to reread every Christmas season. This story embodies the hope that we all have, that we will rise to be better people and do the honorable thing, even if it goes against our nature. The details create a sense of poignancy and draw the reader in, making the homeless woman, Nan, seem larger than life. This is the story that tugs at your heartstrings and makes you experience the wonder and miracle of Christmas. It is reminiscent of “Gift of the Magi.” My only suggestion would be to not state what it meant to Nan, but let the details suggest it. So, the ending would be shortened to this: “Later, wrapped in her blanket and looking up at the lights before drifting off to sleep, Nan whispered “Merry Christmas,” to no one in particular, as she slipped into a peaceful sleep.”
Second Place: “Twas”
This was a very hilarious, tongue-in-cheek, and restrained recap of the crazy-ass year that was 2019. Loved the well-chosen verbs: stirring, yakked, babbled, wailed, relinquished, etc. My favorite line, by far, was “So now we’ve got you; judge, jury, and execution, No more wiping your butt, with our Constitution.” That was the point where the viewpoint became crystal clear. Until then, restraint was shown, which is commendable in these times. However, despite the obvious entertainment value, this political poem failed to deliver the emotional impact offered by “Christmas Eve.” It seemed to stand in a category all its own in this contest, and would have won first prize in a poetry competition!
Third Place: “Krampus vs. Klaus”
This was a very inventive and creative story that would make readers think about the religious aspects of our holidays and how a small child might find them overwhelming. And, then, later, about the sacrifices adults would willingly make for our children. I would love to read this as part of a novel! However, it felt a bit too graphic and gruesome in nature for a Christmas short story. Perhaps more restraint with Krampus and his evil ways would make it more accessible to a broader audience.
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