Susanna Leonard Hill’s 2021 Holiday Contest

I like to joke that Susanna Leonard Hill is my personal patron saint of inspiration. Her 2018 holiday contest is what got me back into writing for others. Her challenges have just enough structure to spark an idea but enough freedom to let my imagination roam. The sparse word count forces me to focus on one idea and make it sing. And Susanna’s encouraging posts combined with the writing community’s never-ending support make it feel all fun without any scary stakes. Which is the best.

This year, inspiration didn’t strike until the contest had already gone live. For a lot of reasons. The holidays. The [never-ending] pandemic. Working in a school. Being mom to two young kids. The seemingly inevitable collapse of civilization.

Just kidding.

But, in all seriousness, I’ve been better. I think we all have.

BUT, Susanna’s contests always have a way of encouraging me to write a slice of exactly what my heart needs to write. And this year? Turns out I needed eyes-wide-open hope, even in the face of repeated disappointment.

This story is short and silly but I hope it makes you smile. Because we could all use one and, thanks to Susanna, I have one to share!

(Also, read all of the other amazing entries here! The story has to be 250 words or less and focus on a holiday contest.)

SIMPLY THE BEST (180 words) 
By Nicole Loos Miller 

Christmas was Maise’s favorite time of year.
Awe-inspiring. Wonderful. Magical.
Simply the best. 
Maise wanted to be awe-inspiring, wonderful, and magical, too. 

Maise entered the Gingerbread House Decorating Contest.
Her house had icing and gumdrops! 
Sprinkles and sparkles!
It even had an entire reindeer family reunion!
“It’s very…. creative,” said the judges.
But, Catalina won with a classic design.
“Awe-inspiring,” Maise told her.

Maise entered the Holiday Baking Contest.
Peppermint sticks! 
Mocha melts! 
Orange and ginger shortbread!
“Quite the variety,” observed the judges.
But Lester won with his Yule Log cake. 
“Wonderful,” said Maise, licking her lips.

Maise entered the Ice Skating Contest.
Wearing a very sparkly leotard, 
she skated forward!
And backward!
She even did a twirl!
But Jozef had a routine that was…well…
“Magical,” admired Maise.

Maise smiled.
She hadn’t won any ribbons but it had still been a delightful day.

“We have one last ribbon to award,” announced the judges.
“The award for the Most Holiday Spirit goes to…
“Awesome,” said Catalina.
“Wonderful,” said Lester.
“Magical,” smiled Jozef.
And to Maise, it was simply the best.  

Published by Nicole Loos Miller

Mama, LCSW, member of SCBWI and 12x12. Sometimes I laugh at my own jokes and I never get enough sleep. Also, I think you are great.

6 thoughts on “Susanna Leonard Hill’s 2021 Holiday Contest

  1. Just came upon your story this morning – what a wonderfully pleasant place from which to start my day! To me, Maise devotes herself to everything she does and finds the joy it brings in the doing itself. I hope I can channel that same mindfulness as I move from one task to the next today!


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