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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Home for Christmas (11/20/08)

TITLE: Almost Home
By Christina Banks


Josh’s knuckles were white as he gripped the steering wheel. If Katie started “Jingle Bells” one more time he was going to stop the car and make her walk the rest of the way home. His younger sister’s singing, combined with the hypnotic effect of the snowfall, was giving Josh a headache.

“I can’t wait to sleep in tomorrow.” Katie chattered. “It seems like ages since I woke up to the smell of Mom’s cinnamon rolls. Oh man, I desperately need a break after all those exams. My brain is completely fried.”

“I bet it is,” Josh responded sarcastically. Katie’s freshman exams were nothing compare to the Advanced Greek final he suffered through the day before.

“Look, Josh, Saginaw Street.” Katie chirped, recognizing the name on an exit sign. “We’re almost home!”

“Almost home,” Josh echoed. The words sounded wonderful. He thought about his quiet room at the end of the upstairs hallway. Only about thirty more minutes and the long trip from Bible college would be complete. Josh turned up the speed on the windshield wipers. Snow swirled in the head lights.

“Sing with me! I’m dreaming of a white Christmas...”

Josh ignored her and focused on the one lane that was clear of snow. He braced himself as a fast moving pickup truck barrelled past him in the other lane. Josh slowed his little Pontiac until the white cloud following the bigger vehicle settled.

“... may your days be merry and - Hey, is that Rudolf’s nose?” Katie giggled. A blinking yellow light pierced the darkness up ahead.

“No, it’s a snowplough.”

“You’re no fun, Joshie.” Katie didn’t wait for a response before she jumped into another song. “O the weather outside is frightful...”

Josh clenched his jaw. “Almost home,” he reminded himself. The snow was coming down slower now. It gently swirled around the car as Josh turned off the interstate.

“Do you think Mom and Dad will be waiting up for us?”

“I don’t know, Katie. It’s awfully late.”

“Oh, but I want to see them tonight.”

“We’ll have three weeks before we need to get back. You’ll have plenty of time to spend with mom and dad.”

“Guess you’re right.” Katie began to sing again, “I’ll be home for Christmas...”

“Almost Home,” Josh said the words to himself again. He slid to a stop at the sign and turned right down his parents’ road. A single set of tracks cut through the fresh blanket of snow. Two more miles and he would get his first glimpse of the old farm house. Excitement overshadowed his previous worry and irritation.

“Christmas eve will find me...” Josh’s rich baritone joined Katie’s soprano.

Josh caught the reflection of the deer’s eyes only a moment before the animal jumped out of the ditch in front of them. The doe scrambled trying to get her footing on the icy road. Josh stomped on the brakes. The car slid through the deep snow. They were almost on top of the deer when Josh jammed the wheel to the right, narrowly missing her hind quarters. Josh could feel the rear bumper of the car trying to pass them. He overcorrected the turn, sending them into a spin. Katie’s scream coursed through Josh’s brain, blocking all coherent thought.


Lapeer County, Michigan – Icy roads are believed to be the cause of an accident that killed two Lapeer County university students early this morning, said the Lapeer County Sheriff’s Department.

Township firefighters responded to an 1:32 a.m. call and found the victims in their car, lodged in a tree. Names have not yet been released.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Leigh MacKelvey11/29/08
So well written for a beginner!The descriptions, action and build-up were great. I was a bit let down at the end, though. I think I know the effect you wanted to make with the end, but I think it may have been stronger if you'd ended with a line about them "finally arriving being home" or something to that effect.Probably just me. Keep up the mature writing!
Yvonne Blake 11/30/08
OH NO! I didn't expect it to end like that!
You used your dialogue and descriptions very well to set up the mood. I prefer happier endings, but this was well done.
Marijo Phelps12/01/08
Well done. Not the hoped for ending but definitely a "grabber".
Sharon Kane12/01/08
This is well written. The opening sentence took the reader straight into the scene and the emotions of the story. Your characters are very well portrayed: the giggly girl and stressed out older brother. Your short sentences in the paragraph describing the crash give it a tense feel and sense of immediacy.
I agree with the previous comment that the ending is weak compared to the body of the writing. You obviously intended for it to be punchy, and I think that was a good choice, but then it wasn't quite punchy enough. I think part of the 'problem' was that you mentioned the county name 3 times and that became tedious.
Keep writing! If you keep going like this I wouldn't expect you to stay in beginners for long!
Teresa Lee Rainey12/01/08
Noooooo! Your writing is wonderful. The story held my attention from the beginning. . . I just don't like sad endings. I know, it is reality and you did a wonderful job conveying it, but I would have loved to have them make it through the crash and think how they "almost" didn't make it.
Catrina Bradley 12/02/08
Wow! Great writing! The deer, and the accident, were described so well, my heart is still racing! This should place well. :)