We are excited to announce a new contest to run prior to this year's winter event. Many of you were here last year when the gnomes from New Rachival Research Institute celebrated the first ever Gnomekindle Festival outside New Rachival. And while this year's celebration may be slightly more "subdued" than last year's was, they still plan to bring out the snow machine and will have the Clauses back so everyone can exchange presents.

We have expanded on the contest for this year, however. Not only are we looking for stories, songs, and poems... this year we are including our many artists in the competition. Now we know many of you have just barely put away your creativity tools after the Fall contest, but we are hoping that the chilly temperatures, and a brand new surprise, will prove inspiring to everyone.

This years contest is actually in multiple parts.

* Chronicles of Istaria: Hearth and Home - A short story contest
* Chronicles of Istaria: Songs and Poems - A poetry and song writing contest
* Artists of Istaria: Holiday Clothing - A design new "holiday" themed shorts contest
* Artists of Istaria: Banners and Murals - A design a special banner or dragon mural

Short stories must be original works of fiction set in Istaria around a holiday tradition or event. Most races of Istaria view the Winter Festival as a time of new beginnings, though they all celebrate it in different ways. Writers are encouraged to reflect this theme, or something to do with winter holidays, in their stories.

Songs and poems must also center around the winter or holiday theme. The song or poem may be written to follow the tune of an existing song or melody, but please reference the song and artist when submitting your work.

We have provided templates for shorts, as well as a template for the dragon murals and BRAND NEW plot banners. Yes, you read correctly. When Gnomekindle comes this year, the plans for building special banners for your plot will be included. Please keep in mind that we are looking for art around the same theme as the stories will be, winter holidays, winter celebrations, and all the fun this chilly season brings.

We'd like to encourage anyone with an interest - regardless of experience and skill set - to submit an entry for this contest.

For a complete set of rules, including where to download the templates, please visit our website at: http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dcv3hb6k_19c9xs4c

From all of us at Virtrium, developers of Istaria, we wish you a safe and happy holiday season.

Faresha Headley Contest Manager Extraordinaire