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Too early for holiday baking? Never. The annual Star Tribune Holiday Cookie Contest, now in its 18th year, is in full swing. Can your favorite sweet win the grand prize?

What we're looking for: Cookies that are new to most bakers, whether the recipes are your own or inspired by others. Tell us the story behind your cookie, and make sure to credit any source. Avoid classics like spritz or cutouts — most bakers already have those options in hand. It's also a good idea to peruse our archive at startribune.com/cookies to avoid entering ones similar to those featured in the past.

The winners: Fame lands on the shoulders of the winner and four finalists. Those five highly anticipated recipes will appear in the Star Tribune in early December and will become part of our online archive. The grand prize is a $200 gift certificate to a kitchen specialty store.

Deadline: This is critical. Send your recipe, your name, daytime phone number, e-mail address and street address so the entry arrives by noon on Oct. 8.

At that time, we drop everything and immediately go through the entries to pick out cookies to test. Do not wait until the last minute to mail your entry or it may arrive after our choices have been made. Including a photo helps us picture your cookies as we page through the many entries. No late entries will be accepted.

Send to: For e-mail, it's taste@startribune.com and please indicate "Cookie Contest" in the subject field. Prefer snail mail? Send it to Holiday Cookie Contest, Star Tribune, 650 3rd Av. S., Suite 1300, Minneapolis, MN 55488. □