Valentiny Contest Entry: A Valentine’s Day Cake for the Queen

Today’s post is a treat…my story for Susanna Leonard Hill’s 2nd Annual Valentiny Contest.


Before you read my entry,  it might be fun for you to see a bit of the process I used in writing it.

  1. I read Susanna’s guidelines. Whether you are entering a contest or submitting a story to an agent or editor, ALWAYS make sure you follow the guidelines.
  2. When my kids were young, I loved baking cakes for their special occasions…and they loved eating them. I figured that a story about a cake might be something kids could relate to.
  3. Since the guidelines called for confusion on the part of one of the characters, I thought that it would add a bit of humor and tension to have the pastry chef perplexed by the stacking of the layers of the cake.
  4. Children need to identify with a character in the story so I added a young kitchen boy who saves the day.
  5. I wanted to add some fun words, so I checked the thesaurus for alternative terms for confused…I found a LOT and chose two that made me smile: befuddled and discombobulated…I hope they make kids smile also. I also gave her a name that’s a play on the famous Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. Kids may just laugh at the name, DOUGHLITTLE, but parents and teachers may enjoy the deeper joke.
  6. I wanted the reader to know that Eliza, the pastry chef, was a bit arrogant and full of herself…but in picture books, we are not supposed to TELL…we are supposed to SHOW. I didn’t say: Eliza was arrogant. Instead, I said: Eliza STRUTTED into the kitchen. If you close your eyes, you can just imagine how she entered the room. And before she began, she PUFFED UP HER CHEST. Yes, she’s quite vain about her baking abilities. When the young boy wants to help, Eliza PURSED HER LIPS AND RAISED HER EYEBROWS. Quite hoity-toity (hmmm…that’s another fun word…maybe next story).
  7. Keeping within the 214-word limit was a challenge…but I made it! I hope you enjoy my little story. If you want to read a whole bunch of wonderful Valentine’s Day tales or enter with your own story, please hop over to Susanna’s post.


A Valentine’s Day Cake for the Queen (210 words)


Pastry chef Eliza Doughlittle strutted into the castle kitchen. Valentine’s Day was tomorrow. The king had ordered a 7-layer cake for the queen.  Eliza snapped her fingers. She puffed up her chest—she could do it!

She pulled out pans. She lined up ingredients. She studied the recipe.

“Can I help,” said a small voice from behind the flour sacks.

“How can you help me?” Eliza told the kitchen boy. “You scour pots and pans!”

Eliza measured. She mixed. She poured. She baked. She frosted. Perfection!

Eliza stacked the layers.

The cake leaned to the left.

Befuddled, Eliza tried again.

It leaned to the right.

Discombobulated, Eliza rearranged the layers.

The tower teetered



“Please,” said the kitchen boy. “Let me help.”

Eliza pursed her lips. She raised her eyebrows. “What do you know about making cakes?”

“Not much,” said the boy. “But I stack stones by the riverbank.”

Eliza moved aside. The kitchen boy set the largest layer on the platter.








Eliza peered at the cake from every side.

No teeter.

No totter.


“Thank you,” said Eliza. “Now I have a Valentine’s Day cake to present to the queen.”

“You’re welcome,” said the boy. “Now I have a job as assistant pastry chef.



If you’d like to read the other entries, please hop over to Susanna’s blog. The contest ends on February 14.

And on February 15th…HOLD ON TO YOUR HATS…we are going to unveil the 2nd Annual #50PreciousWords contest. You’ll have plenty of time to prepare your entry…the contest opens on March 2nd, the birthday of Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS THAT POST!

Dianna Aston: Will Write for Cookies PLUS GIVEAWAY


Plate of Cookies







Even before I started writing for children, I knew the name Dianna Aston. Her beautiful nature books for young kids are widely used in the schools. So you can imagine what a thrill it was to connect with her when I joined the kidlit community. And then I met her at the WOW Retreat…and had a one-on-one critique that turned into a two-hour chat where we shared our passion for picture books. I’m honored to have her visiting today…especially since it is Valentine’s Day as well as International Book Giving Day. Make sure you scroll through all the way to the end of the post…to enter the GIVEAWAY of TWO BOOKS. Continue reading

The First Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest

It’s always a thrill to participate in one of Susanna Leonard Hill’s writing contests. They are a wonderful way to connect with other writers, they are a great exercise in saying a lot in a few words, and there are always awesome prizes.

Today I’m sharing with you my entry into Susanna’s First Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest. Here are a few of the basic rules: 214 words or less, appropriate for children ages 12 or under, and one of the characters has to be grumpy. If you are interested in participating or just want to read a bunch of fun stories, you can go here:


So how do you write a story about a grumpy character and Valentine’s Day? I started thinking of what makes people grumpy. Getting older, right? And having wrinkles, right? So I Googled wrinkles and got lots of animals that have lots of wrinkles. And then I thought, what would happen if one of those animals wanted to get rid of his wrinkles.

I love elephants…they have lots of wrinkles. What if an elephant wanted to propose to his ladylove on Valentine’s Day, but thought she might not want him because of his wrinkles. And what if he was a scientist and had an assistant who was given the job of finding the formula. And what if the assistant found the formula, but by that time, the professor had already realized that his wrinkles served an important purpose. What would the assistant do?

I hope you enjoy my little story…please let me know what you think of it…and don’t forget to hop over to Susanna’s website so you can enjoy all of the fun.



     Clutching a mirror, Professor Pachyderm glared at his assistant.

     “Wrinkles and crinkles! Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day!”

     “How can I propose to my ladylove with a face that’s folded and furrowed?”

     “This is the last night to come up with the formula, Mortimer!” Slamming the door, the professor stomped downstairs.

     Mortimer stared at the rattling test tubes. He shivered. He shuddered. He squeaked.    “Eek!”

     Mixing and measuring, he added a bit of this. He poured the formula onto a piece of wrinkled paper. Instantly it became…

a gob of soggy paper.

     Stirring and shaking, he took away a bit of that, brushed the formula onto a folded metal fan and waited. Nothing.

     Upending every jar and jug, Mortimer swirled and whirled the ingredients. He dipped a creased cloth into the big bowl and stared as the material smoothed out. Aha!

     Just then, the professor returned. “Forget about it, my dear fellow!” he trumpeted. “I Googled wrinkles on elephants. Did you know I need them to keep me cool?  My Valentine’s Day will be A-OK – she wouldn’t have me any other way! Sorry I wasted your time.”

     “No problem,” Mortimer said, as he filled out a patent application for Permanent Press Fabrics. “Exploring the possibilities of science is never a waste of time.”


Thanks so much for stopping by, everyone…I hope you will check on the contest during the week…more entries will be coming in until the deadline on Friday. And then next Monday will be the announcement of the finalists on Susanna’s blog and you’ll have a chance to VOTE for your favorite.

Have a beautiful week!


#PPBF: Little Toot – Valentine’s Day – International Book Giving Day Giveaway

Today is Perfect Picture Book Friday where I link up with Susannah Leonard Hill’s fantastic group of writers who contribute a picture book review and related resources. On her blog you will find a page called Perfect Picture Books – parents and teachers can use that to locate books that address specific topics.

Today is also International Book Giving Day and Valentine’s Day ! I’m sharing one of the most beloved classic picture books and a craft activity that appeared on my blog three years ago.  Plus, there will be a giveaway of a picture book (I’m not telling which one…don’t you love surprises?)…all you need to do is comment on this post and you will be entered. littletoot_smLittle Toot

Written and illustrated by Hardie Gramatky

Publishers: G. P. Putnam (original: 1939, but many different editions over the years)

Ages: 3 – 7

Themes:  I’m taking Susanna Leonard Hill’s Making Picture Book Magic class…and learning so much about story themes…here are a few Susanna shared with us that apply to Little Toot: Believe in yourself and you can achieve your dreams; there is a time for play and a time for work; courage is doing something even though you are afraid of what might happen

Opening: “At the foot of an old, old wharf lives the cutest, silliest little tugboat you ever saw.  A very handsome tugboat with a brand new candy-stick smoke-stack.  His name is Little Toot.”

Synopsis: Little Toot spends his days “playing” in New York City harbor, getting in the way of the other tugboats that are working hard.  The little tugboat enjoys sailing in a figure-eight and blowing big smoke-balls.  While his father and grandfather, famous for their strength and bravery, work diligently, Little Toot fools around.  The entire fleet of tugboats wonders if Little Toot will ever learn to do the job he was born to do.  However, when a big ocean liner gets into trouble during a storm Continue reading

Valentine’s Day Contest


Children's Valentine, 1940–1950

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Several weeks ago, children’s author, Susannah Leonard Hill, announced a contest: write a children’s story, in poetry or prose, about unlikely Valentines.

To tell you the truth, ever since the second week in January when I decided to participate in Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge, I am never without a piece of paper and a pen because I never know when a picture book idea will suddenly descend upon me.  Often, in the wee hours of the morning, a picturesque phrase pops into my head…and if I don’t write it down immediately, it disappears.  Of course, reading what is on the paper in the light of the morning is sometimes impossible…my handwriting is not the best and writing in the dark definitely does not improve it.

So here is my entry into Susannah’s Valentine’s Day Contest…as I read each verse, I can visualize the illustrations that might accompany this story.  I hope you all enjoy it and I welcome your feedback and constructive criticism…but please, be gentle…today is my birthday!


A Story of Unlikely Valentines


Whom Do I Love?  by Vivian Kirkfield


Whom do I love?

Quizzed the cloud-covered moon.

I love the dish that ran off with the spoon.


Whom do I love?

Posed the run-away dish.

I love the silvery stream-swimming fish.


Whom do I love?

Slurped the shimmering trout.

I love the rock-hopping toad that jumped out.


Whom do I love?

Croaked the hip-hopping toad.

I love the waddling duck on the road.


Whom do I love?

Quacked the web-footed duck.

I love the pig on the rusty farm truck.


Whom do I love?

Oinked the curly-tailed pig.

I love the floppy-eared dog that can dig.


Whom do I love?

Barked the diggity-dog.

I love the bee in the hollowed-out log.


Whom do I love?

Buzzed the bumblely-bee.

I love the mouse that lives under the tree.


Whom do I love?

Squeaked the scurrying mouse.

I love the curly-haired boy in that house.


Whom do I love?

Asked the sweet little lad.

I love my momma and I love my dad.


I’m excited to read the other entries that link up to Susannah’s Valentine’s Day Contest…we learn so much when we share our thoughts and encourage and support one another.

Quotable Timeless Tuedays: LOVE

Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan in 1898. On the...

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“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength…while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” –Lao Tzu

Have you ever read accounts of Herculean feats of strength and courage?  I’ve come across news stories that relate how a mother lifted a car that had rolled on her child…and how a husband swam miles in frigid ocean waters supporting his wife until they were rescued.  I truly believe that love gives us strength and courage.

“You come to love, not by finding the perfect person, but by seeing an imperfect person perfectly.”  -Sam Keen

As a young girl, I remember sitting with friends, talking about what each of us was looking for in the “perfect” husband…did you have a list of attributes you wanted in a mate?  What was on your list?  The thing is, there is a perfect person for everyone…their imperfections may bother others, but not you.

“I love you, not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you.”  -Roy Croft

We are made better by those we cherish…because we strive to be the best we can be for them…we wish them to think well of us and to respect us.

“In real love, you want the other person’s good.  In romantic love, you want the other person.”  -Margaret Anderson

When you really love someone, you want the best for them and you are willing to give them anything you have, if they need it.  My husband and I enjoy sharing things…meals at restaurants, good books, our lives.  I know some people don’t like to share food, even with those they love, but I’ll never forget an experience we had at a Dunkin Donuts in Connecticut over 35 years ago.  We had been out all day shopping and needed to have a bite to eat before we drove home.  We only wanted to grab something quickly, so we pulled into a Dunkin Donuts and went inside.  Sitting down at the counter, we noticed the special of the day…soup, bread, coffee and a donut.  Since I LOVE soup and hate coffee, and my husband LOVES coffee and wasn’t in the mood for soup, we decided to order the special and share it.  The woman behind the counter got our food and set it before us.  The soup was delicious and I pushed it closer to my husband, asking him if he would like to have a taste.  As he picked up the spoon, the woman behind the counter remarked, “That’s disgusting!!!!  I’ve been married 30 years and I’ve never shared ANYTHING with my husband.”

I think that was one of the saddest thing I have ever heard. 

“Love is comprised of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.”  -Aristotle

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day and across the web there were stories, pictures and messages about love.

I think the most important message we need to keep close to our hearts is that we shouldn’t wait until Valentine’s Day or any other “special” day to say “I love you” to people we care about. 

I will end with a quote by someone who couldn’t see or hear or speak…but her words create a beautiful picture in our minds and epitomize what love is all about.

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched.  They must be felt with the heart.”  –Helen Keller

Valentine’s Day has come and gone…but children need to hear the words…I love you…on a daily basis.  Stop by tomorrow for: What’s In Your Child’s Bookcase Wordy Wednesday.  I’ll be reviewing a picture book I recommend in my new parenting book, SHOW ME HOW!  BUILD YOUR CHILD’S SELF-ESTEEM THROUGH READING, CRAFTING AND COOKING.

Make-A-Meal Mondays: Valentine’s Day Special

Esther Howland Valentine, circa 1850: "We...

Image via Wikipedia

Do you remember your first Valentine’s Day card?   Was it from a relative or a best-friend?  How about your first “love interest” Valentine?  Do you remember crafting Valentines when you were a child…cutting the red construction paper into heart shapes and gluing bits of ribbon or lace onto the handmade card?

The history of Valentine’s Day is clouded by various legends, but its roots are in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a fertility celebration.  Pope Gelasius I made this pagan festival into a Christian feast day in 496 and he declared February 14 to be Saint Valentine’s Day.

However, it wasn’t until the 14th Century that Chaucer linked St. Valentine’s Day with romance.  In 1381, he composed a poem in honor of the engagement of Richard II of England and Anne of Bohemia.  “The Parliament of Fowls” spoke of the royal engagement, the mating of fowls and St. Valentine’s Day.

By the 18th Century, gift-giving and the exchange of handmade cards had become a tradition in England.  However, it wasn’t until the 1850’s that the tradition of Valentine’s cards became widespread in the United States when Esther Howland, a native of Worcester, Massachusetts and a graduate of Mt. Holyoke, began to mass produce Valentine’s Day cards.

Do you still make your Valentine’s Day cards by hand? 

A lot of people do try to make something special to celebrate this day of love.  If you pass a bakery or candy shop, you will, no doubt, see windows and shelves filled with cakes, cookies, cupcakes and elegant confections in the shape of hearts, bows, and cupids.

For a healthier take on Valentine’s Day food, why not try this lovely HEARTS OF MOZZARELLA SALAD.  This recipe is from the SHOW ME HOW! book, which provides 100 child-friendly healthful cooking activities.  You can try it for lunch today or as a side salad for dinner.


You will need: 1 chunk of mozzarella cheese (about 1 lb), 2 Roma tomatoes, 1 Tb basis (dry or fresh), several leaves of romaine lettuce, 1 Tb balsamic vinegar, 1 Tb olive oil and 1 Tb Parmesan cheese.

1.  Cut mozzarella into 8 slices, each about ¼ inch thick.  Use a heart-shaped cookie cutter or a knife to cut each slice into a heart shape.  Put the excess cheese in a plastic bag in the fridge to save for topping on pizza, etc.

2.  Slice each tomato into 4 slices and place a tomato slice on top of each cheese heart.

3.  Arrange on a platter of lettuce leaves and sprinkle each serving with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, basil and Parmesan cheese.

I hope you’ll stop by tomorrow for a bunch of wonderful love quotations in Quotable Timeless Tuesday.

May you all have a wonderful Valentine’s Day…filled with Sunshine (even if it is raining) and Love.