Nancy's Books

Sunday, October 23, 2016

After the Contract, then What?


"If our readers don't like the first line then they'll never read the second."-Richard Peck

Signing with a publisher, that’s a big, gargantuan, colossal deal for a writer. It’s woohoo, chocolate-dance time. So what’s next? The answer depends on the editor and the manuscript. The editor is enthusiastic or the contract would not have been offered, but a writer may sometimes question the degree of enthusiasm when receiving the notes for a rewrite.
My two latest books were produced by two different publishers. FORTY WINKS, a bedtime picture book, required a minimal amount of revision. The first line, the hardest part of a book to write, didn’t resonate with the editor so I had to rewrite it, along with a few other tweaks. Within several exchanges guided by the editor, the book grew in complexity and the word choice upped the rhythm of the narrative.

My latest chapter book, THE RIDDLERS, required not a mere tune-up but a major overhall. The last five chapters were a no-go, so I wrote a brand new ending, all at the suggestion and guidance of my editor. One secondary character now has a minor role, and the relationship between the girl and her grandfather, who slowly succumbs to Alzheimer’s disease, became the primary focus of the book, making it a more emotionally satisfying story.

I respect and appreciate profession feedback. With both of these books, I’ve experience true collaborative editorial relationships, and with each, my writer wings widened. After all, my editors and I want the same thing: a polished manuscript.

Call for submissions for Young Writers:

Forest for the Trees. For submissions, enter Submission – Fiction, Submission – CNFSubmission – Poetry, or Submission – Art in the subject line. If you are a writer between the ages of 13 and 19, please indicate that you are submitting your work for publication in the Leaves section of FFTT. You may also want to include information about any awards you have won or encouragements you have been given by your teachers. If you are a writer over the age of 19, please indicate in the body of your email that you are submitting your work for publication in the Branches category.

Submission text should be attached as a Word or compatible document which is titled Your Name – Poems – or whatever your title or genre may be.For Poetry, you may submit up to 5 poems in a single document.
For Fiction and Creative Nonfiction, you may submit one piece that is up to 6,000 words, or three flash pieces that do not exceed 1,000 words each. All three should be in a single document.
Call for submissions for Adult Writers:

Stories about Teachers and Teaching. There isn’t a single one of us who doesn’t owe something to a teacher. They are the unheralded heroes of society. Tell us your stories about the great teachers who changed your life. And if you’re a teacher, tell us about the kids who changed yours, who motivated you to keep on teaching, who showed you that it was all worth it. We’d love to share your best advice with other teachers as well—what works, what doesn’t, how you stay enthusiastic about your jobs. What advice do you have for your colleagues? Tell us the funny stories too—we know you have lots of those. The deadline date for story and poem submissions has been extended to October 30, 2016. Deadline: October 30, 2016 

Nancy Kelly Allen has written 40+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Looking Back Gives Perspective


“Sometimes, you have to look back in order to understand the things that lie ahead.”
Yvonne Woon

My first book was published seventeen years ago. At the time, I was working on a full-time basis, plus writing manuscripts and wondering if I was spinning my wheels, wasting time. The process was frustrating. I spent vast amounts of time writing, researching, targeting publishers and reading interviews of editors in attempts to hone in on the publisher that best fit my manuscript.
Sometimes I became distraught when the turnaround time produced a rejection letter in less than a week. Did an editor even read the manuscript? I wondered more than once. My frustration level grew; then I’d get an encouraging note from an editor rejecting a particular manuscript but asking to see more of my work as I produced it. Hope soared once again.
Today, I’ve gained perspective as if looking backward through time with a telescope. My eyes focus on things that were impossible to notice when I was living the moment, when rejections embraced every manuscript. Rather than remembering the frustration, I look back on the experience fondly. What was frustrating at the time—rejections—whetted my appetite even more to prove I could write a marketable manuscript. Rejections served as inspiration to fuel my creativity and imagination.
The built-up frustration made the first contract all the more sweet. Would I have appreciated THE CALL from an editor as much if I had received it with the first manuscript from the first publishing house I submitted to? Probably not.  
Glancing in my rear view mirror, I see those days as a period in which I grew as a writer. Every rejected manuscript served a purpose to help me learn to become a better writer.
Call for submissions for Young Writers:

Apprehension Magazine. At Apprehension we look for writing that is experimental or modern, and we publish writers in the age range of 14-21. We publish quarterly in December, April and August. We strive to reach out to those who are afraid to submit, and we reach out to those who are on the road to becoming professional and published writers.

Submission Deadlines:

Issue 1: December 5th, 2016

Issue 2: April 5th, 2017

Issue 3: August 1st, 2017 

Submission guidelines at

Call for submissions for Adult Writers:

ONE STORY seeks stories "between 3,000 and 8,000 words. They can be any style and on any subject as long as they are good. We are looking for stories that leave readers feeling satisfied and are strong enough to stand alone." Pays: "$500 and 25 contributors copies for First Serial North American rights."  

Submission guidelines at

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Hush the Inner Critic

“Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it.”
Salvador Dalí

Inner Critics have negative voices that feed on our fears. Does yours accuse you of the following? 

Lack of talent. Stephen King says writing talent is as common as table salt so if you think you don’t have talent, read books, lots of books, and attend writing workshops to hone skills. Different styles appeal to different readers. Different is good.  

Fear of embarrassment. Do you fail to read your work in writers’ groups or fail to submit to a critique partner because you think your manuscript is subpar? These groups are designed to help writers grow so participate to get the most benefits. The more you submit your work, the more you will learn, and your confidence will grow. 

Thinking other writers are better? Writing is NOT about comparing your work to others. It’s about writing the best story you can produce. Your work can be different and just as publishable. 

Fear of a blank page. Do you stare at the computer screen or sheet of paper and don’t have a clue what to write? Think “What if” and mentally play with a character and plot; then outline a story. If you have a literary map, it’s easier to navigate through a beginning, middle, and ending.

Inner Critics do not have to be all negative. Harness that Inner Critic pickiness and force it to become an Inner Editor by not settling on mediocre writing. Use it to your advantage to see your work through an editor’s eyes and make the story sparkle. 

Call for submissions for Young Writers:

Anthology of Poetry by Young Americans®

AOP. recognizes the best poems from the multitude of works submitted. Our first publication, Anthology of Poetry by Young Americans®, has been published annually since 1990. An entire generation of students has grown up with this anthology and several have been published more than once as they've grown in age and experience. 

Deadline: November 15

Submission guidelines at 

Call for submissions for Adult Writers:

RATTLE has two "tribute calls" posted at this time. The first, for "Civil Servant Poets," has a deadline of October 15, 2016. NB: "The poems may be written in any style, subject, or length, by those who have worked a significant amount of time for a non-military governmental department or agency (whether U.S., foreign, or international)." The second, "Poets with Mental Illness," has a deadline of January 15, 2017. "The poems may be any subject or length, but must written by poets who have themselves lived with mental illness." Pays: "Contributors in print receive $100/poem and a complimentary one-year subscription to the magazine. Online contributors receive $50/poem. All submissions are automatically considered for the annual Neil Postman Award for Metaphor, a $1,000 prize judged by the editors." See for more information.

Submission guidelines at

Nancy Kelly Allen has written 50 children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK.



Sunday, October 2, 2016

Hush the Inner Critic

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford

After I read the editorial notes and allow my Inner Critic to shut me down for the day, I usually don’t reread the ideas and suggestions, but I think about them. Ponder, I call it. Some comments will stick out in my mind, and I figure out a way to work through them. If I can figure out a way to work through one, I begin to relax. One at a time, that’s my mantra.

 The next day, I read through the notes again. This time, I force myself to concentrate on what the editor has to say. If Inner Critic shouts or even whispers, I force my thoughts to analyze the notes. Usually there is a, A-HA! Moment and I think, Oh, I get it. But as I read on, there are often other suggestions that I’ll have to give much more thought to. That’s okay. One at a time.

I close the notes and reread the manuscript, the whole manuscript, without changing one work. As I read I figure out where some of the changes can be made…and how. I make notes as I read, flagging sections that need revision.

At this point I tackle the revision and invite Inner Critic to join me. As I change and tweak, Inner Critic tells me if it’s not working. In AMAGING GRACE: A KENTUCKY GIRL WITH GUMPTION DURING WWII, I had to extract several chapters and rewrite. I outlined the new chapters. An outline allows me to figure out what will happen and in what order. If I have a plan in place, I can hush my Inner Critic.

Next week, I’ll discuss more ways to put a lid on my Inner Critic.

Call for submissions for Young Writers:

" has been extremely proud to host an annual student writing contest during the past 16 years for all currently enrolled high school, undergraduate, graduate students, student interns, and volunteers (including Peace Corps)." Awards cash prizes of $500/$150/$100/$50 and publication on

Submission guidelines at

Call for submissions for Adult Writers

Upstreet has reopened for submissions (fiction and nonfiction only; they’re not considering unsolicited poetry at this time). “Payment, upon publication, will be between $50 and $250 for short stories or essays. Each author will also receive one complimentary copy, and may purchase more copies at a reduced rate.” Submission window closes March 1, 2017.

Submission guidelines at

Nancy Kelly Allen has written 50 children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK.


Sunday, September 25, 2016

How’s Your Inner Critic?

Quote: “Your inner voice whispers, but speaks the loudest.”
Matshona Dhliwayo

Yes, I have been hearing voices in my head and those voices have names, Inner Critic. My Inner Critic fills me with uncertainty by shouting about my writing failures or tells me I don’t have enough talent to finish the book. Sometimes the know-it-all tells me I’m wasting my time because the manuscript will be rejected. Another name for the Inner Critic is Self-Doubt. I’m up to his tricks (or is it a her?) of trying to erode my confidence.

Usually, I don’t have a problem with the first draft or even when I’m revising. Inner Critic pays a visit when I have a request for a rewrite from an editor, especially when the directions are vague, such as I need to feel more emotion from the character or when the revision notes are multi-paged, single spaced. What? That much of the story doesn’t work, yet the editor is still interested.  

The first thing I do is read through the notes once, maybe twice. Then I do what comes naturally: I walk away from the notes and the computer. My Inner Critic is yakking. Who are you kidding? You can’t do this. What if you do all that work and she decides to pass on the manuscript? That’s a lot of time to invest. 

Inner Critic is an emotional barometer that most writers deal with. We can either let it drown us in fear to the point that we quit writing or we can use it as a motivator to gear up for a challenge. If all else fails, I feed it chocolate to shut it up; then we’re both happy. 

Next week, I’ll discuss ways I handle the fear and use the fear to improve my creative deeds. 

Call for submissions for Young Writers

The Daphne Review. We accept submissions from high school age artists only (ages 13-18). All submissions must be original works by a sole creator and must not  be previously published/printed. Any evidence of plagiarism or theft of ideas or images will result in the rejection of your submission.

 Written Submission Guidelines:

Each written submission should include the following materials:

1.) Introductory cover letter

2.) The written work, submitted as an attached Microsoft word document titled as follows: “Last Name_First Name” 

Art Submission Guidelines:

Each art submission should include the following materials:

1.) Introductory cover letter, including a brief bio in third person

2.) Attachment image of artwork in JPG format at a minimum resolution of 300 dpi. These attached image files should be titled as follows: “Last Name_First Name.”

3.) If the submitted work is part of a series (a triptych or comic strip, for example) then please number each image in the order in which they should appear. For example: “Last Name_First Name_1” and so on. 

Please send all submissions to


Call for submissions for Adult Writers

Anthology call: “Our upcoming second anthology on multiples, Multiples Illuminated: Life With Twins and Triplets, the Toddler to Tween Years, will focus on stories about twins, triplets, or more from the toddler to tween years (ages two to 12). Editors Megan Woolsey and Alison Lee, both writers, and mothers of multiples (triplets and twins respectively), are calling writers who would like to contribute a personal essay and/or advice on their experience from the years of tantrums to a world of tampons and tween awkwardness. We are looking for stories that are honest, heartwarming, heart wrenching, and humorous.” Unpublished work only.

Deadline: November 30, 2016.

Submission guidelines at

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Dealing with Rejection, part 2

"A rejection is nothing more than a necessary step in the pursuit of success."-Bo Bennett 

If a story is rejected several times, I shelve it for a few weeks, or months, and then reevaluate it. When I reread a shelved manuscript, I look for reasons the story is NOT publishable. If enough reasons pop up their ugly heads and I can’t figure out a way to correct the ugliness, I reshelve the rascal. Not all manuscripts are publishable, but I never discard one. Maybe I’ll figure out a way to rehab at some point in the future. Maybe my skills as a writer haven’t developed enough to write in a particular style. Maybe I’ll hone those skills and produce a better story later. Maybe I’ll use bits and pieces of a non-publishable work in another manuscript where they are a cozy fit. 

I try to appreciate the rejections. Hard to believe, huh? Some editors provide notes on what didn’t or did work. That gives me a basis from which to reevaluate the piece. Or a string of rejections with no comments also speaks volumes. Either way, I’ve learned.  

Fact: I can’t change the marketplace, but I can change what I write, so I focus on what I can control. I work to improve my writing and place all my energy on what I can change.

Develop a thick skin so rejection can’t become disabling. I’ve received so many rejections over the years, hundreds really. They still perturb me with a wasp-like sting, but I never think that I’ll quit writing because of one or two or more.  

Every writer works at his/her own pace. There is no right or wrong recipe for success. Try writing  in different genres and follow work schedules that adapt to your lifestyle. When I’ve done everything I can and still receive a rejection, I think of it as proof of my efforts. I finished the manuscript and shipped it out so that’s worthy of celebration. Pass the chocolate, please. 

Call for submissions for Young Writers

Ember is a semiannual journal of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction for all age groups. Submissions for and by readers aged 10 to 18 are strongly encouraged.
Submissions are managed through our Submission Manager, powered by Submittable. If you submit by e-mail, we will direct you to use our Submission Manager instead. A link to the submission manager can be found at the bottom of this page, after you have read through the submission guidelines.

Call for submissions for Adult Writers

Intergeneration Storytelling Contest rules:
  1. Stories must include characters from more than one generation.
  2. Stories must be original and unpublished, and may be fiction, non-fiction, or a combination.
  3. Stories may not exceed 400 words.
  4. Stories must be provided via copying and pasting the text into the body of your e-mail submission.
  5. Your e-mail submission must be sent through our website’s submission form, and include the author’s name, exact mailing address and e-mail contact in order that all winners may be advised immediately upon winning (contact information will remain private).
Deadline:  September 30, 2016.

Submission guidelines at


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Dealing with Rejection

Rejection hurts. That’s the simple truth. But if a writer garners contracts, s/he has to put up with rejections. I was asked to blog about ways to deal with rejection by several people, so here’s what I do. 

I moan to my critique partner, who understands completely because she, too, is a writer. (Hugs to you, Sandi.) Understanding that I’m not alone in the volume of rejected queries allows me to have more perspective. All writers receive rejections. 

Sometimes I mumble and gripe to my literary muses (two miniature schnauzers) that the editor didn’t “get” the story (but of course she “got” enough of it to understand it wasn’t right for the publisher). My reasoning can be a little warped when the rejections pour in, but the mental warp makes me feel better.  

I don’t fret beyond the day I receive the rejection. I move on with another project or send the rejected manuscript out to another editor. Remember, it only takes one editor to love the work and deem it contract worthy. Different editors have hugely different opinions about what is a great story. 

If a story is rejected several times, I store it away, temporarily. After a few months (sometimes, years) I reexamine the manuscript with fresh eyes. If my story seem to have merit, I rewrite and resubmit. (That’s what I’ve been doing the last few months and snatched a few contracts.) Sometimes the rewrite bears little resemblance to the original story. AMAZING GRACE began as a picture book (rejected). I rewrote it as a chapter book (rejected). After I rewrote it as a middle grade novel, it found a home with a publisher. 

Next week, I’ll look at other ways I deal with rejection. 

Call for submissions for Young and Adult Writers:

Submissions for Wee Tales and Refractions must be age appropriate for the journal (7 to 12 for Wee Tales, 13 and up for Refractions). If you have something more geared toward an adult market please still submit it for our next possible run of Deep Waters. General and Refractions short submissions should be between 1000 and 5000 words, Wee Tales submissions should be between 600 and 2000 words. Adult and teen writers are invited to submit. 

Submission guidelines at