Nancy's Books

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Writing Children's Books with Child Appeal

One popular request by editors is the need for books with child appeal. So what can we do to add child appeal to a manuscript? 

Remember, the first person to whom the book must appeal is an adult—the editor. If an editor doesn’t like a manuscript, it doesn’t become a book with a traditional publisher. A parent, teacher, librarian, gift shop manager etc. must also find it interesting and worthy. 

Universal emotions, such as anger, taps into feelings everyone understands and deals with.

Consider the age of the audience. What are the interests of a two-year-old? This age group knows about family, pets, food… When choosing a topic, think about the child’s world and experiences they embrace. A simple walk down a lane is a learning experience for a toddler. They enjoy watching bugs, picking a flower, and blowing a dandelion. Colors and the many hue variations found in nature fascinate them. Shapes and sounds are part of their world. Stay within the child’s experiences and interest. 

Always reflect events that are age appropriate for the intended audience. The theme, subject matter, and events in the story should interest and be appropriate for the reader’s age group. Engaging a particular group of readers directly is the goal. A book that fits “all age groups” is usually too broad in scope for the picture book crowd. Narrowly focus the theme, with one theme carrying the book.

 
In my next blog, I’ll continue with more ideas for writing books with child appeal.

 
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Magic Dragon, a quarterly publication, presents writing and art created by children in the elementary school grades in a magazine of quality four-color printing and graphic display. We believe that our objectives are special – to encourage the development of creativity in children and to provide a medium to share their creative efforts. 

Submission guidelines at http://www.magicdragonmagazine.com/ 

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

GLASS & GARDENS: SOLARPUNK SUMMERS

Solarpunk is a type of eco-conscious science fiction that imagines an optimistic future founded on renewable energies. It might take place in a wind-powered skyscraper or on a solar-powered robotic farm, in a bustling green-roofed metropolis or in a small but tech-saavy desert village. Often coupled with an art nouveau aesthetic, and always inclusive and diverse, solarpunk stories show the ways we have adapted to climate change, or the ways we have overcome it.

Submission guidelines at http://www.worldweaverpress.com/submit-anthologies.html

Nancy Kelly Allen has written 40+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK. Check out her blog at www.nancykellyallen.com

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Central Thread in Writing a Picture Book Biography

I received the following feedback on a picture book biography I’m in the process of revising: Find a central thread that ties all the episodes together, such as wanderlust to move on, an inner struggle to see the world beyond the territory in which the character lives, or an ambition to do something new and exciting.  

This advice makes so much sense to me. I agreed, totally. Whatever route I choose, I need to tie it in at the beginning and carry in through to the end by unearthing some common threads.  

I have a long way to go with this story, but I will continue to read, research, and collect data based on the character’s life. Each bit of information provides another piece of the puzzle. After pondering various ways to tell her story, I’ve decided to focus on her sense of adventure, her desire to travel new trails, and experience new territories.  

Since most picture books are 32 pages, biographies are limited in telling the wide expanse of a person’s life. Instead, focusing on pivotal scenes within a narrow narrative arc (beginning, middle, ending) seems to work for my particular story.

Pondering, that’s the key to figuring out how to approach this revision. Pondering different possibilities. Pondering a way to crawl inside the character’s head and figure out how and where to take her, finding the passionate core to create an emotional impact for the reader.  

My pondering sometimes happens in the middle of the night. I’ve worked out so many character situations when I wake up in the middle of the night and a solution pops into my head. Some pop right back out, and I can’t remember them the next day. Anyone have a popper stopper? 

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Launch Pad: Where Young Authors and Illustrators Take Off! publishes stories, art, poetry, nonfiction, and book reviews by kids ages 6 – 14. If we select you as an author, we will send your work to a young artist to illustrate before publishing it on our website. If we select you as an artist, we will send you something from a young author to illustrate! Ask a parent before submitting to our site.

Submission guidelines at http://www.launchpadmag.com/ 

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Humpty Dumpty and Jack and Jill provide fun, entertaining reading material is our priority. We accept humorous, playful, and witty stories that kids would love to read—not stories that grownups think kids should read.
As part of the Children’s Better Health Institute, we are always in need of high-quality stories, articles, and activities with a broad health and fitness focus. Please keep in mind that we would rather show kids living a healthy lifestyle than dictate a healthy lifestyle to our readers. In other words, health topics should be incorporated into the story or article, not be the focus of it.
Nancy Kelly Allen has written 40+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK. Check out her blog at www.nancykellyallen.com

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Emotional Rollercoaster

A friend sent joyous news: She received her first book contract. Congratulations! The ultimate reward for years of diligent effort had finally paid off. Her joy reached the stratospheric level, naturally. As often happens when facing a time lapse between receiving “The Call” and getting the written agreement, nerves jittered. Doubts swirled faster than autumn leaves when the contract wasn’t in the email the next day, or the next, or the next. A week passed. Two weeks. Nerves jittered into emotional chaos. She asked if she should contact the editor about the delay. 

The emotional rollercoaster she experienced is perfectly normal. She worked for YEARS pounding the keyboard trying to nab a contract. After a ton of rejections our neural pathways form in such a way that our brains tell us, not in thought but in emotions/expectations, that a contract is out of reach. We KNOW that we have received the contract; yet we can’t BELIEVE it because our emotions lag behind our cognitive processes. (Disclaimer: This is totally my theory, and I have no scientific data at hand to support it.) 
 
On a personal level, my confidence builds as I sign the contract, and reality sets in big-time with my first read-through of the revision notes. The emotional surge revs to tornadic intensity as doubt, jitters, and downright panic overtake my psyche. I’ve experienced every emotion known to humankind when first reading the suggested revisions. One such set of revision notes was longer than the picture book text. Another set was quite short but memorable: delete the last 5 chapters and rewrite, focusing on the child and grandparent. Snap! The best-friend scenes and chapters waved bye-bye, just like that. I gasped for breath, walked away from the computer, and did normal things the rest of the day, steering clear of the email communication. In the meantime, I began thinking about how I could develop the story. The revisions improved the stories, by the way, so the editors were correct. And I lived. The revisions (yes, more than one) failed to kill me. 
 
Publishing books is a slow business. Revision after revision is usually required. Editors work on several projects simultaneously, which slows the process even more. Two years in production for picture books remains typical with traditional publishers.  
 
The excitement, jitters, and doubt are critical to the writer’s journey. Embrace them and enjoy making the book the best it can be. Oh, and give the editor extended time to make contact. S/he will appreciate it.
 
 
[Beginning this week, I will include Calls for Submissions for Young Writers in each blog through April 2019.]
 
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Bazoof. Youth submissions accepted from around the globe from all ages, with different genres and length requirements depending on age of contributor. Readers can find short stories, comics, games, craft & art projects, jokes, riddles, sports reporting, articles on pets, recipes, personal achievements and community service projects, poetry, letters, true stories and much more!

Submissions: http://www.bazoof.com/submit/

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Call for Submissions: Children’s Activities

Deadline: September 30, 2017

SPIDER (for ages 6-9) and LADYBUG (for ages 3-6) are looking for children’s activities. This includes clearly worded, playful step-by-step directions for crafts, activities, games, science experiments, and recipes for children ages 3 to 9. The strongest activities will engage a child’s imagination and creativity, can be done at home, and require little adult supervision. We also seek word games, tongue twisters, jokes, riddles, picture-based crossword puzzles, and foreign language activities.  


Nancy Kelly Allen has written 40+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK. Check out her blog at www.nancykellyallen.com

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Trends

If you’ve been writing or reading children’s literature for a few years, you’ve probably noticed some changes. Let’s look what editors and agents are seeking:

Graphic novel style of writing has moved into the picture book arena.

Short picture book manuscripts, 500 words or less, are hot property.

Middle grade stand alone and series. Historical fiction remains popular.

In middle grade and young adult books, authentic characters take on real world issues.

Diverse books and diverse voices from around the world are sought by agents and editors.

Fantasy is still fashionable in young adult books.

Nonfiction books retain their popularity.

Biographies of the famous and the not-so-famous are in vogue.

Retelling of folktales are, once again, in demand.

A constant in children’s literature is the author who writes original stories with authentic voice and laugh-out-loud books.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

805. Awaiting Your Masterpiece. We can't wait to see your work!  We seek writing and art that is unexpected, striking, and moving. We accept submissions from residents of Manatee County as well as the rest of the universe. We take submissions from debut, emerging, and established authors and artists.
Art & Photography

Five at a time
Fiction or flash fiction 

One at a time, max 2,500 words
Creative nonfiction

Two at a time, max 2,500 words each

 Graphic fiction/nonfiction

Two at a time, max 8 pages each

Submission guidelines at http://www.805lit.org/submissions

Nancy Kelly Allen has written 40+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK. Check out her blog at www.nancykellyallen.com


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Word Count for Children's Books



A beginning writer recently asked me about the word count of children’s books. No specific answer qualifies for every publisher, but here is a general overview: 

Board books: 0-100 words. 

Fiction picture books range from 0 to 500 words. These books keep getting shorter. Nonfiction titles are often longer. 

Early chapter books for 5-7 year-olds are illustrated and range 1,000-7,000 words. 

Chapter books for the older audience, ages 7-9, range up to 15,000 words.  
 
Middle-grade novels for ages 8-12 are usually between 20,000-45,000 words, maybe more. My middle grade novel, AMAZING GRACE, topped out at 33,000. 

YA (Young Adult) novels range higher: 50,000-85,000. 

Publishers set their own parameters for word length. There are many variations, but these are generally acceptable. 

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

 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Writing in Rhyme

In a writing group I recently attended, one member followed up with an email to ask why editors did not like rhyming stories. I certainly can’t answer for editors, and since I don’t (and can’t) write in rhyme, my reply is based on the information I’ve heard in workshops and discussions with several editors.

Rhyme does not work when the rhyme is the most important factor. The story reigns supreme and should have an arc with a beginning, middle, and ending, as with non-rhyming stories. The words should read well and be fun to say, and the rhyming words should be exact rhymes. Near-rhymes don’t cut it.

The strength of the story comes from the voice, emotion, plot, character, and resolution/change at the end of the story, not from the rhyme. It’s easy to write bad rhyme (I know because the rhyme I’ve written is not contract worthy), and good rhyme is extremely difficult to master.  

Editors often steer away from rhyme since it is difficult to translate into other languages, making the sales market smaller. 

The manuscript must tell a good story. If you can do that and follow the rules of rhyme, give it a try. Many authors do and are successful.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Chicken Soup. Christmas and Holiday Collection – 2018. Our next holiday collection will not be released until 2018 but we are already collecting stories for it. People love reading about the winter holidays – from Thanksgiving all the way through New Year’s Day. We want to hear about your traditions and how they came to be. We want to hear about your holiday memories and the rituals that create the foundation of your life. We love to hear about the funny things too: the ugly holiday sweaters, the gingerbread house that kept falling down, the re-gifting embarrassments and the fruit cake disasters. Please be sure your stories are “Santa safe” so we don’t spoil the magic for any precocious young readers. The deadline date for story and poem submissions is October 31, 2017.

 Submission guidelines at http://www.chickensoup.com/story-submissions/possible-book-topicsSubmission guidelines at

 Nancy Kelly Allen has written 40+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK. Check out her blog at www.nancykellyallen.com

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Writing with Kid Appeal

          Kid appeal is a must in writing articles for children’s magazines.

If you include a kid in an article, you’re much more likely to sell it. For example, when writing an article about football training, the text will be more appealing if you write about a specific kid in training, rather than an article about football training, in general. The same is true for an article on all subjects, such as the importance of recycling. Writing about a kid who is involved with a recycling project will resonate more with the reader than an article about the need to recycle plastic.

          To catch and hold a reader’s attention, write about kids who are near the reader’s age. Most teen magazine articles approach all subjects with specific kids sharing their own stories and experiences.                                       

Visuals are a necessity, too. Some magazines may require you to provide photos, and others may use stock photos, which are provided by the magazine. Photos are important to the story because they place the reader directly in the subject area. Visuals and text are equally important. Not only do kids want to read information, they want to see the pictures, too.
 
The common denominator in writing that all kids enjoy is humor. Add humor to lessen the didactic prose. If you’re writing a quiz for the readers, try spicing it up with a touch of fun and funny. Kids enjoy puns and other forms of wordplay (I was told I had Type A blood, but it was a typo.)
Write about subjects that are of high importance to the reader: boy/girl relationships, parent guidelines, friendships…
Will kids want to read the article? Check it out with some kids before you ship it out to a publisher. Ask for feedback from those readers.
Up your chances of getting a contract by adding kid appeal. Your editor will thank you for it.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
FUN FOR KIDZ: Ages 6-13, with emphasis on ages 8-10. Each issue has a specific theme. See guidelines for theme list. Fiction and Nonfiction: 500 words or fewer. Focus is on activities and promoting positive values. Articles with photos are more likely to be accepted.
Submission guidelines at http://funforkidzmagazines.com/writers