Nancy's Books

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Ways to Improve Writing/Call for Submissions

I’m starting a new series, Ways to Improve Writing. Let’s look at some ways to advance our writing, regardless of the age of the audience or the genre.

Beginning with the word There. Of course, we can find instances in which books begin with this vague word, but why? Using a nondescript word is like giving the reader a tranquilizer. There doesn’t encourage interest or build curiosity. Vague words weaken sentences. Instead, use action verbs and descriptive nouns to create a vivid world for the reader to imagine. When writing, I like to think of three children in my target audience reading my words. I want to string the words together so that each reader will “see” a similar image or action. Forming mental pictures is much more difficult to accomplish when using an imprecise word, such as there.
Should there be used, at all? We use this word in our language; therefore it can be reflected in our writing, as well, just not at the beginning of a strong sentence. Example: There is a mountain so high it seems to scrape the clouds. More specific is The high mountain seemed to touch the clouds. The subject is “mountain,” and placing it at the beginning of the sentence immediately forms a visual for the reader.
Here’s an exception. There can be acceptable, especially in dialog, even as the beginning word. “There, there, there. You’ll be okay.” Or “There it is!”
Watch for ways to make your writing stronger. Now, there’s an idea.
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Louisville- Spalding University - Check into Word Hotel!: Attention creative writers, visual artists and photographers: submit your work to Word Hotel, the literary journal published by the BFA in Creative Writing at Spalding University. We invite submissions in all genres and a multitude of styles, welcome experimental work, and are particularly hunger to hear from emerging writers (i.e., those who have not yet published a first book). We also crave art: illustrations, photographs, and photographs of artwork. Submit your Word or RTF docs and picture files to We will consider up to three poems (any length), short fiction/CNF up to 2,500 words, and hybrid texts as well. Reading period for the 2014 issue ends December 12. Issue to be published by June 2015. Prizes awarded to top submissions from high school students.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
New Moon Celebrates girls and their accomplishments.  
Upcoming Themes: 

March/April 2015: Follow Your Dreams

Deadline: Dec. 1, 2014

Tell us how you'd love to follow your dreams. Share how a girl (maybe it's you!) is already pursing her passion, or interview a woman who has your dream job.

May/June 2015: 25 Beautiful Girls

Deadline: Dec. 1, 2014

Nominate a girl and tell us about her inner beauty! Go to the Beautiful Girls survey at the "Get Involved" box at We feature all Beautiful Girls in the magazine and at our online girls' community.

July/August 2015: Hello, Mother Nature!

Deadline: Feb. 1, 2015

Do you love being in the outdoors? Tell us about what nature means to you, and ways to keep our Earth healthy.

September/October 2015:Everything Bestie

Deadline: April 1, 2015

What's your "desert island" pick if you could have just one? We want to know about your fave books, music, food, website (besides!), and much, much more.

November/December 2015: Action: Animals!

Deadline: June 1, 2015

Share your passions for animals here and afar--from endangered species to shelter friends who need homes and service animals.

January/February 2016: What Do YOU Think?

Deadline: August 1, 2015

Take a side, and tell us why! We'll let you know about topics girls love to discuss, and get your pros and cons. 

Submission guidelines at

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Writing Mysteries, Calls for Submissions

I’m continuing with ideas for writing mysteries for middle grader readers. 
Prevent a sagging, boring middle by adding unexpected events, twists and turns in the middle of the story.

Let your readers in on something that the main character doesn’t know. Maybe the reader knows the next-door neighbor has a key to the house but the main character doesn’t know it yet.

Develop a setting to fit the mood of the story. Frighten the characters and the readers will identify with them. Rain and fog at night adds a scary element. During the day, the character might enter a dark house or tread down creepy stairs to a damp, dark basement.

Add a surprise ending. If the reader can figure out they mystery, the fun of reading the book is diminished. Consider many options. The ending has to be logical and follow through with the clues you’ve included throughout the narrative.

The character should solve the mystery by logical means, not rely on hocus-pocus, intuition, or anything other than the clues. Never try to fool the reader by being unclear in the writing. That leads to confusion, not a mystery.

Reveal the culprit or solution to the mystery at the end of the story. If the mystery is solved too early, the reader has no reason to continue reading.

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Canvas. We are seeking writers ages 13-18 to submit: 
Fiction – Please limit submissions to 5,000 words.
Novel Excerpts - Novel and memoir excerpts are acceptable if self-contained (work as a complete narrative).
Poetry – You may submit more than one poem, but please do not exceed 5 pages worth of poetry.
Plays - Please follow standard play format. Limit to 10 pages.
Nonfiction – Essays, memoir, creative nonfiction. Please limit submissions to 5,000 words.  
New Media – Video, images, etc fine for website. But must be accompanied by written version to be considered for print and eBook.

Cross-genre - Experimental work (prose poems, art and writing, fiction and nonfiction hybrids) are highly encouraged, but please keep to the word limit for fiction.
Submission guidelines at 

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
American Short Fiction has published, and continues to seek, short fiction by some of the finest writers working in contemporary literature, whether they are established, or new or lesser-known authors. In addition to its triannual print magazine, American Short Fiction also publishes stories (under 2000 words) online.
Unsolicited submissions are accepted year-round. There are no set guidelines as to content or length. Anyone wishing to send a story to American Short Fiction should first become familiar with the work previously published by the magazine. Sample copies and subscriptions are available for sale through our online store.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Writing Middle Grade Mysteries/Calls for Submissions

I’m continuing with rules for writing mysteries for middle grader readers. 

Introduce the mystery within the first three chapters. Earlier may work even better, because the mystery is the hook that draws in the reader. 

Make the mystery believable. The reader will be trying to figure out the answer throughout the story. Build curiosity by offering clues. Some clues will help the character unravel the mystery and others will be red herrings, bits of information that mislead the reader. Red herrings are needed to make the mystery difficult for the reader to solve. The writing may lead the audience into thinking that the best friend or the new kid in town is the culprit when it is the kid next door. Reveal each clue that the character discovers with the reader. The curiosity may be as simple as wondering what is behind a locked door or who locked the gate and why. 

Give the reader hints, such as what is around the next corner or where a treasure might be buried.  

One crucial clue is needed to help the character solve the mystery. Maybe Susie hears a bell ring at 2:00 and thinks nothing of it. Later, the perpetrator says he heard the bell, and she realizes he is the only one that could have heard the ringing and is therefore guilty. Of course, much narrative and dialog would have to detail the events for the story to make sense to the reader.

Mysteries need suspense. Taps on the wall. Phone calls and hang ups. A ringing bell. Clues and red herrings keep the reader invested in the story. 

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
The Louisville Review accepts submissions of previously unpublished poetry from students in grades K-12. We seek writing that looks for fresh ways to recreate scenes and feelings. Honest emotion and original imagery are more important to a poem than rhyming and big topics—such as life, moralizing, and other abstractions.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
BOYS' QUEST. We are looking for lively writing, most of it from a 10-year-old boy¹s point of view, with the boy or boys directly involved in an activity that is both wholesome and unusual. We need nonfiction with photos and fiction stories around 500 words, as well as puzzles, poems, cooking, carpentry projects, jokes, and riddles.
Nonfiction pieces that are accompanied by clear photos with high resolution are far more likely to be accepted than those that need illustrations. The ideal length of a BOYS' QUEST piece, for nonfiction or fiction, is 500 words.
Submission guidelines at

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Writing Mysteries/Calls for Submissions

The genres in children’s novels are about as diverse as those in adult fiction. Today, let’s look at mysteries for middle grade readers. Mysteries have their own set of rules that make the genre distinct. 

Know your audience. This age group is beginning to find their place in the world outside family. Peer and peer pressure is ever present. Many books for these readers have no parents in the narrative or parents are an insignificant part of the plot and characterization. Give the main character a best friend or someone who can help figure out ideas and clues. Add some people who do not want the character to figure out the mystery. 

Begin with action or suspense and introduce the mystery early. Plot is king with mysteries. The plot is the most important ingredient because the reader is involved and views the story as a game or puzzle to solve.  

Know the story ending BEFORE you begin writing. You need to know the answer to the mystery so you can add the real and false clues. 

Introduce the character who is solving the mystery and the villain who is trying to keep the character from solving the mystery early in the book. Other possible suspects can be introduced early as well. 

Next week, we’ll look at more rules for writing mysteries. 

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
American Girl. Accepting nonfiction articles from readers





And more. 

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

The Fountain 100th Issue Essay Contest. The Fountain invites you to join us in celebrating our 100th issue. Write an essay to yourself on your 100th birthday. What would you say to yourself at that age? What would your 100-year-old self tell you back? Would it be a conversation of praise and/or regret? Perhaps praise for the achievements in your career, but regrets about a lost family? Or warnings about the mistakes you made in your projected future or in your past; pitfalls you happened to be dragged into, temptations you could not resist; or celebrations for the good character you were able to display and sustain over a life; a precious life wasted or a life lived as it was meant to be.

Essay word count must be between 1,500 and 2,500 words

Cash prizes:
1st Place – $1,500
2nd Place – $750
3rd Place – $300
Two Honorable Mentions – $200 each

DEADLINE: November 30th.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Writing a Middle Grade Novel/Calls for Submissions

Today, I’m continuing the series Writing a Middle Grade Novel and focusing on more tips for those of us who suffer from stick-itis on occasion. Being stuck in a manuscript and not knowing where or how to take the character onward presents a special kind of frustration. 

Here are more tips to unstick our writing muscles from writers who have faced this with their works: 

Jot down ideas. List possible conflicts or character choices. Test these ideas in the manuscripts. Most may not work but some might.  

Bracket what doesn’t work and move ahead with the story. Revision can focus first on the parts with brackets. 

Pick an idea and write. Make the idea something you enjoy writing and make it fun. Kick the momentum in gear with an image, a scene, a memory, whatever works for you. 

Send the manuscript to a writing partner for quality feedback. A fresh perspective can place a workable new spin that you had not considered for the story. 

Winston Churchill was asked to speak to a group of students who attended the same school he had attended as a boy. His words: "Never give up. Never give up. Never, never, never give up.”
As these words apply to life, they also apply to writers.
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Amazing Kids! Send your name, age, and state/country when you send us your work. Please keep in mind we only accept kid-friendly, age-appropriate original creative works done by kids and teens. (The work must be appropriate for kids ages 12 and younger) and can be any of the following:
  • Fiction Stories – (up to 2,000 words)
  • Non-Fiction articles – You may also include pictures or art with your article for our various non-fiction columns
  • LOL (Laugh Out Loud) – Send jokes, riddles, funny short stories or funny facts!
  • Poems
  • Art/Photography
  • Reviews – Including books, movies, music, or kids’ products such as fun tech gear for kids and families. Photos of the book cover, movie, album or product are welcome.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Harness Anthologies 2015. Empty Nests: Parents, Old and New. Springtime is the time of year when birds start building nests and laying their eggs. It's a time of rebirth, now that winter is over. The snow has melted and flowers are sprouting. Life is anew. Empty Nests is an anthology for parents and about parents. Whether you are building your nest for your newborn baby, or you are finding yourself in an empty nest now that your teens have gone off to college or moved out.   

Stories can be fiction or nonfiction, but should focus on adults either preparing to be parents or finding their own children turning into adults and moving out. What makes your nest, now full or empty, a home? Inspire the parents around you.
Stories should be 750 to 2500 words.

Open to Submissions: January 2015
Submission guidelines at    

Publication Date: July 2015

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Writing a Middle Grade Novel/Calls for Submissions

Today, I’m continuing the series, Writing a Middle Grade Novel.
Help! I’m suffering from stuck-itis on chapter 8. I’m staring at my plot outline and it just doesn’t seem to work. We’ve all been there, the place in out manuscript in which we wonder where to take out character next. The ideas in the outline no longer seem viable. We also read those books with a sagging middle, the excitement of the beginning just wanes and the story dulls rather than delights. What is a writer to do?
I asked some writer friends for advice.
Write. Just write. Ideas will begin to mesh and some will sparkle and work.
Don’t stress over the quality of your writing. All first drafts are bad. In fact, they stink. That’s what revision is for, to turn bad writing into good. At this point my manuscript is the literary equivalent of the aroma of limburger cheese. (Caution: No deep breaths, please.) Be content with the fact that you’re doing something right, you’re writing.
Put the story aside for a period of time. Give your ideas time to percolate and steep. Ideas need time to form. Later, you'll go back to the story with a fresh perspective.
In the meantime, begin working on a new writing project. When you return to the original story, you may be happy to discover that stuck-itis has changed to idea-itis.
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
The Adroit Prizes for Poetry and Prose are awarded annually to two students of secondary or undergraduate status whose written work "inspires the masses to believe beyond feeling the work." In other words, we strive to receive the absolute best work from emerging young writers in high school and college, and the best of the best will receive these two lovely awards.We accept submissions for these prizes in the regular submissions pools throughout the entire year. For more information regarding submission at this time, please see our submission page.
The 2015 Adroit Prizes for Poetry and Prose will open for submissions on December 1, 2014, and will close on March 13, 2015.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Hopscotch is a magazine created for girls from 6 to 13 years, with girls 8, 9, and 10 the specific target age.
HOPSCOTCH looks for articles, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that deal with timeless topics, such as pets, nature, hobbies, science, games, sports, careers, simple cooking, and anything else likely to interest a young girl. We leave dating, romance, human sexuality, cosmetics, fashion, and the like to other publications. Each issue revolves around a theme.
Submission guidelines at

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Writing a Middle Grade Novel/Call for Submissions

This week, I’m continuing my focus on scenes. 

What was the last book you read that you couldn’t put down? You felt an urge so compelling to stop working, pick up the book, and discover what was happening to the character that your mind wandered back to the story time and again. Yeah, that’s the kind of story writers want to write.  

Those stories have more than interesting characters and compelling plots. They have an emotional intensity that draws the reader into the action. Emotion intense scenes are those that have high stakes for the character, critical events that are life changing. Keep the audience in mind. If the reader identifies with the problem, empathizes with the character, or envisions himself/herself in a similar situation, an emotional investment is made. 

In children’s novels, the characters’ situations should reflect what is appropriate for each age group. The plot focuses on external events with less focus on thoughts and feelings of the main character. Young adult novels focus more on internal conflict and less on events happening around them. Of course, there are many exceptions to this and in varying degrees.

Each scene needs a beginning, middle and ending. As one scene ends, transition into the beginning of the next scene. Longer scenes are needed for major events and shorter scenes for less significant actions. Scene by scene, build your story and make it sparkle. 

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Starsongs Magazine. You are the future, and Starsongs wants to hear your voice. Our intention is to inspire and promote the creativity of youth. Starsongs is a general market magazine interested in work by writers, artists, and photographers ages 9-19. Please keep this age range in mind and focus your work to a PG rating level. We are open to fiction or non-fiction and “as told to” stories.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Youth Imagination is interested in creative fiction stories by teens as well as by adult authors. Make the stories awesome, inspiring and engaging. Our goal is to publish the best writing for and by teens. We particularly love stories exploring the issues, such as bullying, drugs, romance, school, parental issues, teacher issues, etc., as well as about the grit and character of teens and young adults.
We accept most genres of fiction, including modern, urban or classical fantasy, as well as sci-fi, slipstream, literary, action-adventure or suspense.
Submission guidelines at