Nancy's Books

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Inspiration, part IV

If we are inspired to write, we are much more likely to spend the time doing just that, but when rejection letters outnumber bills, it’s easy to become discouraged. Here are a few more tips on finding the “gold” called inspiration. 

Join a writer’s group or critique group. These members understand how difficult it is to write a story and get a contract. You’ll share tips, offer feedback, give encouragement, offset rejection with humor, and find comfort in the camaraderie of like-minded people. You’ll read their work and grow as a writer.  

Stuck in a story and don’t know what to do? Leave it and go for a walk. Let your mind drift as you enjoy the park, lake, nature walk, city mall… Exercise stimulates the blood flow to the brain and fresh air makes us more relaxed. As the tension eases, enjoy the sunrise or songs of the birds. Watch children play. They have a brand new outlook on life that may offer a fresh way of looking at the problem and solution of your story. Many times, I figure out the plot of a story by relaxing rather than hammering on a keyboard. Try different experiences. One may lead you to the  rainbow's "gold."  

Call for submissions for Young Writers

Call for submissions for Adult Writers
#storieseverywhereTwitter Writing Contest Stories are, truly, everywhere—every place you look, everyone you meet, everything you experience.

Each month we invite you 
to post a story on Twitter using #storieseverywhere for a chance to win a free class. Your stories (which can be true or made up) will be inspired by what you see, know, or do, and they should relate in some way to our monthly “themes”:

May: Saying goodbye
June: Superhero
July: A revolutionary act

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Inspiration, Part III

Last week, I mentioned freewriting and was asked to delve a little farther into the subject. The key to freewriting or stream-of-consciousness writing is to relax your mind from the pressures of life and allow your subconscious to have center stage. 

When I first began freewriting I wrote something such as: 

I planted the flowers in pots and wondered how long they would survive. Should I have placed the planters in the shade or sun? My green thumb has a tendency to turn brown. 

I was merely reflecting in writing what was rattling around in my brain, conscious thought. Later, I attended a workshop and heard a speaker say that he used freewriting to discover poetic expressions and creative images.  

I sat with pen and paper and imagined a boy running. In my make-believe world, he ran down a country lane at breakneck speed. I played with the image and wrote, “he sure could make the dust fly.” This little tidbit became a line in my book, TROUBLE IN TROUBLESOME CREEK.  

I use freewriting to the greatest extent when I’m revising a story. I wrote, “James ran” in the first draft of the manuscript just to get the story completed, knowing that I would polish the words in one of many drafts to come. So “he ran” became “James sure can make the dust fly when he picks them up and puts them down.” The exercise was not only fun, but productive. 

Try freewriting for inspiration and create words that paint pictures.  

Call for submissions for Adult Writers

The Shell Game. Within the recent explosion of creative nonfiction, a curious new sub-genre is quietly emerging. Hybrids in the truest sense, "hermit crab" essays borrow their structures from ordinary, extra-literary sources (a recipe, a police report, a pack of cards, an obituary…) to use as a framework for a lyric meditation on the chosen subject. In the best examples, the borrowed structures are less contrived than inevitable, managing not only to give shape to the work but to illuminate and exemplify its subject. 
Submission guidelines at

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Inspiration, Part II

Keep your eyes open for story and character. Do you have old diaries or journals or stories written during childhood? Pull them out, dust them off, and read. How old were you when you wrote them? Milk these for inspiration. Memories of people, places, and times offer a treasure trove of possibilities. Maybe the memory doesn’t focus so much on an event as a feeling or an image. Play with it. Embellish it. Draw it into your literary world.

Traveling is perfect fodder for inspiration. New sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures stimulate the Muse. Notice the sound of the howling coyote or crashing of the waves. Listen, really listen, and try to put into words what you hear. Use a metaphor or simile to better clarify the description of the sound. You don’t have to travel far from home. A trip next door or to the grocery store can provide sensory foundations for a story. Look around. Ideas are everywhere. We just have to be cognizant of them.

Write. Freewriting about anything will eventually provide a tidbit that can be used in a story.

Place an idea on the backburner of your brain and let it simmer. I’m at the point right now. As I polish a completed manuscript, I’m playing with the idea for a new story. I have been throwing out possibilities and rejecting them; then going back and relooking to see if the discarded ideas have a nugget of merit. I’ll repeat this process until something with possibility forms, and at that time, I’ll begin writing, brainstorming ideas.

Read a variety of books and authors. Notice how sentences reveal information. Look for ways the author dealt with basics, such as pacing, dialog, description. What did you like? Why? What didn’t you like? Why?

What inspires you to write?

Call for submissions for Young Writers

Imagine magazine invites students to explore big ideas on topics in the sciences, arts, and humanities. Half of each issue is devoted to a broad focus topic, showcasing activities that students can do now to pursue that interest, as well as career opportunities in the field.

Submission guidelines at 

Call for submissions for Adult Writers

Faces. Lively, original approaches to the subject are the primary concerns of the editors of FACES in choosing material. Writers are encouraged to study recent past copies for content and style. (Sample copies are available for viewing at the Cricket Media Store, where you can also purchase a current issue.) Issues are also available at many local libraries. All material must relate to the theme of a specific upcoming edition in order to be considered (themes and deadlines given below). FACES purchases all rights to material.

Submission guidelines at

Sunday, May 1, 2016


I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning. ~Peter De Vries

Inspiration is that elusive quality that makes a writer grab a pen and form words. Jack London said, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” These two successful writers understand that even though we love the process of stringing words together, there will be days that writing is the LAST thing we want to do. Writing is hard, some days harder than others, and picking up a club seems to be more effort than we can muster. What’s a writer to do?

Inspiration equals inspired writing. Sometimes I’m forced to search for it and sometimes the club knocks it my way. I recently had the wonderful opportunity of visiting 13 schools in one county. I spoke to preschool groups, elementary, middle school, and high school students about writing. This type of experience feeds a writer’s inspiration gene. Working directly with a target audience connects writers to readers, primary sources that offer authentic feedback. I saw firsthand what kids like to read at different age levels. When you’re talking with young readers, just ask…and listen.

Notice what makes a target audience laugh, express emotions, ooh and ahhh. Pay attention to their reactions.What books to they enjoy? What are their favorite subjects and why? What do they write on their own?

Use the feedback to focus on topics that interest the reader. Knowing that you are writing what your audience wants to read provides a springboard for inspiration.

Next week, I’ll provide more ways to find inspiration. 

Call for submissions for Young Writers

The 'Save the Earth' Poetry Prize complements John Felstiner’s book Can Poetry Save the Earth?  A Field Guide to Nature Poems and is offered annually by John Felstiner, Professor Emeritus, Stanford University and Charles Weeden, The Weeden Foundation.  We have seven winners each receiving a check for $200. and a copy of Can Poetry Save the Earth?.

Here is what students and teachers need to know:

·         High school students, grades 10th, 11th and 12th, are invited to enter.  No entry fee.

·         Poems submitted should, in any way possible, evoke humankind’s awareness of the natural world and nature as such.

·         One submission per student. There’s no restriction on form or length.

·         Please include in your email your name, school grade, high school with town and state, and name of your English teacher.

·         Poems should be submitted in English and in either Microsoft Word or .PDF.

The seven winners of the 2015 ‘SAVE THE EARTH’ POETRY PRIZE are listed above. Please click on their names to read their poems.  If you particularly like a poem, please email us at and we'll forward your comments to the poet.  

For our 2016 Contest, please send submissions between March 1st and May 31st, 2016 to

Call for submissions for Adult Writers

Spigot Science is a science-themed publication with articles from many disciplines in support of the theme. Please become a Basic member (free) and download the free publication so you can become familiar with our different features. Use the Table of Contents to see that articles, while addressing the theme, are written for use in other subjects: science, technology, engineering, math, geography, language arts, social studies, health, and the arts. If you wish to write for Spigot Science, please send a query that includes your pitch and information about you.  Be sure to include your name and email address.  Send it to:

Submission guidelines at

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Compelling Characters

If you are a writer, you want to create a protagonist that is empathetic. Is this a character you would spend a lot of time with? If not, the reader probably won’t either and will stop reading the story long before reaching the end. Does the character defend those who are vulnerable, stand up to a bully or commit to other acts that showcase empathy?

Pile on the problems but give the character enough backbone to confront the obstacles. We are striving to develop compelling characters, not perfect ones, so allow them to have a few frailties and faults, something to hinder the ability to succeed. As the story progresses with the character facing even greater obstacles, s/he grows, adapts, changes and becomes strong enough, clever enough to keep trying. Conflict is a must. If there is no conflict there is no story because conflict leads to growth.

 Make characters relatable, reflecting real life so they seem real. Have them take action and not be passive. Action drives the story and ups the tension. Compelling characters are the basic element to any story. The reader is cheering them on to reach their goal. After all, we write for the reader.

Call for submissions for Young Writers

CALLING for Submissions from Middle Grade and Young Adult writers! The Crawl Space Journal, a small place for big imaginations, is looking for great writing, especially short forms: poems, prose, and flash fiction, within the realms of magical realism, fabulism, and fantasy, for our Spring Issue. We do accept novel excerpts (up to1,500 words) if they stand alone. Our readers are mainly between the ages of 11 and 14.
Call for submissions for Adult Writers

Lilybell welcomes writer submissions. Lilybell has a very specific voice. We recommend reading several issues before submitting work.

Submissions should be sent to Please include your work in the body of the email. No attachments accepted.

Submission guidelines at

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Build Reader Interest by Upping the Tension

Readers love to see a character overcome hardships that result in a happy ending. So what are some ways to accomplish that as a writer?

Allow the characters to make poor decisions and suffer the consequences of their actions. After all, the goal is to have the character grow and learn from the mistakes.

Give the characters phobias or habits that can become handicaps in their quest to solve the problem.

Give the characters difficult choices to make. The choices force the character to face transformation and change. Make the stakes high but the consequences even higher so the character is compelled to move forward and transform.

Following high-tension scenes, allow some calm to float such as the character eating a meal or playing with a dog or child.

Use foreshadowing to hint of a potential problem ahead.

Develop a compelling protagonist so the reader will have empathy as s/he mires through the dire straits you have established. The character should not be perfect, rather should reflect humanity, exposing his/her flaws.

Each of these devices should be developed so they seem natural to the character. Throughout, reveal the character’s emotions. The more s/he feels hurt, angry, disappointed, the more the reader is attuned to the problems.

Call for Submissions for Young and Adult Writers:

Skipping Stones: An international publication for readers 8-16 that celebrates ecological and cultural diversity and facilitates a meaningful exchange of ideas and experiences by publishing essays, stories, letters to the editor, riddles and proverbs, etc.

Submission guidelines at

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Writing to Snag a Contract

What do editors mean when they say they don’t know what kind of manuscript they want until they see it? I was asked this question earlier this week. I’m no editor but here is what I THINK they mean in regard to middle grade fiction:

Build tension throughout the story. A compelling story must have conflict, but how is that accomplished?

Broadside the character with a problem early in the story, in the first few pages. Treat your character badly. Just say NO to whatever the character wants and needs.

After you treat your character badly, treat him/her worse. Don’t lighten up. Add more problems, both external and internal. New twists, surprises, and problems make life and decision making more difficult for the character.

End the chapters with suspense or some surprising element, a cliffhanger.

Divulge more to the reader than the character. The reader may know that the character shouldn’t open the door, but the character should not. If the reader knows, that just adds to the suspense and tension. Also, allow the character to have a few secrets that s/he reveals throughout the unfolding of the story.

Next week, I’ll discuss more ways to add tension to the story.

Call for submissions for Young Writers

Blue Marble Review is published four times a year and accepts submissions of poetry, fiction, non-fiction and art on a rolling basis. We are looking for new work that hasn’t been published anywhere else either online or in print. We want to be a journal appropriate for younger middle school readers and writers as well as high school students so please keep that in mind when submitting your writing.

Submission guidelines at

Call for submissions for Adult Writers

THE NOTEBOOK  is published biannually by the Grassroots Women Project. We seek work by female or male writers, photographers & digital visual artists with rural or small town roots. We are interested in progressive thinking—past, present or visionary—that explores a spectrum of authentic experiences for women and girls in rural areas and small towns in any of the world’s cultures. Issues of THE NOTEBOOK comprise regular columns and other single-issue features, plus themed sections. We are a peer-review journal; acceptances are selective. We encourage international submissions written in English. We are a print publication.

ThemeFor the  Summer 2016 issue, the theme is Make, Break, Repair, Replace.  All genres of writing or digital imagery will be considered as long as some aspect of the theme is related to the experience of rural or small town women or girls, either directly or indirectly. You may define, interpret or conceptualize any or all parts of the theme  in any way you see fit.

How to submit your work: Submit by email only to
Submission guidelines at