Nancy's Books

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

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Remaining Positive in a Negative Atmosphere

My journey into the world of writing started later in life, age forty to be exact. A late bloomer, that’s me, but I had a big dream: writerdom (a homemade word). At the time I failed to realize writerdom was not in my immediate future. I put my dream into action and began writing, collecting rejections and an occasional tidbit of encouragement from editors, and creating a host of manuscripts that would never wrangle a copyright date. ONCE UPON A DIME, my first book, showed up on my doorstep almost ten years later. I was thrilled beyond belief and knew I could knock out another book lickety-split. Wrong! Overnight success bypassed me, but five years later, I held my second book, ON THE BANKS OF THE AMAZON. On a positive note, I had cut the waiting time in half.

The primary element that kept me thinking positively was my job. Every day, I read picture books to students in the school where I was a librarian. I continued to fall in love with new stories, watched students’ reactions to the stories, and read a wide variety of authors and types of picture books, on the job training at its best. Seeing how authors approached and plotted stories, developed characters and hooks, and played with words immersed me in lyrical literature. My daily activities forced my dream to stay alive.
Rejections poured in but so did new children’s books. The excitement of finding authors, whose words tingled and teased my senses, balanced the disappointment of “No, but thank you” letters.
I learned to embrace failure—to view a rejection as a challenge—and accept those tidbits of advice and encouragement the occasional editor sent my way. Still, I struggled to write a publishable manuscript, but I recognized that the business of publishing is frustrating to all authors. I’m not alone. The struggle is real as much today as when I first began, maybe more so. I’ll continue to accumulate rejections, but more importantly, I’ll continue to write, learn, and grow as an author.
On another note, beginning this month, I’m including markets for young authors to submit work.
Call for submissions for Young Writers:

Amazing Kids! Magazine is excited to announce our first Money Smarts contest, which is now open for submissions! September is the time kids start getting back into school and learning. For our contest, we want you to write a story about a character that learns a money lesson. We are looking for creative and fresh stories about learning a money lesson. Let your imaginations soar!

This contest is open to kids all around the world in ages 7 – 15. We have split the categories into the following age groups: 7 – 9, 10 – 11, 12 – 14, and 15 – 18. One winner will be chosen in each category to win a Solitaire Chess game and FootBubbles along with an official certificate verifying their winning entry and publication in the Amazing Kids! Magazine.

Submission guidelines at

Call for submissions for Adult Writers:
Alphie Dog Fiction. We will consider stories from 1,000 words to 10,000 words for adult stories and 500 words to 10,000 words for children’s stories. The minimum word count is not flexible and does not include the story title. We consider a wide range of genres, including children’s, but not including stories which are graphically violent or pornographic in nature or erotica. Please don’t be put off if your story does not fit a classic genre, but give the best description you can of where you see it sitting. We want to offer our readers variety and enable them to choose stories to fit their mood.
Deadline: from 19th September to 16th October

Submission guidelines at

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Writing Journey

“I don't teach writing. I teach patience.”—Richard Bausch
In a recent writing workshop, a woman asked me what was the key to my twenty-seven-year writing career and having 50 books published. My answer is patience. A writing career is a journey. It’s not about the fastest sprinter; it’s about finishing the journey (Think Tortoise and Hare). Getting a book published in the shortest amount of time possible sounds enticing, promising, and fun (the sprint). Books that are written hurriedly seldom lead to long careers or win contracts.
In this modern age, we are inundated with instant gratification. A microwave cooks my eggs in a flash. Text messages ping in a second. Facebook and Twitter allow us to communicate quickly, easily, and effectively. So the sprint nature of our lives makes waiting frustrating. I totally understand this since I’m not shielded from wanting immediate feedback on a submission, either.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is publishing. Nothing moves quickly in publishing. Picture books average about two years to be born. (Daniel Boone Trailblazer’s birthing was a bit longer: four years.) Chapter books and middle grade novels usually require less time because illustrations are not a major part of the incubation.
Publishers receive thousands of submissions annually so many no longer respond unless the editor is interested in offering a contract. Even those positive responses can take up to a year or longer to contact the writer. An editor’s response or lack thereof, is merely one step of the literary journey.
How to develop patience? Keep writing. After you polish one manuscript and submit it, begin another. Keep focused on writing, not publishing. Your writing will improve and somewhere along the journey, a contract will be offered.
Next week, I address ways that keep me in a positive frame of mind, literarily.
Call for submissions for Adult Writers
On the Premises Short Story Contest. "For this contest, write a creative, compelling, well-crafted story between 1,000 and 5,000 words long in which the concept of “darkness” plays an important role. You may interpret “darkness” any way you want–literally, metaphorically, or any other way. Darkness doesn’t have to have a value judgment attached to it, and it doesn’t have to be symbolic in any way, although it can." Prize: Winners receive between US$60 and US$220, and publication. 

Deadline: September 2, 2016.

Submission guidelines at

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Writing a Query Letter

Writing a query letter can be as difficult as writing the manuscript and certainly not as much fun. My query letters include three parts. These parts do not have to follow the order listed here, but I incorporate each component into every query letter. 

1.      The opening should include the genre, word count, title, hook and synopsis.

Example: Enclosed is a 521-word picture book manuscript, THE FIRST FIRE, A CHEROKEE LEGEND, an authentic Cherokee folktale about animals finding and bringing home fire to warm their world. (I capitalize the manuscript title but italics will also work.)

One option is to include brief text cut from the manuscript. (First sentence listed here from FIRST FIRE.) When the world was new, nights painted the earth with sparkly, lacy frost.

In another example for an up-coming fictional picture book, GONE CUCKOO, I opened the query letter with a hook: Adoption isn’t just for children. In the animal kingdom, cuckoo birds find foster parents to raise their young.

A one-paragraph synopsis is the most important part of the query. Introduce the character, the conflict, and the basic plot. Write this as though it will be the description on the book jacket. 

2.      Introduce yourself and if the manuscript is nonfiction, your qualifications for writing a book on that particular subject. List your experiences as a writer, along with publishing credits including books, articles, etc. Beginning writers can list workshops and literary groups in which you have participated.
3.      Contact information and appreciation. Thank the editor for reading your manuscript, mention that you have enclosed, embedded, or attached the requested pages (check website for the number of pages the editor wants), and provide address, phone number, and email address. If you have a website or other social media profiles, list those under you name. 

Polish your manuscript and query letter. Strong impressions are lasting impressions.

Call for submissions for Adult Writers
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Teaches
101 Stories about How You Make a Difference
Being a teacher is hard, and we know that teachers sometimes need a morale boost, some reassurance that what they do matters, and some new, fun ideas for the classroom.

Being a teacher is not what you do... it's who you are. You don't stop being a teacher when the dismissal bell rings. You are always a teacher. Teachers influence and shape the future. Teachers inspire and motivate students each and every day. Teachers don’t teach for the great salaries; they teach because of the rewards they get when a student thrives, or when a student has a "WOW" moment because of a teacher's guidance.

We are looking for true stories by and about teachers.

Here are some ideas but we know you can think of many more:
•     I am a teacher and this is why I teach
•     The teacher who changed my life
•     The student who changed my life
•     My first year teaching
•     Learning from the students
•     Embarrassing moments
•     Staying enthusiastic year after year
•     Tough situations
•     That WOW moment
•     Turning negative into positive
•     Funny moments
•     Challenging yourself
•     Stepping out of your comfort zone
•     Great tips to share with other teachers
•     Your best piece of advice for new teachers
•     Your best piece of advice to re-energize a teacher
•     Reflections on being a teacher

Please remember, we no longer publish "as told to" stories. Write your story or poem in the first person. Do not ghostwrite a story for someone else unless you list that person as the author. If a story was previously published, we will probably not use it unless it ran in a small circulation venue. Let us know where the story was previously published in the "Comments" section of the submission form.

All stories should be true — we do not publish fiction — and should be no longer than 1,200 words. If your story was already published in a past Chicken Soup for the Soul book, please do not submit it. We will not publish it again. If you already submitted a story for this title please do not submit it again. We have it in our database and it will be considered for this title. If you submitted a story for one of our previous books and we did not publish it, please feel free to submit it to this book if you think will fit. That way we will be sure it is considered for this new edition.

If your story is chosen, you will be a published author and your bio will be printed in the book if you so choose. You will also receive a check for $200 and 10 free copies of your book, worth more than $100. You will retain the copyright for your story and you will retain the right to resell it or self-publish it.

SUBMISSIONS GO TO OUR WEBSITE. Select the Submit Your Story link at the bottom of the page and follow the directions.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Writing Query Letters

Writing a polished manuscript is merely the first step in getting a publishing contract. Next is the query letter, which introduces the writer and the story to the editor. Each submission requires a query letter whether the submission is made via the U.S. Postal Service or an email.

Before writing, I always check the publisher’s website to see what is expected in the letter. Some want a particular set of information. If so, I follow the guidelines exactly. If not, I write a general query letter written specifically for the manuscript. Another step I take is to check for interviews by the editor. I usually fine one or more. Reading the interviews provides information that is not found on a publisher’s website. Sometime an editor may say she is looking for a particular type of story or prefers to know why a writer selected her as the best editor for a manuscript. Interviews provide that information. If an editor states that she enjoys picture book stories with quirky, humorous characters, I include that in my letter if the information fits. This tells the editor that the writer has done her homework and not just picked her name out of a hat. Google the editor’s name plus the word “Interview” and you should find some hits.
Your objective is to make the editor like your character and plot so well they want to read more. The pitch should hook the editor immediately; if not, s/he may not look at the sample pages of the manuscript. If my book is humorous, I add a dose of humor to the query in the same style as used in the manuscript. These letters are intended to be short so keep them to one page. Short and sweet wins the race.
Next week, I’ll give more tips on writing a query letter.
Call for submissions for Adult Writers

Chicken Soup for the Soul. Small gestures can make a big difference in someone's day, even in someone's life. In our fast-paced world many people tend to only pay attention to what is important to them. So it is wonderful and heartwarming to hear stories about people who have gone out of their way to do something for someone without being asked. Just because it was the kind thing to do. Just because it was the right thing to do. Many times the person who receives the act of kindness is a total stranger, someone who will not be able to repay your kindness. Has someone performed a random act of kindness for you? Did you pay it forward and do something kind for someone else? How did it feel to receive that kindness? And how did it feel to perform a kindness for someone else?

We are looking for true stories about random acts of kindness that have happened to you or stories about a kindness that you performed for someone else. Stories can be serious or funny but they should definitely inspire our readers to look for ways in which they can perform kind acts.

Here are some ideas but we know you can think of many more:
•     Changing your life by doing one random act of kindness each day
•     Changing your attitude by doing one random act of kindness each day
•     Performing an act of kindness for a family member
•     Performing an act of kindness for a total stranger
•     Paying it forward
•     Remaining anonymous — doing something nice for someone who will never know who you are or what you did
•     The unexpected benefits of doing something kind for someone
•     The unexpected benefits you got from something kind someone did for you
•     The pleasures you got from doing a kind deed
•     How performing an act of kindness changed your life
•     How an act of kindness you received changed your life
•     Having an epiphany about kindness in your life — what did you learn by performing a random act of kindness?
•     Turning negative into positive

Deadline: September 15, 2016
Guideline submissions at