Nancy's Books

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Picture Book Savvy

Spending time with authors to discuss writing, publishing, and their successes and failures is like attending an intensive writing workshop. Sharing experiences, ideas, and knowledge are invaluable nuggets of manuscript gold. The following are gilded tidbits:

Picture book authors’ perspective should be the same world view as that of the child. This means no abstract problems or goals. The story must be illustratable and action oriented. Five-year-olds take ideas literally. The characters should react in the same way a child would. If writers can connect with the life of a child in some way, the story will have more appeal to the reader.

Example: I want to win every game. Children will understand this idea and connect mentally and emotionally.

Will the child care about your subject? If not, they won’t want to read the book. Writers have to think like a child and have the characters act and react the way a child of that age would. Always keep the audience in mind with each word. In my latest picture book, FORTY WINKS, the subject is a monster in a closet. Many children are afraid of the dark. I certainly was, and I'm still not crazy about it. The story also deals with resolving conflict, an experience all children deal with regularly.

What is important to the child? Consider his/her feelings. The subject of your story must have relevance to everyday life.

Next week, I’ll provide more golden nuggets of our conversations.

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.

Submission guidelines at

Call for submissions for Adult Writers:
Story is interested in narrative of any shape and kind we can get onto the printed page. Surprise us with traditional and experimental forms of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. We love short fiction, but we love hermit-crab essays, hybrid forms, research, lists, and charts too. Submit work that fits the theme, but don't be afraid to think outside the box. Submissions for online issues should be a maximum of 2,500 words.Submission guidelines at

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

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The following trends seem to be what editors are currently looking for. Check the previous blog post for the remainder of the list.

Diverse books are popular. These works represent a wide range of cultures, family structures, and experiences. The books are about diverse characters that reflect the real world, but the stories themselves are not about diversity. Subject matter includes economic disparity, race, religion, and disability. Authentic characters and a great imagination can lead to a contract.
Nonfiction for all age group continues to grow. Writers are finding innovative ways to approach a wide range of subjects. Nonfiction has evolved into a broader definition. Author’s voice and the structure of how the story is formatted and told offer innovative approaches to new nonfiction titles available today. Back matter is information located in the back of some nonfiction titles.
Creative nonfiction is a growing market. These books read much the way fiction stories do. I used a combination of poetry and prose in my eBook, IF CLOUDS COULD TALK. Editors want more creative nonfiction, especially on subjects that have not been extensively covered.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) books are increasingly used by schools and home schooling advocates. My first book, ONCE UPON A DIME, involves the reader using math to figure out how much money grew on the tree each season.
Writers who tap into these types of books and storytelling improve their chances of getting their books picked up by publishers.
Since no overwhelming trend dominates and because children’s literature spans a wide range of age groups, an individual title can shine. Strong writing and creative approaches to subjects always prevail.
Call for submissions for Young Writers: 

Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young WritersRestrictions: Open to writers aged 16-18. Genre: Poem (1). Prize: Full scholarship to The Kenyon Review Young Writers workshop, an intensive two-week summer seminar for writers aged 16-18. Deadline: November 30, 2016.  

Submission guidelines at

Call for submissions for Adult Writers:

Upworthy reaches a massive audience with meaningful stories every day, and we're looking for original stories that support our mission of creating a better world. That's where you come in. We're currently accepting pitches from freelancers for stories that are:

Surprising: Is the topic, narrative, character, or outcome something truly new?

Meaningful: If a million people saw this story, would it make the world a better place?

Visual: Are there enough visual elements to engage readers who might be skimming on a phone?

Shareable: Would you share it? Would your friends share it? Most importantly, would your mom's friend share it?

Our stories are generally short (usually less than 500 words), but we're open to unusual ideas that will resonate with millions of people, and we love to experiment. Most stories of this short length will be paid at a fair base rate with traffic and distribution bonuses, and all of that will be hashed out in your contract if we decide to work together.

Submission guidelines a t

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

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Trends in Children’s Literature, Part 1

The world of children’s literature is constantly changing. Writing to a trend is not recommended but understanding the market is critical to getting contracts. The following is some trends I’ve noticed as I research editors.

Print books are alive and well.
Digital books are also popular. The interactive component of these books add to their popularity.
Board books are the fastest growing books in juvenile titles. These are durable, cardboard page books designed for ages newborn – age 3. Since 2013, they have grown in publication at a rate of 20% per year.
Graphic novels are in high demand among many editors and publishing houses. The graphic novel format is showing up in chapter books and picture books.
Paperback books continue to rise in sales.
Picture books are on the upswing again after a lull of a few years. Competition is fierce and the text is short.
Chapter books are becoming a little more popular, especially series. The story needs commercial appeal with a strong hook.
Middle grade fiction is the winner at the moment. Manuscripts for this age group are reaping the most contracts and the books garner the most sales. Humorous stories are sought by editors and publishers and, most of all, readers. Adventure series, fantasy, science fiction, and standalone books.
Young adult books are still popular. Contemporary stories that deal with realistic issues. Also, fantasy and world building.
Next week, I’ll continue the list of latest trends.
Call for submissions for Young Writers:

Princeton University Poetry Contest for High School StudentsRestrictions: Student writers in the 11th grade. Prizes: First Prize – $500, Second Prize – $250, Third Prize – $100. Deadline: November 27, 2016.

Call for submissions for Adult Writers

Literary e-clectic. Story Submissions: As we said above, the only two requirements for the content is that it falls under the quarterly theme and that it is between 1,000-8,000 words.  

Artwork: Renfield Press is looking for cover artwork to feature in upcoming issues. We consider all forms of art and ask that artists submit up to five images per theme. 

Themes and Submission Periods: 

Lost and Found (theme). Accepting Submission through November 30th.

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

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Guest Author Ev Christensen

I’m thrilled to welcome award-winning author Evelyn Christensen to this blog. She has written numerous puzzle books for children and, today, is telling us about her brand-spanking new picture book.

Nancy: Congratulations, Ev, on an amazing career. How exciting to have a picture book!

Ev: Exciting, yes! The Twelve Days of Christmas in Kentucky is about an out-of-state cousin visiting his Kentucky cousin for 12 days of the holidays. Marybeth and her parents take Martin all around the state sharing with him what makes Kentucky special. Each day, to go along with the traditional song, she gives him a gift that ties in with what they saw. The book is chock full of interesting information about the state—geography, history, culture, fun places to visit, and activities that reflect life in Kentucky. I had such fun researching it and deciding what to include.

Nancy:  This sounds like a fantastic book that both children and teachers will enjoy. Why did you decide to write the book?

Ev: I used to belong to an online critique group. Seven years ago, our leader shared with our group that a publisher was doing a state series called The Twelve Days of Christmas in America. She thought it would be fun if we each sent a proposal to do the state we lived in. I sent one for Kentucky. I got no response. For five years. Then just before Christmas in 2014, I got an email from an editor at Sterling Children’s Books saying they were ready to do the Kentucky book and asking if I was still interested. I had to compete for being the author by writing a sample page of the book, and was thrilled when I was chosen.

Nancy:  Ev, you’re living proof that networking with writers creates a huge payoff. What’s the number one piece of advice you recommend for beginning writers?

Keep at it! Whether it’s reading lots of books, writing, revising our manuscripts, getting feedback from critique partners, researching potential agents and publishers, querying our ideas, or submitting our manuscripts—all of which are steps to being successful as an author, but all of which can be potential roadblocks along the journey where discouragement can sap our energy and enthusiasm—the important thing is to be persistent and keep going even when the disappointments come. (Even if we have to wait five years!)

Nancy: Excellent advice. Many, including me, will be interested in purchasing your book. Where can we find it?

Many local bookstores carry The Twelve Days of Christmas in Kentucky. For example, in Lexington you can find it at Barnes & Noble, JosephBeth, and Morris Bookshop. It can also be ordered online from Barnes & Noble (, from Amazon  (, or from IndieBound (

Also, there is a Goodreads giveaway of the book from November 7-14th. The URL is

Nancy: Ev, thanks so much for visiting my blog. I’m looking forward to reading your book, and I wish you continued success in your writing career.

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.

 Deadline: The deadline for the Fall 2016 edition of The Daphne Review is 31 July 2016. All submissions received after that date but before 31 December 2016 will be considered for our Winter 2017 edition.

Please send all submissions to

 Submission guidelines at

Call for submissions for Adult Writers:

Chicken Soup for the Soul. Genre: True stories and poems for Dreams and Synchronicities. Sometimes magic happens in your life. You have a dream that reveals a truth or a course of action to you. You have a premonition that changes your behavior and saves you or a loved one from disaster. You meet someone at just the right time and you can’t believe the coincidence. Payment: $200.

Deadline: November 30, 2016.

Submission guidelines at

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

Sunday, October 30, 2016

After the Contract, Then What? Part 2

After the first or second major rewrite, you’ll receive a copy-edited manuscript with editorial comments —and a deadline. Editors work under tight deadlines so authors have to follow suit. The manuscript will pass between the editor and author a few more times, each with a deadline. With each subsequent pass, you will be allowed fewer changes. The best policy is to be thorough with each revision.
On the last deadline just prior to going to press, I read THE RIDDLERS, my chapter book about 30 times, looking for any errors, especially grammatical or punctuation. This is time consuming but worth the effort.
Picture books, fiction and nonfiction, go through a similar process, but the primary difference is that the illustrations have to be considered as well. If something doesn’t work well, it is usually easier to change the words than the art. When I was working on FORTY WINKS, the editor asked me to add back matter, information that complements the story. In this case, I added a list of discussion question, a glossary of terms for “Talk Like a Pirate Day,” “How to Dress Like a Pirate,” and a fun chart to figure out ye pirate name. Back matter is intended for a much wider audience, including adults, primarily parents, librarians, and teachers, as well as the young readers.

I enjoy the “After the Contract” revisions. That’s usually where I learn the most about writing. 

Next week, children’s author Ev Christensen is visiting this blog to discuss her new children’s book, THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN KENTUCKY. In the meantime, Ev and I will be attending the Kentucky Book Fair. We hope to see some readers of this blog at the Fair. Happy reading! 

Call for submissions for Young Writers:

Cuckoo Review. The word limit for all pieces is 500 words. If you’re writing a feature article then the word limit will be set when the piece is assigned.

All submissions should be emailed to as an attachment (.doc). Please ensure that all reviews include YOUR NAME and:

*Title of book
*Date of publication (if not already published)
*Link to author website

*Title of album
*Band/ Musician
*Record Company
*Date of release (if not already released)

Call for submissions for Adult Writers:

MOMENTS BOOKS: Send your personal articles! Take a look at previous Moments books that Grace Published has released, particularly the first one, Divine Moments, to see what we accept. The article length is anywhere from about 500-2000 words or so. I’ve even included poems and some written by children. So the guidelines aren’t strict. The main point is the context of the article. I like them sent as an attachment to an email, times new roman, 12-point type. Include on the article: name, mailing address for the one free copy,
and email address. Send to Yvonne: 

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

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