Nancy's Books

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The First Draft

The hardest part of writing, for this writer, is the dreaded first draft. I’m anxious to develop the story that I believe has a ton of possibilities; yet, I know the initial enthusiasm will soon wane from an eagerness to an interest and then, in a turn of directions, to a doubt. Why? Because writing the story is harder, much harder, than visualizing the concept. In my mind, the story plays out in words and images, but transposing the words and images into a rhythmic prose form is a lesson in humility. A series of rewriting is required. Always.

I’ve just finished my first draft, and I’m pleased. It’s perfect. The first draft is perfect because it’s written. That means I’ve reached my first goal with this story. The fact that my first draft is terribly written is something I accept. First drafts are supposed to be terrible, and since mine is definitely in that category, it’s perfect. That’s a warped sense of judgment, but it works for me.

I sit here with a first draft that demands a ton of work. My muse murmurs: The story will improve with figurative language. My inner critic, ever the naysayer, whispers: The only figuring for this story is to wad it. Two points if you hit the round file.

Muse and Inner Critic battle.

Time to turn them off and just write.

Next week, I’ll have more on my first draft experience and those two polar opposites, Muse and Inner Critic. 

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Teen Ink has no staff writers; we depend completely on YOU to send writing, art and photos. There is no charge to submit or be published and anything you submit will be considered for Teen Ink's magazine, book series and website.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Timeless Tales exclusively publishes retellings of fairy tales and myths. We only accept submissions that are retellings of the fairytale or myth listed as our theme. We don't accept original fairy tales or stories outside of our current theme.

 Deadline: May 5 ​

Submission guidelines at

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


Sunday, April 16, 2017

How Long Does It Take to Write a Picture Book?

The number one question I’m asked about writing: How long does it take to write a picture book?  

Of all the writing questions I’m asked, that one is the hardest to answer. In a measurement of time, do I include the conceptual preparation, that phase when I consider countless obstacles the character can encounter? Or do I begin with the first time I place pen to paper or fingers to keyboard? From the origin of the idea to the first written word of the manuscript may consume weeks, maybe months. The character lingers, like the sweet aroma of a cake baking, in the oven of my mind. As the idea jells (or curdles), I sometimes write notes on the character, plot, and single phrases; I sometimes let them hang out and tantalize my senses, with scenes etching into my brain before I begin stringing words on paper. 

I’ve been keeping notes on one particular character that has been marching around my thinker for a few weeks. Today, I took action and began writing the manuscript. So is this day one or day fifty-seven?  

After rewriting the first draft, a second, a third…at some point, whenever it is fairly polished, I’ll send it to my critique partner. I’ll polish again and place it aside for a month or so. During that time, I’ll think about it occasionally, cognitively making changes, as I work on another manuscript. Do I count those days? 

I don’t keep track of my time; however, some authors do. They log their time on each project and can answer the question posed here in actual days/hours/minutes. I’m not that time-task oriented. My mind tends to wander off track too often to keep a time log; instead, I have to admit: I don’t know the answer. But this I know: The time it takes to write a picture book varies with every book and every author.

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Canvas Teen Literary Journal was established and 2013 and publishes quarterly in print, ebook, web, video, and audio formats. It is seeking work by writers aged 13 to 19 and accepts fiction, novel excerpts, poetry, plays, nonfiction, new media and experimental cross-genre work. Canvas asks that all submissions be previously unpublished but it will make exceptions for work that was published in a school literary journal or a personal website.

Submission guidelines at  

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

GIRLWORKS: The “magazine for smart girls” aged 11-15 years. Focus on all issues facing girls. Articles: 400-800 words.

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

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Query Letter How-To, Part 2

See: Previous blog for paragraph one.  

In paragraph two of a query letter, I explain why I selected this publisher or editor. Maybe they have published similar type books or the editor mentioned in an interview that she was looking for a particular type of book. (I read several interviews before I send to an editor, so I can mention something that lets her/him know that I didn’t just submit without researching.) I also mention how the book might work in the marketplace or that readers who enjoy a particular book or series of books, comparable titles, would also enjoy this manuscript.  

In the third paragraph, I add my bio, that which is relevant to writing. Since I am a retired teacher/librarian, I always state this. If you have publication credits, list those. If you have no books published, but you’ve won an award or certificate for writing, mention it. When writing nonfiction, explain why you are qualified on that subject. At this point, state that you have other manuscripts available, if you have them.  

The query letter is your introduction to the editor. Keep it short, one page. Thank the editor and sign your name. I also include my website, blog, and phone number below my name.

Check, double check, triple check the letter to eliminate grammatical errors. 

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

BRASS: Young adults. Focus is on making money matters interesting and relevant to young adults. Prefers contributors from 16-29 years old. You must register with Brass to get information on submitting.

Submission guidelines at 

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Chicken Soup. Being happy is a state of mind. We can all find happiness in our lives and, even though we may have to look for it, we know that each day brings something to be grateful for. We want to hear your stories about finding your path to contentment. These success stories can be serious or funny and should inspire our readers to focus on hope, strength and optimism. How did you think positive and find happiness? Was it something as simple as an attitude adjustment? Did you make a major change in the handling of your daily life? How did you find purpose, passion and joy in your life and how do you stay positive? How do you use gratitude to be happier? The deadline date for story and poem submissions is May 31, 2017.

Submission guidelines at

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

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Query Letter How-To

A writer asked me to discuss the how-to process of a query letter, so here’s my take on it:  

First and foremost, always check the publisher’s website to determine if unsolicited manuscripts and/or query letters are accepted. If not, keep looking for a publisher that accepts queries.
My query letters begin with the date, followed by the greeting. Send to a particular editor (e.g. Dear Ms. Smith) unless the publisher requests a different format, such as an online form, which has become quite common. 

I divide my query letter into three paragraphs. The first paragraph begins with a hook. Keep it short, a mere sentence or two. A query letter than landed me a contract for GONE CUCKOO began: Adoption isn’t just for children. In the animal kingdom, cuckoo birds find foster parents to raise their young. Within this first paragraph, I give a short synopsis of the book, capturing the plot and theme of the story, but don’t usually reveal the ending. (Again, check the publisher’s submission guidelines. Some want to know the ending.) State the title of the book, target audience, word count, and genre.  

Describe your book so the editor will want to read the manuscript. Check out the flap copy or back copy of books in libraries and bookstores to see how books are described.  

Next week, I’ll further discuss the how-to of writing a query.

Call for Submissions for Young Writers

BLAZE MAGAZINE: Ages 8-14. Focus is on horse-related entertainment and education. We get lots and lots of mail! Some are great stories written by our readers. To showcase their talent we’ve started a new department. Send us your short horse story or poem and maybe you’ll be published here too!

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers

CICADA is a YA lit/comics magazine fascinated with the lyric and strange and committed to work that speaks to teens’ truths. We publish poetry, realistic and genre fic, essay, and comics by adults and teens. (We are also inordinately fond of Viking jokes.) Our readers are smart and curious; submissions are invited but not required to engage young adult themes. CICADA does not distribute theme lists for upcoming issues. 

Submission guidelines at

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

Sunday, March 26, 2017

How to Stay Motivated, part 2

The number one way to stay motivated is to find positivity in writing. For some, that means satisfying feedback from critiques, a compliment from someone who has read your work, or the ultimate: a contract that leads to seeing your work in print. 

My critique partner, the awesome Sandi Underwood, and I are in the fortunate positions of completing revisions for books that will be published next year. Along with editorial notes are the myriad emotions that accompany the task at hand: elation (I’m beyond thrilled.); doubt (Can I actually rewrite this manuscript on a professional level?); fear (What if I fail? I’ve already told people the book is in production.); confidence (Yes, I can. Yes, I will!); and more too numerous to list, plus completing the revision with a deadline looming. Underlying the mixed emotions is this powerful drive called motivation (deadlines will give even the most reluctant writer a huge dose of get-up-and-go).

Sandi and I work together on our manuscripts all the time, but each of us working at the same time on final revisions for forthcoming books is uncharted territory. The big positive here is that we’re more excited than ever. She’s helping me. I’m helping her (I hope). 

Positive moments in a writer’s life create motivation, a yearning to push a little harder, a little farther down the path to publication. 

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

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

One Teen Story publishes 4 stories a year and accepts submissions from teen writers ages 13-19.

Submissions are now open. What kind of stories is One Teen Story looking for?

One Teen Story is looking for great short stories written by teens about the teen experience. We seek stories that deal with issues of identity, friendship, family, and coming-of-age. Gratuitous profanity, sex and drug use are best avoided. We’re open to all genres of well-written young adult fiction between 2,000 and 4,500 words. Because of our format, we can only accept stories that are strong enough to stand alone (as opposed to excerpts from novels-in-progress). Proof of the author’s age will be required for all stories accepted for publication.

Call for submissions for Adult Writers:

ASK: Ages 6-9. Nonfiction magazine with a focus on science and the world. Each edition centers around a specific theme. Focus on engaging nonfiction, not dry text. Humor, unusual questions. and unexpected connections are encouraged. All articles are commissioned. Query first with resume and writing samples. Feature articles:  900-1600 words. Humor pieces: 200-400 words.

Submission guidelines at


Sunday, March 19, 2017

How to Stay Motivated



This week I received a request to blog about how I stay motivated after 28 years in the business of writing for children. Sometimes, I can easily answer with quips such as, I have so many ideas rattling around in my head, I need to push some out of there or The process has become a habit so I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t write. Both answers are true; however, what I’m not saying in my answer is that there are days when I write very little for a number of reasons: I don’t feel like writing, I’m giving myself a break following a long revision of a manuscript, or I simply don’t want to. Period.

The don’t-want-to-write attitude doesn’t last long, seldom more than a day or two. Even on the no-write days, I’m usually thinking about a new character or how I can approach a subject in a fun way to introduce facts or a fictional account to young readers. Writing every day doesn’t necessarily mean taking pen to paper. Writers need time to let a story perk cognitively before beginning a manuscript. Some people call this daydreaming. I prefer the word strategizing
Writing a manuscript is a solitary venture. Butt-in-chair is required for long periods of time—days, weeks, months, whatever it takes. The excitement and energy exhibited in the beginning stages of writing the story often evolves into feelings of doubt with a double dose of I’m incompetent by the time we hit the middle of the tale. Excitement tarnishes, energy fades along with interest, and sometimes I abandon the manuscript. Has this every happened to you?
So what’s the pick-me-up?  
Next week, part 2. 
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Parallel Ink. This is an e-magazine that publishes writing by students for students around the world aged 12-18.

Submission guidelines at 

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
New Moon. Portrays girls and women as powerful, active, and in charge of their own lives – not as passive beings who are acted upon by others. Celebrates girls and their accomplishments and supports girls’ efforts to hold onto their voices, strengths, and dreams as they move from being girls to becoming women. Female contributors only. All material should be pro-girl and focus on girls, women, or female issues. Edited by and for girls ages 8 to 14. Fiction: 900 to 1,200 words, stories in which the main character is a girl ages 8 to 14.

Submission guidelines at

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




Sunday, March 12, 2017

How to Create Memorable Characters in Picture Books, Part 5

A relatable character connects with the reader.  

In HIRAM’S GIFT, I wanted to create a humble, caring, good-natured, hard-working character—easier said than done in the short text of a picture book. So I structured the book over a period of several years to showcase the Christmas gifts Hiram received as opposed to what he had hoped to receive. His reactions SHOWed his emotions and humbled nature, which works better than me TELLing them. He hoped for a fiddle but received a harmonica. He by-passed disappointment and embraced the idea of learning to play a harmonica with joy.
I try to custom build my characters to fit my story world and never base a fiction character on a particular person. If I use real people as a basis, the character is an amalgamation of several.
My goal is to hang a suitable name on the protagonist that fits the story and the time. Page or Armor are more appropriate names for the pet of a knight than Fluffy. Also, use a name the audience can easily read. "Pfogmoregetti" might fit the character, but the difficulty of pronouncing it forces the reader to stop and focus on the name, rather than the action. 

Characters give life to the story. Take time to know the character prior to writing. Focus on his/her uniqueness: hobbies, habits, fears, hopes, goal, temperament, vocal expressions, gestures, etc. A memorable character lives on in the minds of the readers after the book is finished. 

Call for Submissions for Young and Adult Writers:

Pearl S Buck Short Story Writing Contest!

§ Send your original and unpublished manuscript to The Pearl S. Buck Writing Center by April 15, 2017.

§ There are categories for children, teens and adults, and a winner in each will be awarded a $100 prize!

§ Grades 3-6 word count not to exceed 1000 words

§ Grade 7-12 word count not to exceed 1000 words

§ Adult word count not to exceed 2,500 words

§ This contest is open to everyone.

§ The winners will be announced at the 125th birthday celebration of Pearl S. Buck on June 26, 2017.

Submission guidelines at

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

Sunday, March 5, 2017

How to Create Memorable Characters in Picture Books, Part 5

Memorable characters are those that seem real to the reader. Try these tips to bring out the “real” in your characters.

            Give specific details in a character’s development. Maybe he loves pancakes and wants  
pancakes every meal or she wants to wear only polka dots.

What are the character’s physical attributes? A character can be unusually built: extremely tall or short for the age group. How can these traits benefit or hinder the character? In many picture books these are depicted in the illustrations. But if the physical traits impact the problem the character is facing, they should be revealed in the text.

Verbal traits also distinguish the characters. A lisp due to missing front teeth works for a young child. Some kids use catch phrases. Listen to kids talking. “Awesome,” “like,” and “very” are words frequently used.
A character’s special interests should mirror those of the audience at a particular age. Does the character love to ride a bicycle or swim? The little boy in FORTY WINKS loved to read a book that he thought was magical. When the monster living in the closet would not share the book, the boy faced a dilemma: confront the monster or never read the book. What did it take to make the character react the way he did? Motivation + emotions = reactions. Figure out what motivates the character, add a dose of emotions, and let the story evolve.
I am never concerned if my book is more appropriate for a boy or a girl. My preference is to allow the reader to decide what s/he wants to read.
Next week, I’ll discuss more ways of creating memorable characters.
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Young Writers Magazine. We actively seek the work of extremely talented teenage writers. Browse the site and see for yourself. 

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Ashland Creek Press is currently accepting submissions of book-length fiction and nonfiction on the themes of the environment, animal protection, ecology, and wildlife — above all, we’re looking for exceptional, well-written, engaging stories.
We are open to many genres (young adult, mystery, literary fiction) as long as the stories are relevant to the themes listed above.
Submission guidelines at

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



Sunday, February 26, 2017

How to Create Memorable Characters in Picture Books, Part 3

           To develop a memorable character, get to know him/her/it before writing. In picture books, the

writer needs to know the character’s motivation and how the character reacts to situations.

A compelling character needs a problem to make his/her life interesting enough to carry the reader’s interest throughout the story. The problem should be large enough to create consequences that can ripple from beginning to end. As the character attempts to control the situation, allow the reader to “see” his/her feelings. Emotions give life to a character and affect actions and reactions. Maybe anger compels him to act in a way he normally would not. Strong emotions can force characters to react to circumstances even when they don’t want to.

When I wrote GONE CUCKOO, I wanted to portray the birth parents (cuckoos) as warm, caring birds, and do the same for the warblers (adoptive parents). The main character is a young cuckoo bird that doesn’t fit into the lifestyle of the warblers, and when he attends Warbler Academy, he fails miserably. Naturally, his frustration and embarrassment levels are high and he feels as if he is a failure.

            Even though the characters are birds, their emotions and behaviors mirror that of children who are placed in a similar, unfamiliar situations in which they are ill-suited. As a result, the characters become relatable.

Call for Submissions for Young Writers

Sarah Mook Poetry Prize for Students. Restrictions: Students in grades K-12. Genre: Poetry. Prize: $100. 

Deadline: March 31, 2017.

Submission guidelines at

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers

Positively Happy! Chicken Soup for the Soul. 101 Stories about Positive Thinking and Living a Happy Life
Deadline: May 31, 2017

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

Sunday, February 19, 2017

How to Create Memorable Characters in Picture Books, Part 2

To become memorable, the main character needs not only to do something, but do something unexpected. Surprise the reader and keep the reader wondering what will happen next. The wonderment builds interest in the character. Figure out what motivates the character to behave this way so you can keep the action going. In FORTY WINKS the main character was unwilling to share a book that both he and the monster, who lived in the closet, wanted to read, separately. Refusing to share led to a chain of actions and reactions that created the conflict.

Portray what your character is thinking and feeling. Emotions are powerful and can also motivate actions and reactions. Anger can lead to protectiveness or laughter or combat. Get in touch with the character’s emotions to lead the character into action. 

Allow your character to wander off the path of reaching the goal. Introduce complications that force him to make mistakes while he’s trying to find his way back, but allow him to learn from the mistakes.  

Next week, I’ll discuss more ways of creating memorable characters. 

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Teen Ink is a US-based teen magazine, book series and website devoted entirely to teenage writing, art, photos, and forums. Since being first established in 1989, Teen Ink has published more than 55,000 young writers, with the magazine distributed across the country in schools and libraries. To be eligible to submit you must be aged between 13 and 19. Be aware that submissions may be edited and published without the writers’ prior approval.

Submission guidelines at 

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

FrostFire Worlds publishes original science fiction and fantasy short stories, poems, art, articles, reviews, and interviews. Preferred are adventure stories, space opera, and magic opera [like space opera, but fantasy]. Also preferred are stories that take place on other worlds. Stories must have the following: characters the reader cares about, plots and subplots, and settings that draw the reader into them. Must have.

Remember, FrostFire Worlds is intended for younger readers, from ages 8-17 and up. Therefore, the magazine will not publish work that has bad language or adult themes in it. Period.

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

Sunday, February 12, 2017

How to Create Memorable Characters in Picture Books, Part 1

Unfortunately, there is no secret formula to creating likable, memorable characters to which we can discover and unveil for all to use. Fortunately, we can create fresh, new characters that will appeal to readers.

The child must closely identify with the way a character thinks, acts, and feels. A young child does not have reasoning ability, so a gator seems as logical a pet as a dog or cat. The opposite is true for picture books for older readers where logic and reasoning can be vital to the story. Either way, children like to see themselves represented in a book and in a way in which their world view is evident. Keep the story child-focused and consider the age of the audience.

Judge your characters by what they do. Sure, witty dialog is great and adds to the appeal of the story, but if all the characters do is spit witty dialog, they will soon become B-O-R-I-N-G. The character needs to do something: interact with others and move the story forward. 

Call for submissions for Young Writers and Adult Writers:

Prize Categories:

Young Poets: 2 Categories

Middle School Students: now know as Dave Drake Literary Prize

Middle schoolers must provide contact email of parent or guardian

High School Students: Students of high school age.

Adult Poets: now known as Spring Robinson/Mahogany Red Lit Prize

Poets between the age of 20 and 60 years old: this category includes college aged students

Senior Poets:  Poets 61years and older

Submission guidelines at

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

Sunday, February 5, 2017

To Outline or Not, part 4

More reasons why I outline a manuscript before writing:

Avoid Writer’s Block. An outline helps me break down the story into manageable parts and to see the story from beginning to end. Little by little, I know I can complete the manuscript without feeling so overwhelmed that I completely give up. 

More comprehensive coverage of a topic. When I write biographies, I add every major event to the outline so I won’t overlook or eliminate an important issue. In my dual biography, HAPPY BIRTHDAY: THE STORY OF THE WORLD’S MOST POPULAR SONG, I wanted to relate how the two Hill sisters’ parents influenced their work. I also wanted to showcase the impact of the song on national and international levels. Just a line or two on my outline allowed me to quickly determine that I included these elements. 

Writer motivation. Earlier, I discussed how an outline helps develop character motivation. It also offers emotional advantages. When the outline is staring back at me, I am more motivated to write, since I don’t have to sweat bullets in trying to figure out what the character will do next or what obstacle pops us to hinder his/her efforts. This is already thought out and all I have to do is write the scene. For me, the outline makes my work so much easier and simpler. Easy and simple win. I know what to write next, and all I have to do is figure out how to write it.  

Call for submissions for Young Writers:

"It's All Write!" Teen Short Story Contest. Restrictions: Open to Grades 6-12. Genre: Short story, and flash fiction, unpublished. Prize: 1st Place $250, 2nd Place $150, 3rd Place $100. 

Deadline: February 24
Submission guidelines at
Call for submissions for Adult Writers:
PER DIEM PRESS will publish a single chapbook of poetry in early 2017, eight 4” X 5”pages, saddle-stitched, with a cardstock cover. The poet will receive $1,000 and copies. Poets of every stripe are encouraged to submit eightish pages of previously unpublished poetry in English to Per Diem Press, 912 Cole Street #331, San Francisco California 94117. Submissions need to be received by February 28, 2017. All rights, of course, will be retained by the poet.

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

Sunday, January 29, 2017

To Outline or Not, part 3

Outlining is the key to an organized manuscript.

Logical sequence is a must in a story. An outline helps me visualize the character’s motivation, followed by the continuity of the action, all before I start writing. I figure out the obstacles confronting the protagonist and how s/he reacts. My mind roams free as I outline with the goal of developing more ideas than will be needed so I have a choice or if one idea fails to work, I can select another. Life experiences or bits and pieces of stories I’ve read or heard inspire me to craft a story that is a reflection of my literary style.

As I researched and outlined the manuscript for BARRELING OVER NIAGARA FALLS, I needed to show the motivation for Annie Edson Taylor, a sixty-three-year-old woman who was not into sports or fitness, to ride a barrel over Niagara Falls. No one had ever performed this stunt, which offered strong potential for a violent and/or deadly outcome. Annie seemed to be an extremely unlikely candidate. As I learned more about her meager savings, lack of potential for long-term employment, and knack for detailed planning, I included this into the outline, clearly defining WHY she performed the stunt.

Next came the HOW of the story. How did Annie prepare for the stunt? Pacing is vital to a picture book. Each page must provide action, something in which the character does or is done to the character. Illustrators rely on specific action. Pacing refers to how quickly, or slowly, the action happens. An outline allows me to see where the action is taking place. As Annie prepared, through a trial-and-error approach, the pacing slowed. When she rode the barrel over the Falls, the pacing picked up speed. Even though the pacing increased with the barrel ride, I didn’t want the scene to play out too quickly in order to keep the tension high and keep the reader wondering if she would live or die. Pacing in a story is much like the ever changing ebb and flow of Niagara River and the Falls—it slows down and speeds up according to the elements involved and is different with every story.

Next week, I’ll list more reasons why a simple, easy outline helps me be more productive.
Call for submissions for Young Writers:

Hello Giggles is a lifestyle website founded in 2011 by writer Molly McAleer, producer Sophia Rossi and actress Zooey Deschanel. The site is currently seeking young contributors for its newly launched teen section. The editors are looking for personal essays, cultural criticism, articles with original reporting, short fiction, and illustrations. Contributors must be at least 14 years of age. Hello Giggles attracts over 12 million readers per month

Submission guidelines at 

Call for submissions for Adult Writers:

Parents & Kids Magazine. In addition to the topics below, we also accept seasonal submissions. So we are always interested in a Valentine's story for our February issue. Submit seasonal things well in advance.  I really don’t mind looking at your Christmas ideas in May.  Really.


Know & Go Guide 


Heart Health & Women’s Fitness 


Ultimate Summer Fun Guide

Summer Camp Guide 


Summer Travel




Metro School Guide 


Birthday Parties 


Maternity and Pediatric Health Guide 



After-School Activities 


Sports & Play

Family Fitness 


Halloween & Fall Fun Guide 





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

Sunday, January 22, 2017

To Outline or Not, Part 2

Outlines are not meant to hold a writer to preset ideas or slot ideas into a particular paragraph, and they are certainly not created to drain creativity from the tale. Most of all, they aren’t there to practice Roman numerals—I, II, III and the alphabet—a, b, c… In fact, I never use a Roman numeral in an outline. Never. My idea of an outline is to figure out the basic plot of the story. Simple, easy, and productive. That’s pretty much my goal for everyday existence, too, and I often have an outline for that, called my to-do list.

I prefer to outline before writing because a simple outline helps me organize my thoughts. Here are more reasons:
Structure. Outlining a manuscript makes it easier to write and to develop a structure in which to tell the story. The purpose of the structure is to tie the characters into the beginning and move them forward in a plot and at a particular pace toward the middle and ending. An outline allows me to pinpoint what the character wants, why he wants it, the conflicts confronting him, and how/where he challenges the obstacles.

Brainstorming tool. I can try out ideas in an outline. If they don’t work, it’s much easier to correct at this early stage than when I reach the middle of the story I’m writing.

Keeps me on path. If I know where my story is headed (ending) when I begin the project, I’m less likely to veer off path. Veering off path leads to major rewrites. This doesn’t mean that I have to limit the story to the outline. However, an outline helps me easily figure out if the new idea works into the original plan of action.

Details. It enables me to be thorough, to include the vital details in the storyline.

Next week, I’ll list more reasons why a simple, easy outline helps me be more productive.

Call for submissions for Young Writers

Young Adult Review Network (YARN) is an award-winning literary journal that publishes outstanding original short fiction, poetry and essays for young-adult readers. It seeks to discover new teen writers and publish them alongside established writers of the YA genre. Material should be appropriate for, and of particular interest to, young adult readers 14 years old and up. YARN is based in the United States and warmly welcomes international submissions.

Submission guidelines at 

Call for submissions for Adult Writers

Girls' Life accepts unsolicited manuscripts on a speculative basis only. First, send an e-mail or letter query with detailed story idea(s). No telephone solicitations, please. Please familiarize yourself with the voice and content of Girls' Life before submitting.

Submission guidelines at 

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