Nancy's Books

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Central Thread in Writing a Picture Book Biography

I received the following feedback on a picture book biography I’m in the process of revising: Find a central thread that ties all the episodes together, such as wanderlust to move on, an inner struggle to see the world beyond the territory in which the character lives, or an ambition to do something new and exciting.  

This advice makes so much sense to me. I agreed, totally. Whatever route I choose, I need to tie it in at the beginning and carry in through to the end by unearthing some common threads.  

I have a long way to go with this story, but I will continue to read, research, and collect data based on the character’s life. Each bit of information provides another piece of the puzzle. After pondering various ways to tell her story, I’ve decided to focus on her sense of adventure, her desire to travel new trails, and experience new territories.  

Since most picture books are 32 pages, biographies are limited in telling the wide expanse of a person’s life. Instead, focusing on pivotal scenes within a narrow narrative arc (beginning, middle, ending) seems to work for my particular story.

Pondering, that’s the key to figuring out how to approach this revision. Pondering different possibilities. Pondering a way to crawl inside the character’s head and figure out how and where to take her, finding the passionate core to create an emotional impact for the reader.  

My pondering sometimes happens in the middle of the night. I’ve worked out so many character situations when I wake up in the middle of the night and a solution pops into my head. Some pop right back out, and I can’t remember them the next day. Anyone have a popper stopper? 

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Launch Pad: Where Young Authors and Illustrators Take Off! publishes stories, art, poetry, nonfiction, and book reviews by kids ages 6 – 14. If we select you as an author, we will send your work to a young artist to illustrate before publishing it on our website. If we select you as an artist, we will send you something from a young author to illustrate! Ask a parent before submitting to our site.

Submission guidelines at http://www.launchpadmag.com/ 

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Humpty Dumpty and Jack and Jill provide fun, entertaining reading material is our priority. We accept humorous, playful, and witty stories that kids would love to read—not stories that grownups think kids should read.
As part of the Children’s Better Health Institute, we are always in need of high-quality stories, articles, and activities with a broad health and fitness focus. Please keep in mind that we would rather show kids living a healthy lifestyle than dictate a healthy lifestyle to our readers. In other words, health topics should be incorporated into the story or article, not be the focus of it.
Nancy Kelly Allen has written 40+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK. Check out her blog at www.nancykellyallen.com

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Emotional Rollercoaster

A friend sent joyous news: She received her first book contract. Congratulations! The ultimate reward for years of diligent effort had finally paid off. Her joy reached the stratospheric level, naturally. As often happens when facing a time lapse between receiving “The Call” and getting the written agreement, nerves jittered. Doubts swirled faster than autumn leaves when the contract wasn’t in the email the next day, or the next, or the next. A week passed. Two weeks. Nerves jittered into emotional chaos. She asked if she should contact the editor about the delay. 

The emotional rollercoaster she experienced is perfectly normal. She worked for YEARS pounding the keyboard trying to nab a contract. After a ton of rejections our neural pathways form in such a way that our brains tell us, not in thought but in emotions/expectations, that a contract is out of reach. We KNOW that we have received the contract; yet we can’t BELIEVE it because our emotions lag behind our cognitive processes. (Disclaimer: This is totally my theory, and I have no scientific data at hand to support it.) 
 
On a personal level, my confidence builds as I sign the contract, and reality sets in big-time with my first read-through of the revision notes. The emotional surge revs to tornadic intensity as doubt, jitters, and downright panic overtake my psyche. I’ve experienced every emotion known to humankind when first reading the suggested revisions. One such set of revision notes was longer than the picture book text. Another set was quite short but memorable: delete the last 5 chapters and rewrite, focusing on the child and grandparent. Snap! The best-friend scenes and chapters waved bye-bye, just like that. I gasped for breath, walked away from the computer, and did normal things the rest of the day, steering clear of the email communication. In the meantime, I began thinking about how I could develop the story. The revisions improved the stories, by the way, so the editors were correct. And I lived. The revisions (yes, more than one) failed to kill me. 
 
Publishing books is a slow business. Revision after revision is usually required. Editors work on several projects simultaneously, which slows the process even more. Two years in production for picture books remains typical with traditional publishers.  
 
The excitement, jitters, and doubt are critical to the writer’s journey. Embrace them and enjoy making the book the best it can be. Oh, and give the editor extended time to make contact. S/he will appreciate it.
 
 
[Beginning this week, I will include Calls for Submissions for Young Writers in each blog through April 2019.]
 
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Bazoof. Youth submissions accepted from around the globe from all ages, with different genres and length requirements depending on age of contributor. Readers can find short stories, comics, games, craft & art projects, jokes, riddles, sports reporting, articles on pets, recipes, personal achievements and community service projects, poetry, letters, true stories and much more!

Submissions: http://www.bazoof.com/submit/

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Call for Submissions: Children’s Activities

Deadline: September 30, 2017

SPIDER (for ages 6-9) and LADYBUG (for ages 3-6) are looking for children’s activities. This includes clearly worded, playful step-by-step directions for crafts, activities, games, science experiments, and recipes for children ages 3 to 9. The strongest activities will engage a child’s imagination and creativity, can be done at home, and require little adult supervision. We also seek word games, tongue twisters, jokes, riddles, picture-based crossword puzzles, and foreign language activities.  


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