Nancy's Books

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Writing Picture Books

This week I had a request to blog about writing picture books in rhyme and ideas for books. Here's my take on the subjects.
Think twice about writing in rhyme. Many books are released each year written in rhyme, but they are extremely difficult to write. Cringe-worthy rhyme occurs in many manuscripts, enough to make some editors leery of wanting to read another such piece. A business reason for editors not accepting stories written in rhyme is due to the translation factor. Rhyming words don’t translate well to other languages. A book must tell a good story and rhythm is more important than rhyme.

Not all ideas translate into marketable picture book stories. Sometimes, a topic (princess) has saturated the market. There are so many books on the subject and competition is so stiff, the idea simply can’t find a place. Don’t feel alone. Writers often juggle ideas that can’t grab a foothold. Maybe at some point you’ll figure out a way to make it work. If you can’t move on with another idea. Sometimes an idea works so well, the first draft falls into place and the revision runs smoothly. That happened to me with my first book, Once Upon a Dime. I heard coins dropping and said to my fuzzy-faced canines, “Listen, girls, the money tree is ripe and it’s dropping fruit.” I knew the idea would work. After playing with the words for about six weeks, and with feedback from a reader, I sent it to a publisher. In less than a month later, I had a contract.

In my next blog, I’ll continue with tips for writing picture books

Call for Submissions for Young Writers and Adult Writers:

YARN is an award-winning literary journal that publishes outstanding original short fiction, poetry, and essays for Young Adult readers, written by the writers you know and love, as well as fresh new voices...including teens.

Submission guidelines:

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

Sunday, March 29, 2020


Writers, along with everyone, are experiencing unparalleled times with the onset of COVID-19. If there's a silver lining in all this tragedy, it remains hidden. People cope differently. What works for one may not be appropriate for another. I'm managing stress by staying busy writing and polishing manuscripts. As with all my writing, I spend much more time polishing the text. For those who want to tackle writing a picture book, I'm continuing with tips to help you not only write but polish, as well. 

More tips:

Include an emotional impact, known as the heart of the story. This is writing so the reader will transform in some way, realize something about themselves they hadn’t considered before. Or see something in a new way. Friendship, love, and kindness stories are popular and often have an element of empathy woven into them. Emotions and moods aid in character development, so paint the scenes with feelings, sensations, and reactions. With the world in a virus turmoil, this type of story is likely to become more popular.

Also include sensory details—see, hear, touch, taste, smell—to make the reader feel as if they are along on the journey with the characters. Using the senses triggers memories for the readers back to a time or experience in which they felt the same way: scared, hopeful, anxious, happy, sad…. These shared experiences make the story seem real and builds empathy for the character.

Active verbs are your friends. If you write a statement such as, “Billy walked down the hall.” Rather than walk, which doesn’t paint a specific mental picture, consider, “swagger” if he’s confident, “rushed” if he is in a hurry, or “shuffled” if he doesn’t want to be there. Active verbs create a mood or emotion that helps to place the reader in the midst of the action with the characters. These verbs “show” rather than “tell" the reader what is happening. 

In my next blog, I’ll continue with tips for writing picture books.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Root & Star. Literary magazine for children ages 4 - 8. Looking for stories that inspire and are kind, strange, powerful, exquisite, and inspired by the sanctity of the everyday. Open to diversity. This magazine doesn't pay, but it can be a nice break in market for writers of very literary work. Also open to creative activities. Check out sample issue online.
Submission guidelines:

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

Sunday, March 8, 2020


Writing tips, continued:

 A picture book story may be simple with a short timeline, such as bedtime, or longer and more complex. Consider the age of the audience. Concept books about colors or numbers intended for the preschoolers are often more simplistic and shorter than books written for those in the K-2 group.

            Text should be child-focused, with the perspective from the child’s point of view. Characters can be people or non-human, but the story should resonate with the child. A child under the age of two probably would not be interested in a school-based setting, because that is not part of their world.

            Keep the text short. A 2,000- word picture book will not get published in today’s market. Most are 500 words or less. This is where thinking visually comes into play. Leave out descriptions that can be shown in illustrations. In fact, if your book is published, you might be surprised at how the illustrations reflect your words but tell the story beyond the text. Picture books are 32 pages, but only about 27 or 28 pages are illustration and text. Title page and end notes take up a few pages.

            Picture books are a series of page spreads. Ten to fourteen double-page spreads complete the book, so there is no room for a ton of text. Make sure every word counts.

            In my next blog, I’ll continue with tips for writing picture books.

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Skipping Stones is a multicultural literary magazine that publishes work by writers of all ages.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

FUN FOR KIDZ We are looking for lively writing that involves an activity that is both wholesome and unusual. The Ideal length of a FUN FOR KIDZ nonfiction piece is up to 300-325 words for a one-page magazine article or up to 600-650 words for a two-page magazine article. Articles that are accompanied by strong high-resolution photos are far more likely to be accepted than those requiring illustration.

Submission guidelines:

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

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Picture Book Writing Tips

Writing picture books is similar to that of poetry. Employ an economy of words and lots of rhythm. There are differences, too. In poetry, visual and musical images are vivid, but in picture books, writers should think visually but write musically with a cadence and rhythm so the words leap and dance across the page. Leave the visual images for the illustrator to depict. Write each sentence with the idea that it can be illustrated.

Voice (word choice + rhythm) is necessary for picture books because they are written to be read aloud. Write in a word pattern that sometimes surprises the reader. If readers can anticipate the next line, there’s no surprise, no thrill, no excitement to the word choice.

Humor is universal. Kids of all ages respond positively to funny situations, actions, and words. Hard consonants add tickle appeal. B, C, D, G, P, K, T, blast off the tongue as they are read aloud. Pickle is funny. Underwear is not as funny as underpants. The “P” sound is comical. Try saying these aloud: Pollygoster. Filibuster.

           In my next blog, I’ll continue with tips for writing picture books.

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

New Moon Girls. Ideas, Articles, Inventions, Fiction, Gardens, Poetry, Music, Opinions, Apps, Global Villages, Recipes, Plays, Buildings, Puzzles, Projects, Jokes, Speeches, Games, Screenplays, Sports, Emotions, Equations, Painting, Art, Experiments, Costumes, Activism, Photos, Rockets, Crafts, Designs, Gadgets, Dances, Solutions, Hats and Everything Else You Imagine and Make.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Short Edition. ·  Submissions must be short stories and poems of maximum 8,000 characters, spaces included or children's stories of maximum 7,000 characters, spaces included.

·  Works must be previously unpublished in print or online, including on personal blogs.

Submission guidelines:

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

Sunday, February 9, 2020

What’s trending in today’s children’s books

According to the information I've learned in workshops and talking with editors, trends in the book world are:

Board and Picture Books. Magic: Unicorns, dragons, spooky (but not too scary), and new spins on bedtime stories.

Diversity-focused books by writers belonging to historically marginalized groups (always popular)

Interactive children’s books

Books about kindness

Graphic novels

Chapter books

Series novels in Young Adult literature

Realistic fiction (especially those focusing on sensitive issues: illness, death)

Humorous picture books and middle grade novels are always popular

Nonfiction picture books

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Bazoof. General submissions are welcome from youth (ages 7-14) or their parents/caregivers. Stories are welcome from youth of any age. Some ideas of what you could send me are:
·         Letter

·         Short story (12 years and younger: 500 words or less; 13-18 years: 800 words or less; Doesn’t include any violence, fighting, not too scary, gruesome, or dark natured. Must be suitable for readers ages 8-12 years).

·         Poem

·         Craft idea

·         Drawings

·         Photo of your pet

·         Photo of you doing an activity you enjoy

·         Picture of a project that you made

·         Recipe

·         Game or puzzle

·         Jokes or riddles

·         Tell me about a sport you enjoy playing or a musical instrument

·         Or any other ideas you have!

Submission guidelines at
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Storgy Kids. Short fiction here means between 1,000 and 5,000 words. A few words either side won’t matter as long as your story is brilliant and well edited.
Submissions guidelines at
Nancy Kelly Allen has written 48 children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK. 
Leave a message or check out my blog at

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Let’s get motivated, part 2

Commit to your writing. Decided how much time you can devote to writing and stick with the plan. Keep track of the time spent writing per day until it becomes routine. Make writing a habit. You may want to begin by writing an article for a local newspaper or a magazine. Seeing your work published is a strong motivating factor.

Everyone has distractions, whether it’s checking email, Facebook, Twitter, phone, TV, washing clothes, or a million other things. Remove as many of those as possible. Any of them can whittle away the time you intended for writing. Find a place where you can write with as few interruptions as possible.

Join a critique/writing group. Share ideas with other writers. Talking with others who have similar goals whets the appetite and spurs on the writer inside each of us. Everyone wins when ideas are shared.

Be realistic. If you can’t find the time to write every day, and most of us cannot, write when you have a few minutes available. Some people have written novels with twenty minutes of writing per day.

Try different techniques to figure out what works best for you in creating a story and to stay motivated to finish the manuscript.

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:Magic Dragon. Writing – Work should be neatly printed or typed. If you type it, please double-space. Stories and essays can be up to three pages, poetry up to 30 lines. It is ok to send writing that you have also illustrated. You can write about anything that is important to you; it can be serious or funny, true or fiction. If you send originals and want them returned, enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope.
Art – You may send original art or a copy. If you want original art returned, enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope big enough for it. If you send a copy, be sure it represents fairly the original work (colors are the same, lines are clear, copy looks just like the original). Your name should appear somewhere on the artwork. You may also tell us how you created it; for example, is it made with crayon, watercolor, paper sculpture, or some other way.
Submissions guidelines at
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Chicken Soup for the Soul. Listen to Your Dreams 
When we are asleep, we dream. Are dreams a connection to the unconscious mind? Are they omens of things to come—both good and bad? Dreams are often the way we tap into our own inner wisdom. Sixth sense, gut feeling, premonitions, instinct. Whatever you call it, sometimes we have no logical reason for knowing something—but still we know it.
Submissions guidelines at

Nancy Kelly Allen has written 50+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK. 
Comment or check out the blog at

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Let’s get motivated!

      2020. A brand-new year. A new start.

      Writers reward yourself with motivation to finish that manuscript you’ve set aside or begin the one you’ve dreamed of penning. Don’t just dream it, write it. NOW is the time!

Almost weekly, people ask how I stay motivated to write. Writing is never easy. It’s a struggle, some days more than others, because external and internal factors keep popping up.    Time is often difficult to find for many. When we do have the time, we sometimes lack the drive to spend hours on a writing project that may never be read, published, or earn one cent. We might write for days and have little to show for our seemingly endless hours of brain-drain concentration. No wonder we struggle with motivation.

      I spent almost ten years before holding my first book. Here are some things I do to stay motivated:

      Utilize BIC (behind in chair) on a regular basis. When I held a full-time job, I had not a single ounce of creativity in me by the end of the day. To combat this, I crawled out of bed early and wrote the next morning when my brain was energized. This system probably works better for early birds. My mantra: The book won’t write itself.

      Creating deadlines keeps me focused on the task of completing research or another page of writing. I set realistic deadlines, and each time I check off a completed task, I considered it one step closer to getting a book contract. Sometimes, I set word counts, such as 300 words to write that day or number of minutes.

      In my next blog, I continue with more motivational tricks.

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Hanging Loose.  Send all work to High School Editor, Hanging Loose, 231 Wyckoff Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217. Please also send us a note identifying yourself as a high school age writer, and telling us your age. Include an email address—and include a self-addressed stamped envelope with sufficient return postage. Otherwise, your submission cannot be returned. Be sure your name and address appear on each page of your work.

Send up to six poems or short stories, or an equivalent combination of poetry and prose.

Submission guidelines:

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Hanging Loose. As a rule, send up to six poems or one story at a time. We rarely publish non-fiction, but there are exceptions. We do not publish reviews. Manuscripts must be legible and be sure that includes your name and address. Enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope of adequate size or we cannot reply. If you don’t want your work returned, please make that clear. Cover letters are welcome if they contain pertinent information, but they are hardly a requirement. Because we read all submissions carefully, please allow up to three months for an answer. That’s also why we will not consider simultaneous submissions. We also cannot accept submissions by fax or e-mail. We never have contests or theme issues.

Submission guidelines:

Nancy Kelly Allen has written 50+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK. Check out her blog at