Nancy's Books

Sunday, January 6, 2019

“Write” Start: The Unexpected



As we enter a brand new year, my goal is beginning with the “write” start. A recent study indicated that announcing our resolutions to the world makes authors less likely to follow through on those good intentions. So, instead of resolutions, I’ll broach the subject of ways to open a story to keep the reader interested, the “write” start. 
Whether writing a picture book or children’s novel, the opening lines should work as an invitation for the reader to keep on reading. It’s the writer’s job to convince the reader to follow along. 

One way to do this is starting with the unexpected. In my book, TROUBLE IN TROUBLESOME CREEK, kids swing across the creek and their landing creates a rock slide that opens an entry into a cave. My goal included an unexpected event to add an element of surprise, make the audience pause for a moment, capture their attention, and intrigue to the point the readers want to know more.
In my next blog, I’ll focus on another type of opening to a story: curiosity.
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.
Submissions guidelines at http://www.magicdragonmagazine.com/?page_id=6
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide. Anthology. We’re looking for stories that:
· Have a main character that a middle grade reader (ages 8-12) can identify with;
· Show a diverse set of real characters;
· Are well written, fun to read, and encourage a love of reading science fiction;
· Tell of adventure, space, science. Give us rockets, robots and alien encounters, and we’re pretty happy; Steampunk, time travel, weird west and alternate history are all fine;
Are between 3,000 and 6,000 words

Submissions guidelines at https://dreamingrobotpress.com/young-explorers-adventure-guide-submissions/
Nancy Kelly Allen has written 50+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK. 
Comment or check out the blog at https://nancykellyallen.blogspot.com/

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Are Restraints Holding You Hostage?


As a visiting author, I’ve been extremely fortunate. I love working with kids, love teaching the writing process to kids, and love their excitement when they share the writing. For the last few weeks, I’ve been working with 3rd, 4th, 7th, and 8th graders, primarily focused on informational and nonfiction pieces. Every day, they amaze me with their creativity and enthusiasm. I especially appreciate word choices and phrasing that distinguishes their personalities through writing. Voice. The concept of grasping the personal uniqueness of writing is not an easy task, yet I see it in these young writers. It makes me wonder why it can be so difficult for adult writers.  

Maybe it’s because the students are fearless in placing thoughts on paper. Adults have a contract hanging in the balance, so maybe we can’t capture the voice because somewhere in our minds someone told us that a particular word or phrasing was not acceptable with some editors. Maybe it’s because we try so hard to write a marketable piece that the manuscript becomes too commonplace to stand out. Maybe we’ve allowed our imaginations to hover, rather than soar.

Let’s shake off our restraints and write to please ourselves. The worst that can happen is no contract. Conversely, a new style of writing may evolve from our fingertips.

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Skipping Stones. Writings (essays, stories, letters to the editor, riddles and proverbs, etc.) should be typed or neatly handwritten and limited to 1,000 words and poems to 30 lines. We encourage writings in all languages with an English translation, if possible. And, we love illustrations! Please send originals of your drawings, paintings, or photos to our post office box address below. Include your name, age, and address along with your submission. We welcome electronic submissions as well. We prefer Word.doc. or .docx.files or text.edit files. Art and photos can be sent as .jpeg or .tiff files. Please DO NOT send us zip.files.
Submissions guidelines at https://www.skippingstones.org/submissions.htm
Skipping Stones. Our readers, ages 7 to 17, hail from diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. We want to make their reading of Skipping Stones an active experience, relevant to issues confronting them locally and globally. Writing and artwork by adults should challenge readers to think, learn, cooperate and create. 
We encourage adults to submit creative informational stories rather than pure fiction. We prefer submissions focusing on your own culture or experiences. No adult poetry, please. 
Submissions guidelines at

https://www.skippingstones.org/submissions.htm#adult

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Common Writing No-Nos (of which I am guilty)

Oh, those tricky grammar rules. So many. And then there are rules for writing. So many. Plus, factor in the tendency to misuse grammar and writing rules. Realizing my tendency to choose the incorrect word, I watch for my errors knowing that I will find many. So many. 

This writer tends to fall in love with a word and use it too often. Just is one word I just can’t drop…until I force it out during revision. Diverse language adds voice to writing, taking it from a hum to a song. Using the same word repeatedly doesn’t cut it with readers. 

Clichés sneak into our prose and are as boring as Uncle Ned’s tenth retelling of his visit to the E.R. Surprise the reader with sensory descriptions as you write the unexpected. Boring as an old shoe or as watching paint dry adds no excitement to the storytelling because it’s expected.   

I also have a tendency to write sentences of mid-size length. During revision, I actually count the number of words in sentences, for picture books. Vary sentence length. The variety adds rhythm to the text and engages the reader.

I do the same with paragraph lengths. Paragraphs offer breaks in the text, but if all are the same length, that pattern may become boring and expected.

Action verbs help push the plot along. My goal is to provide the reader with visual images of action by using such verbs as slither, hop, scurry. In the first draft, I’m so busy writing character and plot development, non-action verbs—was, have, are, and is—make too many appearances. 

Spell-check catches some mistakes, but in-depth revisions elevate questionable writing to a reader pleaser. 


Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Stone Soup. We publish stories on all subjects—horses, dance, sports, problems at school, problems at home, magical places—and in all genres—literary fiction, science fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, mystery—there is no limit to the subject matter of a Stone Soup story. What matters to us is not the subject. It is how interesting your story is to another reader. Does it have a strong beginning, middle, and end? If there is dialogue, is it realistic—is it the way people speak? If your story has talking animals, is there something about the way the animals think or move that feels true to that particular kind of animal?

We publish stories on all subjects—horses, dance, sports, problems at school, problems at home, magical places—and in all genres—literary fiction, science fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, mystery—there is no limit to the subject matter of a Stone Soup story. What matters to us is not the subject. It is how interesting your story is to another reader. Does it have a strong beginning, middle, and end? If there is dialogue, is it realistic—is it the way people speak? If your story has talking animals, is there something about the way the animals think or move that feels true to that particular kind of animal?
Submission guidelines at https://stonesoup.com/how-to-submit-writing-and-art-to-stone-soup/
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers: 
Fun For Kidz is a magazine created for boys and girls from 6 to 13 years, with children 8, 9, and 10 the specific target age. Issues are themed. Genres: Nonfiction and fiction. Length: 300-325 words for a one-page magazine article or up to 600-650 words for a two-page magazine article.
Submission guidelines at http://funforkidzmagazines.com/ffk_guidelines
Nancy Kelly Allen has written 40+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK.
Leave a message or check out my blog at www.nancykellyallen.com

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Writing Right


Every manuscript I complete is a learning experience in which I grow as a writer. Practice makes perfect (or something like that). My literary growth is even greater during revisions. That’s the time in which I choose what should change, what works, and what does not. The revisions I dread are those that follow the directive of an editor, because those push me out of my comfort zone and pound an Ouch! to my ego. They make me THINK. And rethink. Write and rewrite.

Plan time in your day to play with words and string them together. Realistically, it probably isn’t possible to write every day, but write with the purpose of working on a manuscript a few times every week. Don’t just plan on writing, write. Form a routine in which you can fit writing into a schedule.

If you’re easily distracted, work on a computer that’s not connected to the Internet. The magnetic draw of email and surfing the Web will no longer entice.

Organize your notes and materials so you can manage the information efficiently.

If you outline, begin your first draft soon after finishing. If you don’t outline, begin your first draft as soon as possible. Now would be a good time.

Think about your characters and allow them to gel in your mind before writing, but don’t use that as a reason to postpone writing. Treat writing as a job. Set goals. Some writers set words-per-day goals, such as 500 words. Others set time frames. Maybe two hours every morning. Find a time and place that fits your lifestyle and make it a routine. Continue until you have a first draft completed.

At this point, begin revision.

Happy writing


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.
Submission guidelines at https://newmoon.com/how-to-get-published/

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
New Moon Girls. We show girls as powerful, active, interesting makers in charge of their lives – not as passive beings who are acted upon or watching others. We celebrate girls and all their accomplishments. We support girls to express their voices, opinions, problems, needs and dreams as they grow from girlhood to womanhood. We support girls in reaching out and being allies to each other, even when they disagree.
Submission guidelines at https://newmoon.com/adult-contributors-new-moon-girls/

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

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Perseverance

Riding the Rejection Train is a tough route for any writer. Not only is the failure to get a contract disappointing, it also undermines our psyche. We question our talent. We question our choice of manuscript subjects. We question everything related to publishing. But perseverance trumps talent. I should know. I’ve been rejected so many times, I lost count years ago. 

According to Richard Bach, author of JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL, “A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit.” Writing requires an investment of time, lots of time, and energy. Inspiration and a vivid imagination are good components, too. There’s no doubt, writing is work. It’s also fulfilling, and at times, joyful (when an editor calls and says the magical word: Yes).


When I began writing, I read picture books to my students daily, and the stories drew me in to worlds of strange and astonishing characters. Those stories enticed me to write about my own characters. Reading does that to me. When I read I am more compelled to write. Characters, one after another, staked a claim to my brain and refused to leave. Editors passed on all. I lost interest in writing until I picked up the next picture book, the next day. Reading it boosted my creative energy. I kept getting rejected, but sometimes an editor would ask to see something else I had written. My heart fluttered with hope. Finally, I hooked an editor and held my first book, ONCE UPON A DIME. Now, I’m striving to garner the 52nd contract.            

Every writer is different. Some become discouraged more easily than others, but all writers get rejections. The more we write, and the more we read, the better writers we become. 

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. We believe that our objectives are special – to encourage the development of creativity in children and to provide a medium to share their creative efforts. Our conviction is that encouraging children in the elementary grades to be unafraid to express their creative ideas will increase their chances of becoming adults unafraid to apply a creative approach to all aspects of their lives and work.
Submission guidelines at http://www.magicdragonmagazine.com/
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Genre: Short story or nonfiction up to 5,000 words. Prize: $1,000. Deadline: November 30, 2018.
Deadline: November 30, 2018
https://www.servicescape.com/short-story-award 
Nancy Kelly Allen has written 40+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK.
Leave a message or check out my blog at www.nancykellyallen.com

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Writing Visually


Most of the books I’ve written are picture books. They look simplistic. Not! This type of writing uses two techniques to tell a story: words and pictures. The story moves and changes with every sentence, and every page needs action so the illustrator can assist in moving the story forward. 

Illustrations do more than capture images of the text. They also capture the mood and behavior of the character. The setting and plot are enhanced through the art and give the reader much more information that can be found in the storyline. Some picture books tell more of the story through text and some tell more through illustrations. The range of text-to-illustrations in picture books is wide and varied.

Writers paint with words and the better we paint the better the image. In writing TROUBLE IN TROUBLESOME CREEK, I wrote in the first draft “James ran.” The words would communicate the idea to the reader but not in an interesting way. In revision, the text evolved to “James sure can make the dust fly as he picks them up and puts them down.” Voice is the quality of the writer’s words. That quality is reflected in surprising the reader with your own unique way of describing the action. Clichés water down the quality of writing because the surprise element is missing.

I always consider how my words can support the illustrations and provide hints to the action in the background. This is called writing visually. When I receive the first galley, I’m always amazed to see how the text influenced the art and how the two work together. 

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Launchpad. A bimonthly magazine dedicated to publishing fiction, nonfiction, poetry, book reviews, and artwork written and created by children ages 6-12.
Submission guidelines at http://www.launchpadmag.com/write/
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers: 
Bumples is an INTERACTIVE online magazine for children three- 10 years of age. Bumples specializes in illustrated fiction about children and animals in mysteries, sports, poems and fantasies with serialized adventures in each issue.
Stories are uniquely supplemented with puzzles, question games, and activities, all of which makes Bumples storytelling all the more engaging. Interesting information on a topic is always fun to explore after enjoying a great reading experience. Consequently, Bumples adds factual postscripts to complement each story.
Submission guidelines at http://www.bumples.com/WritersGuidelines.aspx?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1
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 www.nancykellyallen.com