Nancy's Books

Sunday, June 23, 2019

I’ve Finished My Manuscript, Now What? Part 1


A few times each month, beginning writers contact me asking for directions, primarily, what to do after they finish their manuscripts. First of all, congratulations are in order. Finishing a manuscript is no small task. 
My initial reaction is to advise the writers to do nothing with the manuscript for a month or so, and in the meantime, begin another writing project and find a critique partner to read the manuscript and offer feedback.

After revising the manuscript and polishing it, make a submission list of appropriate publishers. If a publisher doesn’t accept unsolicited manuscripts or accepts only middle grade and young adult, sending a picture book will garner nothing but a rejection. The goal is to submit to a particular editor or agent. Writers need an individual who will love the work and promote it within the publishing house or literary agency.

Editors and what they are looking for in manuscripts can be found in  Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market, a book that is sold or can be ordered at bookstores or online. Guide to Literary Agents is another source if you choose to go the agent route.


Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
SPIDER, a literary magazine for children, features fresh and engaging literature, poems, articles, and activities for newly independent readers. Editors seek energetic, beautifully crafted submissions with strong “kid appeal” (an elusive yet recognizable quality, often tied to high-interest elements such as humor, adventure, and suspense).  

Submission guidelines at http://cricketmedia.com/spider-submission-guidelines



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, June 9, 2019

Writing Nonfiction


When I decide on a topic for a nonfiction book, I consider three elements: curiosity about a subject, the desire to know more, and the number of published books on the topic. I’ll spend weeks researching facts before I write the first word of the book. 

My interest in writing DEAR KOMODO DRAGON began when I visited a zoo and saw “Big Man,” the name given to a ten-foot-long Komodo dragon. I knew nothing about the magnificent creatures, but my interest grew the longer I watched it flick its yellow tongue and maneuver in a clumsy walk. But was my interest enough to spend weeks working on a manuscript that may or may not get published? And how would I present the information in a way that is different than other Komodo dragon books already in the marketplace? 

I pondered these questions as I wrote other books. One day when I talked with some students who discussed how much they love receiving letters, the Ah-ha moment triggered an idea. I’d present the dragon information in the form of letters, in particular, pen pal letters.

So letters became the structure of the text. For me, deciding how to present the nonfiction information in an interesting way is more difficult than the writing or the research. I love to write, and I love research, but figuring out the structure of the text is never an easy task

What is the hardest part of writing nonfiction for you?

Between May and September, Calls for Submissions for Young Writers will cease.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Golden Fleece. For Short Stories, Poetry, Puzzles, Artwork, and Essays:
Please attach your submission to the email and include a short bio and any relevant social media links in the message. The subject line of your message should include the specific project you are pitching to, the title of your piece, and what it is. 
Submission guidelines at http://www.goldenfleecepress.com/submissions.html

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, May 26, 2019

Becoming and Staying Productive with Writing


We’re ending the fifth month of the year. Back in January, many writers had manuscript ideas popping and cracking as if trying to explode onto paper. The passion was sizzling. But as we write and the sentences don’t flow quickly or in any semblance of rhythm, the flame of passion for writing can cool to an ember, if that.

This happens to many writers, including me. If it also happens to you, take time to figure out why you’re writing. Do you have an appetite for storytelling? Do you write because you love it? If so, the words will come. Perseverance leads to success. Along the way, you face heartbreaking moments, those times when you KNOW, you are certain the editor will contact you with great news because you’ve been exchanging emails and phone calls; then the unbelievable happens. After all those rewrites and time and anxious moments, you receive a rejection. Pain as real as a punch shoots clear to the heart and hammers it.

Perseverance also brings joyful surprises. You may have sent out a manuscript so long ago, you simply forgot about it and gave up hope. Then out of the blue, an editor contacts you with a YES. 

The day-to-day writing schedule can be more hum-drum than kicking-up-heels exciting, but those moments when your writing connects with an editor or a fan contacts you stating that your book, your literary baby, was her favorite, takes the mere ordinary into the extraordinary stratosphere. That’s the magic of writing, the magic that fires a writer’s passion to produce more and better storytelling.

Persevere and you will find success in writing. Persevere and experience the magic.

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.

Submission guidelines at http://www.skippingstones.org/submissions.htm

Since schools are dismissing for summer, I’ll discontinue Call for Submissions for Young writers until September.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

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. 


I’ll resume Call for Submissions for Young Writers in September.

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


Sunday, May 12, 2019

Writing to an Audience


With each writing class I teach, one element always surfaces with novice writers. In various ways they express the same idea: I thought writing for children would be easier than it is

Today’s children’s books are sophisticated and creative. The storyline encourages readers to imagine a world or event they’d never thought of. In addition, the story should not be so complex the reader has difficulty following the plot. Neither should it be so simple it bores them. A worthwhile story challenges the reader to think, imagine, and ask questions to learn more. 

Readers of all ages are discerning critics. If a child does not like the book, he/she will not read it. Knowing your audience is critical to writing a book that appeals. Children ages 3 and up, like rhyme. Lots of rhyming books are available for children younger than three, but the rhyming aspect will be lost on most. 

Many children ages 5-6 concentrate for about 10-15 minutes on a single activity. Those who are 7-8 can concentrate about 30 minutes, but they must be engaged in the story to do so. 

Understanding your audience and writing to that audience can benefit writers. Writing clear and understandable text with compelling characters and interesting plots engages readers of any age. 

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Berry Blue Haiku. Now that we are live, we are involving kids, too. In the magazine we are running haiku contests and challenges for kids and all entries, as well as miscellaneous submissions, will be considered for publication.
Initially, we had decided to run our contests/ challenges for children up to age 13, but we have decided that we will also welcome entries from students ages 14 – 18 (under a separate category).

Submissions guidelines at http://www.haikubytwo.com/berry-blue-haiku-a-new-online-haiku-magazine-for-kids/

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Berry Blue Haiku. Although the magazine is dedicated to kids, it’s also targeted toward teachers and parents who have an interest in or want to learn about haiku. We’ll be featuring articles and lessons on writing haiku that can be used both at home and in the classrooms. We want the magazine to inspire young and old alike.

Submissions guidelines at http://www.haikubytwo.com/berry-blue-haiku-a-new-online-haiku-magazine-for-kids/


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, April 21, 2019

“Write” Start: Question


Today’s blog concludes the series, “Write” Start.

When opening a story with a question, the reader should feel the need to look for an answer, and the only way to discover the answer is to continue reading. 

Charlotte’s Web begins with the question, “Where’s Papa going with that ax?” Those six, gripping words have intrigued generations of readers. A good hook creates interest and also sets the tone, mood, and builds expectations for the reader. From the first sentence, the reader wants to know what is going to happen.

Using a question as an opening hook works for fiction and nonfiction. In my Rock It series, I used this as the beginning text:” Can one type of rock change into another?”

The question doesn’t have to be answered immediately. Unanswered questions keep the tension high and hold the readers’ interest. Plus, the initial hook buys the writer some time to use quality writing to keep the reader turning the pages.

Hooks can take the reader into a state of wonder and pique their inquisitiveness. Decide what your audience is interested in and write accordingly.  Consider what details or moments would spark their interests, and begin there.

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Cyberkids. Would you like to have a story, poem, article, picture or other creative work published in Cyberkids? To submit your work, email it to: editor@cyberkids.com. In the email, tell us your name, age and country. If you are sending artwork, save the art in JPEG or TIFF format if possible, and attach it to the email. We do not pay for submissions, but if we use your work, we will send you an email telling you when it will be published.

Submission Guidelines

Here are some guidelines our editors use to decide what to publish:

  • We especially like stories, articles and poems that are funny.
  • Art and written submissions can be on any topic that is appropriate for our audience (ages 7 to 12).
  • Stories which include an original illustration or photo are more likely to be published than stories without pictures.
  • Originality is very important--make sure the work you submit is your own and not copied from someone else.
  • In addition to art and writing, we also like to publish games, puzzles, brain teasers, jokes, and multimedia creations by kids.
 Submissions guidelines at http://www.cyberkids.com/he/html/submit.html

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.

Submissions guidelines at http://funforkidzmagazines.com/writers


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, April 7, 2019

Guest Author Sandi Underwood


Nancy: Sandi Underwood, welcome back. Again, congratulations on Mountain Laurel, your latest book, as well as Blood Money and The Secret at One Belmont Lane. Is it true there may be a sequel in the works? 


Sandi: Thank you, Nancy. It’s great to be back, and thank you for asking about sequels. I often say I’m humbled when someone asks about my books and especially when they ask for more−and that is exactly what happened with all three. I have finished the sequel to Blood Money, my adult romantic-mystery, so I have my fingers crossed that it can find a home at a publisher.


I am interested in a sequel for my first book, The Secret at One Belmont Lane−a Middle Grade Paranormal Mystery−and have a plot in mind, but that one is still in plotting stage.


As for the last one, Mountain Laurel, I simply must write a sequel so folks will know which boy Laurel chooses. The story is about my parents’ first date and the main character (Laurel) is ‘struck’ on one boy but invites another to go on a church outing to Norris Dam. She finds herself in one pickle after another.  


A sweet side note happened after my first book signing for Mountain Laurel. A lady from my Church tracked me down to buy a book for her future granddaughter-in-law, whose name is Laurel. When the lady read the article in the local newspaper promoting my book, she decided she just had to present the future bride one of my books at her upcoming wedding shower. I thought my heart would burst right out of my chest!


And just last night, another friend from church called to ask if she could drop by to pick up a copy of Mountain Laurel. It seems her daughter works with a lady whose brother “thought the world of my dad.” Encouragement like that spurs me on and makes me want to be a better writer. That’s why I pour over your blog. I always find some little nugget that sticks, either with a WIP (work in progress) or I’ll file it away for when I slam up against that wall known as ‘writer’s block’.


Back to your question, yes, I do plan sequels for all three books. Apparently, in my case anyway, one book will just not work. There’s more to the stories that need to be told.


Nancy: Wow! You’ve got characters chasing characters in that brain of yours. I don’t know how you keep them all straight, but it sure sounds exciting. Were the characters in the first two books based on real people? How do you develop a character to make it seem so real?


Sandi: My first two books were not based on real characters. The last one, of course, was−my parents. 


For Blood Money, my adult romantic-mystery, I created character sketches. Most of that content never made it into the book, but the background work helped me develop their identity…helped me stay ‘in voice’ and aided me in fleshing out their total personality, down to the way he/she talked, carried themselves…even their taste in clothes. The exercise was daunting, but kept me on course when writing scenes. It kept me from portraying that specific character in conflicting ways that my readers might find false or hard to follow; or at least, that’s how it seemed to me.


I had several reviews for Blood Money and a few touched on how they felt they were right in the scene with the character. One lady said she couldn’t put the book down because she got so absorbed walking right alongside Alex−she felt as if she saw what Alex saw and felt what Alex felt. Talk about humbling! That’s sweet music to my ears.


As for developing the story, you know as well as I how those characters niggle your mind when you least expect it. I recently was at an art class and the instructor asked if I was okay. He said I was quiet−which is unlike me. I answered truthfully that I was on a moonlit beach in Miami working out the plot on Blood Moon (the sequel to Blood Money).


Nancy: Daydreaming for writers is considered work, right Sandi? On another note, my claim to fame: I created the title for the sequel to Blood Money, which is Blood Moon. (I’m stealing some of your credit, Sandi.) Thanks for writing books readers love to read, the writing tips, and visiting this blog. I hope you’ll come back when your next book is released. Tell the Followers where will you be signing books in the near future.


Sandi: I will be at Tusculum’s University Old Oaks Festival April 12-14, and I hope to join in a couple more this summer. My appearances will be posted on Facebook at Sandi Underwood @gcywriter, on Twitter @SandiGCY and my website at www.sandiunderwood.net.


If nothing else, you can email me at sandiu@comcast.net. Thank you, Nancy, for your wonderful direction and continuing guidance in your blogs.


Nancy: Sandi’s books can be purchased at— Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, and other online bookstores. You can get a signed copy by emailing her at sandiu@comcast.net.

For more about Sandi, check out her blog: Sandiu.blogspot.com


Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Cliché Teen Journal. Have something you would like to be shared to the Cliché Teen Journal? Why not submit it? We accept a broad range of submissions. If you are between the ages of 13 through 19, consider submitting to us. (If you don't fit in the age range, we may make an exception if you contact us first!) Whether it is fiction, non-fiction, poetry, prose, personal essays, art, photography, or anything else you have been working on, feel free to submit. All you have to do is follow the submission details and view the submission seasons in the submission guidelines tab!

Submissions guidelines at https://xn--clichteen-f4a.weebly.com/submit.html

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.

Submissions guidelines at http://funforkidzmagazines.com/ffk_guidelines

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, March 24, 2019


Today, I’m so happy to welcome Sandi Underwood, author of Mountain Laurel, as a guest author. Tell us about your latest book and what inspired you to write it. 

Sandi: Thank you for inviting me to your blog. I love reading your writing tips and I learn something each time. Thank you, also, for asking about Mountain Laurel. Out of my three books, this is my favorite. 


Mountain Laurel represents my mother at what I perceive her to be at age 14. She (and Dad) loved to tell stories about their childhood. It wasn’t until much later that I started writing them down, but every story in Mountain Laurel is based on stories from their childhood, stories I’d heard all my life. I wanted a way to preserve them for my grandchildren, so what better way than to write a book?


As my publisher describes it, Mountain Laurel is told through the eyes of a fourteen-year-old Appalachian girl in 1936. The acquisition editor stated he could see it being marketed to teachers for classroom use as the flavor and events are factual. It is set in the Smoky Mountains−close to where I grew up−and features the opening of Norris Dam, the first project of the newly formed Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which was part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’.


Nancy: A sequel may be in the works, right? If so, I want to read it.


Sandi: Mountain Laurel came out early March of this year and I cannot tell you how many people have already asked, “Well, who did Laurel choose−William or Mason?” You’ll need to read the story to learn why, but my answer is a teaser. I tell them I already have the sequel titled. It will be _____’s Story. I’d love to keep the secret until the very end; however, I doubt any publisher would agree to that, but wouldn’t it be fun!


Nancy: I’m sure readers will want to know who Laurel chose. I sure did as I read it.

You’ve been writing for years. If you could tell your younger “writer self” anything, what would it be? 

Sandi: I would tell my younger self what I tell every wanna-be writer: BIC (Butt in chair!) I didn’t get serious about writing until I was in my late 30s, but I’ve always loved to write. The answer is simple: writers write. Writing is like any other craft−the more you do, the better at it you become.

Nancy: Excellent advice, Sandi. We wish you the best with Mountain Laurel. I loved it so much, I had to ask if you would visit this blog. Would you consider visiting again in a couple of weeks to update us on future books you are working on? And one more question. Where will you be signing books this spring?


Sandi: Nancy, I’m honored to be a guest on your blog. I’ll come back any time you ask. As for book signings, my next one is the weekend of April 12-14 at The Old Oaks Festival at Tusculum University−the oldest University in Tennessee and the 28th oldest in the United States. The three-day festival has loads of food vendors, local crafters, and musicians. Last year, there were approximately fifteen authors on “Author’s Row,” some from your home state of Kentucky. I’m thrilled to join them−a first for me; but to be honest, I go every year just for the funnel cakes!


Nancy: That festival sounds wonderful. Sandi’s book can be found at the following:  Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, and other online bookstores. You can get a signed copy by emailing her at sandiu@comcast.net.


Also, you can follow her blog: Sandiu.blogspot.com 


Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Skipping Stones. Writing (essays, stories, riddles) limited to 1,000 words and poems to 30 lines.

Submissions guidelines at http://www.skippingstones.org/submissions.htm

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Amazing Kids! Online Magazine. Do you love writing, art, photography or videography, and are between the ages of 5 to 18? Would you like to be published in the Amazing Kids! Online Magazine? Read the following Amazing Kids!’ Writers Guidelines carefully, then submit your writing and art; it might just be published in an upcoming issue!
Submissions guidelines at http://mag.amazing-kids.org/get-involved/write-for-us/

Leave a message or check out my blog at www.nancykellyallen.com

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