Nancy's Books

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Trouble in Troublesome Creek/ Mysteries/ Two Contests

My latest book, Trouble in Troublesome Creek, has just been released. Dead fish floating in the swimming hole spell trouble for the kids who like to swim in Troublesome Creek. Stinnnnky! Along with dead fish, they find a cave with flapping, fluttering bats and strange, metal rocks. Later, they discover the rocks are Minnie balls, old bullets left by soldiers from the Civil War, about 150 years ago. Follow the adventure of the Troublesome Creek kids as they help clean up the environment and solve a mystery.

The first review: Lively story...very highly recommended as an inspiring example of persistence, bravery and spirit for young readers.—Midwest Press

Check out the book trailer on this blog. Column on right.

This week’s writing tip focuses on mysteries.

Figure out the ending before you begin writing. By knowing the ending you can make a list of clues to drop throughout the story. One clue should be crucial and provide a piece of important information that enables the main character to solve the problem. The story plot is all about solving the mystery.

Add suspense by allowing the characters to get into scary situations. Readers will build empathy for the characters and become scared too. Characters experiencing the problem should solve the problem on their own, in children’s and adult books.

For teachers:

Spelunking is the sport of exploring caves. Students imagine they are spelunking for the first time. What three items would they take with them? If they became lost in a cave, what would they do to try to find the way back out? Should one person become the leader? If so, how should the leader be chosen? Divide class into groups comprised of 3 of 4 four students to brainstorm ideas. Each group will create a story in which they become lost in a cave and will perform their story in a skit.


1. Kiwi Publishing

We are currently looking for stories about the teachers and mentors who inspired you to be your best and become the person you are. That person may have been an educator, music instructor, manager, or friend. Do you have a special person who helped change your life, pushed you to excel, and is the thin thread to your success today?

To make sure we have a chance to read your story, we have extended the submission deadline through May 2, 2010. More details at Remember, your story can win $1000: $500 for you AND $500 for your favorite charity.

2. Tenth Anniversary Novella Contest
A novella is a fictional work longer than a short story and shorter than a novel. Send only the first 5,000 words. More details at Note: Will not consider anything that’s been published, either in print or on the Web. You will be contacted if the editor wants to read the entire work.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Small Publishers/Biography/Contest

Entering contests can pay off. I’m living proof. This weekend, I won a contest in which I had the golden opportunity to talk with literary agent Mark McVeigh. McVeigh had sage advice for writers trying to break into the publishing world. Here are the highlights of our conversation:

*Picture books are not top priority with large publishers but these books will make a comeback.
*Pitch to smaller, regional publishers. They produce top quality picture and chapter books and they keep books in print longer.

Check out McVeigh’s new blog at Sign up as a Follower so you can keep up with the latest in the publishing industry.

In celebration of my latest book, Happy Birthday, the Story of the World’s Most Popular Song, I’m continuing with tips on writing biographies.

Choose a subject that interests you. If you hate baseball or don’t find the sport interesting, maybe a biography on Babe Ruth is not your best choice. When you select a person you want to write about, get nosy. Become a fact-finding detective. Sniff out juicy details. Most writers find facts from at least two different sources before using them in a biography.

Fire up the beginning with a bang. The first sentence should reach out and capture the attention of your reader. Babe Ruth was born in 1895 may be accurate, but is it fun reading? Does it fire up with a bang? Is the first sentence exciting enough for the reader to continue? Try beginning with a little known fact about the person or an interesting statement. Continue the flow as you weave intriguing and relevant [also called juicy] facts into the story.

Teachers, here’s a fun writing activity.

Make biography boxes.
Who would you like to see on the next box of Wheaties? Create biography boxes by pasting an illustration that reflects the person’s life on one side of the box. Write a biography of the person and paste it on the opposite side. The inside of the box can be used to store items that represent the person’s life.

Invite students to share their biographies and boxed items with the class.


This contest will whet your writing appetite. National Public Radio is having a "Three-Minute Fiction" writing contest: http://www.npr. org/templates/ story/story. php?storyId= 123573329. The deadline is Feb. 28, 2010 and the maximum word count in 600. Have fun creating a story based on a photograph.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Birthday book/ Contest

My latest book, Happy Birthday: The Story of the World’s Most Popular Song, is hot off the presses. The story takes us back to the late 1800s. In the days when candles flickered the night with light, Mildred and Patty Hill pierced the quiet with music and song. Mildred tickled the ivories as Patty strung words, one after the other. Together, they wrote the little ditty, Good Morning to You, for the kindergarten students where Mildred taught and Patty was the principal in Louisville, Kentucky. Discover how they came to write the world's most famous song, Happy Birthday.

Since Happy Birthday is a biography, today’s writing workshop tips spotlight picture book biographies.
1. Research must be accurate.
2. Picture book biographies usually focus on one aspect of a person’s life, rather than the entire life.
3. Think in visual terms. Use action verbs in describing the character so much of the story can be told through illustrations.
4. Consider aspects of the person’s life that will be interesting, understandable, and appealing to the reader.
5. Reflect on anecdotes that will bring the character to life.
6. Give the story a beginning, middle, and end. The biography should make us care about the person, and the writing should never be boooooring.

Teachers, here are a few writing activities. For more check out my website at

Ø Students interview each other and write biographies about those they interviewed.

Ø Discuss how cities have changed since the time the Hill sisters wrote the world’s most famous song. Consider the following: transportation, lighting, streets, clothing, schools, communication, housing, etc. Write a story about living in the late 1800s or early 1900s.

Ø Students brainstorm words that describe themselves. They use those words to write an autobiography.

Ø Create a pie biography. Cut a circle into eight slices. Students list one fact about the Hill sisters per slice. Illustrate each slice. Invite students to dramatize the person by acting a scene from the person’s life.

And now for the contest:
1. The Guide to Literary Agents site is hosting a MG/YA Contest.

What to Submit:
The first 150-200 words of your unpublished, book-length work of middle grade or young adult fiction. You must include a contact e-mail address with your entry and use your real name. Also, submit the title of the work and a logline (one-sentence description of the work) with your entry.
1. This contest will be live for approximately fourteen days - from Feb. 7 through the end of Sunday, Feb. 21, EST. Winners notified by e-mail within seven days of end of contest. Winners announced on the blog thereafter. Contest is open to writers of all ages.
For more details and info, go to:,category,Contests.aspx.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Omit the Boring Parts, No-Fee Writing Contests

Award-winning author Elmore Leonard gives this advice: I try to leave out the parts that people skip. How can we determine what parts of our writing to leave out of a story? Of course, figuring out the boring parts is difficult, but these ideas will help:

1. Begin a story with action. Start where the character’s world is beginning to change.
2. Eliminate unnecessary words. I recently wrote in a manuscript, he frowned his forehead. I only needed two words: he frowned. A member of my critique group pointed that out. I seem to catch those mistakes in other people’s writing but not in my own. That brings me to another point.
3. Have two or three people read your work and provide feedback.
4. Show action with words. In my book, THE MUNCHED-UP FLOWER GARDEN, I wrote the first draft with the phrase, James ran. In revision, I changed those words to James sure can make the dust fly as he picks them up and puts them down.
5. Up the tension in your story. If the reader is anxious to find out what is happening next with the character, they won’t be bored. Keep the character deep within a problem until the end of the story.

Here are two more no-fee contests:

1. chixLIT and chixLITtle are literary 'zines for girls aged 7 to 17.

It's easy to submit to either literary 'zine by and for girls. You must
be female to be published. If you are age 7 to 12, submit to chixLITtle;
if you are 13 to 17, send to chixLIT. Choose one or two of your best
pieces of writing-nothing too long: poem, short short story, review,
rant, love letter, song. (300-word maximum, please). Send in the body of
an e-mail to They prefer email, but if you MUST
send snail mail or a photo, use this:
PO Box 12051
Orange CA 92859

2. Thin Threads Upcoming Story Writing Contest

Should your story be selected and be included in one of the "Thin Threads"® book series, a permission fee of $100 will be paid.
Thin Threads is currently collecting stories in the following categories:
1. Thin Threads of Money & Hardship
2. Thin Threads of Business & Career
3. Thin Threads of Holidays & Celebrations
(including Romance/Valentines Day)
4. Thin Threads of Teens & Young Adults
5. Thin Threads: The Legacy Project – featuring fathers, mothers, grandparents
6. Thin Threads of New Moms & Dads
KIWI is looking for true, inspirational stories; 1200 words or less, that will make readers laugh, cry, or sigh
For details check out