Nancy's Books

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The first 150-200 words of your unpublished, book-length work of middle grade or young adult fiction.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.


  1. Thank you for the info! And a big congrats on your book!

  2. Thanks, Amy. The book arrived at the publisher last Friday and is somewhere en route now. I haven't seen it yet.