Nancy's Books

Monday, March 8, 2010

Theme, Trouble in Troublesome Creek, Contests, Call for Submissions

The Troublesome Creek kids are back with a new adventure. Their favorite swimming hole has dead fish floating in the water. Stiiiinky! Can the kids solve the mystery of the dead fish?

Usually I begin writing a story with a particular character in mind. My fictional characters are often quirky and far from perfect. Sometimes a plot pops into my mind and I work characters into the action. For my newest book, Trouble in Troublesome Creek, my editor asked me to write a story about water pollution. Hummmmm, I’d never written a story based on the concept of a theme. The characters were already developed from a previous book, The Munched-Up Flower Garden. First, I focused on the plot: something was killing the fish in troublesome creek. Next, I created the cause of the pollution—Minnie balls, Civil war bullets—and began writing the text. My goal was to find a positive way for the characters to deal with the pollution and it’s cause. When I finished the first draft, I revised the story to incorporate a strong theme: what happened 150 years ago affects us today so what we do today may affect generations 150 from now.

Writers, when you finish a story, examine the content and determine the theme, which is a viewpoint or concept conveyed in the story. The theme should evolve as the story develops. If the theme is mentioned in the story, write it as dialog, not narration. Children want to read stories that entertain and explore life. They don’t want preachy themes hammered into the storyline. Find ways in which the characters can work constructively to solve the problem. This method keeps the theme positive.

Classroom activity:

Creek in a Bottle:
Add three cups of water to a 2-liter bottle. Repeat the process twice so you have three bottles containing water. Discuss how the bottles and water represent a creek habitat and how the water is clean. Add one cup of oil to the first bottle. Discuss how animals that live in or drink the water can be harmed when oil spills into creeks. How does oil in water affect people who use the water? Add soap and detergents to the second bottle. Again, discuss how the pollution affects animals and people. Add oil, soap, and detergents to the third bottle. Again, discuss the affects of pollution of our water supply. Invite students to make posters encouraging others to not pollute or showing the dangers of pollution.


1. The Glass Woman Prize
Deadline: March 21, 2010
"The Seventh Glass Woman Prize will be awarded for a work of short fiction or creative non-fiction (prose) written by a woman. Length: between 50 and 5,000 words. The top prize for the seventh Glass Woman Prize award is US $600 and possible (but not obligatory) online publication; I will also award one runner up prize of $100 and one runner up prize of $50, together with possible (but not obligatory) online publication. Subject is open, but must be of significance to women. My criterion is passion, excellence, and authenticity in the woman’s writing voice. Previously published work and simultaneous submissions are OK. Previous Glass Woman Prize winners are welcome to submit again. Copyright is retained by the author."

Call for Submission:

2. *Now & Then* ("the Appalachian magazine") is taking submissions for its upcoming themed issue "Appalachian High" until March 31, 2010. "Fiction, news and feature articles, interviews, and personal essays are accepted. Writing can include information gleaned from diaries, letters, and family histories, as well as standard research and reportage. Clearly label any first-person piece as either a fiction or nonfiction essay." Pays: "modest honorarium" and copy. See


  1. It's interesting that you picked old lead shot from the Civil War as your pollution. I live in Washington state and the Tundra swans, other swans and geese die from eating old lead shot here in farmer's fields. The Tundra swans go on to the Alaskan Tundra, the geese and swans, Canada. It's sad to hear about their deaths.

  2. How we live today certainly affects the lives of future generations, both people and animals. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I think your overall theme is so true, and very important lesson for children to learn. I agree that preaching these ideas at them doesn't work and I bet kids love your book.

    Happy Friday,
    Allison Maslan

  4. Dear Nancy,

    Congratulations on the release of your latest book. To craft a good story around an important theme is a gift to the children who read it. You give good writing advice for writing to any age level...adults included.

    Your background has led you to work perfectly suited to what you've done and who you are. Hurrah for the life-long Kentuckian who contines to share those values and that life.

    Janet Riehl

  5. Sounds like a great book for kids to read. I like the cover of the book and I liked the video of Trouble in Troublesome Creek.

  6. Thanks, Susanne. I'm glad you enjoyed the video.