Nancy's Books

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Maximize Writing Time, Call for Submissions, Contests

Have you ever wondered what makes some writers more successful than others? One common denominator of successful writers is they produce a lot of writing. They write every day. One of the best ways to get in the habit of writing daily is to have a plan. Some writers set a goal of a certain number of hours per day. Others prefer a word or page amount. Here are some ideas to maximize your writing time.

1. Use bum glue. Glue your bum, not literally, to the chair and write. Writers write. There is no other way to get the words on paper or the screen. The more your write, the easier it gets.

2. Stop procrastinating. Set a writing goal and consistently work toward that goal. Staring at a blank computer screen or sheet of paper is intimidating. Every book begins with the first word. If you’re writing a chapter book or novel, break down the project into chapters and work through the story one chapter at a time. Begin with an outline. Outline each chapter. If you have never traveled from Monkey’s Eyebrow, Kentucky, to Frog Eye, Alabama, wouldn’t it be easier if you followed a map rather than guess the routes? Following an outline is like following a map through new territory. You have the options of choosing different routes and will get to your destination with fewer wrong turns.

3. Develop a schedule that fits your lifestyle. If you can write for 30 minutes every day at 4:15, use that time effectively. You may have a few minutes while you wait to pick up a child from softball practice to write or develop ideas.

4. Write when you don’t feel inspired. Some writers say they are inspired every morning at 8:00 whether they feel it or not. Don’t wait until you feel the urge to write. If you start writing, ideas will come.

5. Perseverance pays off. Remain persistent in your writing goals. Stephen King says talent is as common as table salt. Write consistently and hone your talent. Manuscripts will follow and you’ll be closer to reaching your goals.

Teachers, introduce a writing activity by holding up three pictures. Describe in detail each picture. If the picture is a dog chasing a boy, use descriptive language to express the action. Instead of saying, “The dog chased the boy,” provide details, such as “Sting, the wild-eyed, wild haired, wild barking dog of the new neighbor had just learned to chase the wind when Jesse saw the creature sprinting in his direction….”

Explain that writing details makes the story come alive. Give each student three different pictures and let them place the pictures in any order; then write a paragraph detailing the action in each.

Spruce Mountain Press Annual Past Loves Contest
To foster awareness of PAST LOVES DAY, SEPTEMBER 17, Spruce Mountain Press sponsors an annual Story Contest. The Contest, and the Day, offer an opportunity to acknowledge a truth that lingers in your heart.
No entry fee

Write your true story of an earlier love, in no more than 700 words. Tell us about someone whose memory brings a smile or a tear, or both.

First Prize: $100 Second Prize: $75 Third Prize: $50 Honorable Mention(s) Entries must be sent by midnight, August 17

Tenth Anniversary Novella Contest
No Restrictions: Editors say: "A novella, in order not to be a novel, should focus on one story and one set of characters. In order not to be a 'mere' short story, it should go into more depth, about both. What the heck is a novella, anyway?” Length is obviously the main criterion, i.e. the thing should be longer than a short story, and not so long as a novel.”
Deadline May 15
Details at
Mayor for the day writing contest
Create a fictitious village. Describe the village and write a short story about what you would do there if you were the mayor there for the day. Deadline May 1, 2010.
2nd -3rd grade - 100 words
4th -5th grade - 200 words
6th - 8th grade - 250 words
High School - 500 words
1st Place: A basket of school supplies, a lifetime subscription to City Kidz World magazine, and publication of the winning entry in the City Kidz World magazine and on
2nd place: A second place certificate, a lifetime subscription to City Kidz World magazine, and publication of the winning entry in the City Kidz World magazine and on
3rd place: A third place certificate, a lifetime subscription to City Kidz World magazine, and publication of the winning entry in the City Kidz World magazine on

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Kentucky Arts Council Grant, Southern KY Book Fest, Writing with Pictures, Contests

I’m happy to announce that I won a 2010 Individual Artist Professional Development grant from the Kentucky Arts Council [KAC], the state government agency responsible for developing and promoting support for the arts in Kentucky. KAC creates opportunities for people to find value in the arts, participate in the arts and benefit from the arts through programs, grants and services.

Saturday, I was a guest author at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest, another Kentucky treasure. Some of the headliners were Ann Bryn, [Cake Mix Doctor cookbooks], Lisa Scottoline [mysteries/thrillers], Laura Numeroff [If You Give a Mouse a Cookie], Mark Teague [illustrator of Dear Mrs. Laure], Kristin O’Donnell Tubb [Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different], Richard Paul Evans [The Chrismas Box], Alison Davis Lyon [illustrator of Halloween Alphabet],and numerous other authors and illustrators. I was no headliner, but I had fun signing copies of my latest book, Happy Birthday.

I talked with several authors about the state of the publishing industry. Here are some tidbits:

Be passionate about your work. Your passion will show in your writing and you will continue writing even when you feel like giving up.

Make a web presence even before you're published. Social media sites, such as web pages and blogs, are often checked by editors when making a decision on a publishing contract. A blog or web presence could tilt the vote in favor of offering a contract.

If you’re writing nonfiction, have your manuscript reviewed by a professional in the field in which you’re writing before you submit it to a publisher or agent.

Pass your manuscript to people outside your family and friends to have it critiqued before submitting it.

Middle grade and young adult fiction are popular with editors and agents at this time.

Picture books manuscripts are difficult to sell but great ones will find a home.

Spend as much energy and effort researching publishers as you do writing the book. Try to match the manuscript with the publisher.

Workshops are important in building a writing career. Not only do you learn the technical aspects of writing but you meet a network of professionals.

Develop the BIC [bottom in chair] habit and write daily.

For student writers:
Write a story with pictures. Have students cut out 6-10 pictures, more or less depending on class time and the age of students, from magazines, catalogs, and other sources. Explain that students will arrange pictures in a sequence and write a story with a beginning, middle, and ending to represent the pictures.

The Coffee Shop Chronicles
We’re putting together an anthology of one-hundred best stories, that all start or end with a cup of coffee. (Hey…you’re a writer…this should be easy.) It can be humorous and jittery, or about a life-changing event that is somehow linked to that magic brew. Did you propose over a cup of coffee, meet the love of your life or discover nuclear fission? Prime your boss for an overdue promotion and then seal the deal? Decide having one more kid was do-able? Plot the overthrow of the Chilean government? Finish the last chapter to that novel?
Whatever your story, we’d like to hear from you. Submit entries, from one paragraph to one page in length. Please include the name of your favorite coffee shop. All published entries will receive a twenty-five dollar gift certificate courtesy of your favorite coffee shop and A Word with You Press.

Closing date is May 1.

2010 Robert Traver Fly-Fishing Writing Award
"A distinguished original essay or work of short fiction that embodies an implicit love of fly-fishing, respect for the sport and the natural world in which it takes place, and high literary values."
Award carries a $2,000 First Prize, from the John D. Voelker Foundation, sponsor of the award; a Second Place award of $750 will be included this year; Third Place is $250.
Deadline May 15.
Find details at

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Rejection, Writing End to Beginning, Call for Submissions

Rejections letters. Eeuuu, nobody likes them, but a few rejection letters specifically state the problems, such as The ending was not realistic. You now know where your story may be lacking and also more about the type of story the editor is selecting. Seriously consider the comments made by an editor. Editors know what manuscripts work for their publishing houses. The best rejection letters request you to submit a revised manuscript or offer to review some of your other manuscripts.

If rejection slips with no comments flow in like tidal waves, you may want to reevaluate the manuscript. Could the manuscript be lacking in quality? The sheer volume of manuscripts publishers receive is overwhelming and the cream of the crop rises to the top. We become so emotionally attached to our writing it is impossible to be subjective in evaluating our own work. Join a critique group and get professional feedback.

All rejections are not the same. Reflect on the number of rejections, the type of rejections, and the reasons for rejection. Correct the problem by revising your submission list of publishers, the cover/query letter, or the story itself; then resurrect the manuscript with another round of submissions. With a little reflection, you can take your story from rejection to selection.

Writing from End to Beginning

Students sometimes we have great ideas for stories but don’t know where the story should start. Create a plot outline and write the ending, then the middle and finish with the beginning. This activity encourages creative thought long before the first word is written.

Call for submissions:
Once Upon a Day
Deadline: May 15th.
Your protagonist is about to have a day. He doesn't know it yet, but it's going to be a day that, for him, will live in infamy. A day she will point to, years later, as the specific moment when something in her soul changed. It can be a teeny tiny change or it can be a ginormous change. But it has to occur in the light of day.
The first line of your story must begin with: The sun rose...
The last line of your story must end with: ...just as the sun went down.
That which occurs in between—be it drama, comedy, mystery, romance, fantasy, etc.—is entirely up to you. What changes your dawn character to the one we shall see at dusk?
Prize: $100, plus the story will be published in The Verb. More details at

A Cup of Comfort® has once again joined hands with REDBOOK magazine to sponsor a true story contest!

Enter the Cup of Comfort/REDBOOK Your Love Story Contest for a chance to win $1,000, have your story excerpted in REDBOOK magazine, and publish your story in A Cup of Comfort for Couples!

A Cup of Comfort® for Couples: (Call for Submissions)
Stories that celebrate what it means to be in love

This book will feature uplifting true stories with a balanced mix of tones—romantic, poignant, humorous—on a wide range of topics. Story Length: 1000–2000 words.

Call for Submission Deadline: April 20, 2010
Finalist Notification: June 15, 2010
Details at

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Rejection, Timed writing, Call for submissions

When I think of my early writing days--seven years to land the first contract; five years to get the second one--I realize that being a librarian and working with kids and books on a daily basis is what kept me inspired, along with the driving desire to write and get published. In twelve years I accumulated two contracts and a mountain of rejection letters. My career momentum has shifted to a higher speed since then, but each time I get a contract, a troublesome little question pops up like a jack-in-the-box and squeezes the life out my confidence: Will I ever get another contract? The doubts are there, but I don't dwell on them; instead I start writing a brand new something or other, either a picture or chapter book.

Rejection letters are never easy to read, but can offer some insight into what works in a manuscript and what does not. Ask yourself these questions: Did I target publishers that accept the genre of my manuscript? Did I research each publisher to determine that they did not already have a book on the same subject or presented in a similar format? Publishers don’t want two of their own books to compete in the marketplace. Was my cover/query letter error free? Did I capture the editor’s attention in the first sentence?

Let’s move on to informative rejection slips, those in which a personal note or letter states why the manuscript was not right for the publisher. The reason stated may be so vague you don’t have a clue as to why the story was rejected; however, if the editor took time from a busy schedule to write a personal note, you have made a positive impression. You’re doing something right. Some rejection slips are in the form of a checklist. What area was marked? That information may give a clue as to why your story didn’t work for that publisher.

Some rejection notes state that a similar story was recently accepted. From that information, you can infer that you’re on the right track with the subject matter or type of manuscript. Some may state the story was too slight. That often means the plot was not strong enough. Others may state that they felt no empathy for the main character. Reread the manuscript to determine how the editor came to such conclusions. If you can recognize the problem, you can find a way to fix it.
Part III of my article, From Rejection to Reflection to Selection, will follow next weeks.

Classroom timed writing:
Allow students to select a topic or title or character and give them a minute or two to think about what they will write. Explain that they do not begin writing until you say, “Go.” At that point they will have three minutes [more time if you choose] to write a paragraph. When you say “stop” students place pencils on their desks. Allow them to share their work. Provide additional timed writing sessions throughout they year. Notice how their writing becomes more creative as they become accustomed to writing in a short period of time.

Call for Submissions:

Carolrhoda. April 1, 2010 and ending April 30, 2010, I will be considering unsolicited complete YA [Young Adult] novels for Carolrhoda Lab. I am interested in YA novels only, including realistic, paranormal, dark fantasy, dystopian, etc. I am not interested in high fantasy. We do not publish graphic novels. For details check here.

Friends of Acadia Nature Poetry Competition (no fee)
Postmark Deadline: April 30
Submissions are invited for the 2010 Friends of Acadia Poetry Competition. Established in 1998, this prize is presented biennially to promote and recognize distinctive nature poetry. The three top-ranked poems will be published in the Friends of Acadia Journal. (print and online), and awarded cash prizes by category ($350, $250, $150).
Details at