Nancy's Books

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Creative Nonfiction, Contests

Creative nonfiction is becoming more popular with publishers. This writing style incorporates real people and events with factually accurate information in a compelling story. Here’s how I get started writing nonfiction books for kids.

Selecting the topic is my first step. I seldom look for a nonfiction topic; the topics find me. One day I was reading an article in a magazine about two women from Louisville, Kentucky, who wrote the song, “Happy Birthday.” My curiosity was peaked. I wanted to know more. When I find a subject that snags my attention, I dig deep into the research. As I learn more about the subject, I choose bits and pieces of information that offer interest and surprise.

I begin my research at the library by selecting books and other materials, such as magazines and newspapers, on the subject. This is a broad search. When I find information I jot it down on cards and include the source of the information. I also check the bibliographies in the book to get more leads. If primary sources—journals, diaries, photos, letters—are available, I pour over them.

After I gather information, I narrow the topic by asking, What would interest a child about this person? I dig, dig, dig to find information to answer that question. My chapter book biography, Ring the Silver Bell, is the story of Alice Slone, who built one of the last settlement schools in Kentucky. Since I could devote chapters to the book, I wrote the story from her birth. In the picture book, Happy Birthday The Story of the World’s Most Popular Song, I focused the majority of the story on the period of time in which the two sisters wrote the song. I had less space to write, so I narrowed the topic.

As I research, I’m always on the lookout for quirky facts and interesting information to add kid appeal to the books. I like adding juicy details and events of daily life to excite the imaginations of the readers, to make them want to read more, to capture the essence of the person, and offer a reason to know more about the person.


Life Lessons Essay Contest
Finish this sentence: “I never thought I’d. . .”

Have you ever taken a huge, surprising risk? Did you climb a mountain? Go back to school? Get married (again)? Tell us about it: Enter Real Simple’s Third-Annual Life Lessons Essay Contest and you could have your essay published in Real Simple; win round-trip tickets for two to New York City, hotel accommodations for two nights, tickets to a Broadway play, and a lunch with Real Simple editors; and receive a prize of $3,000.

To enter, send your typed, double-spaced submission (1,500 words maximum, preferably in a Microsoft Word document) to
Deadline: September 24, 2010.
Details at

The Last 72
Live life like it matters: Last 72 follows people as they race to turn their lives around for good.

What would you do if you were told you had only 72 hours to live?
Share your real stories and be a part of a life-changing social experiment!
Everest Production Corporation together with The Fountain: A Magazine of Scientific and Spiritual Thought, are searching for 13 winners who will get to appear in a brand-new TV series.
1st Place: $5,000 USD
2nd Place: $2,000 USD
3rd Place: $1000 USD
Selected submissions will also be published in upcoming issues of the Fountain Magazine.
The top 13 essays will earn special prizes as well as the chance to appear on The Last 72 television series.
Deadline: October 30, 2010
Details at

Hint Fiction (n): a story of 25 words or fewer that suggests a larger, more complex story.
Inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s six-word story—"For sale: baby shoes, never worn"—Hint Fiction is not a first sentence, a random thought, or even a sentence or two plucked from a much larger work. Instead Hint Fiction should stand by itself as a complete story, yet also hint at a larger chain of events.
A title is important in Hint Fiction. While the word limit of a story is 25 words, it does not include the title. The title should add another layer of complexity to the story, helping to give the reader a better idea of what is taking place.
Ultimately, Hint Fiction is an exercise in brevity, with the writer trying to affect the reader in as few words as possible.
Here are two examples authored by Mr. Swartwood:

Corrections & Clarifications
It was Fredrick Miller, not his murdered son Matthew, who was executed Monday night at Henshaw Prison.

10 Items or Less
She saw his picture in the paper and remembered waiting on him two days before: the lighter fluid, her quip about barbequing, his vacuous gaze.

Submit your unpublished 25 word story to our competition and you could win:
· 10-week writing workshop
· $100
· One-year subscription to The Writer
· Publication of your winning entry in Gotham's Winter 2011 course catalog
· Bragging rights
Details at


  1. Thanks for the information on the contests. There are some very interesting ones here.