Nancy's Books

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Inspiration to write/Jaime Adoff/Kiki Magazine/Contest/Call for submissions

One recurring question I’m asked is “How do you stay inspired to write?” This question has many forms, such as “Don’t you get tired of writing, day after day?” and “How do you find the time to write?”

Inspiration often comes in brilliant flashes like lightning when an idea for a story zigzags into my brain. Other times inspiration seeps over me like cool breeze on a warm day. This happens when I read a story or article that impresses me or meet an author who is compelling in his/her own way or talk with someone who enjoys reading books.

A week or so ago, I attended the Kentucky School Media/ALA Conference in Louisville. Several authors were scattered around a spacious room snuggled comfortably between vendor booths. Nice arrangement for all. I chatted with librarians from around the state. Between signing books and talking with vendors, I introduced myself to the one author who sat in a booth near me. He said his name was Jaime Adoff, and he briefly discussed his books, stating he wrote novels and picture books. I was impressed with his pleasant, sociable personality. Our conversation was cut short when librarians came to our tables with books for us to sign. As I turned to walk to my table, I picked up a brochure from a stack Jaime had on display.

A few minutes later, I began reading Jaime Adoff’s brochure. My mouth dropped, literally, when I read that he was the son of Virginia Hamilton, the Newbery Award-winning author, and Arnold Adoff, the renowned poet. Jaime has collected impressive literary awards of his own, including the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award and the Lee Bennett Hopkins Award.

Between signings, we continued to talk. And laugh. And tell stories.

I met school, public, and academic librarians. We talked. And laughed. And told stories.

I met the editor-in-chief of a notable new magazine, Kiki, for tween girls. We talked. And laughed. And told stories.

When I left Louisville, I felt energized to rev up the story I’m working on and to find the time to write a story that’s been percolating for a while. Meeting authors and librarians and editors and others in the writing community is my way of staying inspired to write.

Students often need to be inspired to write, too. One way is to allow students to choose a topic they’re interested in. Another is to write while students are writing. When students observe a teacher writing, they see value in the experience. One of the best ways of firing up students to place pencil to paper and write is to read books aloud and follow with a discussion of the plot, character or a specific aspect of writing.

Find out what works to inspire you or your students to write. When you do, immerse yourself in that world periodically and leave refreshed and ready to create new worlds of your own.

Contest/Call for submissions

The Competition is open to any writer, regardless of nationality, who has never been the author of a published novel (authors of self-published works may enter, as long as the manuscript submitted is not the self-published work) and is not under contract with a publisher for publication of a novel. Only one manuscript entry is permitted per writer. All manuscripts must be original, previously unpublished works of book length (no less than 220 typewritten pages or 60,000 words) written in the English language by the entrants. Murder or another serious crime or crimes is at the heart of the story. If a winner is selected, Minotaur Books will offer to enter into its standard form author's agreement with the entrant for publication of the winning manuscript. After execution of the standard form author's agreement by both parties, the winner will receive an advance against future royalties of $10,000. Deadline November 13, 2010.

Kiki Magazine
Kiki is a magazine for girls who love life, appreciate creativity, and recognize good ideas. A Kiki reader thinks for herself, has her own look, and is on her way to being a confident, strong, and smart young woman. She's a girl with style and substance! Kiki shows you all the different ways you can be involved in design. Seven different departments blend style and artistry with intelligence and creativity, and design features will inspire you to transform your Kiki into your very own creativity journal!
This magazine accepts submissions from professional writers and from female students. Male writers must be parents of girls.
Details at

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Guest author Cassandra Jade/Building Tension/Contests

Publisher: Lyrical Press

Today, I have Cassandra Jade, author of the fantasy novel, Death’s Daughter, visiting my blog. Cassandra is discussing how to build tension in stories.

Nancy: Welcome, Cassandra. Building tension in stories is the key to creating interest, and interest keeps readers reading. So what can writers do to build tension as we craft our stories?

Cassandra: There is virtually no end to the list of different ways you can add tension to a story. Sometimes those seemingly simplistic moments can become very tense (and not in an overly dramatic way when handled well). As a reader, these are my five favorite ways that authors introduce tension for their characters:

1. A secret is uncovered and the character is trying to prevent the knowledge from spreading. I always like intrigues and character dilemmas. You always wonder just how far is this character going to go to keep this a secret. And when the secret is revealed, how will they react? Admittedly, as a reader I like to be in on the secret and then the fun is seeing if the other characters in the story catch on.

2. Forced waits. I'm going to confess that I love this as a plot device because in real life this is what causes the most tension. You know what is coming, you know what you need to do, everything is progressing and then it all just stalls. You can really relate to the characters as they get frustrated and impatient and desperate to act while others use the time for further preparations and others still simply work themselves into a bundle of nerves.

3. Rivalry. It may be a cliché but I do love rivals when they are both well established characters and their both given a fair showing. The play between the two as they try to one-up the other, while not admitting that they care what the other thinks, can make for an intriguing and interesting story and can also create some really interesting tensions between the other characters as they realize what is happening.

4. RAS (Random Acts of Stupidity). Everybody is stupid at one point or another and when a character has clearly done something incredibly dumb, I like that to be addressed by the other characters, rather than simply ignored because it is convenient to the story. This can create really interesting group dynamics and the tension in the scene where someone confronts the character about their action can be excellently executed.

5. Anticipation. I remember reading a book in high-school (don't remember which one) where a girl was having her thumb chopped off (various political reasons leading up to it). But they announced this at the beginning of the chapter. Guy has hold of the girl, blade drawn. She's crying. Then someone else comes in and there is discussion and another speech and they keep coming back to this girl who has tears streaming down her face. The whole chapter you're wondering - are they actually going to do this? Is she going to get away or be released? If they had made me wait to the next chapter to find out I probably would have given up reading the book because essentially nothing would have happened in the chapter, but this book was brilliantly executed. Just when you couldn't take any more and you had to know, the answer is revealed and then the chapter ended.

Nancy: Thanks, Cassandra. You’ve given me lots of ideas today, and I will be using some of these to up the tension in my own stories. I wish you the best with your book, Death’s Daughter.


Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest - No Fee
Winning Writers invites you to enter the tenth annual Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest. We'll award $3,600, including a top prize of $1,500. Submit one poem online. No length limit. Both published and unpublished poems are welcome.
Deadline: Entries accepted August 15, 2010-April 1, 2011
Details at

For students:

The purpose of our essay contest is to bring recognition to
student writers. Winners share thousands in cash and prizes.
In addition to the winning entries, other entries of high merit
are accepted to be published in our hard-bound anthology. With
the publication being regionally based, students are competing
against their peers in both age and location. Within the guidelines
of accepting less than 50% of the poems and essays that are entered
in each contest, the contest is selective so that it is an honor
to be accepted, yet not so exclusive that it is discouraging to
enter. Unlike many other organizations who sponsor writing contests,
there is no entry fee and no required purchase in order to become
published. We take pride in the fact that our staff is comprised
of teachers, professors and writers.

Fall: October 19, 2010
Spring: Feb 17, 2011
Summer: July 14, 2011
Students: For each contest deadline, the top ten entries in each
grade division (3-6; 7-9; 10-12 for essay) will receive a $50
savings bond, special recognition in the book, and a free copy
of the anthology that is created from the contest.
Teachers: Teachers with 5 or more students who give permission
for publication will receive a free copy of the anthology that
includes their student writers. Teachers also can qualify to
apply for one of fifty $250 grants we award each year.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Dialog Tags/Swifties/Contests

Dialogue tags often consist of only two words, such as “he said.” Said is the recommended verb because the word become invisible to the reader. There’s an interesting dialog tag called Tom Swiftie. Or Swiftie. Or Swifty. A Swiftie is a sentence in which a phrase and the dialog tag become a pun. The name dates back to the early 1900s when author Edward L. Stratemeyer wrote a series of books about a character named Tom Swift. Stratemeyer also created the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, and the Hardy Boys. He didn’t actually write the series, but he created the characters and developed the plots for his books. Various writers wrote the stories.

Here are some examples of Swifties:

"The number of people not attending class today really bothers me," said the professor absent-mindedly.
"I like modern painting," said Tom abstractly.
"I find my job painful -- every inch of it," said Lear achingly.
"There's room for one more," Tom admitted.
"Here's your allowance for the next two weeks," Tom advanced.
"Fire!" yelled Tom alarmingly.

Am I suggesting that Swifties are a practice we should strive for in our writing? Hardly. But we should view these as a glaring reminder that a simple dialog tag, such as “he said” is often all that is needed; otherwise, the dialog tag can become a distraction to the reader.


Each issue of Literary Laundry is accompanied by a writing competition. All pieces submitted to us for review will be entered into consideration for our Awards of Distinction. Cash awards are offered for the following:

$500 for best poem
$500 for best short story
$250 for best one-act drama

Deadline December 1, 2010.
Details at

The Angel Animals Network 2010 True Story Contest is now accepting submissions of stories about animals helping children, parents, and families deal with chronically difficult situations and circumstances or temporary tough periods in a child’s life.
Deadline: September 15, 2010
Details at

Birdsong Micropress Winter 2010 Poetry + Prose Contest
New York literary zine Birdsong is now accepting submissions for our Winter 2010 Poetry + Prose Contest. A prize of $50, publication in birdsong #14, 10 complimentary copies of the zine (edition of 200, full color, screenprinted cover), and a featured spot in our Brooklyn reading series in mid-December will be awarded a single person in each category. Submit a 12 pt. standard font .doc file of up to three pages of poetry, or 1500 words of double-spaced prose.
Deadline: 10 October 2010
Details at

For students:

Kids Are Authors is an annual competition open to Grades K-8 and is designed to encourage students to use their reading, writing, and artistic skills to create their own books. Under the guidance of a project coordinator, children work in teams of three or more students to write and illustrate their own book. Two Grand Prize winning books will be published in each of these categories: Fiction and Nonfiction. The winning books
will be published by Scholastic and sold at Book Fairs throughout the country. Each Grand Prize winning team receives:
· $5,000 in merchandise from the Scholastic Book Fairs School
Resource Catalog to be awarded to the public/private school
or non-profit organization of their choice.
· 100 copies of their published book
Other prizes included.
Deadline March 15, 2011
Details at

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Conflict/Contest/Student Publishing

For the next several weeks, I will post publishing opportunities for students in the Contest/Call for Submissions section of this blog.

Conflict, A Writer’s Best Friend

In the writing world, conflict is good. The greater the conflict, the stronger the story. I remember when I first began writing, I read an article that stated we should treat our characters badly, then treat them worse. That was an ah-ha! moment. Characters need goals, but they also need obstacles to those goals. The reward comes at the end of the story when the character shows evidence of growth.

Conflict, internal or external, brings the character to life and adds depth to the story. Without conflict, a character is uninteresting and flat. With conflict, a character is compelled to take action. The characters actions and reactions keep readers engaged in the story.

A character should work at solving the problem. Failure to do so is an integral part of the plot because the character is forced to work harder. Repeated failure requires the character to rethink and retry different avenues to resolving issues. The knowledge gained from failure leads to growth.

A character needs an antagonist, a worthy opponent, to keep the conflict believable and who creates challenges and motivation. The character’s actions and reactions will drive the plot. Allow the character to be torn between two choices and forced to deal with difficult decisions, exposing raw emotions. Readers will want the character to succeed and will hang in there to the last page.

These rules apply to picture books, chapter books, and novels. In fiction, don’t run from conflict, run with it.


Eric Hoffer Award for Short Prose
Each year, outstanding works of short prose deserve wider recognition. The Eric Hoffer Award for short prose recognizes excellence in writing with a $500 prize and various honors and distinctions. Works of short prose must be less than 10,000 words, previously unpublished, or published with a circulation of less than 500. The winning prose and selected nominations are published annually in the anthology
Details at

For Students:
Two age groups (7-10, 11-14).
Grand Prize: One year subscription to Backyard Poultry,
Official Gertrude McCluck plush toy, book choice of Storey's
Illustrated Poultry Breeds or Your Chickens ($60 value)
2nd Prize: One year subscription to Backyard Poultry and
Official Gertrude McCluck canvas bag ($40 value)
3rd Prize: One year subscription to Backyard Poultry and
Gertrude McCluck notecards ($30 value)
Honorable Mention: Backyard Poultry "Have you hugged your
chicken today?" t-shirt
All contestants will receive a Gertrude McCluck sticker
with a letter notifying them of the results. Winners will
be posted in the Dec./Jan. issue of Backyard Poultry and
on the Gertrude McCluck website. Write an original story
that includes Gertrude McCluck. You can write about anything
- what happened when Gertrude discovered an ostrich egg in
the coop? Hitched a ride to the fair? Met the poultry in
your flock? Use your imagination to take her on an adventure.
Type the story using 500 words or less. Good stories have
a beginning, middle and an end. Please use 1" margins,
double-spaced and 12 pt.font. Send story in e-mail or
postal mail by October 15. Include your name, age,
address, phone number and e-mail (if you have one) with
the story (not just on the envelope or in the e-mail).

Details at