Nancy's Books

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Creating and Developing Ideas for Books/Contest/Call for Submission

A couple of weeks ago, I was attended the Kentucky Book Fair where I talked with lots of writers. One beginning writer asked a couple of interesting questions: What triggered the idea for my first book? and How did I develop the idea into a story? Sometimes I wonder why that particular manuscript struck a chord with an editor when previous manuscripts landed in the trash heap. Now that I’ve had time to reflect on the question, I think I can answer it, at least partially.

The writing advice “Write about what you know” certainly applies to my first book, Once Upon a Dime. The setting of the book is a small farm. I live on a small farm. The animals are named for famous Americans. For seven years, I taught American history and focused on many famous Americans. At the end of the story, the tree grows books. I became a librarian so I was surrounded by books every day. But the similarities don’t stop there. One day my husband came in from mowing the fields. He walked upstairs to change out of his hot, sweaty clothes. In the meantime, he emptied his pockets of coins and attempted to drop them into a glass jar that served as a piggy bank. Instead, the coins missed the opening of the jar and scattered over the floor with a ting and a ping and a plink. When I heard the noise I looked at my two canine girls and said, “The money tree is ripe and it’s dropping its fruit.” I immediately realized I had just spouted a plot for a book. Of course, the sound of the ting, pling, and plink became the sound of the money as it shimmied in the breeze.

I find that if I write about what I know or a subject I’m interested in, the story is easier to write. When I research, I’m always on the lookout for quirky facts and interesting information. In Once Upon a Dime, I added Chinese money, yuan, to the money crop. The hardest part of writing the story was creating names for the manure—pig squish, sheep biscuits—used to fertilize the crops. That was the most fun, too.

So to answer the questions, I wrote about a subject in which I was passionate and knew well—a small, Appalachian farm.

What subject are you passionate about? When you figure out the answer, you know the subject of the book you can write.

Next week, I’ll discuss more about developing ideas.

Fan Story Contest
Write a short love poem with fifteen words or less. $100 cash prize for the winner of this contest for poets.
Deadline: December 3
Details at

Call for Submissions
Teen Ink is a monthly print magazine, website, and a book series all written by teens for teens.
Details at

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Fear of Rejection, Call for Submissions, Student Contest

It happens to most writers to some degree. It takes hold and nothing pours from our minds to our fingertips to the keyboard. Sometimes it’s expressed as writers’ block. Sometimes it’s conveyed in volumes of pages but nary a word is submitted. Other times it’s demonstrated through procrastination. The “it” I’m referring to is fear. Fear that what we write isn’t good enough. Fear of rejection. Fear of failure
This poem expresses the feeling of fear beautifully.

Don’t Be Afraid to Fail
Author unknown

You’ve failed many times,
although you may not
You fell down
the first time
you tried to walk.
You almost drowned
the first time
you tried to
swim, didn’t you?
Did you hit the
ball the first time
you swung a bat?
Heavy hitters,
the ones who hit the most home runs,
also strike
out a lot.
English novelist
John Creasey got
752 rejection slips
before he published
564 books.
Babe Ruth struck out
1,330 times,
but he also hit 714 home runs.
Don’t worry about failure.
Worry about the
chances you miss
when you don’t
even try.

Fear is part of a writer’s journey. Those who get contracts push past their fears and accept them as nothing more than bumps along the publishing road.

Call for Submissions

TriQuarterly Online has opened for submissions of fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, short drama, and hybrid work. “We also welcome short-short prose pieces. We especially are interested in work that embraces the world and continues, however subtly, the ongoing global conversation about culture and society that *TriQuarterly* pursued from its beginning in 1964. *TQO* pays honoraria for creative work.” NB: Query if you would like to “review books or literary events, interview an author, or propose a craft essay.” Submission manager will remain open through July 15, 2011.
Details at

Student Contest

Merlyn’s Pen
There's an old saying: Laughter is the best medicine. When we laugh, we forget our troubles and our pains. Writing about growing up helps us recall events that challenged, scared, confused or even shocked us. Hmmm, that doesn’t sound like fun. Yet when writing about life-changing events, don't we sometimes find ourselves smiling, even laughing, and acknowledging some “good” that resulted? If they lead to nothing else, these memories can lead to a story -- often a story others will enjoy hearing. Merlyn's Pen and its online readers want to hear your story!

This contest seeks humorous stories -- nonfiction ("true" stories) up to 750 words -- about an event that taught you something important, that changed or shaped your understanding of yourself, your friends, your family, or the world.
Winning entries will be picked from two divisions: High school (grades 9-12 or home-school equivalent) and Middle School (grades 6-8 or home-school equivalent).

Deadline December 31, 2010
Details at

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Guest Author, Ev Christensen/Contest/Call for Submissions

Literature Wordokus, level 1
ISBN :978-1-34358-59-7
For grades 3-6
Literature Wordokus, level 2
ISBN :978-1-34358-58-0
For grades 6-8

Publisher: Pieces of Learning
Publishing Date: 2010

Today, I'm happy to have a special friend, Ev Christensen, as a guest. She is an award-winning author of over 40 puzzle books. Her books are popular with kids, parents, and teachers and are used in classrooms across the nation. I've had the privilege of attending book signings with Ev and seen the positive responses she receives for her books.

Nancy: Ev, you are delightfully creative. Tell us about two of your recent books.

Ev: It’s great to be here with you, Nancy. I’m very excited about a pair of Literature Wordokus which I co-authored with Cathie Brown. The set provides intriguing discussion questions based on classic and award-winning books but which require no previous knowledge of the authors and literature they address. They’re intended to get kids excited about reading the books. Also included are sudoku-style puzzles (based on title, author, theme, setting, or character) which can be used as interest hooks.

Nancy: Can you give us some tips for writing a book of puzzles?

Ev: Try to create a new style of puzzle or give a new twist to a familiar puzzle type. Be aware that although trade publishers may still be producing puzzle books that are of the fun, brain teaser variety, most educational publishers want puzzle books to have a strong curriculum tie-in. With the focus on accountability these days, teachers on limited budgets are restricting their buying to resources that will help boost their test scores. Your chances of getting published are much higher if your puzzle book is not only fun, but is also that kind of resource.

Nancy: You have lots of experience writing and working with editors. What advice can you give writers who are just starting out?

Ev: My best advice to them is to take advantage of the helpful resources available on the web to learn as much as they can about writing and submitting. Sites like your wonderful blog, Verla Kay’s author forum, Institute of Children’s Literature, and Children’s Book Insider are all invaluable resources. If people are writing for the education market and are researching places to submit, my website is also a good resource

Nancy: Thanks, Ev, for visiting with me today. Your advice is excellent and I wish you much success with Literature Wordokus. Ev’s books can be purchased at

Ev: Thank you for inviting me, Nancy!

Next week, I’ll address a topic close to all of our hearts, fear of rejection.


Bevel Summers Prize in the Short Short Story
This new prize from *Shenandoah* "is open to all authors of stories of up to
1,000 words." Winner receives $250 and publication in the journals first online
Deadline: Manuscript must be received by March 31, 2011
Details at

Call for Submissions
New Moon Girls
Objectives of New Moon Girls: New Moon Girls portrays girls and women as powerful, active and in charge of their own lives - not as passive beings who are acted upon by others. New Moon Girls celebrates girls and their accomplishments—we support girls' efforts to hold onto their voices, strengths and dreams as they move from being girls to becoming women. New Moon Girls is a tool for girls to use as they build resilience and resistance to destructive societal messages, moving confidently out into the world, pursuing their unique paths in life.
General Guidelines: All material should be pro-girl and focus on girls, women, or female issues. New Moon Girls was created by girls and women for girls who want their voices heard and their dreams taken seriously. It is edited by and for girls ages 8 and up. New Moon Girls takes girls very seriously; the publication is structured to give girls real power. The final product is a collaboration of girls and adults. An editorial board of girls aged 8-14 makes final decisions on content for the magazine and website.

New Moon Girls Upcoming Themes:May/June 2011 “Beauty Around the World” Deadline: Jan. 1, 2011
July/August 2011 “Do It Yourself” Deadline: March 1, 2011
Sept./Oct. 2011 “Eat to Save the Earth” Deadline: May 1, 2011
Send all electronically by email to
Details at

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Character-Driven Stories, Part III, Calls for submissions

Have you ever read a book and fallen for the character? Do you silently urge the character to keep trying and root for his/her triumph?

Here are a few tips to create likable characters.

Figure out your character’s weakness and proceed with an incredible problem that preys on that weakness. The main character should shoulder the main load. Do not allow the problems to be so overwhelming, the character cannot triumph; instead use the story to play out the character’s struggle and ultimate victory. Let the other characters in the story underestimate the protagonist. This will give him/her a chance to grow and prove them wrong by the end of the story. The protagonist should never realize that s/he will succeed until the very end.

A character’s personality can create a bond with readers on the first page of the book. Spring the personality of your main character onto the page early. Kids love humor. If you make your character funny, kids—and editors—will take notice and keep reading.

It’s not necessary to offer the character’s physical description in detail. Many readers like to draw their own conclusions about a character’s appearance, so leave room to engage the reader’s imagination.

Characters don’t have to be good to be likeable, but they should have likeable traits. A demanding cat can display anything but good behavior but it should have some redeeming qualities.

The character needs a sharp intellect, keen wit, or some quality that will make him/her able to stand up to the challenge and triumph over the obstacles.

Make your character memorable. Memorable characters need realistic problems to face, realistic decisions to make, and follow through with realistic solutions.

Check the character traits in your protagonist. Make “likable” one of the top.

Choice Publishing Group has issued calls for submissions for three anthologies within the Patchwork Path series: "Star Spangled Banner," "Star of Hope," and "Baby's Block." Deadlines vary (the first, for "Star Spangled Banner," which is looking for stories and essays "about living the American Dream," is December 31, 2010). Pays: $50/published story. Visit for more information. (via PayingWriterJobs,

Stone Soup welcomes submissions by children through age 13. If you are over 13 we suggest you search Google for a teen magazine where you can send your work.

Send us stories and poems about the things you feel most strongly about! Whether your work is about imaginary situations or real ones, use your own experiences and observations to give your work depth and a sense of reality. Writing need not be typed, as long as it is legible. Include your name, age, home address, phone number, and e-mail address if you have one. Please do not include a self-addressed stamped envelope.
Details at