Nancy's Books

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Writing Quotes/Calls for Submissions

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

A friend sent me this photo of a Christmas tree made of books. How appropriate for writers.

Here’s a gift for my Followers: May each of you find writing inspiration in the new year. To help you along I’ve listed some of my favorite writing quotes. Enjoy.

A writer is someone who can make a riddle out of an answer." - Karl Krauss

"The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say." ~Anaïs Nin

"Write about what you know and care deeply about. When one puts one's self on paper — that is what is called good writing." ~Joel Chandler Harris

"We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection." ~Anaïs Nin

"Anyone can become a writer. The trick is staying a writer." ~Harlan Ellison

“To write is to practice, with particular intensity and attentiveness, the art of reading.” –Susan Sontag

You must keep sending work out; you must never let a
manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer.
You send that work out again and again, while you're
working on another one. If you have talent, you will
receive some measure of success - but only if you persist.
~Isaac Asimov (1920 - 1992)

“Writing for children means thinking about your own past, while staying in touch with young people now."-- Michael Rosen, UK Children's Laureate

"Omit needless words. Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.
(William Strunk, Jr.)

"To me the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the music the words make." Truman Capote

"Rejection is actually an opportunity to find the right editor and the right publishing company." - Jane Yolen.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Electric Dragon Cafe Science Fiction and Fantasy Quarterly Short Story Contest
Entry Fee: None
Prize: 1st place: $25 Barnes and Nobel gift certificate 2nd place: $10 certificate
Seeking short fiction contest entries. Must be science fiction, fantasy or horror with fantastic elements and adhere to a theme which we will provide.
Please visit the website for full contest details and guidelines.
Deadline: MONTHLY
Details at

Call for Submissions for Student Writers:

Hazard Community & Technical College is hosting their annual Young Appalachian Poets Award. Any poet, high school aged or younger, may submit their original poetry. First prize includes $100 and publication in Kudzu; Second Place is $50 and publication in Kudzu. Makalani Bandele will serve as this year’s judge. He has been a member of the Affrilachian Poets since 2008. His poetry has been anthologized in My Brother’s Keeper and The Storytellers, and has been picked for upcoming issues of the African-American Review and Mythium Literary Magazine. He is a winner of the Ernest Sandeen Prize for Poetry. His most recent book—hellfightin’—is out now. You can contact Scott Lucero the contest’s coordinator at With all correspondence, please put YAPA in the subject line. You can submit your work at their new submittable account-- The deadline is January 30th.

Check out more contests on my blog:

Monday, December 19, 2011

Thinking in Pictures/Calls for Submissions

The sage words of poet Frank O’Hara: “If you think in pictures, write. If you think in words, paint.”

O’Hara’s words may seems strange, but if you’re writing picture books, thinking visually is critical. Picture books are composed of about 14-15 spreads. The scenes are pieces of action that are shown not only through words but pictures. Each written scene must have enough action to create an illustration.

Many of the visual details of a picture book are not in the text. Since the story is told in both words and pictures, elements that can be illustrated don’t belong in the words. The illustrations carry the story beyond the words. As a writer creates a story, consider the visual details of each spread. Each spread will become a page of the picture book. Picture books are 32 pages and 28 of those pages are devoted to the story. Approximately 28 pages or 14 spreads become the text and illustrations. [The other three pages are used for title and publication information.]

Limit the details. Illustrations will show the color of the dress or the furniture in the room so these details aren’t needed. Concise, sensory writing with loads of action is needed for 14-15 spreads.

Keep the amount of text equally spread among the pages.

When the text is finished, divide the manuscript into 14 spreads. Is there enough action in each spread for an illustration and to keep the reader interested? Is the amount of text per page about the same?

What must be told in words and what can be told through illustrations? Those are two questions I ask with every line I write. Think visually when writing picture books and see how your writing changes.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers

The Cincinnati Review
CURRENT NEEDS: "Really, all we'd like is your best work, a
brief cover letter, and a SASE so we can send you our
response." Pays $30/page for poetry, and for fiction(max of
40 pages)/expository prose (max of 40 pages) $25/page.

Call for Submissions for Student Writers

Young Voices
PO Box 2321
Olympia, WA 98507
Quarterly publication. stories, poems, art and essays.

Check out more contests on my blog:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Improving Word Choice/Contest/Call for Submissions

In children’s writing, especially picture books, every word must be necessary so the importance of word choice is paramount. How do we learn to develop a writing style in which we select the best words for the story?

Read widely. Let books by numerous authors serve as a learning experience. Notice how authors choose particular words to convey an idea.

Write in a variety of styles. Try using figurative and lyrical language in all types of writing.

Keep sentences clear. Short sentences are less confusing. If you use longer sentences, retain the meaning by writing in a direct manner. Clear, precise, detailed writing gives life to words. The goal is communication.

Avoid clichés and stereotypes. “Mad as a wet hen” is a cliché and the words don’t resonate with a fresh expression. If you write your first thoughts when describing something, you may be using clichés. Play with the words to develop your own phrases for comparison. Avoiding stereotypes isn’t easy but aim for writing original phrases and descriptions.

Vary sentence length. A paragraph composed entirely of long sentences tends to bog down a story. Varied sentence lengths adds interest to the flow and pace of the words.

Experiment. Try writing the same story using different perspectives. If the story is about a lost cat, try telling the story from the child’s point of view. Retell the story from the cat’s perspective. Which works better?

Have fun. After you get past the dreaded first draft, have fun with the words. If the story is playful, choose upbeat words. The best choice of words will reflect the tone of the story.

Contest for Adult Writers
Dream Quest One Poetry & Writing Contest.
Write a poem, 30 lines or fewer on any subject or write a short story,
5 pages maximum length on any theme, single or double-line spacing,
neatly hand printed or typed.
Writing First Prize: $500, 2nd: $125; 3rd: $100
Poetry First Prize: $250, 2nd: $125; 3rd: $50.
Entry fees: $5 per poem, $10 per story.
Postmark deadline: December 31, 2011.
Details at

Call for Submissions for Student Writers
New Moon Magazine
34 Superior Street, Suite 200
Duluth, MN 55802
75% written by girls, ages 8-14: fiction, non-fiction,
poetry, book reviews and articles.

Check out more contests on my blog:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Right Word/Call for Submissions/Contest

Mark Twain once wrote, The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.

Imagine a manuscript as a window for readers. The wrong words distort the view, leaving streaks and smears that make the reading difficult. Every writer experiences this in the first draft, but in revision we can create a spotless window by revising with words that make the meaning clearer and add resonance to the piece.

When choosing words consider the following:

Audience. Is the text age appropriate? Can a child understand the story? Could another word better describe the action or situation?

Setting. Do the words vividly describe the character’s world?

Dialog. Do the characters sound realistic? Does each piece of dialog carry the plot forward or help develop the character?

Subtleties. Does each word convey the exact meaning you want? Instead of hot, you might consider fiery, flaming, or feverish? Each word has a slightly different connotation and can give a more vivid detail.

Voice. Do the words form colorful phrases or make an emotional connection with the reader?

Writers have many choices in word selection. The difficult part is choosing the best words for the story.

Next week, I’ll discuss ways to improve word choice in writing.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
STRAND MAGAZINE We are interested in mysteries, detective stories, tales
of terror and the supernatural as well as short stories.
Stories can be set in any time or place, provided they are
well written, the plots interesting and well thought.
We are interested in stories of almost any length, but
preferably the 2,000-6,000 word range. However, we may
occasionally publish short shorts of 1000 words, and
sometimes we may consider even a short novella. At the
moment, our payment rate for stories is $25-150. No
submissions accepted by e-mail.
Details at

Contest for Student Writers:
For those under 18, grades 6-12 by US Standards. No reading
fee. Poetry or Short Fiction (under 20 pages). Deadline
February 1, 2012. First place $500. Second place $300.
Third $200. Entrant must be sponsored by a teacher in a
traditional high school or middle school classroom.
Deadline: February 1, 2012
Details at

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Creating Character Motivation, Contest, Call for Submissions

Fictional characters must be motivated to make a change. The motivation determines how the characters respond to the world around them. Interesting characters take action that creates change.

The character should desire something. Maybe it’s winning a blue ribbon or the heart of the girl of his dreams or finding something s/he lost. The possibilities go on and on. The quest to fulfill that desire is the story.

The path the character takes in fulfilling the desire is based on the background you develop: personality traits, view of the world, setting, etc. Is the character strong and powerful, weak but determined, easy going or defensive? Figuring out the background of the character before beginning the story helps the writer make plausible choices that fit the character. The reader will understand why the characters made those choices.

Reveal the motivation slowly through action and dialog rather than in large chunks, called backstory. If the character has a purpose for his/her behavior, the reader is more interested in following along.

Have you ever seen a friend act in a way that was unusual for that person? You might thing s/he was acting out of character. Of if the friend does something that was full anticipated, you might say, that’s Karen being Karen. Apply the same viewpoint to fictional characters. Is the behavior consistent with the character? If the character isn’t behaving typically, readers have to know why. Make the motivation clear and readers will connect.

Contest for Adult Writers:
Categories fiction, nonfiction (creative or essay). $300, $150 and $50 prize monies in each category. Limit 5,000 words. Previously published works are accepted so long as can legally obtain free, one time, one site, permanent web publication rights. The contest may be extended at discretion until a minimum of 500 entries have been submitted.
Deadline December 7, 2011.
Details at

Call for Submissions for Student Writers:
Seventeen Fiction Contest
Open to female writers, ages 13-21, in the US and Canada. Word Count: 500 words. No entry fee.
Grand prize: $5000 and publication in Seventeen.
Deadline December 31
Details at

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Writer Motivation, Part II, Calls for Submissions

This week, I have more tips on ways to stay motivated when receiving rejection after rejection from publishers.

1. Protect your writing time. If possible, set aside time each day or week to devote to your writing project. Some people have as little as twenty minutes; others longer.
2. Everyone has moments when motivation is fleeting. Don’t allow those moments to hinder your goals. Try writing just one sentence. Often that sentence will lead to another; then another.
3. Writing is a job. It’s exciting, fun, and worthy, just like other jobs, but remember that it is a job so there will be moments when the words don’t come easily and the excitement will dwindle along with the fun. Be realistic in viewing writing as a job.
4. Some writers, including me, like to change genres to keep the writing exciting and different. If you’ve only tried novels, give chapter books or picture books a try. Or if you’re writing historical pieces, try something else. You might find the new venture stimulating.
5. Write works that interest you. If you don’t love it, others probably won’t either. If you love your characters, you’ll want to spend more time in their world.

These are some of the ways I stay motivated to write. What motivates you?

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers
Ninth Letter is accepting submissions of fiction, poetry, essays, and interviews from September 1 to April 30 (postmark dates). Ninth Letter is a published semi-annually at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. We are interested in prose and poetry that experiment with form, narrative, and nontraditional subject matter, as well as more traditional literary work.” Pays: $25/printed page, on publication.
Details at

Call for Submissions for Student Writers

Ages 13 and under: games, reviews and contests.

Ages 13-18: poems, fiction and non-fiction
Details at

To see more contests, check out my blog at

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Writer Motivation/Calls for Submissions

Last Saturday, I spent the day at the Kentucky Book Fair meeting and talking with authors and readers extraordinaire. The experience was fun, exciting, informational, and motivating. Many of the people I talked with were interested in writing children’s books. Some had experienced rejection numerous times by publishers. The recurring question was How do I stay motivated to write when I cannot get published?

I understand that question completely since contracts don’t come easily for most writers, including me. Here are a few tactics, some psychological, I use.

1. Avoid negative thoughts. I’ll never get a contract or My writing is as good as another author’s work to bring us down emotionally and do nothing to foster our careers as writers.

2. Read like a writer. If you read another book and like it, try to figure out the techniques used by the author to draw you into the book. If you don’t like a book, try to determine what doesn’t work with the writing style.

3. Write a logline, a one-sentence description, of your story. This is your road map to keep you focused so you won’t veer off track.

4. When you get to a place in the story and don’t know what to do with a character, don’t freeze. Think logically about what the character would do or add another problem for the character to overcome and set the character free to choose different courses of action.

5. Get the story written. Don't over analyze, revise, or judge the manuscript until it is written. Then you'll have time to make it shine.

Next week, I’ll include more tips to keep writers excited about their work.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
The Iowa Review receives unsolicited submissions only September through November. The journal “publishes short stories, flash fiction, graphic novels, self-contained novel excerpts, and plays; poetry of all kinds, including verse plays and longer work; and all manner of creative nonfiction, including personal essays, lyric essays, memoirs, and literary journalism. We pay $1.50 per line for poetry ($40 minimum) and $0.08 per word for prose ($100 minimum).” Also pays for interviews (query first). NB: “We have begun publishing reviews of book-length fiction (novels, short story collections, plays, and graphic novels), literary nonfiction, and poetry on our website, with the goal of helping new and emerging writers develop an audience.” For reviews, payment is $50, and reviews are accepted year-round. “TIR often receives complimentary review copies. If you’re having trouble coming up with a title, we’d be happy to suggest
Details at

Call for Submissions for Student Writers:
Highlights for Children

Ages 2-12: short stories, art, poems, jokes and riddles
803 Church Street
Honesdale, PA 18431
Details at

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Conveying Emotions/Calls for Submissions

One of the best ways to bring a character to life is to show how the character feels. Telling readers that a character is angry doesn’t provide enough details to be believable. However, showing emotions through action, feelings, and dialog creates a life-like character.

Writing Norman was angry adds little to enhance character development. Instead, place the reader inside the character's mind and emotions to see and feel the turmoil Norman is experiencing. Norman slammed the door and kicked the chair out of his way. He felt his arm muscles flinch as he tightened his fists and his face flush red as he stared at Homer. In a voice as threatening as a raging fire, he said, “Who wrote this ?”

Norman's actions allow readers to “see” his behavior. The feelings allow the reader to “feel” the body language as the character becomes angry, and the dialog reaffirms the built-up tension.

The goal in writing fiction is to place the reader INSIDE the story. If the characters, setting, and plot are realistic, the reader enters the make-believe world in the first few words. Keep readers engaged by using the senses to transport them inside the character’s thoughts and feelings.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
“The theme of the next issue of Vestal Review is a twist on classic fairy tales. Please submit a flash fiction story (500 words or less) about the yet unheard adventures of Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk, Snow White or any other well-known fairy tale character. Interpret the theme broadly and imaginatively, but incline toward a literary story. Please state the source tale’s name before the title. No more than two submissions per author, as usual. Submit between August 1 and November 30, 2011.” Pays (rates vary depending on story length; “stories of great merit receive up to $25 flat fee; 3 cents a word is a minimum pay in any case.” See for details (via Pam Casto’s Flash Fiction Flash newsletter,

Call for Submissions for Student Writers:
Who: If you are currently a student in grades nine through twelve, Crashtest wants to hear from you.
What: Crashtest publishes poetry, stories and creative non-fiction in the form of personal essays, imaginative investigation, experimental interviews, or
whatever else you would like to call it. We’re looking for writing that has both a
perspective and a personality. We’re looking for authors who have something
to say. Our only request is that you don’t send us work which you found boring or tedious to write. No enforced school assignments, please!
When: Crashtest accepts submissions all year long

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dialog Tips, Part II/Contest/Call for Submissions

Dialog is one of the most difficult aspects of writing to do well. Here are more tips on writing interesting dialog.

Listen to how people talk. Some people phrase words in more interesting ways than others. If you hear a different turn of phrase, write it down so you won’t forget it. You just might develop a character who could utter those exact words.

Alfred Hitchcock said that a good story was "life, with the dull parts taken out." Dialog is the same. In real life we stammer and repeat during conversations. Dialog should represent how we talk but get to the nitty-gritty with an economy of words.

Break up dialog with action.

“Are you staying the night?” Jody asked and he pulled out a chair.
Anne pulled her coat around her and stepped toward the door. “Probably not,” she said.

This type of narrative with dialog is useful in long passages and it makes the character appear real.

Sometime dialog tags are not needed if the characters can be identified by their words.

“You never listen,” Brad said.

Joan stared straight ahead. “I always listen.”



When in doubt, consider the two purposes dialog serves: promote the plot and develop the characters.

Contest for Adult Writers:

Zocalo Public Square Poetry Prize is awarded annually to the U.S. poet whose poem best evokes a connection to place. ‘Place’ may be interpreted by the poet as a place of historical, cultural, political or personal importance; it may be a literal, imaginary or metaphorical landscape. We are looking for one poem that offers our readers a fresh, original and meaningful take on the topic. Like everything else we feature, we will most be on the lookout for that rare combination of brilliance and clarity, excellence and accessibility. The winning poet, as judged by Zocalo Poetry Editor Stephanie Brown, will receive $1,000.” NB: “The winning poem becomes the property of Zocalo Public Square.”
Details at
Submissions: September 5-November 5, 2011

Call for Submissions for Student Writers:

FRODO'S NOTEBOOK actively seeks four types of submissions from teens.

1. Poetry. We prefer poems of under 36 lines. Address to poetry
editor Julia Shields and send in the body of an email to

2. Creative/Personal Essays. Creative nonfiction, narrative-
driving and reflective; not journalism or opinion. Address to
editor in chief Daniel Klotz and send as a .doc (Word), .rtf,
or .txt attachment to

3. Fiction. Almost exclusively short-short stories of under
1,200 words. We mostly want “literary” fiction, but send us
your fantasy or sci-fi if it’s really good and not fan fic.
Address to fiction editor Timothy Rezendes and send to

4. Articles. Reviews of current books, movies, and art, as
well as cultural critique, op-ed, and original journalistic
reportage, as long as it has a literary/artistic subject or
slant. Usually under 1,200 words. Send a writing sample or
two to editor at large Ben Carr at

Details at

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I often struggle with dialog and sometimes question if dialog is needed. Some picture books have no dialog at all, but as readers grow older, dialog is important to bring the character to life. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you write dialog in your stories.

“Said” is the preferred dialog tag. These tags are used after a character has spoken. Avoid other words such as declared, vowed, remarked, whispered, shouted, or bragged. Those words stand out and sometimes get in the way of the story. “Said” is used so much it has become invisible and the reader hardly notices it. Don’t be concerned that “said” is boring. Rev up the plot. That’s what grabs the reader’s interest.

Avoid using adverbs in dialog tags, such as she said excitedly. Show the excitement in the character’s action or words, rather than telling the reader.

The conversation should carry the story forward. If “Hello, how are you?” and “Fine, thank you,” doesn’t add to the plot or character development, leave it out. Cut the chit-chat.

When characters talk, make it meaningful. They should have a reason for talking rather than merely provide information to the reader. Straight question and answer sessions are usually dull and boring. In dialog, the characters should reveal themselves so the reader understands them better.

Next week, I’ll discuss more on dialog.

Contest for Adult Writers
Flash Fiction

For the Flash Fiction competition the top five entries will be selected by public vote, and the winning story chosen by the Judging Panel. To vote, individual must register on the Light Reading website. Each voter may vote for as many stories they wish, but can only cast one vote for each story. Any attempts by individual voters to vote multiple times for a single story, for example by registering with multiple email addresses may result in all their votes being disqualified. The use of robotic or automated devices for voting is strictly prohibited, and Diamond determines that this has been the case we reserve the right to disqualify both voter and contestant.
Details at

Contest for Young Writers
Jack And Jill
, P.O. Box 567, Indianapolis, IN 46206. Publishes stories, poems, riddles, and jokes written by students in grades 2-6.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Books for Boys/Calls for Submissions

Teacher, parents, librarians, and editors often say they want books that interest boys? Have you ever wondered about the differences in books that have boy appeal as opposed to those with girl appeal?

The differences go deep, all the way to plot and character. Boys like books that deal with action and adventure. Explosions reel them in. Fast cars, blood, and all things gross are sure winners. Boys like situations, fantasy, science fiction, heroic male characters, and all types of nonfiction [sports, humor, animals, biography, history, informational text, and hobbies]. They prefer shorter text and visuals accompanying text as in graphic novels.

What about girls? Some girls like those types of books, too. There’s no distinct dividing line. What appeals to one child may not to another, regardless of gender. However, girls like to read about other girls, relationships, feelings, interesting characters, and human-interest stories.

The gender lines can become even murkier. Both boys and girls enjoy humor and nonfiction.

One of the best ways to learn what boys like to read is to talk with boys. Find out what books they have recently read and what type of TV show they like to watch. What interest them? What make them laugh? The answers vary with different ages. If you’re interested in writing books for boys, read books that are popular books with boys and see how the subject matter was handled.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers
Working Mother Magazine Pay: Varies Freelance assignments fit the three primary sections of the magazine: You, Work and Family. Features are also assigned to fit our initiative packages (100 Best Companies, Best Companies for Multicultural Women, Best Green Companies, etc). Features are usually 1,000 to 2,000 words. Basically, we look for articles that help moms successfully navigate the task of juggling job, home and family. We like tightly focused pieces that celebrate working moms while sensibly solving or illuminating a problem unique to our readers and/or their children and family. We also want to share personal stories for and about working moms who have experienced career triumphs and/or life changes--all while raising kids and working a job. Topics of interest include: career-related (work/life) issues; diversity in the workplace; family relationships; time, home and money management; and parenting. Most of our columns--news, lifestyle, activities, recommendations, parenting, travel, food, beauty and fashion--are staff written. But we might assign out:
Learning Curve--500-word, age-by-age (0-2, 3-5, 6-10, 11+) child development column.
My Story--1,000 word personal story from a reader that illuminates a working mother issue or scenario and how she triumphed over, solved, or dealt with it. Humor is good here.
Details at

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

GIRLS' LIFE wants to publish you online! The Girls’ Life website,, accepts submissions of articles, poetry and short fiction from writers under the age of 18.
Details at

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Keep the Readers Interested/Calls for Submissions

This week I’m continuing to discuss ways to keep the readers interested in the story.

1. Add details. Think about the setting. If the area is mountainous, consider a waterfall. Let the reader feel the mist and hear the water drip, trickle, or pound against rock. Can you smell the aroma of the plants and flowers? Engage the reader with the use of senses for major scenes. Two or three senses place the reader in the midst of the setting and action. Show them the scene with words that paint pictures.

2. Ask questions. Throughout the narrative ask the question, “What if…” What if the character had to dive over the waterfall, what would happen? What if the character found a cave beneath the waterfall? What if the character was captured at the waterfall?

3. Decisions. Make the character face difficult decisions in which there is no easy way out and no easy answers. This increases the tension and the emotional drama making a more compelling story. Write the scenes so they lead the character in a logical sense to making the decision. The character should face tough choices and react to choices to reach the goal or overcome the problem.

4. Character struggles alone. The character experiencing the problem is the one who solves the problem. A knight in shining armor, Aunt Maebelle, or big brother should not be thrown into the mix to help out the character in trouble and save him/her in the end. Provide a goal for the character and lots of pitfalls. The trouble the character experiences is the story. The more trouble, the more interesting the story.

What keeps you interested in a story?

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers


A general interest magazine published by the Boy Scouts of America. Major articles run 500-1,500 words and pay $400 to $1,500. Covers sports, history, how-to and more. See the BSA's merit badges for ideas. Departments run up to 600 words and pay $100 to $400. Many topics. Must entertain boys ages 6-18. Write for a 12-year-old.
Details at

Call for Submissions for Student Writers


P.O. Box 3939, Eugene, OR 97403. International nonprofit quarterly children's magazine featuring writing and art by children ages 7-18. Writing may be submitted in any language and from any country. Awarded the 1995 Golden Shoestring Award by Educational Press Association of America. Publishes original artwork, photos, stories, pen pal letters, recipes, cultural celebrations, songs, games, book reviews; writings about your background, culture, religion, interests, and experiences, etc.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Keeping Reader Interest/Calls for Submissions

How do we keep readers interested in our stories? By leaving out the boring parts, of course. We can accomplish this task by incorporating the following:

1. Humor. Kids of all ages, from babies to seniors, react positively to humor. When done well, humor keeps the reader reading. Humor is used to soften life’s hardships and to ease the tension in a story in which the character is experiencing a difficult situation. All children identify with difficult situations, and humor is a stress reliever in life and in fiction.

2. Adventure. Kids like to explore the unknown. A journey into a castle dungeon, a trip through a graveyard on a dark, spooky night, flying to the moon, or simply staying up late on a weekend. The novelty of the situation provides interest and adds to plot development.

3. A strong, emotional connection to the character. The right story for the right person at the right time is like a warm cozy blanket on a cold winter’s night. Readers want the characters they like to succeed. They keep reading to find out if the character wins or reaches the goal. So take an interesting character and place the character in trouble. The worse the trouble, the better the story.

4. Throw more trouble at the character. If a character’s quest is too easy the payoff isn’t great enough. Treat your character badly, then treat him/her worse is a time-honored method of writing fiction. Naturally, the writer has to figure out a way to get the character out the mess by the end of the story.

Next week I’ll discuss more ways to keep the reader interested.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Ladybug. Magazine pays on publication. Seeks nonfiction, fiction, columns/departments, fillers, photos/artwork. Subjects: Young children's interest, science, how-things-work, poetry.
Details at

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
KIDS' WORLD -. Biannual magazine featuring writing and art from young people up to age 17. Publishes poems, short stories, and art. Considers jokes, puzzles, games, and other material. No horror accepted. Send manuscripts to 1300 Kicker Rd., Tuscaloosa, AL 35404

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Choosing a Subject or Topic for a Book/Contests

Today I’m showcasing my latest books in the Little Math Series: My Math Toolbox, What's a Fraction? and Hopping on the Number Line.

At a recent book signing, a person asked me how I decide on a topic for my next book. Sometimes, as with these latest books, an editor I’ve worked with previously asks me to write the books. But most of the time, the choice is mine. When an idea bores into my brain and refuses to leave, I let it simmer and think about the possibilities of the story over a period of time. As the story materializes in my mind, I consider different avenues it can take. If the idea seems viable, I check out other books that might be similar. If I find something similar, I change paths with the story since I don’t want to write what’s already out there. Editors want stories that are new and fresh.

When I’m writing nonfiction, I spend considerable time checking for books on the same topic. If the market is flooded with books on a particular topic I either develop a totally new perspective for approaching the subject or abandon it entirely.

All manuscripts are a tough sell in today’s market so each book has to stand out as different in some way in order to get a contract. Try adding humor or tell the story from the perspective of an unexpected character to make your story different. Ben and Me by Robert Lawson is a biography about Ben Franklin told from the viewpoint of a mouse named Amos. That’s a different take on a story and a wonderful approach. Take a close look at your manuscript to see what changes you can make to create a story that is different from those already lining the shelves.

Contest for adult writers:
The Tapestry of Bronze is sponsoring a series of poetry contests to celebrate Greek and Roman mythology and the Olympian gods. The subject of the eighth contest is Artemis (also known as Diana), the Goddess of the Hunt.

All poems remain the property of the authors. The Tapestry of Bronze reserves the right to post winning poems and those receiving Honorable Mention on the Tapestry of Bronze website. E-mail your poem (no more than 30 lines) to the following address:
Deadline: November 30, 2011

Contest for young writers:
Amphibian populations worldwide are in the midst of a mass extinction crisis, yet most people are completely unaware! We need your help in getting the word out. This contest will raise awareness of the amphibian extinction problem by getting people involved and interested. The best frog poems will be used in a book of frog poetry that will be sold to raise money for amphibian conservation efforts. This book will feature artwork from our concurrent SAVE THE FROGS! Art Contest.

The Grand Prize Winner will:
Receive $100. Receive $50 worth of "Frog Cash" to be used for
any of the cool, environmentally-friendly merchandise in the
SAVE THE FROGS! Gift Center. Become an official judge of next
year's SAVE THE FROGS! Poetry Contest. Receive frog fame.

Category Winners will:
Win $50. Receive $30 worth of "Frog Cash" to be used for any
of the cool, environmentally-friendly merchandise in the SAVE
THE FROGS! Gift Center.

Category winners will be chosen from the following categories.
Note however that the Grand Prize Winner may be chosen from
any category.

(1) 18+ years of age
(2) 13-17 years old
(3) Under 13 age group

Details at

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Developing Characters/Call for Submissions

In writing fiction, characters are central to the story. The character must seem real to the readers or their interest in the story will quickly fade. Before beginning the manuscript, think about the fundamental elements of character. Look through magazines and cut out pictures of interesting looking people or animals. Observe people in which you come in contact. Notice their physical characteristics, such as how they are dressed. (This works for animals, too). Pay close attention to the way the person walks, talks, and reacts to others. If you’re using pictures, imagine how the characters would act. What would the person say and how would he/she say it. How does the voice sound—scratchy, hoarse, loud, whisper?

What kind of past has this character experienced? Is the person a leader or follower? Imagine the person is in a dangerous situation—house fire, car accident, robbery, tornado, heated argument that turned violent. How does the character react?

In a notebook, write a short character sketch about a character you would like to write about. Give the character a plausible history and enough complexity to seem real. The complexity comes from a character that is not perfect. The character should have flaws and have to deal with those flaws to grow, learn, and change by the end of the story.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers
Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest will award $3,600, including a top prize of $1,500. Submit one humor poem online. No length limit. Both published and unpublished poems are welcome. No fee to enter. Final judge: Jendi Reiter.
Online Submission Deadline: April 1, 2012
Guidelines at

Call for Submissions for Young Writers
Kids'Magination is a new ezine for kids who love to read and write. We're also looking for submissions. Please submit your best, polished work. Our guidelines can be found here:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Cutting Unnecessary Parts of Manuscripts/Contest/Call for Submissions

This week, I’m continuing my discussion of how to cut unnecessary parts of manuscripts.

Look for prepositional phrases that aren’t needed. Example: Tears streaked down her face for what she’d done. “for what she’d done” isn’t needed. The reader will figure that out.

Avoid the tendency to double state an action, such as “He nodded his head.” “He nodded” is all that needs to be stated. The reader will know the action was with the head.

Does the writing move the plot forward, develop character, provide insight through dialog or narrative, or evoke emotional responses? If not, consider cutting it. Cutting a scene can be a painful experience, especially if we love the phrasing. Cutting doesn’t mean discarding. Simply file away the phrase or paragraph and save for later use. You may go back to it with another book. I once heard Mary Higgins Clark say she never throws away a piece of writing when she edits. She simply files it away for possible use in a future book.

The purpose of cutting is to sharpen the prose. Are the words necessary to tell the story? Cutting words isn’t about making a story shorter; it’s about tighter writing. Many writers cut a significant amount; then add more scenes to promote the action or develop the character. I recently heard one writer state, “cut words, add story.”

So whether you’re cutting or adding words, revise until your manuscript is polished and succinct.

Contest for Adult Writers
The Tenth 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 tenth Glass Woman Prize award is US $500 and possible (but not obligatory) online publication; there will also be 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. The criterion is passion, excellence, and authenticity in the woman’s writing voice. Previously published work and simultaneous submissions are OK. Authors retain all copyright is retained by the author.”
Deadline: September 21, 2011

Call for Submissions for Young Writers
Boodle: By Kids For Kids. Formerly called Caboodle , this quarterly magazine is full of funny, pensive, imaginative stories, poetry and drawings from children. With more than 50 contributions per issue, there is room for the work of many ambitious young writers and artists.
Send manuscripts to P.O. Box 1049, Portland, IN 47371.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Trimming a Manuscript/Contest/Calls for Submissions

Writing in all genres involves slicing and dicing words to get to the heart of the story. Gardeners prune apple trees by cutting some of the branches. The tree becomes stronger, takes on a better shape, and produces more fruit simply by cutting the parts that interfere with growth. Writers also need to slice and dice words, phrases, and even paragraphs that diminish the story.

Some writers use this equation to trim their work: First Draft-10%=Second Draft. Cutting ten percent during revision seems like a waste of good words and hard work, but you’ll find that the first draft is never your best work. Allow your first draft to be as long as you need it to be. Then set a word limit and cut the unnecessary words. Some need to cut much more than others. Every writer is different and every book is different.

So what do I cut?

Begin with action or where the character’s life is about to change instead of a long build-up in the first chapter.

Use dialog to develop the character and to move the story forward. If the dialog doesn’t do either, remove it.

Many dialog tags can be deleted. If the reader can figure out who is talking, omit “he said.”

Point a critical eye to detailed descriptions. Give the reader enough information to form a mental picture but every detail of a setting can slow down the story and become boring reading.

Telling rather than showing uses excessive words. Show the reader the action rather than telling.

Concise, tight writing makes editors smile. Review your manuscript with scissors in hand.

Next week I’ll discuss more ways to cut out unnecessary words.

Contest for Adult Writers

Inspired by Tagore: International Writing Competition
“This year sampad is delighted to be celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Rabindranath Tagore with Inspired by Tagore, an international writing competition.Tagore was a hugely influential South Asian poet and many sampad projects have celebrated his legacy or been sparked by a line of his poetry….There are 2 categories: one for writers aged between 8 and 15, one for writers aged 16 and over. Entries can be poetry, short stories or reportage, and writers can submit up to 6 pieces of work, maximum length 400 words, using Tagore’s poetry and writing as a starting point….There will be a special prize for the overall winners: Best writer in 8 to 15 category will receive GBP 200 and best writer in 16 and over category will receive GBP 300. All winning writers will be published.”
Deadline: January 31, 2012
Details at

Call for Submissions for Young Writers

Stone Soup
is made up of stories, poems, book reviews, and art by young people through age 13. Although all the writing we publish is in English, we accept work from all over the world.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Editor and Agent Tips for Writing Children's Books/Call for Submissions

This week I’m focusing on tips from editors and agents for writers of children’s books.

Of all the genres, the picture book market is the hardest for new writers to break into.

Use concise text and fluent words

Lyrical voice should not be too “adult” and should be authentic

The character should make things happen for him/herself

The main character should be a kid

Vary the sentence length

Revise by reading the story through the eyes of a 4 yr old

Holiday stories are difficult to sell because of the shorter selling time

Remember the age of your audience

The subject is not as important as the writer’s voice

Take young readers on a journey with the characters

Read other authors to be inspired, but don’t copy

Read aloud the text during and after revision

Write rhythmic text to catch the attention of the audience

Tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end

Make your picture book manuscript stand out. Make it sparkle through revision followed by a round of critiques from other writers.

Make it a fun read aloud.

The Louisville Review announces that they are publishing a special, all-Kentucky issue this winter to honor Kentucky Poet Laureate Maureen Morehead. They are now accepting submissions of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction by writers who live in or are from Kentucky. To submit, visit Use the comments section to let them know you are a Kentucky Writer. The reading period ends November 1, 2011. Email any questions to

Beginning next week and continuing throughout the school year, I’ll include contests and calls for submissions for student writers.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Writing Conference Overview

Attending writing conferences are expensive and completely beyond the budgets of many; however the information attained from conferences is valuable, and the ultimate payoff is learning more about the process and business of writing. Here’s a broad overview of a 2011 writing conference.

Debut authors are doing extremely well.
Industry is looking for best sellers.
Scaling back advances on picture books.
Know the marketplace and devise a plan to promote your book, online and directly to the public.
Write nonfiction as well as fiction.
Read the type of books you want to write.
Write stories kids want to read.
Children’s publishing is withstanding the economic downturn.
Picture books have taken the biggest hit because they are so expensive to publish.
Middle grade boys are reading, but most teen boys are not.
Make the reader wonder what is going on. Use foreshadowing.
Give readers more than what they expect.

Next week, I’ll have notes on what editors and agents are looking for in a picture book manuscript.

BOOK PROJECT: Becoming a Nurse
Creative Nonfiction is seeking essays by--and about--nurses, for a new collection, Becoming a Nurse: Real Stories of Nurses, Their Lives, and Their Patients.

We are looking for writers who can write dramatically and vividly about this profession for a collection of essays, which will be published by the new imprint CREATIVE NONFICTION BOOKS. Essays can be from 2500-4000 words (longer is possible) but should be written in a narrative form, with scenes, description, etc. To submit, please send your manuscript to:

Creative Nonfiction
Attn: Becoming a Nurse
5501 Walnut Street, Suite 202
Pittsburgh, PA 15232
Please include a word count on the first page of the essay, as well as your contact information. Any additional questions can be directed to information [at]
Deadline: November 30, 2011.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Habits of Famous Writers/Contest

Writers often fall into habits when writing. The habits take many forms, such time-based, writing in the morning, or page-based, a minimum of four pages per day. A writing habit is an incentive to keep working on a story or piece. I recently saw on Flavorwire and The Guardian some interesting writing habits of famous authors.

Flannery O’Connor [Wise Blood and numerous short stories] Spent two hours a day writing.
Albert Camus, [The Stranger] Wrote some of his books standing at a lectern due to back pain.
Victor Hugo [The Hunchback of Notre Dame] Handed over his clothes to a butler. That way, he had to remain in the room where he wrote.
Isaac Asimov [Prelude to Foundation] Sat at his desk, which faced a bare wall, void of districtions.
John Steinbeck [The Grapes of Wrath] and Ernest Hemmingway [A Farewell to Arms] Wrote a specific number of pages each day.
Truman Capote [In Cold Blood] Wrote reclined on a sofa, with pencil in one hand and sherry in the other.
Eudora Welty [The Optimist’s Daughter] Held her manuscripts pages together with straight pens.
Neil Gaiman [The Graveyard Book] Finished one story before beginning another.
C. S. Lewis [The Chronicles of Narnia] Maintained a daily writing schedule.

Writers do whatever it takes to keep them at the task of beginning and completing literary works. Do you keep a schedule, set deadlines, or work in a quiet room? What interesting habit do you have that motivates you to keep writing?

Contest for Adult Writers:

Iowa Short Fiction Award
For a collection of short stories (minimum 150 pages). “Any writer who has not previously published a volume of prose fiction is eligible to enter the competition. Previously entered manuscripts that have been revised may be resubmitted. Writers are still eligible if they have published a volume of poetry or any work in a language other than English or if they have self-published a work in a small print run. Writers are still eligible if they are living abroad or are non-US citizens writing in English. Current University of Iowa students are not eligible.” Award confers publication under the University of Iowa Press standard contract.
Deadline: Submissions: August 1-September 30, 2011 (postmarked)
Details at

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Motivation for Writers/Contest

Another motivational factor for writers is to define the type of book you want to write and read as many of those type books as you can. With each book you’ll gain some insight into the writing process. Look for what you enjoy in the writer’s voice or the way the plot unfolded. Notice how the character develops and changes from the beginning to the end.

Don’t fall victim to comparing your work to that of another writer and feeling that your work doesn’t measure up. When this happens writers often abandon manuscripts or stop writing. Instead, work to improve your manuscript or begin another in which you have more confidence of writing well and are motivated to complete. No two people write the exactly alike. Bring your own life experiences into your style of writing using words and phases that reflect your unique manner and technique of stringing words into manuscripts.

Each successful writer develops a style that works. What works for one writer may not work for another. Don’t be overly concerned if you don’t write as much or as often as someone else. Figure out a productive writing plan you can live and works best for you.

First drafts stink and they’re difficult to write. But once they’re written the fun begins. Revision is all about polishing and fine-tuning and for me is much easier than completing the first draft. Each piece of rewriting adds a bit of polish and seeing the improvement motivates me to keep going.

What keeps you motivated to write? Share your habits and tricks.

Intergeneration Storytelling Contest

“Write a story, poem or song (fiction, non-fiction or a combination) featuring characters from at least two generations. One illustration or photograph may be included and will be considered when judging the entry.” Cash prizes will be awarded ($500/$350/$150). “All entries will be considered for e-publication.”
Deadline: August 15, 2011
Details at

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Motivation for Writers/Contest

This week, I’m continuing to discuss ways to stay motivated.

Many writers tell me they have started a manuscript but haven’t finished it. Momentum is the force that carries us forward to complete what we start. Figure out what works for you. Keep your writing momentum on track.

One of the best ways to stay motivated is to attend a writing conference. Not only do you get a personal glimpse into the struggles and triumphs of other writers, you leave with a better understanding of the writing process. Writers are open with helpful advice because each published writer is making the same journey to publication as every other writer. Some are a farther down the path and have more experience. Reap the benefits of that experience by spending time with writers in an atmosphere where writing reigns supreme.

Select a writing project that fits your interest and lifestyle and has a subject or theme you’re passionate about. Since you’ll be spending so much time on the project, your interest will keep you focused and excited about the work.

Some writers use deadlines to keep them motivated and to enact the BIC (Butt in Chair) approach. Knowing the deadline hovers, time is allocated to finish the writing.

Next week I’ll continue the discussion on motivation.

The Tenth 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 tenth Glass Woman Prize award is US $500 and possible (but not obligatory) online publication; there will also be 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. The criterion is passion, excellence, and authenticity in the woman’s writing voice. Previously published work and simultaneous submissions are OK. Authors retain all copyright is retained by the author.
There is no reading fee.
Previous winners are welcome to submit again for any subsequent prize.
Submission deadline: September 21, 2011 (receipt date). Notification date: on or before December 21, 2011

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Motivation for Writers/Call for Submissions

This week, I’m continuing to discuss ways to stay motivated.

Relish in the feedback of the critique or writing group. You’ll receive praise for what you’ve done right and suggestions for making your manuscript better in areas in which it is lacking. Appreciate the opinions of those who take the time to read and critique. They may seem picky and hard to please, but remember, editors will be even harder to please. Keep in mind, too, that the critiques are for your benefit. Use the ideas, or some of them, to improve your manuscript.

Write each day, even if it is only in your mind, plotting out a scene. Try to get the scene written as soon as possible so you won’t forget it.

Make writing a habit. End a writing session in the middle of a paragraph or in the middle of a scene so you can easily pick up where you stopped.

Think about your story when you’re not writing. Try different plot angles and allow yourself to wonder what would happen to your character if…

One sure way to add interest to your story is to rev up the conflict. Don’t let the story get boring or bog down by letting the character off too easily. Make the character work, and work hard, to overcome the problem. Place your character in a situation that you have to work hard to get him/her out of. Add a surprise for the character. You’ll enjoy the new twists and turns your story is taking.

Next week, I’ll continue to discuss ways to stay motivated.

Call for submissions for adults:
Nemesis Publishing. Are you an unpublished writer? With a piping-hot manuscript ready to blow readers' socks off? If you can answer 'yes' to both of those questions, then we want to hear from you. This is our first debut novel competition, with publication for the winning book scheduled for 2012. A shortlist of six manuscripts will be announced by 15 October 2011, with the winning manuscript announced by 30 November 2011.

Deadline: 14 August 2011

Details at

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Writing Motivation/Writing Contest

As I meet aspiring writers, many tell me they have become discouraged because the publishing market is so difficult to break into. Their assessments are correct. Difficult, but not impossible. I look back on my first seven years as a training ground. I didn’t sell a manuscript, but I kept writing and reading and learning. The practice paid off when I received “the call.” I discovered that seven years is the average number of years it takes to get a book accepted by a major publisher. Why so long? For most writers we’re learning our craft. The competition is fierce so our writing has to be of high quality but it also has to fit the publisher’s list of books. Becoming acquainted with the various publishers, editors, and they types of books published at each house is another time consuming task that takes time to learn.

Build writing time into your schedule. You may not have time to devote three hours per day, every day, to writing. If you have down time, like waiting to pick up a child at school, use those few minutes to work on your story. Some people write entire novels in twenty-minute time blocks because that’s the only free time they have.

Find writer friends, either locally or online, and form a critique group. Set a schedule to send manuscripts to each member of the group. My group sends a maximum of 1,000 words every two weeks. Knowing that you have to send a manuscript or a chapter every two weeks is motivating.

Next week, I’ll discuss more ways to keep the writing momentum going.

Good Housekeeping Short Story Contest

Applicants must submit an original short story, 3,500 words or less, on a theme that reflects an aspect of women’s lives today. Winner Selection: One (1) grand-prize winner and two (2) runners-up will be chosen at the sole discretion of Good Housekeeping’s judges panel. All entries will be judged on artistic merit and originality. In the event of a tie, whichever story the judges deem most suitable for publication in Good Housekeeping will be the winner.

Details at
Deadline: 1st September 2011

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Momemtum/Call for Submissions

I’ve been writing for the professional market for 22 years. For the first seven loooooong years, I made a few sales to the magazine market, especially academic journals. Those first seven years were dry, actually desert-like, in manuscript sales. It seemed that “the call” from an editor would never come. There were times when I grumbled, mumbled, and wondered why I even tried to get a book published. Then I’d receive a rejection letter with a note from an editor with a few encouraging words or for a request for more manuscripts as she told me the one I had sent didn’t meet the publisher’s editorial needs. The fact that an editor took the time to praise my work affirmed I was on the right publishing track or so I hoped. Those notes and reading children’s books to students on a daily basis kept my momentum going, kept me enthused, and kept me determined to trudge onward toward my goal.

Then the unbelievable happened. “The call” came. An editor actually offered me a contract. There is nothing like the publication of a book to keep the momentum going in a writer’s psyche. Two years later I finally held the book, Once Upon a Dime, in my trembling hands for the first time.

As overwhelming as it seems, getting published is not impossible. The harder task is probably learning to stay focused and to keep momentum in your writing program.

Next week, I’ll discuss ways to persevere with a positive attitude in order to keep the momentum going.

Call for submissions for adult writers:

Best Fiction is an online publication of brilliant stories by new, emerging writers alongside the work of established authors.” Pays: “a minimum honorarium of $25 US for first electronic and print publication rights,” though “established authors may negotiate a fee for their stories.
Details at

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Series Characters/Call for Submissions

Do you enjoy reading books about a particular character and wonder how the author keeps the character from going stale? Children’s books—picture, chapter, and novels—are filled with characters in series. In a book festival I attended with several authors of series books, I asked them how they confronted the challenge of keeping a character compelling and interesting. Many of the answers were similar so I’ve condensed them here.

Allow the characters to age. We watched Harry Potter grow up in the series. As characters grow, they face new problems relevant to their age and their skills, perceptions, interests, and relationships change as they face new situations. This rule does not always apply. In some popular series, such as Nancy Drew, little aging takes place.

Make the characters part of your fictional family. Some authors based characters on someone close, a husband or child, and write with a deep caring for the character. The emotional bond between a writer and the character can be strong.

Place the characters in school or in a certain location in which they have access to new situations to test their spirit and determination and to provide them with the opportunity to face challenges and grow.

Build in conflict and challenges that force the characters to prove him/herself by facing self-doubt and overcoming fears.

Avoid formulaic devices and surprise the reader with the unexpected occasionally. Maybe the shy character is outspoken when provoked.

Let me know if you have other ideas about how to keep serial character fresh and interesting.

Snag Today Poetry Contest. Any type of poetry-maximum of 50 lines-is eligible.

Submission Period: Entries accepted April 1, 2011-July 31, 2011. Early submission is encouraged.

What to Submit: Any work of poetry up to a maximum of 50 lines. There are no restrictions on style or theme. Each entry should be your own original work. You may submit the same work simultaneously to this contest and to others, and you may submit works that have been published or won prizes elsewhere, as long as you own the online publication rights. Please title your email "Snag Today Poetry Contest".

Details at

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Trends, Trends, Trends/Calls for Submissions

Writers can never keep up with all the trends. By the time we write, revise and polish a manuscript that fits a particular trend, the market is flooded with that genre and the trend has passed. So why bother looking at trends? It's to our advantage to study the market to see what publishers are buying and learn why those books garnered a contract. Also, if we know the market is over saturated with a certain type of book or subject matter, we can avoid it. The more we educate ourselves with what publishers are buying and why, the better we can devise our own writing and marketing strategies.

Here are the top genres for multi-book deals in 2010. Young adult and middle grade are still strong sellers. Picture books are a harder sell, but editors and agents predict that the tide is beginning to turn, and picture books will soon be on the up swing.

Top genres for multi-book deals with major publishers in 2010
Romance – 108 deals
Mystery & Crime – 73
Young Adult – 56
Middle Grade – 53
Science Fiction – 31
Thrillers – 29
Paranormal – 27

Call for submissions for young writers:
BRASS MAGAZINE. Our contributor team is made up of young adult writers from
around the country. We're looking for people with varied experiences to join this team: from financial gurus,
entrepreneurs and avid investors to those sharing experiences about managing debt, budgets, and their first foray in the real world.

Are you between 16 and 29 years old? Are you passionate about
writing, savvy with research, and up-to-date on current trends?
Are you able to meet deadlines?

Call for submissions for adult writers:·
The Brooklyner, to be published quarterly, is “currently reading for our inaugural issue, which will largely include fiction and nonfiction. We will also consider poetry, commentary on relevant pop culture, and reviews of the following: books, food, cruises, amusement parks, concerts, field trips, underwear, holidays. Also translations. We are not seeking novellas or novel excerpts.”

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Spirit of Kentucky:Bourbon Cookbook/Call for Submissions

My latest literary adventure has taken me on a new and exciting route, which led to me researching and writing Spirit of Kentucky: Bourbon Cookbook. Each of over 500 recipes has a note about the history of the recipe or information about an ingredient. If you prefer not to use bourbon in a recipe, you have that choice. Most recipes have a subsitute for bourbon or the option of omitting the ingredient. Bourbon balls are the exception. I know of no way to make bourbon balls without bourbon.

I love research because I’m always learning something new and interesting. One tidbit I learned is that we can make vanilla flavoring oh so easily—and cheaper. That’s an idea I had never considered.

I approached the research for the cookbook the same way I approach writing a nonfiction children’s book. I wanted to make the Notes section a fun read-aloud. As I researched I kept thinking about what a cook would enjoy learning about a recipe, food, or ingredient. In doing so, I accumulated more information than I would ever need. A surplus of facts gave me the luxury of picking and choosing the most interesting pieces to use in the book. Reseaching a subject is like digging a well. The more we dig, the more information we gain. As we dig we uncover interesting bits that surprise us.

For adult writers:·
From Robert Lee Brewer: “I will consider poetry submissions for the 2013 Poet’s Market. 20 previously unpublished poems will be selected for publication in the book, and the poets will receive a paycheck for their poems.” Deadline is August 15. Pays: “publication, $50 payment, and a contributor copy of the 2013 Poet’s Market.” For more information/detailed guidelines, see

Note: I’ll resume posting for young writers in September.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Writing Workshop for Children's Writers, Contest, Call for Submission

Anyone interested in participating in a children’s writing workshop? I’ll be conducting two different sessions July 12 in Berea, Kentucky, at the Festival of Learnshops. Sign up for these workshops and check out other classes at This summer from July 9-16, Berea is hosting the week-long event with a variety of classes, including writing, water color and pastel art, cornshuck art, blacksmithing, broom making and lots more. We’ll have fun and learn at the same time. That’s a promise. Here are the descriptions of my two sessions:

Writing for Children
Have you dreamed of writing a book for children? I will introduce you to the ins and outs of writing fiction and nonfiction children’s book manuscripts. Learn solutions to plot problems, where to start the story, and how to add zing with descriptive language as I present my own books as demonstrative models. How do you polish a manuscript to a spit-shine? Revision, of course. I will help your tackle revision, one layer at a time. Join the fun and learn the know-how to develop your ideas into picture books. My latest picture book, Trouble in Troublesome Creek, was selected to represent Kentucky at the 2010 National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. One book per state was chosen. Another book, On the Banks of the Amazon, won the 2005 Children’s Book of the Year by the Appalachian Writers Association. I’ve written 20 picture books and one chapter book. More are in various stages of publication.

Time: 9:30 am-12:30 pm
Location: Broadway Center, 204 North Broadway, Berea, KY
Price: $30
Age: 15 years and up

Pathway to Publication of Children’s Books
Polished writing trumps all, and that includes a bare resume. Do you have a written story or one in mind? Join me as I route you down the road to publication. I will introduce you to manuscript formats, information for cover and query letters, what to include in a synopsis, and the qualities of a good children’s book. Get the lowdown on trends in today’s literature for children and whether an agent is needed. You’ll leave the session steps closer to publication.

Time: 2 pm-5 pm
Location: Broadway Center, 204 North Broadway, Berea, KY
Price: $30
Age: 15 years and up

Contest for Adult Writers
Cheerios is searching for the next great children’s book author. It could be you! Just enter your original children’s book story.
Deadline:July 15, 2011.
Details at

For Young Writers
Cobblestone, 20 Grove St., Peterbough, NH 03458. Publishes a variety of material; however, you are asked to write first and ask for guidelines and upcoming themes.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Tribute to Paul Brett Johnson/Contest/Call for Submissions

This blog is dedicated to a wonderful friend, children’s book author, illustrator, and artist, Paul Brett Johnson. He and I are from Knott County, Kentucky. We both write children’s books and know many of the same people and places, so we had a lot in common. My friend and fellow writer passed away this week due to a sudden and unexpected illness. He’ll be missed.

In one of my earliest conversations with Paul Brett, he told me he had struggled for years trying to get a book contract. At the time of his struggles, he was frustrated with all the rejections, but he kept writing, illustrating, and submitting work. The work paid off as his writing improved and he learned more about the publishing process. By the time his first book, The Cow That Wouldn’t Come Down, was published, he was glad his earlier versions of the story had been rejected because those less-than-polished versions would not have garnered the acclaim the book received. His point was that writers should not get in a hurry with a manuscript. Revise, revise, revise until the story is the best it can be. With a more experienced eye, he looked back at his earlier writing attempts and saw that they were lacking in some way, but after years of practice and know-how, he developed the skills to polish the manuscripts. Another lesson learned: join a critique group so you, too, can have an experienced eye review your manuscripts.

Contest for Adult Writers
SPS Studios announces Its Eighteenth Biannual Poetry Card Contest
1st prize: $300 * 2nd prize: $150 * 3rd prize: $50
In addition, the winning poems will be displayed on our website Poems can be rhyming or non-rhyming, although we find that non-rhyming poetry reads better. We suggest that you write about real emotions and feelings and that you have some special person or occasion in mind as you write.
Poems are judged on the basis of originality and uniqueness. All entries must be the original creation of the submitting author.
Deadline: June 30, 2011
Details at

Call for Submissions for Young Writers
Jack And Jill, P.O. Box 567, Indianapolis, IN 46206. Publishes stories, poems, riddles, and jokes written by students in grades 2-6.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Young Adult Books/Calls for Submissions

When I decide to write a book about a particular subject, I try to determine what the interest of the audience (age group). If the book is fiction, my goal is to entertain and write in a voice the audience will appreciate and enjoy. Reading a variety of books in the genre of which I’m writing is a definite goal. Each author approaches writing a little differently so I’m always learning and improving my craft.

For young adult writers, Teens' Top Ten offers a list of "teen choice" books. Teens nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year! If you’re writing for teens, these 25 books are a good start in learning what teens like to read.

The 2011 Nominees:
· Bachorz, Pam. Drought. Egmont USA. 2011. (978606840160).
· Beam, Cris. I Am J. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. 2011. (9780316053617).
· Beaudoin, Sean. You Killed Wesley Payne. 2011. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. (9780316077422).
· Black, Holly and Justine Larbalestier. Zombies vs. Unicorns. Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry Books. 2010. (9781416989530).
· Card, Orson Scott. The Lost Gate. Tor Books. 2011. (9780765326577).
· Clare, Cassandra. The Clockwork Angel. Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry. 2010. (9781416975861).
· Collins, Suzanne. Mockingjay. Scholastic. 2010. (9780439023511).
· Collins, Yvonne. Love, Inc. Disney/Hyperion. 2011. (9781423131151).
· Condie, Ally. Matched. 2010. Penguin/Dutton. (9780525423645).
· Cremer, Andrea. Nightshade. Penguin/Philomel. 2010. (9780399254826).
· Fitzpatrick, Becca. Crescendo. Simon & Schuster Children’s. 2010. (9781416989431).
· Grant, Michael. Lies. 2010. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books. (9780061449093).
· Hawkins, Rachel. Demonglass. Disney/Hyperion. 2011. (9781423121312).
· Hakwins, Rachel. Hex Hall. Disney/Hyperion. 2010. (9781423121305).
· Kagawa, Julie. The Iron King. 2010. Harlequin. (9780373210084).
· Lore, Pittacus. I Am Number Four. HarperCollins. 2010. (9780061969553).
· Moore, Peter. Red Moon Rising. Disney/Hyperion. 2011. (9781423116653).
· Nelson, Jandy. The Sky is Everywhere. 2010. Penguin/Dial Books for Young Readers. (9780142417805).
· Oliver, Lauren. Before I Fall. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. 2010. (9780061726804).
· O’Neal, Ellis. The False Princess. Egmont USA. 2011. (9781606840795).
· Patterson, James. Angel: A Maximum Ride Novel. Little, Brown & Company. 2011. (9780316036207).
· Pearce, Jackson. Sisters Red. Little, Brown and Company. 2010. (9780316068680).
· Smith, Cynthia Leitich. Blessed. Candlewick Press. 2011. (9780763643263).
· Westerfeld, Scott. Behemoth. Simon Pulse. 2010. (9781416971757).
· White, Kiersten. Paranormalcy. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. 2010. (9780061985843).

Call for submissions for adult writers:
PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES. We are currently seeking experimental nonfiction for our "Pushing the Boundaries" section ("experimental," "boundaries," yes, these can be loaded terms). We want writing that blows our minds with its ingenuity, essays that not only push the boundaries of the genre, but tear down the borders. Be ambitious and send us work like we've never seen before.
As always, there's only on stipulation--the pieces must be true.
Deadline: June 13, 2011, and "Pushing the Boundaries" must be clearly marked on the envelope and cover letter.
Details at

Call for submissions for young writers:
Bitterroot Poetry Magazine. P.O. Box 489, Spring Glen, NY 12483. Publishes poetry. ubmit up to 4 poems at a time.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Poetry How Do I Know Thee?, part III/Call for Submissions/Contest

Poems that contain figurative language can be fun and even silly, but they still have to make sense. Poems vary in length. Some rhyme; some don’t. Either way works. Here are some different types of poems.

Alliterative poem:

Three Grey Geese by Mother Goose
Three grey geese in a green field grazing,
Grey were the geese and green was the grazing.

A Shape Poem, also called a calligram, is written in the shape of the subject matter. A poem about a mountain would be shaped like a mountain. A valentine poem may be shaped like a heart.

“If I….” Poem

Set your imagination to the wind and soar with ideas. Here are a few to try:

“If I were the wind”
“If I were invisible”
“If I could fly”
“If I lived in 1750”

An acrostic poem is formed by writing a word vertically down the page, one letter per line. Each line of the poem is about the subject. Names are a good way to write these poems. Here’s an example of one about spring

Sharp chill turns warm
Plants pop out of the ground
Roses bloom
Irises blossom
Nature rules
Growing, flowering, coloring the world

Let your poems tell a story and see where the story takes you. Most of all, have fun with words. Play with them until they sound like music to your ears.

Call for submissions for adult writers:
Past Loves Day Story Contest, 2011. Write your true story of a former sweetheart, in 700 words or less. Awards: $100, $75, $50, Honorable Mention(s). Winning stories will be published in an upcoming anthology. No entry fee. Authors retain all rights.
Deadline: August 17, 2011.

Contest for young writers:

THE BIG DIG SCHOLARSHIP. One $3,000 award. Deadline June 1, 2011. Must be currently in
grade 12 and planning on entering college in 2011 or be in your first or second year of college. In 200 years, one of your relatives is going to be digging in your backyard. They will find something you buried in 2011, and it is going to put any financial worries they have to rest. Your job is to decide what to bury. Your goal is to find something that will have immense value in the future. The item must be
currently sold in a story today and cost under $500. The essay must be between 500 and 1,000 words. Be sure to answer all of the following questions in your essay:
1. What is the item you will bury?
2. Where could you purchase the item today?
3. How much does the item cost?
4. What made you choose this item?
5. Why do you believe that the item will have immense value
200 years from now?


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Poetry, how do I know thee? Part II/Call for Submissions/Contest

Poets use comparisons, or figurative language, to help readers see common objects in a new way and to add interest, imagery, and meaning to the writing. Figurative language goes beyond the usual meaning of words and provides another suggestion or association.

Metaphors compare two objects without using “like” or “as”. My heart is a hammer certainly adds imagery. A friend who has a wonderful sense of humor gave me this imagery-laden metaphor: a caterpillar is an upholstered worm.

Personification is a type of metaphor that makes a comparison by giving human qualities to animals or objects. The wind whistled a shout. The star winked at me.

Hyperbole is often used in poems and tall tales. The exaggerated comparsions are used for emphasis and are sometimes funny. I’ve told you a billion times not to exaggerate. I’m so tired I could sleep as long as Rip Van Winkle. My cow is so ugly, I had to pay flies to buzz it.

Using figurative language is effective because it makes poetry and creative writing easier to understand and more interesting. Give it a try.

Call for Submissions for adult writers:
The Single Hound , a new on-line literary journal, is accepting submissions of poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, & book and film reviews.


Contest for young writers:
COYOTE'S HOWL FOR YOUNG WRITERS. Students aged 9 to 14. Various genres and topics, up to 1,000 words. First deadline August 14, 2011. Enter online. Contest winners receive an autographed copy of "Gift of the Desert Dog", the first book in The Borderlands Trilogy, and a personal letter of congratulations from author Robert Hunton. All qualified entries will be posted on website. Teachers see website to submit class work. Students and adults can rate entries to help in the evaluation process. Final winners chosen by publisher.

Next week, I’ll discuss a few types of poems.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Poetry in Prose/Call for Submissions/Contest

When I write children’s picture books, I stick to prose rather than a rhyming text. But, as with poems, I strive to evoke strong visual images or emotions with few words. And, as with poems, if the story line is humorous, I add the punch line at the end to surprise the reader. In these respects, I find that writing picture books and poetry are similar. Writing poetry helps writers become more adept at writing picture books because it teaches us to create vivid mental pictures using few words.

Poetry, how do I know thee? Let me count the ways.
· Economy of words—says a lot in a little with carefully selected words.
· Speaks in a special way by evoking feelings of joy, sadness, surprise, and more.
· Sounds like music to the ear
· Uses imagery to help the reader “see” a mental picture
· Rhythmical patterns
· Incorporates storytelling with a beginning, middle, and end

In order to say a lot with few words, poets make comparisons using similes. Similes use “like” or “as” to compare two different objects. In my book, Happy Birthday the Story of the World's Most Popular Song, I used this simile: Words tripped off her tongue, smoothly as ice cream dripping from a cone on an August afternoon. Words and ice cream seem to be objects of unlikely comparisons until they’re used in a simile. These words did more than compare. They evoked the feeling of a hot, steamy day and painted a picture of how words could flow smoothly as ice cream.

Next week we’ll look at how poets make comparisons with metaphors, personification, and hyperbole.

Call for submissions for adult writers:
221b Magazine Summer Issue: a short story competition. The best six entries will be included in the next edition of our magazine.

Anyone who submits must first read our terms and conditions:
Deadline: 31st May 2011 Tuesday

Contest for young writers:
The Hummingbird Guide is hosting their first Children's Story Contest about hummingbirds. Minimum of 300 words for submission.
· Submit original work written by you.
· Contest open to ages 6 to 12.
· Fill out the "name" box and be sure to include your age.
· Winners will be selected based on visitor comments (favorites).
· Submissions deadline is May 31, 2011.
· Details at

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Importance of Audience, Part III/Call for Submissions/Contest

This is the conclusion of a three-part series on writing to an audience.

· Middle grade students enjoy short novels and longer nonfiction. Their world is expanding and so are their interests, which include the books they read, from how-to to history, science, biographies, autobiographies, sports, animals, crafts, and jokes. Activity books, word searches, games, crossword puzzles, and magic tricks soothe their curiosity. Fictional characters are complex, lovable, flawed, brave, and show independence. Members of this age group focus inward on themselves as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become. The narrative should reflect this focus. Middle grade books range from 10,000-45,000 words and up, but most range between those numbers. Books in the Harry Potter series are much longer.

· Young adult novels are for teens. Many of these books are similar to adult novels but are usually shorter and less complex. These books often take on heavier subject matter, such as dating, drugs, and dysfunctional families. The dialog may have swearing and the plot can deal with sex. Books for middle grade and younger don’t deal with these issues. The world of teens has gone from the safe world of home and school to the unknown world beyond. Young adult novels are often 30,000 words and up.

· The relationship between a writer and the reader is like a close friendship. The relationship allows both to react emotionally to reveal secrets and share feelings as the characters grow and evolve. Children’s audiences offer a wide range of possibilities for writers. Allow the audience to define your writing by focusing on a particular group.

Call for Submissions for adult writers.
Welcome to the Sandstar Review! The SSR is an exclusively online literary magazine dedicated to publishing fresh voices and lyrical, insightful work. Seeks unpublished poetry and prose for its inaugural issue. Send up to 6 poems or 15 pages of prose; cover letter and bio appreciated. Simultaneous submissions accepted upon notification of publication elsewhere. Send all work in one document (poetry or prose; no combined submissions) to This is our first issue and we need voices.
Details at

Contest for student writers:
General Short Story - $250, $200 and $150 prizes.
Student Short Story - $250, $200 and $150 prizes.
Student Poetry - $100, $75 and $50 prizes.
Prizewinning entries will be published in Insight.
You must be age 22 or under to enter the student categories.
Your entry must be a true, unpublished work by you, with
a strong spiritual message. We appreciate the use of Bible
texts. Your short story should not be longer than seven
pages. Your poem should not be longer than one page.
Deadline June 1, 2011.
Details at

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Importance of Audience, Part II/Fiction Contest/Call for Submissions

This week I’m continuing the article of writing for a specific audience.

Primary grade readers love picture books and early readers. Their vocabulary has expanded so they’re into more sophisticated storytelling. They love nonfiction as well as fiction and are interested in reading about sports, animals, and the world around them. Humorous books are popular: jokes and main characters that make them laugh. This group also enjoys coloring and activity books. Beginning readers are popular. The sentence structure is shorter than most picture books because the child is reading on his/her own. Fictional picture books are usually less than 1000 words, and many are less than 600 words. Nonfiction books may be longer.

Upper primary grade readers enjoy chapter books, which are longer and more complex than beginning readers. These books have short chapters and cover simple problems of good vs. bad. Common subjects for chapter books deal with friendship, pets, sports, and school. This group wants books that reflect the things that are important and real to them. Most chapter books range up to 10,000 words.

Before you place pen to paper or fingertips to keyboard, consider the age group of your audience. Readers want characters with which they can identify. Make the characters ordinary kids placed in surprising and unexpected circumstances where they display extraordinary behavior.

Next week, I’ll focus on middle grade and young adult audiences.

Pockets Annual Fiction Contest (Adult writers) This is a contest for those who write for children 6-12 years of age.
• Please indicate FICTION CONTEST on both the outside envelope and the cover sheet.
• There is no set theme and no entry fee.
• Stories should be 750–1,000 words. (Stories shorter than 750 words or longer than 1,000 words will be disqualified.)
• Stories must be previously unpublished.
• Please include an accurate word count on your cover sheet.
• Multiple submissions are permitted, but please submit only your best work.
• Past winners are ineligible.
• Award: $500 and publication in the magazine.
• Entries with a SASE will be returned.
Lynn W. Gilliam, Editor
P. O. Box 340004
Nashville, TN 37203-0004
Deadline: August 15, 2011
Details at

For student writers: Highlights Magazine
Every month, we publish readers' work in Highlights magazine. If
you'd like to send us something to be considered for publication,
we'd love to see it! We welcome your drawings, poems, jokes,
riddles, tongue twisters, stories, science questions, book reviews,
Creatures Nobody Has Ever Seen!, recipes, craft ideas, letters to
Dear Highlights, and dinosaur drawings, jokes, and questions.
Mail your work to
Highlights for Children
803 Church Street
Honesdale, PA 18431
Details at

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Importance of Audience/Contest/Call for Submissions

The subjects of many of my blogs are based on questions people have asked me. I’ve heard this question several times: How many words should my children’s book contain?

The answer has many variables, but the most important one is audience.

“Children” is a broad concept. In terms of writing a book, authors need to narrow the concept. We want to communicate clearly so the readers will enjoy and understand the information we write. Different writing is appropriate for different age groups. Recognizing the differences help us write to a specific audience.

Before we write the first word, we need to determine the age group of the reader so the child will understand the comprehension and vocabulary levels. The audience becomes the stimulus, or purpose, for writing. Develop a character with which the child can identify. Most kids like to read about characters their same age or slightly older. Boys like to read about male main characters and girls will usually read books with either male or female characters.

Toddlers are concrete learners. They accept information in books at face value. They learn about the world around them by exploring. Concept books with the themes of counting, colors, and objects are appropriate. Bedtime stories and books about family and animals are favorites, as well. They enjoy picture and novelty books (board books, flap books, and pop-up books). Most of these books have few words. Many contain less than 100 and some are wordless.

Next week, I’ll continue to discuss the importance of audience and how audience defines writing for older age groups.

Contest for adults:
Write up to 500 words on a subject of your choice. What’s getting your goat? Making you think? Making you angry or excited? Put your spin on an important subject or something trivial – anything from Jordan the place to Jordan the model. A news item; a person; something of interest to others; a travel piece. Anything that takes your fancy. It can be in the form of a report, an essay, a comedic piece, a train of thought, an argument – anything that hangs together as a whole piece of work. The usual rules apply, so please read them (ignore the ones about payment rules, obviously).

For this competition there are two extra rules: 1) Give your piece its own title (which must NOT be ‘Spring Break’!) and 2) include the title of your piece in the ‘subject’ line of any email entries.

The only other proviso is that your work must not be defamatory or libellous in any way. Anything that could be considered as such will be disqualified. Otherwise, Happy Writing!

Deadline: April 30, 2011
Details at

Call for submissions for student writers:
Hanging Loose magazine welcomes high school submissions. As with other writers, we reply within three months, and high school authors whose work we publish receive the same small fee and two copies of the issue in which their work appears. We feel a special responsibility to those young writers who look to us not only for possible publication but sometimes also for editorial advice,
which we are always happy to give when asked.
Details at