Nancy's Books

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Fishing for a Contract

Want to catch an editor’s attention? Cast a hook.

A hook is a literary device used to grab a reader’s interest. Readers don’t want the story to build to an exciting tale; they want a moving story from the beginning, one that grabs them emotionally with a hold that won’t let go until the last page is read.

Editors spend a few seconds deciding if they want to read a manuscript. The decision is often based on the first paragraph. I once heard an editor state that if she liked the first paragraph, she turned to the last paragraph. If she liked the last paragraph, she began reading the manuscript, once again, from the beginning. Since the first and last paragraphs are so important, try dangling literary bait with a few hooks.

Question. Nonfiction books and articles sometimes begin with a question such as, What is the fastest land animal? The interest is immediate and kids keep reading to find the answer: cheetah. Fiction can also use this angle. The protagonist could question anything and everything. For added interest, make asking questions a quirky part of the character’s personality.

Similes and metaphors. Compare two things that are not alike, such as My day began like a car chase and ended with a crash. Similes add entertainment value by forming a comparison and expressing emotion. A metaphor makes a comparison without the words “like” or “as.” The metaphor—My day was a car crash—creates a mental picture. These sensory details paint vivid pictures.

Next week, I’ll post part II of this three-part series.

Calls for Submissions:

The Blue Pencil Online publishes the work of writers ages 12 to 18
from around the world, with the intention of showcasing the best
and full scope of teen writing.
Details at

Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2011 Short Story CompetitionDetails at
Deadline: February 14, 2011

Sunday, January 23, 2011

One-Word Resolution/Calls for Submission

A new year is a time to reflect on the changes we want or need to make. This holds true for writing as well as life. Each year many of us make resolutions, and many of those last all the way up to March 1st, and some are broken in fifteen minutes. The challenges we set for ourselves almost never result in reformed habits. This year, I’m trying something new.

A critique buddy—Hi, Janet—proposed the idea of each member of our critique group adopting a word, rather than a resolution, to guide us through the year. Just one word to provide inspiration when we feel down. One word to refer to when we feel joy or disappointment. One word to give encouragement to others who share the love of writing.

I chose the word pleasure. Pleasure has a positive feel, a comforting sound, and it reminds me why I chose writing as a career. I want to celebrate the positive aspects of writing, whether it's informative comments from my critique buddies; a note from an editor, even if it is in the guise of a rejection letter; an observation from a reader or fellow writer; a thank-you from someone I've worked with; anything, everything positive related to writing. Writing is a journey, a pleasurable journey, and I want to enjoy the small steps along the way.

What word works for you?

Calls for Submissions:

Glimmer Train is accepting fiction submission the month of January. Submit up to three stories. Pays $700, plus 10 copies.
Details at

Young Writer We would love to see YOUR writing and we might even publish it in Young Writer magazine or here on the website. It can be anything that you want to say, prose or poetry, fiction or nonfiction. Just make sure it is your own unaided work, write it as well as you can and send it to us. Let us have your name, your age and your address. We do not pass these on to anyone else. You can send it to us by email or post. Remember, whenever you send your writing off to any publisher, make sure you keep a copy for yourself in case it gets lost in transit. Email word documents (under 600 words in length, please!) to
Details at

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Newbery and Caldecott Awards/Writing Contest/Call for Submissions

2011 has started with a publishing BANG! Two elite awards, the Newbery and Caldecott Medals for children’s literature were announced last week. Both awards go to a debut author and illustrator. Clare Vanderpool won the Newbery Medal for her novel, Moon over Manifest (Delacorte/Random House). This historical fiction story takes place in 1936 Kansas and alternates with a World War 1 setting. Moon over Manifest was also selected as The Association of Booksellers for Children 2010 New Voices Pick. Not bad for a first-time author.

First-time illustrator, Erin E. Stead, grabbed the 2011 Caldecott Medal for A Sick Day for Amos McGee (Neal Porter/Roaring Brook/Macmillan). Her husband, Philip C. Stead, wrote the text for the picture book about an elderly gentleman who visited the zoo and spent time with the animals. When illness prevents him from visiting the zoo, the animals visit him.

Vanderpool and Stead are living proof that new writers can get published and they don’t have to have an extensive resume attached to their names to garner long-awaited contracts. These newcomers have gotten published and acquired immediate respect for their work.

What does this mean for other writers? First we have to write; secondly, we have to submit. As we’ve seen with these awards, the goals are attainable. Let’s make 2011 end with a publishing BANG.

", along with Penguin Group (USA) and CreateSpace, is pleased to announce the fourth annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, the international competition seeking the next popular novel. The competition will once again award *two grand prizes*: one for General Fiction and one for Young Adult Fiction. Each winner will receive a publishing contract with Penguin, which
includes a $15,000 advance." Read the detailed terms/conditions at the site.
Deadline: January 24-February 6, 2011
Details: You must register at to enter the Contest.

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Poetic Monthly Magazine Accepts submissions by writers of all ages. In the October issue, PM featured a 10-year-old writer/illustrator. PM features the top 25 poems of the month's submissions, plus articles about writing, one-page short stories and visual arts. All content in the magazine is family-friendly.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Word of the Year for 2010, Word Choice/Calls for Submissions

Merriam-Webster named Austerity, the 14th century noun defined as "the quality or state of being austere" and "enforced or extreme economy," as the Word of the Year for 2010. According to John Morse, president and publisher, the word "austerity" received more than 250,000 searches on the dictionary's free online tool.
Completing the top ten are
2. pragmatic,
4. socialism
5. bigot
6. Doppelganger [This word was used in "The Vampire Diaries."]
7. shellacking
8. ebullient
9. dissident
10. furtive

We want readers to take notice of our word choice. Finding words that capture and convey meaning is challenging but well worth the effort. As we take our readers along the journey of our stories, our word choices can create a bumpy ride or a smooth one. Mark Twain said it best: 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.

Calls for Submissions:
You may already know that *Witness* publishes an annual print issue devoted to a single topic (currently, they’re seeking work on “Disaster”). Now, the journal is launching two online issues as well (May and September). These will be general issues. Keep in mind that the journal “prefer[s] work that is contemporary in its setting, outward-looking in its perspective, and mindful of the modern writer’s role as witness to his or her times. We also enjoy material that ventures into international terrain.” Submit fiction, nonfiction, or poetry until April 1. Pays: $25/every 1,500 words of prose and $25/poem, “for both print and online work.”
Details at

Kids on the Net was one of the first websites on the Internet to invite children to submit their
writing. Now there are thousands of Kids on the Net writers - have a read! We want children all over the world to send us your writing - poems, stories, articles and reports, opinions, writing about yourselves - whether you write it at school, at home, in a library or club, or anywhere else.
Details at

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Writing a To-Do List, Goals, Calls for Submissions

A new year is upon us. As we face the blank writing page of 2011, let’s peek back at our achievements of 2010 and look forward to a prosperous 2011 by making a couple of lists, “Accomplishments” and “To-Do”. “Under “Accomplishments” list what you’ve accomplished in your writing. Did you have fun? Learn anything new? Finish a manuscript? Start a manuscript? Attend a workshop? Stop obsessing over rejection letters? (We’ll probably never totally accomplish that one.) Enter a contest? Join a writers group? Be kind to yourself and list any and all positive writing experiences.

Try the same technique with the “To-Do” list. What do you want to do in 2011 to improve your writing career? Did you read about a publisher that accepts manuscripts for a short period of time, say July? List each month and under July, write “submit to [ ] publisher. I use a To-Do list with monthly projects because it’s the only way I can keep track of information. I also use this list as a reminder to submit to [ ] publisher if a certain manuscript is rejected by a publisher to which it is now submitted. If I haven’t heard from a publisher in 6 months, I’ll submit to another; maybe as many as five.

Rather than eat away at our time, lists actually save time by keeping us organized. Begin 2011 with a positive outlook and an organized approach to pave the way for reaching your writing goals.

Calls for Submissions:

Graywolf Press: January is a month when Graywolf Press accepts submissions (postmark dates; submissions are also welcome in May and September). "Graywolf Press is a literary press that publishes about twenty-seven books annually, mostly collections of poetry, memoir, essays, novels, and short stories. Our editors are looking for high quality literary fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that combines a distinct voice with a distinct vision." Check and click "Submission Guidelines" to learn more.

The Blue Pencil Online publishes the work of writers ages 12 to 18 from around the world, with the intention of showcasing the best and full scope of teen writing.
Guidelines at