Nancy's Books

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Creating Character Voice, Contest and Call for Submission

How can we strengthen our writing voices? Start by listening to how people talk. If you’re writing for teens, you might find the word, like, shows up a lot in dialog. Young children often ask questions. Where did the rain come from? Incorporate realistic dialog and narrative that reflect the age of the character into your writing.

Read works by other writers in the genre in which you are writing. Be conscious of how voice is used and why it resonates with you. Or doesn’t work, in some cases. Try to figure out why you don’t like that particular style of writing.

Read your work aloud. Does it genuinely reflect the age of the person who is telling the story?

Get to know your character. Interview your character. Ask questions and allow the character to answer as if s/he were real. You’ll learn more about your character than will be used in the story and more than the reader will need to know. The important thing is—you’ll have a better grasp of who the character is and the voice will be easier to capture.

Play with the words and scenes. Rewrite them to clean up the areas that falter. A strong voice develops through revision.

The Last Word
We wanna know how your story ends!

But you get to have the last word. Your final sentence has to be “And he/she/they would never have found out if it wasn’t for the______________________.”

Fill in that blank with a word or words.

Your story can be no longer than 350 words as determined by MS word count, excluding title. Your story can be funny, sad, mysterious, involve zombies or gratefully dead persons or live ones–just don’t do the conventional inside the parabola thinking of a crime or mystery murder. Surprise us all!

By entering this contest, you are giving us the right to publish your story on line and first time rights to printed publication, should this go into an anthology. If this contest results in creation of an anthology, there is no guarantee that your entry will included in publication.

You may have up to three entries, but each entry must be sent in an individual email attachment.
Deadline: April 5 at midnight, California time.
Send entries to

We especially like stories, articles and poems that are funny.
· Art and written submissions can be on any topic that is appropriate for our audience (ages 7 to 12).
· Stories which include an original illustration or photo are more likely to be published than stories without pictures.
· Originality is very important--make sure the work you submit is your own and not copied from someone else.
· In addition to art and writing, we also like to publish games, puzzles, brain teasers, jokes, and multimedia creations by kids.
· Ages 13 and under: games, reviews and contests.
· Ages 13-18: poems, fiction and non-fiction

Details at

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Voice, Contests

Sometimes we have those A-ha! moments when we see, hear, or read something that grabs us in a new way. That happened to me when I read the following quote by Gordon Lish: It’s not about what happens to people on the page; it’s about what happens to a reader in his heart and mind.

Hummmm. That bit of information is a nugget of literary ore. Our stories should begin with action; the characters should change by the end of the story; a satisfying conclusion usually works best, but a story can have all these components and still not strike gold with the reader. These components are a pathway for creating the story, but just as important is how we tell the story, better known as voice.

Voice is dicey to define and comes with a variety of definitions. It’s the way a character expresses him/herself in a unique way that reveals the character from inside out. Voice can be expressed in dialog, the words spoken by the character. Or through narrative, as the character tells the story in words that reflect who the character is. Voice is what the character chooses to say and how the character says it. Strong voice has attitude and rhythm. The story must resonate with the reader to such a degree that s/he will keep turning the pages.

Next week, I’ll discuss how to strengthen voice in writing.

Contest for Student Writers

The Sylvia K. Burack Writing Award is a writing contest for high school students in grades 11 and 12 in the U.S. and Canada. The award is made in memory of Sylvia K. Burack, longtime editor and publisher of The Writer magazine. Burack was known for her dedication to helping writers and editors. Submit a previously unpublished 600- to 800-word personal essay in English on the following topic: "Select a work of fiction, poem or play that has influenced you. Discuss the work and explain how it affected you." No song lyrics.

Eligibility: You must be a student in grade 11 or 12 attending a U.S. or Canadian high school at the time you submit the essay. The winner will be asked to provide proof of enrollment in grade 11 or 12 in a U.S. or Canadian high school.

• $500
• Publication in The Writer magazine and on
• A one-year subscription to The Writer
Deadline: March 31, 2011

Contest for Adult Writers

Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest
"Now in its tenth year. We seek today's best humor poems. Total cash prizes of
$3,600 will be awarded,with a top prize of $1,500." NB:"Poets of all nations may
enter. Your poem must be in English (inspired gibberish also accepted). Please
submit only one poem during the submission period. Your poem may be of any
length. Both published and unpublished work are welcome."
Deadline: April 1, 2011

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Story Endings, Contest, Calls for Submissions

Knowing how to write interesting endings is important, but it’s just as important to know what not to do, so let's avoid the following:

1. Repeating the main point, unless it's a letter trying to convince someone of something. Convey the idea earlier in the piece and don't hammer the reader with the same point at the end.

2. Uninteresting chronology. The day begins early in the story so the story ends that evening with "and they all said good-night." Focus the ending on the plot rather than the time sequence. I'm sure there are exceptions to this, but remember, we're aiming for zinger endings. This type of ending offers little or no surprise element.

3.Implausible endings that don't tie up all loose ends, such as dream sequences or "then she woke up and realized it was all just a dream." Fiction should reflect real life in explaining the actions characters take. Writers should resolve the main problem/goal in a story, but it's okay to leave room for interpretation and imagination at the end. This leads to provoking a reader to think about possible outcomes for the character. Remember, the goal is to leave the reader emotionally satisfied and glad they spend time reading your story.

Totem Head’s Contest for Young Writers
Categories :
1. Ages 9 and under
2. Ages 10-12
3. Ages 13-15
4. Ages 16-18
The contest is open to US residents under 19 years old. 

Prizes :
One winner from each category will receive the following prizes.
1. Publication on
2. $50 cash
3. Certificate of Achievement

Judging Adventure Write will choose one winner from each category based : on:
1. Suitability for the Adventure Write Kid's website
2. Entertainment and Creativity
3. Spelling, grammar and punctuation
Deadline: Send your entry before 31 Dec 2011.
Details at

Stories for Children Magazine is looking for nonfiction, poems, crafts, activities and puzzles to fill their April, May and Summer 2011 issues. They buy titles for their “Best Of” anthology at the end of the year and many of the titles published in Stories for Children Magazine get contracted for educational markets.
Details at Guidelines are in the Contributor‘ section.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Story Endings, Calls for Submissions

A teacher in Virginia (Hello, Jennifer) who follows this blog, requested information about story endings/conclusions, so the next two blogs will address endings.

A good ending makes a story come full circle. The ending should reflect and resolve the problem or goal developed at the beginning of the story. When I conduct writing workshops with students, I encourage them to end the story with a zinger. I define a zinger as an ending that zings the reader so s/he is
1. surprised. A twist or unexpected ending enhances the overall story.
2. provoked, to think about the story more. Does the ending leave the reader satisfied?
3. feeling strong emotional attachments to the story and characters.

In this case, what works for student writers also works for professionals. Reread the story and ask yourself if the ending is a zinger. If not, think about how the ending can be rewritten to become a zinger. I like surprise endings, because they make great zingers. Humorous ending make the reader laugh. Those work well, too.

Here are more questions the writer can ask:
1. Does the ending surprise the reader?
2. Will the reader be provoked to think about the story after reading it?
3. How will the story touch the reader emotionally? Will the reader care at all? Laugh? Cry?
4. Are all ends tied up? This means that unresolved problems have been dealt with.

Next week, I’ll discuss things to avoid in writing endings.

MatadorNetwork: They’re launching a print magazine! With *BETA*, their aim “is to publish the best English-language travel writing on the planet.” Pays: “[H]ere’s the bottom line: writing that makes the cut will be paid by the word, at competitive print rates (probably at 50 cents, for now). So every word has to be worth at least a pair of quarters.” Editors recommend reading this post for some additional information:
Guidelines at

Creative Kids The most exciting aspect of Creative Kids is that it is written by kids. Students from all over the world write for the magazine, so it includes exciting examples of the most creative student work to be found in any publication. Many kids get started by writing for the magazine’s “Write On” section. Here, kids express themselves by writing short opinion pieces about issues they face on a day-to-day basis.
Become a Creative Kids Author
Kids from all over the world read and contribute to Creative Kids. To submit your work to Creative Kids, be sure to read the submission guidelines first.
Details at Submission Guidelines