Nancy's Books

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 Seeks unpublished poetry and prose for its inaugural issue.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

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Trends in Children's Literature Part II/Call for Submissions/Contest

This week I’m continuing to cover trends in children’s publishing. Here are a few more:
1. Young adult books are still in demand. Problem novels, fantasy, realistic contemporary, historical fiction, and time travel are popular genres.
2. Picture books under 750 words, or less, seem to be in demand, while longer picture books are not as marketable.
3. Collections of poetry seem to be making a comeback.
4. Diary format books are exploding at the moment. The market will soon be saturated if the trend continues.
5. Graphic novels are hot.
6. Beginning readers are popular with the primary grade readers. Stories that once were published as picture books are now in the beginning reader format.
7. Books for tweens, a cross between middle grade and young adult literature are selling well.
Trends come and trends go. Literary vampires and zombies appear to be less trendy, along with stories about kids moving to new homes, as well as divorced and dead parents.

Keeping an eye on trends helps us to avoid certain formats or subject as we write stories we’re passionate about. If our stories happen to coincide with a trend, great; if not, maybe our stories will kick off a trend. My advice: Keep writing and stay informed. Useful information is gold to writers.

Call for submissions for students:
Imagine Literary Magazine is looking for well-written stories and poems as well as creative art and photography by young people, with a loose age guideline of 13-18 (If you're a few years out of that range, don't worry, your work can still be published). On occasion, Imagine Literary Magazine will publish works by adults, but please note that submissions of young people are given an advantage. The magazine is primarily meant for a children and teen audience. Stories can be any fiction genre (fantasy, science fiction, mystery, humor, contemporary, and historical just to name some). Nonfiction is only accepted if the story is written in a narrative form. Stories under 2,000 words is a maximum. All different forms of poetry are accepted. Just make sure to keep to a reasonable length.

Contest for Adults:
Wonder in the Wander Contest: A contestant must submit a personal story, 2000 words or less, that describes a Wonder in the Wander, which is about the awe and inspiration that occurs in every day living whether it be a long dreamed of vacation or just picking up some groceries at the market. We are all connected in this life journey. What amazing Wander have you experienced? To see example content, visit
Deadline: June 30, 2011 at 11:59 PM Eastern Standard Time.
Details at

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Trends in Children's Literature/Contest/Call for Submissions

The children's book publishing market is in a constant state of change and keeping up with the changes is a never-ending task. I’ve surfed the Internet looking for the latest trends and here are some recent discoveries.

1. A first-time author should query a stand-alone manuscript, rather than a series. If the book sells well, has a great hook, and grabs the interest of a wide network of readers, approach the publisher about a second or third book.

2. The picture book market continues to be soft but is gradually making a comeback. Selling picture books is difficult and the manuscripts have to be different from those currently in the market and stand out and above the competition of other submissions.

3. Nonfiction books need a hook to grab the reader’s attention and tell the story in a unique way. Focus on a narrow aspect of the subject rather than covering a broad, general topic. Find a subject, or a new perspective of the subject, that has not been covered in other books.

4. Multicultural literature is still popular with most publishers. Stories from other cultures are in demand. Depict ethnicity accurately, because all kids need to be represented in books and represented accurately. Avoid stereotypes and clich├ęs.

5. Rhyming books are difficult to sell because the rhyme usually doesn’t hold up throughout the story.

6. Middle grade and young adult books are the best sellers; therefore, more contracts are going out for these manuscripts.

Since it’s impossible to predict trends, writers are encouraged to not focus on trends but to write the best story they can. Yet, it’s nice to know what types of manuscripts editors want and don’t want so we can better target our work to the most appropriate house. Next week, I’ll discuss more popular trends.

Have you noticed trends in children’s literature? If so, I’d love to hear from you. Just leave a comment.

Norman Mailer High School and College Awards for Creative Nonfiction
"Norman Mailer produced extraordinary works in many genres, including the
category of this year's award. The awards are for excellence in creative
nonfiction which is truth/fact-based writing with literary merit, work that
features authorial voice and, often, personal experience, and often has a
significant narrative quality. The competition is broadly inclusive of genres
and subgenres that fall under creative nonfiction: memoirs, personal essays,
literary journalism, artful writings about place, environment, travel, people,
etc. Whatever its type, the best work will be true material presented with
compelling literary merit." In addition to a category for high-school students,
categories include the Two-Year College Competition, which is "open to first-and
second-year full-time students enrolled in community colleges, junior colleges,
and technical colleges" and confers a cash award of $5,000 plus travel and
lodging to attend the National Award Ceremony in New York City, and a Four-Year
College Competition, which "is open to current full-time undergraduate
students", confers a cash award of $10,000, a scholarship to the Norman Mailer
Writers Colony during the summer of 2012, and travel and lodging to attend the
National Award Ceremony. NB: "Funding for travel is limited to the continental
United States, Alaska, and Hawaii. Canadian and other foreign students are
eligible to enter. Outside of the U.S. a $500.00 USD payment toward travel will
be allowed. Hotel will be paid as for students in the U.S."
Details at
Deadline: April 28, 2011 (submissions close at noon, CST)

Call for Submissions:"
The Chattahoochee Review is under new editorship but very much alive and well. Please bear with us as we make this transition. We will be unveiling an exciting new website in the months to come. Meanwhile, keep the submissions and
subscriptions coming." Guidelines and pay rates are published at