Nancy's Books

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