Nancy's Books

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Keep Them Laughing, part III/Calls for Submissions

Like adults, children live in a serious world. Humor is necessary to add balance and books provide the perfect source for humor. Writing humor is serious business but these tips might add the needed tee-hee sparkle to set your readers chuckling.

1. Read a variety of humorous books to develop an understanding of what works with various age groups.

2. Talk with kids in the age group of your intended audience. Ask them what makes them laugh. Try out your material on children to see if it resonates with them. Normally, I don’t advise writers to try out material with children, but with humorous books, seeing the reaction to the work can be revealing.

3. For young readers and those who enjoy picture books, make the humor direct, simple, and obvious.

4. Older readers enjoy humor that helps diffuse serious situations or in characters who are in situations for which they are unprepared.
Readers love to laugh so keep the audience in mind when writing giggle worthy stories. Humor resonates from the maturity of the readers’ minds and their experiences so light the path with a grin. As Roald Dahl said on giving advice to children’s writers - "It's got to be funny!"

Call for submissions for young writers:
Kentucky State Poetry Society STUDENT POETRY CONTESTS -- K thru 12 -- No entry fees -- Cash Prizes.
Deadline: March 1, 2012
Details at KSPS

Call for submissions for adult writers:
The Southern Review
“We seek to publish the very best new fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and literary essays by established and emerging writers. ” Pays: “$25 per printed page with a maximum payment of $200 for prose and $125 for poetry, plus two copies of the issue in which the work appears and a one-year subscription.”
Deadline: March 1, 2012
Details at

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Keep Them Laughing, part II/Calls for Submissions

1. Situations can be funny. Absurd plots such as building a spaceship in the backyard and flying off to defend the territory can be hilarious to an eight-year-old. Grandpa removing his false teeth or losing his hairpiece is funny to a four-year-old. The word “underwear” cracks up a group of kindergarteners. So does “snot.” Keep the audience in mind with the humor. What’s funny to one age group is totally lost on another.

2. Characters performing in unexpected ways bring out the humor, such as a dog that talks or a clumsy cat. Kids love quirky characters. Injecting the unfamiliar into a familiar situation can be funny: a buffalo going to dinner or a an elephant who takes a bath in a tub.

3. Use exaggeration.

4. Don’t try to make every sentence funny. Surprise the reader with a touches of humor scattered throughout the story. The humor should serve to carry the plot forward and not be an isolated gag stuck onto a story.

5. Set up the humorous episode by leaving the humor as the last line or at the end of the sentence for a more powerful punch. In picture books, keep the surprise with the turn of the page. The reader is guessing what might happen. If you surprise the reader, you just might get a laugh.

Call for Submissions for Student Writers:

Giggle Poetry Accepts original poetry from childrenDetails at

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
The American South is a haunted place – full of ghost stories, native legends, persistent devils & angels, souls sold at the crossroads, and moon-eyed maidens living in the Okefenokee. The South’s best writers – Faulkner, O’Connor, McCullers – all keep this sense of the otherworldly in their fiction. In this spirit, Q & W Publishers is looking for submissions for an anthology of short fiction and non-fiction that explores the fantastic, eerie, and bizarre side of the American South.” Pays: $50/accepted piece, plus one copy of the anthology.
Deadline: March 1.
Details at

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Keep Them Laughing/Call for Submissions/Contest

Wouldn’t you love to know what type story an editor is looking for? That would certainly put us a step ahead of the competition. Many editors say they don’t know what they’re looking for until they see it. Oh, well, there goes that idea. But one aspect of writing most editors are looking for is humor. Like editors, children of all ages enjoy humorous books.

Writing humor for children can be difficult. What is funny to a two-year-old may seem silly and boring to a five-year old. Humor must be geared to the child’s world so he will know and appreciate the words, actions, and plot. The child must understand what is happening before it the story can be appealing and funny. Humorous writing is difficult because what is funny is often subjective and personal. One reader may crack up laughing at a joke and another might see little or no humor in the text. Even though writing humor can be difficult, it is not impossible.

Here are some ways to create humor in books for children:

1. Dialog offers an opportunity to add humor seamlessly. “We’ll be batburgers!” is a line one of my characters said when lost in a cave.

2. Humorous narrative creates interest in a story. Another of my characters, Liz, is telling the story in The Munched-Up Flower Garden so her thoughts are expressed in a way to tickle the reader. I looked at my brother and said nothing. My look must have said plenty because he hightailed in back in the house.

Next week, I’ll discuss other ways to incorporate humor into stories.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Kaleidoscope Magazine, which “creatively focuses on the experiences of disability through literature and the fine arts,” is planning an issue “on the theme of ‘Appreciating the Small/Simple Moments in Life.’ In the midst of our daily struggles there can be moments in which a small kindness, or the simple gesture of another, makes us feel as if all is right with the world. They are the instances that usually do not involve much, if any, preparation or planning. These are the small things that can make the biggest differences. These can be times of joy experienced in the midst of sadness, or of peace and contentment in the midst of chaos. They can be shared or solitary experiences, moments of transcendence that fulfill us. They are also those moments that, if we are not paying attention, can slip right past us. Share one or more of those moments with us, in poetry, fiction, or personal essays.” Deadline is March 1, 2012. Pays: $10-$125. See for more information

Contest for Young Writers:
PUBLISH-A-KID CONTEST-We invite young readers to write book reviews. Winning entries will be published in the pages of Moment. And yes, there will be prizes. We’ve selected a list of books for you to choose from. Pick one
or more that you enjoy or find intriguing and tell us why! Anyone ages 9-13 is eligible. We encourage children of all faiths to enter. Each review should be 1 to 2 pages double-spaced, 250-500 words. Each child can send one review for each book on the list.
Deadline: Deadline February 15, 2012.
Details at

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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Reflecting Real Life in Writing

Exciting news. My latest picture book, Big C and Little Ox, arrived this week. Big C, a cape buffalo, is a loner, quite grouchy, and has almost nothing say. Little Ox, a busybody oxbird, is the opposite: loves to jabber, always in a happy mood, and enjoys company. So what do the two have in common? They have a symbiotic relationship: Little Ox picks off fleas that keep Big C from itching; in turn, Little Ox gets lunch. But one day, Big C and Little Ox have a quarrel and Little Ox leaves. For Big C, a lesson about friendship unfolds.

My primary goal in writing fiction is to entertain, but I always add layers of meaning into the storyline. In this book, readers will learn about getting along with others who are different, the dependent relationship of a cape buffalo and an oxbird, and the importance of friendship. Plus, it’s packed with humor.

Humor is the universal language all kids enjoy. Parents and teachers do too. I strive to write so my stories have layers of understanding. The younger child will laugh at the grumpiness of the cape buffalo and his antics. Older readers will appreciate the acceptance of a friend who is different. Friendship is a theme everyone can relate to in some capacity.

Nearly all of my writing reflects real life. I don’t mean specific events or people, but things that are important to me. Animals rank high among my interests. The writer in me enjoys researching and writing about animals in a voice kids will enjoy.

Call for submissions for adult and student writers:
An essay competition for adult and student writers commemorates the 50th anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Two prizes will be awarded: a “Junior Prize” of $1,000 for essays 1,000 words (or less), which is open to students aged 13-18; and a “Senior Prize,” conferring $2,000 for 2,000 words (or less), which is open to anyone aged 19 or over.” Questions to spark your essayistic response are posted on the website. There is no entry fee.
Deadline: March 15, 2012.
Details at