Nancy's Books

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Writing Picture Books: Term: “Slight”

Like many writers, I’ve had picture book manuscripts rejected because they are “slight.” The rejection letter may state: We’ve reviewed your story and find the character charming and delightfully; however the story is too slight. What!?! If the character was charming and delightful, what’s the problem? Picture books need a strong idea. Something must happen. A day in the life of a girl named Susie won’t work in today’s market even though the story is told well, unless Susie does something that ignites excitement. The story must have an emotional appeal that makes it stand out. Significant messages or universal themes that give a story lasting importance make and editor take notice. However, this gets tricky. Significant messages and universal themes should NOT be didactic, meaning preachy.

Stories are considered “slight” because the story doesn’t have depth or the plot doesn’t have action. A story in which a child strolls through the forest and sees the trees doesn’t have enough action or a significant message. A child walking through the woods counting trees has much more impact because the story has a strong focus: counting. Learning to count gives the reader something that will linger long after the book is closed.

The stories we write should resonate with young readers and embody thoughts, feelings, and desires that depict their world. Capture the childhood experiences of friendship and kindness and human emotions, such as anger and hope, in a magical way through writing.

Next week, I’ll explore further into the world of picture books.

Call for submissions for young writers:
Dragonfly. Send us your investigations, poems, short essays, and stories on upcoming themes, and you may be the next Dragonfly. For All Submissions, we Seek:
Writing from your own point of view. Material from third-grade through lower middle school students. Material on upcoming Dragonfly themes. Submit only your very best work. Use language that is sensitive to both boys and girls as well as to people from various cultural, economic, racial, and geographic backgrounds. Focus on a respect for nature, imagination, love of learning, and fun. Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope, if you want material returned. 400-800 words.
No Deadline.
Details at

Call for submissions for adult writers:
Boulevard. Pay: $25 to $500. Boulevard strives to publish only the finest in fiction, poetry, and non-fiction (essays, interviews, etc.).
Deadline: Accepts submissions after October 1 and up to May 1.
Details at

Check out more contests on my blog:

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Picture Books: Problem Resolution Tales

The plot structure for Problem Resolution stories has a beginning, middle, and end. The beginning introduces the characters, setting and conflict. Most picture books have a third person point of view [he/she said] but first person [I said] also works. Sometimes dialog is used and sometimes authors choose an all narrative telling. Both work. In my book, Trouble in Troublesome Creek, I used dialog to help develop the individual personalities of the characters and to move the plot forward.

Rising action occurs when the character faces conflict. The Troublesome Creek kids found dead fish floating in their swimming hole. Yuck! That was no place for swimming. To make matters worse, no one knew what was killing the fish. By accident, they opened up a cave and decided to explore. Deep inside the cave, they dropped their flashlight and were swallowed by black. When the light worked again, they kids couldn’t remember the route out of the cave. Bats swarmed them. The way to build conflict is to create problems for the character. To keep the conflict high, create more problems. The conflict continues until the story reaches a climax, where the character confronts the problem.

The resolution comes quickly and suggests that the character has changed or solved the problem. The kids found strange rocks in the cave and later identified them as Minnie balls, Civil War lead bullets over 150 years old. The bullets were removed and the water in their swimming hole was safe for fish and swimmers. Problem solved.
This structure is the most popular in picture books.

Contest for young writers:
Gumbo Teen Magazine, a bimonthly print publication with a multicultural focus, accepts inquiries for submission by 13- to 19-year-olds on contemporary social, political and global issues of interest to teens, as well as news highlighting fashion, sports and entertainment.
Details at

Call for submissions for adult writers
Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine
CURRENT NEEDS: "Three general criteria are employed in
evaluating submissions: We look for strong writing, an
original and exciting plot, and professional craftsmanship.
We need hard-boiled stories as well as "cozies.
Details at

Check out more contests on my blog:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Picture Books: Journey Stories/Contest

The journey story is viable plot structure for picture books. The main character journeys into the world on a quest or with a specific goal in mind. While on the journey the character faces strong opposition and obstacles that s/he must overcome. By the end of the journey, the character experiences growth. This type of story has a definite sense of beginning, middle, and end. Many fairy tales, folktales, and myths are journey stories. Examples: The Three Little Pigs and Jack and the Beanstalk.

The beginning introduces the character and setting as well as the catalyst for the journey. Early in the story, establish the reason why the character is taking the journey. What is the character’s motivation to continue when presented with challenges? The pigs are seeking their fortunes. Introduce the villain, such as the Bad Wolf.

Challenges arise in the middle part of the story. The character is tested. The Big Bad Wolf huffs and puffs and blows down their houses. The character must learn to deal with the opposition so s/he can overcome the final obstacle that leads to the climax.

The ending is short and sweet. The Big Bad Wolf won’t bother the pigs ever again. A satisfying ending is a must for young readers. The pigs are victorious.

Consider how your journey story fits this plot structure. Add your own creative ideas, distinctive characters, and compelling plot to make the story fresh and engaging. As in building a house, the structure of a story provides the foundation, but the details offer the uniqueness.

Contest for young and adult writers:
Tapestry of Bronze "Odes to the Olympians" Spring 2012 Contest
"The Tapestry of Bronze is sponsoring a series of poetry contests to celebrate Greek and Roman mythology and the Olympian gods. The subject of the eighth contest is Ares (also known as Mars), the God of War." Prizes of $50 will be awarded for the winning poem in each age group (over 18/under 18). NB: "All poems remain the property of the authors. However, the Tapestry of Bronze reserves the right to post winning poems and those receiving Honorable Mention on the Tapestry of Bronze website."
Deadline: April 30, 2012
Details at

Check out more contests on my blog:

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Picture Books: Circular Stories/Calls for Submissions

Circular stories are a fun way to learn to structure a picture book plot logically. The plot is devised so the ending leads back to the beginning, therefore, circular. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is an example. A character’s journey takes him/her through dramatic action and ends up right back where they started. The main plot follows a predictable series of events. The character sets out on a journey to find, learn, or do something and must deal with obstacles as in other types of picture book plots. This format works well with stories about time travel, adventures, dreams, entering other worlds, and self-acceptance. Circular stories often utilize the writing techniques of showing, onomatopoeia, and sensory imagery.

This format is fun for young children because the storyline is rewarding. By returning to the beginning, the reader feels a sense of completion, with no loose ends or questions left unanswered. The familiarity is comforting.

Call for submissions for young writers:
Do you have the writer's bug? Or are you a shutterbug with some great photos to share with other Kiki readers? Or an artist or designer waiting to be published and discovered? At Kiki, we love to see what our readers are doing, and we're sure that Kiki readers want to see what you've been working on,
too. Whatever your creative talent, submit your work to Kiki. Send us your illustrations, artwork, photos, or articles, and one of your creative masterpieces might end up being featured in the magazine!

If you're over 14 years old, go ahead and upload your submission. If you're under 14, you can send us whatever you have to Kiki Reader Submissions at 118 W Pike St, Covington, KY 41011. It all goes to the same place! But remember, if you're under 14, an adult can always upload your information for you. We can't wait to see what you come up with!

Email your submission to

Details at

Call for submissions for adult writers:
Children’s Writer
Cash prizes, winners’ certificates, and valuable training in disciplined writing.
Write a 900 word mystery could win $500.
Deadline: April 30th.
Details at

Check out more contests on my blog:

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Picture Books: Days of the Week Tales/Calls for Submissions

When I begin thinking about my next picture book and stamping out an idea, it seems easy as eating a chocolate ice cream cone on an August afternoon. As I begin the actual writing process, the task takes on a hard-as-nails life of its own as I attempt to figure out how to tell the story. In writing both fiction and nonfiction, the days-of-the-week format is an excellent structure because the built-in beginning and ending can be developed around the first and last days, with a Saturday resolution. Parents and teachers like this type of theme. Not only are you telling a story but the text reinforces the learning of the weekdays. Children love predictable stories in which they can identify the following day before turning the page.

This structure also allows for action. Many events and roadblocks can take place over the period of a week, giving the character time to rethink many of his/her choices. New discoveries can be made as the character works toward solving the problem. The basic structure will be predictable, but the writer has flexibility in creating an imaginative and unique story.

Call for submissions for young writers:
OMG! My Reality! This new anthology will be a collection of personal real-life stories written by and about kids, preteen and teens. We are
looking for humorous, heart-warming, wistful, and inspiring stories written by individuals 25 years old and younger. Your story must be between 500 and 1,200 words, neither more nor less. We will accept stories that have been previously
published if you now have the rights that will allow us to reprint it. As a contributor to books in the OMG! My Reality! series, you will receive:
1. One (1) copy of the book.

2. A T-shirt featuring the OMG! My Reality! logo and the
wording “I’m a published author!”

3. A share of the book royalties. For one year following
publication, you will collect a small percent of the royalties
paid to the co-creaters. Split among 60-plus contributors, the
amount will likely not total more than $50-$100 per contributor.
It could be more; it could be less.
Details at

Call for submissions for adult writers:
Blaze magazine is full of fun facts, cool games and crafts, and fascinating articles on horses, horse kids and the natural world they share. Promoting literacy of course, it's great for learning about not only horses, but also about nature, history, creative arts, character traits and much more. Geared for kids aged 8 to 14, the magazine is published quarterly. And what's more, Blaze is also a real-life horse. She's a flash Rocky Mountain and the official mascot of the magazine. Subscribers call her their own!
Details at

Check out more contests on my blog: