Nancy's Books

Sunday, July 29, 2012

OOPS! Do As I Say, Not As I Do/Contest

When working with editors, our goal always is to mail an error-free manuscript and cover letter. In this electronic age when a simple press of the “send” key flings our work into cyberspace, it’s easy to overlook an error. Some publishing houses are now accepting manuscripts by electronic submission. The good news is two-fold: they accept manuscripts and emailing is free. So what’s the downside? Sometimes, we tend to ship out precious manuscript cargo without printing a hard copy. Catching our own mistakes is difficult because we read the work as we intend it to be rather than the way it is actually written and finding mistakes is more difficult when reading a computer screen. I made this mistake as recently as last week’s blog article in which I wrote “road” and it should have been “rode.”

I reread the article two or three times but overlooked the mistake with each reading. Had that been a cover letter, an editor probably would not have read further. Cover letters MUST be error-free and so should picture book manuscripts. Overlooking a grammatical error of longer manuscripts for middle grade and young adult manuscripts would probably not be a major problem for an editor if the mistakes are few and far between, but errors are totally unacceptable in cover letters and short manuscripts.

Happy writing and double-check, make that triple-check, your work. Even better, have a critique partner or two read it. Their eyes are fresh since they’re reading the work for the first time.

Stories for beginning readers in 500 words or fewer. We welcome stories of any genre (mystery, historical fiction, sports, humor, holiday, friendship, etc.) as long as the stories are intended for kids ages 6–8.

Three prizes of $1,000 or tuition for any Highlights Foundation Founders Workshop. (For a complete list of workshops, visit
All entries must be postmarked between January 1 and January 31, 2013.
No entry form or fee is required.
Entrants must be at least 16 years old at the time of submission.
We welcome work from both published and unpublished authors. All submissions must be previously unpublished.

Stories may be any length up to 500 words. Indicate the word count in the upper right-hand corner of the first page of your manuscript.
Include your name and the title of your story on your manuscript.
No crime, violence, or derogatory humor.
Entries not accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope will not be returned.
Manuscripts or envelopes should be clearly marked FICTION CONTEST. Those not marked in this way will be considered as regular submissions to Highlights.
Highlights for Children
803 Church Street
Honesdale, PA 18431
The three winning entries will be purchased by Highlights and announced on in June 2013. All other submissions will be considered for purchase by Highlights.

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Tips for Writers/Contest

In the past two weeks, I’ve conducted three writing workshops. In each class I’ve asked participants to offer feedback on some of the best tips for writing children’s books. Here are the top four:

1. Create a strong ending that reflects the beginning. The resolution should reflect the character’s problem or goal that was stated at the beginning of the story.

2. Show, Don’t Tell. SHOW the character in action rather than telling what the character did after the action was complete. Instead of TELLing that Timmy rode his bicycle down the road, SHOW the scene by describing how he pumped the pedals.

3. Treat your character badly and then threat the character worse. Place obstacles in your character’s journey to raise the tension of the story. High tension builds high interest for readers.

4. Just get the story written. Don’t be too concerned about the use of voice and grammatical correctness at this stage. Good writing comes from rewriting. Future drafts of the manuscripts can spit shine it.

Contest for adult writers:
Family Circle. Limit 2,500 words of short fiction.
Must be unpublished and never have won a prize. Limit two entries per person.
Must be 21 or older and a legal resident of the US. Grand prize may be published in Family Circle.
One (1) Grand Prize winner will receive a prize package including $750, a gift certificate to one (1) course of his or her choice, one (1) year AvantGuild membership valued at $55, and a one (1) year How-to Video membership valued at $99.
One (1) Second Place winner will receive $250, a one (1) year AvantGuild membership, and a one (1) year How-to Video membership.
One (1) Third Place winner will receive $250 and a one (1) year AvantGuild membership.
Deadline: Deadline September 7, 2012.
Details at

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Conflict Ups the Interest in Reading, part II/Call for Submissions

Conflict is the key to keeping readers interested in a story. Characters act and react in ways they never imagined when their worlds collide in disagreements and problems. Compel your character to take action and expose his/her imperfections throughout the plotline. Here are a few more ways to up the tension with conflict.

-Surprise the reader by taking the story in an unexpected turn of events with new obstacles to confront and overcome.

-Craft an external conflict with another character or with an external force.

-Craft an internal conflict by subjecting the character to uncertainty or a predicament in which s/he doesn’t know how to deal with the problem or expose the character’s fear.

-Vary the intensity of the conflict. All scenes should not be loaded with high drama. As in life, some challenges are greater than others

-The intensity of the conflict should be the greatest at the climax of the story.

-Readers will appreciate your efforts when you allow conflict to drive your story.

Call for submissions for adult writers:
The Flagler Review, the literary journal of Flagler College, is seeking submissions of high-quality poems, short stories, creative nonfiction, screenplays, plays and artwork for our Fall 2012 issue, which may be published in print or online formats. Submissions must be previously unpublished. Submit work as a Microsoft Word attachment; include cover letter with contact and biographical information. Submit to
Deadline: AUGUST 15, 2012.
Details at

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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Conflict Ups the Interest in Reading/Call for submissions

As in adult novels, compelling conflict in children’s chapter books and novels keep the pages turning. The main character needs a worthy goal. The goal should be worth all the trouble the character endures to be believable.

Try these tips for creating conflict and increasing literary tension:

-Begin the story at a moment in which the character will forever be changed, at a moment of excitement, or in the middle of the action. Grab the reader’s attention early.

-A way to up the tension is by setting a deadline in which the character must accomplish a task. Like a ticking clock, the urgency will make compelling reading.

-A rule many writers use is treat the character badly; then treat the character worse. Present one obstacle after another to make the character work hard and face difficult choices.

-The character should solve his/her own problems. Active characters act upon the situation. Don’t rely on Aunt Polly or a big brother to solve the character’s problems.

-Keep the character consistent. A shy kid shouldn’t suddenly develop an outgoing personality without sufficient reason.

Next week, I’ll address more ways to create conflict.

Call for submissions for adult writers:
Lingerpost is a biannual, online journal that seeks to publish wonderful new poetry, fiction, and nonfiction by established and emerging artists. We’re open to a wide variety of work as long as it is well-written and innovative. What compels us is a desire to enter another heart and imagination, to know—we look for poetry that seeks to know and be known. We read submissions year around, and currently we're reading for our next issue. Email submissions to
Deadline for next issue: July 25, 2012
Details at

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Sunday, July 1, 2012

First Sentence, First Paragraph/Call for Submissions

In revision, pay particular attention to the first paragraph. Hone the words sharp. Begin with action and use language that will attract readers’ attention. Some authors rewrite the beginning paragraph 100 times. I’m not suggesting that you go to that length but to rise above the competition, create a first paragraph that is attention grabbing, emotional, and sounds like music to the ears. A well-honed first paragraph is your first impression with many editors, since some editors don’t read the cover letter until AFTER they’re read the first paragraph. Some read the first paragraph, and if they like what they read, continue with the first page; THEN turn back to the cover letter to read about the submission.

Like editors, readers are captivated by the fictional world in the first five to seven words. Create a first sentence that is such a powerful and magnetic force, editors and readers can’t put it down. The first paragraph is the building block for the entire story. Make your first impression a lasting impression.

Call for submissions for adult writers:
Kentucky Monthly. Attention, writers! Kentucky Monthly is seeking submissions for our annual literary section, which will appear in the November issue. Entries will be accepted in the following categories:
• Poetry
• Fiction
• Creative Nonfiction

Only submissions from Kentucky writers will be considered for publication. Our definition of a Kentucky writer is anyone who currently lives in Kentucky, has lived in Kentucky or uses Kentucky as subject matter. Submissions must adhere to our literary guidelines. Please thoroughly review these guidelines before submitting your stories or poems. Submission of stories and/or poems indicates you have read and agree to the terms outlined in the guidelines. Writers may submit one fiction and one creative nonfiction story at no charge. 600-3000 words."
Deadline: August 3, 2012

Details at

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