Nancy's Books

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Writing a Chapter Book, part 4/Calls for Submissions

This article is the fourth in the series: Writing a Chapter Book. 

Try the following tips:

1.      The readability level should match the age of the child. Word choice, sentence structure, and sentence length vary with age/grade levels. The reader will not recognize every word, but may be able to use context clues or sound out the word to figure it out. Use the readability check on the Word program. Many chapter books range from 4,000-12,000 words, with chapters running 400-1000 words, depending on the guidelines of the publisher. These books have shorter sentences and shorter paragraphs than middle grade novels and are often accompanied by line drawings scattered throughout the text.
2.      Many chapter books have 10 chapters with approximately 1000 words per chapter. I like to outline the plot with a general beginning, middle, and ending. I do this by numbering vertically 1-10 to indicate each chapter; then I write a sentence or two or maybe a paragraph defining the action in each chapter. As I write the story I allow myself to detour from this outline if I think it benefits the story. Sometimes, I rearrange the action in the chapters. If the action in chapter 8 works better in chapter 4, I make those changes. The outline helps me stay focused on the overall story, but I’m always modifying it as the story progresses.

 Next week, I’ll continue with chapter book tips.

Call for submissions for young writers:

Kid's Imagination Trail. All aboard! Welcome to the Kid's Imagination Train, where children can take the journey of reading in a brand new way. KIT offers book reviews, fiction, poetry, and nonfiction for kids ages 5 - 12. It’s unique in that it engages children by providing the opportunity to illustrate their favorite features and have them published online. I invite you to read, to learn, and to draw! ~ Randi Lynn Mrvos, Editor.

Submission guidelines at

Call for submissions for adult writers:

Enchanted Conversation: A Fairy Tale Magazine is an online publication for ages 13 and up. It publishes 2 pieces each month (story and/or poem). Authors receive a $25 gift certificate. Submissions are only open the first two days of each month.

Submission guidelines at

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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Writing a Chapter Book, part III/Calls for Submissions

This article is the third  in the series: Writing a Chapter Book

Try the following tips:

1.      The simple, clear plots are fast paced. Smart, clever kids who outwit dragons or villains work with these readers. Events can be filled with drama but should not be nightmarish, nothing too scary. The story is told through the viewpoint of one character or is a narrative about the adventure of one character, sometimes two. This age group loves action-packed adventure and solving mysteries.
      I’m in the process of writing an adventure story that has a puzzle the reader tries to solve. The puzzle involves distance so the puzzle keeps changing as the characters travel, but when the characters discover the solution to one puzzle near the end of the story, the readers can figure out the others. Some readers will figure out the solution before the characters do. That’s part of the fun of reading this type of book.

2.      As I begin forming the plot, I ask What if. What if a boy had a speech problem that embarrassed him but others thought was funny? What if a girl found a hoodie that could make her fly? What if a boy understood the language of bark and knew exactly what his dog was saying with each yip. The What if question stimulates the creative juices and provides the writer a variety of plot possibilities and character development opportunities. “What if questions work with any subject and almost any genre of literature.

What if…

You were unable to smile for a year

A space alien wanted to be a friend

You had a supernatural power for three days only

What if you tried this question when writing a chapter book and What if your work garnered a contract? Food for thought.

 Next week, I’ll continue with more chapter book tips.

Call for submissions for young writers:
PATRIOT'S PEN CONTEST. The Patriot's Pen program is open to
students in grades 6-8 (on the Nov. 1 deadline), who are enrolled
in a public, private or parochial high school or home study program
in the United States and its territories. 2013-2014 theme, "What
Patriotism Means to Me." Limit 300 to 400 words. Top prize $5,000.
Deadline: Deadline November 1, 2013
Call for submissions for adult writers:
At U.S. Kids Magazines (Turtle, Humpty Dumpty, and Jack and Jill),
providing fun, entertaining reading material is our priority. We
accept humorous, playful, and witty stories that kids would love
to read—not stories that grownups think kids should read. As part
of the Children’s Better Health Institute, we are always in need
of high-quality stories, articles, and activities with a broad
health and fitness focus. Averages 25 to 30 cents/word.
Submission guidelines at

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Writing a Chapter Book, part II/Calls for Submissions

This article is the second in the series: Writing a Chapter Book. 

1.     Before writing the first word, develop a character sketch of the main character. How does this character sound, look, and act? What upsets this character? What problem does the character face? How does the character act under pressure? Ask the questions and allow the character to answer in his/her voice. The point is to learn the character so the actions will stay consistent. Each secondary character should have distinguishable actions and voice so the reader can identify each. If all the characters act and sound alike, the story won’t be as interesting and the language won’t be as lively.

2.      Everyday experiences. As with all writing, keep the audience in mind. What appeals to kids in the 7-9 age range? They are interested in stories that reflect their own experiences, including such topics as friendship, school, family, playing sports (or dance or music or gymnastics), fitting in with a group, and other areas that directly affect their lives. They also face such challenges as parent’s divorce, loss of a sibling or beloved pet, or best friend moving away.

The more time you spend developing the story BEFORE you lay words to paper, the less time you will spend in revision.
Call for submissions for young writers:

We want aspiring young writers from around the country to enter the
2013 Red House Young Writers’ Yearbook competition and win the chance
to see their stories or poems published in a beautiful book. The
winners will also be invited to a writing workshop, hosted by a
children's author, at The Imagine Children's Festival in February 2014.
To enter the competition, your child should be aged between 7 and 17.
They can submit a story, poem or article and it’s up to the individual
what subject they choose to write about. This year the competition
entries will be divided into four age categories: 7+, 9+, 11+ and 13+.
Entries must be under 1,000 words.

Submit by July 31st. Winners will be notified by September.

Spellbound is a children’s fantasy e-zine for 8-12 year olds.  Each issue will be published in ePub format, and available from, B& and other online vendors.  This is a quarterly publication with reading periods.

A week or so ago, I posted information on Spellbound themes. An editor at Spellbound sent this message: We have started reading for a special, fairy tale themed edition of Spellbound which will be published in print and electronic.

Details for Spellbound available at

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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Writing a Chapter Book, part 1/Calls for submissions

This article is the first of a series.

Chapter books are for kids who are becoming fluent readers and bridge the gap between early readers and middle grade novels. Let’s take a look at the ingredients for stirring up a good chapter book.

The main character. The protagonist should be close to the age of the reader, or a little older. If the character is totally offbeat, completely strange, make the setting familiar, such as home or school. Conversely, if the characters are normal, the setting can be anywhere, even outer space or somewhere in the past or future.

The main character should be “good” even though s/he might display rude or mischievous behavior at times. Allow the characters to make mistakes so they can learn from those mistakes by the end of the story.

Next week, I’ll continue with chapter book tips.
Call for submissions for young writers:

Crashtest publishes poetry, stories and creative non-fiction in the
form of personal essays, imaginative investigation, experimental
interviews, whatever, but please don’t send us the book report you
wrote for English or your Speech and Debate abstract. Any student
grades nine through twelve from any high school in the country (or
abroad) can submit to Crashtest, but we’d like to know a little bit
about who you are and where you come from. Please include a brief
cover letter in the body of your email submission that tells us a
little bit about yourself, your name and your grade at the very least.
Details at

Call for submissions for adult writers:

CHICKEN SOUP: THE CAT DID WHAT? --- Our cats make us smile every day, but sometimes they really outdo themselves. Whether they came up with the idea themselves, or you put them in a situation that caused them to do something unusual, we want to hear about it! Tell us what your cat did that made people want to ask again and again, "The Cat Did What?" We are looking for first-person true stories and poems up to 1200 words. Stories can be serious or humorous, or both. We can't wait to read all the heartwarming, inspirational, and hysterical stories you have about your cats! Pays $200 and ten copies of the book.

Details at

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Correction--Spellbound Call for Submissions

I mistakenly posted incorrect Spellbound calls for submissions and dates in the previous blog. The following is the correct information. Thanks, Rosi, for letting me know.

 Spellbound is a children's fantasy e-zine for 8-12 year olds. Authors and poets are welcome to submit their own artwork to accompany their stories and poems. Artwork should be submitted as per the art guidelines. Please understand artwork, poetry, and prose will be evaluated separately, and there is no guarantee that any or all “companion” work will be accepted together.

Please note this is a Middle Grade reader publication, not Young Adult.Themes and Submissions Periods

· Winter 2013: Giants, Reading/Submissions Period: July 1 – September 30, 2013

· Spring 2014: Dwarves, Reading/Submissions Period: October 1 – December 31, 2013

· Summer 2014: Sea Monsters, Reading/Submissions Period: January 1 – March 31, 2014

· Fall 2014: Magical Cats: Reading/Submissions Period: April 1 –  June 30, 2014

· Winter 2014: Elementals: Reading/Submissions Period: July 1 – September 30, 2014

All submissions will receive a response.


Fiction Editor: Raechel Henderson

Word limit = 2,500
Payment = 2.5 cents per word
Rights bought: First World Electronic English-language Rights
Multiple submissions okay
No simultaneous submissions

We’re looking for stories involving magic, myth, legend and adventure in a fantasy setting. We want Spellbound to introduce children to fantasy in all its wonderful forms.

What we’re especially interested in seeing

· Young protagonists and showing girls in “heroic” roles.

· Non-Western European settings, characters and stories.

· Minorities and disabled characters.

· Stories where children protagonists have an active role in the story’s resolution.

Please send fiction submissions to Send submissions in the body of the e-mail. No attachments!