Nancy's Books

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Today, I’m so happy to have the talented illustrator, Alison Davis Lyne, visit my blog. She has illustrated picture books and has an art column in the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) newsletter.  

Just WHAT Does An Illustrator  DO?? 

When an illustrator is chosen to illustrate an author's PB manuscript, it's the beginning of a working partnership between the publisher, writer and illustrator. Most of the time the writer has already done the work of writing the manuscript and any revisions that the publisher suggests. When the publisher is satisfied with the manuscript, the Art Director and Editor will chose an illustrator that fits the tone of the manuscript and the publishing house's “look.” 

When I get a manuscript, I immediately begin reading and planning how I think the picture book ought to look. Every illustrator has a different work flow, but I usually start out by laying out the text of the manuscript on a 32 page “book chart.” I continually change it up as I also start very rough sketches, or thumbnails. You can see an example of how I work this below. 


The thumbnails take but a moment to change so it's easy to try out different ideas, and discard them just as easily if they don't work out. Very much like writers make up a outline of how they want the story to flow.....and can change it quickly with each plot change. 

Here are some of the books Alison has illustrated:

Halloween Alphabet

Thanksgiving Day Alphabet

Easter Day Alphabet

Kudzu Chaos

G is for Grits

Little Things Aren’t Little When You’re Little 
Alison is making a return visit next week. She will explain an exercise that writers can do to improve the action and flow of their picture books.  

Call for submissions for young writers: 

KidSpirit Online is a free teen magazine and website for kids that
empowers youth everywhere to tackle life’s big questions. KidSpirit
provides a creative internet publishing outlet for teens around the
globe to share original essays, poetry and artwork.
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.

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

This is the final article is the series: Writing a Chapter Book.

Try these tips:

The climax, the most exciting part of the story, leads quickly to the ending. The ending should be clear and concise with resolutions for all the problems. The best endings offer an element of surprise. At the same time, the ending should be logical and appropriate, yet deliver an unexpected twist that isn’t predictable.
Chapter books are often published as a series. This audience reads a book and wants another that is similar. Many of these books have 10 chapters with black-and-white illustrations. Readers this age group like to visualize the characters.  

After you’ve written the story, read and reread to check for errors in grammar and typing. Tie up all loose ends in the story; then find a critique partner to read the manuscript and offer feedback.

Place the manuscript on a shelf for a month or two and begin writing another. Pull the manuscript off the shelf and reread. At this point you’re immersed in another story that you’ve begun writing. Since you’re focused on a new story, you’re more emotionally removed from the story you just finished. You'll also be more objective and able to find flaws that you couldn’t earlier. Polish the story and ship it out to a publisher. Happy writing. 
Next week, I will interview an illustrator, Alison Lyne, who is an outstanding talent in the world of picture books.  

Call for submissions for young writers:


Open to US high school students in grades 9-12 attending public, private, parochial, or home schools; US students under the age of 20 enrolled in a high school correspondence/GED program in any of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, or the US territories; and US citizens attending schools overseas. Write an original and creative essay of less than 1,000 words that demonstrates an understanding of political courage as described by John F. Kennedy in Profiles in Courage. Students should use a variety of sources such as newspaper articles, books,and/or personal interviews to address the following topic: Describe and analyze the decisions, actions, and risks of an elected public official in the United States since 1956 who has courageously addressed a political issue at the local, state, national, or international level.

Submission guidelines at

Deadline January 6, 2014.

 Call for submissions for adult writers: 

The American Kennel Club contest. Entries must be original, unpublished stories that have not been offered to or accepted by any other publisher. Only one entry per author.

The American Kennel Club retains the right to publish the three prize-winning entries in AKC FAMILY DOG, or other AKC publications. Entries may feature either a purebred or mixed breed dog. The maximum length is 2,000 words. Entries exceeding that length will not be considered. No talking dogs, please.

Entries must be printed on 8 1⁄2″ x 11″ white paper, one side per page, double-spaced. Poor-quality or faded copies cannot be considered. The author’s name, address, and phone number must appear on the first page. The author’s name and the page number must appear on each successive page.

All acceptable entries will be read by a panel of judges selected by AKC Publications. They will choose the winners based on the style, content, originality, and appeal of the story. All decisions are final. Winners will be announced in an issue AKC FAMILY DOG in 2014.

Send entries to:

AKC Publications Fiction Contest
The American Kennel Club, 260 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
Deadline: 1-31-2014

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Writing a Chapter Book, part 10/Calls for Submissions

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

Try these tips: 

Chapter books have a denser page of print than that of easy readers. Although the books are illustrated, the reader is dependent upon the art to help “read” the book. These books are broken into short chapters, and the reader can often read the entire chapter in one sitting. 

The number of characters is small and the plot is not complicated. Usually the action takes place in a short period of time and revolves around a single situation, such as trying to win a contest. Action and suspense drive these stories. 

Intense relationships and strong emotions spin throughout the stories. Character development is not as great as in books for older readers. Issues relevant to children ages 7-10 are must-haves. Stories should reflect the everyday experiences of the readers. Family, school, pets, friendship, moving, divorce, and bullies are a few of the common situations on which stories are based. The situation must be something that the main character—and the reader—care about. 

Call for submissions for young writers:

Starsongs. You are the future, and Starsongs wants to hear your voice. Our intention is to inspire and promote the creativity of youth. Starsongs is a general market magazine interested in work by writers, artists, and photographers ages 9-19. Please keep this age range in mind and focus your work to a PG rating level. We are open to fiction or non-fiction and “as told to” stories.

Submission guidelines at

Call for submissions for adult writers:

Highlights Magazine Fiction Contest

The theme for the 2013 Highlights for Children magazine Fiction Contest is holiday stories. Stories should be up to 800 words long, for children any age between 5-12. Three prizes of $1,000 or tuition for any Highlights Foundation Founders Workshop will be awarded. (For a complete list of workshops, visit No entry form or fee is required. Accepting work from both published and unpublished authors age 16 or older. All submissions must be previously unpublished. 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. Entries not accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope will not be returned. Manuscripts or envelopes should be clearly marked FICTION CONTEST. Send to: FICTION CONTEST, Highlights for Children, 803 Church Street, Honesdale, PA 18431. All entries must be postmarked between January 1 and January 31, 2014. The three winning entries will be purchased by Highlights and announced on in June 2014. All other submissions will be considered for purchase by Highlights.

 Check out more contests on my blog:

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Writing a Chapter Book, part 9/Calls for Submissions

Try these tips:
 When writing humor, don’t rely on one type to please all readers. Vary the humor by tickling the audience in a laugh-out-loud scene and again with a simple chuckle. Every sentence doesn’t have to be funny; instead, drop in funny situations and dialog as you play with the words and have fun with the story. Keep the audience in mind as you create situations that are relatable with the readers.
The main focus of the story should not be humor; rather, it should be about character and plot. Dashes of humor merely add kid appeal to a well-developed story. Humor is not the story.
Sometimes, the word choice for dialog or narrative is funny. Words, such as “doohickey” and “rumpus” are funny. Also words that start with a hard “K” or a hard “G” sound are funny. Consider “kerfuffle” or “girdle.” Their sounds bring a chuckle.
Never be disappointed when the humor in your writing doesn’t come through in the first draft. Humor is released in revision. Keep working the text until the humor emerges. 
Read humorous chapter books so you’ll get a feel for what works with this age group. 
Call for submissions for young writers:
Magic Dragon. Each writer and artist whose work is published in Magic Dragon will receive one copy of the issue in which the work appears.  Written work should be neatly printed or typed. If you type it, please double-space. Stories and essays can be up to three pages, poetry up to 30 lines. It is ok to send writing that you have also illustrated. You can write about anything that is important to you; it can be serious or funny, true or fiction. If you send originals and want them returned, enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope.
Submission guidelines at 
Call for submissions for adult writers:
AppleSeeds is a 36-page, multidisciplinary, nonfiction social studies magazine for children ages 6 and up (primarily in grades 3 & 4). Writers are encouraged to study recent APPLESEEDS past copies for content and style
Submission guidelines at 6 and up. Theme Lists for 2014-2015 have been posted on Submission-Guidelines page.
Submission guidelines at

Check out more contests on my blog:

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Writing a Chapter Book, part 9/Calls for Submissions

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

Try these tips for writing humor:

Strange and wacky situations, such as a bird building a nest on a character’s head captures and holds the reader’s attention.

Use comedic timing. Place the punch line or funny word at the last possible moment.

Use the element of surprise. Humor comes from the reader expecting something, but a twist takes the reader in an entirely unexpected (and funny) direction. This works every time, except when it doesn’t.

Self-check the humor. If what you write cracks you up, someone else will probably find it funny, as well. Humor test your work with a group of kids the age of the audience for which your manuscript is intended. If the kids think it’s funny, you’re wheeling and dealing. If not, it’s revision time. Ask the kids where the humor fell flat and what parts were funny.

Call for submissions for young writers:

Spaceports & Spidersilk is an online magazine for younger readers [8 to 17 and beyond].  Formerly it was called KidVisions.  Spaceports & Spidersilk features short stories, poems, and art, as well as brief essays on science and the environment, interviews, quizzes, contests [and, quite frankly, anything else that is genre-oriented and will help encourage the younger generation to read...and to dream, especially about going to the stars].  We at Nomadic Delirium Press hope that younger writers and artists, as well as adults, will submit their work.

The genres for Spaceports & Spidersilk include fantasy, science fiction, and a category we are going to define as ‘shadow stories’.  Shadow stories are mild horror.  We want spooky, not terrifying.  Most of all, we want ADVENTURES!  And especially SF or fantasy adventures.

Submission guidelines at

Call for submissions for adult writers:

Short Kid Stories. Kids love stories, they can’t get enough of them. Launching in 2013, Short Kid Stories is a site dedicated to short stories for kids and will showcase a huge range of classic and original short stories for children, free of charge. My aim for this is simply to be the best resource available for adults looking for short stories for kids, either to read to them or for kids to read themselves.

Submission guidelines at
Check out more contests on my blog: