Nancy's Books

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Writing a Middle Grade Novel/Call for Submissions

Today, I’m continuing the series, Writing a Middle Grade Novel.
When writers consider characters and plots for a children’s novel, they must also consider the theme. The theme is the topic of the story, the message. In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the theme is “home is where the heart is” or “there’s no place like home.” The plot revolves around Dorothy’s trouble as a tornado drops her in Oz and she has to figure out how to get back home.
Rather than deciding on the theme as you outline or consider the plot of the story, allow the theme to grow out of the character and plot. If writers plan the theme from the conception of the story, it may be so message-y, so strong, that readers are turned off.
Books may have more than one theme. One rule to consider is to keep the theme or themes appropriate for the age level of the audience. Middle grade readers are beginning to understand who they are as individuals and are developing opinions. They are introspective. Readers of middle grade fiction like characters that
·         Accept and respect differences in others
·         Overcome fears or take risks, courage
·         Deal with morals and values, justice, and compassion.
These readers enjoy books that mirror their personal experiences.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Fan Story. ABC Poetry Contest. Participate in this free writing contest. Cash prizes. Deadline: July 15, 2014.Corn, Avocado and Tomato Salad
Submission guidelines at
Remove husks from corn and grill over medium heat for 10 minutes. The corn should have some brown spots and be tender and not mushy. Cut the corn off the cob then scrape the cob with the back of your knife to get the juices. Set aside and let cool. Slice the tomatoes in half. Dice the avocado and chop the cilantro.
Honey Lime Dressing

Add all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.
Combine the sliced tomatoes, avocado, cilantro and grilled corn and honey lime dressing and mix gently so everything is evenly coated. Be careful not to mash the avocados. Let the salad sit for 10-15 minutes to let flavors mingle


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Writing a Middle Grade Novel/Call for Submissions for Adult Writers

Today, I’m continuing the series, Writing a Middle Grade Novel.

Writing a middle grade novel is an exciting, tiring, uplifting, exasperating, and enormously satisfying activity. Stringing words together to tell a story can bog down by the middle of the manuscript. Most, maybe all, authors deal with this at some point in their writing. A strong plot with lots of tension prevents a sagging middle in a manuscript. The protagonist’s motivation must be clear. Why does s/he want to solve this problem? What is the character’s goal and motivation? What is preventing the character from reaching the goal?
To quote E. M. Forester, an English writer, who described the difference between story and plot.
The king died and the queen died. (A simple story that shows what happened.)
The king died and the queen died of grief. (A story with a plot that shows not only what happened but the effect of what happened. That’s a plot.)
Plot is a plan of action that moves the story from beginning to end. The plot must be age appropriate for the audience in children’s books. Also, it has to capture the interests of the readers so keeping the audience in mind when writing scenes is crucial. Readers in the 8-to-12 age range like plots with suspense, action, and humor. If you can combine all three, that’s even better. Family, fantasy, and realistic, contemporary stories are popular with middle grade readers.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Cicada, a magazine for readers ages 14 and up, publishes original fiction, poetry, first-person nonfiction, and comics by both adult and teen writers and artists. Cicada's on the lookout for the smartest, strangest, and most beautiful YA lit/art/comics around. Writers, artists, and comic artists of all ages: Visit the Cicada Submittable page to read our guidelines, create an account, and submit work!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Today, I’m continuing the series, Writing a Middle Grade Novel.
Description is used to enhance fictional stories. Check out the following ways:
Writing effective description can be difficult. Too little description leaves the reader wondering what happened and seeing a fuzzy mental picture of the scene. Too much description makes the reader lose interest in the plot, because it’s just simply boring. The sweet spot is to provide enough description to give the reader a visual of the people, events, setting, and objects in the story.  

Every detail should not be described. Allow the reader space to use his/her imagination.

Instead of describing the obvious details, occasionally focus on some less obvious. The girl is wearing a red straw hat, black pumps, and a blue suit. Looking closer, describe how the red hat seems faded, the back pumps look too tight, and the blue suit has stains on the sleeves. The less obvious details are what we notice and wonder about in real life so we should also focus on them in our writing.
Description slows the action. Avoid long description in the midst of an action scene since it will slow the momentum. In a fight scene, keep the pace fast with short descriptions. A left blow. An upper cut. A long description—from my left I saw the attacker swing. His fist was headed toward my left jaw—provides so much detail that it detracts from the action.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

THE NOTEBOOK  is published biannually by the Grassroots Women Project. We seek work by female or male writers, photographers & digital visual artists with rural or small town roots. We are interested in progressive thinking—past, present or visionary—that explores a spectrum of authentic experiences for women and girls in rural areas and small towns in any of the world’s cultures. Issues of THE NOTEBOOK comprise regular columns and other single-issue features, plus themed sections. We are a peer-review journal, so acceptances are selective. We encourage international submissions written in English. We are a print publication with plans to publish e-book editions in future.

ThemeFor the Fall 2014 issue (our third!), the theme focuses on SECRETS, BETRAYALS, LIES and REGRETS.  All genres of writing or digital imagery will be considered as long as some aspect of the theme is related to the experience of rural or small town women or girls, either directly or indirectly. You may define, interpret or conceptualize any or all parts of the theme  in any way you see fit.

Deadline: July 31, 2014

Submission guidelines at


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Writing a Middle Grade Novel/Call for Submissions

Today, I’m continuing the series, Writing a Middle Grade Novel. 

Description is used to enhance fictional stories. Check out the following ways: 

Descriptive scenes move the plot. Action verbs, such as dashed and darted often work better than run because they are more specific. The more specific we are with our word choice, the more vivid the picture we paint with words. Abstract words are difficult to visualize and leave the reader feeling confused. Concrete, specific words give the reader an image to grasp. 

Concrete images create three-dimensional pictures in which the reader can experience the action, setting, event, or subject matter. Think of it as describing a tornado touchdown. Add details that make the reader feel as if he is actually witnessing the scene, feeling the highly charged air, hearing the roar, seeing the destruction, and feeling the flying debris.  

Mood and tone are affected by description. A sadness charged through Jessie like a runaway train. Or Her smile, like the sun, lit up the garden. 

Description allows the writer to develop a rhythm with words that plays throughout the story. About 90% of the story will be action and dialog and 10% description.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
The Book Smugglers Publishing: We Want Your Short Stories. What we’re looking for:
    DIVERSITY. We want to read and publish short stories that reflect the diverse world we live in, about and from traditionally underrepresented perspectives.
    Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Adult audience submissions are welcome. Good speculative fiction is ageless!
    Creativity & Subversion. We love subversive stories. We want you to challenge the status quo with your characters, storytelling technique, and themes.
Submission guidelines at:

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Writing a Middle Grade Novel, part 12/Calls for Submissions

Today, I’m continuing the series, Writing a Middle Grade Novel.

Description is used to enhance fictional stories. Check out the following ways:

Description is a major factor in voice, that elusive quality all editors rank as the number one aspect they are looking for in writing. The narrative, either first person (I) or third person (he/she), usually begins with a description of action. This imaginative observation is essential to all stories. Rain fell is a simple description but doesn’t do much to add interest. Kentucky rain smells different from Chicago rain. That sentence makes us stop and ponder.

Words that surprise us add to descriptive narrative. I like the word ponder. It’s not used that often in today’s speech so it catches the reader’s ear.

The pacing of the story is affected by description. Long passages slow down the action. He strolled down the lane beneath the canopy of trees that formed a green tunnel and offered cool comfort from the hot afternoon sun. Short phrases and sentences speed up the pace. Horses paced. Clippity clop. Clippity clop.

 Next week, I’ll give more tips on writing descriptive passages.

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

[I will resume Submissions for Young Writers in September]

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Thriving Family editorial team's most recent call for submissions. If you are new to our publication, you may want to know more about Thriving Family by ordering a free subscription or downloading a free digital edition. You can also download our writers' guidelines and a themes' list.

Theme: Christmas conflict and teens—in relation to extended family.
Word Count: 750-800 words (including any possible sidebars)
Rights: First nonexclusive rights
Payment: $250, on acceptance
Due date: June 17, 2014
Audience: Parents of teens
Byline: Yes

Acceptance or Rejection: The Focus on the Family editors appreciate your submission. If your article was not accepted by 7/1/14, it was not chosen for publication. We hope to work with you on a different article at a later time.
Submit to: <>  with "Attn: Ginger—Christmas conflicts and teens" in the subject line.

Submission guidelines at