Nancy's Books

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Ways to Improve Writing Series/Calls for Submissions

Today, I’m continuing the series “Ways to Improve Writing.”
One way of looking at a story is to think of it as a series of scenes. A scene is a unit of drama that begins with a character placed in a situation that is problematic. The hero is thrown into a difficult world. As the character plows through the world and attempts to resolve the problem, s/he is faced with even bigger difficulties.
Linking scenes together forms a sequence with a beginning, middle, and end (or in writer terms, an inciting incident, a rising action and a climax.) In my book, AMAZING GRACE, a three-chapter scene sequence involved a bully. When that problem unraveled, another crisis erupted: another  three-chapter scene in which the character searched for her lost dog.
Some scenes in my book carried over into multiple chapters, but a scene can be limited to one chapter. When a sequence resolves the central problem and ties together all the loose ends, the story concludes. The central problem—the arc—that played through the entirety of AMAZING GRACE was the main character’s fear that her father may not return from WWII.
Of course, readers enjoy being surprised. Lead the reader into believing a sequence will solve the problem; then surprise the reader with the complete opposite: a bigger problem. By the end of the book, resolve the problems in a satisfying conclusion or give some suggestion of hope.
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
ANNOUNCING HIGH SCHOOL WRITING CONTEST sponsored by the BFA in Creative Writing at Spalding University BFA in Creative Writing!
The BFA in Creative Writing at Spalding University is very proud to announce the reading period for our next edition of WORD HOTEL, our annual literary journal. We invite submissions in all genres and a multitude of styles, welcome experimental work, and are particularly hungry to hear from emerging writers (i.e., those who have not yet published a first book).
In fact: This year we are featuring a HIGH SCHOOL WRITING contest! In addition to being published prominently in Word Hotel, the top high school winner will receive a $1,000 scholarship to Spalding University; the runner-up, a $500 scholarship!
Please submit Word or RTF docs to
We will consider up to three poems (any length), short fiction/CNF up to 2,500 words, and hybrid texts as well.
Reading period for the 2013 issue ends DECEMBER 15TH. Acceptances and notifications of high school winners will be emailed by end of January. The issue is to be published April 2014.
For further information, please contact Merle Bachman, BFA Director, at
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Flash Fiction. We publish stories from 500 to 1,000 words in length.
They’re very short, but they are still stories. That means the best ones have strong, interesting characters, plots, and (to some extent, at least) settings.

Submission guidelines at



Sunday, November 23, 2014

Ways to Improve Writing/Call for Submissions

I’m starting a new series, Ways to Improve Writing. Let’s look at some ways to advance our writing, regardless of the age of the audience or the genre.

Beginning with the word There. Of course, we can find instances in which books begin with this vague word, but why? Using a nondescript word is like giving the reader a tranquilizer. There doesn’t encourage interest or build curiosity. Vague words weaken sentences. Instead, use action verbs and descriptive nouns to create a vivid world for the reader to imagine. When writing, I like to think of three children in my target audience reading my words. I want to string the words together so that each reader will “see” a similar image or action. Forming mental pictures is much more difficult to accomplish when using an imprecise word, such as there.
Should there be used, at all? We use this word in our language; therefore it can be reflected in our writing, as well, just not at the beginning of a strong sentence. Example: There is a mountain so high it seems to scrape the clouds. More specific is The high mountain seemed to touch the clouds. The subject is “mountain,” and placing it at the beginning of the sentence immediately forms a visual for the reader.
Here’s an exception. There can be acceptable, especially in dialog, even as the beginning word. “There, there, there. You’ll be okay.” Or “There it is!”
Watch for ways to make your writing stronger. Now, there’s an idea.
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Louisville- Spalding University - Check into Word Hotel!: Attention creative writers, visual artists and photographers: submit your work to Word Hotel, the literary journal published by the BFA in Creative Writing at Spalding University. We invite submissions in all genres and a multitude of styles, welcome experimental work, and are particularly hunger to hear from emerging writers (i.e., those who have not yet published a first book). We also crave art: illustrations, photographs, and photographs of artwork. Submit your Word or RTF docs and picture files to We will consider up to three poems (any length), short fiction/CNF up to 2,500 words, and hybrid texts as well. Reading period for the 2014 issue ends December 12. Issue to be published by June 2015. Prizes awarded to top submissions from high school students.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
New Moon Celebrates girls and their accomplishments.  
Upcoming Themes: 

March/April 2015: Follow Your Dreams

Deadline: Dec. 1, 2014

Tell us how you'd love to follow your dreams. Share how a girl (maybe it's you!) is already pursing her passion, or interview a woman who has your dream job.

May/June 2015: 25 Beautiful Girls

Deadline: Dec. 1, 2014

Nominate a girl and tell us about her inner beauty! Go to the Beautiful Girls survey at the "Get Involved" box at We feature all Beautiful Girls in the magazine and at our online girls' community.

July/August 2015: Hello, Mother Nature!

Deadline: Feb. 1, 2015

Do you love being in the outdoors? Tell us about what nature means to you, and ways to keep our Earth healthy.

September/October 2015:Everything Bestie

Deadline: April 1, 2015

What's your "desert island" pick if you could have just one? We want to know about your fave books, music, food, website (besides!), and much, much more.

November/December 2015: Action: Animals!

Deadline: June 1, 2015

Share your passions for animals here and afar--from endangered species to shelter friends who need homes and service animals.

January/February 2016: What Do YOU Think?

Deadline: August 1, 2015

Take a side, and tell us why! We'll let you know about topics girls love to discuss, and get your pros and cons. 

Submission guidelines at

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Writing Mysteries, Calls for Submissions

I’m continuing with ideas for writing mysteries for middle grader readers. 
Prevent a sagging, boring middle by adding unexpected events, twists and turns in the middle of the story.

Let your readers in on something that the main character doesn’t know. Maybe the reader knows the next-door neighbor has a key to the house but the main character doesn’t know it yet.

Develop a setting to fit the mood of the story. Frighten the characters and the readers will identify with them. Rain and fog at night adds a scary element. During the day, the character might enter a dark house or tread down creepy stairs to a damp, dark basement.

Add a surprise ending. If the reader can figure out they mystery, the fun of reading the book is diminished. Consider many options. The ending has to be logical and follow through with the clues you’ve included throughout the narrative.

The character should solve the mystery by logical means, not rely on hocus-pocus, intuition, or anything other than the clues. Never try to fool the reader by being unclear in the writing. That leads to confusion, not a mystery.

Reveal the culprit or solution to the mystery at the end of the story. If the mystery is solved too early, the reader has no reason to continue reading.

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Canvas. We are seeking writers ages 13-18 to submit: 
Fiction – Please limit submissions to 5,000 words.
Novel Excerpts - Novel and memoir excerpts are acceptable if self-contained (work as a complete narrative).
Poetry – You may submit more than one poem, but please do not exceed 5 pages worth of poetry.
Plays - Please follow standard play format. Limit to 10 pages.
Nonfiction – Essays, memoir, creative nonfiction. Please limit submissions to 5,000 words.  
New Media – Video, images, etc fine for website. But must be accompanied by written version to be considered for print and eBook.

Cross-genre - Experimental work (prose poems, art and writing, fiction and nonfiction hybrids) are highly encouraged, but please keep to the word limit for fiction.
Submission guidelines at 

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
American Short Fiction has published, and continues to seek, short fiction by some of the finest writers working in contemporary literature, whether they are established, or new or lesser-known authors. In addition to its triannual print magazine, American Short Fiction also publishes stories (under 2000 words) online.
Unsolicited submissions are accepted year-round. There are no set guidelines as to content or length. Anyone wishing to send a story to American Short Fiction should first become familiar with the work previously published by the magazine. Sample copies and subscriptions are available for sale through our online store.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Writing Middle Grade Mysteries/Calls for Submissions

I’m continuing with rules for writing mysteries for middle grader readers. 

Introduce the mystery within the first three chapters. Earlier may work even better, because the mystery is the hook that draws in the reader. 

Make the mystery believable. The reader will be trying to figure out the answer throughout the story. Build curiosity by offering clues. Some clues will help the character unravel the mystery and others will be red herrings, bits of information that mislead the reader. Red herrings are needed to make the mystery difficult for the reader to solve. The writing may lead the audience into thinking that the best friend or the new kid in town is the culprit when it is the kid next door. Reveal each clue that the character discovers with the reader. The curiosity may be as simple as wondering what is behind a locked door or who locked the gate and why. 

Give the reader hints, such as what is around the next corner or where a treasure might be buried.  

One crucial clue is needed to help the character solve the mystery. Maybe Susie hears a bell ring at 2:00 and thinks nothing of it. Later, the perpetrator says he heard the bell, and she realizes he is the only one that could have heard the ringing and is therefore guilty. Of course, much narrative and dialog would have to detail the events for the story to make sense to the reader.

Mysteries need suspense. Taps on the wall. Phone calls and hang ups. A ringing bell. Clues and red herrings keep the reader invested in the story. 

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
The Louisville Review accepts submissions of previously unpublished poetry from students in grades K-12. We seek writing that looks for fresh ways to recreate scenes and feelings. Honest emotion and original imagery are more important to a poem than rhyming and big topics—such as life, moralizing, and other abstractions.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
BOYS' QUEST. We are looking for lively writing, most of it from a 10-year-old boy¹s point of view, with the boy or boys directly involved in an activity that is both wholesome and unusual. We need nonfiction with photos and fiction stories around 500 words, as well as puzzles, poems, cooking, carpentry projects, jokes, and riddles.
Nonfiction pieces that are accompanied by clear photos with high resolution are far more likely to be accepted than those that need illustrations. The ideal length of a BOYS' QUEST piece, for nonfiction or fiction, is 500 words.
Submission guidelines at

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Writing Mysteries/Calls for Submissions

The genres in children’s novels are about as diverse as those in adult fiction. Today, let’s look at mysteries for middle grade readers. Mysteries have their own set of rules that make the genre distinct. 

Know your audience. This age group is beginning to find their place in the world outside family. Peer and peer pressure is ever present. Many books for these readers have no parents in the narrative or parents are an insignificant part of the plot and characterization. Give the main character a best friend or someone who can help figure out ideas and clues. Add some people who do not want the character to figure out the mystery. 

Begin with action or suspense and introduce the mystery early. Plot is king with mysteries. The plot is the most important ingredient because the reader is involved and views the story as a game or puzzle to solve.  

Know the story ending BEFORE you begin writing. You need to know the answer to the mystery so you can add the real and false clues. 

Introduce the character who is solving the mystery and the villain who is trying to keep the character from solving the mystery early in the book. Other possible suspects can be introduced early as well. 

Next week, we’ll look at more rules for writing mysteries. 

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
American Girl. Accepting nonfiction articles from readers





And more. 

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

The Fountain 100th Issue Essay Contest. The Fountain invites you to join us in celebrating our 100th issue. Write an essay to yourself on your 100th birthday. What would you say to yourself at that age? What would your 100-year-old self tell you back? Would it be a conversation of praise and/or regret? Perhaps praise for the achievements in your career, but regrets about a lost family? Or warnings about the mistakes you made in your projected future or in your past; pitfalls you happened to be dragged into, temptations you could not resist; or celebrations for the good character you were able to display and sustain over a life; a precious life wasted or a life lived as it was meant to be.

Essay word count must be between 1,500 and 2,500 words

Cash prizes:
1st Place – $1,500
2nd Place – $750
3rd Place – $300
Two Honorable Mentions – $200 each

DEADLINE: November 30th.