Nancy's Books

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Let’s Talk Picture Books, Part 6

It’s important to know what to write to get a picture book contract, and it’s just as important to know what NOT to write. Slice of life stories seldom get smiled upon by agents or editors, but they have become a little more popular after 9/11. When editors state that a manuscript is quiet or is a mood book, she means the story doesn’t have enough tension. These stories are a glimpse into a character’s life (slice of life). There is little action but the story makes the reader feel good. GOODNIGHT MOON is an example.

Mood or quiet stories are vignettes that involve a character in an activity with no conflict. Example: Billy goes for a ride on his bike. He sees a friend. They play a game of basketball. He rides to the ballgame and plays all afternoon. On his way home he meets his sister and gives her a ride on his bike. His day has been fun and now he’s ready to settle in for the night.
One of my early submissions years ago was a slice-of-life story about a day in the life of a young girl. An editor wrote in the rejection letter that nothing was happening to interest or intrigue the reader. She said my story was “too quiet.”
If you have written such a story, analyze it to discover a weakness or flaw in the character. In the example I gave, maybe the boy could have a fight with his friend, or maybe he could be afraid of the ball and his teammates blame him for losing the game. Within the story you just might find a hidden gem of a story waiting to unfold.
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Launch Pad. A bimonthly magazine dedicated to publishing fiction, nonfiction, poetry, book reviews, and artwork written and created by children ages 6-12.
Submission guidelines at
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Jack and Jill (Ages 7-12).
FICTION: We accept full manuscripts of 600-800 words. The tone of the stories should be fun and engaging. Stories should hook readers right from the get-go and pull them through the story. Humor is very important! Dialogue should be witty instead of just furthering the plot. The story should convey some kind of positive message. Possible themes could include self-reliance, being kind to others, appreciating other cultures, and so on. There are a million positive messages, so get creative! Kids can see preachy coming from a mile away, though, so please focus on telling a good story over teaching a lesson. The message—if there is one—should come organically from the story and not feel tacked on.
NONFICTION: We accept nonfiction manuscripts of 700 words or less. We are especially interested in features or Q&As with regular kids (or groups of kids) in the Jack and Jill age group who are engaged in unusual, challenging, or interesting activities. No celebrity pieces please.
POETRY: We accept poems of up to 30 lines. Poems should include unique topics that appeal to kids like sports, pets, friendship, seasonal activities, vacations, and school activities.
PUZZLES, ACTIVITIES & GAMES: In general, we prefer to use in-house generated material for this category but on occasion we do receive unique and fun puzzles, games or activities through submissions. Please make sure you are submitting a truly unique activity for our consideration.

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