Nancy's Books

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Hot Topics for Picture Books

What are some hot topics in picture books? Let's look a few:

Diverse books are now in demand and these books go beyond folktales. Publishers are looking for books about children from different ethnic backgrounds who participate in everyday activities, not necessarily in an activity that showcases a different country or culture, but those are popular, too. These books depict families and cultures, promoting understanding and acceptance.

Write about a subject kids enjoy. What do kids like? I wrote a book, THE TRUTH ABOUT PRINCESSES. There is a little princess in many young girls. When I do book signings, little girls often reach for that book first.

Boys love trucks and cars and rocks. On a school visit a parent asked me if I had a book on rocks. She said every time she did laundry, she found rocks in her son’s pants. Voila! An idea for a book. As it turns out, I did a six-book series on rocks. Other topics kids love are robots, ballerinas, heavy machinery, cowboys, super heroes, and animals. Listen to what parents and children request, too.

Notice what is not in the marketplace. One Sunday when I was employed as a librarian, I read an article about pink dolphins. The next day I checked the distributor’s list and could not find one book on the subject. Eureka! I had an idea for a book and a couple of years later, my literary baby, ON THE BANKS OF THE AMAZON was born.
Next week, we’ll talk more about picture books.

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
The Kid’s Storytelling Club. Want to create a story? Your very own story? A story to tell your friends, family, or a big audience at a festival?
Ages 5-12 years. Storytelling activities, crafts, telling tips, and creative story ideas for elementary and junior high students. Articles” Word lengths vary.

Submission guidelines at

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Thrasher. Boys 12-20. Focus is skateboards and snowboards. Articles: Up to 1500 words
Submission guidelines at

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Have you ever attempted to analyze your work habits? Do you seem to play one more game of Solitaire or add a load of laundry or ANYTHING rather than tackle the revision or next chapter? I must confess, I have done that often and still do. Why do we do that? Maybe because writing is hard and delaying the work is easier than wrestling with that which forces us out of our comfort zones. Maybe a lazy spell struck. Maybe there is another reason, also. Playing one more game of Solitaire or another put-off activity frees our minds to wander and wandering often opens up ideas that unlock the mystery of how to proceed with our stories.  

If I stay at the computer too long, I struggle with finding the words and ideas my characters need. A walk or some activity that allows our minds to ramble and roam can become a critical step in the process. A stew needs to simmer and so does a story idea. 

Writers tend to be unforgiving in self-assessment. If we receive a flurry of rejections, we think we can’t cut the literary muster. Harsh critical feedback can add to Doubting-Thomas mindsets, and even worse, no feedback from editors can worry us to the point that we threaten to close up shop and never ever ever ever write for publication again. Period!

When this happens, I remind myself that it takes only one editor at one publishing house to like my work. Whew, I feel better already. Okay, Solitaire, here I come. 

Call for submissions for Young Writers
The Noisy Island seeks new and exciting work from high-school age students in the areas of fiction, poetry, and songs.  We want to be an online journal that people actually read, so send us the type of work that you like to read and the type of music that you like to hear. 

Submission guidelines at 

Call for submissions for Adult Writers
Spellbound is a quarterly e-zine, also available for download to e-reader, and is produced by small publisher Eggplant Literary Productions.  Aimed at children aged 8-12, each issue is themed around a different fantasy element.  The next theme if you are submitting between October and December is changelings and doppelgängers.  This is an American market and payment is 2.5c a word up to 2,500 words.  They also accept poetry. 

Submission guidelines at

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Staying Positive

I’m often asked how I maintain a positive attitude after 27 years writing in the hard-as-nails publishing world. The truth is I’m not always positive. I am sometimes shaken clear to soles of my boots when I receive a rejection on a manuscript that has bounced between an editor and me over a period of months. I can almost feel the contract offer; instead, a jolt in the form of “No thanks” is the stark reality.  How do I rebound time after time without some form of long-term depression setting up shop in my noggin or throwing up my hands, burning my manuscripts, and forgetting it all? Several ways, actually.  

First, I love the process of creating characters and choosing words that strike a chord with my emotions. Writing is hard, but writing is therapeutic too. If one manuscript is not opening doors, that doesn’t mean others won’t. So I begin a new manuscript and focus on the writing, not the rejection. 

I talk with writer friends who are making the same journey along their own paths, who hit as many stumbling blocks as I and they pick themselves up and go on. If they can, I can. The important thing is to talk with others who experience the same difficulty to gain a cleared perspective of your own literary process. 

I also make a couple of  lists : TO-DO and DONE DID (pardon the grammar). 

My TO-DO lists includes ideas for books, editors or publishers I plan to contact if I produce the type of manuscript that corresponds to the publishing need, updating blog or website, contacts I want to remember, etc. 

The DONE DID list focuses on what I have accomplished or attempted. In 2015 I sold two manuscripts, wrote three chapter books (still in revision phases), participated in new events in which I publicized my books… You get the idea. This list focuses primarily on positive energy, a powerful way to offset the stream of rejections. 

Call for submissions for Young Writers:

The Student Stowe Prize, established by the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in 2012, recognizes outstanding writing by United States high school and college students that is making a tangible impact on a social justice issue critical to contemporary society. Issues may include, but are not limited to, race, class and gender. Entries must have been published or publicly presented. The Student Stowe Prizes will next be awarded in June 2016 at the Stowe Center’s fundraising event, the Big Tent Jubilee. The Student winners will also be featured at the Real Stories of Social Change panel, a free public program immediately preceding the Big Tent. The recognition includes a $2,500 prize for the college winner and a $1,000 prize for the high school winner. The winning entries are printed in the Big Tent program book and posted on the Stowe Center’s web site.” No entry fee indicated. Deadline has been extended to February 1, 2016. 

Call for submissions for Adult Writers:

YARN is an award-winning literary journal that publishes outstanding original short fiction, poetry, and essays for Young Adult readers, written by the writers you know and love, as well as fresh new voices...including teens. Since this is a YA literary journal, we ask that the material be appropriate for, and of particular interest to, young adult readers, 14 years old and up.  We have no age restrictions for authors (fogies over the age of 18 write YA, too), no genre restrictions (if you’ve got a story set in 2060, bring it on!), and no geographic restrictions (we have published teens in China and other similarly far-away places, and would love to see more international submissions).  We only ask that the writing you submit be original and publishable, with some literary merit (in other words, if you’ve written a slasher thriller with lots of smooching and slaying, we recommend sending it to Hollywood and not to us).  Send us only your very best. 

Submission guidelines at

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Evaluating Writing Habits

In what direction would you like to see your writing venture toward in 2016? Of course, every writer is yearning for the ultimate: a contract…or three.

The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to reevaluate our writing habits and schedules. Here are some of mine:  

If I do not have a deadline for a piece of work, I will set one. By establishing a date to finish the first draft, I will feel more pressure to get the job done. I use the term “job” because writing is not easy and a manuscript can be so difficult to write I’m tempted to set it aside. I’ll muddle through; that’s what it takes to finish the first draft as my timeline approaches.  

Read articles/books on the writing process. Since I write picture books and MG, I will focus on those two areas.  

Read a variety of picture, chapter, and MG books to study how other writers develop stories. 

Remain positive, even with a landslide of rejection letters. I’ll measure my literary worth by my dedication to the writing, not by a contract. If I continue to write and study the process, my manuscripts will improve.  

Celebrate the small victories.  If an editor makes a comment on a rejection, I must have done something to warrant his/her time, effort, and energy.  

Make 2016 the year to realize your dream. 

Call for submissions for Young Writers

Ember is a semiannual journal of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction for all age groups. Submissions for and by readers aged 10 to 18 are strongly encouraged. Ember is looking for great writing that tells a compelling story, regardless of length. Even very short pieces, like flash fiction, should tell a story, though there will certainly be fewer dramatic elements developed than we’d see in a longer piece or novel. The presence of “story” is what distinguishes flash fiction from “vignette.”

Submission guidelines at

Call for submissions for Adult Writers
The Crawl Space Journal, a small place for big imaginations, is looking for great writing, especially short forms: poems, prose, and flash fiction, within the realms of magical realism, fabulism, and fantasy, for our Spring Issue. We do accept novel excerpts (up to1,500 words) if they stand alone. Our readers are mainly between the ages of 11 and 14.

Submission guidelines at 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Plot the Course for Your Writing

New year. New beginning. What a wonderful time to plot the course for your writing. 

List the projects you completed last year. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done. You COMPLETED the project whether it was garnered a contract or not. You followed through with an idea. Celebrate the victory. 

If you did not get a contract, it’s decision time: Do you keep revising or start anew with another project? The decision is yours. If you feel the 2015 project has commercial potential, give it the best opportunity for a contract by polishing it until the sheen twinkles. If you’re simply tired of working on it, file it and start with another. You can always go back and work on the first project at a later date and that might be a good thing. The distance from the project will later allow you to have a better perspective on what does and does not work. In 2015, I pulled out a chapter book I had worked on a few years prior, completely revised it, and got a contract.  

If you had several projects in 2015 that did not interest editors, review them to determine which has the most potential. Show them to your writer or critique group. Feedback from informed readers is like winning the lottery. 

Are you ready, pen? Start writing.

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Magic Dragon. A quarterly publication, presents writing and art created by children in the elementary school grades in a magazine of quality four-color printing and graphic display.
Submission guidelines at
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
American Girl. A bimonthly, four-color magazine for girls 8+. Looking for contemporary and historical fiction. The protagonist should be a girl between 8 and 12. No science fiction, fantasy, or first-romance stories. Up to 2,300 words. Allow 12 weeks for a reply.
Submission guidelines at