Nancy's Books

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Reading Books by a Variety of Authors

Reading books in the genre in which you write offers a view into the different styles, voices, and approaches to subjects that you cannot find any other way. Immersion into a wide variety of books broadens a writer’s skills. As you read ask yourself why the author chose the style and approach? Question the word choice. Did the story make you feel an emotional attachment to the characters? Analyze the story by rereading some of the paragraphs to figure out how the author drew you into the story and held your interest throughout. Did some parts entertain and some seem less than interesting. Was there a part of the story you did not like? Would you change any of the text if you had written the story? If your interest is picture books, were the stories fast paced? Most picture books are.

By reading a variety of authors, we develop a sense of how to craft a story, develop a character who is presented with a problem, and against all odds, takes the challenge and finds a suitable solution. This is no easy task with an economy of words and 14 double-page spreads. As you learn from reading the works of others, you can apply and adapt the knowledge to your own piece, such as the different ways to express narrative and dialog. Reading books by a variety of authors is inspiring and stretches a writer’s creativity, which will be evident in the next story written.
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Young Poets Anthology. Poems must be submitted by a parent/legal guardian, or a teacher. Teachers may select at most two students per year and submit on their behalf, with the assurance to us that you will be able to provide a parent’s signed permission prior to publication. Please remember that we will be choosing our favorite 52 poems from thousands submitted—try not to get anyone’s hopes up prematurely.

The author of the poem must have been age 15 or younger when the poem was written, and 18 or younger when submitted. The poets may use their whole name, first name, or a pseudonym at their parents’ discretion. We will not publish any contact information.

Upon acceptance, a parent or legal guardian must sign a release allowing us to publish the poem.

Try to send several poems as opposed to a single piece, but no more than four in a submission—and again, make only one submission per child of up to four poems in ONE document. Include the parent's contact info in the file.

For this category only, feel free to make additional submissions any time in the future, if the child writes new work. We only publish one anthology per year, and a year is along time to wait. 

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Chicken Soup Stories about Cats.
We are working on and collecting stories and poems for another wonderful book about our cats. We love stories about our cats and the amazing and magical things they do. We rejoice in their simple absurdities, funny habits, and crazy antics. Our cats make us smile and laugh every day, but sometimes they really outdo themselves. Whether they came up with the idea themselves, or you put them in a situation that caused them to do something unusual, we want to hear about it! We know you'll have many great stories for us about your cats. Stories can be serious or humorous... or both. Tell us what your cat did. The deadline for story and poem submissions is October 31, 2016.
Submission guidelines at


Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Importance of a Picture Book Dummy

I had a request for a blog about the importance of creating a picture book dummy. Here’s my take on the subject:

Picture books should be written with page breaks in consideration. Most have 32 pages but with front and back matter only 27-28 pages are used for text, sometimes less. That leaves about 13-14 double-page spreads of illustrations and text.
When writing, take advantage of the page breaks. Possibility ways to use them is to surprise the reader when the page is turned. Vary the action so each double-page spread has a different scene and new action. One way I do this is to write the story; then divide it into 14 scenes. Of course, I have to revise, revise, revise to get the pacing I need within the story segments. Some scenes may have too many words. My goal is to write 600 words or less for fiction.
I also make a book dummy by folding 8 sheets of computer paper in half and stapling it. Front and back, the pages number 32. I print my completed manuscript, cut it with scissors and tape the text into the appropriate pages. The dummy helps me “see” where the story does not work, where I need to rev up the surprises on page turns, and the pace of the story. Maybe it’s too slow in some parts.
I never submit a dummy or a manuscript with page breaks to a publisher unless it is specifically requested by the editor. Most publishers want standard format for submissions.
So, envision your manuscrpt as a picture book by creating a dummy and get one step closer to a contract. Page turns can make or break a story.
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Parallel Ink. An international online literary and art publication for and by students from 12-18 years old. Seeks creative and critical work that can be represented in digital forms: poetry, music, art of any medium, narratives, essays, book/song/movie reviews, multimedia, etc. Their staff is comprised of over twenty teen editors, translators, illustrators, and technology assistants around the world.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Babybug– A monthly (except for combined May/June and July/August issues) listening and looking magazine for infants and toddlers ages six months to two years published by the Cricket Magazine Group of Carus Publishing. Looking for very simple and concrete stories, 4 to 6 short sentences maximum; rhythmic and rhyming poetry, 8 lines maximum. Allow 6 months for reply.
Submission guidelines at

Sunday, February 14, 2016

To Editor, with Love

February. Love is in the air.

How important is it to love the words you write? If you’re a writer, you want your readers to love your characters, but first, you must love those literary protagonists. Create interesting characters, even the antagonists. Have fun watching them grow in depth and complexity. Developing interesting characters is like meeting new people: some become friends, some mere acquaintances, and others you might prefer to avoid.  
Interesting characters have flaws, just like the people we are and those we meet. Flaws and weaknesses lead to poor decision making and that leads to strong plots. Readers identify with character frailties and build hopes that the character will overcome the obstacles and succeed.
We begin manuscripts in love with the idea of the story. As the manuscripts progresses and becomes difficult to write—the place where I am now with a dual biography—the sweetness turns a little sour, the fun evaporates, and I’m left wondering what happened to the love. It's still February, after all.
Today, I’m going for the gusto. I’m going to play with the words and have fun. The worst that can happen is that I delete every word, but at least I’ve had fun. I’m going to reignite my passion for the story, reach out and try to grab some of the love February floats, and spread it throughout my manuscript—my Valentine gift to me.
Call for submissions for Young Writers

Rookie is an American online magazine created by fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson in 2011, then aged just 15, with Jane Pratt (founding editor of Sassy) and Ira Glass (This American Life) among its many high-profile supporters. The site has monthly themed content, with updates three times every weekday, and once a day on weekends, and every school year the editors compile the best from the site into a printed yearbook  There are no restrictions on the age of contributors and all written pieces should be at least 800 words long (except poems). Rookie’s April 2015 theme is ‘Both Sides Now’.

Submission guidelines at

Call for submissions for Adult Writers

Brilliant Flash Fiction is all about having fun. The editor is looking for stories that are fun to read, and that are maybe even amazing. Springtime Fiction Writing Contest
Theme: The Future

Word limit: 500 – 750 words, excluding title
Deadline: MARCH 15, 2016
Submission guidelines at

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Writing for Gatekeepers

Have you ever read a book, an interesting story with lots of tension and at the height of the action when there seemed to be no escape for the character, he wakes up; it was all a dream? If you did, you were probably disappointed.

Editors want stories with a beginning, middle, and ending—a real plot. The character must experience a problem, a conflict, that is introduced early, dealt with throughout the entire story, and resolved (or leave the reader believing a resolution is possible) at the end. Children’s books have positive endings in which the character grows or learns something along the journey. Situations in life can be difficult to live through, but if you learn from the experience and become stronger/ wiser/ smarter, the end result was worth it. The same is true for the fictional situations writers set up for characters. Even though you are writing picture books for young children, don’t make it easy for the protagonist but DO make the problematic situation appropriate for the age group.

When a child reads a book about a character that overcomes her fear of the dark/monsters/riding a bike, the situation resonates and the child relates to the character’s efforts and fears. As the character efforts pays off/overcomes the fear, the child, once again, relates, so do the gatekeepers: agents, editors, parents, librarians, reviewers, teachers…and the list goes on. A child usually does not purchase a picture book. Before a book can reach the hands of a child, many gatekeepers must approve it for reading. So we have to write books that work for the child but also for the gatekeepers.

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:
Timeless Tales exclusively publishes retellings of fairy tales and myths. We only accept submissions that are retellings of the fairytale or myth listed as our theme. We don't accept original fairy tales or stories outside of our current theme.
 These are the known upcoming themes:
Psyche and Cupid (Submission window Jan 25, 2016 - Feb 25, 2016) -- NEW: Now accepting poetry!
Submission guidelines at!submissions/c1vmu