Nancy's Books

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The question I’m most often asked at book signings and school visits is how do I write, with pen and paper or computer. The answer is both. If I’m away from my computer, and I think or hear of an idea or phrase, I write on whatever is available. If not, I’ll forget the little gem of a keeper.

When I conducting research, I usually write by hand. For me, it’s more convenient to curl up on a sofa to read and write in a notebook. Sometime I also try out phrases or variations of the narrative as I happen upon some research that tickles my fancy. I usually play around with the structure of the story by longhand, especially when writing nonfiction.
I usually transfer the notes to a computer file. I’m less likely to lose it if it’s stored in cyberspace rather than in my house or car. Whether I write with a computer or on paper is really about convenience more than anything, the practical element. I always keep a notebook handy so if I’m traveling, I can jot down an idea while I’m out and about.
My drafts are done almost entirely on a computer. The beginning of a manuscript undergoes so many starts and insertions, I can keep my train of thought better by using a keyboard where the changes can be made quickly with the delete key or cutting and pasting to rearrange text. I print the drafts and revise on written copy. It’s easier for me to catch mistakes if I’m reading ink as opposed to a computer screen.
The best way to write is to figure out what works for you and follow your own path.
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
One Teen Story. A monthly publication from the editors of One Story. This publication features teen writers and is available in print as well as via Kindle and other e-reading devices.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Boy’s Life. A general-interest, four color monthly, circulation 1.3 million for boys 8+ published by the Boy Scouts of America since 1911. Buys first-time rights for original, unpublished material. Fiction runs 1,000 to 1,500 words. Payment is $750+. All stories feature a boy or boys. Uses humor, mystery, science fiction and adventure.
Submission guidelines at


Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Emotional Connection

When I wrote the first draft of my picture book biography, Barreling Over Niagara Falls, an editor said she enjoyed the story and thought the manuscript was marketable, but she had trouble connecting with the desperation of the character, the emotional connection. The editor asked me to address the following:

Why would a woman risk her life by riding a barrel over Niagara Falls?
What was the character feeling?
How did her behavior reflect her feelings?
Back to the drawing board for me. I read and reread every article and book I could find on Annie Edson Taylor to grasp her need for choosing the life of a daredevil when the most dangerous thing she had ever done was cross the street.
As I explored the literature, I found a woman who had been accustomed to a comfortable lifestyle so facing the poorhouse, a facility for the indigent, would be devastating emotionally. I also found a woman who wanted to make a name for herself, to be known far and wide, and to become financially stable, maybe rich, as well as popular. All those emotions were at play and it was my job to unveil them throughout the story.
The emotional element answers the WHY of a character’s actions and makes a more compelling read.
Call for submissions for Young Writers

Sprout. We accept all creative media pertaining to social issues.
  • POETRY: We accept both individual poems and collections. Individual poems will be reviewed as stand-alone pieces whereas a collection (limited at five poems) will be reviewed as a coherent piece.
  • OTHER LITERATURE: No more than 5,000 words. 
  • STATIC VISUAL: 1 to 10 images in a collection.
  • MISCELLANEOUS PIECES: Pieces such as spoken word, music, and cinematic work can be no longer than ten minutes in length.
​We request that you send only one submission per email.

Call for submissions for Adult Writers
Chicken Soup for the Soul.
Blended Families. Are you part of a blended family, enjoying stepchildren, stepsiblings, etc.? Blending two families after a second marriage can be a real joy… and sometimes a challenge too. Tell us about your own blended families. How did you make it work? What advice do you have for other families? We are looking for true stories about all aspects of blending families—stories that will make us laugh and cry, nod our heads in recognition, and give us great advice. Tell us about your kids if you’re a parent, your parents if you’re a kid, your pets, whatever you think would enlighten and entertain someone else in the same situation. The deadline for story and poem submissions is June 30, 2016.

Submission guidelines at

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Taking Risks

I’m a rule follower, not a risk-taker. Taking risks slings me way out of my comfort zone, but as a writer, following rules is not always the best route to publication. Editors refer to risk-takers as those who take chances on making a mistake, those who explore unique voices and are not afraid to use them. Not afraid? Hummmmm. When I first began writing children’s books, back in the last century, I tried to emulate a particular type of writing style of an individual author. Imitating another author, called stylized writing, is a good activity to learn how to develop a plot and characters and unfold an ending. After imitating a variety of authors, it was time for me to move on to MY own style that works with MY stories. It was time for me to develop MY own literary voice.

I began to write in a way that was comfortable to me. After writing the piece, I store it away for a while, at least a month, and move on to a new project. Writing new manuscripts is the best way to forget a previous one. Later, when I revisit the stored manuscript, I reread with fresh eyes and ask myself, if my targeted age group would enjoy reading it.
Of course, before the manuscript is stored, it undergoes numerous revisions and after I look at it with fresh eyes, more tweaking is needed. Almost all of my work includes a bit of humor, even serious stories and biographies. That’s just MY style.
Write to engage your audience, but first, write to engage yourself. When you do that, you have developed YOUR own unique style.
Call for submissions for Young Writers
Chicken Soup for the Soul.
College Student Stories
Calling all college students! We are working on a new book to be written entirely by you about your lives in college and outside college, including stories about kindness, respect, compassion, expanding your horizons, and embracing differences.

We are looking for true, non-fiction stories of no more than 1,200 words from current college students up to age 24. You can be enrolled in two-year, four-year, or technical college—any post high school educational institution.

We would like to share with you five free stories specially selected from Chicken Soup for the Soul: Campus Chronicles, our previous book for college students, as examples of the kind of stories we publish. Please go to and scroll down. The five stories will be right there for you to look at!

The deadline date for story and poem submissions is July 31, 2016.

Submission guidelines at

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Writing Beginning/Middle/Ending

For practice, try rewriting the beginning of some popular picture books and see if you like your work better. Do the same with the middle and again with the ending. This is good exercise to develop you skills. Learning to write beginnings, middles, and endings is not an innate quality we possess. This skill has to be learned. In picture books it is vital to look at both what is being said in the narrative and dialog and also what is NOT stated. Figure out what was omitted to allow the illustrator to show it in the artwork.

Some authorities (whoever they are) state that writing is 10% science and 90% art. The science is the learned part that includes the rules of writing. The art is everything else, such as remembering what you enjoyed, disliked, wanted, needed, and thought as a child. It’s the writer’s natural talent, the ability to choose words and string them together to create an individual, unique voice. The art also comes from days-of-our–youth daydreams. Yes, daydreaming is work for an author.
The rules of writing can be learned from a number of methods. Reading a variety of books is one way to master the art of storytelling on paper. Another is to read how-to books on writing. There are countless excellent resources for writers: books, Internet sites, newsletters focused on the craft of writing for children, workshops, conferences, and local writing and critique groups.

Call for Submissions for Young and Adult Writers:

Skipping Stones: An international publication for readers 8-16 that celebrates ecological and cultural diversity and facilitates a meaningful exchange of ideas and experiences by publishing essays, stories, letters to the editor, riddles and proverbs, etc.

Submission guidelines at