Nancy's Books

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Picture Book Savvy, Part 3

Picture book text keeps getting shorter. A couple of decades ago, the target number for most publishers was 1000+. Not today. In order to write a successful picture book for traditional markets, the action has to be distilled into as few words as possible. The story idea should be weighty to provide a narrative tale with a beginning/middle/ending, leave space for illustrations to tell part of the story, and connect with the audience in a positive way.  

Rhythm and cadence are essential, and word choice is the key. Follow your own voice by telling the story as only you can. Write in such a way that your unique storytelling rings throughout. That’s what will define your career. 

Editors are looking for fresh voices, stories that make them stop to reread a sentence and offer something to make them continue reading the next. They want to be enlightened, amused, enthralled, baffled by the actions or questions posed. This does not come from the first draft. Every story needs to be revised until its patina glimmers. 

Revision takes time. Give your manuscript some time off. Walk away and work on another story. This absence is vitally important in order to review your work later with fresh eyes.  

Hand your glimmering draft over to a set of new eyes. Find a critique partner who has read lots of books and who is a practicing writer. Feedback from an informed writer helps you understand what works and what does not. 

One of my dad’s favorite authors, Louis L'Amour, said it this way: Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.  

Call for submissions for Young Writers:

Hanging Loose Magazine welcomes high school submissions.

* Send all work to High School Editor, Hanging Loose, 231 Wyckoff Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217. Please also send us a note identifying yourself as a high school age writer, and telling us
your age, and be sure to include a self-addressed stamped envelope with sufficient return postage.
* Send 3 to 6 poems, or 1 to 3 short stories, or an equivalent combination of poetry and
prose. This enables us to get a good idea of what your work is like.
* All work should be neatly typed. High quality photocopies or readable computer-generated
hard copies are acceptable. A brief biographical statement is welcome. We are always interested in knowing how you found out about us, what school you attend, and so forth.Please Note: We prefer to receive submissions from young writers themselves, rather than from their teachers. We strongly discourage teachers from submitting samples of work from members of their classes. Similarly, we discourage teachers from asking students to submit their work as a class assignment. We prefer teachers to encourage students who take themselves seriously as writers to write us directly.

Hanging Loose has long been known for its special interest in new writers. We read manuscripts throughout the year and we look forward to reading yours.

Call for submissions for Adult Writers:

Storytime Magazine. From spring 2017, we’ll be publishing one new short story in every Storytime issue, which will be credited to its author. If your story is selected, that’s your name and your creation in print forever – and beautifully illustrated to boot! Not only that, but you’ll be part of Storytime’s mission to keep short stories alive and to help children fall in love with reading for pleasure!

Nancy Kelly Allen has written 40+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Picture Book Saavy, Part 2

In creating a story for the picture book crowd, we have to ask, What is the want? In last week’s example, I used—I want to win every game.  

Now we need to ask—Why is that important? Is it because the child thinks the parents expect him/her to win every game? Does the child think winning will produce more friends? 

The “Want” must be believable. That is the heart of the story, the motivation. Why does he want to win every game? 

Once a believable “want” is established, obstacles must be introduced to impede the character from reaching the goal or solving the problem. Obstacles create conflict, and conflict keeps the reader interested in the story. The character must overcome the obstacles, but shouldn’t easily. 

Three types of conflict exist:

1.      Protagonist against another character.

2.      Protagonist against circumstances (weather, luck, nature, etc.)

3.      Protagonist against her/himself (afraid, shy, etc.) 

The ending should be happy or at least offer hope. The last page is an opportunity for a writer to offer a twist in the story to surprise or provide an emotional connection to the reader.

Next week, I’ll provide more golden nuggets of our conversations. 

Call for submissions for Young Writers

Teen Ink. If it has a beginning, middle and end ... if it has a well-developed plot and interesting characters ... it if takes place in the past, present or future ... then submit your story to Teen Ink's Fiction Contest.


Winning stories are published in Teen Ink magazine and contest winners receive a copy of the magazine featuring their work. Plus, they’ll have the opportunity to choose from an exciting selection of Teen Ink merchandise – apparel and other items – available exclusively from Teen Ink.

Guidelines: Teen Ink will only consider original fiction written by teens. Entries of all genres are accepted, whether fantasy, horror, historical, sci-fi, or romance. Short stories should be between 500 and 2,500 words.

Submit entries through our website. All fiction pieces submitted to Teen Ink are automatically considered for the contest. See our submission guidelines for more information.
No deadlines.

Call for submissions for Adult Writers

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stories about Cats
We are working on and collecting stories and poems for another wonderful book about our cats. The focus of this book will be on rescued cats that were adopted from shelters or rescue organizations and who luckily found their forever homes. Whether adopted as kittens or adopted as older cats in the last few years of their lives, what amazing stories of survival our cats could tell us. We love these heartwarming and inspirational 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 January 31, 2017. 

Nancy Kelly Allen has written 40+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Picture Book Savvy

Spending time with authors to discuss writing, publishing, and their successes and failures is like attending an intensive writing workshop. Sharing experiences, ideas, and knowledge are invaluable nuggets of manuscript gold. The following are gilded tidbits:

Picture book authors’ perspective should be the same world view as that of the child. This means no abstract problems or goals. The story must be illustratable and action oriented. Five-year-olds take ideas literally. The characters should react in the same way a child would. If writers can connect with the life of a child in some way, the story will have more appeal to the reader.

Example: I want to win every game. Children will understand this idea and connect mentally and emotionally.

Will the child care about your subject? If not, they won’t want to read the book. Writers have to think like a child and have the characters act and react the way a child of that age would. Always keep the audience in mind with each word. In my latest picture book, FORTY WINKS, the subject is a monster in a closet. Many children are afraid of the dark. I certainly was, and I'm still not crazy about it. The story also deals with resolving conflict, an experience all children deal with regularly.

What is important to the child? Consider his/her feelings. The subject of your story must have relevance to everyday life.

Next week, I’ll provide more golden nuggets of our conversations.

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:
Story is interested in narrative of any shape and kind we can get onto the printed page. Surprise us with traditional and experimental forms of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. We love short fiction, but we love hermit-crab essays, hybrid forms, research, lists, and charts too. Submit work that fits the theme, but don't be afraid to think outside the box. Submissions for online issues should be a maximum of 2,500 words.Submission guidelines at

Nancy Kelly Allen has written 40+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK.