Nancy's Books

Monday, December 18, 2017

How to Get Published, Condensed Version

At almost every book signing, someone tells me s/he is writing a children’s book and asks how to get it published. The question seems simple, but the answer is extremely complicated, much too complicated to answer in a short discussion. I usually refer the writer to Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market because it is a comprehensive book with how-to information and contains a listing of publishers with submission guidelines. I still use this book as a source, but one of several sources. 

As with many occupations, writing involves a period of practice and growth, so give yourself time to hone those skills and learn the craft. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to read lots of books in the genre in which you write. If you are primarily interested in picture books, go to your local library and choose those that have been written in the past five years. Read a minimum of 100. Yes, you read that number correctly. I’ve read thousands. In the last six weeks, I’ve read over 100, some more than once to analyze the structures or word choices.  

Attend writing workshops and conferences to learn the basic mechanics of writing.  

So now you’ve read, read, read and attended workshops. It’s time to practice. Write. Write. Write. Reading, workshops, and writing serve as the three best ways to an apprenticeship, a learning period. 

If you don’t have the means to attend conferences and workshops, check out free online courses. They pop up all the time. Writing newsletters offer excellent guidance. Books on the writing process are probably at your local library or bookstore. Read them. Study them. 

Join a local writers’ group, if possible. Every member benefits from the collective knowledge. After all, you’ll keep learning long after your first book is published. An apprenticeship is a lifelong adventure for a writer.

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Stone Soup welcomes submissions by children aged 13 and younger. Now we are a digital magazine, we no longer have a limit on the length of a story. However, we find that we tend to gravitate toward shorter stories. While we may publish one 10-page story in an issue of Stone Soup, most of the stories we publish are shorter, between 1,000 and 2,000 words (4 to 8 pages).

There is no minimum length—we have published stories that are less than a page!

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

CICADA is a YA lit/comics magazine fascinated with the lyric and strange and committed to work that speaks to teens’ truths. We publish poetry, realistic and genre fic, essay, and comics by adults and teens. (We are also inordinately fond of Viking jokes.) Our readers are smart and curious; submissions are invited but not required to engage young adult themes. CICADA does not distribute theme lists for upcoming issues.

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

Sunday, December 3, 2017

“Patience is not the ability to wait but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.” ― Joyce Meyer
I recently finished, and lived to tell it, a deadline on a children’s book. Deadlines are a wonderful pain to have experienced, or so they say. I don’t remember who “they” are, and I wonder if they were serious. Deadlines rattle my nerves, disturbs my sleep, and I truly don’t appreciate them as I’m struggling to finish. Gotta have ’em but we don’t gotta love ’em. No deadline, no book. That sentiment gets my attention and spurs me into action.  

I shipped that “baby” out, but before I did, I started with the same ole, same ole: I should do this (rewrite a particular sentence) or that (remove a particular paragraph). My tummy queased , my toes curled, and my thumb beat a frantic rhythm on the desk. Of course, this response is somewhat ridiculous considering that I’ve been doing this since 1989. Maybe my reaction is a result of receiving so many rejections over the years. I’ve certainly had my share. Maybe it’s my desire to write and write and write, aiming for perfection. But after eight years (off and on) with this manuscript, I need to part with it…or maybe one more week of revisions would…what? 

Finally, I just pushed SEND. It is what it is. The publisher will take the rewrite, or not. The best thing I can do is concentrate on the next story since I have zero control over what publishers and editors do. Those stories that come close and then are rejected are the hardest to handle.  

Over the years, I’ve received hundreds of “thanks, but no thanks.” Actually the rejections are NOT that harsh, but even the most courteous produce a sting. Sometimes rejections rain down on me, hurricane style, leaving my mental state devastated for a day or two in their wake.  

The nice thing is the memory fades and the pain eases as I focus on the next project or on another manuscript that is making its rounds with the literary gatekeepers.

Here’s to new manuscripts, new hopes, new dreams…and deadlines…and waiting. 

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

The PUSH novel contest is open to submissions! All entries must be postmarked by January 16, 2014. Happy writing!

Submissions must contain at least three and no more than five chapters from an original novel (excerpt minimum 15 pages, maximum 50 pages), as well as an outline/summary of the rest of the book, not to exceed two pages in length. All entries should be double-spaced and in 12-point font. The award is given in conjunction with the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and all rules and regulations can be found on This contest is only open to students in grades 7 through 12. The gold medal winner will win a Scholastic Art & Writing Award, and the manuscript will be worked on with PUSH editorial staff, with the hope of eventual publication.

 Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Humpty Dumpty (ages 2-6)
FICTION: Short stories 450 words or less. Payment: $30 and up.
BUILD-A-BOOK: We are accepting short mini-stories of 70-125 words. These should be positive and light-hearted; often humorous. Characters can be children or animals. We welcome material that deals with kindness, love, good manners, friendship, holidays, and seasons.
POETRY: We accept poems 4-12 line poems. Please remember the age of your audience.
CRAFTS: We accept fun crafts of 250 words or less that young children can make with a bit of adult help. Crafts can celebrate holidays or seasons. Materials should be inexpensive and easy to obtain. Include easy-to-understand steps and directions and, if possible, include a photo of the finished craft.
Submission guidelines at

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

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Author Sandi Underwood

Today, I welcome Sandi Underwood, author extraordinaire, to my blog. What makes her extraordinaire? you might ask. Simple answer: She persevered. She didn’t give up her dream of writing a book after receiving a trunkful of rejection letters. She didn’t give up after years of editors saying, “No, thanks!”  

As with many authors, dreams entangle with rejection, and hope seems out of reach, impossible, actually. But when a contract is offered and the impossible becomes possible, it happens suddenly. It’s Sandi’s journey, and mine, too.  

I’ve worked with Sandi as my critique partner for the last 10 years. She’s helped take many of my manuscripts from impossible to possible. Now she has two books in the production line with traditional publishers. I’m so excited for her. She’s living proof that hard work pays off. 

NKA:  Welcome, Sandi. Tell us about your new book.

SU:  Thank you for this invitation. I began THE SECRET AT ONE BELMONT LANE back when my grandson was gearing up to enter sixth grade. I researched what that age group enjoyed and learned that books on shapeshifters were popular. Easy task, right? Not so for this grandmother. That’s probably why the story laid around and collected dust for several years—that grandson is a sophomore in high school now! In my story, the main characters are a pre-teen girl (Erin) and her nerdy neighbor (Elwood). I wanted to write a story that both boys and girls would enjoy. I threw in a sprinkle of Mom and Dad and added a spoonful of bizarre and a dash of unexplainable. The end result is suspenseful and creepy, at times.

NKA: I love mysteries and humorous fiction. THE SECRET AT ONE BELMONT LANE gives me both in one delicious read. Yum! This is your first book. How did your journey lead from dreaming about this book to actually getting a contract? 

SU:  I’ve written most of my life. Growing up, there were books everywhere—being a PK (preacher’s kid), my Dad was most-often found reading. I’ve always loved books, and writing just seemed like a natural path; however, there was a huge jump from writing for my own enjoyment and submitting to publishers. I think the first six years, I submitted around fourteen times and had two small magazine publications to show for it. I didn’t get serious until around 2010 and even then, I was inconsistent. It takes dedication that I definitely didn’t possess in the beginning and a great critique partner. Mine just happens to live in Kentucky and I live in Tennessee, but somehow we make it work. (Shout out to Nancy Kelly Allen for being the best critique partner known to mankind. Nancy and I “met” through an online writing group of four, and we are the last two standing.) I joined her group back in September 2007, and I can honestly say I wouldn’t have this first book without her patient guidance. The give-and-take between critique partners is one of the most important tools a writer can have, and I cannot emphasize enough the value it brings.  

NKA: I’m truly given more credit than I deserve, much more, to be truthful, but I echo Sandi in that working with a critique partner offers numerous advantages to writers.  

What is the theme of the book, the universal experience young readers will identify with? 

SU: As a mom of two boys, (a grandmother of seven and a great-Mimi to one beautiful four-month-old), I’ve read my share of children’s books. My story follows the two next-door neighbors as they stumble onto the big “secret” at One Belmont Lane. I wanted my characters to be believable since very little else in the book is. There are secret codes, suspense, danger and unexplainable events from beginning to end. It was also important that Erin and Elwood were the ones to solve the mystery. Sure, most of the events won’t happen to the young readers; but hopefully, the importance of working together will leave a lasting impression. I wrote about everyday activities and people in ordinary life…things we encounter every day…but with a twist. 

NKA: Books make great Christmas presents, so where can people buy a copy?  

SU:  The publication date for The Secret At One Belmont Lane is Tuesday, November 28, 2017. To pre-order click on this link:

            To learn more about me and my writing path, visit my website at  

NKA: Congratulations, Sandi. I’m sure young readers will enjoy your book as much as I did. Thanks for sharing your insight on the publishing journey. 

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Brilliant Star is a bi-monthly, print magazine for ages 8-12 published by the Baha'i faith. According to their website, "Brilliant Star invites children of all faiths to explore concepts that encourage their development as world citizens, such as appreciation for cultural and racial diversity, peace among all religions and nations, the equality of women and men, and the elimination of prejudices." Through fiction, non-fiction, activities, games, puzzles, comics, interviews, music, and expressive art, the magazine seeks to promote values of kindness, courage, creativity, and helpfulness.

Deadline: January 15, 2018

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Spider (for ages 6-9) is looking for fiction, nonfiction, poetry, activities, crafts, and recipes on the theme It’s Raining Cats and Dogs. We want wacky and weird stories about kids and their pets—cats, dogs, parrots, horses, lizards, hamsters, gerbils, bunnies, chickens, fish, guinea pigs, snakes. Tell us about a special relationship with one prized pet or about a whole menagerie. Send us stories about heroism, friendship, loyalty, and odd talents. Take us to a pet or horse show, to the farm, to a city dog park, or in a suburban backyard. Submission guidelines: 

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


Sunday, November 5, 2017

Writing Children’s Books with Child Appeal, Part 3



A character can be a spider, monster, dragon, witch, cloud, rock, or whatever your imagination creates. Think about how the character might act in situations you construct: bossy, loud, shy, intimidated, etc. Whatever the main character is, it should exhibit characteristics of a child.  

A low word count is necessary for books for the youngest audience. Their attention span is short so the text should reflect this. Picture books are usually less than 1,000 words, but the latest target seems to be under 500 words with many publishers. If writers go beyond that, the likelihood of a rejection is greater. 

Is the story delightful? Does it make the reader laugh or contain repetitive phrases the reader enjoys listening to or repeating as the story is read aloud? Are the characters and their antics enjoyable, entertaining, or engaging? Keep the humor and the language of the text age appropriate. 

Picture book plots are simple and fast-paced. Keep them sequential, and based on the character’s actions. A wild, wacky story should have some logic in the cause-and-effect unfolding of events. The plot works best when the main character is highly motivated and likable. A strong character drives the story forward and holds the interest of the reader. 

Transport the reader into another world with a book that has child appeal. 

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

New Moon Girls. Ideas, Articles, Inventions, Fiction, Gardens, Poetry, Music, Opinions, Apps, Global Villages, Recipes,

Plays, Buildings, Puzzles, Projects, Jokes, Speeches, Games, Screenplays, Sports, Emotions, Equations, Painting, Art, Experiments, Costumes, Activism, Photos, Rockets, Crafts, Designs,Gadgets, Dances, Solutions, Hats and Everything Else You Imagine and Make.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Narrative Magazine. Our fall contest is open to all fiction and nonfiction writers. We’re looking for short shorts, short stories, essays, memoirs, photo essays, graphic stories, all forms of literary nonfiction, and excerpts from longer works of both fiction and nonfiction. Entries must be previously unpublished, no longer than 15,000 words, and must not have been previously chosen as a winner, finalist, or honorable mention in another contest.

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

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Writing Children’s Books with Child Appeal, Part 2

Fictional picture books often deal with the character solving a problem, and in doing so, the writer’s job is to show the character’s emotional state. A character’s feelings are the gateway into the story.  Emotions make readers feel, make them hunger for the character to overcome the obstacles, and cheer for the victory. Without the emotional stakes, readers are not drawn into the character’s world, so they don’t care. Make readers feel. Make them care. With each scene, consider how the reader will react. Is the event something in which the child can identify? If children see themselves in a story, they identify with it and request it for storytime, over and over. 

Mountains of children’s books have been written on every subject that interest children of every age. Making a book different in some way so it can compete in a highly competitive market is necessary. One way to do this is to write about some thing or experience in which a child is familiar and flip it to present the information or story in a fresh and engaging way. A retelling of a fairy tale from the voice of a minor character: Example: Cinderella as told by the pumpkin or the glass slipper.  

Page turns are fun for the readers and add a ton of child appeal. This approach keeps adding surprises as the story unfolds. Here are three ways to add page turns.

1.      Stop in the middle of a sentence and complete it on the following page. Readers enjoy this because it allows them to predict what my happen next. The more a reader is engaged in a story, the more appeal it has.

2.      Use part of a compound word on one page and the remainder on the next. Example: He found a rattle…snake in the grass.

3.      Transitions words are fun to heighten the interest of turning a page: then, when, but, etc. 

In my next blog, I’ll continue with more ideas for writing books with child appeal.

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

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
KidSpirit accepts submissions of poetry, artwork, and nonfiction articles from 11- to 17-year-olds everywhere. Except for artwork, all work should be related to the following themes:
Unity and Division (Fall 2017)
Creation and Destruction (Winter 2017/18)
Submission guidelines at 

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

One Teen Story is a literary magazine for teens and adults who read young adult fiction. They publish 12 issues a year digitally and in print. Each issue contains only one story.

They pay their authors $500 dollars and 25 contributor copies for first North American serial rights. The rights revert back to the author after publication.

Submission guidelines at Kelly Allen has written 40+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK. Check out her blog at

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Writing Children's Books with Child Appeal

One popular request by editors is the need for books with child appeal. So what can we do to add child appeal to a manuscript? 

Remember, the first person to whom the book must appeal is an adult—the editor. If an editor doesn’t like a manuscript, it doesn’t become a book with a traditional publisher. A parent, teacher, librarian, gift shop manager etc. must also find it interesting and worthy. 

Universal emotions, such as anger, taps into feelings everyone understands and deals with.

Consider the age of the audience. What are the interests of a two-year-old? This age group knows about family, pets, food… When choosing a topic, think about the child’s world and experiences they embrace. A simple walk down a lane is a learning experience for a toddler. They enjoy watching bugs, picking a flower, and blowing a dandelion. Colors and the many hue variations found in nature fascinate them. Shapes and sounds are part of their world. Stay within the child’s experiences and interest. 

Always reflect events that are age appropriate for the intended audience. The theme, subject matter, and events in the story should interest and be appropriate for the reader’s age group. Engaging a particular group of readers directly is the goal. A book that fits “all age groups” is usually too broad in scope for the picture book crowd. Narrowly focus the theme, with one theme carrying the book.

In my next blog, I’ll continue with more ideas for writing books with child appeal.

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. We believe that our objectives are special – to encourage the development of creativity in children and to provide a medium to share their creative efforts. 

Submission guidelines at 

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:


Solarpunk is a type of eco-conscious science fiction that imagines an optimistic future founded on renewable energies. It might take place in a wind-powered skyscraper or on a solar-powered robotic farm, in a bustling green-roofed metropolis or in a small but tech-saavy desert village. Often coupled with an art nouveau aesthetic, and always inclusive and diverse, solarpunk stories show the ways we have adapted to climate change, or the ways we have overcome it.

Submission guidelines at

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

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Central Thread in Writing a Picture Book Biography

I received the following feedback on a picture book biography I’m in the process of revising: Find a central thread that ties all the episodes together, such as wanderlust to move on, an inner struggle to see the world beyond the territory in which the character lives, or an ambition to do something new and exciting.  

This advice makes so much sense to me. I agreed, totally. Whatever route I choose, I need to tie it in at the beginning and carry in through to the end by unearthing some common threads.  

I have a long way to go with this story, but I will continue to read, research, and collect data based on the character’s life. Each bit of information provides another piece of the puzzle. After pondering various ways to tell her story, I’ve decided to focus on her sense of adventure, her desire to travel new trails, and experience new territories.  

Since most picture books are 32 pages, biographies are limited in telling the wide expanse of a person’s life. Instead, focusing on pivotal scenes within a narrow narrative arc (beginning, middle, ending) seems to work for my particular story.

Pondering, that’s the key to figuring out how to approach this revision. Pondering different possibilities. Pondering a way to crawl inside the character’s head and figure out how and where to take her, finding the passionate core to create an emotional impact for the reader.  

My pondering sometimes happens in the middle of the night. I’ve worked out so many character situations when I wake up in the middle of the night and a solution pops into my head. Some pop right back out, and I can’t remember them the next day. Anyone have a popper stopper? 

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Launch Pad: Where Young Authors and Illustrators Take Off! publishes stories, art, poetry, nonfiction, and book reviews by kids ages 6 – 14. If we select you as an author, we will send your work to a young artist to illustrate before publishing it on our website. If we select you as an artist, we will send you something from a young author to illustrate! Ask a parent before submitting to our site.

Submission guidelines at 

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Humpty Dumpty and Jack and Jill provide fun, entertaining reading material is our priority. We accept humorous, playful, and witty stories that kids would love to read—not stories that grownups think kids should read.
As part of the Children’s Better Health Institute, we are always in need of high-quality stories, articles, and activities with a broad health and fitness focus. Please keep in mind that we would rather show kids living a healthy lifestyle than dictate a healthy lifestyle to our readers. In other words, health topics should be incorporated into the story or article, not be the focus of it.
Nancy Kelly Allen has written 40+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK. Check out her blog at

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Emotional Rollercoaster

A friend sent joyous news: She received her first book contract. Congratulations! The ultimate reward for years of diligent effort had finally paid off. Her joy reached the stratospheric level, naturally. As often happens when facing a time lapse between receiving “The Call” and getting the written agreement, nerves jittered. Doubts swirled faster than autumn leaves when the contract wasn’t in the email the next day, or the next, or the next. A week passed. Two weeks. Nerves jittered into emotional chaos. She asked if she should contact the editor about the delay. 

The emotional rollercoaster she experienced is perfectly normal. She worked for YEARS pounding the keyboard trying to nab a contract. After a ton of rejections our neural pathways form in such a way that our brains tell us, not in thought but in emotions/expectations, that a contract is out of reach. We KNOW that we have received the contract; yet we can’t BELIEVE it because our emotions lag behind our cognitive processes. (Disclaimer: This is totally my theory, and I have no scientific data at hand to support it.) 
On a personal level, my confidence builds as I sign the contract, and reality sets in big-time with my first read-through of the revision notes. The emotional surge revs to tornadic intensity as doubt, jitters, and downright panic overtake my psyche. I’ve experienced every emotion known to humankind when first reading the suggested revisions. One such set of revision notes was longer than the picture book text. Another set was quite short but memorable: delete the last 5 chapters and rewrite, focusing on the child and grandparent. Snap! The best-friend scenes and chapters waved bye-bye, just like that. I gasped for breath, walked away from the computer, and did normal things the rest of the day, steering clear of the email communication. In the meantime, I began thinking about how I could develop the story. The revisions improved the stories, by the way, so the editors were correct. And I lived. The revisions (yes, more than one) failed to kill me. 
Publishing books is a slow business. Revision after revision is usually required. Editors work on several projects simultaneously, which slows the process even more. Two years in production for picture books remains typical with traditional publishers.  
The excitement, jitters, and doubt are critical to the writer’s journey. Embrace them and enjoy making the book the best it can be. Oh, and give the editor extended time to make contact. S/he will appreciate it.
[Beginning this week, I will include Calls for Submissions for Young Writers in each blog through April 2019.]
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Bazoof. Youth submissions accepted from around the globe from all ages, with different genres and length requirements depending on age of contributor. Readers can find short stories, comics, games, craft & art projects, jokes, riddles, sports reporting, articles on pets, recipes, personal achievements and community service projects, poetry, letters, true stories and much more!


Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Call for Submissions: Children’s Activities

Deadline: September 30, 2017

SPIDER (for ages 6-9) and LADYBUG (for ages 3-6) are looking for children’s activities. This includes clearly worded, playful step-by-step directions for crafts, activities, games, science experiments, and recipes for children ages 3 to 9. The strongest activities will engage a child’s imagination and creativity, can be done at home, and require little adult supervision. We also seek word games, tongue twisters, jokes, riddles, picture-based crossword puzzles, and foreign language activities.  

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

Sunday, August 27, 2017


If you’ve been writing or reading children’s literature for a few years, you’ve probably noticed some changes. Let’s look what editors and agents are seeking:

Graphic novel style of writing has moved into the picture book arena.

Short picture book manuscripts, 500 words or less, are hot property.

Middle grade stand alone and series. Historical fiction remains popular.

In middle grade and young adult books, authentic characters take on real world issues.

Diverse books and diverse voices from around the world are sought by agents and editors.

Fantasy is still fashionable in young adult books.

Nonfiction books retain their popularity.

Biographies of the famous and the not-so-famous are in vogue.

Retelling of folktales are, once again, in demand.

A constant in children’s literature is the author who writes original stories with authentic voice and laugh-out-loud books.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

805. Awaiting Your Masterpiece. We can't wait to see your work!  We seek writing and art that is unexpected, striking, and moving. We accept submissions from residents of Manatee County as well as the rest of the universe. We take submissions from debut, emerging, and established authors and artists.
Art & Photography

Five at a time
Fiction or flash fiction 

One at a time, max 2,500 words
Creative nonfiction

Two at a time, max 2,500 words each

 Graphic fiction/nonfiction

Two at a time, max 8 pages each

Submission guidelines at

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


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Word Count for Children's Books

A beginning writer recently asked me about the word count of children’s books. No specific answer qualifies for every publisher, but here is a general overview: 

Board books: 0-100 words. 

Fiction picture books range from 0 to 500 words. These books keep getting shorter. Nonfiction titles are often longer. 

Early chapter books for 5-7 year-olds are illustrated and range 1,000-7,000 words. 

Chapter books for the older audience, ages 7-9, range up to 15,000 words.  
Middle-grade novels for ages 8-12 are usually between 20,000-45,000 words, maybe more. My middle grade novel, AMAZING GRACE, topped out at 33,000. 

YA (Young Adult) novels range higher: 50,000-85,000. 

Publishers set their own parameters for word length. There are many variations, but these are generally acceptable. 

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


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Writing in Rhyme

In a writing group I recently attended, one member followed up with an email to ask why editors did not like rhyming stories. I certainly can’t answer for editors, and since I don’t (and can’t) write in rhyme, my reply is based on the information I’ve heard in workshops and discussions with several editors.

Rhyme does not work when the rhyme is the most important factor. The story reigns supreme and should have an arc with a beginning, middle, and ending, as with non-rhyming stories. The words should read well and be fun to say, and the rhyming words should be exact rhymes. Near-rhymes don’t cut it.

The strength of the story comes from the voice, emotion, plot, character, and resolution/change at the end of the story, not from the rhyme. It’s easy to write bad rhyme (I know because the rhyme I’ve written is not contract worthy), and good rhyme is extremely difficult to master.  

Editors often steer away from rhyme since it is difficult to translate into other languages, making the sales market smaller. 

The manuscript must tell a good story. If you can do that and follow the rules of rhyme, give it a try. Many authors do and are successful.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Chicken Soup. Christmas and Holiday Collection – 2018. Our next holiday collection will not be released until 2018 but we are already collecting stories for it. People love reading about the winter holidays – from Thanksgiving all the way through New Year’s Day. We want to hear about your traditions and how they came to be. We want to hear about your holiday memories and the rituals that create the foundation of your life. We love to hear about the funny things too: the ugly holiday sweaters, the gingerbread house that kept falling down, the re-gifting embarrassments and the fruit cake disasters. Please be sure your stories are “Santa safe” so we don’t spoil the magic for any precocious young readers. The deadline date for story and poem submissions is October 31, 2017.

 Submission guidelines at guidelines at

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

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Writing with Kid Appeal

          Kid appeal is a must in writing articles for children’s magazines.

If you include a kid in an article, you’re much more likely to sell it. For example, when writing an article about football training, the text will be more appealing if you write about a specific kid in training, rather than an article about football training, in general. The same is true for an article on all subjects, such as the importance of recycling. Writing about a kid who is involved with a recycling project will resonate more with the reader than an article about the need to recycle plastic.

          To catch and hold a reader’s attention, write about kids who are near the reader’s age. Most teen magazine articles approach all subjects with specific kids sharing their own stories and experiences.                                       

Visuals are a necessity, too. Some magazines may require you to provide photos, and others may use stock photos, which are provided by the magazine. Photos are important to the story because they place the reader directly in the subject area. Visuals and text are equally important. Not only do kids want to read information, they want to see the pictures, too.
The common denominator in writing that all kids enjoy is humor. Add humor to lessen the didactic prose. If you’re writing a quiz for the readers, try spicing it up with a touch of fun and funny. Kids enjoy puns and other forms of wordplay (I was told I had Type A blood, but it was a typo.)
Write about subjects that are of high importance to the reader: boy/girl relationships, parent guidelines, friendships…
Will kids want to read the article? Check it out with some kids before you ship it out to a publisher. Ask for feedback from those readers.
Up your chances of getting a contract by adding kid appeal. Your editor will thank you for it.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
FUN FOR KIDZ: Ages 6-13, with emphasis on ages 8-10. Each issue has a specific theme. See guidelines for theme list. Fiction and Nonfiction: 500 words or fewer. Focus is on activities and promoting positive values. Articles with photos are more likely to be accepted.
Submission guidelines at

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Picture Book Revision, part 3

Tips on picture book revision, continued:

Kid appeal. Children experience the world differently than adults. What adults take for granted is a first-time experience for a child, making the event more exciting, challenging, amazing. The world of a child is filled with wonder.
Consider the age of the target audience before writing the first word. Word choice, sentence length, plot, and theme have to work together to produce a story that appeals to a child’s sensibilities. Generally, books for younger children have fewer words. The story doesn’t preach; it educates, entertains, and explores.
Gatekeeper appeal. Adults decide which books young children will hold in their hands and enjoy. They want picture books that offer something of value, a story that reveals timeless truths. The simple structure, beautiful illustrations, and economy of words create a theme that connects with the child and the adult. I always review my polished draft and ask, will this book be enjoyable on a second reading? Is there an underlying universal theme that the parent and child can discuss? If I don’t ask it, an editor certainly will. Editors often refer to books without a universal theme as “slight.”
Marketability. One more important aspect of revision is the marketability of the story. Are other similar books in the marketplace? How is my book different? What does my book offer that is different from the others?
Just write. We can’t control the market, so write from the heart and tell the story you want to tell.
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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Picture Book Revision, part 2

            Tips on revision, continued:

My thought processes rely heavily on verbs that don’t show action: is, are, was, were…. In revision, I eliminate many of the non-action verbs and replace them with other verbs that paint a specific picture (pedaled, skipped, barked). Action verbs don’t need modifiers, so fewer words are needed to describe the scene.
Add rhythm. Alliteration (fog floated) makes the prose livelier. Onamonapia (bumpty-bump) adds a beat that sounds like poetry when read aloud. Rhythm is how the words connect, a rise and fall of the phrases and sentences.
Less dialog. Picture books don’t rely heavily on dialog. Usually, dialog is no more than 1/3 of the text, often much less. Rather than conversations, use action scenes that can be illustrated with the narrator relating the action. The targeted audience is young children who prefer fast action to character conversation, which often slows the action. Of course, this is a general rule. Some books have no dialog, and some are all dialog.
Let the illustrations tell part of the story. Picture book writers have to think visually. When I write a first draft, I include scenes that describe illustrations. In revision, I study each word, phrase, and sentence; then, delete everything down to the bare action. Sometimes I cut so much, I have to add it again to make the story understandable. Picture books are short and the stories are to the point.
Every page in the book must show action and the pace is usually fast. After writing the first draft, I divide the manuscript into 13 scenes. Each scene must show action. If not, more revision is required.
Next week, I’ll add more tips.
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