Nancy's Books

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