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