Nancy's Books

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Writing a Book with a Relatable Theme

The theme is the dominant idea of a book, the author’s statement on which the story hangs. It is often expressed as the character’s learned experience, such as friendship, hope, love, sacrifice, or good over evil. Think of it as the main topic at the center of the story.
When I’m developing a story plot, I don’t think about theme. Instead, I focus on telling the story. If the theme becomes dominate at that stage of the writing process, it may force the characters into actions for the sake of the theme, rather than the plot.
After I finish the first, sometimes the second or third draft, I usually develop a feeling of the theme that lies between the lines of the story. In Forty Winks, a bedtime story, multiple themes exist: fear of the dark, fear of monsters, benefits of sharing. The themes evolved from the story line, rather than the writing adhering to a particular message. When we write to promote a particular message, the story often becomes didactic, too instructive. My first rule for writing a fictional picture book is to focus on the entertainment value.
I also ask the following questions:
Is the theme relatable with wide appeal? Publishers want books that resonate with a large audience or age group. If a child enjoys a book and can “see” himself in the story, he wants to read it again, or another similar book.
Is the theme an issue that’s important in the child’s world? Children often fear the dark, want to adopt a pet, or play with a friend. Consider the age of the audience before writing the first word. Themes vary with age groups. Fitting into a social group is a viable theme for middle grade and young adult readers, but don’t work as well for preschoolers.
A theme is expressed through the ideas, thoughts, and actions of the character and is what the character learns in the journey of the story.
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Hanging Loose magazine. High School Submissions.

Since 1968, every issue of Hanging Loose has had a section of high school writing. We’re always looking for new writers. Here’s how to submit your work:
* 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. Include an email address—and include a self-addressed stamped envelope with sufficient return postage. Otherwise, your submission cannot be returned. Be sure your name and address appear on each page of your work.

* Send up to six poems or short stories, or an equivalent combination of poetry and prose.

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:

Nature Friend. "Nature-loving children and families get Nature Friend. We are primarily about wild nature. Can be animals, plants, birds, insects, rocks, ocean life, astronomy, gardening, learning by doing activities and experiments." Welcomes new writers. Circ. 7500. Monthly. Pays on publication. Period between acceptance and publication varies. Buy first rights. Accepts reprints. Responds quickly. Sample articles on website.

Submissions guidelines at;class=gen.

Nancy Kelly Allen has written 40+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK.
Leave a message or check out my blog at


Sunday, February 4, 2018

Originality in Writing


Editors say they are looking for an original story. Most stories are built on universal themes (friendship, loss, anger, etc.) and plot structures with a typical beginning, middle, and ending. Characters face challenges and overcome obstacles. So what’s new!
Manuscripts can and should be creative, but probably will never be totally original. The idea is to make your work stand out from thousands of other books on the subject. One way to foster originality is to rely on your own individuality. Think back to your childhood. Remember your thoughts and feelings and how your imagination soared. Every person has a perspective molded by the world in which they live.
Some stories lend an air of originality and some seem little more than a stale retelling. To make a story feel fresh with an element of originality, write your first instinct for action or dialog in a scene; then question everything about what you have written. What if the character did the opposite of what you wrote? Would the scene still make sense and would it bring some originality to the scene?
Surprise the reader. The unexpected builds reader interest in the scene and creates your own individual style. Therein lies the core of originality.
Some things never change: We want the good guys and gals to win and the bad ones to lose. We are happy with a satisfying ending. But in getting to the ending, we need to push our imaginations out of the comfort zones to create opportunities to lead the reader on a new and surprising journey.

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Cuckoo Review. Please ensure that you submit your writing in the correct form. It saves us a lot of hassle and means we’ll be able to get your work on the site quicker.

The word limit for all pieces is 500 words. If you’re writing a feature article then the word limit will be set when the piece is assigned.
All submissions should be emailed to as an attachment (.doc). Please ensure that all reviews include YOUR NAME and:
*Title of book
*Date of publication (if not already published)
*Link to author website
Submissions guidelines at

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

The Best Advice I Ever Heard. Chicken Soup for the Soul. Have you ever watched a movie or read an article that really had an impact on you that you haven’t been able to forget? Do you have a friend or family member who gave you some advice that you didn’t necessarily want to hear but really needed to hear that stuck with you and directed you to make positive changes in your life?

We are looking for stories that contain a great piece of advice that you were given or advice that you gave to someone else. Whether the advice is about a little thing that improve your everyday life, or major epiphanies that can change a life completely, we want to hear about them and how they made a difference.

Deadline: February 28, 2018

Submissions guidelines at

Thank you!
Nancy Kelly Allen has written 40+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK.
To comment or check out my blog: