Posted by: nancyisanders | October 24, 2014

Flesch-Kincaid Readability Score

A tool that many authors use comes built in with Microsoft Word and gives you the Readability Statistics of your text. If you highlight a portion of text and run the spellcheck feature, after it is done checking the spelling, a small box pops up listing the Readability Statistics. Under Readability, it lists the Flesch Reading Ease and the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level. Basically, this shows the reading level of that portion of text. For instance, if it scores a 6.2 on the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, students reading at grade level in the second month of sixth grade should be able to read it successfully.

Just a word of caution when using the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: It should not be your definitive measuring tool when working with reading levels in the elementary grades. It does not work entirely accurately when analyzing very short sentences, as most sentences are that can be found in the earliest beginning readers. Even though I will use this tool as a reference, especially when evaluating long portions of text for the intermediate or high school leveled readers, I refer mainly to the Children’s Writer’s Word Book when writing beginning readers and chapter books for elementary students.
-excerpt from Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Beginning Readers and Chapter Books, pages 47-48

And an extra note:
If you run your spellcheck and the Readability Statistics box does NOT show up after it is done, you need to change your preferences.

With your document open in Word,
On your top toolbar, click on “Word”
From the dropbox, click on “Preferences.”
This window pops open:

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 11.21.18 AM

Under Authoring and Proofing Tools, click on SPELLING AND GRAMMAR.
Another window pops open:

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 11.20.55 AM

Be sure you have a check mark under GRAMMAR next to:

Posted by: nancyisanders | October 23, 2014

Book Review: Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary


Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary: New and Enhanced Edition
General Editor: Ronald F. Youngblood

The Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary: New and Enhanced Edition (NIBD) is a one-volume A to Z dictionary of words and terms found in the Bible. Full color photographs are scattered throughout of Bible-land scenes, archaeological discoveries, and models of ancient cities or biblical items. Nine maps and a map-index conclude the volume.

Some of the features I appreciate in the NIBD include:
* Five Steps To Better Bible Study Using the NIBD. This is an amazing section in the front that shows us how to use the NIBD to understand a Bible passage in a much more thorough way. Great tool for digging deeper into the Scriptures.
* Visual Survey of the Bible: Amazing charts and timelines show visually how the books of the Bible are related with each other, with people in the Bible, with eras of history, and with God’s eternal plan of redemption through Jesus.
* Pronunciation guide: I am currently writing scripts for biblical characters for our church and find this invaluable, especially since the director of the event asked me how to pronounce some of the names and I wasn’t sure until I looked them up here.
* Definition of biblical names: I wish I had this when I was writing a manuscript last month that required this. I had to look this up in different sources and it was so tedious. Now I have this handy in the NIBD for the next time this happens.

As a writer, this Bible dictionary is very helpful. It provides solid and reliable references to my research on the Bible and Bible times. As someone who likes to read and study the Bible each day, this dictionary is a ready resource that helps answer questions I have about the different books of the Bible as well as historical context of the passages I’m reading. As a person who serves in ministry at our church, this Bible dictionary is very handy to use for digging up details that help prepare faith-based activities for families or seasonal events such as a live nativity at Christmas. This is also a reliable resource for students in homeschooling families or Christian schools to use when writing school reports or working on various projects.

Of course, you can’t get as thorough of details in a one-volume reference as you could in a multi-volume Bible encyclopedia, but the entries in this book give a succint overview and basic understanding of each topic. The cross-references seem very thorough and many definitions are supported with a reference to Scripture (such as the entry: SIN) so that the reader can look up what the Bible says.

The approach this dictionary takes is non-denominational in that it tries not to support one church’s doctrine over another. In general, most topics are explained using the Bible as the source for the definitions. On some topics that various denominations differ on, (such as the entry: THE MILLENNIUM) the NIBD is careful to point out that there are several different positions regarding that issue as well as briefly explains each one.

The NIDB has useful groupings of general topics such as ANIMALS OF THE BIBLE, OCCUPATIONS AND TRADES, and PLANTS OF THE BIBLE. I like how in the section on WEIGHTS/MEASURES OF THE BIBLE, it compares the measurements to modern standards as well as lists the different word it’s referred to in different versions of the Bible.

The abundance of archaeological photographs and textual evidence makes this a good tool for high school and college students (and adults!) to use to defend their faith. This information shows our faith is based on facts and actual historical events, not just a fairy tale or myth.

-Thanks, BookLook Bloggers for another wonderful free book in exchange for my honest review!

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Posted by: nancyisanders | October 23, 2014

Writing Opportunity: Chapter Books

Remember when I ordered two sample chapter books from Kaeden Books?

That was just 10 days ago and my books arrived at my front door yesterday! They were very prompt to send them to me.

I don’t know why, but somehow it also made me feel good just to know they’re a real place with real products and real people.

Now that I’ve got those two chapter books in my hand, I’m going to start typing them into my computer.

I might end up typing up the whole things.


For one thing, doing this trains your brain to write at this level just as riding a bike with training wheels trains your brain to learn to ride a bike.

For another thing, I like to evaluate various key elements of a published book I’m using for my mentor text. It’s so much easier to accomplish this by having it in a word document where I can search and find, run a Flesch-Kincaid readability check on various portions, and check word counts on specific pages without having to count them by hand.

I recommend you do the same as we continue in upcoming posts with the nonfiction submission we’re preparing. Whether you’re just looking at the GOOGLE PREVIEWS of chapter books Kaeden has, or you’ve ordered in your own titles to really dig into, go ahead and start typing some of these puppies into your computer.

It’s a great exercise for any genre you’re working with!

Posted by: nancyisanders | October 22, 2014

Writing Opportunity: Your Mentor Text

Today I was clicking on Kaeden’s list of nonfiction books when I discovered that their book, THE BIRD FEEDER, has the entire story available for viewing if you click on GOOGLE PREVIEW.

We can actually see how the story is laid out, line by line and page by page from beginning to end! This is really helpful because this is the first time I’ve seen how the twist at the end actually takes place.

So after I read through this, I typed out the book, line by line EXACTLY how it appears. For example, here is what my typed document looks like:

The Bird Feeder
Written by Mia Coulton
Copyright © 2014

Table of Contents
Blue Bird…4
Red Birds…6
Black Birds…8
Brown Birds…10
Yellow Birds…12

Page 4 Blue Bird
One blue bird is
on the bird feeder.
Page 5
Male and female Blue
Jays are the same color.
Acorns are their favorite

I’ve decided to use THE BIRD FEEDER as my mentor text for writing and submitting my own story to Kaeden Books. If you want to write a nonfiction title at this level, you can use it, too!

For starters, just focus on the main nonfiction story (not the nonfiction facts).

For example, the main nonfiction story in The Bird Feeder is:

One blue bird is
on the bird feeder.

Two red birds are
on the bird feeder.

Be sure to keep the word count in each sentence of your story the same as your mentor text.
Be sure to keep the repetition of words in your story similar as your mentor text.
Be sure to keep the page count in your story the same as your mentor text.
Be sure to add a twist at the end of your story similar to your mentor text.

So go ahead. Just type out your own story idea that you came up with from the last post I did on brainstorming ideas.

Be sure to type it up exactly how your mentor text does.

We’ll talk about what to do next in an upcoming post.

Posted by: nancyisanders | October 21, 2014

Writer’s Workshop Today: 3 Free Tools in Your Writer’s Toolbox

Join me today, writer friends, at the Working Writer’s Club where I’ll be teaching a telephone workshop that gives an introduction to the benefits and the basics of using 3 free tools for writers that I absolutely love:

CREATESPACE is an awesome place you can publish your book for FREE. Yes, free, and I’ve used it for about half a dozen of my self-published books.

INKSCAPE is a fantastic drawing tool you can use to create promotional materials for your books such as bookmarks and teacher’s guides and supplemental material such as read-aloud plays. And it’s FREE to use.

TEACHERSPAYTEACHERS is an amazing site where you can sell promotional and educational material for your books for teachers to use in classrooms whether they teach kindergarten through adults whether in public school, private school, or homeschooling families. They have a free membership you can join if you’re a teacher. If you’re not a teacher you can contact them and inquire about how you can join for free.

CLICK HERE for more information and to register to join the class live (or to download the recorded audio after the class is over).

And to read my current article in the Writing for Children column at the Working Writer’s Club, CLICK HERE to learn more about tools in your writer’s toolbox!

Posted by: nancyisanders | October 16, 2014

Writing Opportunity: Brainstorm Ideas for New Nonfiction

Put on your Sherlock Holmes hat because we’re doing more detective work today!

Let’s brainstorm unique nonfiction ideas for you to write about to submit to Kaeden Books.

First, get out your list of 40 Nonfiction titles that Kaeden already publishes.

This list tells you what they DON’T need.

Now compare this to a list of topics that teachers teach in kindergarten through second grade. Where can you find this kind of a list?

There are various places to look. You can look at the Common Core standards for literature and math at these grade levels.

You can look at the State and National standards for science and social studies at these grade levels.

You can also take a shortcut, like I often do, and just look at teacher books for these grade levels. Look at their table of contents to see what topics they cover. These topics would make great titles for manuscript submissions to Kaeden. Look for topics in these teacher books that aren’t on Kaeden’s list of 40 nonfiction titles.

Here are 3 of my own books that I wrote for Scholastic Teaching Resources that you can use as a handy reference for this. Just click on the link, then find the table of contents in their LOOK INSIDE the book feature. Print out the table of contents for each of the following books as a handy brainstorming reference. Write down 5-10 topics you find in these books that aren’t yet published by Kaeden.

Cut & Paste Mini-Books: Science

Cut & Paste Mini-Books: Around the Year

Cut & Paste Mini-Books: Science

Posted by: nancyisanders | October 15, 2014

Writing Opportunity: Unique Nonfiction

This morning I did some detective work.

Now that we’re going to take a look at the unique nonfiction Kaeden Books is looking for right now in their submissions guidelines, I went to their website and clicked on some links.

I clicked on their link of nonfiction titles.

Then I clicked to view the page in sortable lists.

Then I clicked at the top to sort this list by grade level.

I printed out this list and put it in a file folder labeled NONFICTION TITLES.

Next I clicked on their list of nonfiction collections.

Then I clicked to view this page in sortable lists.

Then I clicked at the top to sort this list by grade level.

Then I printed out this list and put it in my file folder of NONFICTION TITLES.

Then I started clicking on GOOGLE PREVIEW of some of the books.

And I made a discovery.

The books in their list of COLLECTIONS are published by different publishers. The collections Kaeden sells are titles that are carefully selected from other publishers that are all at the same reading level.

So what does this mean?

This means that we want to FOCUS our attention on the Kaeden’s list of nonfiction titles and try to submit a title that fits in their product line.

We can use the list of their collections to help us brainstorm ideas for new titles.

One more bit of detective work to do today is to download Kaeden’s catalog. Click on the link to download the pdf file. Then spend time exploring their current catalog.

Have fun!

Posted by: nancyisanders | October 13, 2014

Guest Post: Tina Cho on Guided Reading Levels and the Writer

Screen Shot 2014-10-11 at 8.00.28 AM
Tina M. Cho
Blog: Tina’s Tidbits
Facebook: Tina Wheatcraft Cho

My dear friend, former critique buddy, and AWESOME writer, Tina Cho, has put together an amazing resource for all of us to use while we’re moving forward on our journey to submit to Kaeden Books. (Thanks so much, Tina!)

by Tina M. Cho

In the early 1990s two professors, Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell, used their experiences as classroom teachers, professors, and their work with Reading Recovery (a one-to-one reading intervention program) to team together and create a way to level books for readers. Their system called Fountas and Pinnell for guided reading matches leveled books to readers.

I was teaching kindergarten in Iowa during this time and took many of these guided reading classes and read Fountas and Pinnell’s first book, Guided Reading: Good First Teaching for All Students. I even heard Gay Su speak at a conference. From then on, this is how we taught small groups for reading, using the F&P system.

Since then Fountas and Pinnell have refined their system and have written more books and assessments to help teachers teach reading. Publishers have added the F&P levels to their books.

So what does this system have to do with you as a writer for an educational publisher? Well, you should become familiar with the F&P levels so that when you write for a specific level, you know what the reader can do. So let me try to briefly explain this system.

The F & P system is leveled A-Z, with A being the first level and Z ending in high school grades. Take a look at this text gradient. A student entering kindergarten will work through four levels.


Level A: one line of text, very easy for young children with illustrations helping kids figure out the words, repetitive, big print and big spacing between words. Look at these examples.


The first book is from The Hungry Fox, which consists of only 12 words! This also has repetitive text with only TWO words on each page, but it still tells a complete story thanks to the illustrations! “The fox, the farm, the dog, the henhouse…” The second book is called The Farm, and the pages repeat. “Here is the pig. Oink oink. Here is the cow. Moo-moooo.” And so forth. The children learn the sight word “here.” The words pig, cow, and horse can be determined from the illustrations. The last page of these guided readers usually has a surprise or a twist ending.

Level B: more lines of text, slightly greater range of frequently used vocabulary, some repetition but not always. See these examples. The second book only has 23 words.


Level C: longer than B books, 2-5 lines of text on a page, more story carried by the text than the illustrations, full range of punctuation, sentences are a little longer, more variation in language patterns.

An example from the book Wake Up, Dad:
James said,
“Wake up, Dad.”
“I am asleep,” said Dad.

And here’s a sample from Gingerbread Girl, which only has 44 words, but you can see how the word count is increasing in each level.


Level D: slightly more complex story line, supportive illustrations, 2-6 lines of text, longer sentences, inflectional endings are used –ing, ed, s

In this book Lunch Box, there are 89 words.


And you’ll be pleased to know, I have this guided reading book from KAEDEN, our target publisher. This book Snowflakes, (F&P level D) has 54 words and 11 pages of text. This boy tells all the places snowflakes fall on him.




Level E: 3-8 lines of text per page, more complex stories, ideas might require more interpretation, text carries the story line, problem solving needed to figure out new words, longer words, inflectional endings used, some concepts may be less familiar to kids.

I have another book from KAEDEN for this level! The Quarter Story has 99 words. In this story the girl does various chores to earn a quarter. Once she has four quarters she goes to the store where she figures out that her four quarters are the same as $1.




Level F: 3-8 lines of text, longer stories than level E, “story lines include more episodes (actions or events), which follow one another chronologically, and some characters are more fully developed. Generally the text has a distinct beginning, middle, and end. Dialogue has appeared at earlier levels, but at this level there is greater variety in the way it is signaled and presented. Punctuation supports phrasing and meaning.” (Fountas and Pinnell, Guided Reading, p. 122)

An example of Level F is Cookie’s Week. Click the link to Amazon and use their “Look Inside feature” to read some of the text.

And here’s another example of Level F, Little Bulldozer Helps Again.


Level G: 4-8 lines of text, more challenging ideas and vocabulary, longer sentences, newer content outside of children’s experiences, new vocabulary, more events in stories…

An example of Level G is The Lion and the Mouse.


Level H: more complex language and vocabulary, longer stories, literary stories, less repetition An example of Level H is Super Fly Guy.

Level I: varied, sophisticated themes, illustrations provide low support, readers must understand different points of view, memorable characters

An example of Level I is Henny Penny and Leo the Late Bloomer.

Level J: Some books at this level are beginning chapter books of 30-60 pages which may use shorter sentences and familiar vocabulary.

Examples: Danny and the Dinosaur, Henry and Mudge

Level K: This level has a variety of texts from literary picture books (10-15 lines of text per page) to easy chapter books. Some pages have only text with no pictures. “The stories have multiple episodes related to a single plot.”

Example: Nate the Great

Level L: longer chapter books, few illustrations, sophisticated language, more detail and description, challenging vocabulary, smaller text size and narrow spacing

Example: Cam Jansen

I hope these examples helped you understand more about the F&P leveling system. Which level do you think you’d be comfortable writing for? Check Kaeden’s books on that level and study them. You could even order some in to get more of a feel for the structure.

If you want to check the guided reading level of your books, I like using Scholastic’s web site. Go here and click on “book wizard.” Type in your title, and it will pull up reading levels for you. Or if you want to search a particular level, click on “search by reading A-Z level.” If you want to see more books on level G, then set the arrows “from G to G.”

WOW!!! Thank you Tina, for all your amazing and wonderful help. You rock!!!!

Posted by: nancyisanders | October 11, 2014

Book Review: Weird and Wonderful Creations

Weird & Wonderful Creations (Made by God) 4 Books in 1
by Zonderkidz

As many of you know, I have a passion for beginning readers. And I found this awesome and eye-popping beginning reader! I’m so excited to share it with you.

First of all, for all of you who know how nonfiction books for kids are near and dear to my heart, this is an amazing nonfiction book that shows kids some of the amazing plants and animals God created. I love it! God the Creator takes center stage in this hardback, full-color, 128-page oversized book bursting with stunning photographs and fun facts for kids in first and second grade to read all by themselves.

As stated on the cover, this book contains 4 beginning readers all in one place:
Spiders, Snakes, Bees, and Bats
Big Bugs, Little Bugs
Sea Creatures
Poisonous, Smelly, and Amazing Plants

Every page features at least one photograph of an up close look at interesting and unique animals and plants from all over the world. The text is chock-full of information that has high doses of kid-appeal such as “Jellyfish can be huge–120 feet long!” Along the sides on every page are tidbits of fascinating trivia such as “If the Venus flytrap catches something that isn’t food, like a rock, it will ‘spit’ it out.” And as a delightful reminder, the text reaffirms that God made them all!

Even though this book is geared for first and second graders to read on their own, I plan on reading it younger ones. There is so much to talk about on every page I know it will become a favorite in our house.

-Thanks, BookLook Bloggers for another wonderful free book in exchange for my honest review!

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Posted by: nancyisanders | October 11, 2014

Writing Opportunity: Decisions

As I’ve been studying the list of chapter books Kaeden Books publishes, I reached a point where I had to make some decisions.

The first question I had to ask myself was:

How serious am I about submitting to them? What decision would I make?

Decision #1
I’m serious. I’m gonna do it.

(I hope you make the same decision.)

Why? For starters, because (of course) I want to write for them and earn income. But also, because even if they don’t ultimately accept my submission, I want to grow as a writer and learn from this journey.

A second question I had to ask myself was:

How much money do I want to invest into this process right now?

Decision #2
I decided to invest $25 into this journey right now.

That’s because I need to SEE their chapter books. I write chapter books for the Adventures in Odyssey Imagination Station series. But those books are 10,000 words long. Kaeden’s chapter books are much, much shorter. I’ve got to see what sentence structure they’re using, the vocabulary words they’re choosing, the paragraph length they’re using, and how they break down the chapters. I’ve got to turn pages and delve into the content to see how they pace the plot and develop their characters.

So here’s what I did:
#1. I organized the list of their chapter books according to levels. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I printed out this list. Then I took different colors of highlighters and highlighted all the same books at the same reading level in the same color.
#2. Then I purchased one book at the lowest level with one of the shortest word counts (Crow Said No). And I also purchased one book at the highest level with one of the longest word counts (Adventures of Sophie Bean: The Red Flyer Roller Coaster). With shipping and tax it added up to $22.

So while I’m waiting for these to arrive, we’re going to take a break from beginning readers and target another need they have listed on their submission guidelines:

Unique Nonfiction

(Hey all you nonfiction writer friends out there…aren’t you excited to hear this?!!!!)

Posted by: nancyisanders | October 9, 2014

Book Review: A Star for Jesus

A Star for Jesus

A Star for Jesus
By Crystal Bowman
Illustrated by Claudine Gevry

What a delightful and precious children’s book for little hands to hold and read! Written in rhyme, this is a fresh retelling of the Christmas story when the star brought the wise men to worship the newborn King, Jesus. It is the perfect introduction to young ears who are hearing the account for the very first time and the perfect way for you to engage young hearts with the mystery and majesty surrounding the birth of the Son of God.

One of the first things that appealed to me about A Star for Jesus is the format. It’s an oversized board book for babies and toddlers that is cut in a unique shape following one of the edges of the star on the cover.

I love Crystal Bowman’s children’s books to begin with, so this new book of hers caught my eye. The soft and beautiful illustrations are the perfect compliment that help brings the text to life. I especially love how the book ends with a gentle reminder to little ones to remember the Christmas star and how God sent His Son to earth each time they see the stars twinkling in the night sky. This will make a wonderful Christmas gift to give this Christmas as well as add to our own collection of Christmas books. Sure to become a favorite with every family!

-Note: I joined BookLook Bloggers, a wonderful resource where you get free Christian books in exchange for an honest review. To read more about this book, click here. To read my disclaimer, more of my reviews, and also learn how you can join and enjoy the benefits of this great program, click on the following:


Posted by: nancyisanders | October 9, 2014

Writing Opportunity: Let’s Dig Into Chapter Books Part 2

Let’s take one last look at THE RED FLYER ROLLER COASTER.

There’s a lot of stats listed here if you click on the tab for “View Description.”

The word count is: 2600 words.
This tells us that our manuscript needs to be about that length if we’re going to write one at this reading level.

The page count is 40 pages for the published book.

The grade is 2. This series of chapter books is for kids in second grade. The topic should appeal to second graders, the universal theme should be geared for second graders, the characters should appeal to second graders, and the vocabulary level should be geared for second graders.

There are 3 other stats that are all about reading levels. You see them listed at the top and again at the bottom:
Reading Recovery Level: 20
Fountas and Pinnell Guided Reading Level: L
DRA2 Level: 24

Does this sound like Greek to you? It does to me. To be honest, I’ve written tons of beginning readers over the years but I’m not familiar with these levels. So I did some research. I’ll share this with you. If you know of other links to share with us to helps us understand all this better, that would be awesome!

Reading Recovery Level:
I found an online pdf file put together of different books at different reading levels. I printed it out to use as a handy reference. You can check out some of the ones at level 20 to compare to this one.

Fountas and Pinnell:
Here’s a site to explore to learn more about these levels. Also, here’s a link to see one of their books on how they level texts.

DRA2 Level: 24
Here’s a chart to help understand what this means, too.

If this is all brand new to you, don’t stress out about it. Just look at the links and digest what you can. The more we look at these things, the more our brain can grasp it. It will eventually gel enough to mean something of value to us as we work on writing our manuscript. For now, just look and know that Kaeden works in this world of leveled reading, so we can become more familiar with it as we go along our journey.

We’ll move forward on the beginning chapter books in the upcoming post.

Posted by: nancyisanders | October 8, 2014

Writing Opportunity: Let’s Dig Into Beginning Chapter Books

Since Kaeden Books says in their submission guidelines that they have a particular need for beginning chapter books, let’s dig into beginning chapter books!

Now, what exactly do they mean? I’m not sure, so the first thing I want to do is explore their online catalog to see what beginning chapter books they’re already publishing.

So I went to their site and hovered my mouse over their tab across the top that says BOOK/MEDIA. A drop-down menu appeared and near the bottom was CHAPTER BOOKS. So I clicked on the link. Click here to see the list of chapter books I found that they publish.

We want to study this list carefully and look for a number of things. I printed out this 2-page list of 14 titles and put it in a file folder marked: Kaeden’s Chapter Book Titles.

I was disappointed that none of these chapter book titles here include a Google preview, so we can’t actually see a picture of what their books look like inside as we did with some of their other books.

But there is a lot of information available, so let’s take a close look at what they DO tell us.

How about we study ADVENTURES OF SOPHIE BEAN: THE RED FLYER ROLLER COASTER. Click on that title and click on the tab for “View Description.”

It tells us the plot. Sophie Bean wants to go on a roller coaster ride but she keeps hearing she’s too small. (Sounds like there’s a lot of repetition in the text, which is what we’ve seen in earlier reading levels, too.) So it sounds like there’s a clear beginning where she goes to the amusement park, a middle where she keeps trying to get measured to see if she’s tall enough, and there will be a surprise at the end.

And the description concludes with a sentence that tells us a lot:

Students will relate to this story. Kaeden wants us to use universal themes in our stories that every kid can relate to. If you’re not sure what a universal theme is or how to brainstorm ideas for this, I go into great depth on this in Section 7.1 Fresh and Original on pages 164-171 in my how-to book for children’s writers, Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Beginning Readers and Chapter Books.

You can also find helpful lists of universal themes on the site of my favorite writing buddies, Writing According to Humphrey and Friends.

(The universal theme for one of these stories needs to appeal to kids in second grade.)

This description also says: “lovable character.” Kaeden wants lovable characters. Characters kids will love. This ties back into their submissions guidelines where they say they’re looking for strong characters with potential to become a series. Sophie Bean is one of these characters. That’s the kind of character you want to be thinking of for your own manuscript submission.

To wrap up this post today:
We’ll need to have a plot that has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
We’ll need to pick a universal theme for our story to be built upon.
We’ll need to pick a lovable character who can have multiple books written about him or her.

Posted by: nancyisanders | October 7, 2014

Join Me for a Live Radio Chat with Marnie!


Do you want to learn more about writing a compelling first line or lead to your manuscript?

Then join me on my radio interview with Marnie!

This exciting and informative interview will take place tomorrow on Wednesday, October 8.

It will be from 3:00-4:00 Central Time Zone. (Check out your own time zone to see what time that will be!)

You can listen in on Marnie’s Website.


You can call in to this phone number: 646-727-2510.

For more information about the 8 Strategies we’ll be discussing on how YOU can write a compelling lead, go to Marnie’s website today.

Posted by: nancyisanders | October 6, 2014

Writing Opportunity: Submission Guidelines

Let’s take a final peek at Kaeden Books’ Submission Guidelines.

Kaeden Books is an educational publisher who provides books that teach students how to read. If you don’t know what that means or haven’t explored these types of manuscripts much before, there are 2 very helpful books that can get you on the right page.

Mogilner’s Children’s Writer’s Word Book

My own Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Beginning Readers and Chapter Books

Study the pages in both books for grades Kindergarten through Second Grade. Each word in your manuscript and each sentence in your manuscript needs to fit these requirements.

This isn’t hard to do, it just take careful thought.

And don’t stress about this too much if this is brand new to you. We’ll talk about this in an upcoming post.

In this section, they tell you want they don’t want. They mean this. Really. So if you have a manuscript you’re just dying to send to them but it falls under what they listed here, be patient. Wait until you land your first contract with them following their guidelines to submit what they need. Then wait until you sign your second and even perhaps your third contract with them. And THEN at that point if you feel your manuscript that you already wrote would be the perfect fit for them, talk with your editor about it. Who knows? You might be right! But now your editor knows you and will be open to listening to you about it.

The rest of the submission guidelines is about submitting illustrations. (Let me know if you have a question about this.) And then the procedure to submit your manuscript. We’ll go over that in an upcoming post when we’re at that point.

Okay. That’s it! Do you have any questions about the submission guidelines?

We’ll move on to our next step for submitting to Kaeden Books in an upcoming post.

Posted by: nancyisanders | October 3, 2014

Writing Opportunity: Submission Guidelines

Next on the page of Kaeden Books’ Submission Guidelines are the Author Guidelines themselves!



Do you hear the sirens going off? Waa-OOOOOOO-ooooo, Waa-OOOOOO-oooooo, Waa-OOOOOO-oooooo.

Do you hear the bells ringing? Clang, clang, clang!

Do you hear the drums rolling? Rat-a-tat-tat. Rat-a-tat-tat.

They are all saying one message: TAKE NOTE, AUTHOR!!!!

The editors at Kaeden Books are talking with you, yes YOU and are about to tell you something very very important. Something that publishers don’t very often tell you. Something that is the key to opening the treasure chest. Something that is Aladdin’s magic lamp. Something that is the ticket to get us onto the most exciting ride in the amusement park.

Something that they don’t take very lightly and neither should we.

Beginning Chapter Books
Unique Nonfiction Manuscripts
Manuscripts with Strong Characters that have Potential to become Series

And then (thank you, editors at Kaeden Books!) they don’t leave us in the dark about these three specific needs. They spell out EXACTLY what they want these books to be like.

If we want to submit fiction to them, our manuscript should have humor, should have a surprise ending, and should have characters that appeal to children in pre-K through second grade.

These fiction stories should have predictable plots, but should have a clear beginning, a clear middle, and a clear ending.

And for all of us who want to submit nonfiction to them, our manuscript should be INTERESTING.

We should write the sentences using vocabulary words geared to specific grade levels to make the information presented in a language that is comprehensible by children in specific grades in school.

We should include information and supporting facts to go along with the very simple text of the story. (See the Google Preview for the book “Careers” to see how these facts are included like sidebars on the photographs.)

25 words to 3000 words. We’ll discuss this in an upcoming post.

I don’t know about you, but if you have even the remotest inclination to submitting a beginning chapter book to them, GO FOR IT! This is the second time they’ve stated here that this is particularly what they’re looking for. So if you’ve been wondering what to start working on, this would be a fantastic focus for you to take.

We’ll talk in detail about how to prepare a beginning chapter book in an upcoming post.

I’m just so jazzed and excited about this amazing opportunity. It’s not every day in the publishing world that we get such a clear invitation to submit, complete with specific details.

And even if we don’t actually land a contract with them (okay, let’s be realistic here…it’s not easy to land a book contract) we will learn so much valuable information and our writing skills will improve along this journey that we can take a step in the write direction to hopefully landing a book contract with Kaeden Books or another publisher soon.

Posted by: nancyisanders | September 30, 2014

Writing Opportunity: Submission Guidelines

While we’re having fun doing some writing exercises, let’s roll up our sleeves and take a look at Kaeden Book’s Submission Guidelines.

For starters, they state they are an educational publisher. Do you know what this means? It means several things including:
1. They are NOT a trade book publisher. Trade book publishers produce books for the general public to buy. These are the books you find in your local bookstore such as Barnes and Nobles. Kaeden Books isn’t one of these publishers and chances are you won’t find their books at your local bookstore.

2. They publish books for teachers, librarians, and educators to buy. (Not parents or kids to buy.) You might find their books at a teacher’s supply store or in catalogs they send to schools.

3. Most educational publishers offer work-for-hire contracts instead of royalty-based contracts. This means that they purchase the rights to any manuscript they accept. It becomes their property and they can do anything they want with it. You can’t. This also means that they usually pay their authors a one-time flat fee. Of course, sometimes that may be different, but this is just a general thing most educational publishers do. So don’t send them a manuscript that is near and dear to your heart. Plan on working on a brand new manuscript that you can send to them that fits their guidelines and that they can purchase and keep as their own property. (That’s why we’re doing writing exercises along the way.)

Next, their guidelines state that they “specialize in early literacy books and beginning chapter books that support young readers.” Do you know what this means? Among other things, this can mean:
1. They like books that teach children to read.

2. They like books for the younger grade levels such as pre-kindergarten through second grade.

3. They like books that use grade-level vocabulary and specific sentence lengths.

Their guidelines also state that authors need to be familiar with guided reading, Reading Recovery (R), and reading intervention programs. If you’re not yet familiar with these, here are some resources to explore:

Reading Recovery

The Children’s Writer’s Word Book

Phonics from A to Z by Wiley Blevins

And my book, Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Beginning Readers and Chapter Books

Let me know if you have any questions about what we’ve looked at so far!

Posted by: nancyisanders | September 29, 2014

Writing Opportunity: Writing Exercise

I want to take several posts to explain important information about Kaeden Books’ page of writer’s guidelines, but before we start that, I thought it would be good to do a writing exercise together.

Step 1: Find a mentor text
When you target a specific publisher, you want to use their very own books as mentor texts. (Unsure about what a mentor text is or what to do with it? CLICK HERE for more info.)

For our writing exercise that we’re doing together, let’s choose their book FLOWERS by Karen Hoenecke as our mentor text.

Step 2: Read the mentor text
Click on the GOOGLE PREVIEW that is given for the book flowers. Read as many pages of the book as you can.

Step 3: Type out the mentor text
Now open up a Word document and type out as many pages as you can see in the preview. (For this writing exercise, let’s just focus on the repeating sentence in large type.) It’s always good to type out your mentor text (or portions if it’s a long book). It trains your brain to think and work in this genre among other benefits.

Here it is:

4: Some flowers are yellow.
5: Some flowers are red.
6: Some flowers are orange.
7: Some flowers are purple.
8: Some flowers are blue.

Now we can’t see the rest of the text, but looking at the table of contents for page 9 and 10 AND looking on the last page of the book for things to do DURING READING, I’m guessing that the rest of the book goes something like this;

9: Some flowers are pink.
10: Some flowers are for Mom.

Step 4: Evaluate your mentor text.
We can see that at this reading level, Kaeden Books uses:
A) Short sentences. 4 words per sentence with 1 sentence having 5 words.
B) Repetitive sentences with just one new word per sentence. Plus, each new word is a word kids learn in kindergarten. Not an upper-grade vocabulary word such as scientific or encyclopedia.
c) A surprise ending with the last sentence having a twist while using the same repeating part of the sentence.

Step 5: The Writing Exercise
A) Use the word “birds” and use color words such as the ones in FLOWERS.
B) Use short sentences of 3 or 4 words.
C) Repeat every sentence except change one word in each one.
D) Write 7 sentences and make the final one be a surprise ending.

Go ahead and post your sentences if you like and share what you’ve done! Don’t worry if yours is the exact same as someone else’s. (Of course, if you hit upon a super duper story that you’ve written, don’t post it here but save it to submit to Kaeden!) There’s only so many ways you can do this.

Then, in the week ahead as I’m taking time to carefully explain what each of the key points is on Kaeden’s writer’s guidelines, you can be working on more of these writing exercises on your own. Just look for different mentor texts at different reading levels and follow the 5 steps above.

Now, if you’re brand new to writing stories at specific reading levels, it might be helpful to read through my book Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Beginning Readers and Chapter Books and familiarize yourself with this market. If you don’t have it, you can read lots of it on Amazon on their look inside the book feature.

Posted by: nancyisanders | September 26, 2014

Writing Opportunity: Let’s Get Organized!


For this new writing adventure we’re embarking on for pursuing our goal of earning income by submitting to Kaeden Books, a publisher who is LOOKING for new authors, I want to show you the step-by-step process I’m going through so you can do it, too.

After I explored their site yesterday and just clicked all over on random buttons and links, I decided it was time to get organized.

I thought I’d take pictures to show you EXACTLY what I’ve done so far. And since I set up our brand new playpen, I thought it would be the perfect place for a photo shoot!

Yes, that’s right! Life is filled with blessings right now in our family. Last Saturday our oldest son got married to our precious new daughter-in-law. It was such a lovely ceremony in a beautiful gazebo overlooking Laguna Beach. And NEXT Saturday we’re hosting a baby shower here at our house for our youngest son and his lovely wife who are expecting our very first grandchild!

As you can see in the photo above, I have a yellow pocket folder to organize. It’s like packing a suitcase for a journey. And this is a journey. So yes, while we’re pursuing this for the goal of income, always remember that the journey itself is very, very important.

We don’t know if we’ll actually land a contract with this publisher or not. God in his great wisdom knows what’s best. But what we DO know is that as we embark on this journey together, we will learn and grow as a writer. And that’s worth every step we take. Plus it’s gonna be lots and lots of fun!

So to get started, I like to get organized.


Here’s what I have inside my yellow pocket folder:

A spiral notebook. This is my current way to take notes and write first drafts. So I tucked an empty notebook in my pocket folder. This will probably not spend very much time inside here because it will be what I carry around with me all the places I go throughout my day in the upcoming weeks as I’m jotting down ideas and rough drafts and other notes.


A file folder labeled PRAYER. For each manuscript project I work on I like to have a prayer folder. I like to write out my prayers when I pray, kind of like writing love letters to God. So I got some pretty, cheerful paper to use and put it in this folder. Plus, I already wrote out a prayer. Not only am I praying for myself as I start out on this journey, but I’m also praying for YOU.


Behind that is a file folder labeled WRITER’S GUIDELINES. I printed out a copy of Kaeden Book’s writer’s guidelines and tucked it in here for easy reference. (We’ll go over that with a magnifying glass next week here on my blog.)

Behind that is a file folder labeled KAEDEN BOOKS. I printed out their home page and tucked it into here. This is because Kaeden Books is a brand new publisher for me. I don’t know anything about them. So I’ll be studying their home page to learn more about them. (We’ll go over this with a magnifying glass in upcoming posts as well.)

Behind that are a lot of empty folders. These are just waiting for me to fill them up with ideas and lists and…we’ll talk about that, too!

So if you haven’t yet done this, go ahead and get organized! Either use your own system that works for you or try out the system I use. There’s no right or wrong. It’s just very very helpful to get organized right up front so that you can find things at your fingertips when you need them.

Posted by: nancyisanders | September 25, 2014

New Writing Adventure Right Here on My Blog

3 swallowtails at fence HPIM8412 - Version 2

Oh, what an adventure I had the other day! I had taken a break from my frantic deadline to give my eyes, wrists, and brain a rest so of course, the first place I go is outside in my garden. There, to my surprise were three of the most beautiful and biggest butterflies ever! I looked them up and discovered they are giant swallowtails, the largest butterfly in North America. I had seen one here and there the last two years, but these ones danced and flitted and floated around our garden like it was their home. (I hope it is!!!!) So of course I snapped a photo…aren’t they gorgeous?

Writing has a lot of unexpected adventures like that. And right now, today, in my little corner of the writing world I’m starting out on another adventure, so I thought I’d invite you along.

For starters, recently here on my blog I’ve been sharing what’s been going on as I’ve been working on a super duper crazy deadline.

Guess what? Yesterday I finished writing that deadline. Wahoo! And about 2 hours after I finished typing the last page, an editor from a different publisher called me on the phone and we discussed the next part of the manuscript I needed to write to send her way for one of my books that is under contract. Talk about perfect timing!

Well, as I mentioned in a previous post, with that big deadline I’ve been crunching on nearing its end (I did one final edit on those 28 pages and submitted it this morning), I’ve been working on my TRIPLE CROWN OF SUCCESS.

As many of you know if you’ve read my how-to-book for writers YES! YOU CAN LEARN HOW TO WRITE CHILDREN’S BOOKS, GET THEM PUBLISHED, AND BUILD A SUCCESSFUL WRITING CAREER, this means I’m always working on 3 manuscripts at a time:

1 for the goal of getting published
1 for the goal of earning income
1 for the goal of personal fulfillment

So here’s where I’m at on this:
Sunday my husband and I were asked to write a really great and fun new project for our church. Bingo. There’s my new project for the goal of “personal fulfillment.”

Last week I got an idea to contact a monthly magazine/newsletter and offer to write them a column for whatever they might pay (I think it will either be no-pay or perhaps a year’s free subscription). Bingo. There’s my hopeful new project for the goal of “getting published.” If that doesn’t work out I’ll try a different publisher.

And today, yes TODAY!!!! I read in an e-mail post from the enews from the Institute of Children’s Literature (ICL) about Kaeden Books, an educational publisher who is LOOKING FOR WRITERS!!!!!!

So guess what? I’m going to pursue this new exciting lead for my goal of hopefully earning income.

So guess what again? Since Jan Fields was so generous and sent this shout out to everyone, I thought I’d send a shout out to everyone here on my blog to invite you to join me in this brand new adventure!

So here on my blog for however longs it takes, I’ll share with you the steps I’m taking to prepare stuff to submit to Kaeden Books to respond to their call out with their PARTICULAR need for children’s writers. We’re talking picture books. We’re talking nonfiction OR fiction. We’re talking early chapter books. We’re talking beginning readers. Does it get any sweeter than that?

So here’s what I did first thing. I clicked on the link to Kaeden Books to see exactly what they were looking for.

Then I printed out this information and put it in a file folder and started a pocket folder for this new adventure. I encourage you to do the same!

And now, I’m just spending time browsing through all the links and looking at the types of books they do. I encourage you to do the same!

So check back in here for my next post. I’ll let you know what the next steps I take on this new adventure to prepare a submission for them.

And if you want to join in the adventure, too, let us know so we can cheer each other on!!!!!

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