Posted by: nancyisanders | November 21, 2014

Writing Opportunity: Image Research

I finally got my fourth and last research book in at the library.

First I started to read my research books. One of the books had a lot of historic photographs in it that I hoped I could use.

Second, I looked in the front (sometimes this is in the back) for the list of photographs and where they found each one. They had a number of photographs from companies that looked expensive, but I found a bunch that were from the Library of Congress.

Third, I went online to the Prints and Photographs division of the Library of Congress.

I typed a key word in and instantly the photograph I was looking for came up. (That rarely happens. Usually I have to dig around a little bit.) So I was super excited I found this image so quickly.

Fourth: I did three things.
1. I checked the RIGHTS ADVISORY. It says: No known restrictions on publication.
2. I printed out this page. Since I plan to self-publish the book that will have this photograph in it, I will need to cite the correct information in my bibliography/photo source page.
3. I checked if a jpg image was available for me to download onto my own computer (and eventually plug into my word document). It was. So I downloaded the photograph onto my computer and I printed out the actual photograph.

Fifth, I went back to my manuscript I was working on. I kept the original version that was already finished.

But this time, I started to rewrite it based on the free historic photographs I could actually find.

Posted by: nancyisanders | November 14, 2014

Christmas Gospel Tract

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It already feels like Christmas here at my house. I’ve been listening to Christmas music all day long and researching what really happened at the first Christmas 2000 years ago. That’s because for the last month I’ve been writing stuff for a Christmas project I’m working on. I only have until next Wednesday for my deadline, but am almost done. Whew!

So today I felt like taking a break and putting together some of the exciting things I’ve been enjoying and make a Gospel tract for kids.

It’s free!

You can download both sides of the tract (front and inside) at my store at Teacher’s Pay Teachers. Then you can print it out, back-to-back.

*Print it out and share it with the kids you cherish. (Encourage them to share it with their friends, too.)
*Print it out and give it with your gifts this Christmas.
*Print it out and mail it with your Christmas cards to your family and friends.

It’s my (early) Christmas gift to you this year! Feel free to use it in whatever way you want and share the TRUE gift of Christmas with others.

CLICK HERE to download the front page of the Gospel tract. (See above)

CLICK HERE to download the inside page of the Gospel tract. (See below)

Then print them back-to-back, fold like a trifold, and share the Gospel with your family and friends.

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Posted by: nancyisanders | November 13, 2014

Writing Opportunity: Research Books Arrived

Last night I picked up my research books that I ordered in at my local library.

You see, even though we’re writing simple little nonfiction manuscripts, the research process is still important. I want to back up my facts with solid sources.

So here’s what I’m planning on doing in the next few upcoming days:

Finish the text of my manuscripts.
I’m writing one to submit to Kaeden and one to self-publish and sell in my store at Teachers Pay Teachers.

Finish the sidebars in my text.
These will be simple yet informative, just like the sidebars in my mentor text, THE BIRD FEEDER.

Finish the footnotes to verify the research in my text.
I want to plug in 3 resources for each fact I state.

Add in art suggestions to accompany my text.
For my one story, I will be submitting it to Kaeden. I plan to suggest one main photograph that will have a different object photoshopped in for each new page.

For my second story, I will self-publish it. I want to dig around on royalty free sites that I shared about in a previous post. If I find enough photographs I can use, I plan to use these. If not, I plan to use one main photograph that I took. I will copy and paste a different royalty-free image on this photograph for each new page in my story.

I’ve actually been progressing more slowly on this adventure than I originally planned. That’s because I have various book manuscripts (and magazine stories) in the publication stage. Every day, it seems, I have one or more editors with various publishers contacting me with things I need to do right away to keep the books or magazines on their production schedule. Just to give you a peek at some of the stuff that goes on during this stage, here are a few of the tasks I’ve had to deal with in this past week alone with various publishers:

*Schedule a phone appointment with marketing to discuss ideas for the book’s website
*Write 6 new pages of content ASAP to get to the illustrator so he can start working on that section
*Fill out tax forms so I can get paid on one project
*Reschedule the phone appointment with marketing due to a snowstorm in their area
*Receive a book map prepared by the editor with the entire text of my picture book plugged into each page so that I can edit it for typos and prepare for upcoming editing sessions in the next two weeks
*Read over a contract that’s in negotiations and call the publisher’s legal department to straighten out some issues
*E-mail marketing to thank him for creating the awesome bookmarks that arrived on my doorstep on Monday for my new books
*Connect with my agent to contact the contracts guy so that we can get paid in a timely manner

How is your book manuscript coming along that you want to submit to Kaeden? If you haven’t yet done so, plan to finish writing your manuscript text, your sidebars, and your photo suggestions.

In upcoming posts we’re going to talk about finalizing the text by adding in front and back matter (table of contents, glossary, word lists, etc.). Then I’m also going to share the cover letter I’m writing so you can copy it and send it in with yours, too. I have an extra special secret strategy that I’ve used time and time again in my cover letter and it’s gotten me so many book contracts I can’t even remember the exact number. I’ll share that with you. Then we’ll talk about the submission process and actually put that puppy in the mail.

And then, after that, I’ll share the process I go through to self-publish my second manuscript for sale on Teachers Pay Teachers. (If you want to do the same, go ahead and set up a free store there so you’re ready to self-publish your own story, too. When you set up a store, you first have to post several free items such as bookmarks or printable teacher worksheets. So go ahead and get that all done as soon as possible. Then you’ll be ready to post your story and sell it like I plan to sell mine.)

So stay tuned! Lots of fun stuff up ahead!

Posted by: nancyisanders | November 10, 2014

Writing Opportunity: Searching for Images and Creating Art

Over my writing career, I’ve had to work extensively with finding images for publishers to use in my books.

For two of my nonfiction books, I had to find, acquire, (and pay for) all the images in the books! Here are my books I’ve done that for:





Needless to say, I figured out FAST how I can get the most free images I could use.


This experience has come in handy as I have also self-published some teacher resources in my store on the site Teachers Pay Teachers.


Here are some tips on how you can find images that you can use, too.


1. Sometimes I take photographs that I can use. (I don’t have a high-quality camera. But it’s digital and not just a cell-phone.) I always take a ton of photos and hope that at least one isn’t fuzzy or out of focus.

1.A. If it’s in a public place such as a wheel on a wagon or a tree, usually you don’t need to get permission to use it. Here’s a photograph I took of a wagon wheel and put it in a word file for a read-aloud play on the gold rush that my husband Jeff wrote: CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH.


1.B. If it’s inside a museum or belongs to someone OR if it has an identifiable person in the photo, you do need to get written permission to use it. Hopefully, they’ll let you use it for free. Many of the images I used in FREDERICK DOUGLASS FOR KIDS were from museums that let me use the photographs I took for free.


2. Another way to use photographs or images is to get them from free sites.

2.A. Here’s a link I posted about using Creative Commons on Flickr.


2.B. And here is an amazing resource Laura Purdie Salas put up with tons of links for royalty-free images. (Thank you, Laura!!!!)


3. Of course, you can always pay for images to use. I’ve had to do that, too, for the two books that I mentioned above. Here’s a blog post I wrote with some info about that.


And here’s another post on photo research as well.

4. And sometimes I use Inkscape, a free drawing program to create my own clipart. It takes me awhile to do it and it’s not very good, but if you like to do this, it’s definitely an option. Here’s a product I sell in my store at Teacher’s Pay Teachers where you can see some clipart I’ve made.

Here’s one of my favorite clipart I created:


pirate frog hopping green





If you have any questions about all this, just let me know!



Posted by: nancyisanders | November 8, 2014

Writing Opportunity: Another Decision

Okay, writing friends! I’ve made another decision.

Since this is a teaching blog where we share and learn about how to do all things writing for children, I have decided to write TWO nonfiction stories.

One I will submit to Kaeden Books.

The other one I will publish on Teachers Pay Teachers.

I have two stories I’ve been working on anyhow all along. I couldn’t decide which one to submit to Kaeden Books first. So now that problem is solved.

I’ll submit the one to Kaeden Books and will continue explaining the real steps I’m taking, really, as I walk forward on this journey. This way you can take an inside peek on how a children’s writer goes through this process and also you can follow along and write and submit a manuscript of your own!

But for my other story, I’ll create it in a Word document file, pictures and all, and I’ll explain the steps I take to complete this one, too. Then I’ll publish it on Teachers Pay Teachers in my store. This way you can see how easy it is…really really easy!…to publish these little stories yourself on Teachers Pay Teachers (or other site) and earn money from them!

Posted by: nancyisanders | November 7, 2014

Writing Opportunity: Photographs

As I was doing a lot of research for my nonfiction manuscript that I’m working on to submit to Kaeden Books, I started to see various photographs that I could potentially recommend for Kaeden to use in my manuscript as well.

That reminded me that I need to work on potential photographs.

I’m assuming that Kaeden Books might not have a huge budget for photographs. Most publishers are tight on this these days in this economy.

So I plan to recommend photographs they can use for each page of my book.

That led me to a question:

What kind of photographs does Kaeden use in their books?

I started digging around for an answer by looking first at my mentor text, THE BIRD FEEDER.

Hop on over and take a look at the Google Preview. Look closely at the art.

Notice something?

It’s the same empty bird feeder in every photograph.
The birds and the squirrel have been photoshopped on!
If you look at the copyright page, it says that this was done by Signature Design.

So let’s check out a different book of theirs, APPLES.

Take a look at the Google Preview. These photographs look different in each one.
If you look at the copyright page, it shows the photo credits for each different page.

Go ahead and explore various of their nonfiction books like this, including your mentor text, to see how the photographs were acquired.

For my particular manuscript, I have given the art some thought. I think my story will work well with photographs that are the same on every page but have a different item photoshopped in. OR, there are actually photographs in the public domain at the Library of Congress that could be used.

What art design would work in your manuscript, do you think?

Give this some careful thought.


For several reasons:
1) I think it might be nice to recommend a potential art concept for your book in your cover letter. Normally you wouldn’t do this for a fiction picture book manuscript, but I think it could help give you an edge over other submissions if you recommend this for yours.

2) Since I’m going to publish this book even if Kaeden rejects it, I can either use free photographs I find or use an art program such as Inkscape to make my own images without too much time.

3) If I find free images or make my own, then I can use these on a website I build when my book is published or for creating marketing items such as bookmarks and student worksheets that will help market my book.

I’ll talk more in an upcoming post about art options you can acquire for free, especially if you decided to self-publish this manuscript.

Posted by: nancyisanders | November 6, 2014

Writing Opportunity: Get It Published!

I have decided that all my work on this nonfiction manuscript I’m writing will lead to a successful end. It WILL get published!

That’s because we work in a wonderful day and age here in the children’s publishing industry. If someone else doesn’t publish our book, we can! For free!

So first, after I finish my manuscript, I will submit it to Kaeden Books. I’m hoping they will publish it. But if I haven’t heard from them for 3 months, then I will assume they have rejected it. That’s the standard rejection policy these days.

So then, I am going to publish it myself!

There are various ways to do this:
Save it as a pdf file and sell it or give it away as a downloadable file from your website or blog.

Publish it for free as a paperback book with CreateSpace.

Publish it as an e-book for free with Kindle Kids’ Book Creator.

Here is my favorite so far:

Save it as a pdf file and sell it in my store on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Somehow knowing that this manuscript will get published no matter what has renewed my motivation, energy, and enthusiasm for this project.

I encourage you to make a similar decision today.

So if you’ve gotten behind because you’re thinking your manuscript might not get published anyhow, then think that way no longer. You CAN get this manuscript published whether Kaeden picks it up or you publish it yourself at Teachers Pay Teachers (or some other free site).

Posted by: nancyisanders | November 5, 2014

Book Review: NKJV Study Bible

NKJV Study Bible
Thomas Nelson Publishers

This is a Bible dictionary, Bible atlas, Bible handbook, and complete NKJV Bible all in one handy volume! Full color maps are featured in most books of the Bible that show where events were happening in that book. References to Greek and Hebrew word origins in Strong’s concordance are accompanied by a brief word study of that entry. Brief insight into most verses plus in-depth discussions of key concepts fill the lower half of each page with meaty information.

Last month we started a new study on Wednesday nights at my church where we will be reading through the book of Isaiah verse by verse and chapter by chapter from beginning to end. Can I tell you how excited I am to think of bringing this along for the next two years or so that we’ll be digging in deep on one of my favorite books of the Bible?!

One of the things I appreciate about this Bible is that it refers to Israel as “The Holy Land” on historic maps. I wish all my Bibles had this, especially since Jesus himself referred to the region as Israel in his day. (See Luke 4:25)

My other personal favorite is reading the BIBLE TIMES & CULTURE NOTES that help me understand the context of the era various events took place in. These colorful boxes also have photographs of archaeological finds to help bring the Bible to life.

Here is what the publisher shares about this amazing new study Bible:
The NKJV Study Bible, the most comprehensive study Bible available, now in a full-color edition with added features! The acclaimed NKJV Study Bible is the most complete study system for all who desire accurate study in God’s Word. The Second Edition includes more features to make it the best all-purpose study Bible. Using the trusted New King James Version, The NKJV Study Bible has “the mind of a scholar and the heart of a pastor.” Nelson’s skilled team of scholars has produced the system to reach for when study in God’s Word is the goal.

Features include:

NEW attractive full-color page design
NEW stunning Bible-land photos and graphics
NEW in-text maps and charts
Full cross-references with textual notes
Word studies and indexes
Bible Times and Culture Notes
Book introductions, outlines, and timelines
Reader-friendly notes and articles ideal for extended study
Deluxe NKJV Concordance including proper names

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

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Posted by: nancyisanders | November 5, 2014

Writing Opportunity: Research

Today as I worked on my nonfiction manuscript for Kaeden Books, I focused on the research.

I created a bibliography of books and reliable Internet sources. I added this to the end of the manuscript.

Most of these books I found by searching on Amazon for nonfiction books on my topic. Then, since the book I’m writing only needs several facts to verify, I found most of the research by using the LOOK IN THE BOOK feature.

I copied and pasted each bibliographical entry into the footnote for each fact I stated, including the page number of the book where I found that fact.

Then I went to my local online library site and actually ordered in all but one of the books I’d found on Amazon. That way I can actually photocopy the pages I need to back up my research and keep in my files.

In doing my research I found so many fun facts that could be used in my book! So I collected a list of these at the end of my manuscript, plus the footnote of where these facts were found. I want to keep these for 2 reasons:
1) I want to dig around on Kaeden Books and see if I can include more pages in my manuscript.
2) If I don’t use these in the actual manuscript, they will make great additions to a website I can build when this book gets published.

Okay…did you catch what I just said?

I said WHEN this book gets published.

Not IF this book gets published.

That’s because I reached a place today where I made a decision. I decided this manuscript WILL GET PUBLISHED. Yours can, too. I’ll explain how in the next post.

Posted by: nancyisanders | November 4, 2014

Writing Opportunity: Nonfiction Sidebars

In a previous post here on my blog, we talked about writing the main nonfiction story of your manuscript.

Today let’s talk about writing the nonfiction sidebars that many of Kaeden’s nonfiction books feature.

For starters, let’s talk about how to format a sidebar in your manuscript. Here’s how I like to do that, based on their book THE BIRD FEEDER:

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
[End of Sidebar]

Basically, put the words in brackets:
[Sidebar] at the beginning of the sidebar.
[End of Sidebar] after the sidebar is done.

Anything in [brackets] tells the editor it is something for the editor to know.

Now is the time, if you haven’t yet done this, to go back in the nonfiction story you’ve been working on and add sidebars based on how your mentor text does it.

For example, you can look at how THE BIRD FEEDER has sidebars by seeing where the words are on the photographs.

You’ll notice that the sidebars are a much more advanced reading level than the actual story. Higher level vocabulary words such as “dull” or “warbler” are used.
Also, more complex sentences are used and they don’t repeat sentence structure as the main story line does.
You’re a little more free to write the sidebars than you were when you wrote the main story text. Just keep it simple, still, based again on the example of which mentor text you’ve chosen from Kaeden Books to use.

For a nonfiction book manuscript such as this, I like to have 3 reliable research sources for each fact I state. By reliable I mean that I’ll use info from the Smithsonian site or the online Britannica Encyclopedia and not someone’s personal blog. Here’s the standard format for citing internet sites that some of my publishers use:

Author’s Name of site. “Name of page.” Accessed Month, Day, Year. URL.

Here’s what that looks like:

Eccleston, Jim. “Chronology of the Siege of Yorktown.” Accessed March 21, 2014.

I document these in footnotes on my manuscript. Then, after I have all my footnotes documented, I save this file as the FILE NAME WITH FOOTNOTES.

Next I go back through and save a new version of the file WITHOUT any footnotes.

So if you haven’t yet done this on your own manuscript, go ahead and write your sidebars and plug in your footnotes. If you have any questions, just let me know!

Posted by: nancyisanders | October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!

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Here’s a fun coloring page that you can do with your little ones or print out and give to children who ring your doorbell tonight!

pumpkin coloring page

And for more free printables, Halloween Gospel tracts to print and distribute, and a free brochure with fun activities to help have a Christ-centered holiday this year with your family, CLICK HERE to visit the site of my church.

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:

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

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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

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