Posted by: nancyisanders | August 28, 2014

Favorite Kid’s Magazine

Dudley CCI28082014

As some of you may know, I love to write for Clubhouse Jr. magazine by Focus on the Family. This is a picture of one of my stories about Dudley the dog (the beagle on the left). Every year for the past few years I get to write a new story about Dudley and the lessons he learns about important stuff like forgiveness, moving to a new home, and his first day of school.

Clubhouse Jr. is a magazine geared to 4-7 year-olds with just the right mix of humor, fun, Bible, and Truth. And did I mention it often has jokes, crafts, and cool kid cooking projects?

And right now (but you gotta hurry!) they’re offering an amazing deal for 50% off their regular subscription price!!!!!

Why the great deal?



Drum roll please!

They’re now going to feature Veggie Tales (Exclusive, I may add) in their October issue!!!!!

So if you want to surprise a special little someone in your family, or donate a subscription to your church, or donate a subscription for your public library (as I’ve done over the years to reach lots of kids in my community!) then hop on over to their site and order a subscription today.

CLICK HERE for the great deal. But you gotta act fast because the promotional sale ends soon.

Posted by: nancyisanders | August 28, 2014

Moving Forward in Our Writing

Thank you, sweet writing friends, for sharing your hearts and a peek into your writing world.

The one emotion I felt as I read each one of your comments was that “We are not alone.”

And for a commitment (writing) that takes so much “alone time” it felt good to know we have fellow writers who struggle with the same issues and find joy in the same places as we do.

So now, I want to ask each one of you (as I ask myself), what is the next step you will take to move forward in your writing?

Let’s all just reevaluate where we said we are:

Option A: How many of you have empty hours of time to write each day?

Option B: How many of you have action packed schedules with homeschooling kids, working at a day (or night) job, or other huge responsibilities and have to be creative about carving out time to write?

Option C: How many of you aren’t really writing at all right now because you have so many other important commitments but you like to keep your “toe in the water” so to speak in the world of writing so if you do find time to write (or the muse strikes you) you can pick up your pen and write?

If you’re right in the place you want to be right now with your writing, do you have a tip you’d like to share for how you manage your time and stay motivated?

And if you’d like to be in a different place, would you like to share one strategy you plan to start implementing this week to get back on track?

For those of you who may be new to my blog or follow my blog but don’t yet have some of my how-to-write books, you can take a peek at them at these links:

Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career: This book is an insider’s look on how I’ve built my writing career. It’s got a great sections on how to get really really motivated to write! (in chapters 1 and 7)

Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Beginning Readers and Chapter Books: This book is more about the nuts and bolts of writing for children in different readability levels

Scribes: Devotions for Christian Writers: This book will help inspire, encourage, and motivate you to give your best to God through your writing

Posted by: nancyisanders | August 26, 2014


I’d like to take a survey today…

Option A: How many of you have empty hours of time to write each day?

Option B: How many of you have action packed schedules with homeschooling kids, working at a day (or night) job, or other huge responsibilities and have to be creative about carving out time to write?

Option C: How many of you aren’t really writing at all right now because you have so many other important commitments but you like to keep your “toe in the water” so to speak in the world of writing so if you do find time to write (or the muse strikes you) you can pick up your pen and write?

The reason I’m asking is because last night was a turning point for me. I went from Option B where my schedule was action packed these last few months. My husband Jeff is a teacher and he was off during the summer so we were super busy visiting family and friends, serving together on various church ministries, and spending just-us together-time (a super priority!!!) But today he’s officially back to work and now I have an almost totally clear calendar with over 8 empty hours each day that I can fill up with writing.

(And I gotta fill them up with writing because of all the crazy hectic deadlines that are in front of me.)

There’s no right or wrong about this…I am just curious about what YOU have to deal with on your plate right now when it comes to finding time to write.

Posted by: nancyisanders | August 22, 2014

Welcome to My World!

Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.

What’s that sound? It is a mouse nibbling on cheese? Is it a monster eating a cookie? No, it’s me (and maybe you) in a time crunch trying to work as fast as I can to meet editorial deadlines on various writing projects.

This past summer I had some great and fabulous vacations. (I hope you did too!) On one vacation, my husband and I got together with my 5 other sisters and 1 brother and their spouses for a family reunion. (I’m the youngest of 7.)

Here we are, all in order from youngest to oldest, left to right:


(To see more of my fun family reunion photos, CLICK HERE.)

But suddenly it seems, all the editors in the entire world of publishing got back from THEIR vacations and decided to contact me! I’ve got a lo-o-o-ong TO-DO list of TOP PRIORITIES from everyone PLUS an exciting brand-new new unexpected deadline that’s also on a whirlwind time crunch.

So why am I telling you all this?

Because I’ve been mostly silent here on my blog the past month or so as I’ve been rearranging my schedule nearly every day to try to crunch out another editorial deadline (or two or three or four) that arrived in my e-mail inbox that morning.

But I’ve made a decision.

Instead of disappearing for the next two months while I keep crunching out these urgent commitments, I thought I’d invite you to follow along and take an inside peek at what goes on day-by-day…really goes on…as a writer juggles a bunch of different hats to wear.

It’s exciting! It’s scary! And it’s so much fun I thought I’d invite you along.

And if you want to share some of the fun stuff you’re doing in your corner of the writing world, let us know so we can cheer you on!

Posted by: nancyisanders | August 12, 2014

Grammar Jammer: Linking Verbs

Some verbs link the subject with more information about it.
Linking verbs show a state of being.

Carrie Author is as happy as a kid at Christmas.
Yesterday, she was an unpublished author but soon that will be changing.
She has been eager to be published since she was in college.

Have You Heard?
Any form of the verb be is a linking verb:
has been
have been
am being
are being
will be
might have been

More Linking Verbs
Other verbs that show a state of being are also linking verbs.
look, feel, taste, smell, sound, seem, appear, become

Let’s Give Linking Verbs a Try!
Use a pencil to circle the linking verbs.

Carrie Author is a member of an online picture book critique group.
She has been part of that group for three years.

This is her very first book contract. She feels so excited!

Posted by: nancyisanders | July 30, 2014

Grammar Jammer: Let’s Talk Verbs

How’s your grammar? Want to brush up on your grammar skills? Then join me here on my blog from time to time as I post tips and techniques on grammar.

Let’s Talk Verbs

Verbs are words that show action or a state of being.

Most verbs show action.

Carrie Author ripped open the SASE.
She read the editor’s letter.

Have You Heard?
Some sentences have two or more verbs.

The publisher offered her a picture book contract and promised a $40,000 advance!

Carrie screamed and jumped up and down.

Have You Heard?
The tense of a verb shows when an action happens.
Past tense shows an action happening in the past.
Present tense shows an action happening right now.
Future tense shows an action happening in the future.

Let’s Give Action Verbs a Try!
Unscramble these action verbs and fill in the blanks.

Carrie _______________ (ENOPHD) her husband with the news.

She _______________ (EXETTD) her friends and _______________ (DEEWETT) on Twitter.

She _______________ (CANDDE) around for joy.

Posted by: nancyisanders | July 16, 2014

Announcing the Release of WriteShop Book E!

Book E cover-bigger copy

The Writing Curriculum for homeschooling families that I wrote (and amazing publisher Kim Kautzer edited) has recently hit the shelves and is already up and running marathons in the homeschooling community!!!!

I know many of you are homeschooling mamas and papas so I thought you’d be eager to hear the news…there’s still plenty of time to order your copy of WriteShop to teach writing to your young writers in grades K-6 this next year.

You can check out this awesome BOOK E review at DELIGHTFUL LEARNING

And for more info about the WriteShop curriculum I wrote as an incremental writing program to get kids in the know and loving’ writing (just like YOU do), look at these other products available for you to implement in your child’s life:













Check out some of these awesome reviews!






Posted by: nancyisanders | July 8, 2014

Teleclass Writing Workshop

cats on teal couch

Do you need help learning how to “show, don’t tell”?

Then sign up for this tele class that I’ll be teaching, complete with a handout of “50 WAYS TO SHOW, DON’T TELL.”

You can join me live this week on Thursday, 2:00 Pacific Standard Time, or you can pay now and download the audio later when you have time to listen to it.

For years, I struggled with this elusive rule. How does a writer show instead of tell?

But as I’ve worked with various editors on several new books of mine that have been going through the publication process this past year, I saw exactly what editors were doing to my manuscripts to change places I “told” my reader what was happening to be passages that “show” it instead.

So join me for this tele class and learn simple yet effective techniques to take your writing to the next level!

CLICK HERE for the link to register for the tele class.

Posted by: nancyisanders | July 7, 2014

Local Writing Workshop

HPIM7542 - Version 4

About a month ago, I bought a milkweed plant and it had a baby caterpillar on it. It was fun to watch the caterpillar grow and change into a pupa. Yesterday it emerged and we released it in our garden.

As writers, it’s important for us to keep on growing as we improve our writing skills. Along the way, we metamorphosize and turn into successful, published writers. And still we keep on growing!!!!

With this in mind, I want to invite you to come join me at a free local writing workshop I’ll be teaching this week!

For any of you who live near Rancho Cucamonga, come on out and join the fun at the Rancho Writers, a writer’s group that meets each month.

Here’s where you’ll find us:

Date: Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Time: 2:30-5:00
Place: Room One at Northkirk Presbyterian Church
9101 19th St
Alta Loma, CA
Cost: Meeting is free and open to the public

Of course, I’ll be there to answer questions you may have about writing, and I’ll be selling some of my books after the event, but here’s what I’ll specifically be teaching about:

* The Rule of Three and how using it can help you develop stronger characters.

* Exercises to help you develop stronger voices for your characters.

* Tips and techniques on being a Piggyback Writer so you can break into print and get your manuscripts published.

* How to “Show, Don’t Tell.”

I hope to see you there!

Posted by: nancyisanders | July 4, 2014

Happy Birthday, America!

Posted by: nancyisanders | June 26, 2014

Self-Editing Tips: Show, Don’t Tell

The fourth and final item on our self-editing checklist under the category of Creative Nonfiction Techniques is to make sure we remember to “show, don’t tell” by using key anecdotes to replace narrative.

There is a delicate balance to the amount of narrative and anecdotal writing we incorporate into our writing…especially because we are writing for kids. Too much narrative and our story will be boring and will sound like an encyclopedia entry rather than a story. Too many anecdotes and our manuscript will burst the seams with too high of a word count and could even be classified as overwritten.

If you’ve ever had your work critiqued and gotten feedback to “show, don’t tell” you may know it’s one of those weak areas of yours that you need to work on.

But what exactly does this mean?

Basically, it means to create a scene, even a short scene, that incorporates elements such as dialogue and action, so that the reader can see what’s happening in 3-D technicolor instead of just being told that it happened.

If you have trouble doing this, then I’d like to invite you to join me on July 10 at 2:00 when I’m teaching a tele class at the Working Writer’s Club on “Show, Don’t Tell.”

More information coming soon on how to sign up and join!

Posted by: nancyisanders | June 24, 2014

Self-Editing Tips: The Three Act Structure

As we’re working through our Nonfiction Picture Book Self-Editing Checklist to edit the nonfiction picture book we just wrote, let’s take a minute and double check the structure of our manuscript.

Did you incorporate the Three-Act Structure into your manuscript so that the story is paced effectively?

If you’re not quite sure what I’m talking about, check out this post on my blog here.

Here are some key points to consider:
1) Does your manuscript have 3 significant changes that separate the beginning from the middle from the end and also show the turning point of the whole story? If not, how can you incorporate these changes to make your plot structure even stronger?
2) Does each significant change get bigger and bigger so that the tension is building? If not, how can you up the ante each time and give your MC a bigger mountain to climb on his quest?

Posted by: nancyisanders | June 20, 2014

Self-Editing Tips: Sensory Details

As we’re working our way through the NONFICTION PICTURE BOOK SELF-EDITING CHECKLIST (available by CLICKING HERE) We’re talking about checking our manuscripts for the use of “Creative Nonfiction Techniques.”

We can make our story 3-D by adding sensory details.
Sight: What does our character see?
Smell: What does she smell each time she walks into a certain room?
Touch: What does she feel brush across the back of her neck or poke her in the ribs? Hear: What does she hear going on in the background of the scene?
Taste: What yummy treat does she eat at the circus?

When I write, I write in layers. Meaning that first I just need to get the story that is in my brain and in my heart out on paper.

Then I go back in and plug in important things like sensory details.

I just go through and find several key spots (in a picture book) where I can plug in a sensory detail–in space this tight with limited word count–hopefully in just a word, a phrase, or a short sentence.

Go back through and check your manuscript for sensory details. It will really make your story come alive!

And if you’re not sure how to plug in sensory details, just look at your mentor text(s). Read through them and see how they plugged in the sights, sounds, and smells of that topic.

Posted by: nancyisanders | June 13, 2014

The Writing Desk of Gretchen Griffith

writer's desk

My writer’s desk is in a room I call my study, but actually is the room my son left vacant when he left for college several years ago. There is a fouton in it for the grandchildren when they come over, but normally it is as covered over with clutter as my desk.

At this spot I have written numerous manuscripts, many of which are in the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet never to be seen again, chalked up to learning experiences. In addition to the picture book and freelance articles in newspapers and magazines, I have published three narrative nonfictions in the memoir genre.

First look at WCFLH
Connect with children’s writer Gretchen Griffith!
Learn more about her books and her life as a children’s writer at these sites:

Website: Gretchen Griffith: Storycatcher/Author
Blog: Catch of the Day
Facebook: Gretchen Griffith Author Page
Twitter: @GretchenGriffth (note I had to drop the second i in my name that was already taken)
You can also connect with Gretchen on Pinterest and Google+


CLICK HERE if you’re a children’s writer and would like to see your writing desk featured here on my blog!

Posted by: nancyisanders | June 12, 2014

Self-Editing Tips: Which Genre Is It?

As we’re working our way through the NONFICTION PICTURE BOOK SELF-EDITING CHECKLIST (available by CLICKING HERE) I wanted to talk about checking our manuscripts for the use of “Creative Nonfiction Techniques.”

First on the list is the question, “Is every statement, every dialog quote, and every detail 100% true?”

If not, you have choices. You can choose to keep in the non-true stuff and your manuscript will be classified more as “fictionalized nonfiction” (nearly, mostly true) or even “historical fiction” (a made-up tale about true people or events).

Or, you can choose to delete the non-true ingredients and keep your manuscript in the nonfiction genre.

I discovered that I was adding in a bit of fiction, so I took all that out and kept it in the nonfiction genre. HOWEVER, I did opt to include some “legend” as part of the story. So I’m making a note to myself to discuss this with an editor if it reaches that stage to see what the publisher might think about dealing with this.

The important thing as you’re checking this is not whether you’re writing pure straight nonfiction or not, but just be sure you know which genre your finished manuscript falls into and that you’re happy with this decision.

Posted by: nancyisanders | June 9, 2014

Self-Editing Tips: The End

Today let’s take a look at the ending you wrote for your nonfiction picture book.

But before we examine the end, let’s look back at the beginning.

How did you start your picture book?

With a question? With a bold statement? With an inspirational introduction? In the middle of a high-action scene?

One very satisfying way to wrap up a picture book is to end it in a similar way you began.

For example:
If you started with a question, bring up the question again and in a brief recap, show how it was answered.
Your beginning:
Did you know blue whales are the largest mammals on planet earth?
Your ending:
So how big is a blue whale? They’re the biggest mammals of all!

If you started with a bold statement, tie your ending back to that same bold statement.
Your beginning:
Frederick Douglass was the Dr. Martin Luther King of the Civil War era.
Your ending:
Frederick Douglass paved the way in his generation for Dr. King and the American Civil Rights Movement.

Using this technique to tie your ending back into your beginning leaves your reader with a high level of satisfaction as he turns to the last page of your book.

Posted by: nancyisanders | June 6, 2014

The Writing Desk of Pat Miller

Pat Millers Desk

Here is my desk. I am in mid-project, working on a nonfiction book about Stephen F. Austin and his cousin. The state of my desk, messy but loosely organized, reflects the state of my research at this point. Before I start writing the draft, I will clean off my desk. That’s in keeping with my mental state when I switch from harvesting facts to producing what I hope will be engaging nonfiction.

Connect with children’s writer Pat Miller!
Learn more about her books and her life as a children’s writer at these sites:

Website: Pat Miller: Reading…Writing…Fun!
Nonfiction Writer’s Conference: NF 4 NF: Children’s Writer’s Conference: Nonfiction for New Folks


CLICK HERE if you’re a children’s writer and would like to see your writing desk featured here on my blog!

Posted by: nancyisanders | June 4, 2014

Writing Workshop: Getting in the Zone


I hope you can join me next week on Wednesday, June 11 at 2:00 Pacific Standard Time as I teach a workshop on how you can get in the writing zone to produce the quality and quantity of writing you want.

CLICK HERE to visit the Working Writer’s Club and sign up! (Even if you can’t join me live on the telephone, you can get the audio replay later.)

I know this is an issue we all struggle with, so I’m sharing solid strategies I use that have worked for me over the years.

Hope to connect with you and GET IN THE ZONE!!!!

Posted by: nancyisanders | June 2, 2014

Self-Editing Tips: The Middle

One more note about self-editing the content of your middle:

As you work to write details, descriptions, and anecdotes in your middle that support your main idea or develop your main story problem, plan to include those that are most important or carry the strongest weight. If you’re struggling to decide which to include and which to cut, an exercise that helps me is to step away from writing for a moment. Talk with people (especially kids!) about your main idea instead.

Call a friend and say, “Hey, I’ve been reading the most interesting things about William Penn. Remember him? He’s the guy who started Pennsylvania. Did you know…?”

As you talk with various people about your topic, make a mental note of which details keep rising to the surface like cream in a gallon of whole milk. Listen to yourself and note what you’re passionate about sharing. Make a mental note of which details your listeners are eager to hear more about. These are the details you want to include in your manuscript’s middle and develop into anecdotes and scenes. Just be sure to present them in a way so that they work to support or develop your main story problem or main idea.

Posted by: nancyisanders | May 29, 2014

Self-Editing Tips: Middle

Authors and writing instructors often refer to the middle of a manuscript as the “muddy middle.” Details can get messy here and scenes start to resemble your grandmother’s knitting basket with loose tails of yarn hanging out from skeins jumbled up together until it all looks like a great big knot. I prefer to think of the middle of a manuscript, however, as the “marvelous middle.” Remember back to your childhood of fingerpaints and playdough and imaginative play and marvelous, wonderful sunshiny days of carefree fun. The middle of our manuscript is the place we get to explore and create and investigate and build the world of our characters and ideas. You can learn the skills it takes to write a successful middle, having fun during this process instead of being overwhelmed with it all.

When you write a manuscript built on the Three-Act Structure, it will have a distinct beginning, separate middle (with two parts), and definitive end. The middle is the place where you include details, descriptions, and anecdotes that support and develop your main story problem (as in most fiction) or main idea (as in most nonfiction).
Just a note however, if you are writing a manuscript such as a picture book that uses a predictable plot rather than the Three-Act Structure. In a picture book that has a predictable plot such as an alphabet book or counting book, your middle should follow the pattern you established in the beginning. (For more information about predictable plots, read page 238 in my how-to book for children’s writers, Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Beginning Readers and Chapter Books.)

The approach to take to develop a strong middle when your book is built on the Three-Act Structure is similar to the way we keep our own middles trim and firm: avoid the extra carbs. If we’re trying to tone our tummies, we avoid or cut out empty calories from our diet such as potato chips or soda pop. We do tummy trimming exercises that firm our abs.

It’s the same with writing. We want to avoid or cut out any details, descriptions, or anecdotes that don’t support our main idea or develop our main story problem.

In a chapter book or novel, this helps keep our story from wandering off down aimless bunny trails. In a picture book, this task is even more critical. That’s because with an 800-word count that many editors prefer in today’s market, we simply do not have the luxury of wasting a single word.

When we’re dieting, we want to shop and choose healthy foods such as whole grains, lots of leafy green vegetables, and fresh fruits. Likewise, as we’re writing the middle in our manuscript, we want to brainstorm and choose details, descriptions, and anecdotes that strongly support our main idea or work in a meaningful way to develop our main story problem.

In a chapter book, middle grade novel, or young adult novel, we have the luxury of crafting anecdotes and scenes fleshed out with pages of dialogue, description, emotion, and action. Some scenes even progress through one or more entire chapters! In a picture book, however, each word we choose and each scene we create in our middle will be deep in meaning and short on word count. Picture book writers have to learn to create anecdotes or scenes sometimes in a single sentence or single paragraph because the art fleshes out the rest of the scene. Or course, there are longer anecdotes and scenes in picture books, but many times these are created with a minimum of words.

To help you learn how to write details, descriptions, and anecdotes in your manuscript’s middle for the genre and market you’re writing in, study how your mentor text handles these. Following is an example, however, for you to see the difference between writing an anecdote or scene in a chapter book or novel versus creating the same anecdote or scene in just one sentence in a picture book:

Chapter Book or Children’s Novel
(Scene in a story about William Penn and his father)
The Delaware chief Tamanend sat in the center of the wilderness clearing at the river’s edge. The leaders of his tribe sat behind him in a half circle like that of a waning crescent moon. Behind them stood too many natives for William Penn to count.

William Penn stepped forward to the side of Chief Tamanend. Penn’s small group of Quaker friends gathered behind him. The chief held in his hand what William Penn thought looked like a wide belt decorated with sea shells.

“This is wampum,” an interpreter explained who was sitting among the tribal leaders. “It is highly prized and worth much value to our people.”

Tamanend held out the wampum in a gesture of trust and friendship.

Bowing slightly, William Penn reached out to take the wampum. “I am highly honored,” he said. “I accept this payment in the name of King Charles II of England.”

Penn gestured with his hand in a wide circle that included the clearing, the trees, the river behind them, and the sky. “I will start my new colony here,” he said, pausing for the interpreter to share his words with the chief. “Pennsylvania will be a settlement where personal liberties and religious freedoms of all men will be honored.”

William Penn saw the shadow of a smile flicker across the stern face of Chief Tamanend as the interpreter finished speaking. That shadow reminded Penn of the last time he had talked with his father before the aging gentleman had died.

With an unexpected ache he couldn’t quite describe, Penn wondered what his father would have thought if he had been here to witness this scene.

Picture Book
(Same scene in a story about William Penn and his father)
As he took the wampum belt from the Delaware chief Tamanend in exchange for the land where he planned to establish his new colony, William Penn wondered what his father would have thought had he been here to see this.

Of course, in the nonfiction picture books we’re writing, we keep everything true to facts. But as you’re going through the self-editing process now and following the Nonfiction Picture Book Self-Editing Checklist, evaluate the content of your manuscript and focus on your middle to be sure you included interesting details, descriptions, and anecdotes that support your main idea or story problem.

Older Posts »



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 211 other followers

%d bloggers like this: