Posted by: nancyisanders | May 30, 2016

NF PB Journey: Change 3


I like to make baby quilts. And I love to write picture books. The world of children is a delightful world to be part of.

As we’re working on our children’s nonfiction picture book, we’ve reached CHANGE 3, the change that happens in our manuscript to bring our reader from the middle to the end of the book.

For change 3, our mentor text, DIRTY RATS? sums up on pages 24-25 what life is like for rats. “They struggle each day just to survive.”

So for our own manuscript, let’s sum up what we’ve been talking about concerning our topic.

This is the change that will lead us to the next page, the last page of our manuscript’s main text and the end of the story…


Posted by: nancyisanders | May 27, 2016

Faith Building Fridays: Hope!

Lord, sustain me as you promised,
that I may live!
Do not let my hope be crushed.
-Psalm 119:116, NLT

God has His purposes and plans for our lives and for each manuscript He calls us to write. His ways are higher than ours, and often we do not totally understand His full purposes for us. If you are feeling confused or not exactly sure why things are turning out as they are regarding your writing career, ask God to sustain you. Ask God to renew your hope. Ask God to fulfill His promises in His perfect timing, and encourage you each step of the way. He will! He knows just how to encourage His scribes.

Dear God, thank You for Your promises. Thank You for Your hope. Thank You for Your plan for my life as Your scribe. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Scribes: Devotions for Christian Writers is available at Amazon.

Posted by: nancyisanders | May 25, 2016

NF PB Journey: 2nd Half of the Middle


Just as I pieced this CRAZY NINE PATCH quilt together with different blocks, we are piecing together our nonfiction picture book manuscript following the plot structure of our mentor text, DIRTY RATS?

Today we’re talking about the second half of our middle. In DIRTY RATS? the second half of the middle includes 3 examples of how rats are helpful. This section, unlike the first half of the middle that provided specific examples of different kinds of rats, includes GENERAL INFORMATION about rats.

So in our second half of the middle, let’s include 3 examples of general information about our topic that helps guide young readers to learn the actual answer to the question we asked in the very beginning.

Posted by: nancyisanders | May 23, 2016

NF PB Journey: Turning Point


As you can see in this photograph, my two helpers love to get involved while I’m working on my quilts!

Think of this next step in your manuscript as a BIG HELPER. It’s called the TURNING POINT. It happens in the exact middle of a manuscript. It’s the bridge that takes us from the first half of the story and crosses us over to head toward the finish line, the ending.

The TURNING POINT points the reader in the direction of the conclusion of the manuscript, and there’s no turning back.

In our mentor text, DIRTY RATS? for our nonfiction picture book that we’re writing, the turning point comes on pages 18-19.

We discover that not only are there rats that aren’t dirty, but some rats can even do good things!

So for our own manuscripts, let’s add in a turning point that is still focused on answering our question from the very beginning, but turns the tables to provide information that will head us toward the answer to that question.

When you write the turning point, you should have the ending of your manuscript clearly in mind. As you can see in the photo below, here’s how this baby quilt turned out in the end.


Posted by: nancyisanders | May 21, 2016

NF PB Journey: 1st Half of the Middle


Here’s a quilt I made that was different than others in that it formed a picture rather than patterns of blocks. The way I STRUCTURED it was different than other quilts I’d made.

That’s what we’re talking about here on my blog this past month…structuring a nonfiction picture book in a different way than perhaps we’ve done before.

We’re using DIRTY RATS? as our mentor text and following its structure to structure our own manuscript.

In the last post we talked about this, we discussed CHANGE 1. This is the change that brings us from the beginning of our manuscript into the middle. The first half of the middle, to be exact.

So today let’s talk about the FIRST HALF OF THE MIDDLE.

Let’s look at the plot chart we made for DIRTY RATS? In the first half of the middle, DIRTY RATS? gives 4 examples of specific kinds of rats that are NOT dirty. One example per spread.

So go ahead and write 4 specific examples of your topic that explores the answer to the question you’re asking, but in a way that is unexpected.

If you want to follow along with DIRTY RATS, you can also add sidebars (or a second layer of text) with information that provides more information to young readers. This adds depth to your manuscript.

Posted by: nancyisanders | May 20, 2016

Faith Building Fridays: Strong and Steady

So, my dear fellow writers, be strong and steady in your commitment to write, always enthusiastic about the Lord’s work, for you know that nothing you write for the Lord is ever useless.
-paraphrased from 1 Corinthians 15:15, NLT

What a wonderful promise God gives us to know that nothing we write is useless. If our manuscript is just for our own personal growth, so be it. If it’s just for the eyes of the editor who rejects it, it has accomplished its purpose. If it is for our critique group’s hearts to draw them closer to God, then it has met its eternal purpose. Whatever God’s plans are, they are important, and He has important plans for every single manuscript we write. Alleluia!

Dear God, thank You for this precious promise. Everything I write is of value in Your Kingdom. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Scribes: Devotions for Christian Writers is available at Amazon.

Posted by: nancyisanders | May 13, 2016

Faith Building Fridays: Dreams

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but when dreams come true,
there is life and joy.
-Proverbs 13:12, NLT

Oh what joy there is when our writing dreams come true! Let’s dance a happy dance and praise God’s name. Let’s play a game of fetch with our favorite pooch and tell him what fun it is to be a writer. And while we’re waiting on God to make our dreams come true, let’s rejoice. Our day will come!

Dear God, please encourage me each step of the way that you’re leading me on as a writer. Thank You for the promise of life and joy as Your scribe. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Scribes: Devotions for Christian Writers is available at Amazon.

Posted by: nancyisanders | May 6, 2016

Faith Building Fridays: Encouraging

An encouraging word cheers a person up.
-Proverbs 12:25, NLT

There are so many rejections and words of criticism in a writer’s world. Let’s make it our goal to spread encouraging words everywhere we go so we can cheer each other up! When we’re at our critique group, let’s mark lots of positive feedback on each other’s manuscripts. When we e-mail our editors, let’s thank them for their careful guidance. When we blog or tweet or post on Facebook, let’s share encouraging Scriptures to build up our fellow writers.

Dear God, help me be an encourager! Show me ways to encourage my writer friends. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Scribes: Devotions for Christian Writers is available at Amazon.

Posted by: nancyisanders | May 4, 2016

NF PB Journey: Change 1

pooh quilt photo front cover.JPG

Once again, we’re talking structure. Plot structure. (Do you like how the structure of this baby quilt I made makes it so pretty and pleasing?)

In our last post, we discussed how to structure the beginning of our nonfiction picture book manuscript based on our mentor text, DIRTY RATS? 

Today we’re talking about CHANGE 1. This is the change that occurs in our plot structure to move us out of our BEGINNING and into the first half of our MIDDLE.

In DIRTY RATS? this change occurs with a cliffhanger.

On pages 8-9, it ends with:

But wait…

Then the next page starts a section where we learn that not all rats are dirty.

So in our own manuscripts, let’s follow this example. Let’s end our pages 8-9 with a cliffhanger. It can be But wait… or you can use something else.

Go ahead and add that to incorporate CHANGE 1 into your own manuscript.

Posted by: nancyisanders | May 2, 2016

NF PB Journey: Structure Your MS…The Beginning


For several upcoming posts we’re going to discuss the structure of the nonfiction picture books we’re writing with the goal of submitting specifically to Charlesbridge (and other publishers who accept unsolicited nonfiction picture book manuscripts).

Structure. When I sew baby quilts I follow a very specific pattern and structure to put each piece together. This summer, I’ll be getting 2 new baby nieces and 1 new grand baby. (Yes, I’m smiling!) So I’m working on more baby quilts right now. We’re talking structure!

Without structure, the quilt would be, quite frankly, a jumbled mess. So it is with picture book manuscripts.

Using our mentor text, DIRTY RATS?, let’s talk structure for our manuscripts as well. Plot structure.

We already talked about our beginning and our end.

DIRTY RATS? starts with a question. On the very last page of the main text, it repeats that question and then gives an answer based on what the readers learned from reading the book.

Let’s do the same.

Let’s start our manuscript with a question. Let’s end our manuscript by repeating the question and give the answer based on what we plan to write about.

Next let’s take a look again at the plot chart for DIRTY RATS? Notice that this chart is divided into a BEGINNING, a MIDDLE, and an END. (The middle is divided into two halves.)

For the BEGINNING of DIRTY RATS? the author repeats the question on the first 4 spreads (as a statement) with general (and very engaging!) facts to support these statements.

So here’s our assignment for today:

Write the first four spreads of our manuscript.

We’ll repeat our question about our topic (in some form) FOUR TIMES and provide engaging and general facts FOUR TIMES about our topic.

This will give us our BEGINNING from pages 2-9 of our manuscript.

Here’s a tip:

Since we’re following the structure of DIRTY RATS? so closely, type your manuscript in picture book format.

In other words, type it like this:





Posted by: nancyisanders | April 29, 2016

Faith Building Fridays: Commit

Commit your works to the Lord,
and your thoughts will be established.
-Proverbs 16:3, NKJV

God’s mercies are new every morning. He has a brand new supply of ideas waiting to fall upon us each day as fresh as the morning dew. Let’s commit ourselves to meet with God each and every day as we prepare for our day’s work and writing. He will establish our thoughts and we will break through writer’s block like never before.

Dear God, thank You for Your promises. Help me be faithful to meet with You before I write each day. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Scribes: Devotions for Christian Writers is available at Amazon.

Posted by: nancyisanders | April 28, 2016

NF PB Journey: Plot Structure

Dirty Rats Plot Chart

Today you’re going to see one of the biggest reasons I chose DIRTY RATS? as my mentor text to guide us on our journey as we write a nonfiction picture book to submit to Charlesbridge.

I charted the plot structure of DIRTY RATS? on my Basic Plot Worksheet A. To download your own copy of this plot sheet so that you can fill it out in your own handwriting, CLICK HERE and scroll halfway down to click on the pdf file to print out.

Here’s how the plot unfolds:

The story starts with 3 spreads where it discusses the question, Dirty Rats? Yes, rats are dirty.

But wait! Not all rats are dirty.

In the first half of the middle, we read four specific examples of rats that are not dirty.

In fact, we find out at the exact middle of the book, rats can even do good things.

Here we are given 3 examples with general information about rats on the good and helpful things rats do.

To sum it all up, rats struggle to survive.

The last page of the main text repeats the opening question: Dirty rats?
Then it answers the question based on what the reader just learned: Maybe. Maybe not.

Can you see how simple this plot structure is?

In an upcoming post, we’ll look at how we can build our own manuscript’s plot to be strong and simple like our mentor text’s.

Posted by: nancyisanders | April 25, 2016

NF PB Journey: Beginning and Ending

Wrap it up



Let’s take a close look at our mentor text, Dirty Rats? We’ll start by looking at the beginning…and the ending.

In a picture book, the title and the cover often start the true beginning of the story, and in our mentor text, this is the case. On the cover of the book, in the title, a question is asked. The question is:

Dirty rats?

This question is repeated on the first 3 spreads of the book, but it’s repeated as a statement.

Now let’s look at the very last page of the main text of the picture book.

Pages 26-27 say:
Dirty rats?
Maybe not.

In other words, the ending of the book answers the question that was posed in the title and repeated on the first 3 spreads of text. The question is answered with the answer children learned from reading the book.

If you want to follow along with my journey I’m taking to target Charlesbridge and write a nonfiction picture book using Dirty Rats? as our mentor text, then I recommend coming up with a question you want to ask kids about the animal you have chosen as your main topic. (CLICK HERE to read about brainstorming for a topic if you haven’t yet chosen one.)

Plan to use this question as the title of your book.

Plan to repeat this question on the first three spreads of your book.

Plan to repeat this question at the end of your book.

And then plan to answer this question at the end of your book, based on the information you’ll be presenting to children and teaching your readers about your topic.

This technique of tying your ending into your beginning is a great technique to use to bring your story full circle. As you can see in the worksheet example at the top of this post, a question isn’t the only technique you can use to wrap up your ending to tie into your beginning. (CLICK HERE to get this free sheet as a printable pdf file you can download and use for other manuscripts you’re working on to make your beginning and ending stronger. Just scroll down toward the bottom to get it.)

A question is the technique our mentor text uses, so for this exercise, let’s choose to ask a question and answer it in our own manuscript we’re working on. Determining the question and answer right at the start of our writing process will really help us keep the focus nice and tight as we move forward with our picture book manuscript.




Posted by: nancyisanders | April 22, 2016

Faith Building Fridays: Work

I brought glory to you here on earth
by completing the work
you gave me to do.
-John 17:4, NLT

God has work for you to do. It’s different work from mine. Each one of us has our own tasks to accomplish no matter how big or small they might be. The important thing for us to remember is that nobody else can quite do the job He has assigned to you exactly like you can.

Dear God, please help me bring glory to Your name. Calm my troubled heart that frets that I’m not as good as another writer. Help me remember that I just need to do what you’ve called me to do, warts and all. That is enough. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Scribes: Devotions for Christian Writers is available at Amazon.

Posted by: nancyisanders | April 18, 2016

NF PB Journey: Brainstorming

Dirty Rats

Let’s take a quick look at our mentor text, Dirty Rats?

The topic is straightforward. It starts with rats in general and then presents different kinds of rats with their specific, unique characteristics.

So let’s brainstorm ideas for a topic to write about. Now you can choose any topic you’d like, but if you want to follow closely along the same steps I’m doing, I recommend we choose a group of animals that has lots of different kinds.

For example, elephants won’t work as well because there are only 2 different kinds.

But animals such as bears, monkeys, horses, cows, butterflies, or even worms would work. Each of these animal groups has a lot of different kinds!

To help you brainstorm, I designed an “Idea Bubbles Brainstorming” sheet. CLICK HERE to visit my site, Writing According to Humphrey and Friends, to download it as a pdf file. Just scroll half-way down and click on the link for “Idea Bubbles Brainstorming.”

Print it out. As you brainstorm ideas for a topic, write the name of a group of animals in the large bubbles. In the smaller bubbles nearest each, write down different kinds of that animal.

Think about which animal you might like to write about for the topic of your new nonfiction picture book using Dirty Rats? as our mentor text. Have fun exploring different ideas!


Idea Bubbles Brainstorming

Posted by: nancyisanders | April 15, 2016

Book Review: Baby Wren and the Great Gift


Baby Wren and the Great Gift
by Sally Lloyd-Jones
Art by Jen Corace

Baby wren peeps out of her nest that is perched high up on a canyon wall. As she sees the world and the other animals, she wishes she could do all the things they can do. She wishes she could fish like the kingfisher. Then she wishes she could do cartwheels like a ring-tailed cat. Then she wishes she could swim and splash like the sunfish and fly high above the stormy sky like the eagles. In the end, little wren looks out over the beautiful canyon glowing in the sunset and sings out a happy song of thanksgiving. She has discovered her talent after all.

What I Like
This is a simple story and the illustrations are very sweet. It will be a nice quiet book to read to little ones and share the simple message that we each have our own unique talents.

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

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Posted by: nancyisanders | April 15, 2016

Faith Building Fridays: Will

For I have come down from heaven,
not to do my own will,
but the will of Him who sent me.
-John 6;35, NKJV

Even Jesus did not have any agenda except to accomplish God’s will. Let’s set aside all our desires, personal goals, and self-centered plans for our writing. Let’s commit our hearts to only writing for God’s will to be accomplished, whatever that means for our own personal journey.

Dear God, I only want what you want for me and for my writing. I place myself in the center of Your will. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Scribes: Devotions for Christian Writers is available at Amazon.

Posted by: nancyisanders | April 14, 2016

Critique Group

I highly recommend you belong to a critique group.

If you already belong to a critique group…super!

If you don’t, do what I did recently when I decided I wanted to belong to a critique group that mostly focuses on nonfiction picture books.

I contacted a couple of gals and invited them to start up a new group with me. One I already knew in person. The others I only knew from online writing groups I was in like Facebook or a nonfiction yahoo group.

Some writers I contacted couldn’t join, so along with the others who could join, we asked writer friends of friends until we had 4 gals who wanted to be part of the group.

The rules were pretty simple. Each writer submits one manuscript a month. We take turns so on every Monday someone submits a manuscript. The others have until Sunday evening to e-mail back feedback on the manuscript. (We insert comments and track changes in Word.)

I have grown to love this group so much. It’s really helping me be a better nonfiction picture book writer.

And you can do the same!

Just reach out and ask some other children’s authors you see on Facebook writing groups or in yahoo writing groups.

If you don’t belong to any online writing groups for nonfiction children’s writers, let us know and we can give you some links to places you can join. So you can start up a group so when you get the first draft of your manuscript finished (if you’re following along here on this journey to submit to Charlesbridge publishers) you’ll have a group you can share your manuscript with.

And if this all sounds like too much to even think about, then here’s what I recommend:

Sign up and attend Pat Miller’s AMAZING conference called “Nonfiction for New Folks.” It takes place in Texas next September. I’ll be there to teach along with a line-up of AWESOME nonfiction children’s writers. CLICK HERE to register and find out more.

Because one of the amazing benefits at the conference will be that you’ll meet, actually meet, other folks who love writing nonfiction as much as you do. And Pat will take you by the hand and help you gain the confidence you need to really move forward in this whole writing journey. She limits this conference to 36 members so we can really connect with each other and with this market.

And then the idea of starting up an online critique group to focus on nonfiction will seem easy peasy!



Posted by: nancyisanders | April 13, 2016

NF PB Journey: Mentor Text

Dirty Rats

Well, I’ve come to a screeching halt.

You see, there are many more wonderful nonfiction picture books at Charlesbridge that I could continue evaluating and posting rubrics for.

But I’ve decided not to.

Why? Because I found the mentor text I want to use. Yep. It’s DIRTY RATS?

Here’s what so great about this picture book as a mentor text:

  1. It’s a great “breakthrough” format. Meaning it’s a good example of a text that I feel could be a great nonfiction picture book manuscript to experience breakthrough for a first time contract with a publisher I’ve not yet worked with.
  2. It’s got a solid plot structure and (without actually having plotted its structure yet) it looks like it follows the 3-Act structure really well.
  3. It’s a simple and straight-forward approach to a nonfiction topic, so I feel I can experience success using this as a guide to write my own nonfiction picture book.

So if you want to follow along with me in the next few weeks as I use this book as my mentor text and share the journey I’m taking, head on over to your local library and get a copy. Or purchase it at your favorite indie bookstore. Or buy it used or new on Amazon.

And since I’m sharing in real time what I’m doing to try to experience breakthrough with a nonfiction picture book at Charlesbridge publishers, I wanted to explain that right now I have 4 goals for the manuscript I’m planning on writing based on this mentor text.

GOAL #1. Write the first draft of a brand new nonfiction picture book manuscript from beginning to end.

GOAL #2. Take this manuscript to my critique group.

GOAL #3. Submit a polished manuscript to Charlesbridge.

GOAL #4. Simultaneously submit it to 5-10 other nonfiction picture book publishers who are currently taking unsolicited manuscripts. CLICK HERE to see a list of these potential publishers.

If you want to share in these goals, I’d be thrilled to have you join along!

But I can already hear some of you saying, “Wait! I don’t belong to a critique group!”

So just hold on tight…we’ll talk about that in my next post!


Posted by: nancyisanders | April 8, 2016

Faith Building Fridays: Variety

Be sure to stay busy and plant a variety of crops,
for you never know which will grow–
perhaps they all will.
-Ecclesiastes 11:6, NLT

Write for the no-pay/low-pay market. Submit queries and try to land contracts for manuscripts you haven’t yet written. Work on the manuscript that is near and dear to your heart. Write with purpose and write with a plan. God knows His plans for You as His scribe. He has a purpose and a hope designed just for you.

Dear God, thank You for this word of encouragement. Help me focus my time and energies to keep planting and keep writing. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Scribes: Devotions for Christian Writers is available at Amazon.

Older Posts »



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 403 other followers

%d bloggers like this: