Posted by: nancyisanders | June 6, 2019

Author Interview: Peggy Thomas

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Meet Author Peggy Thomas!
Website: Peggy Thomas Writes
Blog: Anatomy of Nonfiction
Email: PegTWrite@gmail.com

Bio:
Peggy Thomas is the author of 25 award-winning books for children and young adults, and co-author of Anatomy of Nonfiction, a guide to writing true stories for children. Her newest book is George Washington Carver for Kids. Check out her website for more information.

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Featured Book
George Washington Carver for Kids
by Peggy Thomas
Chicago Review Press, 2019

George Washington Carver was a scientist, educator, artist, inventor, and humanitarian. Born into slavery during the Civil War, he later pursued an education and would become the first black graduate from Iowa Agricultural College. Carver then took a teaching position at the Tuskegee Institute, founded by Booker T. Washington. There, Carver taught poor Southern farmers how to nourish the soil, conserve resources, and feed their families. He also developed hundreds of new products from the sweet potato, peanut, and other crops, and his discoveries gained him a place in the national spotlight.

George Washington Carver for Kids tells the inspiring story of this remarkable American. It includes a time line, resources for further research, and 21 hands-on activities to help better appreciate Carver’s genius. Kids will: •Turn a gourd into a decorative bowl• Construct a model of a sod house• Brew ginger tea• Create paints using items found in nature• Grow sweet potatoes• Build a compost bin for kitchen and yard waste• Learn how to pickle watermelon rinds• And more!

INTERVIEW:
Q: What drew you to George Washington Carver?

A: Honestly? Market research. I received a great tip from one of my favorite authors (Nancy) that Chicago Review Press For Kids series liked to cover the basics, even if there were dozens of other books on the topic. I’ve always admired the series, so I analyzed their list, and discovered that they did not have a book on Carver who is commonly featured in teachers’ units on inventors, agriculture, and for Black History Month.

Q: What was your research process like?

A: I began on the couch surfing the net, making lists of books I needed to read and places I wanted to visit. In Diamond, Missouri, on the site where Carver was born, is the GWC National Monument. I walked the woods he played in as a boy, and visited the one-room schoolhouse he attended. The park ranger Curtis Gregory pulled out interview transcripts of people who remembered Carver, and guided me to the most reliable sources.

My next stop was Tuskegee University Archives where I held a slice of the Carver meteorite, and saw what remained of Carver’s research notebooks after his lab burned down. Dana Chandler, the archivist, helped me keep Carver in the proper perspective. Carver was a product of his time, but after his death, he was portrayed as a scientific genius. Hopefully readers will find a balanced portrayal and learn a few new things about him.

Q: How is writing mid-grade different from writing picture books?

A: I forgot how much I missed writing mid-grade and YA nonfiction. My 48-page nonfiction picture books typically have 3000-4000 words. George Washington Carver for Kids has ten times that amount. It felt luxurious. I could explore tangents, flesh out characters, and even speculate. My favorite part in the book is a sidebar called “Rock City — Did he or Didn’t He?” I had found out that Carver, a serious rock-hound, once lived 3 miles from an amazing geological site called Rock City. In the middle of a flat prairie sit these massive spheres that look like giants just abandoned a game of marbles. There is no evidence that he visited Rock City, but as I say in the book, surely one of his many friends must have mentioned it. And how could he have resisted? I didn’t know if the editors would like it or not, but they did. I think it’s fun to do things like that, to peak a child’s sense of wonder.

Q: Is there a word of advice you’d like to share with other writers?

A: Find your tribe. When I was starting out, I was spoiled to be in a critique group with my mother, an accomplished author, and several of her amazing writer friends. I soaked up every word they uttered. After my mother died, I floundered on my own. I missed having that knowledgeable sounding board to bounce ideas off, learn from, and gripe to. Now, I feel twice blessed to have found another stellar group of writers (the Nonfiction Ninjas) who continue to help me grow. It’s hard to do this job alone. Find a critique group that works for you. There is strength in numbers.

Posted by: nancyisanders | June 3, 2019

Oldie But Goodie: Sensory Details

Here’s another post from days gone by on my blog. I hope you can get some good strategies to use if you didn’t yet read it:

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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 | May 31, 2019

Oldie But Goodie: Plot Worksheet

Right now I’m working on a brand new picture book concept. And I’m plotting it out using a worksheet I love to use. Here’s a former oldie but goodie post I made awhile back on my blog to share this worksheet with you. Enjoy!

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, magazine stories or picture books or chapter books or novels, brainstorming a basic plot structure to use will improve your manuscript guaranteed.

I often use a worksheet, “The Basic Plot Worksheet A,” I created for my own writing projects. The results have been amazing! For the first time EVER I’m getting feedback from editors that my manuscripts are much stronger…and sometimes don’t need major edits at all!

You can download and print out this worksheet by visiting my site, Writing According to Humphrey and Friends. Scroll down the page to CHARTS AND WORKSHEETS TO GET ORGANIZED FOR SUCCESS and click on the “Basic Plot Worksheet A.”

Here’s how to fill this out:

* Fill in the stats in the left column. If you don’t yet have a title for your article or story, just write down a keyword.
-Write your name as the Author.
-Write the name of your target publisher if you have one, otherwise leave blank.
-Write the year as the copyright date. You won’t know until you get a contract whether your publisher or you will own the copyright.
-Write the age of the reader as the Target Age.
-Write your estimated word count of the finished manuscript.
-Add any notes you want to add.

*Now let’s look at the plot chart.

Notice how each story or article has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The middle is divided into two halves.
Beginning
1st half of the Middle
2nd half of the Middle
End

On your chart in the “Beginning” column under “How does the story start?” write down how you want your story to begin. If writing fiction or creative nonfiction, be sure to introduce your main character and the main problem she’ll be battling with throughout the story. If writing nonfiction, be sure to include a hook to grab your reader’s interest.

On the line for “Change 1:” write down a significant change (either emotionally or in the action or in the progression of information) that happens to the character or topic to start the middle of the story or article.

Then under the “1st Half of the Middle” column, write down 3 examples or anecdotes you want to write about in this section to show your MC trying to solve her problem (fiction) or that presents the information you want to share (nonfiction).

On the line for “Change 2:” write down the significant change that moves your character or topic into the next section.

This “middle line of the Middle” of the story or article is the turning point of the plot. It’s the place something important happens in fiction or creative nonfiction that moves the character toward the finish line with no turning back. It’s the place in nonfiction that the information you present is crucial to how your piece will wrap up at the end.

Next, for the “2nd Half of the Middle,” find 3 examples or anecdotes that I want to include here that propels your reader toward the ending. The obstacles should be getting bigger and bigger. The tension should be building.

On the line for “Change 3:” write the single incident that launches your character (fiction or creative nonfiction) or information (nonfiction) to the climax of your manuscript. Then in the column for “How does the story end” list 3 elements to wrap your story or article up with a satisfying end.

This exercise will go quickly for you if you already have solid ideas for your story (fiction and creative nonfiction) or have researched your topic (nonfiction) and already have the basic facts in your head. If you haven’t yet brainstormed your story or researched your topic, don’t despair! Just take your time and enjoy the process of filling out this form. Then take time to brainstorm your story or dig around and research your topic until you have the information you need to fill out each part of the chart.

When you’re done with the worksheet, make a file folder for it and label it “Plot Worksheet” so you can keep it in one handy place in your file pocket of folders.

This worksheet will really pay off at the end. Your writing will be tight and to the point. It will help you not get writer’s block because you will already have a roadmap to follow when you sit down to write.

Posted by: nancyisanders | May 28, 2019

Oldie But Goodie: Picture Book Rubric

Here’s a former post from my blog that I thought you might enjoy if you missed it the first time.

Rubrics are great tools to use as writers. They’re a kind of check list you can go through to evaluate your own manuscripts, manuscripts people bring to a critique group, and published articles or books.

The first page of a picture book is very important. The first page of a successful picture book contains essential ingredients.

To make the first page of a picture book manuscript shine to catch an agent’s or editor’s eye, use this rubric and evaluate it. Mark its strengths and weaknesses. Then brainstorm ideas to take it up a notch based on your evaluation.

And if you’re studying a picture book that’s already published in the market today, use this rubric to learn why it works…or doesn’t.

To download a copy of your very own FIRST PAGE PICTURE BOOK RUBRIC, visit the site of my writing buddies, Writing According to Humphrey and Friends. Click on the link for the FIRST PAGE PICTURE BOOK RUBRIC, download it, print it out and add it to your personal writer’s notebook.

Posted by: nancyisanders | April 15, 2019

Free Writer’s Retreat: Customize Your Options

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The key to hosting your own (AND AMAZING) free writer’s retreat is to customize it to meet your needs.

For example, let’s talk about the answers you gave for the questions I asked in my last post:

1. Expect to have your meals and snacks provided?
If yes, (that’s what I would expect) here’s what I do: The week or so before I schedule my stay-home retreat, I make dinner each night as usual. Except I do one thing different. I double the recipe. Yup. If I’m making a quiche, I make 2 instead. If I’m making mashed potatoes, I double the number of potatoes in the pot. If I’m cooking a simple pot of soup, I make 2 pots instead. And then I freeze whatever we don’t eat.

This not only provides instant frozen dinners for me during my writing retreat, it also provides dinner for my hubby, too! Often I freeze portions in plastic containers in single servings and sometimes I put several items on a paper plate and freeze it that way. It practically takes no extra time to double a recipe and it gives me so much more time to enjoy my writer’s retreat!

So if you’re the chief cook and bottle washer in your household, the next couple of meals you cook, just double them, and freeze them for the best frozen dinners ever! All your family has to do is heat ’em up and serve while you’re working away on your writing project.

2. Have hours of uninterrupted time to write?
If yes, then do whatever it takes to make sure you get hours of uninterrupted time to write at your stay-home retreat. If you left for three days, would you make arrangements for your neighbor to walk your dog? If you left for three days would you ask your in-laws to pick the kids up from school for the afternoon? If you left for three days, would you take 3 days off from work? Then do the same for your very own free writer’s retreat that you’re taking at home. You can do it!

3. Need exercise breaks?
If yes, be sure to schedule in breaks during your very own personal writer’s retreat. Just be sure that you “IMAGINE” that you’re still away on an expensive retreat and not dawdle your break away and lose your focus.

4. Want brainstorming sessions (either by yourself or with other writers)?
If yes, be sure to schedule in brainstorming sessions along with uninterrupted writing time. If you want to brainstorm with other writers, skype or facetime works wonders!

5. Want group time for feedback on your manuscript’s progress?
If yes, invite some cyber writer friends to skype or facetime at specific times during your retreat to discuss your work you’ve been accomplishing. Most writing buddies are thrilled to get some shared critique time.

6. Turn your cell phone off for long periods of time?
If you would turn off your cell phone during teaching sessions or critique sessions or writing sessions at a retreat you paid $3000 to attend, then go ahead and turn it off for your very own stay-home retreat.

7. Spend some of your time on social media?
If you would minimize social media during an expensive retreat, minimize it during your own personal retreat, too. Just imagine what you would do at an expensive writer’s retreat and do the same at home.

8. Want any other type of activity or perk included in your retreat package?
Be sure to schedule this into your day! For example, if you want to listen to a best-selling author or top editor at an expensive writing retreat, search online for free webinars and schedule some watching time into your own personal retreat.

The bottom line is, give some thought on what you would expect your day(s) to look like if you paid the big bucks and went away. Then work it into your own schedule and make it happen…all for free…and all in the comfort of your very own home! It will be AMAZING!

Posted by: nancyisanders | April 11, 2019

Jane Austen Popcorn

Jane Austen for Kids official cover

 

This week to celebrate the launch of my brand new book, I’m hosted at the super fun blog, NineteenTeen: Being a Teen in the Nineteenth Century.

I love the focus of this blog. Plus, 19Teen asked me some super interesting questions about my journey with all-things-Jane.

Come join in the excitement and hop on over to read the interview. CLICK HERE to visit NineteenTeen.

And to make it even more fun, I’m inviting you to post a comment on NineteenTeen’s blog. Go ahead and ask me any question about what went into writing this book, Jane Austen for Kids. Anything! This is your chance to get your curiosity satisfied! I’ll post my answer to your questions as a reply.

 

Posted by: nancyisanders | April 8, 2019

Free Writer’s Retreat: Set Priorities

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As children’s writers, we have imaginary worlds at our fingertips. For the imaginary characters we create, we develop where they go and when.

Why not use these skills for creative imagination and PRETEND we’re going on a $3000 writer’s retreat…yet host our writer’s retreat in our very own home and not break our bank account?!!!!

To help you imagine what this amazing retreat can look like, ask yourself these questions so you can set your priorities straight:

IF YOU PAID $3000 TO FLY ACROSS COUNTRY TO ATTEND A 3-DAY WRITER’S RETREAT, WOULD YOU:

1. Expect to have your meals and snacks provided?

2. Have hours of uninterrupted time to write?

3. Need exercise breaks?

4. Want brainstorming sessions (either by yourself or with other writers)?

5. Want group time for feedback on your manuscript’s progress?

6. Turn your cell phone off for long periods of time?

7. Spend some of your time on social media?

8. Want any other type of activity or perk included in your retreat package?

We’ll talk about some of your potential answers to these questions in an upcoming post, so stay tuned!

Posted by: nancyisanders | April 5, 2019

Free Writer’s Retreat: You’re Invited!

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As some of you know, this past Christmas, my husband and I moved. As you may guess, our life turned upside-down for awhile. Especially since this move was unexpected, (a house unexpectedly went for sale close to our grandkids), my life felt unorganized for several months as we were living out of boxes and didn’t have phone or internet (we still don’t have internet yet but are learning to manage with a personal hotspot!).

Needless to say, my writing schedule took a trip to the South Pole and looked in danger of never returning. I had writing commitments for which I couldn’t even find my important papers or boxes of key research notes. Yikes!

Finally, out of desperation, I booked myself for a writer’s retreat. And after several days of being “away,” I finally got my writing priorities back on track.

The great thing about this writer’s retreat is that it’s free! I wanted to invite you to go, too. Especially if you have a writing project that just isn’t being attended to lately in your busy life, a writer’s retreat could be just the thing you need.

Here’s the scoop:

Host your very own personal writer’s retreat in your very own home!

If you signed up to go to an expensive writer’s retreat such as Highlights, you’d mark it on your calendar, tell all your friends and family, get the days off work, hire a babysitter, and disappear for several days while you gloriously bask in all things writing.

So for starters, choose the dates for your very own personal writer’s retreat. Clear your calendar of any commitments and reschedule appointments if necessary. Make all the arrangements as if you were actually traveling to attend a writer’s retreat. Treat your very own personal writer’s retreat as if it’s the most expensive retreat in the world.

In upcoming posts, I’ll give you some tips on how to make your very own personal writer’s retreat AMAZING!

Posted by: nancyisanders | April 2, 2019

Author Interview: Lisa Amstutz

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Meet Author Lisa Amstutz
Website: Lisa J. Amstutz: Author, Editor, Ecologist
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLisaAmstutz/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ljamstutz

Bio:
Lisa Amstutz is the author of more than 100 children’s books, including Applesauce Day (2017) and Finding a Dove for Gramps (2018).

Lisa specializes in topics related to science and sustainability. Her work has also appeared in a wide variety of magazines and newspapers. Lisa serves as a volunteer judge at Rate Your Story and as assistant regional advisor for SCBWI: Northern Ohio. Her background includes a B.A. in Biology and an M.S. in Ecology/Environmental Science.

When she’s not writing, you may find Lisa hiking in the woods or enjoying a cup of tea and a good book. She lives with her family on a small-scale farm, in Ohio. Lisa is represented by Victoria Selvaggio of Storm Literary Agency.

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Featured Book:
Finding a Dove for Gramps
by Lisa J. Amstutz
Art by Maria Luisa Do Gravio

A boy and his mom continue the family tradition of participating in the annual bird count. Since Gramps went South for the winter, the boy hopes to spot Gramps’s favorite bird for him…a dove! But with so many different birds in the nature preserve, will he be able to spot one? This heart-warming family story about nature celebrates a holiday census that was first started in 1900 and happens every year.

As a fun surprise, we have a guest post by Lisa today on one of the strategies she uses to land so many book contracts. Thanks, Lisa, for sharing with us an inside peek on your successful career as a children’s writer!

Just Pitch It!
By Lisa Amstutz

While some types of books need to be submitted as full manuscripts…picture books and novels, for example…many nonfiction books can be sold as a proposal. Magazines often request proposals for nonfiction articles as well.

This model can be an advantage for editors, as they can help to shape the piece before you write it. And of course it’s a boon for the writer, as it takes much less time to write a proposal than a whole manuscript.

However, writing a good proposal does take time. Most publishers want a cover letter, bio, list of comparable titles, and a synopsis or outline along with several sample chapters. Some add other requirements to this list.

After writing several proposals only to be told that they were too similar to an existing book, I decided to try taking Nancy’s advice: taking a step back and pitching some ideas first to gauge an editor’s interest, especially when targeting an existing series. That way, if they already have something in the pipeline or simply aren’t interested, you haven’t wasted a lot of time writing a proposal.

I started by studying Chicago Review Press’s online catalog. I came up with several topics that could fit into one of their existing series, then I emailed the series editor to see if she’d have interest in seeing a proposal for any of them. After a phone chat, I wrote up a proposal for the one she seemed most interested in, and ended up getting a contract for Amazing Amphibians, which will be published in 2019.

When I found myself rooming with Nancy at a retreat last spring, I got to thank her for her advice in person. This is definitely a technique I’ll be trying again in the future!

Thanks again for sharing, Lisa! It was so exciting to meet you AND be your roomie at the retreat. Best wishes with your writing!

Posted by: nancyisanders | March 26, 2019

Another Book Giveaway for Janeites!

Jane Austen for Kids official cover

Would you like another chance to win a free copy of my newest book, JANE AUSTEN FOR KIDS?

The wonderful site, Jane Austen’s World, is hosting a giveaway for two lucky winners. CLICK HERE to visit Jane Austen’s World. Be sure to hop on over and post a comment to get your name in the hat.

And as an extra special bonus, you’ll get to share in my experience as I visited Jane’s final resting place on the 200th year anniversary of her death. It was an unforgettable day, and one that I want to share with all of you.

Posted by: nancyisanders | March 25, 2019

Photo Research

Jane Austen for Kids official cover

 

My newest book, Jane Austen for Kids, is officially out! And as I’m sharing it with family, friends, and fellow writers, one of the first questions everyone wants to know is:

WHERE DID YOU GET ALL THESE AMAZING IMAGES?!!!

Basically, there are 3 kinds of images in my book.

#1. I paid for about 20 key and very important images I couldn’t find anywhere else but I felt were a MUST for a biography on Jane.

#2. I traveled to England and took lots and lots (and LOTS) of photographs at historic sites, getting written permission to publish these photographs for free.

#3. I found a lot of free images to use that were copyright-free or simply needed a letter of permission to publish.

The good news is that there are actually lots of places you can go to today to find free images to use in your book project. My writing friend and fellow Nonfiction Ninja, Stephanie Bearce, recently wrote a very helpful informational post on how you can find these!

CLICK HERE to read this week’s Nonfiction Ninja blog post.

Posted by: nancyisanders | March 19, 2019

Walking in the Footsteps of Jane Austen

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One of the unexpected joys I experienced while writing my newest book, Jane Austen for Kids, was to be able to travel to England and walk in the footsteps of our beloved Jane.

One of the most memorable days I spent was when our JASNA (Jane Austen Society of North America) tour bus took us to visit Chawton Cottage, the home Jane lived in as an adult, St. Nicholas, the church she attended with her family while living there, and Chawton House, the mansion she walked to frequently to visit her wealthy brother and favorite niece, Fanny Knight.

Would you like to see photographs I took as I walked the Jane Austen trail that day? Then hop on over to the delightful and informative blog that’s hosted by Vermont’s chapter of JASNA. CLICK HERE to visit the wonderful site, Jane Austen in Vermont.

Posted by: nancyisanders | March 18, 2019

Author Interview: Evelyne Holingue

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Meet Author Evelyne Holingue
Website:
Evelyne Holingue

Bio:
I was born and brought up in France and moved as an adult to the USA with my husband and our first child, only a baby. As I searched for a way to improve my limited English I took a writing class through the Institute of Children’s Literature. I was hooked and soon was writing fiction, mostly short stories. Some appeared in children’s magazines and placed in contests. I love Picture Books as much as I love YA and MG . Last January one of my PB manuscripts captured an agent’s interest. Since February 2019 I have been represented by Laurel Sydmonds from the Bent Agency.

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Featured Book:
All the Mountains We Can Climb
by Evelyne Holingue

Interview:
Q: Tell me about your latest book.

A: All the Mountains We Can Climb is a YA novel set in the California foothills near Yosemite National Park.

The novel in a nutshell:
Noelle survived the car crash that killed her father and sister. Since then, she hasn’t told anyone what happened in the car seconds before the accident. Although she feels terribly guilty she’s too ashamed to talk to her mother and two best friends. A year later, as guilty and ashamed, Noelle still adheres to her mother’s rules, established after the tragedy. Until she secretly applies to an East Coast college that she toured with her father and breaks her promise to study in California.

Now graduating from high school Noelle must tell her mother. As if she needed more challenges her French uncle’s sons arrive unexpectedly from Paris.
Charismatic Quentin witnessed one of the Paris’s terror attacks. Not without consequences. Quiet Manu cooks like a chef and reads Noelle so well, perhaps because he knows something about grief and guilt too. Noelle’s last summer before college seems to be her chance to move on. Will she take it?

Q: What inspired you to write this story?
A:
Sadly, car accidents planted the seeds for the novel.
For years I drove my kids to their high school, following a gorgeous road that cuts through Central California’s foothills and takes visitors to the three most visited National Parks in California: Kings Canyon and Sequoia southbound and Yosemite northbound.

This road was unfortunately as spectacular as it was deathly. We spotted too many crosses, flowers and wreaths, makeshift memorials in honor of a loved one. It saddened me that so many people could die in such beautiful surroundings. Even sadder was the fact that many were young men and women, too often teenagers. This heartbreaking reality planted the early seeds for All the Mountains We Can Climb.

In addition, since I love Yosemite National Park I had always wanted to showcase a tiny area of the park and the foothills that stretch at its foot in one of my stories. Although the town where Noelle lives is entirely fictional it is based on several towns I know well. I also make Noelle climb to the top of Half Dome under the moonlight, something I’ve also done.

Q: How similar/different is it to your other books?
A:
All the Mountains We Can Climb is my second YA novel. Unlike Trapped in Paris that was fast paced and plot-driven All the Mountains We Can Climb is character-driven and quieter, more similar to my Middle Grade historical novel Chronicles From Château Moines, which has also a large set of characters, family and friends.

Through my writing I like to show my affection for my native and adoptive countries. This is why readers will always find a mix of French and American characters and French cultural elements in my novels.

Q: Do you have a website or a blog?
A:
I have both and blog from my website, most often in English but sometimes in French, too, about writing, books, and also about my life spent between two cultures and languages.

Q: Where can we find your books?
A: My books are available on Amazon. Signed copies of my recent novel All the Mountains We Can Climb can be ordered from my website and a free e-book available early 2019 will be sent to anyone who purchased from my website. CLICK HERE to order your signed copy.

LINKS TO AMAZON:

Trapped in Paris

Chronicles From Château Moines

All the Mountains We Can Climb

Thank you so much, Nancy for inviting me on your website. It’s an honor to be featured among great authors.

Posted by: nancyisanders | March 11, 2019

Free Book Giveaway! Jane Austen for Kids!!

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I took a class to watch a demonstration of this old fashioned printing press to see the process of how books were published in days gone by.

My newest book, JANE AUSTEN FOR KIDS, is hot of the press!!!!

Would you like the chance to win a free copy?

Then hop on over to a fun blog and post a comment to get your name in the hat. CLICK HERE to visit the amazing site, AUSTENESQUE REVIEWS, that is featuring my book today as a spotlight and giveaway. The giveaway lasts from today through March 18.

And thanks to Meredith, the host at Austenesque Reviews, for keeping us Janeites updated on all the great literature that’s inspired by our beloved Jane.

Posted by: nancyisanders | March 6, 2019

Attention Writers! 2 Research Hacks You Can’t Live Without!

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As you can imagine, and as you know yourself, research can soon turn into mountains of documents, files, and e-mails. Working two years to research and write my newest book, JANE AUSTEN FOR KIDS, nearly produced enough research piling up to compete with Mount Everest! (Some research is more fun than others as you can see by this photo where I took a class to learn how to make a turban–Jane Austen style!)

How did I manage all this research so I didn’t get caught under an avalanche of information? Among other things, I discovered these two simple things that helped me organize my research-related e-mails.

Why e-mails, of all things, you may ask? Here’s a true story to remember as you’re conducting your own research.

EMAIL AN EXPERT.

On a different writing project, I was in the running with several other authors to see who would be picked to help write a multiple book series. Among other tasks the publisher assigned us, we were asked to answer this question:

Were there oak trees in ancient Ireland in the days of St. Patrick?

How did I solve that question? For starters, it was tricky. Online research (my first go-to resource) was conflicting. Some said yes, some said no. After about 20 minutes of looking around on the internet and getting different answers in different places, I simply googled tree experts in Ireland, found a name of a guy who specialized in the history of trees in Ireland, and e-mailed him the question. In about another 20 minutes, I had my answer, (Yes! There were oak trees in ancient Ireland) which I sent off to the publisher, along with the expert’s contact info.

Needless to say, I got the job to help write the book series. Among other reasons, the publisher shared that the other writers only came back with conflicting online research and said I was the only one who contacted an expert.

I contact experts all the time. Historical sites. Museums. Specialists in the topic I’m writing about. People to vet my manuscripts (make sure everything I state is correct and accurate). I even ended up e-mailing the gal who taught the turban class to answer a question I had. And I keep all these e-mails in one handy dandy place.

So what are my two hacks that will help you organize your research e-mails?

RESEARCH HACK #1
Create a separate e-mail account that you only use for this purpose. I use a free account at google mail. It may sound like too much work, but it only takes ten minutes of your time. Yet it saves you oodles of time as you’re working on your project because all your research e-mails are in one place and not drowning in the middle of all your junk and personal e-mails. I gave mine a cool name too: NSandersResearch at gmail dot com. (This makes me sound professional, too, to the experts I contact.)

RESEARCH HACK #2
Add a confidentiality notice in the signature that is automatically tacked to the bottom of each of your e-mails in your separate account you use for research. If you work with editors, chances are you see that most their e-mails contain this confidentiality notice in some form. When you’re working on a project, you don’t want to give away too many details as you keep it under wraps so another writer won’t steal your ideas. Adding this confidentiality notice to your e-mails gives you a little bit of protection.

Here’s the notice I add to the bottom of each research e-mail, underneath my contact information. Feel free to copy it if you like:

CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: This e-mail is intended only for the use of the individual to whom it is addressed. It may contain confidential information. Please do not share this information with anyone.

If you don’t know how to set up a signature to appear automatically in your e-mails, just dig around in your preferences or settings until you find the term “signature” and type something in there and then send an e-mail to yourself to test how it looks.

Just a word of precautionary tale, however…te he he…watch that auto-correct in your e-mail posts! When I started e-mailing experts about my Jane Austen questions, I started my e-mails with “Hello so-and-so.” To my horror after several e-mails went out, I discovered my auto-correct dropped the “o” from the end of my Hello! Yikes! Now I start each e-mail with “Hi” or “Dear.” And even more recently in correspondence about my Jane Austen book, I ended my e-mail with “Thanks so much.” What did auto-correct do (which I didn’t discover until the person e-mailed me back and I saw the email of mine that they received)? It changed “Thanks so much” to “Thanks smooch.” Sigh. Lol. You just gotta laugh at technology.

But that’s it for the 2 hacks you simply can’t live without if you’re serious about writing and about research! Not too hard, but really helps for any writing project, fiction or nonfiction. And now that my book, JANE AUSTEN FOR KIDS, is finally out, I’m going to open up that e-mail and contact all the experts I worked with to let them know the book is out and thank them once again for their help. It will be easy because all those e-mails are in one handy spot.

And some fun news is that I’ll be embarking on a blog tour starting this month to help get the word out about my new book. But as I’m getting those posts ready, I thought it would be fun to share with you some news from several of my online writing friends. Stay tuned for some exciting author interviews coming up here on my blog!

Posted by: nancyisanders | February 22, 2019

Research, and More Research!

P1080450 stacking the books favorite.JPG

Just for fun I thought I’d stack up most of the research books I used to write my new book, Jane Austen for Kids, to see how tall the stack was.

As you can see, the books were just taller than I am!!!!

Of course, there’s no way all that research can be packed into a 136 page book for kids. In fact, quite a few large chunks of text and images were removed from my manuscript near the end to reach my word count.

But nothing is wasted!

Extra research is never a waste.

I’m using those big chunks I had to take out of my manuscript to build the book’s website and also an educator’s guide for teachers to use my book in their classroom. (You can view the website in progress if you CLICK HERE.)

Plus, I plan on writing supplemental material to go with the book that I can sell in my store at Teachers Pay Teachers.

And to read an awesome post by my writing group, the Nonfiction Ninjas, on how to reuse research for different purposes, CLICK HERE.

Posted by: nancyisanders | February 20, 2019

Happy New Year!

1-26-2015 monarch #1c

After a lo-o-ong break, I’m finally back! What have I been doing in this brand new year?

It all started with a move to a different city to be closer to our kids and grandkids. We moved December 28. Then 3 days later we took off on a research trip we’d scheduled a year earlier to visit the Monarch butterflies overwintering sites high up in the mountains of central Mexico…11,000 feet high to be exact.

The move was exciting…the trip was once-in-a-lifetime…and now I’m focusing on the release of my brand new book, Jane Austen for Kids before I get back to my research on the Monarch butterfly for another book project I’m working on.

We haven’t had internet since Christmas (and won’t have it until the new city gives permission for the internet company to dig up our street to lay a cable to our house) and I can’t find ANYTHING in the mountains of boxes in our garage, lol. Since our printers are wireless, my mouse is wireless, and my keyboard is wireless, it has been a challenge getting some of those necessities set up with a personal hotspot or just a plain ole plug. (Of course you can’t just plug in a wireless devise…you have to take half a day to uninstall the wireless system and install the plug/USB program.)

However, I did open boxes yesterday that uncovered all my research journals and research books for Jane Austen, so I’m feeling a little more prepared for my upcoming blog tour in March.

And last night around 11:00, my husband Jeff and I heard a hoot owl whooooo-whoooo-whoooooing and another answering it right outside our bedroom window! For a country girl living in the Los Angeles suburbs who just moved next to a river and a canyon, this was exciting indeed!!!!

Welcome to my world. Welcome to my new year. What exciting adventures are you embarking on since the new year rang in at your corner of the world?

Posted by: nancyisanders | November 20, 2018

The 12 Days of Children’s Books Gala Giveaway! Day 12

The 12 Days of Children’s Books Gala Giveaway!5.jpg

WELCOME!
Welcome to Day 12 of our 12 Days of Children’s Books Gala Giveaway. I’m part of an amazing group of writer friends who specialize in writing engaging nonfiction for kids. We’re the Nonfiction Ninjas! CLICK HERE to visit our website!

I want to personally thank each one of you for sharing in our first ever big event! We want to thank you as a group for your enthusiasm for our group, our books, and especially nonfiction for kids!

Today is the last day of our event and it’s the day we announce the winners of the 11 awesome books that have been featured each day here on my blog.

Drum roll, please!

Winner of Michelle Medlock Adam’s DINOSAUR DEVOTIONS is:
Dianne E. Butts

Winner of Stephanie Bearce’s INSANE INVENTORS is:
Evelyn Christensen

Winner of Linda Skeers’ WOMEN WHO DARED is:
Elia Ben-Ari

Winner of Nancy I. Sanders’ FREDERICK DOUGLASS FOR KIDS is:
Jane Allen

Winner of Nancy Churnin’s THE QUEEN AND THE FIRST CHRISTMAS TREE
Sara A. (from NYU)

Winner of Pat Miller’s THE HOLE STORY OF THE DOUGHNUT is:
Trine Grillo

Winner of Susan Holt Kralovansky’s THE BOOK THAT JAKE BORROWED is:
Tracy Hora

Winner of Peggy Thomas’s THOMAS JEFFERSON GROWS A NATION is:
Julie Pepper

Winner of Wendy Hinote Lanier’s TRANSPORTATION TECHNOLOGY (INSPIRED BY NATURE) is:
Sheila Renfro

Winner of Christine Liu-Perkins’ AT HOME IN HER TOMB is:
Sherri Jones Rivers

Winner of Lisa J. Amstutz’s FINDING A DOVE FOR GRAMPS is:
Susan Pepino

If you’re a winner, you should be hearing soon from the author of the book you won. Look for their note in your e-mail!

And again, thank you for joining in on the fun. And thank you for your love of books for children. We appreciate each one of you!

Posted by: nancyisanders | November 19, 2018

The 12 Days of Children’s Books Gala Giveaway! Day 11

The 12 Days of Children’s Books Gala Giveaway!5.jpg

WELCOME!
Welcome to Day 11 of our 12 Days of Children’s Books Gala Giveaway. I’m part of an amazing group of writer friends who specialize in writing engaging nonfiction for kids. We’re the Nonfiction Ninjas!

Each day for for 11 days we are offering you the chance to win a free children’s book. Great for your little ones, for the classroom, for homeschooling families, and for libraries everywhere, these books are AWESOME! And they’re written by these talented gals I’m fortunate to know as my writing buddies.

During the giveaway, you’ll get to learn more of the story behind the story of each of these books. Plus you get to meet each member of the Nonfiction Ninjas! How great is that?!

Then, on the last day, Day 12, I’ll announce here on my blog the list of winners for each one of the books featured in this giveaway. So join in the fun. Every day for these 12 days! Here on my blog!!

(This giveaway is for folks in the continental US only. No overseas entries, please.)

lisa FindingaDoveforGramps_CVR.jpg

Finding a Dove for Gramps
by Lisa J. Amstutz
Hip hip hooray for today’s featured book in our 12 Days of Children’s Books Gala Giveaway! One of you will be our winner for today and will be receiving a free copy of this brand new heart-warming picture book in your mailbox.

LISAAMSTUTZ.PHOTO
MEET LISA!
Lisa, thanks so much for visiting my blog today and offering readers the chance to win a copy of your brand new beautiful children’s book.

Lisa, can you share with us what your book is about?
Finding a Dove for Gramps is a story about a boy and his mom who take part in the Christmas Bird Count (the CBC), an annual citizen science project sponsored by the Audubon Society. The child wants to find a dove for Gramps, who wasn’t able to come along this year. Back matter includes information about the CBC and a checklist of birds, many of which are pictured in the book.

What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve always loved watching birds and learning their names. My entomologist father often took my brothers and me along on hikes to look for bugs, snakes, birds, etc. I remember tagging along with him on a bird count, and it made a big impression on me. I still enjoy bird hikes and other nature-related events, and love sharing them with my own children.

What do you hope children take away from your book?

I hope the story will introduce young readers to birding and encourage them to get involved in citizen science projects like the Christmas Bird Count, the Great Backyard Bird Count, and others. You don’t have to be a scientist to participate, and the data collected is very valuable to scientists in tracking bird populations over time as well as the effects of climate change and other environmental issues.

Thanks, Lisa, for visiting my blog today. It was great to hear more of the “story behind the story”!

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ENTER THE GALA GIVEAWAY
Hey everyone. Hop on board and join the fun!!!! You can enter your name once today for a chance to win a free copy of today’s featured book by one of our members of the Nonfiction Ninjas! All it takes is 2 easy steps.

Step One
Post a comment here on my blog. We’d love to hear about a family tradition you share at this time of year with your little ones. Or even better–if you’ve ever participated in a Christmas Bird Count, share with us what that experience was like!

Step Two
Go to Rafflecopter and enter to win!
CLICK HERE to go to Rafflecopter and enter your name in the contest.

That’s it!

Be sure to stop back here on my blog tomorrow for Day 12, the final day of our Gala Giveaway. We’ll announce the winners of all 11 picture books, here on my blog. I hope you’ll be one of them!

But hey…why wait until the giveaway is over to get your hands on this children’s book? It’s great for holiday or birthday giving and perfect for your family to read together. CLICK HERE to buy it today on Amazon or at your favorite online bookstores!

Posted by: nancyisanders | November 18, 2018

The 12 Days of Children’s Books Gala Giveaway! Day 10

The 12 Days of Children’s Books Gala Giveaway!5.jpg

WELCOME!
Welcome to Day 10 of our 12 Days of Children’s Books Gala Giveaway. I’m part of an amazing group of writer friends who specialize in writing engaging nonfiction for kids. We’re the Nonfiction Ninjas!

Each day for for 11 days we are offering you the chance to win a free children’s book. Great for your little ones, for the classroom, for homeschooling families, and for libraries everywhere, these books are AWESOME! And they’re written by these talented gals I’m fortunate to know as my writing buddies.

During the giveaway, you’ll get to learn more of the story behind the story of each of these books. Plus you get to meet each member of the Nonfiction Ninjas! How great is that?!

Then, on the last day, Day 12, I’ll announce here on my blog the list of winners for each one of the books featured in this giveaway. So join in the fun. Every day for these 12 days! Here on my blog!!

(This giveaway is for folks in the continental US only. No overseas entries, please.)

Christine AtHomeInHerTomb 608x500 72dpi copy

At Home in Her Tomb:
Lady Dai and the Ancient Chinese Treasures of Mawangdui

by Christine Liu-Perkins
Hip hip hooray for today’s featured book in our 12 Days of Children’s Books Gala Giveaway! One of you will be our winner for today and will be receiving a free copy of this very historic and fascinating book in your mailbox.

Christine Liu-Perkins lo res author photo copy
MEET CHRISTINE!
Christine, thanks so much for visiting my blog today and offering readers the chance to win a copy of your intriguing children’s book.

Christine, can you tell us what your book is about?
China’s most famous mummy was discovered in 1972: a two-thousand-year-old body so well-preserved that an autopsy could be conducted. At Home in Her Tomb explores what life for Lady Dai was like as revealed by the finds at Mawangdui, a set of three tombs with thousands of important artifacts.

CLP+MWD3
Here I am at one of the Mawangdui tombs!

What questions drove you in writing this book?
What does Mawangdui tell us about people and their lives in early China? Many of the artifacts are objects that rarely last in ancient tombs: a library of books, a wide variety of foods, exquisite silk clothing and paintings, and, of course, the body of Lady Dai. What do the artifacts tell us about what people wore, ate, valued, thought about, hoped for, and did for fun?

What was the most surprising thing you learned while working on this book?
That each of the tombs was built to represent a home. The family furnished the tombs with everything they believed their lost loved ones would need for a comfortable afterlife. In Lady Dai’s tomb, there was even a space set up as a dinner party. On one side was a place for her soul to sit while enjoying dishes of real food. On the other side were wooden figurines of musicians and dancers to entertain her, plus servants to take care of her needs.

Thanks, Christine, for visiting my blog today. It was great to hear more of the “story behind the story”!

————————————————————————————————-

ENTER THE GALA GIVEAWAY
Hey everyone. Hop on board and join the fun!!!! You can enter your name once today for a chance to win a free copy of today’s featured book by one of our members of the Nonfiction Ninjas! All it takes is 2 easy steps.

Step One
Click on the icon on the right to follow my blog and get an occasional newsletter in your inbox featuring releases of new children’s books by the Nonfiction Ninjas, and chock full of helpful tips on how you can write for kids. (If you already follow my blog, you can skip this step.)

Step Two
Go to Rafflecopter and enter to win!
CLICK HERE to go to Rafflecopter and enter your name in the contest.

That’s it!

Be sure to stop back here on my blog tomorrow for Day 10 of our Gala Giveaway. You can enter your name for a chance to win our next featured children’s book. We’re giving away 11 amazing children’s books during our Gala Giveaway. And on Day 12, we’ll announce the winners, here on my blog. I hope you’ll be one of them!

But hey…why wait until the giveaway is over to get your hands on this children’s book? The paperback edition is great for holiday or birthday giving and perfect for your kiddos to enjoy. It also comes in library binding for your school or classroom library, and makes a great holiday donation to your local library! You can buy it today on Amazon or at your favorite online bookstores!

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