Posted by: nancyisanders | July 30, 2019

Writer’s Journal: Fun Stuff

I thought you might want to see some of the fun pages and fun stuff I put in my journal. These images are all from pages in my first journal I’ve kept when I wrote Jane Austen for Kids.


I like to glue tickets from key events I attend related to my research. This was a play of Pride and Prejudice acted at a local college…and it was EXCELLENT!


Sometimes I photocopy stuff and staple together and make little books and glue in my journal or tuck it into a paper pocket I glue in my journal.


This was a list of hard-to-find images I wanted to find…all in one place! So I just photocopied the list and put it in my writer’s journal to help me track my progress.


I love to glue in theme-related photos from calendars and cards that I find. Jane loved flowers and gardening, so when I started planning a trip to visit her very own garden in England, I glued in this pretty happy flower as a tab (so I could flip here easily) to decorate this page.


Sometimes I like to create a working cover of my book, just to help me focus and keep the inspiration flowing. As you can see here, I glued this working cover and working title in the back of my journal to flip to often when I needed to regroup and get re-energized to keep on writing!

Posted by: nancyisanders | July 26, 2019

Writer’s Journal: Topics Included


In the center of the photo is my first writer’s journal I kept while working on Jane Austen for Kids.

As I work on my writer’s journal, the topics I include in each journal vary with each different project. I thought I’d share a little bit about the topics I included in this particular writer’s journal, because it includes the same I generally put into most of my book project journals.

I often include a timeline and leave several blank pages for this to fill in. This is a timeline of the progress I’m making on my book. Such as when I got the idea. When I submitted it to my critique group. When I finished my first draft. When I submitted it to the publisher. When the publisher accepted it. Etc. It’s just kind of fun to go back and look at the time it took to go through various stages. Plus, it gives me great content to share on my website or when teaching a video class or when speaking at a conference or retreat.

(Or first line and last line) or start and finish. I like to bring my ending round to my beginning, so sometimes I include a page in my journal to keep track of ideas for how I will do this.

I jot down ideas I’m thinking about including in a proposal if I’m writing a proposal to either pitch the idea and land the contract or pitch the finished book.

Lots of brainstorming goes into a working title for a project, and this is the section I jot down some of my favorites.

When I pitch an idea to a publisher to land a contract to write a book (Like I did for this one) or if I am submitting a finished manuscript to a publisher, I usually include a market analysis. This is a comparison to several competing titles to show the editors how my book fits in. This is where I jot down notes.

Usually when I travel to do research or take photographs for my book, I create a brand new writer’s journal just for that trip. But sometimes I keep general ideas for planning the trip in my main journal. Like in here.

While I’m writing a book manuscript, I’m always thinking about what I can put on a website to help market it after it’s published. Many of my books have their own website, too. This is the place I jot down ideas of content I want to add when I come across it so that after the book is published, I’ll be sure to check back here to see if I added in everything I wanted to.

Some of my books have teacher’s guides. I write some and for some the publisher has them written. Here is where I keep a list of potential ideas. Right now I’m still working on the teacher’s guide for Jane Austen, using ideas from this journal.

This is where I keep my master list of big and little tasks I want to remember to complete as I’m working on the project. It keeps these all in one handy place, which is essential for really big projects like this one.

While I’m working on a manuscript, I’ll often get ideas to help market the book after it’s publisher. I keep these listed in here.

Posted by: nancyisanders | July 22, 2019

Writer’s Journal Table of Contents


When I add my Table of Contents to my writer’s journal, I like to write it on the right-hand side of each spread. That’s because in many of my journals I like to add information on the left side that I want to keep up front and center in my mind.

The Table of Contents covers 4 pages in the 100-page wide-ruled composition books I like to use.

On the first page of my TABLE OF CONTENTS, I like to include a piece of scrap from my scrapbooking paper or sturdy cardstock. (See it in the top right corner of the photo?) That’s cause I flip constantly back to this page as I’m filling in and I like to get right to it.

After the Table of Contents, on the following pages I start numbering my pages in the lower right corner of each page. I usually do this over 4 or 5 sittings as I’m waiting for my e-mails to load or sitting in the car waiting in the drive-through of Carl’s Jr. for my Beyond Meat burger. (Yummy, but kind of pricey!) Once the page numbering is done, however, it’s done, so I like to get it done right away when I prepare my journal.

In photos below, I’m including several pages of my Table of Contents from this journal just so you can zoom in and see what topics I covered in this journal. This was my first journal that I started, so as it took shape it gradually became my “BIG PICTURE” notebook. Meaning I didn’t take detailed research notes in it or write any first drafts of pages in it. Some of my writer’s journals I include all these things in just one journal, especially if the project I’m working on is a stand-alone picture book.

But in this one, I wrote down more general notes such as title ideas, market analysis (for preparing my proposal) and favorite quotes of Jane’s I wanted to collect.




Posted by: nancyisanders | July 18, 2019

In Honor of Jane Austen July 18, 2019


Today, to honor Jane Austen on the 202nd anniversary of her death, you can discover more about the story behind the story behind my book JANE AUSTEN FOR KIDS.

Stop by the blog of amazing nonfiction author, Peggy Thomas to read an interview she posted about my book. Be sure to post a comment and say hi!

CLICK HERE to visit Peggy’s blog, Anatomy of Nonfiction.

Posted by: nancyisanders | July 18, 2019

Writer’s Journal: The Format

Jane Austen for Kids official cover

Before I start writing in any of these handmade writer’s journal that I was creating after I landed the contract to write JANE AUSTEN FOR KIDS, there is a little bit of prep I do. For starters, as I’ve learned from my earliest journal adventures, a Table of Contents is ESSENTIAL, and this requires me to number all the pages of my blank notebook.

Without a Table of Contents and without numbering all the pages, you’ll be lost rowing up a creek without a paddle. But with a Table of Contents and corresponding page numbers, any research note you need to find is always handy at your fingertips, even 2 years later when an editor e-mails to ask a research question that one of your readers contacted them with.

You might not be a crafty person and that’s okay. You may not want to decorate your writer’s journal with scrapbooking supplies or brochures/tickets from events and historic sites you attended during the writing process.

That’s okay. The key is to make your journal fit YOU.

I’m just sharing what works for me and hopefully you’ll figure out some great ideas to personalize your own journals.


I like to open my journal and get inspired. So I always leave 1-4 blank pages in the beginning of my journal before I start the Table of Contents. My favorite source of inspiration is quoting Scripture. In the photo above and below you can see some of the Scriptures I found during the writing process, or thoughts I had along my writing journey.


I also leave room for a title page before I start my Table of Contents (with more inspirational quotes!). As you can see in the photo above the title that is written in this notebook (which is the very first notebook I started working on) is the actual title of my book.

That means I didn’t write it in here until after about 2 years of working on this project. In other notebooks, I might write the working title but in this one I waited until the publisher picked the actual title. And that also goes along with these inspirational quotes and illustrations I decorate these with. I don’t add these in until the mood strikes me somewhere along my journey. This entire journal is a work-in-progress.

But first, I just leave 1-4 blank pages before I start my Table of Contents.


Posted by: nancyisanders | July 15, 2019

Creating 3-D Characters


When I was working on my nonfiction book, JANE AUSTEN FOR KIDS, I was researching a woman who is known as a genius in literature for character development.

I knew I really really wanted to develop her character, even in this nonfiction title, so that she was a truly unique and identifiable personality…in other words I wanted her to come alive on the page as a living and breathing individual.

It’s so easy to produce flat, cardboard characters that are one-dimensional. Jane Austen is famous for creating three-dimensional characters that feel so real people can still identify with and relate to them today.

Over my years of writing for children’s fiction series as well as picture books and nonfiction for kids, creating 3-D characters has been key. They catch the editor’s eye and touch the hearts of young readers.

I’m excited to share with you a brand new audio/video class that I’ve created as one of the instructors for SERIOUS WRITER ACADEMY. I recently joined this academy as an instructor and this is my very first class! SERIOUS WRITER ACADEMY is the place you can purchase a la carte writing courses to fit your career needs!

My course is called DEVELOP YOUR CHARACTERS WITH TOP SECRET DETECTIVE FILES. Each video is bursting with information about techniques I actually use as a career author to bring my children’s characters to life. You’ll also get handouts and worksheets to fill in to help you during the writing process.

With 6 videos and a total of 75 minutes of instruction, you’ll be equipped to develop 3-D characters whether you write fiction or nonfiction, picture books or novels, magazine articles or online stories!

CLICK HERE for more information and the link to purchase my brand new class.

Posted by: nancyisanders | July 13, 2019

Writer’s Journal: Jane Austen


When I wrote my newest book, JANE AUSTEN FOR KIDS, I made the decision to keep many of my research notes in a handwritten journal.

I didn’t realize at the time that I would be creating SEVEN handwritten journals along my 2 1/2 year journey, lol, but I knew I would need certain supplies to get the process started.

Since I’m a children’s writer, I love to PLAY as I write, so I already have a little kid’s backpack filled with the basics. Several years ago I spotted this one with a purple, pink, and green butterfly design and got it for all my crafty supplies. This backpack is handy to carry around with me as I decorate my journals, which is an ongoing process while I’m writing and working on my manuscript. When I travel, however, I leave this backpack at home and just take along basic supplies such as my scissors and glue and pens.

When I want to create my research journals for my writing projects, my favorite book to use is a wide-ruled blank composition notebook with 100 pages. I get them for about $1 each at Walmart. You can purchase some with cute designs, or (as I like to do) decorate your own.

I love to decorate my own journals because I can make each one really support the theme and purpose that I’m using it for. For example, one of my journals for this book project covered an event I attended called the JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY OF NORTH AMERICA’S (JASNA’s) ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING. I used images from the brochures to decorate the cover and interior of my journal.


Basic supplies for each book include:

* Quick-drying glue that dries in less than a minute. The brand I’m currently using is SCOTCH QUICK-DRYING TACKY GLUE. I love gluing the cover design or interior pages, letting it dry for 30 seconds, and then moving onto the next page. This is especially important when I’m creating a travel journal as I’m visiting historic sites or places pertinent to my research and documenting information in my journal on the go. I don’t have time to let things dry overnight in my frenzy to document key events as they are happening. (When I fly, I pack this glue in my check-in luggage or carry a glue-stick on the plane.)

* Scissors: a nice, comfortable pair is a must to save your hands and wrists. When I travel, I pack a small but good pair. Even flying international, no airport has ever made me leave it behind.

* I also have a set of cheap decorative scissors when I want to put a pretty edge on things.

* My favorite pens for writing in my journal plus fine-tip permanent markers for writing over glossy paper such as tickets or brochures that I glue into my journal.

* Portable mini-paper cutter. I use this a lot, actually, and keep it closed with rubber bands. It’s so handy for cutting things really straight.

* In a separate totebag I have several large square books of sturdy designer scrapbooking paper that I cut to cover my book’s covers.

* Not shown that I keep inside my backpack is my collection of scrapbooking stick-ons available at Walmart or most craft stores. I also keep birthday cards and collect pretty magazines or calendars related to my project. Plus I like to collect different fonts of alphabet stickers to use for writing my notebook titles or other titles in the interior. Most anything related to scrapbooking supplies can be used in your journaling adventures!

If you already keep handwritten writing journals (or plan to) are there any other types of essential supplies you recommend?

Posted by: nancyisanders | July 12, 2019

Writer’s Journal

Jane Austen for Kids official cover

As many of you know who follow my blog, my newest nonfiction for young readers was released this year, JANE AUSTEN FOR KIDS.

What you may not know is that this book took me over two years to write and during that time, I kept hand-written journals to track my research, brainstorm ideas, and write first drafts. (See the stack of 7 composition notebooks in the center on the top bookcase? Those are the journals I filled up in my 2-year journey!)


Why hand-written? In this modern age when there are amazing computer programs out there to help a writer stay organized and keep all your information at your fingertips?

For several reasons!

#1 I knew I would be married to my devices and staring at computer screens for hours upon hours upon hours. I opted to delegate specific tasks to hand-writing in journals to promote my physical health. This gave my eyes a break from the glare of the screen. This gave my wrists a break to avoid carpel tunnel. This gave my back a break to allow me to sit somewhere other than my computer chair and desk. This even gave me a mental break because I could literally go unplugged on a short vacation here and there and still have my main project notes with me.

#2 Call me sentimental, but since I was writing about the great literary giant Jane Austen who had to write everything she did out by hand, I just wanted to use this experience as part of the whole soaking up process of getting to live, eat, and breathe (and drink tea!) with my subject.

#3 As a children’s writer, I love to “play.” I think it helps me stay connected to the kids and young readers who will be reading my books. So keeping hand-written journals also gave me the freedom to “play” with my pages. I decorated with scrapbooking supplies as my creative heart led me each different day. I used markers and staples and glue and tape and scissors just like kids do when they make a research project.

One of the amazing benefits I discovered along the way was that as I stepped away from the computer to add content to my journals, I could literally feel a different part of my brain unlock and open up. My creative juices at these times flowed in absolutely amazing ways!

In the posts ahead and I want to share a little bit of my journey with you about my experience–I even kept my key research notes in hand-written journals! Shocking, isn’t it?! I was shocked at how well it worked and at how rich of an experience it was.

I hope you might be inspired to do this as well if you haven’t yet. Or if you already keep hand-written project journals, I hope you’ll get some ideas to take your experience to the next level.

(Here’s a close-up of my 7 journals to give you a general idea of each one’s content)



Posted by: nancyisanders | June 6, 2019

Author Interview: Peggy Thomas

P. thomas author-photo-2018.jpg

Meet Author Peggy Thomas!
Website: Peggy Thomas Writes
Blog: Anatomy of Nonfiction

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.

Screen Shot 2019-05-29 at 4.10.23 PM.png

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!

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:


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.
1st half of the Middle
2nd half of the Middle

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


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


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:


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!


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

Meet Author Lisa Amstutz
Website: Lisa J. Amstutz: Author, Editor, Ecologist

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.

lisa FindingaDoveforGramps_CVR
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:


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


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.

Older Posts »


%d bloggers like this: