Posted by: nancyisanders | March 6, 2015

Challenge: Write a Chapter Book in 1 Month

Chapter Book Challenge 2015 Badge sm

I want to encourage you to enjoy the journey you’re taking this month to join the ChaBooCha challenge to write a chapter book in 1 month.

One of the ways to enjoy your adventure better is to learn to listen to your inner voice.

For example, if you’re working hard today on plotting your own story plot but your cast of characters keeps talking in your head, go ahead and put your plot aside for a little bit and let your characters speak.

Have fun typing down the conversations they’re having with each other or the scenes that are unfolding in your brain.

Then when they’re finished for awhile, you can come back to the task for the day.

This happened to me. I was in the middle of typing out my mentor text THE RED FLYER ROLLER COASTER when I couldn’t get the opening scene out of my mind. So I stopped, wrote down the scene that was begging to be told, and then when that was finished, I went back to my file and continued typing out my mentor text word for word.

Another way to enjoy the journey more is to learn not to be too much of a perfectionist. Writing is, after all, more like planting a garden than it is like baking a cake.

If you get an ingredient wrong in the cake it will turn out strange or even a total flop.

But if you plant seeds in the wrong spot in your garden and discover they need more sunlight or more shade, you can simply dig them up and replant them in the right spot.

So go ahead and sit down at your computer or put pen to paper and focus on each day’s task without stressing that it’s perfect. A manuscript will never be perfect even when it’s published. You’ll always find things you’d like to fix.

Just work on your task for today and make it the best you know how to do it at this time and then move forward to tomorrow. You can always come back and revise and edit and polish what you worked on at a later time.

Posted by: nancyisanders | March 4, 2015

Challenge: Write a Chapter Book in 1 Month–Plot

Red Flyer Roller Coaster plot

If you’re following along with the CHABOOCHA challenge this month and also writing an early chapter book using THE RED FLYER ROLLER COASTER as your mentor text, scheduled on the calendar for today is “Chart plot of mentor text”
and brainstorm plot ideas.

As a working writer under contracts to write various books from magazine stories to picture books to chapter books, I always start first by using my Basic Plot Worksheet A.

And when I’m following a mentor text, I like to first chart the plot of my mentor text before I tackle my own work in progress.

You can see the information I filled in along the left column of the chart above.

Then, for the plot elements I first had to ask myself what the main story plot is for THE RED FLYER ROLLER COASTER? That led me to the main story problem which is that Sophie Bean is too short to ride the roller coaster.

After I identified that, it took a little digging around to discover the 3 key changes that take place in the story:

Change 1: Takes us from the beginning of the story where we see the main story problem and starts the middle of the story where now we see Sophie Bean is determined to do something to solve this problem.

Change 2: This is the turning point of the whole story where suddenly Sophie Bean has a new problem to deal with…her legs hurt.

Change 3: Suddenly Sophie Bean finds out it’s the last day to go to the amusement park this summer and thus the last chance she’ll get to ride the roller coaster!

And then we learn the conclusion to the story: Her legs hurt because they were growing pains and she grew tall enough to go on the roller coaster. Yay!

One of the nice things about writing a book for this reading level is that the plot is pretty straightforward. There is a clear beginning, middle, and end. The problem is presented in the first couple of paragraphs of the story and it all wraps up nicely at the end…even with a fun surprise by having grandma ride with her for her very first ride on the roller coaster.

As you’re preparing to plot your own story tomorrow, keep all these basic elements in mind. For a book at this readability level you don’t even need a subplot. Just keep it nice and simple. It’s a great way to get our feet wet writing these chapter books, don’t you think?

So as you’re brainstorming plot ideas today, just think of these basic story elements:

A) What is your main story problem that the main character struggles with? This is how your story should start.
B) What is the first change that happens where your main character sets off on her journey to solve the big problem?
C) What is the turning point, the second change that happens to lead your character toward the ending of the story and the solution to her problem?
D) What is the third change that happens to your character to lead her to the end of the story.
E) How will the story end and how will your main character solve the main story problem?

Having these elements in your head will help you as you start to write your story next week. It will be your road map to success. Brainstorming ideas today will give you material to help you plot your own story on the BASIC PLOT WORKSHEET A tomorrow.

To download your own copy of my Basic Plot Worksheet A, please visit the site of my writing buddies, Writing According to Humphrey and Friends. Scroll down to the CHARTS AND WORKSHEETS TO GET ORGANIZED FOR SUCCESS and click on the link to download and print your own copy of the BASIC PLOT WORKSHEET A. You can use it tomorrow to plot the structure of your own chapter book so you’ll be all ready to start writing next Monday!

Posted by: nancyisanders | March 2, 2015

Challenge: Write a Chapter Book in 1 Month

Chapter Book Challenge 2015 Badge sm

ChaBooCha is officially happening and I hope you’re having fun so far!

I just wanted to update you on what I’ve been doing so far so you can try out some of the strategies I’m doing to see if they work for you, too.

I’m following my calendar, so after reading my mentor text, I brainstormed ideas for my main character.

Here’s how that brainstorming session went:
1) First I made a list of some early chapter book or easy reader main characters that have been popular with kids in kindergarten through second grade. I just made a short list, but here’s what I came up with:

Cam Jensen
Nate the Great
Junie B. Jones
The Magic Tree House
Ramona the Pest
The Imagination Station series with Patrick and Beth

2) I tried to think of qualities that kids like about these characters and why they appeal to young readers.

The main reason I stopped making this list was because an idea popped into my head at this point for a character of my own.

3) So I just spent an hour or so letting my brain “play” with the idea. It actually was in a helpful mood this afternoon and gave me lots of ideas including conversations my character might have, background stories of my character, and also information about my main character’s family members. During this time my brain was popping with plot ideas and setting ideas, too, so even though I won’t officially spend time on those topics until another day this week (see the calendar) I went ahead and jotted down all the ideas that came to me so I could explore them more later.

After spending this chunk of time with my potential character, I decided to choose him as the one I’ll write about this month.

I want to encourage you not to stress too much about this decision for your character. Just pick one that seems good for now. If at the end of the month it’s not your favorite decision, you can try out a different character in a brand new story.

Whether or not you were able to generate a lot of ideas about your main character, to help you brainstorm more about your main character plus tomorrow when you brainstorm your cast of characters, visit the site of my feline writing buddies, Writing According to Humphrey and Friends.

You’ll find some helpful activities you can do to create a strong character that has potential for a series. This is the kind of character Kaeden Books is looking for in their early chapter books, so that’s my goal for the CHABOOCHA challenge this month.

Posted by: nancyisanders | March 2, 2015

Challenge: Write a Chapter Book in 1 Month

Today is all about typing your mentor text, brainstorming your cast of characters, and brainstorming your setting.

If your mentor text is really really long, you don’t have to type the whole thing. Even typing out a chapter or two will help.

But if you’re using THE RED FLYER ROLLER COASTER as your mentor text, go ahead and type out the whole thing. It’s only 2600 words.

Many folks ask me why I type out my mentor texts and encourage others to do the same. It’s for a variety of reasons.

Reason #1 is that it helps train your brain to think in this genre and reading level.

Reason #2 is it makes it handy to highlight various portions of text and run a work count or readability level or other test on it.

Reason #3 is it gives me practice typing out a book the same length mine is going to be. This way I can see how many manuscript pages it takes for each chapter and for the entire book.

I’ve finished typing out 2 chapters so far of THE RED FLYER ROLLER COASTER. Here at the bottom is a picture of how I’m doing it. I’m dividing it up per page number so I can keep an eye on that as well.

Now as you’re brainstorming your characters and setting, I want to remind you of something. If you’re writing a story to submit to Kaeden Books as I am, know that Kaeden Books purchases all rights to your manuscript. So be sure to choose a cast of characters that you can give away.

If you have ideas for characters based on your own family or on ideas that are near and dear to your heart, you might want to save those for a manuscript to submit to a publisher that will allow you to register the copyright in your own name. Kaeden registers the copyright in their name which means they own the rights to the story. (You can find out this info by seeing who the copyright is listed under on the copyright page of every book.)

When I write for publishers who purchase all rights to my stories, I like to use ideas that aren’t near and dear to my heart. The QUALITY of the stories are still tops, it’s just that I’m not as attached to the TOPICS.

And with that in mind, I wanted to let you know that after this month is over, I’ve decided to write a second chapter book using THE RED FLYER ROLLER COASTER (or a similar-length chapter book) as my mentor text. I’ll be posting about the journey here on my blog. Only next time we won’t be rushing along to finish it in just one month. We’ll go more slowly and really try to dissect this whole process and learn the skills it takes to write these types of books. And I might not submit the next manuscript to Kaeden Books but to my agent instead to try to get it published with a publisher where I can keep my own rights. We’ll see.

But for now, if you’re brainstorming ideas for characters and plot and setting this week and plan to submit your manuscript to Kaeden Books, just be sure you use ideas that are okay in your writer’s heart to give the rights away.


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Posted by: nancyisanders | March 2, 2015

Challenge: Write a Chapter Book in 1 Month

CHABOOCHA calendar 2015

I hope you’re as excited as I am to join the challenge to write a chapter book in just 1 month!

This month I’m joining CHABOOCHA and am planning on writing a chapter book from beginning to end. And after I’m done, I’m planning on submitting it to Kaeden Books, who says in their submissions guidelines that they are particularly interested in receiving beginning chapter books!

So I’m going to be totally honest here.

I’m at square one just like you are.

I am starting this challenge today, just like you are.

I don’t have my characters picked out.

I haven’t the slightest idea what my plot will be.

I don’t even know my setting.

But the one thing I DO have is my mentor text. It’s The Red Flyer Roller Coaster which is published by Kaeden Books.

So this month here on my blog, I’ll be sharing step-by-step what I’m actually doing to write this chapter book from beginning to end.

If you want to write one using the same mentor text so you can follow along more closely with me, then go ahead and order it in. If you have your own mentor text or if you want to write a middle grade novel instead of a early chapter book, you might benefit more from following along with my Middle Grade Novel teleclass workshop.

And if you sorta kinda wanna try writing this challenge but you’re just nor sure how practical it is to write a whole book in one month, I’ll let you in on a couple of insider information on the real world of a children’s writer.

This last week I heard out of the blue from an editor who offered me a contract for a 6-week project to write a 8000-9000-word manuscript for teens. (That’s 3 times as many words as THE RED FLYER ROLLER COASTER and what I’ll be writing this month for my chapter book.)

And I also had a phone call from another editor last week who said that IF they decide to move forward on a chapter book for which they MIGHT offer a contract to me, it might need to be a really fast turnaround. Like maybe three weeks for 10,000 words.

So it’s challenges like the one we’re doing here on my blog this month that help me strengthen my writing muscles and keep in shape to feel capable to sign these contracts and then write and deliver those manuscripts. (And then get the nice paychecks in the mail!)

I hope you decide to join in the adventure!

As I explained, I’ll basically be sharing here on my blog the actual steps I’m taking to write my own chapter book this month.

And the first thing I did was make a calendar to follow. I don’t know about you, but calendars help me pace myself and get a project done on time. I don’t always stick with a calendar, but I make adjustments if I need to as I move along.

As you can see if you look at today’s assignment on the calendar, today’s a good day to read your mentor text and brainstorm ideas for your main character. Kaeden Books says in their submission guidelines that they are particularly looking for “manuscripts with strong characters with potential to become a series.” Plus they expand that to say they’re looking for “interesting characters that will appeal to children in pre-kindergarten through second grade.”

Let me know if you need help on how to brainstorm characters that fit this description.

Also, you can print out the calendar that I’m going to follow. But if your writing schedule is different or you’d like to use a blank calendar, I also included a blank calendar with the monkey in the middle OR a totally blank calendar with no graphics at all for you to use. You can download and print them out here:

CHABOOCHA calendars

Posted by: nancyisanders | February 27, 2015

Write a NF Picture Book in 1 Week: Final Day

For those of you who have been joining in on our adventure, I hope you’ve been enjoying the process of writing a nonfiction picture book in just one week.

And for those of you who are already overpacked with other projects (whether writing projects or just stuff) I hope you earmark these notes to use when you have time to work on your nonfiction manuscripts.

Thank you for following along! It’s hard to believe we started this journey last October to write and submit a nonfiction book to Kaeden Books.

First we just went through the process, step-by-step where I showed you what I do…actually do…to write an early reader nonfiction picture book manuscript to submit to a publisher.

Then this past month, once we had all the basics down, we sped up the process to write a second manuscript in three weeks from beginning to end.

And for this last leg of journey, we sped up the process once again to write a third manuscript in just 1 week from beginning to end.

I’m wrapping up my manuscript today and hope to pop it in the mail tonight.

I don’t know about you, but for me this produced a great feeling of satisfaction on various levels:

1) I could feel my writing muscles stretch and get strengthened each step of the way.
2) The task actually became easier each time I wrote a brand new manuscript to submit.
3) Now I have 3 new nonfiction early reader picture book manuscripts.

For those of you who wrote one, two, or all three manuscripts, what are some of the highlights for you? And for those of you who followed along but are waiting to write your manuscripts at a future date, what did you learn over these past months together?

If you remember back in October of last year at the start of this journey, we were going to learn how to write chapter books to submit to Kaeden Books, too. But then I opted to dig into nonfiction first.

But now we’re back where we started from and are all ready to launch into chapter books.

And as I mentioned before, the timing is perfect because we’re going to follow along with CHABOOCHA all during the month of March right here on my blog…the Chapter Book Challenge… to write a complete chapter book from beginning to end all in just one month!

I’m hoping you’ll join in the fun…it all starts right here on Monday, March 2!

Posted by: nancyisanders | February 26, 2015

Following a Mentor Text

Thanks, Claire, for asking questions about how to know which page count to choose for your manuscript.

Let’s compare two nonfiction books that Kaeden publishes:

How to Make Snack Mix
How to Make a Card

First let’s look at the stats:

How to Make Snack Mix is for Kindergarten. It has 47 words and 16 pages. It is for Guided Reading Level C.

How to Make a Card is for 1st Grade. It has 69 words and 20 pages. It is for Guided Reading Level G.

Now let’s look at the sentence structure of both books:

How to Make Snack Mix starts with 2 sentences of instruction.
After that, most of the sentences are repeated following this pattern:
Put in one cup of peanuts.
Add one cup of marshmallows.
Add one cup of candy-coated chocolates.
Add one cup of raisins.

How to Make a Card, however,does not use repetition of sentences. Each sentence is new and structured differently.

So if you want to write a 16 page book, then I would recommend repeating most of the same sentence structure throughout. Plus use a shorter word count of about 50 words.

But if you want to write a 20-page book, then you can be more free to write a different type of sentence for each page. And you should use a longer word count of about 70 words.

Does this help clarify what you want your manuscript to be?

Posted by: nancyisanders | February 23, 2015

Write a NF Picture Book in 1 Week: Day 1

Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 3.07.59 PM

Download the calendar here:
1-Week Nonfiction Picture Book Predictable Plot Calendar.xlsx

Hope you’re ready to start on our newest adventure: Writing a nonfiction early reader in just 1 week!

Here’s the calendar we’ll be following this week. Basically, the way to read this calendar is to know that each column is for one day.

There are basically 3 writing sessions we’ll be doing each day. Read the calendar from top to bottom for each day of the week.

I like to spread these out: 1 before breakfast, 1 after breakfast, and 1 after lunch.

In other words, we’re putting in full days of writing this week.

Also, I tweaked this calendar to better reflect the predictable plots most of us are working on. That’s because Kaeden Books seems to use predictable plots mostly at this reading level.

Basically, a predictable plot doesn’t follow the 3-act structure. Instead, it follows a pattern it establishes in the beginning of the book and follows it through to the end even if it has one or two variations.

So let’s get started! Roll up your sleeves and have a happy day writing.

Posted by: nancyisanders | February 21, 2015

Welcome to My World!


I wanted to invite each of you to join me this upcoming Thursday for a telephone workshop I’ll be giving on Reader’s Theater plays.

I’m written tons of these over the years for publishers big and small including self-publishing my own scripts, too.

I like to recommend that every children’s writer learn how to write Reader’s Theater scripts because of the many, many benefits, so if you want to learn the basics plus lots of insider tips to guarantee success, join me live this Thursday, February 26 at 2:00 Pacific Standard Time. CLICK HERE to learn more about the teleclass and register for the event. (There are 11 pages of handouts you’ll get when you sign up!)

If it’s a bad time for you, you can always purchase the audio recording.

Cover from Amie 978-1-58997-799-0

Also I wanted to invite you to check out the tips I offer for those of you who are helping your children learn how to read. CLICK HERE to read the post on my publisher’s blog for my newest books, a set of 10 Bible Stories just perfect for beginning readers, One Sentence Storybooks: Bible Favorites.

And if you want to help get the word out about these new books to others, be sure to click on the sharing buttons on Tyndale’s blog to share it with your online friends! Thanks bunches, dear friends!

Posted by: nancyisanders | February 20, 2015

Write a NF Book in Just 3 Weeks: Submission Time!

kaeden submission IMG_0535

I hope you are having as much fun as I am finishing up your manuscript you’ve been working on so hard these past 3 weeks!

I finally finished mine today, popped it in a big white envelope, wrote the address on the front, and am ready to zip it off to the post office to buy a stamp. I wanted to show you the photo I took to let you see!

So if you’re wrapping up your nonfiction picture book for Kaeden Books today ’cause you’re following the 3-week calendar, today’s a great day to submit it, too!

First go over the submission checklist from the last time we did this to make sure you have all your ducks in a row.

(Especially remember to include your SASE and the extra fun, super-duper strategy I recommend in the cover letter.)

And then get ready…next week we’re going to write out third nonfiction early reader to submit to Kaeden Books…all in one week! So if you’re planning on joining in the fun, be sure to grab a bunch of nonfiction books from your local library this weekend to use as your research.

Then starting in March, we’ll be joining CHABOOCHA (the Chapter Book Challenge!) all month here on my blog to write and submit a chapter book to Kaeden Books.

I’ve decided to use as my mentor text their book THE RED FLYER ROLLER COASTER, one of the books in the series, THE ADVENTURES OF SOPHIE BEAN, so if you want to follow along and use the same mentor text, go ahead and order a copy for yourself to use. When I ordered mine they shipped it right away so you still have time to get it and join in the CHABOOCHA starting in March.

Just remember, Kaeden Books says on their submission guidelines that they “have a particular need for beginning chapter books, unique non-fiction manuscripts, and manuscripts with strong characters that have potential to become a series.” We’re already tackling the nonfiction manuscripts and next on our plate will be beginning chapter book with strong characters that have potential to become a series!

Plus I thought you’d appreciate a look at my hard-working writing buddies who have been sleeping all morning on the couch next to me while I’m working hard to finish up my nonfiction book. Pitterpat–the Snowshoe Siamese– finally woke up to take a bath. (Maybe they finished their manuscripts last night?!!!)

Here they are!

cats on couch IMG_0538

Posted by: nancyisanders | February 20, 2015

Citing Research and Using Footnotes

Thanks, Carole Jenks, for asking such a great question about using footnotes when we make our sidebars. For those of you who didn’t see Carole’s comment she posted, here it is:

Hi Nancy,I enjoyed your blog post about sidebars. I was wondering if you could send a screenshot of an example of how you do your footnotes for your manuscript? Do you put little numbers in your manuscript of where you got your information? Thank you for all of your help.

The answer is, yes, I put little numbers in my manuscript. For example I put my curser next to the word in my document I am citing my research for. Then I click on the Toolbar at the top of my Word document and click INSERT. Then I click FOOTNOTE and follow the commands in the pop-up box to put it at the bottom of my page. A little number is inserted automatically at the spot of my text that I had my curser. And at the bottom of my page it allows me to paste the title of the book along with the page number of where I found my info.

Here’s a screen shot of some notes I’m taking on FROGS right now:
Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 9.31.42 AM

Here’s some info on the process I took to create that page of research notes:

As you can see on the 3-week calendar we’ve been following, typically, I schedule a time for research most days for an hour or so before I sit down to write each section I’m going to write.

Sometimes I sit in a chair and take notes by hand about what I read.
• I often have my outline on a clipboard sitting next to me.
• As I read the books I either add a new fact to my outline or add a second or third source to a fact that’s already on my outline.
• I do this by hand.

Sometimes I sit at my computer desk to read my research books and take notes on my computer about what I read.
• I have a little devise called a book chair. It holds the book open while I’m reading.
• I can easily look back and forth from the book to my laptop and type in my notes into my outline in a very fluid method

There are two methods I use
Method #1:
• On short projects such as a picture book or an easy reader, I’ll often insert a footnote.
o I state a fact.
o I insert a footnote
o In the footnote I copy and paste the entry for the book from the bibliography I’ve already created for my project.
o I add in the page number.
o The benefits of doing this is that all your complete citations are already in place if you need it to show an editor.
o The negative part about doing this is that you can have so many footnotes on each page that you only have 1 or 2 paragraphs of text. It gets bulky and can also be more time consuming.

Method #2:
• On long projects such as Frederick Douglass for Kids, I use a special code.
o Since I’ve written numerous children’s books on African American history, I actually own several hundred key research books on my topic.
o Each of these books has its own special code.
o But just this past week I’ve been working on a manuscript about frogs. I borrowed a bunch of books from the library to use as my research books.
o I gave each of these books a special code, too.

On my bibliography, I make a second copy of it and type in the code I’m using for each book. For a short project, I just use alphabet letters. Sometimes I go from A-Z or sometimes I just use the first and last letters of the author’s name. Such as One book’s code could be RS if the author is Richard Sherman and another book could be TJ if the author is Tim Johnson.

Now on a manuscript where I’m literally using hundreds of books for my research, instead of making a second copy of my bibliography to keep track of my code, I just list my books in a long list using 1 or 2 key words from each title. I put the code next to it. I format my manuscript to have 3-4 columns of text.
• I can have all my books with their codes on 1-2 pages like this.
• If I forget what the code is for each book, I can search the document for it.
• If I own the book, I write the code inside the front cover
• If I borrow the book, I put a sticky note inside the front cover with the code on it.

So when I’m reading that book and plugging in notes on my outline, here’s what I do:
I simply write down the code and the page number I found that fact on. For example I might write down this fact:
• The largest frog in the world is the Goliath Frog.
o After that fact, I will write down RS24.
• This means I found that fact in the book by Roger Sherman on page 24.
• Then when I’m reading a different research book and I find that same fact, I go back there and add TJ42 next to the RS24. This means I found the same fact on page 42 of the book by Tim Johnson.
o I like to have 3 sources listed next to each fact.
• The benefits to this system is that
o your outline doesn’t get bulky with lengthy footnotes at the bottom of each page. Each fact simply has 3 little codes next to it.
o You can also move very quickly through your research by adding in such a simple reference for each fact.
o When you’re reading hundreds of pages of research, this system is my preference to use
• The negatives to this system is that if your editor requires footnotes you have to go back through and plug in each of the citations from the bibliography along with the page number.
o But I just try to do this in chunks so it doesn’t get too overwhelming.

As you can see on the screen shot of the research on FROGS I am currently doing, I used both footnotes at the bottom and also a little code. That’s because I’m reusing this research for a long project so started using little codes instead of pasting the title of the book in the footnotes.

I hope this helps show the process that works for me. If any of you have tips on how you actually do your research, let us know!

Posted by: nancyisanders | February 18, 2015

Write a Chapter Book in Just 1 Month!

snowflakes 3

This year I’ve signed up to join ChaBooCha, a challenge to write a chapter book from beginning to end in just one month. I’d like to invite you to join in the adventure! CLICK HERE to register so you can join this free challenge, too.

Starting March 1, there will be lots of fun as we interact within the community on ChaBooCha’s Facebook group and also ChaBooCha’s Twitter group. Plus there will be guest posts by authors, weekly prizes, and more! Thank you, Becky Fyfe for putting this challenge together!

So here’s the plan for those of you who are following along here on my blog:
1) Finish writing our NF Book in Just 3 Weeks this Friday. I’ll share how to submit it in an upcoming post, too.

2) Write our next NF Book in Just 1 Week next week from February 23-27. We’ll submit that to Kaeden Books, too. Watch for more info on this!

3) Starting March 1 here on my blog I’ll be sharing how to write a chapter book for Kaeden Books and the goal will be to join the ChaBooCha challenge and write it from beginning to end in just 1 month!

And for those of you who want to join in this challenge but aren’t sure where to start, what to do, and where to focus, you can register to purchase my teleclass workshop, Write a Middle Grade Novel in One Month.

I prepared that workshop by inviting my local writing buddies to my house for a month-long challenge to write a middle grade novel in just one month.

Then I took those handouts I created and those teaching strategies I taught to create this telephone workshop you can purchase today.

And THEN within the following year, I used all those methods and skills to land a contract to write the chapter book, Challenge on the Hill of Fire.

Since then, I continued to use those skills and handouts you’ll get when you sign up for the teleclass to write 4 more chapter books in that series! So I know these techniques work because I use them still today.

So how about it? I know some of you have been eager to start working on our chapter book submission to Kaeden Books. Are you up to the challenge? Sign up for ChaBooCha and join the adventure today. It starts March 1, right at your own writer’s desk.

Posted by: nancyisanders | February 17, 2015

Book Review: Little Chick’s Bible


Little Chick’s Bible
A Chick to Hug, a Bible to Love
by P.J. Lyons
Art by Melanie Mitchell

Little Chick’s Bible is a sturdy board book that is covered with a soft plush cover including an adorable baby chick on the front with a beak and wings that are loose (like the chick’s hands) and can be held in little fingers. Creation, Noah, Baby Moses, David and Goliath, the Birth of Christ, the Good Samaritan, Feeding the 5000, and the death and ascension of Jesus are the passages that are included in this Bible. The rhyming text is playful, fun, and bursting with kid-appeal. The art is sweet, precious, and comforting. What a great Bible to give as a gift for Easter or as a baby shower gift!

What I Like
As a writer myself, I especially like how much fun the words are in these stories. For example in God’s Friend Noah, one part says:

God said, “Noah, build a ship,
Pack a zoo, and take a trip.”

Kids just love language like that! What a great read-aloud Bible. Each story is short but complete with a meaningful message as well–perfect for little listeners. The Scripture reference is included underneath each title.

I also like how this is a companion to Little Bunny’s Bible. Some of the stories are the exact same in both, but some are different ones altogether. This makes it even more fun to give as gifts in Easter baskets…you can choose which child to give the yellow chick and which to give the fuzzy bunny.

And did I mention how the art is absolutely adorable!!!! Kids will want to hug this cuddly book and will feel a natural love for God’s Word.

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

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Posted by: nancyisanders | February 17, 2015

Write a NF Book in Just 3 Weeks: Week 3

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Yesterday, today, and tomorrow if you’re following along on our three-week calendar, one of the main things we’re focusing on is writing our sidebars.

Over the years a lot of writers have asked me questions about sidebars. How are they formatted? What should be in a sidebar?

To help you as you’re writing your sidebars, CLICK HERE to see a post I made earlier about writing sidebars for these nonfiction picture books for Kaeden Books.

If you have any more questions, just let me know.

We’re on our last week now, and soon we’ll be ready to submit our stories to the publisher! Yay!

Posted by: nancyisanders | February 11, 2015

NF Submission Opportunities!


This is a photograph of a dinner plate dahlia that grew in my yard last summer. Each flower is as big as a dinner plate and lasts for a long time for us to enjoy.

Right now, though, the bulb is lying dormant underneath the dark brown dirt. From all appearances, it looks dead. But I know it’s not so I’m hopeful that one day soon the bulb will sprout and another beautiful plant will grow covered with giant yellow flowers as big as a dinner plate. I’m even building a trellis with my husband Jeff to put over it this summer to support it better as it grows.

Why am I mentioning this? Because this week as we are working on our nonfiction manuscripts, it may seem like nothing is ever going to happen with our manuscripts. How can they ever get published?!!!!

Well, even though things may seem dark, dormant, or even dead, there are actually publishing opportunities out there for us as writers of nonfiction for kids.

For example, we can submit to Kaeden Books (which I will walk you through the process after we finish writing this manuscript in 3 weeks).

But there are also other places we can write and submit nonfiction to!

Schoolwide is currently accepting unsolicited submissions. (Thanks to Tina Cho for sharing this opportunity with me! A lot of folks on the SCBWI Blueboards have shared that they’ve gotten manuscripts accepted by them.)

Also, Prufrock Press has put out a call for nonfiction submissions. Check out their guidelines, too…submissions are due by April 1.

And then there’s always the self-publishing route…I’m currently preparing a nonfiction unit to post on Teachers Pay Teachers…I’m reusing the research I’m doing for this nonfiction manuscript I’m writing in 3 weeks to write a unit to sell at my store at Teachers Pay Teachers…more about that soon!

So while you’re working on this manuscript to write it in just 3 weeks, know that there are opportunities out there for you to get published. This is a great exercise to do to help your nonfiction writing muscles grow.

Posted by: nancyisanders | February 9, 2015

Write a NF Book in Just 3 Weeks: Week 2


This week is all about writing. See? Even my cat Pitterpat has caught the writing bug. I found her using my laptop to write her newest nonfiction early reader: I LIKE TREATS.

Starting today, we’re writing the “Beginning” of our nonfiction early reader picture book.

If you’re following the mentor text SNOW, this means that all you have to do is write the very first page (which is actually the very first sentence) today.

And since SNOW has a predictable plot where every new page repeats the same pattern you established here on this first page, you’ll continue that pattern as you write the middle part of the book on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

On the calendar you printed out to follow it says to write your “Middle: 1st Half” for Tuesday, your “Turning Point” for Wednesday and your “Middle, 2nd Half” for Thursday. That’s only if you’re writing a more complex story than SNOW that has all those elements.

So this is the time where you can actually write the main body text for your nonfiction story. Don’t worry about the sidebars yet or the backmatter. We’ll tackle those next week. Just write the text for your manuscript this week, keeping footnotes of the research you’re doing to back up the facts you’re stating.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Happy writing!

Posted by: nancyisanders | February 6, 2015

Write a NF Book in Just 3 Weeks: Week 1

Are you ready to roll up your sleeves for today’s writing adventure?

Once again, we’re logging in another chunk of research.

Then go ahead and sit down and read over your mentor text again. I always love to start many of my writing sessions out by reading my mentor text (or a portion of it if it’s a longer book).

For the third and final task for today, let’s create an outline for our manuscript.

If we were working on a much more involved nonfiction book, this could be a more involved task. You’ll find a handy outline form to fill in on my site if you’re going this route.

However, if you’re using SNOW as your mentor text or a similar book from Kaeden, this means we’re basically brainstorming what we want to include in our Table of Contents.

So if we were creating an outline for a book on snow, using SNOW for example, here’s what our outline would look like (you can choose to include the pages or not at this point since our book is at such a basic level with one new topic per page):


Okay…let’s put on our thinking caps and brainstorm exactly which topics we want to cover in our story.

Have fun!

Posted by: nancyisanders | February 5, 2015

Write a NF Book in Just 3 Weeks: Week 1

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Today we’re researching again.

For my first days of research, I just read through all the picture books I collected from the library. Now I’m ready to go back through and do some serious notetaking.

How are you managing your research?

Today’s also the day to sit down and plot your own nonfiction picture book. At first, you might not be sure what to choose. Just sit with your research books and use the PREDICTABLE PLOT WORKSHEET A to plan how you want your story to start.

Determine the pattern you want to establish such as “Snow is on the tree.”

Decide if you want to follow that pattern all the way through or if you want to change it one or more times. (See CATS for an example of one pattern change in a predictable plot.)

Mark this note on your plot chart and determine where you want this change to occur if you do choose to use it.

Brainstorm ideas for how you want your story to end. SNOW doesn’t have much of a surprise ending, so you might want to be thinking of a stronger way to end your story.

After you chart your story on the plot chart, you’re ready to choose a great title.

Once again, CLICK HERE to visit my site where I have a chart you can download to brainstorm various titles you might want to use for your story. Choose your favorite one!

Posted by: nancyisanders | February 4, 2015

Book Review: Psalm 23

Psalm 23
Illustrated by Richard Jesse Watson

This 22-page board book is perfect for little ones to hold. Using the King James Version of the Bible for the text of the 23rd Psalm, artist Richard Jesse Watson illustrates each verse of this Psalm in vibrant colors.

The opening, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” shows a close-up of a content lamb in the arms of his shepherd.

“He restoreth my soul,” shows a little girl looking lovingly into a happy lamb’s face.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,” portrays a modern-day woman with large gold earrings and gold necklace as an angel with large wings that are a covering for a little boy and girl and two lambs.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,” has a field full of flowers and sweet toddlers. Lambs frolic through the grass while older children fly kites.

What I Like
One of my favorite illustrations in this book is the cover. This same illustration is featured inside the book as the art for the last line of the Psalm. I love the majestic lion watching over the sleeping child with a lamb snuggled in her arms. There are so many images of happy lambs and sweet children and loving shepherds that the art conveys a powerful and precious message. I’m also glad that the KJV is used as I think this will be a nice way to teach a toddler and preschooler to memorize this beloved Psalm. I also like how the entire Psalm is featured altogether on the last page of the book.

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

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Posted by: nancyisanders | February 4, 2015

Write a NF Book in Just 3 Weeks: Week 1

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I hope you’re enjoying our adventure!

As I’ve been reading my research books each day so far, I’m reminded once again how it really helps me feel more confident as a writer when I take the time to include a steady diet of research.

I hope you’re feeling the same way.

Last time I wrote my nonfiction book for Kaeden Books, I used The Birdfeeder as my mentor text. This time, I’ve chosen Snow. Please feel free to choose it as your own mentor text as well if you want. I felt it suited my topic nicely. Plus I like how it has a different topic on each different page yet keeps a very similar sentence structure going throughout. The one drawback is that we can’t see the very last page of the story, but since the Table of Contents lists the last page as “Everywhere,” we can be pretty sure that the last page of the story is:

Snow is everywhere!

Along with our research and reading our mentor text, today is the day we chart the plot for our mentor text. This will help us chart the plot of our own text tomorrow.

If you would like to use a chart I’m using, CLICK HERE to visit my site where I post various charts and worksheets I use in my own writing. Scroll down to the heading, CHARTS AND WORKSHEETS TO GET ORGANIZED FOR SUCCESS.

If you are using SNOW as your mentor text or one of the simple, predictable texts Kaeden publishes, print out the PREDICTABLE PLOT WORKSHEET A. This is the chart you can use any time you chart a published book or your own manuscript that is based on a predictable plot. (CLICK HERE for tips on working with PREDICTABLE PLOTS.)

If for some reason you want to write a manuscript that uses a story arc, however, print out the BASIC PLOT WORKSHEET A to use instead.

Let me know if you have any questions about how to use either of these charts to plot your mentor text today.

Have fun!

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