Look at any author’s desk and you are likely to see inspirational notes or items nearby. That includes the Nonfiction Ninjas. Here they share their treasures:
PAT MILLER – I have two items. One is a plain river rock, smoothed by eons of water, that has been painted by a Vietnamese villager. It is covered with a layer of paint, sanded, another layer of paint, sanded, until a final design is painted. Even this final work is carefully sanded and then shellacked, going from nondescript to work of art. It reminds me to treat my revisions the same way. The second is a sign that hangs above the window by my desk.
CHRISTINE LIU PERKINS creates an inspiration board for each manuscript that she is working on. It contains photos of people, things, and places in her work, and also things that simply inspire her.
LINDA SKEERS shares:” Years ago I started writing for magazines and dreamed of being a ‘real writer’ who would one day write a book for children. My family and friends thought it was a ‘cute hobby’ but they didn't take me seriously. The only person that believed in me was my husband Bob. One Christmas morning I opened this present -- it's a retro Nabisco tin. (I had a collection of tins) But it was so much more than that. Inside were fancy embossed business cards that said Linda S. Skeers WRITER. Best. Present. Ever.
NANCY CHURNIN keeps this note close to her desk to make her laugh and remind her of the audience that will read, and comment on, her books.
SUSIE KRALOVANSKY’s family is her biggest fan club. Near her desk is the poster her Mom saved from Susie’s first book signing. The quote from Dr. Seuss was put together by her son and daughter. And the exuberant pig sign was made by Susie (an author/illustrator) to remind herself to keep moving forward.
STEPHANIE BEARCE received the same flying pig quote, but hers is a gift from her children. Their love and support and her husband’s are what helped her create all the books on this shelf. Her SCBWI Crystal Kite award also reminds her to do her best writing for kids.
PEGGY THOMAS keeps photos of her parents on her desk. Her mother, Margery Facklam, was also a writer. Here she is doing research with Kermit, one of the chimps at the Primate Cognition Center at Ohio State for her book What Does the Crow Know? It reminds Peggy not to give up. Most of her mother’s books were written after she was 60.
This quote was written by her father and tacked on his bulletin board. Now it stands on Peggy’s desk.
WENDY HINOTE LANIER shares: “On my desk are several inspirational scriptures and a shadow box with memories of my Aunt Bea. She never had children of her own, but she encouraged me and prayed for me often. There's also a little frog noise maker. When I'm frustrated or stumped I sometimes stop to make frog noises! “
What talisman do you have on your desk that gives you inspiration, a chuckle, or courage as you write? Tell us what it is in the comments. Include a photo if you like.
By Stephanie Bearce
You've finished your book! You spent hours editing, revising, and reworking the manuscript. Your critique group says it's ready to submit.
NOW, WHAT DO YOU DO??
Should you start the agent hunt? Look for a publisher? Start a new project?
My advice is ALL OF THE ABOVE!
Finding the perfect agent is everybody's dream. But it definitely takes a lot of effort and TIME! You want an agent who understands your writing and your career goals. It is worth the work it takes to find the right agent, but sometimes - especially when writing nonfiction - manuscripts are time sensitive. You may want to consider submitting directly to open publishers.
I LOVE my agent and am incredibly grateful to have found her, BUT I also published 28 books by submitting directly to publishers. You may start your publishing career with a book contract and THEN find your agent. It does happen. So, be open to a variety of publishing processes.
If you have a story that is ready to submit - take a look at the list of open publishers below. I've done the research to find their submission guidelines and provide you the link. Your job is to find the publisher who is looking for your type of book. Just like when you query an agent, make sure the publisher is a good match for your project.
I'd love to hear from you if you have questions. Please write them in the comment section. I'll do my best to give helpful answers.
Best wishes for publishing success!!
Children’s Book Publishers Open for Submissions
Albert Whitman https://www.albertwhitman.com/submission-guidelines-for-unrepresented-authors/
Allen and Unwin https://www.allenandunwin.com/about-allen-and-unwin/submission-guidelines
Andrews McMeel https://publishing.andrewsmcmeel.com/submissions/
Annick Press https://www.annickpress.com/Submission-Guidelines
August House https://www.augusthouse.com/submissions-guidelines
Beyond Words Press https://beyondword.com/pages/manuscript-submissions
Cider Mill Press https://www.cidermillpress.com/pages/submissions
Chicago Review Press https://www.chicagoreviewpress.com/information-for-authors--amp--agents-pages-100.php
Chronicle Books https://www.chroniclebooks.com/pages/submissions
Dover Publications https://www.doverpublications.com/faq/contacting-dover#EDITSUB
Entangled Publishing https://entangledpublishing.com/submission-information
Flashlight Press http://flashlightpress.com/submission-guidelines/
Fly Away Books https://www.flyawaybooks.com/submissions
Flying Eye Books https://flyingeyebooks.com/flying-eye/submissions/
Gibbs Smith https://www.gibbs-smith.com/submissions
Hogs Back Books http://www.hogsbackbooks.com/HBB/pages/About-us.html
Holiday House https://holidayhouse.com/faqs/
Judaica Press https://www.judaicapress.com/pages/submissions
Just Us Books https://justusbooks.com/pages/resource-center/submission-guidelines.html
Kids Can Press https://www.kidscanpress.com/writers
Laurence King https://www.laurenceking.com/getting-published/
Lee and Low https://www.leeandlow.com/writers-illustrators/writing-guidelines
Levine Querido https://www.levinequerido.com/submissions
Lion Hudson https://www.lionhudson.com/authors-and-illustrators/prospective-authors
Magination Press https://maginationpress.apabooks.org/?page_id=15
Mighty Media Press http://www.mightymediapress.com/submissions.html
New Frontier Books https://www.newfrontier.com.au/submission-guidelines
No Brow https://nobrow.net/flying-eye/submissions/?from=fe
Pants on Fire Press https://pantsonfirepress.com/submissions
Page Street Publishing https://www.pagestreetpublishing.com/submission-guidelines
Pelican Publishing https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/ContactUs/MakeMeAnAuthor
Penny Candy Books https://www.pennycandybooks.com/submit
Salaam Reads https://salaamreads.com/
Sky Pony Press https://www.skyhorsepublishing.com/sky-pony-press/submissions/
Tanglewood Publishing https://www.tanglewoodbooks.com/submissions/
Thames and Hudson https://thamesandhudson.com/page/getting-published
Tilbury House https://www.tilburyhouse.com/submissions
By Nancy Churnin
I just sold my 11th book, but do I get stuck sometimes? YES. One of the problems that comes back to haunt me more than I would like to admit is gathering too much information. Let’s face it, one of the reasons you’re a nonfiction writer is that you love research. I’m going to take a gamble and bet that you’re one of those people that study old books, newspaper and magazine articles, lifting up your head to exclaim, Really? She did what? That actually happened?
It’s easy to hoard all this delicious information and to get carried away by all the fascinating details. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I’ve written in a previous Nonfiction Ninja post about A Theme to the Rescue – where a strong, kid-friendly theme helped me streamline (and, sigh, toss out) details that kept my story boat from floating. A theme is a lifeline. But in this post, I want to talk about how structure can also be your friend.
When I’m worried that I’ve got too much information or narrative for a picture book to hold, I give thanks to picture book author and Storystorm creator Tara Lazar, and pull out her Picture Book Layouts, better known as dummies.Tara gives two options below.
In one example, you have 14 spreads, plus 2 single-page illustrations. In the other, you have 12 spreads. Trying to see how your story fits into this limited number of spreads can wake you to reality very quickly. Given that you don’t want to have more than a couple of sentences on each spread, you realize you have to make big choices: do I really need this? Is this advancing my theme and doing it in a way that makes kids want to turn the page to a satisfying conclusion?
If you’ve got too much information for a dummy to hold, maybe what you really want to work on is middle grade. But that’s another story.
By Stephanie Bearce
Writing nonfiction ALWAYS means research. Sometimes it involves deep dives into the library stacks or wandering through jungles of internet information. But other times it means plunging into the ocean with a jellyfish, crawling through caves hunting for bats, or scaling crumbling cliffs collecting fossils.
I've had some of my best adventures doing research for nonfiction projects. I've crawled through rooms full of artfully arranged skulls to learn about the Paris Catacombs. I've spent hours sitting outside in subzero temperatures to understand the mating habits of Gray Wolves, and I've traveled to the rivers of Australia to watch platypus play in their own environment.
Each adventure has given me insight that I never could have found in a library or on a YouTube video. I learned that the adorable platypus is a hyperactive little bugger. He is constantly diving for food, coming back up to gasp for air with sides heaving and body still wriggling. In seconds he dives back down to waggle his bill through the mud hunting for supper. The best way to track a platypus is to watch for the air bubbles that escape when he is underwater. Follow the bubbles and eventually you will see the platy surface.
I've learned how to tell who is the Alpha male in a pack by the way the wolves hold their tails. The alpha male's is usually straight out even with his back.
I also know that the easiest way to tell a fossilized bone from a rock is to lick it. The porous nature of the bone will cause it to stick to your tongue. And yes, it is better if it is a clean fossil - but when in the field...
I'm really excited about my next adventure. I'm headed to Lyme Regis, England. Home of fossil hunter Mary Anning. I'm going to spend time in her home town, read her papers, climb her fossil cliffs, and hopefully spot a few of the fossils that made her famous.
What will I learn about her that I couldn't find in the library or on the internet?
I'm not sure!
And that's a part of the adventure. I know that by walking in her footsteps and seeing the place where she lived and died, I will learn something new. Something that I hope will make my book about her unique and enthralling for middle grade readers.
It is not physically or financially feasible for authors to investigate each of their topics in person. But on those rare occasions when you are able to dive into the ocean with a scientist or walk in the footsteps of history - take advantage. Go on the adventure and soak up the knowledge. Your story will be all the better for it.
by Christine Liu-Perkins
My favorite part of the writing process is doing research. I collect as much as I can. The upside of extensive research is having a wealth of information to draw on and learn from. But the downside is getting overwhelmed trying to process all that material.
How can one absorb and understand so much information? How do you get it off the page (or screen) and into your mind?
Studies shows that students learn best when they actively engage with material. Likewise for writers, the more we ponder, wrestle with, and ruminate over our research, the more we comprehend. And the better we understand a subject, the more deeply and creatively we can write about it.
How can we get research off the page and into our minds? "Get control over your topic by writing about it along the way," suggests one of my favorite books on academic research and writing (Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams. The Craft of Research. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2008, p. 66). Reflecting on smaller chunks of research as you gather it will help you avoid being overwhelmed by mountains of information later on.
Here are some ways to ponder, wrestle, and ruminate over your research:
Ponder, wrestle, and ruminate over your research along the way. You'll be well prepared when it's time to write that first draft!
We are nonfiction authors who support readers and writers through our writing, author visits, and workshops.
Disclaimer: The Nonfiction Ninjas are a group of writers with diverse ideas . The views expressed in each post are those of the author and may differ from others in the group.