Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Announcing the Nonfiction Writing Contest


The Nonfiction Ninjas are excited to announce our first-ever Nonfiction Writing Contest! After spending the month of February learning from the Nonfiction Fest, it’s time to put your knowledge to work. Show us what you’ve got!

This year’s contest will be for nonfiction picture books. Six winners will receive a FREE three-month mentorship with one of the Ninjas. One grand prize winner will move to the head of the slush pile with Storm Literary Agent Lisa Amstutz! All winners will receive written feedback on their manuscripts. Mentorship winners will decide with their mentors whether they want to work on perfecting a project or develop something new.


So how do you get in on this merriment? First, get busy writing! You have 4 ½ months to write a manuscript that knocks our socks off. This will be a NONFICTION Picture Book of no more than 1,000 words, typed in SCBWI Standard Manuscript Format. Send us a cover letter that includes your contact information and a brief bio. The manuscript should be attached as a word.doc. This contest does NOT include informational fiction. The submission window is July 15th – August 1st, 2023. Send your entry to NFNinjaWriters@gmail.com


Now for the fine print! Everyone wanting to enter the contest must subscribe to our blog. You can subscribe here. AND – Be sure to follow each of the ninjas on social media. We will be tweeting helpful hints about the contest under the hashtag #NinjaWritingContest. Plus – it’s a way to thank us for hosting the contest and NFFest. We don’t ask for money, but we do ask for your support by following us on social media and supporting our books.

Here are our Twitter handles. 








These are our FB Author Pages

Lisa Amstutz Author

Stephanie Bearce

Nancy Churnin Children’s Books

Susie Kralovansky

Linda Skeers

Peggy Thomas



Sleuthing out the Truth

By Nancy Churnin 

A nonfiction writer needs the skills of a super sleuth.  So, put on your Sherlock Holmes cap, and track down your subject. If your subject is dead, contact that person’s descendants or those who knew the person well.

What you learn can make the difference in unearthing details that will bring your story to vivid life or correct errors made in previous biographies.
How do you find these people?
Newspapers and magazine articles. If the person is alive, articles will probably tell you where that person was living as well as where the person was working at the time the article was written. Look up the place of work and if your subject is no longer working there, ask where the subject might be. If dead, obituaries will tell you the survivors or where the person donated records. Your subject’s alma mater can help track down heirs.
Universities and publishers. If the person and heirs are impossible to reach, look up experts on your subject. Often that person can be found teaching at a university where emails are easy to find. The expert may also point you to resources that can get you going on your own original research.
Travel. If you can, go to the actual place where your subject lives or lived and walk the streets that person walked, go to places that person might have frequented and talk to people who know or knew your subject.
What if the subject or the family WON’T support the book?

​While it’s your legal right to write about people who are famous without their consent, I have always opted against that. It is hard to get a story right even with all the resources at your disposal. It’s also hard to market the best of stories. It’s a big help to go out there with support.
If your hunt leads to putting your manuscript aside, remember that even for the best of detectives, not all cases get solved. But with these tips, the percentage that you do solve should go up. Happy sleuthing! 

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

The Power of a Mentor

By Lisa J. Amstutz 

When I look back over my 15-year writing journey, one thing that stands out is the importance of writing mentors. These writers took the time to teach and listen, and consistently pointed me in the right direction. I would not be where I am today without their guidance. 

My first mentor, Joanne, was a local writer whose work I admired. I screwed up the courage to invite her to lunch, and her encouragement was the push I needed to start submitting my work. Her invitation to a local writer’s group also opened a door to the writing world for me.
I met my next mentor at my first SCBWI meeting. As I listened to the critiques, I quickly realized how much I had to learn about writing for children. When the moderator mentioned a class she was teaching, I signed up on the spot. I continue to benefit from Laurie’s wisdom and insights to this day.
My agent has been another mentor to me. Before becoming an agent, Vicki modeled professionalism and a sincere desire to help other writers as our region’s SCBWI advisor. She continues that work today as an agent, and I continue to benefit from her example and direction.
There are too many others to list them all here. But I am so grateful to each one! The children’s writing community is amazingly generous and helpful.
So what should you look for in a mentor? To me, a good mentor is someone who is kind but honest about your work. They offer wise counsel and career advice. They help make you a better writer and human being.
A good mentor models success. They don’t need to be a New York Times bestseller, but they consistently achieve results in their own life in areas you want to emulate.
And finally, after listening and giving feedback, a good mentor will step back and let you make your own choices. Ultimately, it is your work and your career. You need to do what feels right to you.
The other side of this equation, of course, is becoming a mentor yourself. Wherever you are on your journey, don’t forget to extend a hand back to someone a step behind. There is nothing more rewarding than helping others succeed!
Who have been the mentors in your life? How have they helped you? Take a moment to thank them, and maybe give them a shout-out in the comments!

Lisa is the author of more than 100 books and mentors others through agenting and teaching. You can learn more about her work at https://www.lisaamstutz.com/.