February 15, 2018

12 Ways to Avoid Rejection

Why was your children’s story (the one you loved and slaved over) rejected by a magazine editor? Maybe the editor wrote:  it's not right for us or I'll have to pass. These replies make matters worse because you have no clue as to what (if anything) was wrong with your work and you don't have any idea how to revise it. 

But here are some tips to help you avoid rejection:
  • Create a main character that the audience cares about and can connect with.
  • Create a true conflict that pulls at the heart of the main character.
  • Place the conflict early on in the story.
  • Establish a good flow (no stumbling over words when read out loud).
  • Have the main character solve the problem.
  • Close with a satisfying ending that is not predictable.

And a few more tips:
  • Give your story a unique plot.
  • Make sure your story is not preachy.
  • Shy away from scary when writing for younger kids.
  • Keep the vocabulary at the grade level of the intended audience. 
  • Check for spelling and grammar.   
  • Aim to stay within the expected word count. 

Judging a story is subjective and there can be many reasons why an editor rejects fiction.  Some things are out of your control.  Maybe the editor has published or has a similar piece on hand.  Maybe she has a particular vision for what she likes to publish and thinks your story wasn’t a good fit for the magazine’s audience.  Or maybe, she was just feeling grouchy and rejected everything that came her way that day.  Who knows? 

So read over the tips again.  Did you find the reason for your rejection?  If so, revise your work.  But, if your story passes the check list, then simply submit it again to another publication.  What are you waiting for?  You love your story. Find out if a different editor will love it, too.   




February 1, 2018

Going from Magazine Story to Picture Book

When I work with writers, some tell me that they want to take their published magazine story and submit it to a book publisher.  To accomplish that, they think all they need to do is to cut words.  In truth, a magazine story needs to be re-thought and revised if the writer envisions it as a book.

Both picture books and magazine stories center around a theme and have takeaway value.  They have engaging plots, strong characterization, a specific setting, and lively language.  


However, when it comes to magazine stories, there can be more character and setting description and more conversational dialogue.  In addition, magazine stories can be understood without illustrations and usually cover one scene.


For picture books, the focus is on one character, his want, and the conflict that results.  Writers must consider pace and page turns.  Less description is needed because the details are expressed through illustration.  Everything is about word choice—word play, rhythm, things like alliteration, and metaphor because picture books are generally 500 words.  Dialogue is shorter and snappier.  


A short story is usually read just once.   A picture book resonates with kids, parents, and teachers and is meant to be read again and again.  


I'm all for those who want to pursue writing a book based on a magazine story.  
Writers can use the same protagonist, setting and conflict, but the story has to be told more succinctly as a picture book.  It takes time, patience, and dedication to make that transition.  It takes reading books on the craft of writing and studying published picture books to understand what is required of the genre.  Because going from story to book takes a lot more than just cutting words.  






January 15, 2018

Advice on Planning an Author Event

Last fall, a new book store opened in my hometown, Lexington, Kentucky.  I went to the grand opening and was totally impressed.  Brier Books is located in a convenient area close to downtown.  When you go inside, you feel like you've found a special place for books.  The interior is warm and bright and the layout of the building invites you from room to room.

At the grand opening, the co-owner and I chatted about the possibility of having an author event.  She was interested!  Several months later we met to discuss the details. After an hour, we had laid the groundwork for "Happy Tails Craft and Story Time."

Listed below are suggestions that can help you plan an author event, too.
  • Meet with the owner at the bookstore or for coffee.
  • Wait on business chat. Get to know the owner.
  • Get down to business. Chose a date and time.
  • Come up with a catchy title for the event.
  • Partner with a nonprofit organization and donate part of the proceeds.
  • Communicate with the manager of non-profit to decide her role.
  • Discuss an advertising plan.
  • Design an eye-catching invitation for social media and an email list.
  • Discuss book ordering.
  • Determine the percentage of proceeds that will be donated.
  • Find out about the space and set-up arrangements.
  • Plan the details of the event (reading, signing, games, craft)

Begin working on your plan several months in advance.  Gather art materials and have them prepped in such as way as to help kids do the craft easily.  Purchase wipes for clean-up, pens for signing your book, and have bookmarks or other giveaways.

When you plan in advance and spread the word, you should have a significant turn-out.  The most important thing to know is, this event is for the book store, the non-profit, and for kids.  It's not about how many books you can sell (though that's always on an author's mind).  Put your effort and heart into meeting your fans.  Allow them to get to know you and your book and your author event will be an amazing success.









January 4, 2018

All the Noise, Noise, Noise, Noise*

I like to write in the study during the day when it’s peaceful and quiet.  Most of the time, I’m surrounded by silence.  The only sound is the clicking of my fingers on the keyboard or the purring of Ozzie, our cat.  Throughout the day there may be a few noises—the ticking of a clock or the humming of the clothes dryer.  But these sounds don’t interfere with my writing.  It’s the outside noises that put my writing to the test.    

For every season there is a noise.  During the fall, leaf blowers blast leaves into piles. In winter, snow plows rumble down the street.  When spring arrives, spray-cleaners drone on and on, driving dirt from decks and house siding.  Throughout the summer, lawn mowers roar and children scream.  

So you say, lighten up.  You're too sensitive.  Deal with it!

But noise distracts me.  My brain stops working.  My fingers freeze.  My muse packs up, taking inspiration and ideas along with her.  There’s no other choice.  I’ve got to stop writing until the outside world calms down.

I long for peace and quiet, but the fact is I can’t change my neighbors’ habits.   Noise happens.  (I just wish it didn’t happen while I write).  Meanwhile, my picture book manuscript stares at me.  I can almost hear it whisper, “Come back.”     

But it's useless.  I consider turning off the computer.  Maybe writing isn’t for me.  With a sigh of resignation, I gaze out the window at kids riding bikes up and down the sidewalk.  Then, I glance around the study and look upward.  The ceiling fan catches my eye.  The study is stuffy, so with a flick of a switch I turn it on.  

Suddenly, the fan begins to drown out the noise.  A gentle calmness washes over me.  I am able to return to my manuscript, to the sentences that need revising.  The words are powerful.  Like magic, they cast spell over me, and I am writing because writing IS for me.  My fingers click on the keyboard, Ozzie purrs, and the outside noises get dim and slowly fade away.

Check out Ozzie's cute video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jLvQ5cCVQPw&t=5s
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess
All the Noise, Noise, Noise, Noise previously published in the Creativity Connection, 2005.



December 15, 2017

Get to Know KIT


Most of my followers know that I’m the editor of Kid’s Imagination Train.  I am fortunate to have people on the staff who understand the vision and value of KIT.  

Book reviewer Donna Smith, voiceover talent Sharon Blumberg, and illustrator Shelley Dieterich donate their talents to produce Kid's Imagination Train. Regina Montana recently joined the staff as our marketing promoter. Because Shelley and Donna will be pursuing other interests next year, Anjali Amit will become our new book reviewer and illustrator Denise Woodward will be creating art for KIT.

KIT began as a blog in 2013.  Oh my goodness, how we have grown!  In a couple of years we earned a little income to purchase a domain.  Not long after, we found Youblisher, a website which generates free page-turning flipbooks.  We also have an audio page where children may listen to their favorite features. 

There are two reasons why Kid’s Imagination Train was created:  one, to give writers a place to get published since the children’s magazine market was shrinking, and two, to inspire children to learn by giving them the opportunity to illustrate a story or an article and have their pictures published online.  Over four years, KIT has given children educational and entertaining features which can be read in the classroom or at home.  It has also given writers a way to build their bios.

KIT is a free online magazine.  It's a small publication that is funded through donations and advertising.  

Since the inception of our little magazine, no one on our staff earns a salary.  Not many people are willing to work for free for so long. I admire the talents of Shelley, Donna, and Sharon, and welcome Regina, Anjali, and Denise.  I'm so proud of our staff.  These special people are dedicated and believe in the value of KIT.   



December 1, 2017

Turning Down a Nice Submission

The other day I received a nice submission for KIT.  The author had a remarkable 
bibliography, so I could tell the article was well-researched.  But there were multiple 
reasons why this piece was turned down.  

  • The manuscript was not formatted correctly and the contact information was missing.  Contact information must be present on the first page of a manuscript.  This is fairly standard for any magazine.  
  • The word count exceeded our limit.  We state in our guidelines that we'd like articles to run about 500 words.  Kids are more engaged with shorter pieces.  Going fifty words over the limit is not egregious, but 200 words is simply too long. 
  • The Flesh Kincaid readability tool measured the piece at seventh grade level.  The range of our audience is from first to six grade.  To achieve a readability score more suitable to KIT, writers can reduce the number of compound sentences, explain complex concepts in simple terms, and use grade-appropriate vocabulary. 
  • The subject of the article was too mature for young readers.  This is where writers have to put themselves in the shoes of kids and figure out what they would like to read and know.  For instance, we believe an article that discusses animal reproduction is  not appropriate for our magazine.   

It's very possible if this writer had taken a look at our guidelines, a rejection could have been avoided.  

But, all is not lost for this writer.  In this case, we provided reasons for the rejection, not the typical "the piece is not a good fit for us."  And this writer has the opportunity to submit again.  KIT believes that every writer deserves a second chance.  We promote writers and encourage them to perfect their submissions.  It is our mission to help writers succeed in reaching their publication dreams.  







November 14, 2017

Don't be a Vampire


Children's Writer's World warmly welcomes a guest blog by Melissa Carrigee.

October is the month for vampires - the creatures that stalk you from the shadows and come to suck the life out of you, draining you.  Well in the writing world, vampires are around year-round.  

Have you ever had just a small success and the minute you do, you have people coming out from places you didn’t even know existed just to ask you questions like:  

Tell me EVERYTHING.

How did you get your book published?

Where do I go to get my work published?

Can I have your contact list?

Can you look over my manuscript and tell me what’s wrong?

Do you have an agent?  How did you get one?

And the list of questions goes on and on and on.

DON’T BE A VAMPIRE!

As a writer, you know how much work you put into it.  It’s a 24/7 job.  If you aren’t physically writing, you’re mentally writing and plotting.  And when you are not writing on paper or in your head, you are navigating the confusing waters of the publishing business.  

So now you have a writer who isn’t willing to do all that work – they want it all for free.  From you!  The writing world is one of the nicest communities there is.  We understand each other and share as much as we can…but there is a limit.  

Sure, I will tell you everything I’ve learned in the past 3 years working in the business, but you better buy a dang book from me or have something else to offer.  I know it sounds cruel and bitchy, but try to understand how it feels when people want to pick your brain.  Those people had not purchased a book and didn’t even intend to.

They wanted one thing – to suck an author dry.  That’s just bad etiquette.  If you ever want to talk to an author and you know it’s an in-depth conversation, for goodness sake, buy their book and ask them to autograph it and THEN ask your question.  Authors make so little off their book and hardly anything on conferences. We need to buy groceries too!