May 3, 2013

How to Get Published in Highlights

Over the years, I’ve come close to being published in Highlights, having received personalized letters that read "keep writing" or "we have a similar piece on hand."  But I never received an acceptance letter—until this year.  This year!  It finally happened!  My article "How Penguins Pair Up" will be published this year in Highlights.
So, what made the difference?  I count five things:  performing outstanding research, finding a unique topic, researching and writing quickly (without sacrificing quality), finding great quotes, and adding drama.

Outstanding research means using primary sources.  That means avoiding encyclopedias or Wikipedia. Primary sources are first-hand accounts like newspapers, journals,  diaries, and interviews.  Reliable sources also include Internet website addresses that end in .org or .edu.

Unique topics can be found online in scientific news journals or even in local newspapers. Be persistent and check these sources daily.  Once you've found your topic, it's crucial to conduct your research as quickly as possible.  Once, I had researched and written about singing mice.  Unfortunately, this topic (as rare as it seemed to me) had been covered and had been already accepted by Highlights.  I was shocked.  Someone had beaten me to the punch.  
Besides working quickly, be sure to spice up a nonfiction article with amazing quotes.  The best way to do so that is to interview an expert.  First, become  familiar with the scientist's research so that you can ask thoughtful questions.  Also, when composing the questionnaire, think about the kinds of questions that kids would ask.  Then insert those quotes with balance throughout the article to clarify points or to liven up the piece. 
What's next?  Dramatic action!  You've got to hook kids right from the start.  So, start with a scene that paints the picture.  Write in present tense.  Use short sentences to create suspense.  For instance my article for Highlights begins in the ocean depths as a hungry leopard seal awaits to attack an unsuspecting penguin.  This dramatic action scene pulls the audience right smack into the article. 
It had taken me years to figure out the formula to getting published in one of the best loved children's magazines.  So, let's review.  Outstanding research + a unique topic + researching and writing quickly (without rushing quality)  + finding great quotes + adding drama = can you say, acceptance?  I thought you could.

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