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The next Children's Writer's World post will be on June 15th.

December 28, 2014

The Kentucky Writing Workshop

Are you interested in advancing your writing career?  Then mark your calendar:  Chuck Sambuchino of Writer's Digest Books is hosting "How to Get Published" in Louisville, Kentucky on February 6, 2015 at the Holiday Inn Louisville East.

This writing event is a full-day opportunity to get intense instruction, pitch a literary agent or editor (optional) and get your questions answered.  Please note that there is limited seating (90 seats total).

The special writing workshop is designed to give you the best instruction on how to get your writing and books published.  The topics include:  your publishing opportunities today, how to write queries and pitches, how to market yourself and your books, what prompts an agent/editor to continue (or to stop) reading your manuscript and more. Writers of all genres are welcome.

Literary agents onsite will give feedback and take pitches from writers.  This year's faculty includes agent Natalia Aponte (Aponte Literary), agent Alice Speilburg (Speilburg Literary), agent Brent Taylor (TriadaUS Literary), agent Victoria Lea (Aponte Literary), and editor JD DeWitt (River Valley Publishing).

I have registered for this workshop and will blog about it next year—so check back with Children's Writer's World in February or March.  Until then, I hope you will consider attending, too.  By the end of the day, we will have more tools to help us move forward along our writing paths.

December 14, 2014

Grade Level

When you write for young children, you should aim to keep the reading level age-appropriate.  In other words, if you are writing for ages 8 and 9, the readability should be for grades 3 - 4.   But what you have written an article intended for third-graders and an editor tells you that your piece is too advanced?  How can you measure the reading level so that you can edit it for the appropriate grade?

Here's when the Flesch-Kincaid grade level tool comes in handy. If you use Microsoft Word to spell-check your manuscript, you can choose to display readability statistics such as Flesch-Kincaid.  This tool was created to indicate comprehension difficulty when reading a passage.  The Flesch-Kincaid tool indexes readability by employing a formula that results with a number that corresponds with a U.S. grade level.  

Writers should become familiar with Flesch-Kincaid and use it as a guide to judge grade level.  I am not sure how many writers know about this tool, or know about it and forget to use it.  But if an editor points out that the reading level of your article is too high for the intended audience, you will need to find a way to lower it.  And this is where Flesch-Kincaid can help. 

In order to succeed in lowering readability, you cannot rush the process.  You should not hurriedly shorten a few sentences and cut some words here and there, and send it back to the editor with the message:  “Here you go.”  (I’m not kidding. I have seen this quite often.)  When you return an article to an editor in a day, it looks like you haven’t spent the time it takes to edit properly.  In fact, it almost shows that you don’t care enough about your work.  

My advice would be to work on the revision over several days, put it on the back burner for a few days, and return to it with fresh eyes.  Then take a look at the length of your sentences.  Turn the compound sentences into simple sentences.  Balance the number of simple sentences so that the work does not sound choppy.  Include some complex sentences, those that have an independent clause and a dependent clause.  Next, scrutinize each word.  Reduce the number of multisyllabic words.  Use a thesaurus to find grade-suitable words. 

You may find that you will need to repeat this process many times to gradually lower the grade level.  It's challenging, but doable.  And it's worth it. Before long, you will have created an age-appropriate piece and made an editor happy by giving her what she has requested.  






December 1, 2014

The Subject Line

Writer's guidelines.  Every magazine has them.  But I'm trying to understand why some writers fail to observe them.  Do writers simply forget to read the guidelines?  Do some feel entitled to skip them if they are published authors?   

The writer's guidelines will usually state how an article or story should be presented to an editor. This includes the way an editor wants the subject line of an electronic submission to read.  For Kids' Imagination Train, we would like to see the author's last name, the genre and the title in the subject line.  

Writers must always follow the guidelines.  And that includes having the correct wording in the subject line for an electronic submission. As cruel as it may seem, your work might get deleted or find its way into a spam folder if the subject line is not worded as specified.
    
Whether you pen fiction or nonfiction, you are well aware of the work that goes into writing for children. Nonfiction writers spend hours finding sources, reading them, taking notes, writing the piece and then editing it.  They spend time trying to find an expert to review the manuscript. Likewise, fiction writers spend hours crafting stories that demand conciseness, simplicity, and a visual sense.  They too, must edit and revise.  So with the mountains of time invested, why would writers take the chance of having their work trashed simply because they failed to follow one little step?  
 
As silly and as persnickety as it might sound, the subject line of an email submission must be stated exactly as requested.  You must pay attention to this little detail, because if you fail to do so, your precious manuscript that you spent oodles of time on may never get read.  And no writer wants to walk down that path.  I've said it before and I'll say it again (and again).  Review the writers' guidelines.  Pay attention to what is required for the subject line.  Doing this little step correctly should guarantee that your hard work will get into the hands of an editor.  

November 17, 2014

Read It Out Loud


You've probably heard this before:  read your work out loud. Most editors would encourage you to do so.

Once, a writer sent a nice poem to Kid's Imagination Train, but she repeated a phrase three times in two stanzas.  The repetition in this piece was distracting and it caused the poem to weaken.

Had she read her work aloud, she would have caught this slip. Then, she could have used a thesaurus to find words to replace the redundant phrase.

There is an exception to using repetition.  If you want to draw attention to a word for emphasis or for humor, then words and phrases can and should be repeated.  A classic example is Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss:

Green Eggs and Ham
I am Sam.
Sam I am.
That Sam-I-am!
That Sam-I-am!
I do not like
That Sam-I-am!
Do you like
Green eggs and ham?
I do not like them,
Sam-I-am.
I do not like
Green eggs and ham.




Take a careful look at what you have written.  Review it multiple times.  Then close the door if you want and start reading it out loud to the computer screen.  You can print a copy and read to a mirror or even read to your pet. Listen for any unintended repetition. Check to see if you work flows off your tongue. Catch awkward phrasing. I urge you to do this every time before you submit your work. And so, allow me to repeat myself: read your work out loud:)






October 29, 2014

Multiple/Simultaneous Submissions

Do you know the difference between multiple submissions and simultaneous submissions? Though some people use the words interchangeably, there is a difference between the terms.  In the case of a multiple submission, a writer sends several different manuscripts to one editor.  In other words, an editor may end up with two or more pieces from one writer. Conversely, a simultaneous submission is when a writer sends the same manuscript to different editors. This means that your story is being considered by more than one editor.

It's important to understand the difference and know if multiple or simultaneous  submissions are accepted.  Your work might get rejected if you send an editor multiple submissions when the guidelines state otherwise.  So it's your job to find out if what is permitted.  

For instance, Kid's Imagination Train has a small staff so we don't accept multiple submissions or simultaneous submissions and we state that in our guidelines.  But that doesn't mean that everyone adheres to the rule.  Once, a writer sent a very nice poem which was accepted for publication in KIT.  Since the piece required a little editing, I worked on the revision for a few days.  And then, the author retracted the poem.  The explanation:  another publication had excepted the piece.  The author had submitted her work simultaneously.  I was not a happy editor—my time was spent editing a piece that KIT will not be able to use.

Be sure to find out what an editor prefers before submitting.  If multiple and/or simultaneous submissions are permitted, you will get the chance to have your work and lots of it considered by editors.  But when the guidelines state that an editor does not want multiple or simultaneous submissions, then follow those requirements.  That way, you will know exactly what to submit and how to target editors who may be interested in publishing your work. 












October 7, 2014

More Tips for Writing Nonfiction for Kids

In July, I had written a blog that had tips for writing nonfiction for children.  I’d like to add a few more.  The following came to mind after I edited an article and a book.   

*Write in the present or past tense.  Avoid using the future tense if the wording can be expressed in the past tense.  Example: She would become a great athlete.  Better:  She became a great athlete.

 *Look up words in a dictionary if you are not sure if they need to be hyphenated.  Check out the links below to discover extra tips on using hyphens: 

*Dig deep when you research your topic.  Go beyond what is presented in encyclopedias or on the Internet.  Aim for primary sources.  Editors love primary sources.

*If you include an organization that is known by initials or an acronym, spell out the name of that organization. If it is not well known, give one sentence to describe the essence of the organization.

*Read your article out loud.  Really!  You will be surprised how many grammatical errors you may catch.

Before you submit manuscript to an editor, edit it thoroughly.  Put it away for a few days and read it again with fresh eyes.  Have someone you trust take a look at your work. Review the tips in the July blog and follow the tips listed above to help your writing get stronger and to make your manuscript shine.  

Do you have any tips for writing nonfiction for kids?  I welcome you to leave a comment.



September 28, 2014

Pushing the Limit on Word Count

Do you stay within word count when submitting to a children's magazine?  I hope so. Yet, some writers think it's okay to push the limit.  Once, a writer sent Kid's Imagination Train a 1200-word article.  That's a bit too long—700 words over the limit.  KIT accepts fiction and nonfiction that run about 500 words.

It is clear to me that this writer didn't read (or understand) our guidelines.  What a shame because it wastes my time and the writer's time.  Had the requirements been reviewed, this writer may have sent an appropriate piece that KIT would love to publish.

Magazine editors post word counts not to challenge or frustrate writers, but to encourage writers to create pieces that are suitable for their audience.  Five hundred words or less is an appropriate length for young children because it's short enough to keep kids engaged.  Anything longer may result in losing a child's attention.  In fact, other editors will tell you that even adults lose interest in reading lengthy pieces online.

Here are some general rules:  twenty to fifty words over the count is generally okay. Going over by one hundred words is iffy.  Pushing the count to several hundred words over the limit is a no-no.  Just don't go there.  

Writing for children requires that you write concisely.  If you want to get published in the children's markets, make it a point to read the guidelines and stay close to the expected word count.  


September 12, 2014

Making a Lousy Day Better


I suppose everyone has a lousy day from time to time.  Not long ago, I had one of those kind of days.  A business associate left Kid's Imagination Train without giving notice, leaving me to fill in for her duties at the last minute.  Luckily, I had some clues that this might happen, so I prepared in advance.  Looking back, it was for the best.  My former partner is probably happier and I have fewer worries.  More, her departure pushed me to be creative with KIT.  And I could not be more pleased with the direction it has taken.

As I look back, it was truly an awful day.  A question kept burning:  How could anyone treat another person that way?  It really bummed me out.  But that question would never get answered.  So, I had two choices: to continue to have a bad day, or to do something to make the day a little better.  I choose the second. 


Early each morning I take a walk and pass by a dry cleaning business.  Cathy, the owner always waves or says hello to me.  It occurred to me that on this lousy day I could do something nice for her.  I was on my way to the grocery and decided to buy a potted flowering plant. 

When I gave it to her she looked stunned.  “Why?” she asked.  I said, “It’s a ‘because’ plant.”  I did not go into any details about my day.  I told her it was because she was always friendly to me.

Believe it or not, the little plant still blooms even months after it had been given as a gift.  Cathy tells me that people remark about it when they stop in.  As for me, it never reminds me of my lousy day.  Instead, it reminds me of hope and kindness.  It makes me smile knowing that a small gesture made my day better and someone else’s day a little bit brighter.



August 24, 2014

KIT's Writing Contest for Kids

All aboard!  Kid's Imagination Train is sponsoring a writing contest for children ages 7 - 12.

Here are the rules:

There is no entry fee.  Create a holiday or winter-themed story up to 500 words.  The story should be typed or neatly printed.  On the right hand corner of the first page include your name, age, and home and email address.

Submit online at kidsimaginationtrainmag@gmail.com  Type "Contest" and the title of your story in the subject line.  The stories can also be mailed to:

KIT c/o Randi Lynn Mrvos, Editor
4637 Spring Creek Drive
Lexington, KY  40515

Be sure to keep a copy of your story.  All submissions must be received by October 1, 2014.  The KIT editorial staff will review the stories.  Notification will be emailed approximately six weeks after the closing date of the contest.

The prize:  The winning story will be published in the 2014 KIT December issue.           The winner will also get to choose a book that has been reviewed on KIT.  Go to www.kidsimaginationtrain.com and click on Contest to see the list of books.

Stumped on ideas?  Here are a few titles that you can use or that might get your creative juices flowing:  

"Snowman has a Wish"
"A White and Wondrous World"
"The Magical Snow Angel"
"The Loneliest Snowflake"
"A Gift for Santa"

To read the latest issue of Kid's Imagination Train visit:  www.kidsimaginationtrain.com

August 15, 2014

Write Every Day?

You probably know the adage: “Write every day.”  Because I love to write, that's not hard to do. But not long ago, my writing routine was abruptly interrupted.  I came down with some weird mysterious flu.  The chills, a migraine, and nausea kept me from writing (and cooking for my family, going to the hair salon, taking care of the cat, and doing household chores).  I was miserable and bed-ridden.  All I could think about was staying warm and not throwing up.  After several doses of Imitrex and Tylenol, plus anti-nausea medicine, I was back on my feet in five hours—until another headache and a wave of nausea hit again.  So…back to bed. 

Through it all, my cat stayed by my side.  I had heard that dogs know when their owners are sick and will stay close by.  I never knew cats would.  And yet, Ollie did.  Okay, I was using one of his favorite nap-time comforters, but I like to think he really wanted to be close to comfort me.  And he did, snuggling and purring.  Later that evening, I was up and at ‘em.  I couldn’t eat much, and I didn’t want to think about anything, even writing. 



Two days later, I was ready to tackle some editing.  It was a great feeling, sitting in front of the computer with my work before me. After being sick, my mind was clear. I had more drive and energy.    

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t recommend that anyone get sick to find a new zeal for writing.  But I noticed that in getting away from the computer keyboard was beneficial.  I’ll have to think hard about the “writing every day” approach.  Maybe taking a break from time to time is a good thing.  For me, putting writing on hold for a few days gave me a new appreciation for what I love to do.   

Don't forget to check out the August issue of Kid's Imagination Train, now a flipbook, at: www.kidsimaginationtrain.com 









July 31, 2014

Re-submitting

We all want second and even third chances of trying to succeed.  But when it comes to revising a manuscript, a writer may only have one more chance to get it right. 

I believe everyone deserves to know why a story or an article is not ready for publication. Generally, if I see a manuscript for Kid's Imagination Train that has promise and needs a little editing, I’ll point out the areas which need attention.  For example, I might suggest getting closer to the expected word count, or finding another research source, or presenting the conflict earlier.  These are things a writer can easily fix.  I’ll send an email offering to read the revision.  Most writers are eager to comply to perfect their work.

But sometimes, the issue is the mood of the story.  Kid's Imagination Train does not accept violent or scary stories.  If we receive stories such as these, we still offer a chance to revise.  In some cases, writers will re-work the story and the revision will be accepted. 

Other times, writers refuse to make significant changes.  They re-submit the same story, but with fewer words. When this happens, their work will not be accepted.  I will tell them why:  KIT publishes whimsical, upbeat stories.  Yet a few writers can't accept the fact that their story has been rejected.  They want another chance.  They even feel entitled to send multiple unsolicited revisions. 

Sending a revision without an editor's invitation is discourteous and unprofessional. Many writers may never know the reason why a piece is rejected. Even fewer get an opportunity for a revision.  So receiving an editor’s opinion and getting a chance to edit is rare.  If however, an editor indicates that she must pass on the submission after seeing a revision, then writers have two choices.  They can either send the editor a new story that better fits her needs or they can find another market that accepts pieces similar to the story they have written.   
















July 14, 2014

Tips for Writing and Publishing Nonfiction for Children

I love reading nonfiction submissions for Kid's Imagination Train.  Recently, I received an article that needed a little editing before it could be accepted for publication.  This piece inspired me to make a list of some common submission problems and ways to fix them.

1.  Problem:  A weak beginning.
     Fix:  Start with a fascinating hook.  It can be an unusual fact, an amazing statistic,
     an entertaining anecdote, or an interesting quote.

2.  Problem:  Starting every paragraph with the same word.
     Fix:  Use prepositional clauses to begin some sentences.

3.  Problem:  Misspelled words.
     Fix:  Use spell check, but watch out for homonyms.

4.  Problem:  Failure to group similar ideas together.
     Fix:  Outline and organize your article before you begin to write.

5.  Problem:  Misuse of contractions:
     Fix:  The word "it's" is the contraction for "it is."  The word "its" is a possessive.

6.  Problem:  Improper formatted bibliography; unreliable sources.
     Fix:  Alphabetize the bibliography. Refer to examples in The Chicago Manual of Style.        Aim for primary sources.

7.  Problem:  Writing like an encyclopedia article.
     Fix:  Keep the writing light and lively.  When using a simile, make the comparison
     relevant to the age group for which you are writing.

8.  Problem: Failure to edit.
     Fix:  Read your work multiple times.  Have a trusted friend also read your work before        you submit. Don't expect an expert to catch all of your mistakes.

9.  Problem: Submitting without a cover letter.  Forgetting to include contact information.
     Fix:  Always include a brief cover letter with your submission.  Make sure it has your            home address and email.

10. Problem:  Exceeds word count
      Fix:  Keep to the specified word count as noted in the writer's guidelines. Some  editors don't mind if word counts exceeds by fifty words; going over by one hundred words might be pushing your luck.

Though an editor probably would not reject a manuscript without a cover letter, it is considered polite and professional to include one. Most editors however, may reject manuscripts that contain any of the other problems mentioned above. They usually don't have time to correct a manuscript.

Writing nonfiction for children is challenging—there are so many things to consider.  But you can increase your odds of publication when you avoid these ten common mistakes.




July 3, 2014

Scary stories

What kind of stories do you write for children?  Are they funny or whimsical?  Do they have a happy ending? These are the kinds of stories that Kid's Imagination Train likes to publish.  

Every now and then, a few writers submit scary stories.  Though there are markets for these kind of stories, they just aren't right for KIT.  We publish for a young audience—our lower age group is five-years old.  Children of this age 
have not learned how to express their fears verbally and because of this, we may never be sure of the impact of scary stories. 

Young children may however, send other clues or signals to indicate that they have been frightened.  For instance, years ago my husband and I could not figure out why our four-year old daughter suddenly became afraid to go to sleep by herself.  She needed one of us in her room every night.  After a few weeks of this behavior, I talked to Sister Marsha, one of my daughter's teachers.  Marcia asked if we allowed our daughter to watch a scary movie or television program.  I remembered that the three of us had watched the classic The Wizard of Oz, but we had fast-forwarded through the frightening scenes.  

“There’s your answer,” said Sister Marcia.  


While our young daughter seemed to enjoy the movie, it had actually scared her. And, we were clueless. She simply couldn't express her fears to us. 
   
Though this personal episode is about a movie not a story, l always think about it whenever scary fiction is submitted to KIT.  If you are writing for very young children, I would suggest staying away from scary and save it for the older kids.  Instead, focus on creating an upbeat story. Give it a positive message and end it on a cheerful note.        

Take a look at the July issue of Kid's Imagination Train:  www.kidsimaginationtrain.com

June 9, 2014

More on Revising


You’ve chopped all the ingredients for soup.  You’ve sautéed the veggies in a skillet.  You’ve poured the cooked contents into a crock pot, added broth or cream, and allowed the soup to simmer.  You know that the longer it cooks, the better it will taste.

I like to use this analogy when it comes to revising a manuscript for Kid's Imagination Train.  A revision should simmer on the back burner a good while before it is returned to the editor.  But recently, I’m finding that writers are rushing the process.  Sometimes when I ask for a revision, I get it back the following day.  Once, I got the revision back in one hour (I wish I was kidding).

Please don’t rush revision.  You should take into account what the editor has requested and edit your work.  But put it away for a few days and then come back to it.  Read it with fresh eyes.  Read it out loud.  Then edit again.  When you handle revising this way, you may see mistakes that you may have missed, or you may find more creative ways to edit your work. 

When you rush revision, it makes you look desperate.  So give your work the time and love that it needs.  An editor will notice and appreciate a thoughtful revision.  They know that the longer something simmers, the better it will turn out.

Don't forget to check out this issue of Kid's Imagination Train. Children interested in drawing for next month's issue can send in pictures of dragons to kitillustratorsubmissions@gmail.com 



May 28, 2014

Revising


If you are a frequent visitor to Children's Writers World, you know that I make suggestions to writers on their submissions to Kid's Imagination Train.  Usually, writers will revise their work.  But sometimes, writers never respond—which I don't understand. Are they arrogant?  Lazy?  I believe that when an editor takes the time to write to you and point out ways to improve your article, you should try your best to meet those needs.  

I take it as a compliment when an editor writes to me wanting a revision.  For instance, an editor at Highlights for Children magazine expressed interest in one of my articles, but pointed out that my manuscript needed some editing.  First, he wanted more details about a historical event that related to my topic. Realizing that would require more research, I read about six more sources to understand the event better.  Once I grasped the history, I included this new information in my article.     

The editor also wanted some clarification on the scientific research that I had been presented.  So, I contacted the expert whom I had interviewed.  In my email, I mentioned the title of my article, the name of the magazine interested in publishing my work, and the point in question.  She promptly wrote back with a great explanation. This too, was added to the piece.

Lastly, the editor wanted age-appropriate vocabulary.  He explained that some of my word choices were too advanced for the audience.  In fact, he actually listed each word (I know of no other editor who would have taken the time to be so specific). I referred to the thesaurus Children’s Writer’s Word Book by Alijandra Mogilner.  By using this book, I was able to find words that better suited the age group. 

The revision would not be rushed, even though I was eager to get the piece back to the editor. I read it over and over and then handed it to my second reader (my husband) for his opinion.  I edited it one more time.  Feeling that the manuscript was ready, I slipped it into an envelope and marked the outside: “requested revision.”  It will probably be several months before I hear whether or not the piece will be accepted for publication. But I feel good about the article. It was well-researched, well-written, and well-edited.  I know I gave my very best to meet the editor's needs.  


April 12, 2014

Conflict and Backstory


Conflict.  Every story needs it.  When you write for young children, that conflict must be delivered early on, in the first or second paragraph of a 500-word story. This hooks the audience. Waiting until the middle of a story to add conflict can be a mistake. The midpoint is where the climax should take place. 

Some writers delay the conflict by presenting too much backstory.  Long drawn out descriptions or explanations have a tendency to prevent the story from moving forward. 

For example, I received a story for Kid’s Imagination Train in which a lonely female bear wanted to have a baby cub.  Many years later she did and it became the love of her life. The bear's longing for a cub filled the first paragraph.  The next paragraph detailed the adventures of mama and baby bear. In the third paragraph, conflict was introduced—the cub had no friends. But placing conflict at this point arrives too late. By now, readers have lost patience with the story. Too much backstory bogs this piece down.  

If you write for young children, you have little time to keep them interested in a story. Children have short attention spans.  So, you have got to deliver the conflict as soon as possible.

If you must use backstory, keep it to one to two sentences.  Use backstory to describe characters and the setting or to set a compelling stage.  Then bam!  On to the conflict and the rising action.  Conflict engages an audience.  They will begin to care about the main character and will want to learn how this character deals with the conflict—a conflict that has been crafted well and presented early on.  










March 24, 2014

Where's the Fire?

What would you do if an editor said, “I’d like to publish your work.”  You’d probably be screaming and fist-pumping with excitement.  What if she added, “First, you’ll need to do some editing.”  How do you feel now?

If it were me, I’d say, “Sure, show me what needs to be revised."  And, I’d work hard to get the piece up to the editor's standards. But lately, I have noticed that when I ask writers for a revision and give them suggestions for editing, I don’t get nearly the same response.  Sometimes they send their article/story/poem back the day after I've asked for a revision. This makes me think that the author is not giving the story or article the time it deserves. Other times, I may never hear back from the author.  When I work with writers like these, I find myself asking: where is the fire, that desire and passion to follow up on revising a submission and making it the best it can be? 

It’s funny.  It seems to me that some writers today have changed.  Their attitudes come across as indifferent, smug.  They don’t want to develop true conflict or tie-in the closing to the beginning.  They don't want to put the effort into finding an expert to review their work.  They could care less if the bibliography is insufficient or poorly formatted. They want an acceptance without having to make any changes to their manuscript. Sorry, that’s not how writing for publication works.  Writing requires revision and I know of few writers who get their work published without thorough editing.

Luckily, I have found this attitude in only a few writers.  The majority know that when an editor is interested in publishing a story or an article, they jump on it and edit their work. They understand the value of revision. And they work hard to deliver what is required. They also know that when they give an editor what she wants, they not only have a better chance of seeing their work in print, they will have created additional opportunities for future manuscripts to be eagerly and warmly received.  

March 17, 2014

Writer's Contest

Heads up all contemporary middle grade writers.  Check out this great contest: http://tinyurl.com/kva3w9j.  Deadline is March 18th.  Top 3 winners all get: 1) A critique of the first 10 double-spaced pages of your work, by your agent judge. 2) A free one-year subscription to WritersMarket.com ($50 value)!

February 15, 2014

Follow-up

I receive a good number of submissions each month for Kid's Imagination Train.  Not long ago, two writers emailed me to inquire if I had received their stories.  Both of them wrote that they were having trouble with their emails.  Okay, perhaps that’s true.  But the cynic in me was asking:  Were these emails a handy excuse to check on their submissions?

There are some unwritten rules about emailing editors.  One rule is that writers should not email an editor until after the stated turnaround time.  Turnaround time can usually be found under writer’s guidelines.  For KIT, the turnaround time is about six weeks; but for other publications, it may be closer to two to three months.  Checking on work a couple of weeks after submitting is unnecessary.  In fact, it can make writers appear unprofessional.  

Some novice writers get nervous about submitting.  They feel that their work might get lost in cyber-space. Yet, that rarely happens when the correct submission address is used.  My word to these anxious writers would be:  relax.  Not many editors send email confirmations upon the receipt of a submission.  Instead of worrying about the submission, writers should move on to other projects. Then, if the turnaround time has been reached with no word from the editor, you have the green light to inquire about your work.  

January 27, 2014

In Today's Mail

Today, I received a letter in the mail addressed to Editor, Kid's Imagination Train (www.kidsimaginationtrain.com ). I was hoping for a great submission, but when I opened the letter, I found three pages of poems and a self-addressed stamped envelope.

There was no cover letter. 

All submissions, whether through the mail or email, should always have a short cover letter giving the title, genre, word count, and a biography.  I'm betting this author is new to submitting and doesn't understand the courtesy of a cover letter. 

The poems sent were eleven or twelve-word descriptions.  Short and poetic, yes.  But not a good fit for our magazine.  Our guidelines state that we are looking for poems that tell a story and run about 200 - 300 words.  It makes me wonder if the author read the require-ments.

Unfortunately, I will have to pass on this submission.  However, since the author included a SASE and her work was neat and properly formatted, I will write to her on how to properly submit and include a copy of our submission guidelines.  I will encourage her to follow the rules and to aim for longer poems.  I am hoping she won't give up.  Every writer deserves a chance to grow and to improve.

January 4, 2014

Titles

If you have written a picture book or middle grade novel, you probably have a particular title in mind for your work.  But be aware that if the piece is accepted for publication, the title you have chosen may be altered.  This is common in the world of publishing. 

J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book, published by Bloomsbury in London in June 1997, was actually called Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.  A year later, Scholastic published an edition for the United States market under the title Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.  Perhaps the editors felt the word “philosopher” didn’t stress magic as much as the word “sorcerer.”  

Other famous children’s book titles have been changed. For instance, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett was originally titled Mistress Mary.  Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was originally titled simply Alice.  The same holds true for adult books. The Shine became The Shining by Stephen King, Fiesta became The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingwayand Atticus became To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.   

Knowing that book titles are often changed should not make you lazy about choosing a great title for your work.  A title is the first thing editors and agents will probably consider before reading the first paragraph.  So buck up and spend time choosing a great title. Make a list of possibilities.  Imagine these titled books on a shelf.  Which one of your titles screams:  “Pick me up and read me.”  This is what you’re aiming for.  

Choose the very best title your story deserves regardless that it might be changed.  An attention-grabbing title whets the appetite of an editor or a literary agent.  It gets them in the mood to seriously consider your work.

Here’s link to see the original titles of famous books:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/21/classic-books-original-titles-_n_3311784.html