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

December 15, 2015

Keeping a Submission Log

Do you keep a log of your submissions?  I'm betting most writers do so.  But, I learned that some writers aren't interested in keeping records.  I was shocked.  How do writers keep track of their submissions if they are not written down or recorded?  

Keeping a submission log doesn’t have to be complicated.  A notebook or a word doc. will suffice.  List the title of your manuscript and the agents or publishers that you’ve contacted, their email addresses, and the date that you sent your submission.  You can format it anyway you like, even use color coding.  (I use orange for dates of submission, green for acceptances, and purple for rejections). 

Then in a few weeks, mark your submission to indicate if it’s been accepted and the date it will be published. You can even note the amount of payment.  If your submission was rejected, note that date, too.  When you have a record of your submissions, you will know when to follow-up if you haven’t heard back from an editor. And, with a complete list of your submissions you will be able to refer to it as you continue to submit new work.  

Keeping submission records is an important part of the writing life.  It's what writers do. Don't expect (or even ask) an editor will find your submissions.  She doesn't have the time and it’s not her job to keep track of submissions for you.  It’s your job to keep good records. 


December 1, 2015

Online Submission Forms

When it comes to submitting a children’s book manuscript, you can usually query an agent or a publisher by email.  A few publishers and agents however, have online forms that you must fill out.  Most of the time, the forms will only take a few minutes to complete.  But, some require more time and thought.  

This topic comes up because I found a publisher who requires writers to fill out an extensive online submission form.  The form consists of two parts:  an author section and a book section.  Both parts ask detailed questions.  Halfway through, I was ready to give up.  The clock was ticking away, my brain was getting numb, and I was beginning to think why bother.  Would my submission be taken seriously?  But, I continued to answer questions about hobbies, education, publications, awards, things that inspired me, and what makes a great book.  (This is just a sampling of the questions. There were many other questions that needed to be addressed).

Then, it was on to the book section.  Here, my manuscript had to be formatted as specifically described in the guidelines and uploaded.  Next, a description of the book had to be stated.  Then the hook, a quote from the book, a synopsis, and the intended audience were required.  Lastly, the publisher wanted to know why I chose to submit to them.  

All in all the entire process took a good part of an afternoon.  When I finally submitted my project and author profile, I felt proud to have completed the time-intensive form. Though there is no telling how successful my submission will be, the submission process forced me to think about my book in new ways:  how would the book be marketed, how do others feel about my book, and how strong is my platform?   

If you find a publisher that has an online form, try to read through the questionnaire before typing in answers. Judge how much time you’ll need to answer the complete form. Create thoughtful answers to the questions beforehand.  Then, don’t rush as you fill out the form.  Review your answers before you hit 'send.'  

Congratulate yourself when you’re finished.  You completed a submission form that few writers would have the patience or the time to tackle. Your dedication may pay off and you may have found a publisher who will be interested in your work. 

November 15, 2015

Riding out Rejection

Usually, I have a pretty tough skin when it comes to rejection.  After all, it is part of the writing life. But one particular rejection shook my confidence.  It happened after going to a writers' conference. I pitched my novel to an agent and he requested a partial.  Several weeks later, I sent the first three chapters of my manuscript to him.  When a couple of months passed with no response, I sent a follow up letter.  I never heard a peep from the agent.  That crushed me and made me question my writing talent.

But shortly after feeling so rock-bottom low, the unexpected happened.  I got word that my picture book story (which had been entered in three writing contests prior to the conference) had won a prize from the Tennessee Mountain Writers and an award from the Writers-Editors Network International Writing Competition.  Several weeks later, this same story also won First Place in the Juvenile Writing category presented by the Alabama Writers' Conclave.  This round of good news encouraged me, especially after reading a note from the AWC Contest Chair:  Congratulations on a nice piece.

If I've learned anything over the past twenty years, it's that being a writer has its highs and lows. When the writing life takes a dip and cruises downhill, hold on tight.  Ride out the low times—those times filled with self-doubt, those times brought on by rejection.
Try to stay positive.  Enter contests to build your confidence.  Submit your writing to magazines. Keep writing in spite of rejections. Quitting is not an option.  Know that in time, the downhill ride will soon climb to new heights.

November 1, 2015

Sources for Nonfiction

When I receive a nonfiction submission for Kid's Imagination Train, I take a glance at the resources before reading the piece.  Our guidelines suggest that writers have three sources, but I'd love to see at least five, reliable resources.

Most writers know that Wikipedia should not be included.  So, where can you find good sources?

  • Start with your library.  Check out books in the adult section, something published less than fifteen years ago.  Some children’s books may be acceptable if they have been written by an authority or a well-respected children’s writer. 

  • Use your library’s database.  If you are not sure how to use a database, ask a librarian.  In the database, you can search for your topic.  Look for newspaper stories and journal articles. 

  • Search the Internet for professional websites.  Reliable websites include university websites or scientific organizations.  

  • Hunt for primary sources.  This can include first-hand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation created by witnesses who experienced the events or conditions being documented.  Primary sources can also include autobiographies, memoirs, and oral histories recorded later.  

  • Locate experts that have experience on your topic.  Read and study their research.  Interview the experts or have them answer a questionnaire.  

Most writers who have published in Kid's Imagination Train generally rely on library books or the Internet.  What impresses me is when writers dig a little deeper and find sources which reveal unique research.  When I see that writers have used outstanding sources, it puts in me the mood to read their work.  







October 11, 2015

The 5 Senses on a Summer Walk

The temperatures are dropping in Kentucky and we're sliding into autumn.  It's a nice break from the heat because during the summer, it was 80° at mid-morning with the humidity steadily climbing.  I walked for an hour early in the day before it got too sticky.

These are the five senses on a hot muggy summer morning before I sat down to write:

I hear:
the rattle of cicadas
the cheerful song of the cardinal
the screech of a bluejay
a neighbor saying "good morning"

I smell:
damp soil
strong fragrant lilies
sweet clover
the steamy, humid air

I feel:
a cool light breeze
the warm sun
the splash of a puddle against my leg
feathery-soft ornamental grass

I see:
American flags waving
oak leaves fluttering
a pale, washed-out blue sky
squirrels scurrying up trees
all kinds of mushrooms: creamy, fire-engine red, mousy-brown, cup-shaped

I taste:
Nothing yet until I head back for my favorite French roast coffee


October 1, 2015

Impressing an Editor

What is one of the most important steps you should take when sending a submission to an editor?  Include a proper cover letter with your submission. Whether you submit electronically or by snail mail, it's common courtesy to always include one. Sending a resume or a list of published work instead of a cover letter is inappropriate. 

The letter should be addressed to the editor.  Try to find her name under the sections About Us, Writers' Guidelines, or  Contact Us.  If you are unsuccessful, then a letter addressed 'Dear Editor' will do.      

Review your cover letter before sending it to a publisher.  Once, I received an email addressed to an editor of another publication.  Clearly, the writer didn’t proofread her cover letter.  In addition, it made me wonder if she sent the same letter to other editors along with her manuscript.  At Kid's Imagination Train, we don’t accept simultaneous submissions.  Were other editors considering this piece besides me? 

Here is a good way to craft a cover letter:

1st paragraph:  Tell the editor what you are submitting.  Give the title, the genre, and the word count of your manuscript. 

2nd paragraph:  Describe the content of the article or the plot of the story in about one to three sentences. 

3rd paragraph:  Present a short biography that includes relevant credentials and your publishing history.

4th paragraph:  Close by thanking the editor for her time.  

That's all you have to do.  Keep it short and sweet.  Remember to include your contact information.  When you write a proper cover letter, it will impress an editor.  It will show her that you are are professional and that you take submitting seriously. 

The next blog entry for CWW will be published Oct.11, rather than Oct. 15.

September 15, 2015

Storybird

I’m sending my multi-award winning picture book manuscript to agents.  In the meantime, I want to begin a new book.  And I’m stuck.  On my daily walks, I try to hash out new ideas, but every idea feels forced.  Then, the summer issue of The SCBWI Bulletin arrived.  Inside was a feature about Storybird   (www.storybird.com), a website for illustrators and writers.   

Storybird is amazing.  Whether you write picture books or graphic novels, it is the perfect place to begin. Storybird will help you to generate ideas.  You start by choosing from the artwork tags.  Say you want to write about a friendly feline.  Type in ‘cat’ and all kinds of kitty images pop up to inspire you.  Maybe you feel like creating a scary space alien story.  Type in ‘space alien’ and view an assortment of other-worldly creatures.  There are lots of categories to choose from.  Just select the art that you like and type your text into the blank pages provided to create your story.   

Even if you don't write illustrated books, Storybird may be used as a writer’s prompt.  It will get your creative juices flowing.  And with Storybird, you can even read the works of others to see how they used the art to create their stories.   

Some writers report that Storybird actually inspired stories that ended up as book deals. So it's worth having a look.  Take a peek at Storybird and join the community of writers, readers, and artists of all ages. You will not be disappointed.  The artwork is so stunning.  It’s irresistible and exciting.  It inspiring!  It may even help you hash out new ideas for your very next story.


September 1, 2015

Advertising in KIT

     How do you get the word out about a website or a book without spending a fortune?  
                       One option is to advertise in Kid’s Imagination Train (KIT).     


Taking out an ad in KIT is easy and inexpensive.  We offer two packages.  Silver sponsorship is $10/month or $100/year for a quarter of a page advertisement.  Gold sponsorship is $35/month or $300/year for a full-page advertisement.  In addition, the price includes having blurbs on social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.  And, a link to your website is placed directly on the homepage of KIT.

Writers write, but over the past years, writers also have to market their work.  That means writers must advertise to reach an audience.  To spread the word, you can post on social media or send out e-newsletters.  Another option is to pen guest posts or ask others to link to your website.

With books, most publishing houses will do some advertising for you.  But a lot of the marketing will fall on you unless you are with a major publishing house.  Some writers hire a publicist or invest in a virtual book tour; however, both charge hundreds of dollars.  

Rather than paying others to promote their work, many writers do bookstore promotions. Some writers spread the word about their books and make money by doing school visits. Yet, both of these plans usually involve some travel.

Another way to get the word out about your book or website is to take out an ad in a magazine.  Most print magazines and even online magazines charge hundreds of dollars a week for an advertisement.  Check out the typical rates of The Enviromental Magazine:  http://www.emagazine.com/online-advertising-rates/ 
  
Using KIT is a smart way to advertise.  And it’s not limited to writers.  In fact, some people have a product or a service they want to share with the world. 

Those who advertise on KIT know that they will reach thousands of folks each month from our website and through social media.  The best thing about going with KIT is you don’t have to break the bank to take out an advertisement.  So why not explore this option for a few months?  See if advertising with KIT helps spread the news about you.   


August 15, 2015

The 5 Senses on an August day


Sometimes Lexington, Kentucky is just too darn hot to enjoy the outdoors unless you're at a pool.  But when the humidity drops, it's nice to go outside.  This is when I head to the deck.


On one side of the deck, a big birch tree screens our neighbor's driveway and backyard.  The opposite side overlooks a beautiful garden that has flowers which bloom from early spring to fall.  A row of arborvitae forms a tall green hedge against the back side of our property.  In the back corner of the yard, a thirty-foot Colorado fir tree blocks out the sight of townhouses.  Despite living in suburbia, our backyard is fairly private and quiet.

This afternoon, it's pleasant enough to sit outside on the deck and write at the table. I open the umbrella, scoot the plants to the side and open my notebook.  These are the five senses as I sit down to write.



I see:
robins eating flaming-red seeds from cones of star magnolia trees
a small black and white flicker woodpecker climbing a pole and perching on a suet feeder
hummingbirds diving at one another and taking turns sipping from a sugar-water feeder

I feel:
a light breeze
the soft rattan-woven chair seat
the warm wooden deck beneath my feet
the smooth tile table top
the cool moist clay flower pots

I hear:
chickens (yes, my neighbor has three of them) clucking and squawking
cicadas buzzing and holding notes impossibly long
the water fountain splashing and gurgling

I taste:
warm Seattle coffee slightly sweetened

I smell:
a dampness that hangs in the air after days of rain
chicken marinated in balsamic vinegar, brown sugar and dijon mustard cooking on the grill (ahhh...supper will be ready soon)




August 1, 2015

The Joliday Writing Contest

Last spring, Kid's Imagination Train had a nice response to its first contest.  In fact, people have asked us when we would offer another.  So, KIT is sponsoring the Joliday Writing Contest, which is open to new and established writers.

All you need to do is to create a 500-word fictional holiday story for children ages four to eight. The entry fee is $10 and the deadline is October 1, 2015. The story picked as the winner will be published in the December issue of Kid’s Imagination Train, and the author will receive $100.  

So, you might be wondering if you should enter.  It's up to you, but entering gets your work in front of an editor.  And you have the chance of having your story published and read by thousands of viewers.  In addition, winning a contest helps boost your confidence. 

Still deciding whether to enter?  Then, we have provided the judging criteria which can serve as a guide to help you create a great story.

Formatting:  Does the manuscript adhere to the word count?  Is it formatted as specified in the guidelines?  

Hook:  Does the first paragraph pull the reader into the story?

Main Character:  Will the audience care about the main character?  Does the main character change by the end of story?

Conflict:  Is there a true conflict, something that the main character can relate to and something the main character can solve by himself?

Originality:  Is the plot unique and creative? 

Voice:  Is the story told in a captivating tone?   

Age-level:  Is the story written for the appropriate age group?

Resolution: Does the resolution tie-in to the beginning and is it emotionally satisfying?

The editorial staff will review the entries and choose a winning story based on the writing criteria of the contest. We are excited about the new contest and eager to read the holiday stories. More information about the contest can be found on the KIT website or at this link:
http://www.kidsimaginationtrain.com/p/contest_30.html  




July 15, 2015

Oh, those writers’ guidelines

I've written about following the writers’ guidelines many times on this blog, but the topic is important enough to share again with readers.  

Writers' guidelines help you learn what an editor wants in terms of a submission. They can be usually found on the homepage of a publication. Sometimes, you will have to look in the subheadings labeled "About us" or "Contact."  

Guidelines spell out the specific requirements for fiction or nonfiction.  You will find the expected word count and the specifications for formatting a manuscript. You may also discover the requirements for a bibliography.  Guidelines may even point out the types of stories that are suitable for submission.  Sometimes, you will learn how an editor wants the subject of an email worded. 

Contact information:
Remember to include your contact information (usually email and snail mail) on the first page of a submission.  This is fairly standard even if it's not mentioned in the guidelines. Even though this seems over-the-top, omitting this simple step may result in a rejection.   Keep in mind that editors do not have time trying to search emails for contact information.  

Multiple submissions:  
Multiple submissions are two or more pieces submitted at the same time, whether sent together in a letter by snail mail, or by sending several in one email.  This also includes staggering submissions over a short period of time (like less than a week apart). If the guidelines state that multiple submission are not accepted, don't even think about sending more than one submission to an editor.  While you might think this may increase your chances that one of your pieces will be accepted, this tactic will always backfire.

Cover letter:
As cruel as it might seem, failing to include a cover letter may earn you a rejection.  It's common courtesy to write one when submitting.  Always include a short letter with your submission that describes your work and presents your biography.  It's also nice to close the letter by thanking the editor for her time.

You want to get published, right?  Then, always check the writer's guidelines before writing and once again before submitting.  Sometimes, the requirements have been changed.  Make every effort to adhere to the rules.  I guarantee you that following the writers' guidelines improves your chances of publication.






July 1, 2015

The Five Senses at S & S

Once a week, I take a French class at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning in downtown Lexington, Kentucky.  However one February morning on my way to class, I only made it halfway up my street.  A car alarm flashed on.  I stopped to have a look and found a flat tire.  My husband left work, came home, and put on a spare tire (bless his sweet soul) in time for me to make it for most of the class.

The next day, I drove to a repair shop to get a new tire.  Knowing I would have some time on my hands, I brought several pieces to edit.

Here are the five senses as I sat down (and tried) to write at S & S Tire:

I smell:
tire rubber—lots of it
strong, bitter-smelling coffee at the help-yourself station

I feel:
smooth leather chairs
a cold breeze as customers entered the shop
a blast warm air from a space heater

I hear:
a sports channel on the television
men chatting about business
the telephone ringing
cars rumbling down the road
zip, zip (lug nuts being tightened)

I see:
an disorderly stack of magazines
a calla lily with a cream-colored bloom
a bucket of toys
lollipops for sale
a candy dispenser machine
two other customers:  one chatting a cell phone, the other going for the coffee

I taste:
cinnamon gum
(I'll have a fresh cup of coffee when I get home)


June 15, 2015

Action and Conflict

When you write a story for children, action and conflict should play huge roles. Yet some of the submissions that I receive for Kid's Imagination Train online magazine (http://www.kidsimaginationtrain.com/ ) are missing these very important elements.

Let's say a story begins with this scene:  a little girl tells her mother that she doesn’t want to go to school. The mother asks her daughter why she doesn't want to go to class.  The child tells her mother she can't leave home without her pet cat.  Notice that while this scene sets up the plot, it does not have any action.  This is telling. It's a conversation. 

A better way to do this would be by showing.  Now, if the little girl says will not go to school without her cat and then hides the cat in her book bag, the story has action. Through her actions we know that she loves her cat and doesn’t want to be separated from it.  Also through her actions, conflict is set up.  I’m betting the cat will cause trouble in class.  Maybe the cat causes a distraction by playing with students' shoelaces, lying across text books, and meowing loudly during lessons. 

The story should build with more tension that will lead to the climax and finally, to the resolution.  Keep in mind that the ending should also be active.  Don't tell us what happened. Having dialogue at the end of the story doesn’t cut it.  Let there be more action!  Show us how the little girl solves the feline dilemma.  Add a twist or a surprise so that the ending is unpredictable. 

Children’s stories thrive on action.  Without it, a story is simply dialogue and that can create a pretty boring story.  Stories for the young also depend on conflict.  It is needed to make us care about the main character and to drive the plot.  Without conflict, story is stagnant—there is no quest, no job for the main character to tackle.   

It’s easy to figure out if you have action and conflict.  Simply think of the plot of  your story in pictures or scenes.  If you see a character doing something actively, you have succeeded.  You have accomplished incorporating two important elements into your story (and that makes this editor very happy).


June 1, 2015

Do You Believe in KIT?

Kid's Imagination Train was created about three years ago.  It began as a blog and is growing by leaps and bounds. Now, readers can enjoy our magazine as a flipbook and can listen to features from our audio page.  KIT offers fiction, poetry, nonfiction, book reviews and much more each month. 

You may already know that our magazine engages children by providing them the opportunity to illustrate their favorite features and have their pictures published online. What you may not know about our magazine is that the staff of KIT donates their talents. Yep, that means, we don’t earn a salary.  This scenario is rare.  Most people want to get paid for their services.  So, you can imagine how blessed I am  to work with this wonderful group of individuals.

Book reviewer and marketing director Donna Smith evaluates children's books for each issue.  She also composes press releases and works on ways to market our magazine.  In addition, she creates puzzles for our Word Scrambles and content for our Facebook page.

Thrace Shirley Mears is our illustrator.  She not only designs each cover page of KIT, she helps in giving advice on the design of the magazine and she draws illustrated titles for our features.

Sharon Olivia Blumberg is our voiceover talent.  She records poems, stories, articles, and book reviews for our audio page so that children, teachers, and parents can listen to their favorite features.  The audio page also benefits children who are visually impaired.

Ultimately, KIT has three goals.  We would like to offer competitive rates for writers.  We would also like to cover production costs.  We would like to compensate the staff for their amazing services.  

We believe in keeping KIT a free magazine for children around the world.  And you can help.  If everyone who read Children’s Writers World and Kid's Imagination Train gave $5.00, we would be able to meet our goals.  Another option would be to buy an ad on our sponsor page.  

Please visit  http://www.kidsimaginationtrain.com/ .  Contributors will be acknowledged in KIT.  A portion of the proceeds will go to First Book  http://www.firstbook.org/ which donates new books to children in need. 

Won't you please consider giving?  A small gift will make a big difference.    

Thank you in advance.  
Randi Lynn Mrvos,editor


May 15, 2015

The Five Senses with Ozzie

For those of you who faithfully read Children's Writer's World blog, you know that my beloved eight-year cat passed away in March.   It's hard to describe the loss.  Ollie was part of our family and his passing left me terribly sad.  Several friends suggested that I find another pet.  One friend told me there is always room for more love.

Some time afterward, my husband and I visited local humane societies. But going to the animal shelter on the weekends was too crowded with pet-seekers.  So, I started to search online instead.  In a short period of time, I found an eight-month old, amber-eyed stray named Polo. I felt a connection to him.  Mid-week, I drove to the shelter. When I called his name, a little grey-striped paw pushed through the slats of a cage. My heart melted the moment we were face to face.  That day, I signed the adoption papers and renamed him Ozzie.

In many ways, Ozzie is Ollie reincarnated.  Though he may not look like Ollie, he acts like him.  Ozzie rests on the bed when I nap, lounges in front of the computer as I work, and sits near me in the arm chair when I read—just as Ollie had once done. He understands the same words that Ollie had once known:  "sit," "stay," and "come here" and "let's go up" and "let's go down" whenever I call him from the stairs.

I will always miss Ollie, but his passing led us to meeting and adopting Ozzie.

I sit at a table with the kitchen door open and Ozzie at my feet.  This is where I write.

I hear:
Ozzie's rumbled purring
a cardinal singing "cheer, cheer, cheer"

I touch:
Ozzie's fuzzy furry belly
the smooth, slick wooden table
rough woven place mats

I smell: 
chicken cooking in olive oil
clean fresh spring air

I taste:
a sweet Honey crisp apple
iced tea, slightly sweetened

I see: 
shadows of tree branches on the deck
a breeze tickling the lime-green leaves of a locust tree
a wisp of a cloud floating across a pale blue sky
Kentucky bluegrass, a deep emerald green
Ozzie stretched out, eyes closed, dreaming




May 1, 2015

So You Want to Write for KIT?

As the editor of Kid’s Imagination Train, I receive emails from writers who want to know what topics interest me.

A few authors want to write about famous people.  And this is what I tell them. If you want to write an article about a famous person, it has to relate to children.  You may spend many hours detailing the important aspects of a prominent person's life from birth to death, but chances are kids will not be drawn to this kind of article.  A piece like this has the tendency to come across as lifeless and dull.  So you need to find a way to spice it up. See if you can find a humorous event or discover a courageous act about the famous figure during his childhood days.  If the person is still living, do an interview and add some interesting quotes.  Make the writing snappy and lively.

Many people want to write about animals.  KIT publishes animal pieces, but they should be told with a unique slant.  For instance, KIT has published pieces about animal tongues and animal feet.  We also like articles about unusual animals. In our June 2015 issue, we will publish an article about an animal called a Fisher cat.   Have you ever heard of this creature?  Let me give you a clue—it is not a cat!

Sometimes, authors send me a list of topics and ask me to choose.  Though I may select a topic, this may not necessarily garner an acceptance.  It’s all in the writing.  After the piece is written, read your work out loud as if you were reading it to a child.  Is the information presented in a logical manner with similar facts grouped together?  Would it capture and hold the attention of a child from beginning to end?

To get ideas for a piece, take a look at our archives.  Look over the topics that have been published. Read several pieces.  Get a feel for the writing style.   And then mull over ideas and make a list of possibilities. Then choose a topic that has the potential to educate and entertain.  The key is find a topic that interests you and children as well.

April 15, 2015

Never Give Up--Part II

A couple of months ago, I blogged about my rejection from a prominent Mid-Western educational publisher.  Specifically, this publisher compiles writing passages for testing children's reading comprehension skills.  I proposed six articles, but a few weeks later, the rejection letter appeared in my inbox.  Not ready to give up, I requested examples of published passages in order to improve my chances of an acceptance.  Afterward, I proposed more articles—and another rejection letter came again.

This was getting frustrating!  What kind of articles did they want?

I read the rejection letter once more.  Despite turning down my ideas, the publisher said that my writing was strong and engaging.  She asked if I would consider doing some commissioning work.  I really hadn't planned on submitting again. Why open myself to a third rejection?  And then, I realized that was the wrong attitude. The publisher was interested in my work.

This time, the strategy was to improve my next group of submissions by creating a stronger hook for each article, by making sure that the topic idea was not too broad, and by providing intriguing details from cutting-edge research.  I submitted four proposals. And then...several days later, another email appeared.

It read, "After reviewing the proposals with our development team, we would be interested in a passage."  WOW.  But there was one more paragraph: "The approval of a topic idea does not guarantee payment.  Authors are not ensured payment until their passage has been officially accepted for use on assessments.  If a passage is considered unsuitable for testing, even after multiple revisions, it will not warrant payment, and the rights to the work will be returned to the author."

So, I could work on this passage with no guarantee that it would be accepted.  What to do, what to do? Because it seemed that I was getting closer to having my work approved, quitting now was not an option.  Even with a tight deadline, I carefully wrote the piece and edited it for grade level.  A week after the completed passage was sent, the director made editing suggestions:  rearrange the order of the paragraphs, simplify the scientific terminology, and make the writing snapper.  Okay, not a problem.

After completing the work, the passage was delivered.  And then I waited.  Even with the possibility of a rejection, I felt good knowing that the submission had been vastly improved.

And then shortly afterward, I got good news.  My passage had been accepted!  After weeks of researching and writing and after multiple rejections, I had reached this difficult goal.

Was it hard work?  Yep.  Would I do it again?  You bet.  As hard as it is to take, rejection is part of the writing life.  But so is perseverance.  If you want something bad enough, you know the drill—never give up.





April 1, 2015

The Five Senses: As I Write with Ollie

Late February, 2015

My beloved cat Ollie is dying.  In his younger days, he loved to swat at yarn, tear boxes to shreds, and carry his baby (a stuffed mouse toy) in his mouth.  For a treat, he would "sit," "stay," and "come here."  He knew the words "bird" and "squirrel" and when I asked him if he saw any, he would go to the kitchen door to look for them.  As he grew older, he would sleep on a dining room chair hidden under the tablecloth.  On sunny days, my lean cat would stretch out by the screen door.  At dinnertime, he would beg at the table, lifting his paw to my arm.

When he was healthy, he would hunt me out.  He would sit next to me on my chair as I read, or stretch out on the desk in front of the computer screen as I wrote, or snuggle on the bed as I napped.

Now, he is more stationary, saving his strength for potty and water breaks, resting on a soft blanket near my desk.  These days, I come to him.  I sit on the kitchen floor next to Ollie—this is where I write.

I see:
raindrops clinging to the deck door
sheets of drizzle rippled by the wind
birds winging across the pale gray sky

I hear:
the cat water fountain gurgling softly
the humming of the refrigerator
purring

I smell:
a light sweet scent of flowers on the kitchen table

I taste:
coffee sweetened with sugar

I feel:  
soft, silky fur
stiff whiskers
velvety ears


March 16, 2015.

Ollie is gone and I miss him terribly.

Rest in peace, my dear sweet cat.

March 15, 2015

The R Word---Revision

What would you do if an editor asked you for a revision? Would you:

A.  Shelf the piece 
B.  Send it off to another editor
C.  Follow up and revise

When I get a submission for Kid’s Imagination Train that has potential, I email writers to let them know that with a little editing, their work will likely be published.  I point out the strong parts of the piece and then discuss the portion that needs revising.  For instance   in nonfiction, a writer may need to conclude the article with a tie-in to the beginning.         In fiction, a writer may need to develop a true conflict closer to the start of the piece. With poems, writers may have to edit for rhythm and rhyme.

There are times however, when writers never follow up.  It’s puzzling.  Writers should understand that when an editor asks for a revision, she is interested in their work.  That means it's time to revise.  And this process should not be dreaded.  Think of it this way: effort has been spent creating an article or a story or a poem with the possibility of publication, so go the extra mile and spend just a little more time editing.

Most of the time, writers will comply.  They get it.  They will do what it takes, drawing on the editor’s suggestions and working to improve their submissions.  They know the goal is not to rush the process and submit, but to take their time and revise so that they will produce a polished manuscript. As an editor, it's a joy to know that writers realize the worth of revision.  In fact, one writer told me: "I would be happy to revise.  Editing is always welcome because there is always room for improvement."  I couldn't have said it better.











March 1, 2015

Pitching an Agent

Last month, I pitched a literary agent for the first time at the Kentucky Writing Workshop. The night before however, I got maybe two hours of sleep because of a pounding migraine.  Pitching the next day was not going to be easy for me.  But you know the old expression:  the show must go on.

Here is what I learned:

* Practice the pitch every day prior to the session.
* Memorize the pitch.
* Give the pitch in front of a mirror to watch your expressions and gestures.
* Videotape yourself with a cell phone.  Listen to the sound and speed of your voice.
* Think of questions that you might be asked.  Practice answering with confidence.
* Dress comfortably for the session.
* Be professional—don't do anything gimmicky.
* Begin the session with light conversation.
* Bring a copy of your pitch to glance at if necessary, but do not read from it.
* Bring a notepad to got down any comments that may be discussed.
* Be aware that the jitters may set in, even with months of practice.
* Speak slowly when you give your pitch.
* Be prepared to answer questions about your work.
* Be prepared to hear some criticism.
* Stay focused on the agent and try not to be distracted by other people in the room.
* Be knowledgeable and PASSIONATE about your work.
* If you plan a sequel, then mention it.
* Thank the agent for her time.

There were three outcomes for the writers who pitched:  a rejection, a request for the first three chapters, or a request for a full.  I met a gal at the conference who pitched the same novel to two different agents.  One requested a full, the other rejected her work. THE VERY SAME BOOK!  We know that querying an agent is subjective.  There's your proof.   So, when you get a rejection, remember that there is probably an agent who will love it.

The pitch is your one-on-one 10-minutes with an agent.  It's nerve-wracking and intense. But if you get the chance to pitch in person, try to relax and enjoy the moment.  This is an opportunity to not only meet an agent, but to convince her to fall in love with your work.






February 15, 2015

Tips from the Kentucky Writing Workshop

Last week I attended the Kentucky Writing Workshop.  In a word, it was FANTASTIC!
Chuck Sambuchino, an editor at Writer's Digest, presented four amazing lectures:

* Your Book Publishing Options Today
* Everything You Need to Know About Agents, Pitches, and Queries
* How to Market Your Books: Platform and Social Media
* How to Get Published

Just after lunch and before the last two lectures, four agents formed a panel for a session called Writer's Got Talent.  Chuck read the first pages of manuscripts from conference attendees.  When two agents raised their hands to signal they had heard enough, Chuck stopped reading and the critiques began.  As an attendee, it was fun trying to predict what the agents might have to say.  I noticed that Chuck was halted before most of the first pages were completely finished to the end, which signaled a problem with the manuscript.  Agents didn't care for too much backstory which slows down the pace. They didn't like rhetorical questions.  If the main character asks a question, then there must be an answer.  But, on the positive side, all of the agents loved great voice.

Here' s some tips that we learned:
*  Book publishing options include self-publishing or traditional publishing.  With traditional publishing you can choose to use an agent and you can aim for a big publishing house or a small house.  Publishing houses will help you sell subsidiary rights.  Traditional publishing creates an air of legitimacy. On the other hand, with self-publishing you are in more control of publishing.  Book length and genre no longer matter.  Some self-pub services include as CreateSpace, Smashwords, and Lulu.

* A pitch is like reading the back cover of a book.  It is generally 3 - 10 sentences.  Chuck advises not to give away the ending in a pitch.

*  A platform is your visibility and influence to others.  It can be a website, a blog, an e-newsletter, column writing, public speaking, and social media presence.  The key is to have take away value, whether it's humor or education.

Attendees spent a full day reaping valuable information and pitching agents.  If you ever have the opportunity to attend a workshop presented by Chuck, you will not only learn about writing and marketing your work, you will be inspired to write your very best and to get your work in front of agents.

Here is a link that you might like to check out:
http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents




February 1, 2015

Perseverance


Throughout each week, I like to work out at the gym, walk for an hour, and take ballet. Of the three activities, ballet is the hardest.  Ballet requires strength, balance, coordination, and focus.

One of the most challenging ballet poses is a passé.  This is when a dancer balances on one foot with the other leg opened wide to the side and the foot arched and pointed at the knee.  Looks easy, right? However, I can only balance for two to three seconds without holding onto the barre.  

In one class, I asked the instructor what the secret was to balancing in passé.  She said a dancer had to develop a strong core and be able to lift the body up from the legs, hips, trunk, shoulders and head.  That's a lot to think about. 

I was struck with the similarity of writing nonfiction for children and performing ballet because both seem easy to do and yet, that's hardly the truth.  Both take perseverance to do well.  

With ballet, dancers practice to make it look effortless. They take classes which begin at the barre with a series of movements that warm up and stretch the entire body, literally from head to toe. From there, they move to the center of the studio to perform a combination of steps, applying the principles of the barre without the aid of the barre. Lastly, the dancers move across the floor practicing turning and leaping. 

In writing children's nonfiction, authors must strive to educate a young audience within a tight word count (generally 500 words).  Writers don't rely on the Internet for research. They dig deeper to find primary sources and current studies.  They present research in a lively, creative manner to engage children.  Writers edit, edit, edit, until the piece flows, the word choices are perfect, and the meaning of complex concepts are simplified. And, writers put this all together in such as way as not to talk down to children.

I love doing ballet and writing for kids, but sometimes they are not always easy.  There are always challenges like doing a perfect passé or aiming to have an article published. Since I want to succeed at doing both, it takes hard work and dedication.  It takes time and practice. And as Victor Hugo once pointed out, it takes "perseverance, secret of all triumphs."









January 18, 2015

The Five Senses

My daughter attends Wake Forest.  One of the many nice perks for parents is receiving an email called The Daily Deac.  Betsy Chapman writes every day about activities on campus, updates on construction projects, and opportunities and special events for students.  She offers reflections and questions for conversations with our Deacs. 

One of my favorite posts is called the “Five senses.”  In these posts, Betsy describes what she is experiencing on campus.  With distance separating us from our scholars, this post helps parents to connect with what our students may be sensing, too. 

I like this post so much, that once a month I plan to add my version to Children’s Writer’s World. Dear readers, here are the five senses from my desk in front of a window as I sit down to write.

I smell: 
—my husband’s lunch of spaghetti and marinara sauce   

I hear:
—the mail truck’s engine rumbling  
—the microwave humming 
—silverware clinking on a plate
—Ollie meowing for food

I taste
—Seattle’s Best dark roast coffee sweetened with a bit of sugar

I feel
—the warmth of my coffee mug
—the smooth surface of the desk 

I see: 
—an oak tree with curled brown leaves waving in the breeze 
—the blue sky warm with sunshine and streaked with veils of clouds  
—a man bundled up and jogging down the sidewalk with a dog




January 10, 2015

Never Give Up


Do rejections make you want to give up on writing?  A lot of writers feel this way from time to time.  When you have spent hours on a writing project, you are hoping for an acceptance.  But when that rejection note comes along, you may find yourself wanting to throw in the towel. 

Although rejections are part of writing/publishing process, sometimes they frustrate and discourage me.  I get downright grouchy about rejection (just ask my husband). 

Some rejections are harder to take than others.  For example, I can’t figure out why one Midwestern educational publisher keeps rejecting my work. Their guidelines state to submit a description of an article in one to two paragraphs.  Since reprints and multiple submissions are permitted, I submitted descriptions of three articles that had been published in respectable magazines.  These pieces have been used as testing passages and in books to improve students’ reading skills.  And yet, all three of the articles were declined.

Despite the rejection, I submitted again to this publisher.  And, more “no thank you” emails came my way.  But this time, the rejection note included a message:  “Your writing was strong and engaging and very close to what we're looking for.”  They even sent examples of the kinds of articles they had published.

So what would you do?  Would you give up or try again?  For weeks, I put off approaching this publisher because I didn't want to set myself up for another rejection. But, I decided to submit once more because this editor appeared genuinely interested in my work.

Striving (and hoping) to earn an acceptance, I worked on improving my next group of submissions by creating a stronger hook for each article, by making sure that the topic idea was not too broad, and by providing intriguing details that had been discovered through research.  

Perhaps, the editor will be interested in this new set of articles.  And then again, another rejection could come my way.  But if that happens, I will have to find another way to crack this market. Giving up is never an option.