December 31, 2012

Read, Write, Draw!

Courtesy of ClipArt

Happy New Year!

Editor Irene Roth and I are happy to announce the Kid’s Imagination Train.  The first issue of the blog magazine will appear in January.  KIT was created to promote writers and to encourage children to read.  As an extra bonus, children will have the opportunity to illustrate their favorite stories.  Designed for children ages 5 -12, KIT offers book reviews and fiction and nonfiction by writers all over the world.

The Kid's Imagination Train accepts fiction and nonfiction from writers 18 years and older. Suggested topics for writers include: science, nature, animals, technology, history, astronomy, sports, world cultures, adventure, health, and volunteering.

Each month, KIT plans to publish one fiction story, one nonfiction article, and one book review.  Illustrations will be added to stories and articles in the order in which they have been received.  Please check out home page for writer's and illustrator's requirements:   


December 19, 2012

Professional Writer's Resume

Have you ever wanted to earn a special writing assignment?  If so, you may need to provide a writer’s resume.  Here’s a simple example that you may want to use or modify to suit your own needs:   

Contact information:  At the top of your first page, center your name, street address, city and state, phone, email.

Add the next sections in bold type, flushed left.

Summary:  The summary is an overview of what you have accomplished as a writer.  In a single paragraph, describe your writing experience and any other experience related to writing.   

Education:  List your degree, college attended, and year of graduation. 

Professional organizations:  List your memberships.

Experience:  List your job titles and the dates you’ve worked at each job.  The list goes from present to past.

Publications:  First, give a general summary of the kinds of pieces you’ve published.  For instance, it could look like:

educational articles for children
parenting and writer’s articles
elementary education lesson plans
fiction for children’s magazines 

Then add a sub-heading by listing the specific places where your work has been published.  These may include books, newspapers, websites, or magazines. 

There are many different ways to format a resume.  You can use my example or check online to see what works best for you.  Creating a professional resume is always good to have on hand.  You'll never know when it may be needed to earn a coveted writing assignment.


In a recent post, I blogged about three of my pet peeves:  improperly formatted bibliographies, submissions that fail to follow the guidelines, and rushed revisions. Let’s focus on pet peeve number two:  submissions that ignore the guidelines.  

Not that long ago, I received a fiction submission for my new blog the Kid’s Imagination Train  When I glanced at the word count, I cringed.  It was not just a little over the word limit, it was grossly over the word count. The submission was 2800 words.  KIT requires a 500-word count for stories and articles.  Now, I don’t get me wrong.  I don't get bent out of shape if a story or article exceeds word count and runs to about 600 words or so, but anything longer will probably earn a rejection. This author either failed to read the guidelines or chose to ignore them.  

Kid's Imagination Train guidelines are in place for a reason:  we respect our young audience.  Since the age group for KIT is for children ages 5 -12, this article would be too long to hold their attention.  

Writer's guidelines are not a set of rules open to interpretation.  They are policies a publication expects you to follow. So, my husband and trusted adviser offered me a suggestion—change the "writers and illustrators guidelines" to "writers and illustrators requirements."  Perfect!  I made the necessary change to KIT's home page.  This should clear up any ambiguities concerning word count and other submission rules.  But only time will tell.  Hopefully, writers will submit as required. And if they do, I will most likely strike pet peeve number 2 off the pet peeve list. 

December 10, 2012

Words of Wisdom

I never attended a seminar led by the motivational speaker Zig Ziglar, but if I had, I would have eaten up all of his advice, especially the words of wisdom about dealing with rejection.  For me, rejection often breeds negativity and defeat.  It makes me wonder if I will ever publish a children's book. 

Luckily this mood doesn't last long and I find ways to pick myself up.  Take for instance these amazing quotes by Zig.  Recently, I received another rejection, but after reading the quotes my spirits lifted.  If you are going through a similar period of frustration in writing for children, perhaps the following advice will be beneficial:  

"Failure is a detour, not a dead-end street."
"You don't have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great."
"Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude."
"There is little you can learn from doing nothing."
"If you learn from defeat, you haven't really lost."
"Expect the best.  Prepare for the worst.  Capitalize on what comes."
"It's not what happens to you that determines how far you will go in life; it is how you handle what happens to you." 

Zig Zagler was born on my birthday, November 6th.  He passed away on November 28th, 2012 at age 86. 

November 30, 2012

Giving Yourself Permission

In a Parade magazine interview, actress and writer Emma Thompson was once asked: what’s the tougher profession, writing or acting?  She answered, "Writing is a much harder discipline.  It’s terribly frustrating and makes me weep, but once you start getting it right, it’s hugely pleasurable.”  

Writing is hard until you start getting it right, but sometimes it feels like it takes forever to get it right.  Take for instance a manuscript you may be working on.  Have you asked:  Why isn't this story working?  What will it take to make this piece shine?   

These can be tough questions to answer because you feel the pressure of making the story perfect.  This can freeze you up, so you end up not writing at all, leaving your story in literary limbo.     

But, there is a mantra you can repeat to ease the pressure:  it's okay to make mistakes.  Now say it again:  it's okay to make mistakes.

Let that sink in.  How do you feel?  Like a huge weight has been lifted?  Do you feel that freedom has been granted so that you can move forward?  

You will find that when you give yourself permission to make mistakes, you will write without judging what you've written.  You will know that those words may not be the best choice, but they will be stepping stones, the guides to helping you find better descriptive nouns, active verbs, spot-on rhyme, or amazing alliteration in the future.   

At a later date, you will edit.  But not today.  Today, you will write.  You will make mistakes.  And that’s okay.  You will move forward, get something down, and that's what counts.  Your writing will be the very best it can possibly be today.     

November 23, 2012

MG/YA Webinar

Recently, I “attended” a Writer's Digest webinar presented by literary agent Mary Kole.  Here are a few things that I learned from “How to Write Young Adult and Middle Grade Novels that will Sell.” 

MG usually runs about 35,000 words and YA is longer, about 45-90,000 words.  In today’s market, Mary believes a book should have high concept, action, adventure, and fantasy.  Above all, the book must have a quick pace.

If you’re thinking about writing MG/YA, Mary suggests that you start with a big question, and then think about how you would turn that question into a book.  She recommends thinking about the opposite of the big question, and put that into the book as well.

The structure of the novel looks like this:  
* an inciting incident
* turning points
* three attempts to resolve the big problem
* a dark moment
* the climax
* the resolution

Things to consider about the characters:
* The main character has to undergo a change.  
* The main character must have a want and obstacles that get in the way of the want. 
* Secondary characters may bring out other traits of the main character.
* Characters should be allowed to make mistakes.

The information presented in this blog post will get you thinking and planning as you write your novel for children, but there’s a lot more to writing for this genre.  For more, purchase Mary’s new book: Writing Irresistible Kidlit or visit the Writer’s Digest website: 

November 19, 2012

Don't Rush Revision

Most people know that I have two submission pet peeves:  improperly formatted bibliographies and articles that fail to follow the guidelines. But another pet peeve surfaced when a writer asked how soon I'd like her revision.   Pet peeve #3:  a revision sent the day after editing suggestions had been made.

I can’t quite figure it out.  Why do writers feel the need to hurry revision?  Are they afraid that they will earn a rejection if it's not delivered quickly? 

Actually the opposite is true.  I will be more likely to hand out a rejection if I receive a revision too quickly.  It tends to shows me that the writer did not spend enough time on editing the piece.  

Rushing revision is unprofessional and gives the editor the feeling that you’re desperate.  Put your manuscript away for a few days.  Let it simmer.  Then come back to it with fresh eyes.  Edit it again, if necessary.  And again.   Let someone else read it and make suggestions.  

There's no need to hurry the process along.   Even if you have a deadline, don't speedily re-submit your work.  Plan ahead so that you have the time it takes to properly revise. Revision may take weeks, and that's okay.  Give yourself the gift of time.  In doing so, you'll have the opportunity to provide the loving attention your manuscript rightfully deserves.  

November 12, 2012

Where We Find Inspiration

Today, author Kai Strand shares her thoughts on getting inspired.

When a child replies to a question with an unexpected answer, do you scribble that response in a notebook? When you overhear a belly laugh from the other side of the library bookshelf, do you imagine gut laugh-worthy situations? Do you choose to stand in the long line in the grocery store simply to eavesdrop on the conversation between the teenagers?

If you answer yes to these questions, you might be a children’s writer. Sometimes it seems like writers are a dime a dozen anymore. What distinguishes a children’s writer from any other kind of writer is where they find their inspiration. If you have children, then you already have access to their friends, school, and members of any teams they may participate in. Don’t underestimate the value of being surrounded by kids in any of these situations. Listening to how they interact with each other and adults is crucial in character building. Hearing their vocabulary, understanding their hobbies, and seeing their wardrobe is all priceless research.

If you don’t have children of your own, or if yours are grown, I urge you to volunteer in schools, the public library, or after school programs—any place where you will be surrounded by the age of children you hope to write for. You will learn what is important to children, while helping to provide a safe and effective venue in which they can learn or play.

The semantics of writing for children isn’t too different than writing for adults: strong characters, compelling story, and good grammar. However, finding what to write about and how to write it will be most effective if you spend time around your target audience. Plus, you get the extra benefit of having some fun.

Kai Strand, author of:

What is a blog hop?
A blog hop is a linky list that is SHARED ON MULTIPLE BLOGS. When several blogs put the same linky list code on their blog, the exact same list appears on each blog.  Blog visitors can submit their entries on any blog that contains the list. The entries will appear on each blog where the list resides.  Blog readers see the same list on each blog, and can "HOP" from blog to blog seeing the same list of links to follow: BLOG HOP!

Book Lovers Blog Hop:
Make friends, share the love of reading and be entered to win a FREE book!

For the list of Hop Rules visit:


November 5, 2012

A Book Review: When My Baby Dreams

After the birth of her daughter Mila, Adele Enersen began a blog of whimsical baby photos to share with her friends and family. Now her blog is enjoyed by millions of admirers around the world:  The photographs of Mila became the inspiration for Adele's first book 
When My Baby Dreams:

Mila can be anything.  She's a bookworm with a long puffy cotton tail (surrounded by books, of course); she’s a bee in a gauzy white flower; she’s a butterfly with wings in a silky garden.  In her dreams, she rides a blue denim elephant and journeys on top of a pink silk dragon. Her dreams take her everywhere—she even travels to outer space and floats back to earth with balloons.

I loved this book and believe you will, too.  Adele's creativity will amaze you.  Take your time as you read this gorgeous picture book.  Linger on each page.  Join Mila and savor the stunning details of each exquisite, wildly imaginative dreamscape.

October 29, 2012

Curses! Rejected, again!

Today, author Traci McDonald shares her thoughts on rejection and inspiration.

I can’t stop reading the letter over and over. "We appreciate your submission; unfortunately it does not meet our current publishing needs.” But when the words become branded across my mind, I no longer need to read the rejection again.    

I must be crazy. I am not a writer. I’m a hack, an amateur, a dreamer. What was I thinking? All these thoughts plague my heart and mind as I wipe away bitter tears to hold my manuscript’s wake.

In the backlash of rejection, there is no room for inspiration. I drown in the desperate need to understand what went wrong. I’ve read that lots of published work should have been in the rejection pile. Why did others get published and not me? What can I do if I want to be a writer?  Do I possess the talent to write?  

The things that once inspired me now remind me that I am not good enough.  I am tired—tired of feeling like a failure, tired of being beaten down, tired of my defeatist attitude. Eyes drying and pity party complete, I have two choices. I can believe the doubt and fear and give in to despair, failure, and comfort food, or I can fight back. I can let rejection become my inspiration to work harder, learn more, and try again. I can find out what the publisher’s ‘needs’ are. I can find another home for my work. I can laminate the letter and keep it as a trophy for when I am a published author.

Walt Disney went bankrupt eight times trying to build Disney Land. Babe Ruth struck out more times than he hit home runs. If we believe the nay-Sayers are correct, then they are. If we take rejection and turn it to inspiration, then we are truly authors.

What is a blog hop?
A blog hop is a linky list that is SHARED ON MULTIPLE BLOGS. When several blogs put the same linky list code on their blog, the exact same list appears on each blog.  Blog visitors can submit their entries on any blog that contains the list. The entries will appear on each blog where the list resides.  Blog readers see the same list on each blog, and can "HOP" from blog to blog seeing the same list of links to follow: BLOG HOP!

Book Lovers Blog Hop:
Make friends, share the love of reading and be entered to win a FREE book!

For the list of Hop Rules visit:

October 22, 2012

Another Look

You submitted your picture book manuscript to an agent.  But in only a few weeks she sent a rejection.  On the bright side, she offered some useful suggestions.  So you tweaked your manuscript based on her advice.  Now you’d like to send your revision back to her for another look.  How should you approach this agent?  

Begin your email by reminding her that she has already read the manuscript.  Ask her if she’d be interested in taking another look.  Give the title.  Tell her that she had provided helpful feedback and that your work has been revised. 

In the next paragraph include the word count, the age group, if the story is a simultaneous submission, and any other distinguishing features that make the story marketable.  Then describe the story to refresh the agent’s memory.  Be sure to answer these questions:

Who is the main character?
What does the main character want and what gets in his way?
What launches the story?
What is at stake?

In the last paragraph give your bio. Close by thanking her for her time.  Remember to include your email address or contact information.

There’s no guarantee that a second look will garner a nod from an agent.  But when you approach an agent using my suggestions, you will come across more professionally.  Your letter will make an agent take notice.  And chances are she will send you a thoughtful reply.  

October 15, 2012

A Second Pair of Eyes

I write articles for the University of Kentucky Arboretum newsletter.  Recently, the editor wanted a piece about the new mural that was installed in the Children’s Garden—250 words, easy peasy.

The educational director of the Children’s Garden explained that the mural was conceived by a local artist.  Then children painted the background with bright colors and glued on over 1,200 bottle caps.  Besides portraying some of Kentucky state symbols, the mural shows how art can be made with non-recyclable items. 

After learning about the mural and seeing it for myself, I knew I could crank out the article in a short period of time.  I outlined the material and composed questions for the educational director and the artist.  The piece came together nicely with a focus on the process of making the mural and its significance, along with some lively quotes. 

My husband reviewed the piece, as he does with all of my work.  Giving him about five minutes, I waited for his seal of approval.  But no.  He handed it back to me with comments written in the margins and question marks scribbled on the page.  My explanations weren’t clear enough.  Details were missing.   Some sentence phrasing was awkward.    

So, back to the drawing board.  I edited the article for clarity and used some of my husband's suggestions.  “Much better,” he said with a nod.  I had forgotten that despite the brevity of an article, another pair of eyes is always needed because it’s hard to step away from work and read it objectively. 

After the revision, the mural article is still within word count.  Its focus is tighter and the explanations are clearer.  Without a doubt, the article is much improved.  I am thankful for the insight and kindness of my second reader.  He makes my work more worthy to submit. 

October 8, 2012

Writer's Remorse

Now you’ve done it.  You realize after the fact that you’ve submitted an article to a children’s magazine editor before it was ready.  Of course, at the time of submitting you thought it was perfect, oh so publishable.  So how did you discover the piece went out too soon?  Clue:  Several months have passed and you've yet to hear back from the editor.  

This prompts you to read your article again.  And then that’s when you discover the piece could have been better.  You feel lousy.  Paragraphs could have been constructed more sensibly.  The word choice could have been livelier.  As a whole, the writing could have been tighter.  But it’s out of your hands and now awaits an editor’s decision or at worst, has landed in the rejection pile.

At first, you might feel regret or even embarrassment.  But this is only a little stumble on the path of publication.  It happens.  Though you can’t change the situation, you can have a new outlook. 

Don’t give up on the manuscript.  Review the piece.  Ask yourself what can be improved.  You might need another reader to point out parts that need tweaking.  You may need to read the work aloud and edit places where the pacing is lost or where a reader might trip on the wording.  You may need to overhaul the beginning to hook your audience better.  Or, you may need to wrap up the conclusion with a tie-in to the opening paragraph.

While you await the editor's decision on your work, read more books, blogs, and articles on the craft of writing for children.  Afterward, you'll find that you have gained a different perspective.  This is because you’re growing as a writer.  So learn from your mistakes.  Dismiss your regrets and move on.  Consider this experience an opportunity to improve your writing skills.    

October 1, 2012

Submitting, Again

Congratulations!  You submitted an article to a children’s magazine and it was accepted for publication.  As you write your next article for the same publication, consider this piece of advice:  Be professional when you submit again. 

For example, one of my science articles was published in an outstanding children’s publication.   Thinking I could write another piece for the magazine, I simply queried the editor very informally.  Think:  a one line snappy email pitch.  She immediately wrote back to me and berated me for not following the guidelines (which stated to send a professional query with clips). I thought since she had published one of my pieces that I didn’t need to be so formal.  Wrong.  So wrong.  

Editors have preferences when it comes to submitting.  Some want a professional query each time you write to them that includes specific details like a bio or clips, while other editors will consider a more casual letter.  

Every time you query, formal or not, always include the basics:  the title, the word count, the age group, the submission date, and a brief synopsis of the article. Always read the guidelines. They may have changed since your last article was published.  And just because you’ve published before with a publication doesn’t give you a green light to submit informally.  Some editors just won't stand for it, as I found out.  In the end the editor refused to consider my work again.  This is a harsh example, and I’m willing to bet a rare case.  But use this example as food for thought.  Unless you know it’s okay to write a casual letter, play it safe:  stick to writing a professional query.

September 24, 2012

Mary Kole's Webinar and PW Article

I'm always searching for helpful articles and writing classes.  Here is a recent article and an upcoming webinar that may help you in your writing.  

Literary Agent Mary Kole is presenting a MG and YA Intensive Writer's Digest webinar coming up Thursday, October 25th at 1 p.m. Eastern.

Here's what Mary says:  Middle grade and young adult novels are the hottest markets in children's books today. If you want to write novels for child readers ages 9 - 12 (middle grade) or 13+ (young adult), there are tips and tricks that you need to know before you can break in. The middle grade and teen novels market is so specific—if you want to succeed, that is. This entire 90-minute session will be devoted to this kid-lit craft. 

This webinar is for all of your teen novelists out there, and it comes with the benefits of the lecture, the Q&A, and a writing sample critique as well. This should dovetail nicely with the publication of my book, WRITING IRRESISTIBLE KIDLIT.  Register for the webinar here.

So, you think you're ready to publish?  Check out this article from Publishers Weekly: 

September 17, 2012

Back Issues

I’ve written several blogs on the importance of reading the contributor's guidelines before submitting a nonfiction article to a publisher.  But, let’s take it one step further.  I’d advise writers to read a few back issues of the publication for which they want to pitch.  

I know, it's extra work.  But in reviewing back copies, you’ll see how an author handles a subject.  You'll discover the writing style—whether the tone is serious or playful.  You'll see if the author writes the piece in first, second, or third person. (Writing in second person is challenging, but fun.) You'll get a feel if quotes are needed.  Reading published articles will show you how the author handled the hook and closed the piece.  Lastly, you'll be able to compare your work to the published pieces and see if your article will be a good fit for the magazine. 

Once, I received a strange nonfiction article for Stories for Children Magazine.  This piece was only a list of words in alphabetical order of collective nouns.  In contrast, a nonfiction article has a beginning with a hook, a middle and an ending that usually ties in to the beginning.  It’s been well-researched and has a bibliography.  A list is not a nonfiction article.

I think the author desperately wanted to teach children about collective nouns.  Had she read a few back issues, she would have noticed that the editors publish more substantial pieces.  She would have also learned that her “article” fell short of the word count. 

Though this author’s first attempt was rejected, she should not give up.  She should consider revising her work so that it reads more like nonfiction.  She should hunt for a suitable publication because her subject might make an interesting article.  But before submitting again, she ought to review a few back issues first.       

September 10, 2012

Saying Farewell to SFC

Stories for Children magazine closed its doors last month.  The news hit me hard because I had been part of the magazine for five years.  Before becoming an editor, I submitted nonfiction articles to the magazine.  A team of professional editors worked with me to make my pieces acceptable for publication.  It was thrilling to see my articles online. 

But just as I was growing as a writer, Editor Virginia S. Grenier decided to close the magazine.  Suddenly, the rug was pulled from my feet.  I felt lost.  During this time, I continued to write and to submit to tougher markets—sometimes successful, sometimes not.

Some years later while reading the SCBWI discussion boards, I read about the re-opening of SFC.  I was especially excited to read that Virginia was in need of editors, so I sent her a brief email. Three days later, I was awarded assistant nonfiction editor.  In this job, I made sure that the submissions met our needs before sending them on to the nonfiction editor.  For several months, everything was going smoothly until the nonfiction editor decided to leave her position.   

This presented a problem.  Virginia asked me if I'd be interested in taking the position. Assuming more responsibility made me nervous, but I accepted knowing that Virginia was no more than a phone call or email away.  I loved reading the submissions, making suggestions for revisions, and moving submissions on one step closer to publication.  But little did I know this wonderful job would not last.  A little under two years, Virginia needed to close SFC magazine again.  In a phone call, she shared why she needed to make this tough decision. 

I’ll miss working as an editor for the magazine, conferring with my efficient and lovable assistant Irene Roth, and seeing people reach their dream of publication.  But I do believe that one day, SFC just may open again, when the stars align themselves.  I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of the SFC contributors and the SFC staff.  Stories for Children magazine was a beautifully produced publication.  I can honestly say, it has touched the lives of many and it will be greatly missed.

August 31, 2012

Writer's News

Today Children’s Writer’s World shares publication news and two worthwhile links.  I will be taking a vacation this Monday.  Have a happy and safe Labor Day! 

Dancing With Bears Publishing:
This August, editor Bobbie Shafer announces DWB Publishing will no longer produce picture books.  The website has yet to post this new policy.

Guardian Angel Kids e-zine:
Here is a link for the e-zine’s 2013 theme list:

Horn Book
Promoting good books for children and young adults is the heart of The Horn Book’s editorial mission. Archived here are annotated lists of recommended titles.

August 27, 2012

Don't Give Up

As I look over my nonfiction submission log for Stories for Children Magazine, I see that a few writers received a rejection.  When I send a rejection, I give those writers ideas on how to improve their work.  Writers are encouraged to send their revision to me.  Yet, these writers rarely submit again.  And I can't figure out why.

Maybe they feel totally discouraged or they feel that it would take up too much time to revise. What they fail to understand that if an editor has taken time to make suggestions, they should try again.  Giving up should not be an option.  Writers have some choices. They can revise their article exactly as suggested.  They can use some of the editor's suggestions to make their work stronger.  They can submit the piece to a different editor, revised or not.   

Keep in mind that many times, rejections are subjective.  And, few writers are immune to them.  Famous authors like J. K. Rowling and Theodor Geisel had their share of rejections.  Rejection rarely indicates that your work is not good.  In some cases, a rejection just means the editor already has a similar piece on hand.  Other times, a writer might receive a rejection if the concept is too advanced for the intended age group.   A rejection might be given if the article has failed to meet the guidelines.  

The key to remember when you receive a rejection is: don’t stop writing.  Writing for children means you've got to persevere.   After the sting of rejection has worn off, get back to work.   Learn from the rejection, especially if an editor has offered ways for improving the piece. Strive to improve and submit your work again.   

August 20, 2012

Writing and Inspiration

Today, Children's Writer's World presents a guest blog by author Maggie Lyons.

Sometimes, asking writers what inspires them is like asking people how they got their big toes. They don’t know. The toes just sprouted. Some ideas fly in from outer space. Other ideas pop up if I ask the what-if questions: What if he did that? What if she said that? What I can tell you with some certainty about my middle-grade adventure story Vin and the Dorky Duet is that I wanted to write a quest story, that very old genre describing the exploits of an optimistic adventurer who sets out on an apparently impossible mission. I’m addicted to challenges—which I admit I don’t always meet.

I was trained as a classical pianist and music has always been my favorite language, a refuge. Vin, my twelve-year-old main character, is learning to play the trumpet, one of the most difficult musical instruments. So he is battling with a challenge from the start, long before taking up his sister’s challenge to befriend a nerdy boy he doesn’t like and introduce his sister to the nerd’s hunky brother. 

As a writer, I’m challenged to encourage reluctant readers to turn a few pages. I’d be thrilled if my books succeed on that level because enthusiasm for reading as a child is critical to success as an adult.  I’ve always loved words, so perhaps it’s not surprising I would eventually try stringing a few together. I started out as a nonfiction writer in the business world where inspiration wasn’t an issue. I wrote on whatever topic marketing and public relations demanded. I got the urge to write fiction for children because I’ve always been fascinated by the humor and creative freedom that bubbles out of children’s literature.  I hope my stories reflect that exuberance too.

About Maggie:

Maggie Lyons is a writer and editor who was born in Wales and crossed the pond to Virginia. With no regard for the well-being of her family and neighbors, she trained as a classical pianist. Then came a career of putting rear ends on seats—that is, orchestral management, marked by reams of marketing and fundraising writing and program note scribbling for audiences whose first priority was usually to find their names in the donors’ lists. Editing for academic publishers also brought plenty of satisfaction. Maggie admits she has a fondness for nerds—but nothing like the magic she discovered in writing fiction and nonfiction for children. Several of her articles, poetry, and a chapter book miraculously appeared in Stories for Children Magazine and knowonder! magazine. She hopes her stories encourage reluctant young readers to turn a page or two.

Her books:
Vin and the Dorky Duet is a middle-grade adventure story available as an e-book at MuseItUp Publishing’s bookstore (MuseItYoung section), on Amazon  at , and as a paperback at Halo Publishing International at Another middle-grade adventure story, Dewi and the Seeds of Doom will be released as an e-book by MuseItUp Publishing in October. Halo Publishing International will release the paperback. More information at:, and


Make friends, share the love of reading and be entered to win FREE books! There will be up to 3 winners during this Book Lovers Blog Hop & Giveaway*.  All you have to do is enter the giveaway below.

There are many ways you can enter:
1) Promote the Book Lovers Hop and World of Ink Tours on any social network.
2) Tweet it once a day.
3) Share on Facebook.
4) Like this blog post.
5) Leave a comment.
Also, don't forget to follow those who have joined in the Book Lovers Blog Hop. By joining the Book Lovers Blog Hop, you are automatically entered in our Book Giveaway!

Join the Hop & Rules:
       Follow the Top link of the hop! Hop Host: Families Matters. 

 Grab the button for the August '12 World of Ink Tour and place it in a post or a side bar.
       Grab the button for the hop, place it in a post, sidebar or on a blog hop page and make sure to let us know.    
      Make sure you let us know where it is the comments section below.
**Note: One book per winner
Author’s Name or Pen Name: Maggie Lyons
(Note: review copies will be a PDF as the print book is currently being published. However, print copies will be available for giveaways) 10 copies available for giveaway.
About the book: Magnetic compost heaps, man-eating bubble baths, and other disasters erupt when an inventive seventh-grader meets a challenge to win a David Beckham autographed soccer jersey if he can befriend an unsociable nerd and introduce his sister to the nerd’s hunky brother.

August 13, 2012

Editorial Calendars

You're dying to write an article for children.  But you don't know where to begin or what to write about.  You're stuck.  Brain freeze sets in.

Relax.  Let me offer you a good place to start:  take a look at the editorial calendars of potential markets. Editorial calendars are usually found on the guidelines page of a publishing company's website.  Here you'll find a list of themes and the month and year in which those themes will be published.  In some cases, editors have listed possible topics.  Take for example the theme “Age of Exploration” as listed for Appleseeds Magazine.  The editors state they’d be interested in seeing ship builders, sail makers, map makers, and explorers.  Think of all of the possibilities just from this one theme!

When I glance at the editorial calendars from different magazines,I find that many of the themes are broad.  For instance a couple of years ago, Appleseeds Magazine listed  “horses” on the editorial calendar.  You could write about a particular breed, horses in history, horses helping people, and so on.  But the key to catching an editor's eye is to find a specific and a unique facet of the topic.  In this case, I found a unique subject—a candy-loving Kentucky Derby horse. This unusual horse and his story impressed the editor and I was awarded a contract to write the piece.  

An editorial calendar gives you ideas that you may not have thought of before.  When you review the themes, think about a topic that interests you and has the potential to interest kids.  Ponder how can you make this topic exceptional.  Consider how you’d research the topic.  Afterward, think about where you will submit such an article.  You can pitch to the publication that has presented the theme.  Or you can use the topic for a piece that can be submitted to a different magazine.

If you’re not quite ready to begin researching, writing, and submitting an article, simply keep a list of all of the topics for future reference.  Check the editorial calendars throughout the year to see if any have been updated.  Review your list and brainstorm other closely related topics.  In time, you’ll never be short on ideas.

August 6, 2012

Give an Editor Your Very Best

You've written a great picture book story.  You've had it reviewed by a writing partner or by a critique group.  Are you ready to submit it to a publisher?  Probably not yet.  Your work must be carefully edited.  Everything has to be just right.  You must use good grammar and have no punctuation mistakes.  Your story must have good pacing, sound structure, and a unique plot.  The story arc should blend voice and characterization with strong writing.  

If you’ve met these goals, you’re probably ready to approach a publisher.  But if you’re not sure if your manuscript is good enough to submit, you might need to invest a little money and time.  Here are four ways to help you improve your manuscript before you send it to a publisher:   

1. Invest in grammar books like The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E. B. White and a thesaurus like The Children’s Writer’s Word Book by Alijandra Mogilner.

2. Take classes that focus on writing for children, either locally or online.  Writer’s Digest offers some amazing webinars.

3. Read books about the craft of writing for children. For starters, check out Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul.

4. Familiarize yourself with books that you’d like to write.  Read them for enjoyment, to be inspired and to help you hone your craft.

Editors are looking for your best work.  They expect you to carefully edit and proofread your submission.  They expect you to submit a piece that is free of grammatical and spelling errors. Most editors maintain that manuscripts with punctuation and spelling errors, or otherwise poorly written or edited submissions will not be considered. 

Unless you have a special relationship with an editor who is willing to help you revise your manuscript, it’s up to you to edit your work.  So learn as much as you can about the craft of writing for children.  Be patience and persevere.  Then give an editor your very best.

July 30, 2012

In No Particular Order

The bibliography is one of the first things I look at when I receive a submission.  I review the sources used and check how well the bibliography is formatted.  Recently I received a submission with a bibliography that shocked me.  The author submitted a nonfiction article with a strangely composed bibliography.  The sources —titles only—were listed in random order.  Come on.  A bibliography has to have order.  It's called alphabetical order.

This is not the first submission that I’ve received that had a poor bibliography.  Many times, authors are careless in writing the bibliography.  Words are misspelled; titles are not capitalized; punctuation is missing; formatting is incorrect.  These errors however, are more common than a bibliography composed in no particular order.

In most cases, nonfiction submissions for children’s magazines are required to include a bibliography.  Stories for Children Magazine only requires three sources, two of which can be Internet sources.  So, composing a short bibliography is not hard.  Still, even with only a few sources, the bibliography has to be formatted correctly.

Most magazine editors make their preferences known for formatting in their guidelines.  Some editors prefer the Chicago Style.  The University of Chicago Press has created the Chicago Manual of Style, which provides guidelines for citing sources as well as for formatting papers.  Other editors like the MLA Style (the Modern Language Association) which is used primarily for subjects related to the humanities and liberal arts, such as literature, mass communications, and media studies.

When writing nonfiction for children, always include a properly formatted bibliography with good sources. It may be the first thing an editor looks at. If you've spent time researching and writing an article, make sure that an appropriate bibliography accompanies your work. Visit the MLA organization's website on the Internet or refer to a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style if you have doubts about citing sources.  With a little practice, you'll be formatting bibliographies with ease and perfection.

July 23, 2012

Letting Work Die, All Yellow

As nonfiction editor for Stories for Children Magazine, I keep a log of all submissions.  The log is divided into months and each submission is color-coded.  Green is for a Phase I acceptance, blue is for a Phase II acceptance, and magenta is for the most-sought after Phase III acceptance.

More colors describe various points in the submission process.  Orange means the submission is still being considered.  Red is for rejection (there aren’t too many of these!) and yellow means that a Phase I or II acceptance is likely if some edits are made. 

As I glance at my log, I have many green, blue, and magenta submissions.  But I have way too many yellow submissions, the ones that need just a little editing.  And yet, most of these submissions have remained yellow for months.  Many writers don't revise and re-submit.

The yellow-highlighted submissions have promise, and I’d like to see them published. But if a writer refuses to edit, then it's a waste of time for the both of us—the author has spent time researching and writing the piece and I have spent time reading the submission and making thoughtful suggestions.

Editing is an important part of writing for children.  Most of the suggestions I make are easy to implement.  I might ask to correct grammar.  Or, I might like to see another source.  So it's hard to conceive why anyone would walk away from work that was once deemed worthy of submission.  It's a shame letting a submission "die" all yellow on my log.

July 16, 2012

Out and About at the Zoo

Today, Jo Linsdell reveals the story behind her picture book.

Like most kids, my son loves animals. I got the idea for my children's picture book Out and About at the Zoo after taking him to the zoo for the first time. He'd been asking me why I hadn't written a book for him and I figured he made a good point. I decided to make the text rhyming as they were his favourite types of books.

He was a big help throughout the whole process. As you can imagine of a 4- year old, he wasn't shy about giving feedback. He was also an eager audience when I needed to read through the text. He loved being able to be involved in my work for a change and asked a lot of questions. It was actually really helpful as it made me think about the project from a different angle and kept my target reader as the focus of the book.

He helped me with the illustration part, too. He had great fun helping me create the animals for the book. We researched together to find pictures of the animals I needed, using our own photos from our trip to the zoo and pictures we found in books and on the Internet. Every illustration included in the book was given his seal of approval... and trust me he was very demanding. If it didn't look right to him it was re-drawn.

Involving my son in the project made everything more fun. He would often ask "Mummy did you finish that picture yet?" or "Is the book ready now?" which was great for motivating me to work on it. This book definitely holds a very special place in my heart.

Synopsis:  Rhyming text and colourful pictures accompany this fun day out discovering different animals at the zoo.
About the author:
Jo Linsdell is a freelance writer, author and illustrator. Originally from the UK, she now lives in RomeItaly with her husband and their two young sons.
Author website:
Release Date: 1st June 2012

Product details:

ISBN/EAN13: 1477446591 / 9781477446591
Page Count: 32
Binding Type: US Trade Paper
Trim Size: 6" x 9"
Language: English
Colour: Full Colour with Bleed
Related Categories: Juvenile Fiction / Stories in Verse

Purchasing Links:

Contact details:
Reviews: 5 Stars: "Out and About at the Zoo is a cute book that describes a child's memory-filled trip to the zoo. Are you heading to the zoo and you would like to tell your kids what animals they will see there and what they might be doing? Then Out and About at the Zoo would be a great choice. Easy to understand and easy for children to read along with. It is filled with simple yet colorful pictures that even help my one-year old's attention. Would also make a good gift for young readers who are just beginning to read!
By Virginia L. Jennings, author
5 Stars "Out and About at the Zoo by Jo Linsdell is a delightful story set in rhyme about a boy and his mum.  The two spend the day at the zoo and meet many animals along the way. Your child will enjoy reading this book time and time again. The colorful illustrations make this book a joy to read. Pick up a copy of this book and share a day at the zoo memory with your little one."
By Kate Mueller, Author of Bella's Birthday Surprise  

July 15, 2012


Writeoncon is a great way to learn more about the craft of writing for children.  This year, the conference features literary agents Cheryl Pientka, Daniel Lazar, Peter Knapp, Michelle Humphrey, Mollie Glick, Emily Keyes, Sarah Davies, and Katie Grimm.  This program will have industry professionals in the forums, looking at query letters, pitches, and anything else they want.  And it's free!  I participated last year and loved it.

The online conference will be held on August 14 - 15.  For more information check out:

July 9, 2012

Blog Tip and Writer's articles

Today Children’s Writer’s World shares two articles and a blogging tip.  Enjoy!

Horn Book June 26th:
Profile of Kadir Nelson author of Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans

Writer’s Digest June 24th
 “4 Keys to Writing Un-Put-Down-Able Middle Grade Adventure”

Blogging Tip

July 1, 2012


As stated in my blog earlier this year, the Maggie Project has been completed.  I submitted my picture book Maggie and the First Grade Blues to 30 publishers and 15 agents.  I also entered the story in 5 contests.

Though it had received three awards, had been favorably critiqued, and had piqued the interest of a publisher, I’ve decided to put the story on the back burner for the time being.  I will be working on other stories that will be submitted to literary agents and editors.

The blog that will replace the Maggie Project Blog is: 
Children's Writer's World (
I will blog about writing projects and writer's news, offer writing advice and insights from the viewpoint of an editor and as a writer, review books, and host guest blogs—all devoted to writing for children.  Please leave a comment if you're interested in writing a guest blog or if you have suggestions for future blog posts.

Writing for children is a journey of twists and turns.  It's a path of challenges (editing, rejection, writer's block) and surprises (acceptances, publication, awards).  It's a journey that writers lovingly embrace in order to give children good stories to read and to enjoy.  I invite you to tag along.