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


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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.