May 28, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

April 12, 2014

Conflict and Backstory

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

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

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

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

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

March 24, 2014

Where's the Fire?

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

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

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

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

March 17, 2014

Writer's Contest

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

February 15, 2014


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

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

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

January 27, 2014

In Today's Mail

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

There was no cover letter. 

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

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

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

January 4, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

Here’s link to see the original titles of famous books: