September 15, 2015


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   (, 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: 
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)

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 ( ) 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 .  Contributors will be acknowledged in KIT.  A portion of the proceeds will go to First Book 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