January 1, 2016

A New Year’s Wish

As you know, writing for children is not easy.  We freak out when nothing comes to mind when we want to begin a new story.  We lose faith when agents and publishers reject our work.  We get sensitive over a critique member's remarks, or feel exasperated when friends or family just don't get what it takes to write for kids.

Still, we strive to create just the right story that can be told with just the right words and with just the right number of words because we love to write for kids.  

We know it's not easy, but sometimes we need a little encouragement.  

So I remind you to never give up, to believe in YOU, to know that you will succeed.

To all of my faithful readers, I wish you many days filled with the joy of writing. 

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.