March 30, 2009

Highlights Contract

Yay! My first acquired article with Highlights Magazine. Very happy to receive the contract and thrilled that my work will be appearing in this wonderful children's magazine. I'm not sure when the article will be appearing - it's a Thanksgiving piece - but it could be this November or another year. Highlights is a very professional organization. If you are submitting a non-fiction piece, be prepared to provide ample research, "expert" reviews and well-documented sources. The bibliography must be extensive. All that hard work results in an excellent magazine and articles that kids enjoy reading. Check out their website at to review their current article needs - this list is updated periodically.

March 26, 2009

Spotlight on Series Non-Fiction

Booklist just released their "Spotlight on Series Non-Fiction" offered twice a year. As Booklist notes: we would all like to write the next great literary masterpiece, but non-fiction pays the rent. Series non-fiction is also the backbone of school library publishing. I agree with the Booklist editor, we are always in need of great non-fiction to answer the many "why?" questions that our children ask. Currently, Booklist is also offering a 50% discount on membership. A good time to check it out....

March 23, 2009

Should I Tell or Should I Show?

Ah, the age-old struggle for a writer. We hear it at every conference - "show, don't tell" - the mantra for a picture book writer. This was a hot topic yesterday at my new critique group (all of whom are great and provided valuable input - thanks!). The topic was also accompanied by a lot of laughter as we struggled to define what was "too much telling" and what was "not enough". The group challenged some of us to delete entire paragraphs with too much "showing". Even entire characters in the manuscripts got the axe yesterday. Some in the group, as a result of lots of workshops, honed their manuscripts to the essentials. We were very proud of them - but now they needed to revise - and add a few details to help the reader along! The "show, don't tell" policy is applied uniquely for picture book vs. novel. The picture book writer needs to leave room for the illustrator. Excessive detail (she wore pearls, a hat with a feather and a pink, ruffled party dress) does not leave the illustrator with many creative options. How about, "She was properly accessorized and ready for a fancy party"? The novel writer is challenged to organically weave the description in the dialogue or through action. Information-dumping is definitely frowned upon. The MG or YA reader needs to learn naturally about the characters. A critique group can be a valuable tool in this process (and as we learned yesterday, it can even be fun!) as we weave our way through this maze as children's writers.

March 22, 2009

Magazines Celebrate!

Magazines celebrate popular holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving to lesser-known holidays like National Ice Cream Month. They need you to write the articles! Some magazines are looking for craft projects, some non-fiction, and some fictional pieces. All of the magazines, however, are looking for a new slant on the holiday. Christmas, Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day generate the most submissions. Editors are always in need of these articles, but they must offer a fresh approach. To find a market for your article, study the magazine websites for submission policy and the current needs. Visit your local library and review past issues for tone, content and direction of other articles. Writing magazine articles is an excellent way to boost your publishing credits, and bring in a little extra cash. Check out the following sites to find a home for your article:

Family Fun
Kid Zone
Ranger Rick

March 19, 2009

Marketing Your Book in a Recession

In this harsh economic climate, publishers and writers alike are looking at the most cost-effective measures for promotion. The recent issue of Children's Writer ( devotes almost the entire issue to thrifty tips. The following are some of my favorites:

* use online services such as Vista Print to create postcards/business cards. I use Vista Print, speedy/dependable service, and they frequently have promotions such as 100 postcards free.
* start a blog through free services such as * write book reviews. Include the title of your own book after your name
* trade links with other writers
* join the conversation and various groups at Facebook, Twitter, etc. - I created two Facebook pages - one personal page and another specifically for my book. Become a "fan" of your book.
* join local critique and writer's groups
* offer autographed copies of your book as part of a charity gift basket
* ask to be a speaker at clubs, various organizations - I was a speaker for a college creative writing class, church groups and mom's groups
* give a talk or a reading at your local library
* write how-to articles on the craft of writing such as
* send an email blast to everyone on your email list
* develop strong relationships with your local bookstores

Lots of other great tips and advice from the publishers at Children's Writer. Tough times call for tough people to get creative!

March 16, 2009

Calling all Cinderellas...Fairy Godsisters, Ink

Have you been longing to attend the SCBWI Summer Conference in LA? Don't have the funds? Don't have a fairy godmother to send you to the ball? Well - now you have five Fairy Godsisters! Fairy Godsisters, Ink. helps children's writers and illustrators attend the fantastic SCBWI Summer Conference by providing an annual scholarship. This benevolent posse of five women believe in magic (lucky breaks), giving back and helping others. The group: Thalia Chaltas, Valerie Hobbs, Mary Hershey, Robin La Fevers and Lee Wardlaw each contribute money towards the scholarship. This year's scholarship is $1500. Applicants must be SCBWI members and submit a 250-word esssay describing what they hope to accomplish through the conference. Application deadline is quickly approaching - April 15th - with the winner notified by May 15th. Essays must be sent to The website is . In this harsh economic climate, these ladies really are a dash of magic to Cinderella writers. Bravo to Fairy Godsisters Ink!

March 12, 2009

Booklist's Notable Children's Books

Booklist online just released its Notable Children's Books 2009. This list, chosen by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), is comprised of works of fiction, information, poetry and pictures. Categories range from the very young to YA readers. All of these books were published in 2008 and ALSC, Newbery, Caldecott and Geisel award winners are automatically included. If you haven't read these books, run - don't walk - to your local library. An impressive list of authors/talent/illustrators -inspiring to all writers of children's books.

March 10, 2009

Bedtime Books

An article in Children's Writer ( discusses bedtime books and the qualities that will endure over time. Those of us who are parents can tell you the top 5 bedtime books for their children. And, years later, we remember all the words. A favorite bedtime book will, literally, be read hundreds of times. However, this is more than "just" reading a book. This is about a special ritual with your child, time together, bringing an end to the day. Special rituals deserve special books. From an editor's point of view, what will make your manuscript special enough to publish? A bedtime picture book must please several audiences: the editor, the child and the parent, who will purchase the book and commit to reading it every night. A unique twist is vitally important in today's market. It's not enough to write about a teddy bear. What does the teddy bear do that is different? Is the rhythm unique? Can you introduce a new voice? Can it serve a dual purpose? Bedtime books don't necessarily have to be nighttime books. The popular "I Love You As Much" book introduces the reader to various animal mothers and their babies. The familiar rhythm ends with the human mother kissing her child goodnight - leaving the child with comforting images. For tired parents, a great nighttime book is as precious as a good night's sleep.

March 9, 2009

What the heck is YA? How about MG? Understanding Reading Levels

Children's books can be solidly in one category or cross a variety of reading levels and targeted audiences. If you are a children's writer, how do you know where your book fits in? What's a YA book? How about a MG book? A SCBWI faculty member distributed this helpful information:
Picture Book: Age 1-6+

Range from a few words per page to longer paragraphs of text and more complicated story lines. Word count: limited words - 1,000 words. Less than 800 words is best.

Easy-to-Read: Age 4-8, 6-9, 7-10

Simple sentences and limited vocabulary. For children just learning to read. Stories need to move fast.

Chapter Books: Age 7-11

Word count: approx. 10,000 - 25,000. Short chapters for young readers. Historical, mystery and contemporary stories popular.

Middle-Grade Novels: Age 8-12

Tight plotting, plenty of dialogue, and a fast pace are crucial. Approximately 12,000-40,000 words. All genres - a major market for children's writers.

Young Adult Novels: Age 12 and up

Approximately 40,000-60,000 words. Suject matter can be controversial and range from innocent to "edgy". A teen protagonist.

March 8, 2009

Spring Has Sprung!

Those of us in Pennsylvania rejoiced over the spring weather this weekend. I refuse to believe winter weather will ever return, and defiantly packed away the boots/parkas/snow gear. While I love a school snow day as much as anyone, there is nothing like the first hint of Spring again. It's almost difficult to remember over those long winter months. Hard to say when it's easier to write - holed up on winter days, happy to be inside or the rush of inspiration as the new life of Spring breathes again. It's all good!

March 7, 2009

Mentoring Workshop Tips

Really a terrific group of editors (and one agent) at the NJ-SCBWI workshop. These one-day workshops consist of a 20 minute manuscript critique with an editor, a "first page" session (the first pages are read anonymously and the editors give a five minute critique and participation in a critique group with other writers. There is lots of work to do ahead, but many rewards. This particular group of editors/agents was well-rounded with plenty of experience in the publishing world. A nice mix of picture books, MG and YA authors/illustrators clients in their background. These smaller workshops are much more intimate and the atmosphere is relaxed. Jessica Dandino Garrison (Dial Books) was seated at my table for lunch, and she couldn't be more pleasant. She was happy to answer questions and we also tried to give her time to eat. Some interesting comments from the workshop editors/agents: everyone agrees that the industry is tighter, advances will not be as big and publishers are looking for "house authors" (authors that will continue to write marketable books). Another round of applause for Kathy Temean and Laurie Wallmark for organizing the event.