March 2016 Archives

If I actually write three

If I actually write three to five hours, that's a productive day. Some days all I do is stare at the wall. That can be productive, too, if you're working out character and plot problems. The rest of the time, I walk around with the story slipping in and out of my thoughts.
Suzanne Collins


Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

mouseheart.jpgFans of Runt the Brave series by Dan Schwabauer and the Redwall books by Brian Jaques will like Mouseheart (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2014) by Lisa Fiedler.

Hopper is a mouse in a pet store. He wishes he was braver. But his bravery is about to be tested. Can he save his siblings? Can he survive when he gets washed from the uplands? And how can he tell who is telling the truth in this new world where he finds himself?

I was satisfied with the ending of this first book in the trilogy, but want to know more about Hopper and his the world. Fortunately the other books are already out. mh-book2.pngBook two is Hopper's Destiny and book three is The Return of the

The author has a lovely website that even has games.

Beautiful illustrations are done by Vivienne To--see more of her work here.

How to Capture an Invisible Cat

InvisibleCat.jpgLooking for a hilarious read? Try How to Capture an Invisible Cat (Bloomsbury, 2016) by Paul Tobin and illustrated by Thierry Lafontaine. The hilarity starts on page one with:

Let's just say the cat was bigger than a horse.
To be honest, the cat was nearly the size of an elephant, but that sounds too scary, so . . . let's just say the cat was bigger than a horse.

Our narrator, sixth-grader Delphine Cooper, has been sentenced to stay after school. While sweeping, she witnesses Very Serious People "testing" genius and classmate Nate Bannister. She's never really paid attention to him before. Then she sees Nate and his dog Bosper at the park and some amazing things happen. Are the two going to become friends? He thinks so. And friends help each other right? So that's how Delphine gets involved helping Nate capture his invisible supersized cat.

Author Paul Tobin is an Eisner-award winning, New York Times-bestselling author of comic books and graphic novels. How to Capture an Invisible Cat is the first of five books in this Genious Factor series. Learn more about the series, his others books and about Paul himself at his website. Currently, Paul is on a Book Blog Tour that started today. Details here.

Read about illustrator Thierry Lafontaine here.

The tale is often wiser

The tale is often wiser than the teller.
Susan Fletcher

Our instinct as human beings

Our instinct as human beings is to provide answers, to ease tension. As writers our job is the opposite, to create tension and not dispel it immediately.
Sol Stein


How do I get started writing for magazines?

1. First, read a variety of children's magazines and determine which magazine(s) appeal to you and which age groups attracts you most.

2. Decide what you are drawn to most: fiction, articles, poetry, activities.

3. Read and analyze lots of those pieces--look at more than one issue of your chosen magazine(s).

4. Check out market books and get guidelines and, if available, theme lists/editorial calendars for the chosen magazine(s). Some guidelines are available on-line. Others you may need to write for, enclosing an SASE.

5. Write your piece in a similar tone as the pieces in the magazine. Make sure it fits the word length, etc. in the guidelines. When it's the best you can make it, submit it. (Don't start with the hard to get into magazines such as Highlights for Children and Cricket--get some publishing experience first.)

6. Move on to writing another manuscript.

Some people call articles stories, while others only refer to fiction as stories. How do I know what's what?

I personally differentiate these two by nonfiction (article or essay) or fiction (story), and of course, each of those categories can be broken down more. That said, I will at times call a piece a "true story" versus an article. That usually happens in response to a magazine looking for "true stories about..." Sometimes these are also called true experiences.

When submitting a manuscript, I usually indicate "article" or "nonfiction" for those true stories and "fiction based on a true story" or "fiction" on those I've made up.

Should I always send a cover letter with my submission?

I don't. The reasons I do are:

1. The magazine requests manuscripts with a cover letter.

2. I have more information I want them to know (e.g. why I wrote the piece, or my submission fits a theme, etc.).

3. It might be pertinent for them to know my other writing experience and I don't think a full résumé is needed.

What do I say in a cover letter?

1. Grab the reader with something exciting - this may be a direct quote from the manuscript, or a catchy line or something about the theme of your piece.

2. Give a brief summary of your story, essay, article.

3. Tell title, genre, word count and rights you are offering. If reprint rights*, tell where and when it has appeared.

4. Mention anything special you are including: color slides, digital photos, sidebars, related websites, etc.

5. Include your writing credits: either "I'm enclosing my résumé" or a list of some magazines you've been published in. Don't apologize for not having credits. Don't say you're a first time writer.

6. Bring up other issues that might be important. For example, if a story or article is set in a particular town and you lived there, tell the editor so. If you have experience in a particular job, craft, or hobby, and it relates to your piece, say so.

7. If sending a manuscript by snail mail, mention you've included a self-addressed stamped envelope. You may want to include an SASE for their reply instead of for the return of the manuscript. I found I was reprinting manuscripts all the time anyway, and can save postage by sending a smaller SASE. Some publishers are now only replying with acceptances, which in that case you can state something like, "I understand you only reply if interested. You may discard this copy of the manuscript." This information is usually available through their guidelines.

Note: If sending a manuscript electronically, make sure you follow the directions of "pasted the manuscript into body of the email" or "attachment" as the guidelines say.

8. Close.

Overall, remember to be brief, professional and to the point.

Is writing for children's magazines for everyone?

Of course not. But it might be for you!

*Want to know more about magazine rights? Read this post.

(image courtesy of and

Creativity is allowing yourself to

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.
Scott Adams

Three Rules for Literary Success

Three Rules for Literary Success: 1. Read a lot. 2. Write a lot. 3. Read a lot more, write a lot more.
Robert Silverberg