Sunday, February 1, 2015
5 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD WRITE FOR CHILDREN'S MAGAZINES
My copies of Faces magazine came in this week with my article, "The Boat Dwellers of Aberdeen Harbor". It's about the boat-dwelling Tanka people in Hong Kong, whose once thriving community of close to 200,000 people on Aberdeen Harbor have dwindled.
Apart from the thrill of seeing your byline attached to an article in a print magazine, here are 5 reasons why you should consider writing for children's magazines:
1) They're published more frequently so there's a...
2) Need for more content
3) Nonfiction exercises a different part of your brain than fiction, and it's a great mental workout, kind of like stretching or weight-training before a big race, plus...
4) You learn A LOT of interesting stuff. Nonfiction research takes you down paths you might not have meandered down if you weren't looking specifically for information related to your topic.
5) You get to see your work in print a lot faster than with books (generally. My article for Highlights for Children took 5 years to appear in the magazine—but that's another story).
In addition to Highlights, my articles have appeared in Appleseeds ("Horses Helping Others", May 2011); and Faces ("The Elephant Queen", January 2012, a Letter of Merit recipient in the 2013 SCBWI Magazine Merit awards; "The Boat Dwellers of Aberdeen Harbor", February 2015). These magazines are part of the Cobblestone Publishing group which also publishes the magazines Cricket, LadyBug, Cobblestone, Spider, Dig, among others. There are many other children's magazines looking for content, and you can find them in a great resource called Magazine Markets for Children's Writers. The Cobblestone group of magazines publish fiction too, but I enjoy the nonfiction ones because they're themed, and I can always find themes that arouse my curiosity and interest.
Even though the recent Faces issue about Hong Kong inspired me because I lived in Hong Kong as a teen and have some personal connection to the country, you don't need to have experience and knowledge to query a topic. And you never know where your research will lead. For Faces' Thailand issue, I thought I might write an article about the mahout (elephant trainers) training camps where one can learn to be a mahout. They even have brief camps for tourists to learn how to handle an elephant! But during the course of that research, I stumbled upon the story of Lek Chailert who, along with her husband, established Elephant Nature Park an elephant sanctuary to rescue injured and abused Asian elephants and return them to the wild. That article became "The Elephant Queen". I had no prior knowledge of this topic but loved learning about Lek's background and how she came to fall in love with elephants, her tireless conservation efforts, and the horrors behind what elephants have gone through to be "trained" as beasts of burden.
If you're interested in querying for these magazines, here are some tips I've learned along the way:
1) Specific angles will probably be more successful than general ones. For example, a magazine had an issue on Explorers of the West including Lewis and Clark. I queried about writing an article of Sacajawea's life and her presence on Lewis' and Clark's journey. I did not get the assignment even though I wrote Sacajawea of the Shoshone, a children's biography of Sacajawea. Looking back, I thought my query might have been too broad. I might have had better luck if I had queried on the two versions of Sacajawea's death.
2) If you get an assignment, the turnaround time can be pretty tight (most often a month). That means you have to get your research, any needed subject interviews, and the writing and revising done by then. Sometimes, problems can arise in the research or the writing that might impact your ability to get your article in by the deadline. This happened to me while writing "The Elephant Queen". I could not reach my subject Lek Chailert for an interview because she was out in the jungle saving elephants! The important thing here is keep in touch with your editor. I wrote to let my editor know that I was having a hard time connecting with Lek and asked if I could have an extension of my deadline and if I could not get a personal interview, if I could use quotes from other interviews she had given. The editor was very willing to work with me. I got the okay on both, but in the end, was able to interview Lek via email (due to the time difference) and get my article in by the original deadline. Editors are very flexible people and since you are supplying content for their magazine, they're invested in making sure that happens, but they don't like nasty surprises, and they have a deadline to meet too, so communicate any snafus you run into.
3) If you don't get an assignment, don't take it personally. Just try again. Magazines may publish more content because they have several issues a year, but they only publish a limited number of articles in each issue, and they probably get hundreds, if not thousands, of submissions. And somebody else may have submitted a query that is more appropriate for the theme, or more interesting, or unique.I had several queries that were not successful between the Faces 2012 and the Faces 2015 articles.
3) Be professional. Publishing can be a surprisingly small world. Editors move to different houses or magazines so if your query or article isn't free of grammatical and spelling errors, or you miss your deadline or misspell the editor's name (yes, I've been told this matters) or write rude letters when you don't get your assignment, you'll earn a black mark against your name. And getting published is hard enough even with an impeccable record.
If you've written for other children's magazines, I'd love to know what these are and what your experience is, and any tips and advice you have for submitting to that market.
Happy Writing! I hope the next article I read in a children's magazine is yours!