|by wharman www.flickr.com
I remember fondly sitting at the dentist's office with my mom and flipping through the latest Highlights for Children magazine. I loved the Hidden Pictures and the comic strip stories. I loved the poems and arts and crafts. I also remember getting my Jack and Jill magazines in the mail and sending in my own poems and drawings. These were some exciting days as a child.
When I decided to write for children, I wanted to publish a book, of course. But all the advice I read and heard at writing conferences was that while I was working on my book, I needed to build a publishing history. I needed to submit to magazines. This was one way I could work on my craft and learn the business at the same time.
So, I started on fiction stories, as most writers do. I thought back to those doctor's office waiting rooms and reading stories with my mom and dad. I remembered using my Jack and Jill magazines to play school, and reading with great expression the stories out loud to my stuffed animals.
This nostalgia got me rejection after rejection--and only one acceptance to a small, independent magazine because I placed in their fiction contest.
What I soon learned was that I needed a critique group. I needed to try my hand at nonfiction, too. I needed to learn about fillers and editors and query letters and more. So, through my correspondence classes at the Institute of Children's Literature and the wonderful members of my critique group (as well as all the conferences they dragged me to), I soon realized there was no place for nostalgia if I wanted a career as a writer. I needed to put away those memories of Highlights and Jack and Jill and face reality.
I see this SO OFTEN with new writers and/or people who have been trying to get a children's book published for years. They want to write a book like they remember from their childhood. They don't want to hear about e-zines or Walter, the Farting Dog or picture book apps. They don't want to hear that nonfiction sells easier than fiction, and that magazine editors are dying for boy stories with humor. They don't want to hear that they have to go study the market and figure out how it is always changing.
As the saying goes, "This is not your grandma's" publishing business any more. If you find yourself receiving rejection after rejection on your picture book or middle grade novel manuscript, take some time to find a critique group (or partner) and make it better. If you have any extra money, hire a professional editor. While you are in the revision process, learn about today's business and build your publishing history. Look into writing for e-zines and magazines--including teaching and parenting mags-after all, aren't these the people who are going to buy your children's books for their young ones?
Nostalgia is great--and it often helps us get in touch with our inner child, and come out with the best stories ever. But don't let it take over your career.
Margo's "Writing for Children: Short Stories, Articles, and Fillers" online class is still open! It's not too late to join. It starts on Monday 3/5. Click here for more information.
post by Margo L. Dill