|CSFTS: published Feb. 9, 2016|
I asked Kathleen about her experience with the Chicken Soup books. Here's what she said:
I find CSFTS to be a great place to submit essays that are rattling around in my head. This is my third story published with them. I have a friend who has been in 25 or 30 of their books! To me, writing and submitting is the name of the game. I write because I love to write, and when I find a place interested in publishing and paying me for my work it's a great combo.
Are you interested in publishing a short story or article? Or, are you reluctant to take time away from your novel-length Work In Progress? Consider these benefits of writing and submitting a short work:
- Practice: Writing a focused piece for a target market is great practice. Choose an interesting topic, craft a brief and engaging story, and polish. It keeps your writing nimble and helps hone your voice. And you know about those 10,000 hours you have to put in? These count.
- Money: You write for love (of course!), but being paid affirms the value of your work. It means you are a "working writer," and helps support your "writing habit." It might even make you love writing more!
- Colleagues: By submitting your work, you develop working relationships with editors, and meet other writers doing similar work. This builds your writing community.
- Credits: Publishing means you have credits on your resume. A list of publications shows that you're serious about writing, as a craft and a business.
- Awards: You never know. A friend of mine with multiple books published was excited to receive a SCBWI award for her magazine story. Who wouldn’t be?
So . . . if you're interested in exploring publication now, while you’re waiting for that big seven-book deal to come through . . . here are some tips about three markets that I've enjoyed writing for.
1. Chicken Soup for the Soul: CSFTS's books are popular and well-regarded, and they’re always looking for stories. Chicken Soup stories are first-person true tales and essays. Maximum word length is 1200 words, a great luxury if you’ve been trying to whittle your picture book manuscript down to 350 words or so. You can find theme lists for future books, and detailed information about what they’re seeking at the Chicken Soup website. They pay $200 per story. That buys a few stamps!
My CSFTS experience was quite positive. I submitted my dog story through the online form in August, and received an email in November saying I was in the final round of consideration for the book. A few weeks later, CSFTS emailed me the final, slightly edited version of my story for my final approval. I asked for a couple of tweaks, which they incorporated, sending me the final, final version the next week. In January, my box of ten complimentary books arrived. They say I'll receive the check within 30 days.
2. Professional publications: Many children’s writers are librarians or teachers by day. This opens doors to other writing-for-publication opportunities such as teachers’ journals and educational magazines. Perhaps you can share ideas about techniques that work well for you in your classroom, or training opportunities. If your field is science or history, consider writing for your local historical society, or a science magazine. I have a children’s-writer friend who has published several pieces in home-schooling magazines. And another (a certain children's-librarian superstar) is writing a chapter in a forthcoming ALA sourcebook, as his print publishing debut.
Cover Art by Gilbert Ford
Or – if you’re a children’s writer, you’re a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, right? How about submitting an article to the SCBWI Bulletin? If you have an idea, SCBWI asks that you email the topic and a quick bio to: bulletin[at]scbwi.org. And don’t you love the fun poems the Bulletin publishes about writing for children, and the writer’s life? When I was inspired to pen such a poem (“Muse”), it found a great home at the Bulletin. When I e-mailed SCBWI, I received a quick and positive response. And as a SCBWI contributor, I received a thank-you check and I retain the rights to my work. Yay, SCBWI!
3. Parenting Newspapers: Does your area have one of those regional parent-oriented papers, full of tips for local kid-oriented activities and attractions, along with articles, essays, and Q&A’s? They're the ones with names like “Atlanta Parent,” “Chesapeake Family,” “Indy’s Child,” “NOLA Baby and Family,” “Raising Arizona Kids,” or my own excellent local paper, “Kids VT.”
As a regular reader, I'd noticed that Kids VT runs a column called “Use Your Words,” featuring essays by local writers. I had an idea and emailed it to the editor, who liked it and gave me an assignment. This was early in my writing career, and the experience of working with a great editor to revise and get my essay published helped confirm that I really liked this writing gig.
If you want to stick with writing for kids, think about submitting your work to children's magazines. Important note: Always check the latest magazine listings and websites, because this market is ever-changing. For example, I've confirmed that "Boys' Quest" and "Hopscotch" were recently closed and folded into "Fun for Kidz." There's always a need for good articles out there, though, so if you want to investigate magazines, this old GROG post provides the basics.
Good luck! And keep on submitting.