Tricks of the Trade

Issue 63

Tricks of the Trade


Randi Lynn Mrvos

Copyright © 2011, Randi Lynn Mrvos, All Rights Reserved


You want to write for a children’s magazine. You have a great topic for a nonfiction article, so you research it, write it, compose a cover letter, and click—you email your submission. Will you receive an acceptance? As Nonfiction Editor for a children’s e-magazine, I receive many submissions that well, need a little help. A good majority require revision. Some miss the mark completely. Very few hit the nail on the head. So how can you join the ranks of those who succeed?



Before you begin writing your article, review the magazine’s guidelines to know what will be expected of you. While this may seem obvious, I can’t stress this point enough. An editor is not trying to make you jump through hoops. The guidelines are in place to help her review the many submissions that stack up on her desk or fill up her email. Make it your mantra: I will read the guidelines, I will read the guidelines. Good. Moving on. It’s time you’ve discovered the tricks of the trade—tricks that will help you get published.



Read several articles in the magazine for which you wish to pitch. Get a feel for the content and tone. Do you feel confident that you produce a similar piece? Will the topic have kid-appeal? Will it keep you interested? After all, you’ll be spending lots of time reading and researching the topic.



Use primary sources, reliable websites, and up-to-date books for your research. Wikipedia can be used as a starting place, perhaps to help you produce an outline; but, it should not be used as a source. Consider conducting an interview with a person connected to your topic. Once as I researched an article about hearing loss, I interviewed two brothers to understand how they felt about being recipients of cochlear implants. Their experiences enlightened me and brought a personal perspective to my article.



Write an article that educates and entertains. So as you write, keep the language lively and the vocabulary age appropriate. Spin the well-researched information into a story with a beginning, a middle, and an ending. The beginning should draw your audience in, hook ‘em with an interesting fact, a surprising statement—a big wow!—to coax them to continue reading. The middle is the meat of the story where you explain your topic. Be creative. Use similes to help kids understand complex issues. Incorporate onomatopoeia to bring excitement to your writing. Add alliteration and assonance to make your sentences flow. Lastly, complete your article with a satisfying ending. Find a creative way to tie it in to the first paragraph.



Edit your work. Read it aloud and if you stumble on a word, change it until the piece flows. Allow another reader to peruse your work. They may pick up a mistake that you’ve overlooked. Use spell check, but know that it’s not always accurate. Apply the Flesch-Kincaid grade level tool or another grade assessment when writing for a specific age. In addition, find an expert to review your work. Consider revising your piece based on the expert’s suggestions. Doing so will add credibility to your article.



Include an accurate bibliography. Remember to alphabetize your sources. Come on, you probably learned this in middle school. Even if the guidelines state to use three sources, list those sources in alphabetical order with the author’s last followed by the author’s first name. Cite the title, the city (and state if the city is obscure), the publishing company, and publishing date. When in doubt, refer to reference books like Strunk’s and White’s Element of Style. Writing your bibliography correctly serves several purposes. It helps the editor look over your sources more easily. And, your manuscript will be more professional.



Now you’re ready to compose a short professional cover letter addressed to the editor. Keep the letter to one page. Entice the editor with a strong hook. Give the title, word count, the intended audience, and an overview of the piece, and include a short bio written in third person. Thank the editor for her time. E-mail or mail in your submission with the cover letter (check those guidelines!)



When an editor first receives a submission, she may make sure that the manuscript and the bibliography have been formatted correctly. She will check to see if the word count is correct. If you’ve failed on any accounts, an editor may reach for a rejection slip. But, if you’ve followed the guidelines, you’ve got a foot in the door. Editors will eagerly read on. And if you’ve applied the tricks of the trade, I’m betting an acceptance will soon come your way.



Children’s magazines that accept nonfiction:



Highlights for Children



803 Church Street, Honesdale, PA 18431,  



Editors are looking for nonfiction on science, arts, biography, autobiography, sports, world cultures, economics, service/self-help, careers, adventure, and history.



Stories for Children Magazine  



Topics on nature, animals, science, technology, environment, foreign culture, history, and biographies are accepted.






Viatouch is looking for interesting nonfiction articles about the ordinary or extraordinary. Pieces should contain approximately 500 words, targeting upper elementary through high school students.



Nature Friend;class=gen  



Needs consist of science projects for ages 8 – 12; conversational stories for ages 6 – 8; photo features; a natural phenomenon shown in pictures with detailed captions.



Irish’s Story Playhouse  



Nonfiction manuscripts must well researched and sources cited. Illustrations are required for nonfiction.



Cobblestone Publishing



Carus Publishing Company, 30 Grove Street, Suite C, Peterborough, NH 03458



Cobblestone Publishing magazines select articles by detailed query letter. Our "bug magazines" accept unsolicited manuscripts. There is currently, however, a moratorium on submissions for CICADA.