In these articles (about once a month on the third or fourth Monday), I’ll be sharing with you what I’ve learned in the past fifteen years from first trying to get short stories and articles published in the non-adult market to publishing pretty much whenever I submit a short story, article or essay to a non-adult market. I’m going to do this chronologically so that those of you who are beginning your journey can learn what I did as I did. This will also tend to make me more coherent as I cast back to those first days – and I won’t make assumptions about what I did and didn’t know…
This sale was perhaps my first real brush with the wisdom of remaining persistent in sending out manuscripts.
It was also my first serious attempt at writing SF for children – unfortunately one I haven’t managed to repeat, so there’s probably a lesson there or something.
First of all, the appellation above “The Lexus of Children’s Magazines” was coined by Marianne Carus, founder and executive editor of the CRICKET Magazine Group. That was in response to a comment I made in a letter to the then editor of CRICKET Magazine, Deborah Vetter. She’s not in that position any more, replaced by Lonnie Plecha (whom I hear speak at a recent Minnesota SCBWI Conference). The appellation is completely true when I factor in the notion that the Group pays $ 0.25 PER WORD.
I’d written “Mystery On Space Station Courage” for HIGHLIGHTS FOR CHILDREN Magazine after brainstorming on a torn sheet of paper I still have down in the paper file for this story. It involved an communication antenna on a space station that has a maintenance compartment underneath it. That was it. The original idea was boring. So I added some excitement and a condition.
A worker gets trapped, his oxygen is running out and the compartment is shielded against stray radiation. He starts banging on the nearest bulkhead in Morse Code (everyone in the station learns it in case of malfunctions)..
Still traumatized by the death of her father, Candace Mooney – all full of attitude and grief – is confined to quarters by her frustrated and equally hurting mother. She is also grounded from the ship’s “internet”. When she hears the banging, she has to do a 911 call to get her mother’s attention. The astronaut is rescued and she and her mother have a chance to do some healing.
Needless to say, the story wasn’t THIS brilliant when it first arrived on Ms. Vetter’s desk. Working with her through a re-write and a subsequent “editing for house style”, the story was published two YEARS later (two more stories later, I came to realize that this is SOP with CRICKET).
This was not my first attempt at writing SF for young people. Checking my files, I see that it was my eleventh attempt with one other published piece called “Test” (see previous entry at http://thefridaychallenge.blogspot.com/2011/05/first-semi-pro-test.html). I did know that CRICKET was the golden ring of writers. I tilted for it and hit it on my fifth try. After that, while I haven’t batted anywhere near 1000, I get a personal rejection almost every time I submit and am rejected by the Group. I have a piece there right now and another will be on its way, soon.
What I Learned #6: “I KNOW we all know this but this is another anecdotal story to encourage you to KEEP SENDING THINGS OUT TO THE TOP MARKETS! You have to break that ceiling someday!” (Law of Averages and all that, you know: “In illustration of the law of averages…as the number of trials increases, the percentage of successes approaches the expected percentage of successes while the difference between the observed and expected number of successes increases.”)