Growing Readers: Learning to Love Reading and Writing Column 25
Dr. Jen Harrison wrote this editorial article
How to Publish Your Child’s Story
The Children’s Book Review
So, Your Kid’s Ready to Publish?
Having an Audience is a Wonderful Writing Motivator
So, you’ve finally convinced your young writer to write—what next? The answer is obvious—encourage them to publish!
Many young writers may be under the impression that the only viable venues for their work are school or informal online groups of friends and peers. Publishing can feel like an elite club, even for adult writers. However, just as internet connectivity and the rise of self-publishing have opened up new opportunities for aspiring adult writers, they’ve also provided a widening range of publishing options for kids.
Sharing work with friends, family, and educators can be great, but being taken seriously by the public—now, that’s motivating.
Here are a few options for moving your young writer’s work from amateur to professional.
Things You Need to Do Before Publishing
Before your young writer sends work for publication in the real world, there are a few safeguarding steps it’s worth taking.
First, make sure your young writer edits and proofreads their work carefully. Spelling and grammar errors detract from the work’s readability and may distract editors and publishers from seeing its worth. While it can be tempting to rush the first draft into a contest or call for submissions, there is nothing worse than having work rejected because of silly mistakes.
In the same vein, it’s important to follow all submission guidelines and requirements carefully. They may seem silly or nit-picky to you, but publishers rarely accept work from an author whose refusal to follow directions has created extra work or difficulty.
Finally, it’s important to remember that success is never guaranteed or easy. Help your young writer understand that rejection should not be taken personally and prepare them for the idea that it may take many tries before their work is accepted for publication. Practice giving and receiving feedback with them, and always ask for feedback on a rejected manuscript.
Publish Shorter Piece in Magazines
Magazines are an excellent option for kids looking to publish shorter pieces of both fiction and non-fiction. They often specialize in niche readerships, making them great for writers with very specialized interests or styles of writing.
While not every magazine accepts writing from young writers, many do. Here are five we love:
Launch Pad Magazine publishes a range of genres, including art, poetry, and book reviews, by young authors and matches young authors and illustrators to one another, providing fantastic opportunities for collaboration. Submissions are accepted from writers ages 6–14.
Skipping Stones accepts work from both young and adult writers and, even better, emphasizes multiculturalism, sustainability (their hard copies are printed on soy-based paper), and diversity. Their submissions page for young writers does not specify an age-range limit but does provide a range of writing prompts and ideas.
Stone Soup has a long history (40+ years) of publishing the work of younger children aged 13 or under. It has a broad global youth readership and accepts submissions of artwork, poetry, stories, and reviews.
Amazing Kids Magazine This online publication is interesting because the pieces are both written and edited by children and teenagers. Its content is varied: submissions can be writing, art, photography, or even videography and can be submitted by any young person aged 5 to 18 years.
Kalopsia is also run by young people for young people, although in this case, the readership and editors are older: high school and college students from around the world. The journal also actively welcomes submissions from writers who belong to marginalized groups.
Writing Competitions For Your Child
Writing competitions are another tried and tested venue for young writers to gain exposure for their work in the wider world. At the same time, success in a writing competition looks excellent on a resumé or college application! Here are five competitions to prepare for this August:
Coming of Age in 2021: A Multimedia Contest for Teenagers is offered by the New York Times and welcomes submission on the theme of what it’s like to be a teenager in 2021, in words, images, audio, or video. Submissions will be accepted from September 15 to October 27, 2021.
The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards competition describes itself as “the nation’s longest-running, a most prestigious recognition program for creative teens.” Young writers aged 13 and over can submit work across multiple categories, including comic art, flash fiction, and the critical essay, and participants are eligible for direct scholarships or tuition assistance. The awards open for submissions in September.
The 2022 River of Words Contest from the St Mary’s College of California’s Center for Environmental Literacy “inspires children ages 5 to 19 to translate their observations into creative expression.” The competition is open to any young person aged 5-20 enrolled in school, and entrants compete for four grand prizes in art and poetry. U.S. entries must be postmarked by December 1.
The Creative Writing Awards is a scholarship program offered by Penguin Random House in partnership with We Need Diverse Books. The award seeks to promote “diverse voices and stories” among young writers. The competition is open to seniors attending a public high school in the United States. Five first-place $10,000 prizes are awarded across multiple categories, and many contest winners go on to be professional writers.
The NCTE Promising Young Writers Program aims to “stimulate and recognize the writing talents of eighth-grade students.” Entrants to this competition must be nominated by their school, and the content judges writing produced in line with a provided themed writing prompt. Winners receive a certificate of recognition; the deadline for 2022 submissions is February 15, 2022.
How to Self-Publish Your Child’s Story
If you don’t believe that self-publishing can be a worthwhile venture for a young writer, then you need to check out the story of Emma Sumner, an eight-year-old writer whose self-published fantasy novella has gained her media attention from FOX to CBS and PBS. Even more importantly, in her many interviews, Emma describes how much she learned about both writing and business from the process of self-publishing her book.
There are many venues for self-publishing kids’ writing; kids can publish on many self-publishing platforms so long as they have a parent’s consent and supervision, including Amazon KDP, Gatekeeper Press, and Barnes and Noble Press.
To self-publish, your young writer will need to complete a manuscript (including editing), undertake layout and design specific to the self-publishing venue, obtain any necessary permission for artwork, quotations, and so on, purchase a barcode and ISBN, and register the copyright. Do your research to find out what is involved in each of these steps before your young writer gets started!
Being recognized publicly can be one of the most empowering writing experiences a young person can have. For a younger writer, being published is both validating and a learning opportunity. From handling feedback to learning to communicate with others (illustrators, editors, and so on) on a professional level, working through the publishing process can provide young writers with real-world career skills and experiences. It’s definitely worth the effort!
Thank you for reading the Growing Readers: Learning to Love Reading and Writing column. Bookmark this Growing Readers Column link or subscribe to our e-newsletter, so you do not miss out on the monthly reading tips. How to Publish Your Child’s Story was written by Dr. Jen Harrison.