Today I wrap up my three-part blog series on publishing while still pursuing a book deal with a trade publisher. And I am happy to introduce you to Shannon Hitchcock. Shannon has written stories and articles for magazines such as Highlights for Children, Ask, Cricket, Pockets, and Children’s Writer. She has also interviewed many authors for Sprouts magazine, including yours truly.
Welcome, Shannon! Your list of accomplishments is impressive. Could you tell us a little bit about how you got started writing and selling your stories, articles, and interviews for the magazine market?
I got started by taking a class on writing for the children’s magazine market through the Institute of Children’s Literature, (ICL). ICL offers correspondence classes that are reasonably priced. I would highly recommend them to beginners.
Do you begin with a subject that you want to write about and then find a home for it? Or, do you research the needs of a magazine and then write a piece to submit? Or are you hired to write?
My magazine work usually starts with a dash of inspiration. For instance, I was reading my college newsletter when I read an article about fellow alum, Wendy Welsh. Wendy is an underwater archeologist working to conserve the remains of Blackbeard’s pirate ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge. I was fascinated by Wendy and thought kids would be too. I sent her an email and away we went. That article was published by Cricket.
On the flip side, I had written three profile pieces for Pockets magazine, and then one of the editors contacted me and asked if I would write a profile of Katherine Commale. Katherine is a young girl who is raising money to buy mosquito nets for African children. Of course I said yes.
How much guidance do you usually receive from the editors of a magazine?
It depends on the magazine. Highlights for Children editors are very hands on. “My Sister Snores” went through three rewrites before it was published. There’s an article on my website about it called “How I Finally Made A Sale To Highlights for Children And How You Can Too.”
How has writing and publishing in this market helped you toward your career goals as an author of picture books and middle-grade novels?
Writing for magazines taught me how to write with a story arc, about using active verbs, and how to show instead of tell. It also gave me experience in working with editors and interpreting their feedback. But perhaps the most important thing magazine writing gave me was motivation. Once I saw my name in print, I was completely hooked.
What advice would you give someone who might be interested in writing for magazines?
Read the magazines that you want to write for. Each one has its own personality. If a magazine sends you a rejection letter, rewrite before you submit the story or article elsewhere. A piece that’s right for Highlights is not right for Cricket without some tweaking. Also follow the magazine’s submission guidelines to the letter. Don’t give them a reason up front to reject you.
What are your plans for the future, Shannon? Will you continue to write for magazines? Why or why not?
Never say never, but I’m not writing for magazines as much as I used to. My novels consume huge chunks of my time. The one exception is Sprouts, published by New Jersey SCBWI. I love interviewing other authors and find that I glean information from them that I can use in my own work. In the spring edition of Sprouts, I’ll be interviewing Grace Linn, Newbery Honor Author of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.
Thank you, Shannon! You learn more about Shannon by visiting her at her website: www.shannonhitchcock.com/