Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Writing for Publication?

There's no thrill quite like holding the printed copy of your published work.  I've written for online publications before, but always found the print editions more exciting.  Until now.

Recently I was approached by a representative of KidsHealth.org, a website devoted to educating kids and parents about health and nutrition in fun ways.  Fun ways--like candy experiments.

After a freelance writer for KidsHealth mentioned candy experiments in an article about Halloween candy, I was asked if I would be willing to let KidsHealth.org use some of my candy experiments.  Since I had researched and enjoyed KidsHealth previously (they have this great candy-eating pumpkin game), I was definitely interested.

Soon, candy experiments will join the other experiments, games, and activities on KidsHealth.org.  Which teaches health and nutrition to 140 million visitors a year.

Now that's exciting.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Candy Experiment Articles

All of my fall candy experiment articles have now been published. I had a hard time getting ahold of the final one, the Skittles Density Rainbow in the November issue of Parents magazine. You'd think a major parenting magazine would be easy to find in airport gift shops, wouldn't you? (I checked four on our trip to DC.) Or a Barnes and Noble? You'd be wrong. I had to buy it at my local grocery store, and bought three copies because I wasn't sure I'd find another one.

Here's a full list:


Surprises in the Mail

As a writer, I've always raced out to check the mail as soon as the mailman comes. Is there an acceptance letter? A contract? A rejection letter for a story I need to send to somebody else right away? Good news for writers comes in the mail.

Or at least it used to. While I still check the mail devotedly, I've started to realize there's less good writer mail for me these days. In part, this is because I haven't sent out much short material lately, since I've been concentrating on candy experiments. Less submissions, less acceptances. I don't think I even have any submissions out right now. Also, much of the good news is coming over email.

So I was doubly surprised by two pieces of mail this week. One was a contract from Highlights for an article they emailed me about a year and a half ago. Even after two revisions and several exchanges regarding photos, I wasn't sure they'd accepted it. So that was good news.

The other surprise was an issue of the Dollar Stretcher with an article I'd written about saving money on holiday cards. (I'm third-generation do-them-yourself.) But wait, I thought, as I turned the magazine over in my hands--wasn't this one published already?

Actually, it was. At least online, the article is recorded as having been published last November. Did it make it into print then? Is this a reprint? I don't even remember. But I certainly wasn't expecting it.

Two writing surprises, out of the blue. I always love good news, and these little tidbits help while I'm waiting for bigger news. We'll see if they're a forerunner of more good news to come.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

In Print?

Ever since I learned that an online version of a candy experiments article had reached readers, I've been waiting for my contributor copies in the mailbox. But when I checked out the latest issue at the library yesterday, the article wasn't inside. Instead of six artistically laid out pages, I had a column and one picture in the table of contents, with instructions for the readers to find the article online.

Online the article looks beautiful, with cute pastel artwork, my photos arranged in balanced collages, and a nice pullout listing experiments. I know that it's reaching readers, because one of them congratulated me. So why am I disappointed?

Because there's something wonderful about pulling the magazine out of the mailbox, flipping it open, and seeing your name. You can carry it inside to read with to your children, or pull it out to show off to patient visitors. You can admire the artwork on the gleaming pages, seeing your article as a new creation with somebody else's design. Because you can hold it in your hand and say "I did this."

Because you can feel, for one brief moment, the weight of your words.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Really Scary!

At Halloween, children shiver at creaking noises, scary costumes, and haunted houses, but, as this ParentMap article points out, what scares parents is the candy.

For ideas on experiments, crafts, games, candy buy-backs, and other ways to use Halloween candy, check out "Really scary! How to handle all that Halloween candy," which I wrote for the October issue of ParentMap magazine.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

And the Best News Yet

I was offered representation by Myrsini Stephanides, an agent from the Carol Mann Agency. She'll help me pitch Candy Experiments to various book publishers.

As I'm always grateful for expert guidance (except, for some reason, when it comes from my husband) I'm excited for this partnership. Can't wait to see where it takes us!

More Good News

A family magazine in Miami contacted me to request a reprint of a candy experiments article. Not having a reprint to sell her, I sent her a new article. Candy experiments just keep spreading!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Good news!

Lots of good news this week.
--Mothering Magazine's electronic issue came out last week, with my article on our family's discovery of candy experiments. The print issue should hit newstands soon.
--My article on Candy Experiments is in the October Highlights that just arrived in our mailbox. Since I wasn't expecting it until November, this was a pleasant surprise.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Cleaning

Anxiety about the clutter building up in my house motivated me to clean out my writing files tonight. Even as I tossed materials from old articles--zoo guides, Cove Fort maps, and Dungeness Spit brochures--the memories made me smile. Some treasures I couldn't bear to throw out my handwritten interview notes from man who lived in a train car for twenty years while he resurrected the Lake Whatcom railway. He reminded me that I might be able to use the train material in a different article--everybody loves trains. I also stumbled on files I had completely forgotten, like the article about St. Cuthbert that never got published, which could be rewritten and submitted, or drafted stories about trapped ducklings and badminton and Thanksgiving turkeys that just need a little tweaking.

Who knew you could get inspiration going through your own material?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Fixing Web Typos

I just proofread a website for a national organization that had several misspelled words. Since proofreading is such an important part of making a website look professional, here's a tip. Copy and paste your web text into a program with a spell-checker, such as Microsoft Word. Those red-underlined misspelled words will jump right out at you. Fix them in your web document, or save your Word document as a text file and paste the corrected text back in. (Never paste directly from Word to the Web, as you might end up with all sorts of funky characters.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Candy Usage

I'm preparing to write an article about ways to use up excess Halloween candy. Preliminary research: food banks want it, hospitals don't. I'll have a more complete report, as well as other great ideas, in the October issue of ParentMap.

How do you use up your Halloween candy?

Note to Self

Checking my email every 10 minutes isn't going to make the editors write me any faster.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Computer Crashes

With a major project to finish up, I got my older children into an extra gymnastics class, set up my toddler with a coloring book and markers, and pulled out my laptop to prepare for 45 minutes of strenuous writing time. The result? The computer wouldn't even boot. Totally dead. Instead, I spent the time checking my watch and scanning back issues of the Children's Writer.

Isn't that always how it happens?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

What character am I?

I often wonder what character I play in the story of my life. Am I the overworked housewife, deserving of sympathy? The nagging mother who should be checked? The over-scheduling parent, or the parent limiting children's opportunities? The time-starved artist, suffering without "a room of her own?" And if I am the overworked housewife or the time-starved artist, why on earth can't my husband see it?

In reality, I can be all of these things at the same time. Or none of them. I try to do the right thing and fulfill my responsibilities; sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. But to describe myself, in conversation or in writing, as any one of them, would be incomplete.

If I can remember that my fictional characters, too, will be larger than their sterotypes, my stories will be richer. Like my own life.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Reprints--always a nice surprise

Just got a check today for another reprint of my article "Boy Mayor of Texas," first published in Boy's Quest. I didn't realize when I submitted that it would keep working for me so long. This was my fourth check!

Since this was one of my favorite stories to write, I'm glad kids are still reading it. The article was about Brian Zimmerman, elected mayor of his unincorporated Texas town (which didn't have any legal bylaws about mayoral age). Although his post was unofficial, he took it seriously, warning motorists not to drive too fast and pushing for incorporation. He was spotlighted on several national TV shows, traveled to France for a conference of mayors, and was even featured in a movie.

When I decided to write about him, years later, all I had to go on was the memory of a TV spot featuring a boy mayor in Texas. Hours of searching "boy mayor texas" in my library database finally pulled up the articles I needed to get started. Finding the photo was just as difficult. Eleven days after having my second child, I learned that the magazine couldn't use the photo I had suggested and needed another photo, fast. Ever try finding a photo of a former mayor of an unincorporated town (i.e. no town phone book), whose family had since moved? Hardest paycheck I ever earned.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Free Books with Summer Reading

Yesterday when I picked up my daughter from school, she begged to go straight to the library to sign up for the KCLS summer reading program.

Here's more information about the reading programs I referenced in a recent ParentMap article.

--At Barnes and Noble, kids can read eight books, write a sentence about each, and earn a free book
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/summerreading/index.asp
--At Half Price Books, kids can read 15 minutes a day for five days out of a week and turn in their reading log for a $3 shopping card. You can do this every week until July 31st. Print out the reading logs at
http://www.halfpricebooks.com/for_parents_and_teachers.html
--King County Library is offering prizes for children who read 1000 minutes over the summer. Preschoolers have a similar program, and there's something for teens as well. Kirkland and Redmond Libraries are even offering a program for adults, which my daughter is urging me to do. Pick up a form at your nearest library, or sign up online at
http://www.kcls.org/srp/

Other Seattle area libraries have similar reading programs; check your library for details.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

New Berry Picking Article

Check out my latest publication in the June issue of ParentMap: "U-pick berries: a taste of summer sun."

Here's a tip I didn't have room for in the article: call ahead to make sure your chosen farm is actually a U-Pick. Terry's Berries in Puyallup often gets visitors who call ahead to ask what kind of berries are available, drive a long way to the farm, and only then learn that they can't pick their own.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Photo permissions

As I publish articles in more magazines, it strikes me how different their requirements for photo permissions are. Highlights has their own model release forms, which must be signed for all persons pictured. Other magazines have never asked me for any permission forms.

Since photos are an important part of publishing, I'm learning to make sure I have the photos--and permissions--before I submit.

Monday, May 17, 2010

More Good News

I just received word that Mothering magazine has scheduled my article on candy experiments for this fall. I'm excited to keep spreading the word.

News from Boy's Quest

Lots of good news this weekend: I learned that Boy's Quest Magazine has accepted two of my articles for an issue next year. One features a boy whose book drive collected over 30,000 books for an elementary school whose library had been destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, and the other is about wildfire fighters.

Here's some trivia about firefighting tools:
-Pulaski: a combined pick and ax (named after its inventor)
-combi: combined pick and shovel
-hotshot flare: a handheld ignition device to help with burnout operations

Monday, May 10, 2010

Writing Class

Seattle area residents might be interested to know that Charles de Lint is teaching a writing class 7 pm on Wednesday at the Bellevue library. An exceptional fantasy author, I'm sure his class on "Creating a rich emotional experience" will be full of good tips.

More info at KCLS's Meet The Author page.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Poetry Critique

You know you've been to too many critique groups when you can't help advising your 7-year-old would-be poet about imagery.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Library Time

I'm sitting in the library, having dropped off my children so I could get some quiet work time and finish my upcoming U-Pick article. This would be working out so well if it weren't for the unseen man on the floor below who keeps growling.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Busy All Around

I spent a productive hour this afternoon interviewing a carbohydrate chemist about sugars. When I got off the phone, I learned that my toddler had been busy too--her bedroom floor was covered with books and dismantled clothespins.

Someone should tell Virginia Woolf that writing mothers need more than just a room of their own.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

SCBWI applause

I like to attend our local chapter SCBWI meetings, especially when I have good news to share. So, after a few months' absence, I was finally able to attend. When they asked about good news, I raised my hand to announce a recent Highlights acceptance. But when I tried to stand up, I got trapped by the desk. I delivered my news half-crouched, and was so worried I would crash the folding desk that I didn't hear any of my applause. Sad!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Pieces of a Writing Life

"Writing" I did over the weekend
--researching airfares and hotels to plan my candy experiments presentation in Washington DC
--getting interviewed by a high school senior who needed to talk to someone in her chosen career
--editing a dermatologist's CV
So where was the writing in all that? Oh, yes. The short glimpse I sneaked at an article draft before the baby woke up crying.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Zoo-mania

My article on Northwest zoos just got posted to ParentMap. Ever want to feed a kangaroo or mingle with tortoises? Find out how!

And here's a delightful surprise: the magazine reposted my article from last year on local hikes. It just goes to show: free outings are still the best.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Summer Learning Article

My article on summer learning just went online this week. Thanks again to everybody who helped me out on this one, including a first-grade teacher and lots of homeschool moms.

The article was written for ParentMap, a Northwest publication, but it has ideas that will work for everybody. If you have a Barnes and Noble near you, or a Half-Price Books (my favorite store!), your children can earn free books through summer reading. I also collected great ideas on fun math games, taking kids on outings, and looking for free days at museums.

Here are some ideas I couldn't fit in the article:
--Have a calendar corner and count down days
--Guess how many items are in a jar, then count them by 2s, 3s, or 4s
--Give two players 15 identical legos. Have the players sit back-to-back and take turns giving instructions on what to build.

Summer is also a good time to try the Diet Coke and Mentos experiment, dropping Mentos from a tube into a 2 liter bottle of Diet Coke. The eruption can go over 15 feet in the air, so wear grubby clothes and get out of the way!

Read the whole article at
"Keep Summer Learning Fun--and Free!"

Monday, February 1, 2010

Creative Parents

My friend Becca recently linked to this article about creative parents raising children: "Mum, will you ever finish that novel?"

It made me think about how I involve my children in my writing. In some cases, we're creative partners. We go visit zoos and other family destinations together, and my daughter even takes notes. We also collaborate on candy experiments, coming up with new ideas. Lately I've been asking their advice as to what we should exhibit at the USA Science and Engineering Festival.

Even when my children aren't directly involved with my projects, I tell them about any good news so they can celebrate too. Sometimes they'll even do the good-news "Writer's Dance" with me.

Thank you

Thanks to A. J. Dub who noticed that some of my links weren't working. I've fixed them (I hope), but if you see any other problems, let me know! I appreciate the help.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Zoo Trivia

After submitting my zoo article on Friday night, I washed my hands of it. Then I got an emergency call this weekend from a public relations official who had finally gotten the email I sent last week. I made the updates and rushed in a revised copy first thing this morning.

The urgent changes? Northwest Trek's Giant Pacific Salamander isn't really a foot long. And their diving beetles and bees are only displayed seasonally.

Now you know.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Northwest Zoos

This week I've been researching local zoos for an upcoming parenting article. Besides feeding kangaroos in the rain, I've learned:
--that Cougar Mountain Zoo exhibits reindeer because "people don't realize they're real!" Everybody just knows them from Santa Claus stories.
--that Scott Peterson, founder of the Reptile Zoo, bought an Alligator Snapping Turtle to save it from the soup pot (it's still at the zoo--don't get your fingers too close!)
--that the founders of the Outback Kangaroo Farm meant to go into ostrich-farming, but at the ostrich farm meeting sat next to a woman cuddling a baby kangaroo
It's so great to have an excuse to pester people for details.

It's all writing

A letter to the roofing company, a thank-you card, a blog post. They all use the same skills as writing professionally: set the right tone, tailor your message to your audience, be specific. It's all writing.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Day of Adventures and Writing Inspiration

Adventure #1: Cutting Alex's hair in the bathtub to reduce mess.
Result: bad idea--wet hair is 10 times harder to clean up than dry hair. Will not recommend in a parenting article.

Adventure #2: Crawling around the attic on my knees and elbows photographing the damage caused by the installation of our brand new roof.
Result: found new confidence and a new leak at the same time. All sorts of homeowner article ideas springing to mind.

Adventure #3: Researching an upcoming article by feeding bread crusts to kangaroos at the Outback Christmas Tree and Kangaroo Farm.
Result: We fed lemurs, petted kangaroos, and cuddled a kangaroo joey (baby). Fun place, even in the rain. Anticipate an easy writeup.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Showing off your best self

As a writer, I've learned to tailor my text to my audience. That's why I end up editing a lot of resumes. I find myself giving the same advice over and over (advice other friends gave me when I was just starting out). Here, in a nutshell, is how to sell yourself.

--What makes you the right candidate? Whether you're applying for graduate school, going after a job in a top company, or persuading a publication to assign you an article, know why you're the right choice. Then write it.
--What makes you stand above your competitors? If you're pitching an article about juvenile delinquents, have you volunteered with troubled youth for the past three years? If you're applying at Google, have you worked on open-source projects till midnight? If you're applying to graduate school, have you written an award-winning thesis or done independent research?
--Think about your most spectacular accomplishments, and describe them in specific language. "Worked as a programmer 3 years" won't get you far, but if you add "Improved product speed by 25%" and "Managed a team of seventeen," you're showing what you succeeded at.
--Target your audience, and use only what's pertinent. Nannying experience won't help you land a programming job; your MA in history probably won't help you sell a science-fiction novel.
--You've learned skills from volunteering, from leading amateur groups, from managing your family. Use them if you've got gaps to fill; resumes don't have to be limited to paid work.

Whether you're writing a resume, or an application essay, or a query letter, show off your spectacular self. You can do it--even if you have to stick with the simple truth.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Working Minds, Clogged Drains

While I was putting the finishing touches on a parenting article due today, my 20-month-old sneaked into the bathroom and started dissolving toilet paper in the sink. Now my article is turned in, but my sink is clogged. Oh, the joys of writing with small children.

My article, which will be printed this summer in ParentMap, is about giving children fun learning opportunities. Should I call this one a workshop on fluid dynamics and solid/liquid interactions? Maybe. But my little girl is staying in her crib until I've cleaned up the mess.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Saved in Print

Every year, my father creates a Christmas treasure hunt to lead us to our big family gift. This treasure hunt drew clues from gems he collected from friends and family: a letter my brother wrote at seven about that day's fishing trip; one of my blog entries; my grandfather's account of how he joined the Air Force during WWII; an uncle's essay about how he ended up in law school by accident; and a fellow doctor's published account of how he restored vision to a man twenty years blind. Every writer had preserved a precious memory, an event that would have otherwise been lost.

My father's point: we are surrounded by heroes, but we only know it by the accounts we share with each other. So write!

Google Docs

A fan of Microsoft Word for over a decade, I balked when my husband suggested I try Google Docs. I can make Word turn somersaults for me; Google Documents don't have the same functionality (at least not that I've discovered yet.) But after trying to keep track of fifty versions of documents that I had to transfer back and forth between my desk computer and my laptop, I realized there had to be a better way. So I've given Google Documents a try, writing my file online, and accessing it from whatever computer I want. Heaven! I might be hooked.