Writing for Children's Magazines
An Ezine


  Are You a One Trick Pony?  

  By Susan Sundwall  




That’s an old term, isn’t it? But not hard to understand. Writers often sit squarely in that category box for years without noticing the moss on the chair. On the other hand, if you’re a beginner, your one trick is probably serving you well – so far. Kids crafts your thing? Short Bible lessons? Adventure stories? Lots of tricks to choose from. But pick your head up and sniff the air. Imagine yourself in a new place, in a new pair of pants with the prospect of an exciting new street to walk down. As an aid to your efforts, I offer the following.

Market Day – I’ll bet there’s one day a week, at least, where you don’t feel a bit like writing. Your shoulders slump, the laundry room looks like a cotton factory explosion, the dog just barfed on the new carpet and, well, writing is just not what you’re about today. Okay, now that you’ve got that figured out, why don’t you make it your market day instead. Get a load of wash going, scold the dog and then come here to Evelyn’s excellent database and choose one new magazine to try. If you’re stuck in puzzles, try a craft. Love science but doubt your abilities in that arena? Stop with the stinkin’ thinkin’ and learn how and why to love research. We live in a fabulous information rich era that’s opened the world to us in a really big way. Go – find that new street to walk down.

Look up and out – Don’t do anything for two days but observe what’s around you. Did a mouse poop on your counter last night? They do that at my house. Boy, could we swap stories. Did your thirteen-year-old come home this afternoon with half her head dyed chartreuse and the other half shaved? Happened to our granddaughter and I wouldn’t wish it on you. But the shrieking you’re likely to do could inform that awesome story you’re considering for the fantasy magazine Leading Edge. And do ask that girl about motive. Could be enlightening. Zero in on one thing – poop or hair, your choice – and internalize it. Mull it over, mix it up and I guarantee it will lead to a use of story detail you never imagined was in you.

Get sick of yourself – That one trick you’ve been performing is getting a bit tiresome, isn’t it? It’s even crossed your mind that Laura Numeroff might be oh so weary of thinking up a new critter to give a cookie or a pancake or a new car to. Okay, the car thing is my idea but, if she might feel that way, so might you. Don’t even worry about it. It’s been creeping around and trying to corner you – this feeling of only being able to write one thing. Award winning children’s poetry with its shiny medals, awards banquets and big checks is great, but good grief, there must be more. Look in the mirror. Is your tiara a little tilted, a bit tarnished? Well, pluck it from your tresses, woman. Wrap it in plastic and shove it in the closet for a while. There’s more to you than meets the eye. Go ahead and be a little sick of the old you and branch out.

Find other ponies – Let me be one example for you. For years I wrote skits and plays for Standard Publishing and puppet scripts for One Way Street. I enjoyed it and had moderate success. And then my daughter-in-law told me about a tiny animal she’d seen digging frantically in our yard one afternoon. Not a mouse or a vole. Intrigued, I did some research and learned all kinds of good stuff about shrews, the critter she’d seen. Fascinating. When frightened its heart can move at a thousand beats a minute. If it doesn’t eat constantly it begins to die. Wow. I piled all I’d learned into an article for Jakes magazine and sold it. With that piece I’d broken my play and skit mold and reaped my reward of three hundred dollars. Other writers will gladly share their break out stories, too.

Perhaps you’re not ready to take on new tricks. Understandable. But if and when you are, I hope my suggestions help. You’re a writer with a heart for children and they love ponies. Give them the variety they deserve.

Writing for Children's Magazines, May 2018            Copyright Susan Sundwall



Susan Sundwall Susan is a freelance writer, blogger, speaker and the author of The Red Shoelace Killer and The Super Bar Incident in her Minnie Markwood comic cozy mystery series. She writes from her home in upstate New York where she is currently working on the third story in the series. Visit her blog to read more about her adventuresome outlook on life and how it affects her sanity.



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