Writing for Children's Magazines
An Ezine

   Interview with Marilyn Edwards, Editor-in-Chief of Fun For Kidz 



We are so pleased to have Marilyn Edwards with us this month to share some information about Fun For Kidz.

Welcome, Marilyn! Would you please begin by sharing a little about yourself with us and how Fun For Kidz got its start?

Fun For Kidz was our third children's magazine. Hopscotch for Girls was the first. It was started in June of 1989 by an elementary school librarian and her husband who was the first editor. They created this as a bimonthly magazine with no advertising or product endorsements. Each issue was around a theme. The themes were picked that would interest girls ages 6 to 12. We purchased this magazine from Don and Jane Evans, the creators when Don became ill and could no longer produce the magazine. I took over the editing in February 1992.

In 1994, we had many parents requesting a magazine similar to Hopscotch for boys of the same age. We created Boys' Quest as a companion to Hopscotch with the first issue in June 1995. Both magazines were received well by libraries and parents, especially parents who were homeschooling their children.

By the end of the 1990s, we created Fun For Kidz. It was designed to be similar to Hopscotch and Boys' Quest but had two things different. The themes would be of interest to boys and girls. Secondly, the magazine would be published on the odd numbered months of the year -- Jan, Mar, May, July, Sept, and Nov. Hopscotch and Boys' Quest were published on the even months of the year -- Feb, April, June, Aug, Oct and Dec.

Throughout this time I was the editor-in-chief of all three magazines. My schedule was not limited to editing the magazines. I was also helping manage our company which included commercial printing and the publication of two weekly newspapers.

I am a former music teacher having taught every age from Kindergarten to Seniors in college. Having been in the school systems, I was acquainted with the children's magazines on the market. I enjoyed the creativity that comes with producing our magazine. We are a small family owned publishing business in Northwest Ohio. My passion is with the children's magazine. I am now Nana to two young boys in Montana and a boy and girl in Oregon. I am located in Ohio, so this Nana is flying out to one of those locations almost every month. We decided to combine the readers of Hopscotch, Boys' Quest, and Fun For Kidz into one magazine. This allows me more time to devote to one publication. I also continue teaching French Horn at Bluffton University. So my time is limited.

How do you approach your job as an editor?

Over the years I have spoken to many state writers conferences. I would start out by saying that when I sit down to my "editor's desk" in the morning, I put on my 8-year-old hat. I try to look at everything I read as if I were an elementary-aged student. So, I don't want something that makes me feel like I am doing school work. If it is something to read, I want to be entertained or fascinated by what I am reading or discovering. I don't want an article that is too long. And I like lots of pictures or clever illustrations. When we are in the production of an issue, I want the layout of the page to draw me in. I compare it to a mother taking her child through the cereal section of the grocery store. There are so many different boxes trying to draw you in to take their product. I think that every page or two page spread has to do the same thing.

I also am very aware of the flow of the entire magazine. I like to break things up so there is lots of variety. I love my job creating our magazine more than anything I have ever done. Now that we are only publishing one magazine, the challenge of the schedule is much better.

For those who might not be familiar with Fun For Kidz, tell us a bit about it. What sets it apart as a magazine?

I think that some of what sets us apart from many magazines is that we are trying to educate our readers but we don't want them realize it. The magazine has to be fun but informative in a fun way.

What things turn you off to a submission? Any pet peeves?

I have a few pet peeves that may not apply to anyone reading this interview, but all of my friends who are editors-in-chief of the major children's magazines all agree with me.

1. We don't accept emailed submissions. It is too easy to send hundreds of manuscripts that way and we don't have the staff to read them.

2. We don't respond without an SASE included with the manuscript.

3. We ask for only one or two items at a time.

4. It really helps if the writer puts their name and address on every page they are sending in. When a manuscript only has the name and address on the first page, if that page gets separated from the rest of the pages, we have no way to contact the author. We don't lose the first page very often, but when we do, that submission is no good to us.

5. I also really appreciate the word count added to an article or story. It takes too much time for us to count up the words to see if it will fit in the space we have.

6. Spelling words incorrectly is almost a sure way to get something rejected. When a few words are misspelled it appears like the reader didn't proofread their work.

What kinds of submissions get you excited?

As to what we are looking for, something fun and different. I had an article that came in once that was about a husband and wife living in upstate New York in the 40s or 50s. They had rescued some beavers and had them living in their house with them. The author had these unbelievable pictures of these beavers in their house. I had never seen anything like it. I created an entire issue on beavers just because we received that one article.

We aren't just looking for things on the theme list. Anything that is unique and different is great. It can be a short article about something that a child would enjoy. A couple of things that just came in that I have set aside to possibly use were not on the theme list. One is called "Good Eats - Grasshopper Tortillas and Chocolate Covered Ants." This would work great for a bug issue. Another one is how to make a Marshmallow Catapult. That might work in an issue on inventions, or building things, or whatever, but I liked it because it was different.

What's the best way for illustrators and photographers to break into Fun For Kidz?

In regards to illustrators, the best way to have something accepted is to create an article and illustrate it. For example, perhaps it is an article about a science experiment or a magic trick. Write that up and illustrate how to do it. These are the things that get snatched up because it is all complete. I have accepted poems and puzzles over the years that came in and included the illustrations. That is the best way for a new illustrator to break into the magazine market. There are so many illustrators out there just like writers. You have to find your special thing. Write about something you know about and provide great photos. If you use photos with kids in them that are the age of the readers (our target age is 8 to 10 years old) that is a huge selling point. We can come up with stock photos of animals, bugs, birds, etc, but it is difficult to find pictures of a child doing something that the article is about. Also, be careful not to use photos of kids that are too young for the magazine. An 8 or 9 year old will not be interested in something that a 4 or 5 year old is pictured in. But a 6 year old would be drawn to an older child doing something.

We have rejected articles that would have been a possibility but the kids in the photos were too young. It may be easy to just photograph your own kids or grandkids but if they are too young it doesn't work.

Any other information about Fun For Kidz you'd like to share with us?

I can't stress enough that it doesn't matter what the topic is, if it is presented well and has good photos or illustrations, those submissions will be snatched up!

Thank you so much, Marilyn, for taking the time to share all this helpful information with us and for creating such a wonderful magazine for kids.

For you writers, illustrators, and photographers who are now inspired to submit something to Fun For Kidz, the guidelines are here. This is a paying market.

Writing for Children's Magazines, August 2017


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