Writing for Children's Magazines
An Ezine

   Interview with Guide Editor Randy Fishell 



We are delighted to have Randy Fishell with us this month to share some information about the Christian children's magazine Guide. Thank you, Randy, and welcome!

Can you start by sharing a little about yourself and about your job as editor of this magazine that's been published for 60 years? What's your favorite part of your job?

I rather stumbled into this whole writing and editing business. I took a college course in creative writing and the story I wrote for the class won a national contest. I kept at it and realized that God had given me a unique ability to use words, both written and verbal.

I actually trained as a pastor (I hold a master of divinity degree). But the written word was always of special interest to me, so after a brief stint as a youth and university pastor, I accepted the invitation to become part of the Guide magazine staff in 1989. I began as assistant editor, became associate editor, and then became editor in 1999. I have written and coauthored several books, and many articles.

What I enjoy most about working at Guide is the never-ending opportunity to bring sparkle and creativity to each page of Guide and to its website, www.GuideMagazine.org. I always hire an assistant or associate who has been formally trained in writing and editing. That way, we complement each other in regard to technical skills and creativity.

My main goal at Guide is to make God and His matchless love irresistible to 10- to 14-year-olds. Our choice of venue is true stories.

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

Guide is the Seventh-day Adventist Church's official publication for kids ages 10-14. Our denomination is the fastest growing Christian denomination in the world right now, and we are grateful to be a part of reaching so many of its young people through the pages of Guide each week.

The most unique things about Guide may be (1) it is a weekly, 32-page publication—something quite rare in today's Christian marketplace, and (2) we publish only nonfiction stories.

For those writers who may not be Seventh-day Adventists themselves, please mention some things we should know about the denomination's faith beliefs and practices, so that what we write fits with those.

Seventh-day Adventists believe many of the same things as most other Christian denominations. A couple of things that set us apart are (1) we see no biblical evidence that God's original Sabbath as established at creation (Genesis 2:2, 3) was ever changed to Sunday. Therefore, our 16-million member denomination worships on the seventh-day Sabbath—Saturday.

We also believe that the biblical evidence makes clear that a Christian does not go to heaven immediately upon death. Rather, the Bible in scores of places speaks of death as a “sleep,” as it were (John 11:11, etc.). God's people are then resurrected when He returns at His second coming (I Thessalonians 4:13-18, etc.).

We are probably considered conservative by some standards, but we try very hard to root our beliefs in God's Word, including the joyous fact that we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ alone.

This website provides additional information.

What do you particularly look for in a submission? What gets you excited?

True adventure stories with a clear spiritual application are in high demand. This does not mean it has to take place in the Australian outback, but a good adventure story might be set in New York City as well.

Well-written Christian humor stories that appeal to our target ages are as rare as bananas in Antarctica. If quality Christian humor is your thing, please give us a shot at publishing your story!

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

We are turned off by stories that clearly show us that you have not read Guide magazine and have no clue what a Seventh-day Adventist really believes.

One pet peeve is stories that tell me that God answered a certain prayer when that may or may not have been the case. I am very cautious about attributing actions to God without strong evidence suggesting that's indeed what happened.

Another pet peeve is a story written as a first-person boy but authored by a female. I'm sorry, but boys don't use words like "precious" and "lovely." But the worst is when a baseball player slides into home base and scores a "point." If you don't know what the problem is with that scenario, please ask a male to critique the story before you send it to us. That same would apply, of course, if a male were trying to write about searching for the perfect dress to wear on the first day of school.

You've said that stories for Guide need to be true. Is it all right for writers to create such things as dialog in a story to make it more interesting, or does every single aspect of the story need to be able to be documented as exactly the way it happened?

Writers may absolutely create dialogue for a true story. Nobody knows every word that actually was uttered! We also grant some latitude for compression of events, i.e., what took two months to actually play out may need to play out in a week or less in order to make the story really work. But we do not allow for the creation of characters or incidents that clearly were not part of the actual incident.

You give very helpful submission guidelines on your website, including a list of seven kinds of stories. Are you regularly more in need for some of those kinds of stories than for others?

Christian adventure is always the highest priority. Christian humor that is truly well-crafted is also highly coveted. The stories we receive the most are stories written by female authors and feature a girl in a particular predicament at home or school. We need some of those, but our files overfloweth with such stories, as opposed to stories featuring boys, either written by women who can fake a boy's mindset or men who can speak from experience.

Any special tips for people who want to submit puzzles or games to you?

We are always looking for new puzzle concepts. In other words, we are not very interested in crosswords, word searches, and those traditional types of puzzles.

Also, we are interested in a wide range of puzzles that reflect Gardner's multiple intelligences.

Please also be aware that not every puzzle must have a Bible verse for its answer. Character-building mottos and more can work well.

Do you use freelance illustrations and photography, in addition to writing?

Most of Guide's illustrations are done by professional freelance illustrators. We would need a link to a portfolio for an illustrator to be considered for an assignment. Portfolio links may be sent to guide@rhpa.org. We do not assign freelance photography.

What's the relationship between Guide and Real magazine? Can writers submit to Real?

Real magazine is our publication created to introduce Jesus Christ to unchurched children. We reprint selected Guide stories in Real, so we do not accept separate stories for that publication.

Authors of stories reprinted in Real receive an honorarium.

Do you have any other information about Guide you'd like to share with us?

One of the best ways to become familiar with our readers themselves is by visiting the discussion board section of our website at www.GuideMagazine.org. You may also visit the Real magazine donor website at www.ShareReal.org. (Real is free to any unchurched child between the ages of 9 and 15.)

We accept between 150-200 stories each year. Stories written by freelancers are the lifeblood of Guide. We are eager to receive submissions at any time.

Thank you so much, Randy for taking the time to share with us this helpful information and for being a part of creating such an important magazine for kids.

For you authors who are now inspired to write something for this worthwhile publication, the submission guidelines are here:

Writing for Children's Magazines, March 2013


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