Writing for Children's Magazines
An Ezine
 

   Interview with Lynn Gilliam, Editor of Pockets 
 

 

 


We are so pleased to have Lynn Gilliam with us this month to share some information about Pockets, a devotional magazine for children.

Welcome, Lynn! Would you please begin by sharing a little about yourself with us and how Pockets got its start?

We just celebrated the 35th anniversary of Pockets last November. The magazine began as a response to parents and grandparents who were readers of The Upper Room daily devotional guide and began asking for a devotional resource specifically for children. I came to The Upper Room 30 years ago as assistant editor for Weavings, which was a new spiritual life journal at the time. I worked on Weavings for about five years. During that time, I became a mom and started to develop a real passion for childrenís and family spirituality. So when an opening came up at Pockets, I was excited to have the opportunity to work on something for children.

What do you love most about your editor job? What do you find challenging about it?

Honestly, there are so many things I love about it. I am definitely a word person, so I really love the actual editing processóparticularly working on the fiction. I enjoy the process of selecting the different pieces to make a cohesive issue. And, of course, nothing beats the feeling of hearing from a child that something youíve worked on has impacted his or her life in a positive way. The biggest challenge for me is just staying creative about my work, not letting it become formulaic.

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

Pockets is a 48-page Christian devotional magazine for children 6-12. We publish 11 issues a year, each based on a theme, and we use a variety of materialófiction, puzzles, poems, non-fiction, recipes, activities. The unique thing about Pockets is that itís intended specifically for the personal spiritual formation of the child. Some children may use it with their families or in church settings, and thatís great. But Pockets is always intended to be the childís own magazine that speaks directly to him or her.

Please tell us what you particularly look for in a submission, the sorts of things that get you excited.

Of course, it depends on the type of submission. For the fiction, Iím looking for an original plot, well-developed characters, and realistic dialogue, as well as a good fit for our theme. Humor can be a real plus, though it certainly isnít necessary in every story. When Iím looking at puzzles, something thatís different always catches my attention. Word searches and decoding are reliable, and weíll always have some of those. But puzzles that are a little less expected, that maybe incorporate a visual element, are always welcome.

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

Probably the biggest thing in that area is when itís obvious that the writer has either not looked at or has completely ignored our writerís guidelines or just doesnít know what the magazine is about, who itís aimed at, or what its purpose is. The other thing that makes a manuscript seem unprofessional is inattentionómultiple typos in the cover letter or having a page missing or pages out of order, that sort of thing. If youíre taking the time to write something and send it out, take an extra couple of minutes to make sure itís the way you intend for it to be.

Any tips for writers who might want to break into Pockets? The guidelines on your website are very helpful and detailed, both the general ones and the ones for each individual theme. Are there any aspects of those you'd like to emphasize or elaborate on?

We are really open to new writers. I literally donít care whether someone has published a thousand pieces or none at all. In fact, if people send their resume or credits, I tend to not even read those. I care only about whether the writing is good and itís appropriate for Pockets. Practically speaking, we generally receive fewer submissions of non-fiction than we do fiction, so itís a little easier to break in that way. But even for fiction, something that really fits the issue and takes a fresh approach is probably going to find a place.

Do you use stories and/or articles that are not explicitly Christian in their content?

We do. I think thatís described fairly well in the writerís guidelines, so Iíll just refer people to that. But when a clear Christian faith perspective is incorporated in a way that feels realistic and natural, thatís a big plus for any story.

I've heard that you sometimes use guest editors for Pockets. Is that something you do very often?

We have done that several times in the past. Itís not something weíre currently doing, but I wouldnít rule it out for the future.

I know that a lot of writers enjoy submitting to your annual Pockets fiction contest. Any comments about the contest for potentially new participants or returning ones?

The contest is open to anyone, but we really started it with the intention of finding new writers for Pockets. That could be someone whoís just never written for us or someone whoís never been published at all. Although our issues are always theme-based, there is no theme for the contest. If the winning story doesnít fit one of our projected themes, we will develop an issue theme to fit the story. Weíre happy to have lots of entries for the contest, so check out the guidelines and send us your best!

Thank you so much, Lynn, for taking the time to share with us this helpful information and for being a part of creating such a wonderful magazine for young people.

For you writers who are now inspired to submit something to Pockets, the guidelines are here with a list of the themes. This is a paying market.




Writing for Children's Magazines, February 2017
 

 


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