Writing for Children's Magazines
An Ezine

   Interview with Wee Tales and Refractions Editor Julia Ehrmantraut 



We are so fortunate to have Julia Ehrmantraut with us to share some information about Wee Tales and Refractions magazines.

Welcome, Julia! Would you please begin by sharing a little about yourself with us and telling us how Wee Tales and Refractions got their start?

I am a Jacqueline of all trades. I write fiction for adults under the name JM Beal, and a series of children's books about an intrepid investigative cat as J Marie Beal. I co-own a publishing company, and edit books, and raise an eight year old evil-genius-in-the-making. It's a hectic life.

Wee Tales and Refractions came out of the beginning of the publishing company. We were making our grand plans for the future, and somehow we came upon the fact that several of us fondly remember reading short story periodicals, aimed at our ages, but they seemed to have fallen out of fashion. And I, with my own small monster, deal daily with trying to come up with twenty-minute chunks of reading material to keep him satisfied. Wee Tales seemed tailor-made to fit that space.

And as writers, especially in our teens, we'd have loved a space open to and welcoming of teen writers, with stories that were told just as seriously and honesty as the ones in general fiction journals.

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

Putting together a journal from the ground up is its own special act of creation. I get to really dig down and pick the entire theme of the journal, what kind of font it has and what the artwork inside looks like. There's a sense of accomplishment that comes from completing a project, and then another when the first print proof arrives in the mail. I love introducing the world to amazing, imaginative stories that don't fit into neat boxes and might not find a place with another publication.

Our biggest challenge is probably taming the rabid slush monster. The unavoidable flip side to building a market around new and unique talent is dealing with emergent writers who don't know all the rules yet. Not just the rules of submission, but the rules of story-craft too. Most writers experience some of this in critique groups or writing classes. Now multiply that by about a thousand and that's what my inbox looks like every day. It's a Herculean task (sometimes more Sisyphean) but finding the perfect teen story for the summer issue, or a creepy riddle for HalloWEEn Tales makes it all worth it.

For those who might not be familiar with Wee Tales and Refractions, tell us a bit about them. What sets them apart as magazines?

Wee Tales is a bi-annual collection of short stories, poems, and puzzles aimed at seven to twelve year old readers. In October it's called HalloWEEn Tales and features a spooky fall theme. The Spring issue comes out in April, and covers springtime and summer themes. We focus on finding a balance between story-craft that kids will love, and the kind of content parents and teachers like to see kids reading. We're serious about fiction, and creativity, but we're also serious about the fact those things should be fun. We also run no outside advertisement in Wee Tales, so the only ads kids see in that space are for age appropriate books and the next issue.

Refractions releases in January and August, and has a winter and summer theme respectively. We encourage submissions from our target audience with both publications, but especially with Refractions. No one understands what teens would like to be reading more than other teens. Also, in Refractions, we put a premium on the kind of strange trivia that's become so much a part of the world since the rise of the internet. If we're teaching something, it's something that's cool to know, but not meant to be specifically useful. From The Cherokee School to Zazzle Painting. Life shouldn't be taught to the test, and all knowledge is useful.

What do you particularly look for in a submission? What sorts of things get you excited?

We like well crafted, original stories. Stories that start with a zing and don't stop until they careen to an amazing end. Stories with a diverse or unusual cast are a big favorite as well. We also get ridiculously excited when people actually follow the submission guidelines.

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

We have an interoffice system that I'll share with you here.

Reason for rejection: __#needsvelociraptor __#serioiuslylackingshark __Woah, what just happened? __#nononono

• #needsvelociraptor is a story that moves along decently, but doesn't seem to really have a plot.

• #seriouslylackingshark is for when a story starts with promise, but then fails to deliver. If you promise me a hurricane I better get a hurricane. If I'm in the water with a shark that shark better be important.

• "Woah, what just happened" comes up most often with submissions that either try entirely too hard to be original, or that lose their focus all of the sudden.

• #nononono is used for stories that either suddenly become utterly inappropriate for our target audience, or are otherwise objectionable. This happens much more frequently than it should.

Any tips for writers and illustrators who might want to break into either Wee Tales or Refractions? Suggestions that will increase their chances of acceptance?

The best thing you can do to increase your chance of acceptance is write. Find other people to read your stories, and listen to what they have to say. Read short stories and pay attention to what works and what doesn't. And always, always follow the submission guidelines. Electronic copies of both journals are available for half the price of a print copy, and it's always helpful to know what a market is accepting when you submit.

Any other information about Wee Tales and Refractions you’d like to share with us?

We also, starting in December 2015, began a new journal called The Fandom Universe. You can find its special information at http://goldenfleecepress.com/the-fandom-universe and if you have a favorite fandom we might have a journal coming for you.

Thank you so much, Julia, for taking the time to share with us this helpful information and for being a part of creating such fun magazines for kids and young adults.

For you writers who are now inspired to submit something to these terrific publications, submission guidelines are here.

Writing for Children's Magazines, January 2016


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