Writing for Children's Magazines
An Ezine

  Highlights: Overview of the August 2012 Issue

By Sara Matson




HIGHLIGHTS is a general interest monthly magazine for kids aged 6 to 12. Each issue features stories, articles, crafts, activities, hidden pictures, riddles, jokes, cartoons, a kids’ art/writing page, and an advice page.


• Poetry: “The Termite,” by Ogden Nash. Four lines, rhyming.

• Fiction: “Ask Arizona: Sorting Stuff with a No-Stuff Sister.” Two pages, first person, for advanced readers. This is a monthly feature always headed by a reader-posed question asking how to solve a typical problem. The story is main character Arizona’s answer to the reader showing how she faced, and solved, a similar problem; in this case, how to sort through and get rid of clutter. Always written by the same author.

• Nonfiction: “Gallant Kids: Olivia’s Pet Project.” One page, third person, for advanced readers. This is a bi-monthly (or so) feature which spotlights a kid who has, “through self-motivation, taken actions to make the world a better place.” (See more about Gallant Kids in current needs list.) This article focuses on a 10-year-old girl who helped change her town’s law against keeping backyard hens.

• Nonfiction: “My Sci.” Two pages, third person, for advanced readers. These pages often contain reader-posed science-related questions, nature-related facts, and science activities. (Note: most of this seems to be done in-house, although I’ve seen a few activities which I believe have come from freelancers.)

• Fiction: “Simple Gifts.” Two pages, first person, for early readers. Realistic story about a boy whose grandmother gives him money to buy his little brother a birthday gift. Written in day-by-day format, the boy tells how, by the end of the week, he used up the money and had to find a new (and free) birthday gift for his brother.

• Poetry: “Swinging.” Five lines, rhyming poem about how the world is opposite when on a swing.

• Nonfiction: “Spying on Hermit Crabs.” Two pages, first person, for advanced readers. Adult narrator telling about the pet hermit crabs (40 of them) that she had as an 11-year-old. The article is interspersed with facts about hermit crabs: what they eat, how they molt and choose new shells. Includes three photographs.

• Recipe: “Grape-sicles.” Simple recipe of about four steps (not numbered) for making frozen grapes.

• Activity: “How’s Your Job?” Highly illustrated activity asking readers to match nine given occupations to nine given one-to-five word slogans. Begins with two sentences of instructions, no example.

• Nonfiction: “Making Art from Shoes.” Two pages, third person, for advanced readers. Article about Lloyd Toone, an artist who makes African-related masks and sculptures out of old shoes. Includes what he does, how he started, his childhood, how he gets his ideas, five quotes, and four photos.

• Fiction: “You Come, Too!” Rebus. One page, third person, for early readers. Boy is going fishing and asks three friends in succession to come. They each bring an object to share. In a mild twist, last friend offers to share her fishing spot. Contains six different rebus pictures (all nouns except for one color word), 16 with repeats.

• Fiction: “Breaking the Ice.” Two pages, first person, for advanced readers. Realistic contemporary story about a girl who’s having trouble being motivated to practice her violin. When a non-English speaking neighbor visits, she finds out that music is a universal language. In the end, she solves her motivation problem by planning a concert for the neighbor.

• Activity: “Face This Code!” Highly illustrated cipher-type activity which uses kids’ faces to represent the letters of the alphabet. Gives eight feeling-related words to figure out using the code. Begins with three sentences of instructions, no example.

• Activity: “Animal Jumble.” Illustrated activity in which the alphabet is scrambled and missing six letters. Reader is to figure out which six letters are missing and what animal name they spell. Begins with three sentences of instructions, no example.

• Activity: “Through the Hoop!: A Trick You Can Teach Your Dog.” One full page, for advanced readers. Gives readers five steps of two-to-four sentences for teaching a dog to jump through a hula hoop. Includes three photos and a short, two-sentence tip from a vet regarding cutting mealtime portion sizes.

• Nonfiction: “Who Has Cheeks?” Two pages, mostly third person, for early readers. Contains five photos. Starts and ends in second person. Covers whether animals have cheeks, what cheeks are for, how animals that don’t have cheeks digest their food, and why cheeks are important.

• Craft: “Fruit Pockets.” Four step craft for making a fruit-shaped pocket purse out of craft foam.

• Craft: “Papier-Mache Fruit Bowl.” Six steps.

• Craft: “Crumbled-Crayon Fruit Art.” Five step craft for making a fruit-shaped picture out of old crayon pieces, glue and Mod Podge.

• Craft: “Magnetic Fruit Memo Pad.” Four step craft for making a fruit-shaped magnetic memo pad holder out of cardboard.

• Craft: “’Berry Fun’ Fruit Toss.” Five step craft for making a strawberry-themed tossing game out of sacks of rice and berry baskets. Begins with three sentences of instructions for how to play, alone or with friends.

• Fiction: “How Do You Know When the Carrots Are Ready?” Two pages, third person, for early readers. Realistic humorous story about a girl and her grandpa who garden together. When the girl wants to know when the carrots are ready to pull, Grandpa shows her his secret—a garden entirely set apart for the rabbits; when the rabbits start eating, the carrots are ripe.

• Fiction: “Lazeena.” Two pages, third person, for advanced readers. Fantasy fairy tale-type story about a man who is tired of doing chores. A lazy fairy offers to do them on condition that he sleep until she's finished. When he awakens at the end of a year and laments the loss of time, she agrees to reverse the spell. In the end, he’s grateful to have the time back, even though he has to do his own chores.

A few things to know:

• The magazine accepts submissions (including seasonal) year-round

• It purchases all rights

• It pays on acceptance

My Experience

My first acceptance with Highlights was a boy-friendly code craft in 2007. In 2009, I attended the Highlights Foundation Writer’s Workshop at Chautauqua, where I met several of the editors and got a first-hand feel for the magazine’s needs, as well as specific tips for writing for them. Since then, I’ve had multiple acceptances of fiction and nonfiction.

From the Editorial Staff

Regarding fiction needs, Joëlle Dujardin, senior editor, says, “I have a particular need right now for mysteries, historical fiction, and fantasy. Also, in general, I love reading stories with a unique narrative voice and memorable, believable characters.”

Helpful Tips from My Chautauqua Notes

• Be sure to read “Our Mission” on the masthead page of the magazine to get an idea of what they care about.

• The magazine’s slogan is “Fun with a Purpose;” as such, editors want to see both entertainment and educational value in every submission.

• Nonfiction:
    Think narrow topics, rather than broad, such as a caterpillar dropping on a thread when escaping from stink bugs or moths versus caterpillars in general.

• Rebuses:
    Even though they’re short, they need an arc: suspense, problem, conclusion, and a twist at the end.

• Puzzles and Games:
    Give it a twist: start with what readers know and alter it.
    Secret codes work well.
    Set kids up for success.
    They want activities that don’t require writing in the magazine.

• Crafts:
    Should have 3-5 simple steps.
    Uses materials that are easy to find and inexpensive.
    Always ask: “Is it fun?”

Submission Guidelines: http://www.highlights.com/contributor-guidelines
Current Needs: http://www.highlights.com/current-needs

Writing for Children's Magazines, September 2012     Text: Copyright Sara Matson
Magazine cover: Copyright ©2012 Highlights for Children, Inc., Columbus, OH. All rights reserved. Used by permission.



Sara Matson has published more than 70 short stories, articles, crafts, and activities for children and adults. Her work has appeared in Highlights, Highlights High Five, Pockets, and Family Fun, as well as in several editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul. She lives in Minnesota with her husband and 11-year-old twin daughters. For more information, please visit her website at www.saramatson.com.



Return to Writing for Children's Magazines' home page.   Return to Evelyn's website home page.

Copyright 2012 Evelyn B. Christensen
Web Design by Stephen M. Christensen