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Monday, June 20, 2011

A lucky break

One day in 1995, while riding in the passenger seat of a car, I took out my next assignment for the Institute of Children's Literature course I'd enrolled in.  The Institute had provided me with a very useful resource, the Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market (edited by Alice Pope), a book that is updated yearly.  Part of my assignment was to look through the book, familiarize myself with it, and then find magazine listings that sounded interesting to me.

I started flipping through the book.  The name Babybug caught my eye, and I began reading its description, intrigued.  At that time, Babybug was brand-new, a magazine geared toward very young children (infants up to age 2).  The description mentioned that the editors were looking for fictional stories no longer than 25 words.  Twenty five words? How on earth could someone write a story in so few words?

I decided to give it a try.  After all, there were still several hours of our car trip left, and I had nothing better to do.  I wrote a little list of subjects I thought babies and toddlers might enjoy.  Then I picked one... bugs.  I made several attempts at writing the story in prose, but I kept reaching the word limit before I'd said very much.  Then I tried writing it like a short, rhyming poem, and finally came up with a story called "In My Yard".  And, it was only 24 words long! :)

When we returned home from our trip, I took a deep breath, typed up my little story, along with a cover letter, then mailed them both off to Babybug.  It was my very first submission to a publisher.  I was excited and nervous and hopeful, but also tried to stay realistic.  I knew that it's not an easy thing to get published.  What's more, I knew how rare it would be for an editor to accept my very first submission ever.

Imagine my surprise and complete joy when I received a letter from The Cricket Magazine Group a month later, saying that they wanted to publish MY story in Babybug!*  I felt giddy, and oh, so lucky, for weeks after that.  My big dream of becoming a children's author was beginning to come true!

I still had to wait... and wait... and wait some more before seeing my story in print, however.  Finally, in the May 1997 issue of Babybug, "In My Yard" was published!  I was so thrilled when my complimentary issues of the magazine arrived in my mailbox.  There, at last, were my words, my name, for everyone to read. I was excited, also, to see the illustrations that went along with my words, delightful pictures created by G. Brian Karas.

Since that first publication, Babybug has reprinted my story twice, in their April 2001 and May/June 2010 issues.  Both times I felt almost as excited and lucky as I did the first time around!

Covers for the May 1997 and May/June 2010 issues
(The April 2001 cover was the same as 1997's.)

In My Yard

Butterfly flutters by.
Ant can't.  She climbs a plant.
Bee is in the tree.
Snails are making trails.
Worm squirms.
Firefly lights the sky.

* Even though I was lucky enough to have my very first submission published, I have since tasted the bitterness of rejection letters more times than I can count.  I guess I can't be lucky all the time!  The important thing, though, is not to give up. :)


  1. My children loved your story when it was reprinted in the 2010 issue. Because of it's standards I view The Cricket Magazine Group as the Atlantic for smaller people. In many ways, I imagine it must be much harder to write for a young audience than adults as you really need to find a way to adjust your own perspective. We are very proud to know you Janelle.

  2. How cute is that! Love it.

    I've been rejected by some very nice places. LOL
    Save the letters and put them in your scrapbook along with copies of your checks.

    My first check I wanted to frame but fortunately Hubby's better sense prevailed. LOL

    You will get there.


  3. Thank you, Jonathan! You don't know how exciting it is to hear from someone whose kids liked my story! :) (And it's even more fun to hear it from someone I know!)

  4. Thank you, Thena! I haven't scrapbooked them yet, but I have saved every acceptance and rejection letter I've ever gotten, and made copies of my checks, too. :)