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Monday, July 11, 2011

A Second Big Dream Come True

Back in 1995, the instructor for my correspondence course through the Institute of Children's Literature gave me a new assignment: pick an age group, find three magazines that catered to that age, and then write a short story that fit those magazines' guidelines. 

I chose to write for early readers, creating a children's version of a favorite Christmas story, O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi".  Called "The Greatest Gift of All", my story ended up being about 800 words long.  My instructor really liked the story, though she thought it still needed work to be publishable.  She gave me a few ideas for revisions, then encouraged me to try sending it in to the magazines I'd picked earlier.

I rewrote the story, then sent it to the three magazines in 1996.  I was a bit discouraged when I received three rejection letters back, but I knew I had to keep on trying!  I found several other magazines that accepted early reader fiction, and sent out more copies of my story. 

Then one day in 1997, I received a different kind of rejection letter -- a handwritten one from Clubhouse, Jr.*   The editor who'd read it said that she loved the story, but they could not use it in any of their December issues.  Their magazine was a Christian one, and they wanted all of the stories in the December issue to focus on the birth of Jesus.  She said that if I was willing to do a little rewriting -- turning it into something other than a Christmas story -- she would consider publishing it.

If you've ever read "The Gift of the Magi", you know that its overlying theme is love.  It wasn't hard for me to turn my Christmas story into a Valentine's Day story, so I quickly did that and resubmitted it to Clubhouse, Jr.  Just a few weeks after that, I received an acceptance letter from the magazine, and in February of 1998, my story "The Greatest Gift of All" was published:

Clubhouse, Jr.
February 1998 issue

The story features a poor young church mouse named Lucy, who wants to purchase a special gift for her grandfather.  When I wrote the story, I imagined soft, sweet pictures to go with it, like those of Garth Williams (the artist who illustrated the books Bedtime for Frances, Charlotte's Web, the Little House series, and several others).  I wasn't expecting the bright, cartoon-like pictures that the magazine used, and was surprised by them.  (I don't know who drew them; there are no credits given for the illustrations.)  Still, that did not dampen my enthusiasm about being published again! :)

"The Greatest Gift of All", p. 1-2

"The Greatest Gift of All", p. 3

The magazine purchased "first rights", which means that, now that Clubhouse, Jr. has published it, I can sell the story again to another publisher.  I have changed it back into a Christmas story and have mailed it out to several book publishers.  So far, I only have a pile of rejection slips to show for it --  but I just keep on hoping and trying. :)

*Although I knew that Clubhouse, Jr. was a Christian magazine, I didn't know anything else about the company behind it (Focus on the Family) at the time.  Since my story was published by them in 1998, I have learned more about the company, and no longer feel comfortable submitting any of my work to them.  (Though Christian myself, I do not agree with their exclusionary stance toward the LGBT community, among other things.)

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