I began looking around my home for ideas, trying to come up with a subject that a) wouldn't bore me to tears while I wrote about it, and b) would interest kids, as well. All of a sudden, our Amazon blue-front parrot Tucker began squawking, and inspiration struck. I could write about pet parrots!
I got started and quickly realized that when I wrote about a subject I enjoyed, rather than a topic assigned by a teacher, it was actually kind of fun to write nonfiction!
By that time, we'd had Tucker for a little over a year, so I already knew a thing or two about having a parrot for a pet. I also did some research, looking for facts that I thought might interest young readers. Soon, I'd written a 750-word article, "Polly Want a Parrot?"
My instructor had some suggestions for minor changes, but overall, she felt the article was well-written, and encouraged me to send it in to a magazine. I planned to do just that, but my daughter Emmalie was born soon after receiving that feedback. Sending my article out to publishers just wasn't high on my list of priorities any more.
In 1998, while going through some papers, I found my old article with the instructor's comments. I had (slightly) more time now that I had a toddler instead of a newborn, and decided to try sending out my first piece of nonfiction.
I rewrote my paper, using my instructor's suggestions. Then I got out my trusty book, Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market, searching for magazines that could use an article on pet parrots. Hopscotch for Girls seemed like it might be a good fit -- they were looking for nonfiction work about 700 words long, and listed "pets" under subjects they covered.
The book mentioned that articles were more likely to be accepted for publication by Hopscotch if they were accompanied by good quality black and white photographs, relevant to the article's topic. I rushed right out and bought myself a roll of black and white film, then took several pictures of Tucker. Once the film was developed, I was pleased to find seven good, clear shots of our parrot. I sent the photos and my article in to Hopscotch, then began the waiting game.
Luckily, I did not have to wait too long to hear back. About six weeks later, I received an acceptance letter! The editor informed me that they planned to use my article and two of my photos in an upcoming issue, possibly in 2001. Then the waiting REALLY began.
I waited and waited for three years. Then, as 2001 came and went with no further word from the magazine, I started wondering if maybe the editors had changed their minds about my article.
Finally, though, I received a check and my copy of the August/September 2002 issue of Hopscotch for Girls, with "Polly Want a Parrot?" inside! Our whole family was excited, not just to see my article and name in print, but also to see the pictures of our Tucker, on display for readers across the country! :)
Not long after the issue came out, I received word that Hopscotch wanted to publish my article online, as well. About 8 years later, it is still out there, archived at the High Beam Research website.
(Just a side note: After living with our family for 17 years -- and with another family for several years before that -- Tucker passed away suddenly this spring. He was a good bird, and we all miss him very much....)