My short fiction piece, “The Dive”, was published in the May/June 2021 issue of Cricket magazine.
When I first started pursueing publication, I decided that I would start with magazines. I wanted the practice, the resume, and frankly, the income. Magazines have a greater need for short pieces since many put out an issue multiple times a year.
But breaking into magazines isn’t easy. It takes a long time, a lot of work, and persistence—just like with all things writing and publication. and just because the magazines are for children, doesn’t mean the work is easier; if anything it’s harder, in my opinion. Kids arent going to read a story just because. They want to be entertained. And you need to catch their attention in a only few words.
Where I Got my Story Idea
I wrote the dive last summer (2020) during the pandemic. Cricket had put out a call for submissions for stories of the sea. (Cricket and it’s sister magazines occasionally put out calls for various submissions. If you’re interested in writing for those publications, join their email list.)
I have a deep love of the ocean and had actually just finished a nonfiction article on an underwater laboratory, and wanted to submit a fiction piece for that theme as well. (Note: the nonfiction piece was declined.)
As I brainstormed for ideas, I started to think about what experience I could draw from that could help me write a fiction piece. Then it hit me.
Writing the Story
I’m not a certified diver, but I had an awesome experience for my eighteenth birthday. I was able to take a class and go scuba diving in one day. The dive wasn’t deep, but it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Someday I hope to be a certified diver.
I knew setting a story underwater was going to be tricky—there’s no dialogue! But I also knew details of what is was like. And being in a setting like underwater provides tension since the environment could be dangerous.
As I drafted, I knew what stakes I wanted in the story: underwater accident with an oxygen tank, make it back to surface before the characters run out of air. Tension, drama, and pace were all built right in.
One thing about writing for younger audience s that is a challenge is stay within the word count guidelines. Cricket has guidelines of no more than 1800, which isn’t that much room to pack a lot of action in. So to keep things moving and stay within the word count, I keep descriptions to the minimum. Illustrators can decide what characters look like, I don’t need to. I want to give enough information and narrative to give readers a footing in the story, but not waste my word count describing details they don’t need.
The Submission Process
Cricket accepts submissions through Submittable. While it might seem less personable, I love Submittable because it super simple, and you get a response. (Nothing drive me crazier than never getting a response!)
Since this was for a specific call, there was a due date that I had to meet. I love due dates and deadlines because I respond well to limits and knowing my time frame.
I submitted via Submittable follow their guidelines and including a cover letter. I’ve written so many cover letters over the years, I have a pretty good idea of how to do it now. (Are you interested in learning how I write my cover letters? Leave me a comment below if you’d like to see a post on how to write a cover letter!)
Most magazines will give you a general idea of their response time. Cricket lists their as up to six months, and I think it was about that long before I heard anything.
It can be incredibly frustrating to wait to hear back from a magazine, agent or publisher, but believe me, you don’t want to be the nag that emails repeatedly. That’s unprofessional and annoying. Don’t do it. If, after the listed response time you still haven’t heard, then follow up. I’ve done that before, but never before the the time indicated in their submission guidelines.
One thing to keep in mind, the longer you wait to hear back, often the better your chances. So if you’ve been waiting for a year (yes, that has happened to me), take that as a good sign, even if the piece isn’t accepted. Often it means the piece was good enough to take the time to consider it.
Working with the Editor
This is a part many writer might dread, and I’ll admit, it isn’t always easy to swallow. All magazines have in house editors that work with writers to improve pieces and revise to fit with their publication. Cricket is no different. I had a great experience with the editor I work with.
It is hard to received feedback or questions about your writing, and I fully admit my initial reaction was always defensive, and don’t be surprised if yours is too. But in the business of publishing you are going to get feedback and it isn’t always going to be positive.
And that’s okay.
]I really appreciated that the editor I worked with was very respectful. And the back and forth to work on the piece was good experience for me as I (hopefully) work toward publication.
If magazine writing is something that you are interested, I would recommend submitting to Cricket. I enjoyed working with the editors, and am thrilled to be a part of their May/June 2021 issue.
You can pick up a copy of the May/June 2021 issue here.