Thursday, October 11, 2007

Interview with Virginia S. Grenier, Children's Author and Editor of Stories for Children Magazine

Stories for Children Magazine is a free online publication for children and children's authors and illustrators alike. I recently had the chance to chat with its editor, Virginia S. Grenier. Virginia talks about her magazine, its guidelines, and about the process of starting your own ezine, among other things.

How and when did Stories for Children Magazine get started?

I started Stories for Children Magazine after being published in a few children’s Ezines. I really liked what they were trying to do and felt I could bring something different to the table with my own Ezine. My first goal: to develop a FREE children’s Ezine for elementary aged children. The second goal: To publish youth authors (ages 17 and under.) There aren’t a lot of print or on-line magazines out there publishing authors under the age of 18. I wanted Stories for Children Magazine not only to be read by children, but to be written by children authors along with new and established children’s writers and illustrators. So far we have met my goals. Stories for Children Magazine is FREE for its readers and we have at least one writer, 17 years old or younger, in each issue. Stories for Children Magazine’s debut issue released on April 1, 2007. We’re on our sixth issue this September.

What inspired you to begin such a project?

Mostly, because I love children, writing, and marketing. I use to be a buyer in ladies and junior fashion before I started writing. And really the writing just sort of happened. I retired from fashion to be home for my children. But I wanted something to do when my son was in school and my daughter took her naps. I came across the Institute of Children’s Literature and from there fell into writing and starting Stories for Children Magazine. I love sharing what I write and helping new writers young and old getting published. And what better way to do that, but with my own Ezine.

What type of stories do you publish?

Stories for Children Magazine publishes any genre of children’s fiction as long as it’s written for our audience, ages 3 to 12 years old. We publish four stories in each issues age group: Read Aloud (ages 3-6), Early Readers (7-9), and Middle Readers (10-12). We also publish three non-fiction pieces in each group along with poems, crafts, puzzles, and games.

Who is your audience?

Stories for Children Magazine is for kids ages 3 to 12 years old, but don’t let that stop you from reading our Ezine. We have teachers, writers, illustrators, and parents reading Stories for Children Magazine each month, too. Just recently a teacher from Henrico County, VA contacted me about using multiple stories and articles in preparation for the state’s reading and comprehension test. I’ve also received emails form two children’s actors. One is on the T.V. show Jericho and the other is the Disney Channel.

Are you open for submissions at the moment?

We did close our door to submissions this summer, but are open once again September 1, 2007.

What are your guidelines?

Our guidelines are like most publishers who are serious about the type of writing they want to see for their publications. The basics always apply at on-line or print publications, but here is quick break down of what we look for:
Stories for Children Magazine publishes short stories, articles, poems, coloring pages, word and picture puzzles, book reviews, arts & crafts, and interviews with Children's Book Authors and/or Illustrators for children ages 3 to 12 years old. Stories for Children Magazine will publish reprints with the information as to where it was published prior to our magazine. Content should be age appropriate. We encourage you to study back issues for content and style. When writing non-fiction, please use primary sources with up-to-date information. We also like to see engaging articles that read more like a story or have a WOW factor. Kids read enough book reports and text books at school. We want to be fun and lively when sharing information. Stories for Children Magazine ISN’T a themed magazine, but there are holidays and subjects that we would love to cover in each monthly issue along with the creative, adventurous, and thought provoking stories and articles.
STORY CATEGORIES: READ ALOUD STORIES (ages 3-6): Rebus, easy-to-read stories, humorous tales, fantasy, fables, and myths. EARLY READERS (ages 7-9): Realistic fiction, humorous tales, satire, fantasy, fairy tales, science fiction, fables, light scary stories, mysteries and myths. MIDDLE READERS (ages 10-12): Realistic fiction, humorous tales, satire, fantasy, fairy tales, science fiction, fables, scary stories, mysteries and myths.
NONFICTION CATEGORIES: nature, animals, science, technology, environment, foreign culture, history, and biographies. Please make sure the information is appropriate for the right age group.
Discovery (ages 3-6): Learning about the world around them.
HOW AND WHY (ages 7-9): Wants to understand the how and why of things.
TELL ME MORE (ages 10-12): Has a basic knowledge of how things work. This age group wants to dig deeper to really understand their world.A short bibliography is required for all nonfiction articles.
LENGTH FOR ALL STORIES AND ARTICLES: 3 to 6 year olds: 150 to 400 words 7 to 9 year olds: 400-800 words 10 to 12 year olds: 500-1200 words Poems: 2 pieces per submission, 100 words max per poem. Puzzles/Arts & Crafts/Games: 1 page Book reviews-targeted at children: up to 200 words Word counts should be noted on each submission.
For a more detailed look at our guidelines young writers, adult writers, and illustrators can visit our site at

Do you also review books?

Stories for Children Magazine does do book reviews. There are multiple ways to send in a book review. One type of book review we publish is from our readers. We love hearing about a book our readers enjoyed or didn’t enjoy reading. The second type of book review we publish is from Book Reviewers themselves. We have a few Book Reviewers who will send in book reviews that are also posted on their book review blogs or sites. The last type of book review is done by one of our editors. This would either be myself or my assistant, Gayle Jacobson-Huset. Our reviews are sent back to the publisher, agent, author, illustrator, or editor that asked for the book review for their promotional use and is also posted on our site.

How may authors contact you with book review requests?

Currently we are seeing about two submissions a month for professional reviews, two to three from Book reviewers, and one or two from our readers. Authors or Illustrators can contact us at:

Stories for Children Magazine
54 East 490 South
Ivins Utah 84738
Phone/fax: (206) 350-3440

Or Email us at:

VS Grenier, Editor

Gayle Jacobson-Huset, Asst. Editor

How hard is it to start your own online magazine?

I don’t find anything hard if it’s what you want or love to do. Something you’re passionate about shouldn’t be considered hard. But if you want to start an Ezine, there are a few key factors to consider.

The first factor is where to host your site. There are lots of free hosting sites or hosting sites that cost very little money if you plan to be a free Ezine like Stories for Children Magazine. I think it’s a little harder if you are going to charge for a subscription on-line. Most people surfing the web feel it should be free if it’s on the internet. But there are some willing to pay a subscription and therefore you may want to go with a higher paying hosting site that can do some of the maintenance for you.

The second factor is know what you want to do, say, or get across with your publication. You need to first know your niche before you can really start putting an Ezine together. Have a mission statement, goal, or outline of what you stand for. This is going to be your guide in how your site and information will look, and the type of readers you will attract.

The third factor is you need to have the time. If you plan to write a series of books for young adults, adults, or middle graders, you may want to rethink doing an Ezine. I spent a lot of time working on Stories for Children Magazine; from reading submissions to formatting each new issue.

What words of advice would you give to people who are considering such an endeavor?

Do your homework! Starting a magazine is no different than starting your own business or submitting your manuscript to a publisher. You need to research, research, research and then research some more.

I know lots of people think they can just jump on-line, build a site, and have readers or subscribers. Well you can, but if you want to be taken seriously as a magazine then you need to know your niche, competition, and publication rights.

How do you go about promoting your magazine in the midst of all the competition?

I was very lucky about how fast Stories for Children Magazine’s name got out there. Being a student from the ICL was one of the best helps I had. I knew other writers and editors because of the ICL. Also I’m in a few different writers groups both on-line and locally. “Word of month” is the best way to spread anything your marketing. Most people will trust a friend, relative, or co-worker before they will an advertisement. So by talking about Stories for Children Magazine with-in my writing groups and with my fellow writing students, the word just spread like wild fire.

The second thing that helped Stories for Children Magazine get its name out was actually making contacts with our competition. For example: I was first published in Fandangle Magazine, a free on-line magazine for children ages 6 to 12 years old. Nancy the editor wrote an Ebook for teachers about how to use print and Ezines in the classroom. Two of my publications with Fandangle were in her Ebook. I asked Nancy if I could link from my site to her Free Ebook. She was more than happy and in return we have shared information on marketing with each other. And as you can see here I am putting a plug in for her Ezine now. LOL.

Having an author website, blog, or newsletter is another way to get your name out there. I have all three. On my author site you can actually download the past issues of Stories for Children Magazine. On my blogs I post who our Featured Guest of the month is with a link to the SFC site. Having interviews each month with Children’s Authors and Illustrators is a great way to bring traffic.

I also send out media releases on our Featured Guests or if we have some fun news going on at Stories for Children Magazine. And again I always include the link to SFC’s site. You would be surprise how many media releases I get without one.

How does one subscribe to your magazine? Is it free?

Stories for Children Magazine is FREE for everyone. We do hope to go to print with-in the next year or two at which time the print magazine will be a paid subscription. However, I still plan to keep Stories for Children Magazine’s site free by publishing a smaller issue for our on-line readers when we go to print.

You’re also a published author, with many magazine credits to your name and several upcoming book releases. Would you like to tell our readers a little about your works? My writing has been something of a surprise to me. The first submission I ever sent was inspired by my dad’s childhood. He’s a retired pilot and was born with wings. I had first written the story as my sample writing for the ICL to see if I really had what it took to become a children’s writer. After my second assignment I decided to submit a revision of the story to Fandangle Magazine. I guess I still didn’t believe I was cut out to be in children’s writing and felt I needed a rejection to make that clear to me. The funny thing was, Nancy, the editor accepted the story. After that I had two more publications in Fandangle Magazine followed by publications at Vision: A Resource for Writers,, Storybox On-Line, and most recently Pack-O-Fun bought a craft for the June/July 2008 issue. I’ve also written a few articles for my newsletter which has 100 subscribers to-date and for Stories for Children Magazine.

On the book side of things, well does anyone really ever want to say much before they have publication dates?

I will say this much. I have two picture books in the works. They are in the revision stage and I’m working on a novel with another writer. It’s for young adults and my hope is that once I’m done with my part of the novel, my co-author will love it and we’ll see it in print.

Author, editor… and also manuscript critiquer as well. What kinds of manuscripts do you critique, what are your fees, and what can a writer expect from one of your critiques? I critique only children’s writing. I look at short stories, articles, and children’s book in all genres. I’m in a critique group as well as editing accepted submissions for Stories for Children Magazine. I don’t think I ever take off the critiquer hat. LOL.

I don’t charge a lot for a critique. My fee is $15 for 1,000 words or less and then $2 per page after that. When I critique someone else’s work, I look at it two ways. The first way I read the manuscript is as a reader. I love to read children’s books. I hardly ever read an adult genre book. So when I read a manuscript, I look at it as if I picked it off the shelf at the local book store or library. I make my notes from that prospective and then I go back through as an editor. For more information about my critiquing service and testimonials, writers can visit my site at

What mistakes do you keep encountering over and over when you critique other people’s manuscripts?

Formatting is the number one mistake I see as a critiquer and editor. A lot of people want to use fancy fonts or colored text. As a critiquer or editor this is very hard to read. Times New Roman 12pt font is best. Grammar is another area I see lots of mistakes. The most common is the usage of commas, dashes, semi-colons, or quotes. A lot of rules of writing change over the years and if you don’t read current trade magazines or newsletters, then you’re missing some pretty important information. One discussion came up, in an on-line form I was attending, about the use of italics for thought instead of underlining thought on a manuscript. At one time publishers wanted you to underline internal dialogue, but now, a lot of them have you using italics as the preferred way to show internal dialogue or thought. When I critique someone else’s work, I look for all of this on top of spelling, plot, character development, etc. The other big thing I see is pacing. Once you hook your reader you don’t want to lose them with too much detail or slowing in the plot. I see this happening a lot with writers who are in love with descriptive words. Yes you need to be descriptive, but you also need to let your reader use their imagination to fill in some of those blanks. Remember to “Write Tight”. If I wanted to see all the detail to a story, I’ll go watch a movie instead of reading a book. I like painting part of the picture the author starts to draw for me.

The world of children’s book publishing is extremely competitive, with many authors hesitating between trying their luck with a traditional publisher or self publishing. What advice would you offer writers who are oscillating between these two publishing venues? I debate this same question all the time. Self publish, traditionally publish, E-publish, or POD my works. I think you have to first research all avenues and then you have to look at your work and decide, “Why did I want to write this story?” Did I write it to share with my family and friends? Did I write it to be the next New York Times Best Selling Author? Did I write it because I just needed to tell the story? Did I write it because I want to see the smile on a child’s face as they read what I had to write? After that then you need to decide how important it is to get your work out there. POD is something I’m looking into for the Anthology of Stories for Children Magazine. This makes sense because I want to take the best of the best in Stories for Children Magazine and combine it. For my own writing, I’ve looked at E-publishing some of my shorter stories and a more traditional publishing for my picture books and novels. But that is me. Each writer has to do what they feel is best for them and their work. But make sure you research each publisher in any genre of publishing and read the testimonials by those who have used that publisher. And never be afraid to ask someone who has published with a publisher their thoughts about the process.

How do you see the future of children’s book publishing, both traditional, electronic, and print on demand?

I know many younger writers and illustrators believe we are headed to a paperless world of writing. I’ve heard this even back when I was buying clothes for department and specialty stores some 10 years ago. We still have print to this day and I think it will be a long time before we are totally paperless as a society. However, I think a writer would be foolish not to have their hands in both print and E-publishing. I do think POD and self publishing is becoming more common place because it’s so hard to get your foot in the door at the big traditional publishing houses. There are a lot of talented writers who normally would never see their manuscript as a book if it wasn’t for POD or self publishers, but don’t forget the small publishing housings. I do feel all three will always have a place in the children’s book market.

Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?

Learn all you can to hone your writing. Never think you don’t have anything else to learn. Each day is a day to learn something new or share something to help another along the road to publication. Join one or more writing groups to network with others who have the same passion in writing. Through networking you become more confident in your work. Make sure to have your work critiqued before sending it out. Join a critique group, partner with another writer as critique buddies, or have a professional critiquer look over your work. Having others read what you have written and giving feedback not only makes you a better writer, but you start to understand how a well written story’s voice captures the reader; drawing them into your world of ink.