Writing for Children

Do you want to learn how to write a children's book? Make money writing for children's magazines? Every Friday the Writing for Children podcast publishes from The Institute of Children's Literature. Since 1969, ICL has taught over 470,205 aspiring writers. Listen to the director of both The Institute for Writers and The Institute of Children's Literature and bestselling children's author Katie Davis host the show as she focuses on the craft of writing for children. She talks about how to write a children’s book, how to write for children’s magazines, how to get paid for your writing, and how to get published in the world of kidlit. There are listener questions, with answers from the experts at the Institute, plus hard-to-find resources, tips, and links included in every week's show notes.
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Now displaying: Category: writing for magazines
Sep 15, 2017


Crafts are one of those things I don't write about, but I have a friend who does, and when she does, she almost always makes a sale. The magazines that use them need a steady stream. The reason crafts are a staple of many children's magazines is because they help to make content interactive. They don't just offer a story or article, but let the child move beyond the magazine to create something new. Interactivity is a goal of many magazines, work that engages the reader and also leads to the reader doing something. A craft can fit this bill.

They're not difficult to write, either. In fact, writing a craft article has a lot in common with writing a recipe.

For step-by-step instructions, listen to the full episode.

Do you have questions about how the children's publishing industry works?

Tell us and we'll answer your writing questions on the podcast. Go to this link and leave your question:

Is your manuscript submission-ready?
Submit your manuscript to our critique service and one of our instructors will give you a full critique to make your story the best it can be before you send it to that perfect agent or publisher. Go to

Feb 17, 2017


Increasingly editors are interested in two things in fiction (1) adventure and (2) something a boy might read. But many writers are stuck when it comes to thinking about adventure. What makes up an adventure and can you do it well in 2,000 words or less (sometimes a lot less). Sure you can. After all, Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are is a perfect adventure story in 336 words.

The adventure story is the basis for so many classic myths and legends–so much so that “The Hero’s Journey” has become almost a guidebook for adventure. So how could the circular structure of the basic “Hero’s Journey” help us craft a magazine adventure story? Let’s begin by looking at a simplified version of the Hero’s Journey structure, keeping in mind that for magazine fiction, the story must focus on the main character:

Ordinary World
–Stories begin just before the thing that ultimately changes the main character.

Call to Adventure
–A need arises, the main character has a challenge.

Refusal/Commitment–the main character resists the challenge, doesn’t want to undertake the task but ultimately accepts that the challenge cannot be avoided.

Approaching the First Ordeal–The main character begins to understand the size of the challenge and the stakes are raised.

Ordeal–main character faces a serious challenge and overcomes.

Reward–a time of rest for the main character, sometimes a false sense of completion.

The Road/Resurrection–more complications, when things look much worse than expected and the biggest challenge met.

Mastery–The adventure resolves, often a sense of coming full circle. The main character has changed.

Read more in our show notes:


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Jul 29, 2016

Unusual story forms

Stories for young children are sometimes written in unusual forms. These could be a great way to ...

Get Published in a Children's Magazine.

You’re probably familiar with the standard plotted story that appears on the magazine page with an illustration (or sometimes two). But there are others, and it’s worthwhile to know them, in case they’re exactly the right form for you.


This one is familiar to many (if not most) magazine writers. In a rebus story, concrete nouns are replaced (or illustrated in the line) by small pictures. Thus, if you used the word “tree” in your story, a tiny tree would pop up right in the middle of the sentence and either the printed word “tree” would be in tiny print below it or it would disappear completely. Sometimes there is a kind of “key” in the illustrations bordering the story that reveal what the pictures stand for.


Rebus stories are very short––often 100 words or slightly more. They often have some kind of twist or surprise at the end. They almost always use each concrete noun more than once and limit the number of concrete nouns overall. So, for example, a rebus with a fall theme might show us “tree” three times, “acorn” three times, and “squirrel” four times. They try to avoid nouns that cannot be illustrated, and stick to very simple concrete ideas.

Magazines that use Rebus Stories: Highlights, Ladybug, and Your Big Backyard (their rebus is done in-house, they don’t buy them––but you can see examples there.

Learn more when you listen to the entire episode!

Listener question of the week:

Geraldene asks:

Would today’s fourth grade children be interested in what life was like for kids back in the 1920s and 1930s?

Get the links to the articles below in our downloadable show notes HERE.

How to Write a Rebus

What a great way to get published!

Metafiction - What Is It?

Metafiction is not new, but it’s being used in new ways. This is a great article to learn more about it.

Wordless Spreads in Picture Books

How and why to use them. Awesome article!


Episodes you might like:

Episode 004 - Don't Tell Us A Story

Episode 006 - Holiday and Seasonal Material


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Jul 1, 2016

Really? Now you want to talk about the start of summer?

Writing Holiday and Seasonal Material


Whether for Christmas, Independence Day, Fourth of July, Hanukkah, or whatever, magazines are a prime spot to sell your writing for children, but you need to submit it way early! Holidays as a cultural experience are welcome at many magazines. They expand reader horizons. You can also do well with holiday crafts, recipes, and activities. These are especially welcome if they offer more of a season feeling than a tie to a specific holiday. If a treat can be shaped like a Christmas tree or a Chanukah dreidel, you can probably find an interested magazine but if it can be shaped like a snowman, a snowflake, or a snowy tree, you'll have even more takers.

Learn more by listening to this episode.

The tips in the show notes, which you can download at include:

Chase’s Calendar of Events -

If you're looking to tie a promotional event to a special month, travel to a music festival halfway around the world, blog about a historical milestone or do a celebrity birthday round-up on your blog, Chase's Calendar of Events is the one resource that has it all.

Goofy Days of the Year -

Get inspiration for new stories, or tie your book into one of these funny holidays.

How to Tie Your Book Into a Holiday -

One creative way to publicize your book is to tie it to a holiday or special event. You'll be able to reach your audience on a more personal level by promotion your book alongside a holiday, theme month, or cause.

Our listener question of the week is from Angelique and she asks, "What are the key differences between writing a story for a magazine and a book? How can we tell if our story is better suited for one or the other?"

Episodes you might like: Episode 002 - Three Keys to Writing Nonfiction for Children

Episode 006 - Magazine Nonfiction That Connects