Sold Another Piece I Didn’t Submit August 1, 2015Posted by Ronica Stromberg in Uncategorized.
Tags: reprints, writing for children
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This is almost getting funny. The other day I came home from work and found a contract in the mail from a children’s magazine. The editors wanted to reprint a Christmas story of mine. They had published it in 2009 and now were offering to pay me again for rights to reprint it this year. I didn’t even know they accepted reprints, less enough reprints from their own magazine. I had never thought of submitting the story to them again. It seems I have a better batting average when I am not actively pursuing publication than when I was!
God, what are you up to?
It’s a God Thing July 12, 2015Posted by Ronica Stromberg in Uncategorized.
Tags: inspiration, writing
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Since childhood, I’ve felt that my purpose in life is to write. I believe God has called me and continues to call me to write. That doesn’t mean writing always comes easily to me or that I never procrastinate.
Just this last weekend I had a few hours to write and, instead, decided to go for a walk. I told myself that I needed exercise and that walking is far better for a person (me, specifically!) than sitting in a chair.
I told myself that I needed inspiration and that since I mainly write for children, maybe I would see something at the park or in the neighborhood that would inspire me.
So I went on about a mile walk. I didn’t see a single child in the park or in the neighborhood.
I was about a block from home when I spied chalk marks on a driveway ahead.
Evidence of children! I homed in on the chalk marks, hoping to use them as a window to their maker’s world, a glimpse of what occupies children’s thoughts. But as I approached the driveway, I saw there were only two words on the driveway:
OK, God, I got the message. I went home and started a short story.
Writing for the Inner Child February 7, 2015Posted by Ronica Stromberg in Uncategorized.
Tags: write what you know, writing for children
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Standard writing advice for would-be writers of children’s books and stories is to “spend time with children.” This falls in line with the “write what you know” advice. I think the idea behind the advice is that children may be different from what they were when the writer was a child or that the writer’s memory may be faulty. I tend to believe, though, that the key emotions and experiences of childhood aren’t all that different from one generation to the next and the writer who can tap into those has a good chance of being successful–even without a lot of contact with children. We all have an “inner child” to rely on.
Who can forget what it feels like to be left out? to learn to ride a bike or swim? to receive that favorite toy you still have tucked away in a closet somewhere? to scrape a knee? to lose a friend? to make a new one? to be chosen first . . . or last? to get out of school for a snow day? to have a favorite teacher? to get a sticker as a reward? to have a grownup give you an “airplane ride” or another child give you an “underdog” on the swings? to lose a tooth? to outgrow a favorite shirt? to have a pet die?
Some of the most successful children’s authors–Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak, Margaret Wise Brown, and Beatrice Potter among them–never had children. Perhaps they could have achieved greater success if they had spent more time with children, but I doubt it.
All writers draw from their own unique experiences when writing a story, but we’ve all experienced childhood. Those childhood experiences or emotions that rise to the top in our memories may be the strongest subject we could write about.
On-the-Spot Research for Writing Historicals November 23, 2014Posted by Ronica Stromberg in Uncategorized.
Tags: calling cards, historical fiction, Victorian era
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When I write historical fiction, I know any success I might have in recreating an era for my readers largely hinges on my getting the details right. I relied heavily on research when writing The Glass Inheritance, my mystery novel involving Depression era glassware, and found it invaluable to visit historically significant sites from the Great Depression and World War II era. I toured a Japanese internment camp in Wyoming, Pearl Harbor, two concentration camps in Germany, and three Holocaust museums, among other sites. Such travel isn’t always financially feasible, but I’ve discovered local sites offer a wealth of information and inspiration also.
Just this summer I toured a Victorian mansion here in the Midwest and was thrilled to see the museum had a bowl of calling cards near the door. Because I had read in Victorian era novels about characters dropping off their calling cards at one another’s houses, I recognized what the cards were. The tour guide allowed me to pick the cards up and look through them even though the cards were authentic, not reproductions.
Some of the cards clearly came from a printer as is, but others appeared to be homemade or had the owner’s name stenciled in after printing. They were all works of art compared with today’s business cards.
Holding these cards gave me insight and inspiration I doubt I would have drawn from just reading about them. I may choose to write a story involving calling cards and have more assurance now of getting the details right.
Tough Stuff in Children’s Books September 7, 2014Posted by Ronica Stromberg in Uncategorized.
Tags: Laura Ingalls Wilder, rejection, writing for children
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The Guardian recently published an article stating that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book Pioneer Girl will be released soon. In the book, Wilder wrote about her childhood growing up in the 1800s on the frontier. Pioneer Girl was rejected by publishers, so Wilder rewrote it and sold the resulting stories as the now-famous Little House on the Prairie books. Publishers had deemed parts of Pioneer Girl unfit for children, such as the story of a drunken man who accidentally killed himself when trying to light a cigar and having the liquor on his breath catch fire and the story of a shopkeeper who dragged his wife around by the hair and set their bedroom on fire.
I’m sure Wilder really witnessed these horrific events and felt compelled to include them in Pioneer Girl when trying to accurately relate her life on the frontier. The reality is that children around the world face tough stuff like this. Those who make it to adulthood completely untouched by violence or other ugly behaviors must be few and far between. We can’t completely protect children, but should writers for children include such tough stuff in their stories?
I’m torn on this. For children who are living in tough situations, maybe it helps to read about other children in similar situations. They might be able to identify with characters more and feel more inclined to read about children who are struggling about bigger issues than finding a lost bike or securing a date for prom.
On the other hand, maybe a child in a tough situation would give anything to get away from that, even if it’s just the temporary escape of a light read.
I’ve written about both the tough stuff and the light and found the light stuff (especially humor) easier to sell. I think publishers are more receptive of the tough stuff (often even welcome it) in young adult books but are less receptive of it in books for younger children. A big part of the decision has to be about how the writer handles the topic and why. What is the point in exposing a child to ugliness or violence? I think a writer who chooses to tackle tough stuff in children’s books should offer hope to the reader or some possibility of resolution in the end.
Checking the Spam Box March 9, 2014Posted by Ronica Stromberg in Uncategorized.
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I hadn’t checked the spam box on my e-mail account in years (I deleted spam mail, unseen, by pressing the trash icon), but the other day, I peeked into my spam box. I had two e-mails: one from an agent and one from an editor.
Eleven years ago, I had submitted a two-novel proposal to the agent. Now, she was cleaning her office and came across my submission. She must have looked into the current status of the novels (A Shadow in the Dark and Living It Up to Live It Down) because she congratulated me on their publication. She asked if my address on the return envelope was still current and if I wanted my proposal back. I had moved but I gave her my current address. My submission from years ago came back with handwritten comments in the margins. Overall, these comments were positive. One or two suggested further plot developments. This is helpful information to me, even though it came too late for these novels.
The second piece of mail in my spam box, from a magazine editor, requested me to resubmit a short story to her magazine even though someone on the staff had rejected it more than a year ago. I knew the magazine editor’s name and e-mail address was legitimate, so I resent the short story. A few days later, I received a paying contract.
Both incidents strike me as strange. I can’t believe many agents are contacting writers years later to return submissions or that editors are tracking them down to request manuscripts they’ve already rejected. Because I’m a believer in God and I haven’t been writing or submitting much in the past few years while working full-time, I see both incidents as encouragement from him that he believes in my writing.
I’m also left wondering how many other legitimate pieces of mail I may have deleted from my spam box, resulting in the loss of a sale or valuable contact. I’ve started skimming over my spam messages.