submission guidelines

(the short version)

 

girl with a book

(After reading our general guidelines, if you’d like to submit to us, please scroll down further to find more extensive guidelines to study. We are looking for creatively crafted read-aloud stories, written in 3rd person limited).

The focus and mission of knowonder! magazine is to help parents promote, encourage, and teach creativity, imagination, and literacy to their children.

Our audience is parents and their children between the ages of 3 and 10. We publish 10 fiction stories per month on the web site. Additionally, we publish both print and digital collections of stories from the 500 stories available on our web site.

Stories:
Story submissions should be fiction. We may accept the occasional non-fiction story but this is the exception, not the rule.  We encourage writers to submit stories that are full of action, adventure, and/or fun.  We discourage stories that deal with everyday lives of children or present familiar things in a familiar way.  We encourage creativity and imagination, and most of all, fun!  Each story should be one that a child will love to listen to.  Imagery and action are key elements that we strongly encourage.

Story word counts may range between 500 to 2000 words.  Call outs are appropriate and do not count toward the total word count.  Call out activity ideas or “talk time” ideas are welcome! We are willing to entertain longer stories.  We may be willing to accept stories told in rhyme, but have very high expectations for proper meter, etc.

PAYMENT:

 

At this time, we do not pay for short stories published on our website.  We also do NOT pay for articles that appear on our blog. printed in Fun Facts, For You by You, or stories or artwork printed on For Kids by Kids.

**HOWEVER**, we are very interested in publishing (in print and digital) collections of short stories by individual authors.  As an example, please see our new book “Dr. Franklin’s Staticy Cat, and Other Unbelievable Tales” by Rolli.  Authors we choose to work with on full collections will receive contracts with industry-competitive royalty rates.

Here are the steps you’ll need to take to achieve the goal of having your very own short story collection published:

  1. Submit 5 short stories to us – either all at once or as you write them.  Make sure they are the best you can possibly offer! (Note: if we already have accepted any of your unpublished stories, these can count toward your 5).
  2. Once you reach the magic number of 5 accepted stories, we will know you have what it takes to achieve your own short story collection.  At this point, we will be looking for 10-15 more short stories to round out your collection. (If you have any previously published stories with Knowonder these will count toward your total).
  3. When you begin submitting these 10-15 exclusive stories, we will extend you a book contract with industry-competitive royalty rates.  Publishing terms and dates will also be negotiated at this time.

NEW: For authors who want to submit short stories but not as part of a collection, we will gladly accept your submissions as donations to support our Story-A-Day Database on our web site. These stories will be offered as part of a free subscription to participating school districts around the country through educational foundations and read by potentially hundreds of thousands of children and adults. These partnerships enhance our mission of providing literacy content that is accessible, affordable, and effective. 

NOTE on FORMAT:  Please NO double-spacing.  Single spacing with two spaces between paragraphs is preferred.  No indenting on paragraphs is preferred. Only one space after periods, not two. Times New Roman, 12 pt. font is preferred. Please include the word count in the top left-hand corner of your submission.

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Articles:
The article portion of our website should always be something about our main goal. Some examples are: importance of reading with your children, benefits of teaching sign language (or any language) at an early age, how to teach kids to draw, how to involve children in storytelling, what sort of activities are good for kids brains, etc.

Any research that has been done in the field of children regarding brain development, literacy, creativity, etc., is something we are interested in.

Other articles can include a wide array of topics that parents (especially moms) are interested in, such as: getting kids to eat healthy, easy & healthy recipes, craft and/or creative projects to do with kids, exercise advice, health advice, tips on better parenting, how to discipline children, etc.

We want strong, engaging, interesting, fact-based articles. We want personal experiences and stories to help other parents identify with what the article is about.

Article word counts may range between 500 to 2000 words. Call outs are appropriate and and do not count toward the total word count. Only one space after periods, not two. Times New Roman, 12 pt. font is preferred.

PAYMENT: We currently do not pay for non-fiction articles. 

NOTE on FORMAT:  Please NO double-spacing.  Single spacing with two spaces between paragraphs is preferred.  No indenting on paragraphs is preferred. Only one space after periods, not two. Times New Roman, 12 pt. font is preferred. Please include the word count in the top left-hand corner of your submission.

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Updated Writer’s Guidelines

(with examples) – the LOOOONG (but good) version

What are we looking for? Narrative stories that are fun, adventurous, engaging, silly, imaginative, creative, have great characters, are memorable, entertaining, flow well when read aloud and have action! Remember, you are sitting by the bedside of the child, you have just enough light to read-aloud. The child’s eyes are closed, or even if they’re open he’s imagining what you are reading. At knowonder! we want stories that will paint images in a child’s mind and encourage use of all 5 senses as they imagine amazing visions of their own.

First and foremost READ! Read every bit of quality children’s literature you can get your hands on. Read the magazines Cricket, LadyBug, Babybug, Pockets and Highlights, read Where the Wild Things Are, Quick As A Cricket, Parts, and More Parts, and Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes– and the “If You Were” series by Trisha Speed Shashkan, “If You Were Onomatopoiea,” “If You Were Alliteration,” etc…. For good examples of narrative fiction read Harry Potter, Holes by Louis Sachar, and re-read Where the Wild Things Are. I stress Maurice Sendak’s masterpiece because even though it is a picture book the story stands alone. If you read it aloud to a child they could close their eyes and imagine the pictures in their head.

Read-Alouds – knowonder! stories are read-aloud stories.This means that a large majority of stories you submit to knowonder! should be stories that a parent or older child can read out loud to younger children. These are very different in form, format, function (etc.) than picture books.   Our stories have just one picture and rely, instead, on imagery created inside the story.  In that sense, our stories are much more akin to chapter books and young adult fiction. Therefore, be careful to write stories that aren’t envisioned from the beginning as a picture book.

SDT—This stands for Show-Don’t-Tell and is a well-known method for drawing the reader into a story. Please look it up; research SDT. Then check every sentence to make sure you are following the rules! Here are some examples of how to SDT in a narrative read-aloud:

The path was crooked.

The path meandered through the thick forest like a snake winding its way through tall grass.

The couch was soft.

Janie’s couch didn’t look like anything special. To the outsider it may have even looked like it needed to be put on the side of the road with the next trash pick-up. To Janie it was the one place in the house where she could find softness. When Tammy made fun of her on the way home from school, Janie would run into the house and bury her head in those cozy, well worn cushions. When the sun had gone down behind the mountain many hours before and there was no sign of Momma, Janie would snuggle into that couch and feel its comforting arms enfold her in warmth.

Narrative– please don’t eliminate good narrative because you are attempting to Show-Don’t-Tell. Narrative includes telling a story using description and well written prose that allows the child listening to create the pictures in his own mind. Imagery and style come in to play here. Give the child the opportunity to use all of her senses when engaging in the story. Here are some good examples of well written narrative prose from our knowonder! collection—- “There’s a Dragon in the Library,” by Nancy Kopp, “The Cow Milker,” by Hannah Howard, and “Mary’s Sparrow,” by Susan Sundwall.

Literary device usage—simile, metaphor, imagery, onomatopoeia, alliteration, hyperbole,  and use of idioms are all devices that pull readers into the story, make the story exciting, liven up the characters, and make reading aloud fun and engaging.  Great examples of this are “Dirty Bear,” “Granny Gertie’s Wish List,” “Tucker Turtle’s Topsy Turvy Hiccup Day,” and “Delia and the other Beanstalk.”

Plot—A good story will include a well designed plotting of events that somehow effect the main character. Every word, sentence, and paragraph should be analyzed to make sure it is significant to that plot and moves the story forward.

  • Beginning–jump right into the action, in medias res! Remember the children are lying in bed, waiting for the action of the story to begin. Write your beginning in a way that will have them mesmerized so much they’ll quit squirming and listen.
    • Scortch and the Paper Dragon”– Lee tucks her main character in place to give us setting, then jumps right into the action as he hears sobbing and jumps out of bed to search for the source…
  • Middle–remember these pointers– rising action (with action being the operative word here), the main character engaging in some conflict, active voice, and keep moving!!!
    • Too many Gramma’s Jammas,” author Jeffrey Grant jumps right into the action from the beginning and keeps it going throughout the story.
  • Great endings / tie-backs / punchlines–A well written story will follow the plotting to a point where the action rises to critical mass and Explodes! Then it will come down and have a rap up. Good endings do not fall off cliffs, they have a punch line (not necessarily a funny ha!ha! punchline, although that would be nice) but a great ending that has punch and ties back to the conflict, characterization, repetition, or some other element of the story. Wrap up stories nicely. The last line is the hardest to write for a reason. It takes work to get it just right. (Finding a great ending is like the scene from Sister Act where Whoopie Goldberg punches that young red-headed nun in the stomach and out comes that great high note!!! Ahhhhh!!!)

Words—check your writing for weasel words. Do you overuse the word “that,” or any other word? If you have more than one “that” on a page you should just take them out; I’m sure that you will find that you don’t need them. Also, use a thesaurus!! If you’ve used a descriptive word more than once, look it up in a thesaurus and use a synonym. Also, check your word choice–again use a thesaurus! Thesaurus.com should be your best friend! When writing for children an author must look at every single word. How do the words fit together to make a sentence? How do those sentences flow to create a paragraph? How does each word, sentence, and paragraph come together to paint a picture in the mind of a child?

Repetition—Children giggle when funny things happen in stories; they engage when funny things repeat in stories. I’m not talking about rhyme; I’m talking about rhythm and beat and repetition of lines, actions, etc…. A well crafted story will roll off the reader’s tongue and skip along through the child’s mind.

Characterization—Have you been around children? If not you should spend some time listening to them, seriously eavesdropping! You should talk with them, interact with them, keep a notebook nearby at all times, and jot down what they say and do. Each character in your story should be developed so we can see them, hear them, and understand them. They should be quirky, exceptional, and unique. No two children are the same in the real world so they shouldn’t be the same in fiction either. Characters should be dynamic and well rounded, not static and flat. Static means they don’t change, and flat means boring. Look at “Delia and the Other Beanstalk,” for a good example of how to show the difference between characters. The author didn’t say, “Delia was hyper, and Jasper was calm.” She showed in their actions they had these traits.

Voice—Dialogue should move the story along and help us hear the voices of the characters, especially the voice of the main character. That voice should be unique, whether it’s sad, happy, spunky, thoughtful, philosophical, or whatever, the words chosen should bring that voice out so we can hear it. The tag-lines should be well written. As our editorial team discussed dialogue, we decided we don’t want too much dialogue in our stories. Remember these are read-alouds. The more narrative prose and the less dialogue the better. Not that we don’t want any dialogue – we just don’t want a story that is 75% dialogue! We are looking for more description, imagery, and narration in between because this lends well toward reading aloud.

Point of View—After careful consideration, we’d really like knowonder! stories to be written in 3rd person. First person is also ok, but not the norm. Also, as I looked through the stories I noticed some of the ones we like best are written in 3rd person omniscient. This style is considered archaic nowadays. But I’ve had to consider why. Third person omniscient allows the author/narrator to step into the mind of every character. The powers that be say this is too confusing for a child. J.R.R.Tolkien and C.S. Lewis wrote in this manner. Even J.K. Rowling steps into this style in some of the Harry Potter books. When interviewed on this, she stated it was necessary to step into the mind of Voldemort on occasion and even into the minds of Hermione and Ron. The important point? It moved the story forward. Sticking with 3rd person limited in the mind of only the main character will be our norm, but occasionally the listener might want to know about the minds of different characters like in Lance O. Redding’s “The Princess, the Dragon and the Brave Knight.”

Tense—Past tense is best for read-alouds. Please stick to past tense. Novice writers tend to switch tense and point of view.  No present tense and no switching tense please!

You are your best critic– Write a first draft. Read it out loud. Look carefully at the beginning, middle, and end. Look at each of these guidelines and see if you can spice up your story before submitting to our editorial department. Rewrite. Revise. Submit. We’ll send suggestions as needed. Our goal is to encourage your own creative genius to blossom. (A note on formatting- Justify flush left, no double spacing, only one space after punctuation. (Word-processing has been allowing for the extra space now for many years).

Didactic stories– Didactic means preachy. A moral can be woven into a story without making it come across as a lecture. Characters should grow naturally out of the choices they make, the events in the stories, and their interactions with other people. We get stories all the time that are obviously written with the express purpose of teaching a lesson. Many of these types of stories will fall flat with children.  Should we teach them good values and morals? Can we use literature to teach lessons?  Yes, absolutely!  But let it happen naturally. Also, because of the nature of what we are (2000 words or less) this can be difficult to do without forcing it. So keep in mind the the main purpose of knowonder! is to make reading fun. It’s more important for children to learn to love reading at this point than it is for us to play parent and try to teach them through the stories we write. Think about  fables and parables and how relateable they are.

We receive tons of stories about the following things. If you’re going to submit a story about one of these things it better be a really well crafted tale with a plot twist and extremely unique characters:

– A main character who wants to be something else, goes around experimenting and finds out he’s really something special. (This is a great concept, but we’ve already told it a couple of different ways on knowonder!)

– Grandchildren and grandparents– many times the grandparents are in nursing homes and the grandchild is going for a visit. Sometimes the grandparent reminisces. This is not a children’s story. It is a memory.

– Stories telling the events of the past– Many of these stories read like a relaying of events, not a tale about a child. If the story is set in the past, tell it from the child’s viewpoint, and don’t relay it as events that happened to the child. Make it a story the child was involved in. Rather than saying, “When my grandpa was young he lived through the depression,” put that young man on the street collecting scrap metal, or quitting school to work at age 9. “Danny walked along the hard pavement, his sun-burned toes poked through what was left of his shoes. Out of the corner of his eye he got a glimpse of Mrs. Tennenbaum, his 4th grade teacher, coming out of the Five and Dime. Danny ducked behind some trashcans…”

-Stories about tag-along siblings. We are not against these stories at all, we just receive too many of them. If you read all of our stories you’ll see we’ve already published several, so we would rather have something completely different.

– Action is important. Stories about kids sitting around talking together or talking with adults are VERY difficult to make fun. Action lends well toward plot. Plot out a good tale including a lot of action, and you’ll engage your listeners. Readers will be able to do something with the action too, thus making the reading itself and the story more fun.

– First and foremost, read knowonder! For a start–read the following stories–they’ll give you some idea of what we’re looking for: (Read the rest of the guidelines first, and as an exercise go back and  look for each element in these stories).

Editor’s favorites and why–
Dirty Bear,” by Rebecca Colby–Written in a narrative style, this tale of teddy bear bathing woe has rhythm, just the right amount of dialogue that adds to the foreword movement of the plot, and allows us to hear the voices of the characters, repetition, and the rule of three. She also uses alliteration and onomatopoeia but neither is overused. Any child who closes her eyes and listens as this story is read aloud will be able to picture Dirty Bear in his attempts to avoid bathing.

There’s a Dragon in the Library,” by Nancy Kopp– The first few paragraphs of this well woven lizardly librarian tale are examples of exactly what we’re looking for when we say narrative style. Nancy describes the scene and pulls the listener right in. Then she goes forth and develops the characters well. We can see Mrs. Philpot changing from dragon to librarian to cat. We can hear Wilhemina’s angst coming through her voice in the dialogue and through well written tag-lines and further description of her character. Study this one for plot development, imagery, and word use. Also, look for clues that tie Mrs. Philpot’s character to the cat and the dragon. This is one that I worked on with Nancy and asked for revisions. In the original Wilhemina was more passive. Nancy added tag-lines and dialogue to show her spunkiness. She also added details about the dragon and the cat so we could see that they were, in fact, Mrs. Philpot.

The Monkey and the Popcorn,” by John Troskie — This entire story is written as narrative prose. The reader can emphasize each action the monkey takes as he goes on an adventure and pops popcorn all over the kitchen. As I read this story out loud I can find myself engaging with the children I’m reading to. They engage with the mischievous monkey; they know it’s popcorn from the beginning, so they have a secret that he gets to discover. This is a very clever story, and you’ll notice there’s practically no dialogue.

The Cow Milker,” by Hannah Howard–Excellent example of narrative prose. This makes a great read-aloud story! Hannah’s words and sentences flow together well as she takes her reader on a journey with Raina. Dialogue moves the story forward and does not bog us down. Perhaps the ending is a bit predictable, but that’s okay, it’s still a great ending. Children will be thrilled when their prediction comes true, that John is really the prince and Raina gets to marry him. Pay close attention to the first few paragraphs for a good look at narrative prose. We want more prose than dialogue in our read-alouds at knowonder!

Granny Gertie’s Wish List,”by Dulcinea Norton-Smith– Adventure, alliteration, and talk about breaking the sterotype! I wish I was as active of a grandmom as Granny Gertie! Read this story out loud! Kids will have so much fun listening as the reader tries to flip this tale off their twisted tongues! Also, not only is Granny Gertie adventurous, but she inspires her granddaughter to face her fears and go on some adventures of her own. This is an editor’s favorite pick for plot, character development, use of literary device, and just pure fun!

CHOMP! CHOMP! CHOMP!” by Kevin Doyle– As soon as we received this submission, we were inspired by the clever characterization, rhythmic style, and fun plot. Kevin uses literary devices well, alliteration, onomatopoeia, and imagery. Our only note about this story is that it lends well toward a picture book. The first person narrative and repetitive nature of many of the lines would work well as a picture book. But we’d like to use it as an example here of some really great writing, character development, plot, adventure, and literary device usage. Kevin describes the scenes well enough that images are painted in the mind of the child without pictures. This story inspired us to have a Crocodragonasaur drawing contest.

The Princess the Dragon and the Brave Knight,” by Lance O. Redding– This story is a fun twist to the tale of the brave knight, the dragon, and the princess. Something to notice is we here at knowonder! are perfectly fine with the author/narrator talking to the audience. Unlike any other venue for magazine or book publishing, since we are focusing on read-alouds we are fine with this style. As I read stories aloud to children or sit in the hallway and make them up, I will pause and have conversations with the child. So, having some of that written into the story is perfectly fine. It can add a bit of humor and is reminiscent of The Princess Bride by William Golding. If you haven’t read this amazing book, please do! It’s one of my favorite books and my most favorite movie of all time! Every line is funny! But my point is that the premise is a grandfather is
reading to his grandson. The grandson is of course bored and wants to see pictures! But this is a read-aloud. The narrator steps into the character of the grandfather every once in a while to field questions and comments from the grandson. “The Princess the Dragon and the Knight,” incorporates some of this same style of writing. When you write for knowonder! write with the idea of actually reading aloud to a child. No pictures…just amazing images like in “The Princess the Dragon and the Knight.”

Blast Off,” by Kai Strand– Kai takes us for an extremely unique look at life on the moon. She describes the moon creatures with detail and writes in an excellent narrative style. We can see the details of the moon craters, moon creatures, and the strange something that lands while the creature children are playing hide-n-go-seek on the moon. This gets top billing with the editors because of it’s original and imaginative nature. It is of course written in first person, but could easily be re-written in 3rd person with more of Kai’s great narrative description and still allow for great character development.

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