Friday, September 18, 2009

Twenty Years, Twenty Plus Stories

"Just Kidding," the lead story in this month's issue of Pockets® magazine for children, a publication of Upper Room Ministries, is by yours truly and marks twenty years since my first children's story was published -- also in Pockets®.

I can still feel the envelope in my hand. Not thick with a returned manuscript of several pages, but thin.

I can still remember reading the letter advising me that a story I had submitted to Pockets® magazine for children had been accepted for publication. Sign the enclose contract card, the letter said, return it, and they would send me a check. Not at publication, but now.

I can still remember thinking, "Maybe I really can can be a real writer."

Since then I've had more than two dozen children's stories published, most in Pockets® and a few in other magazines. The first dozen appeared between March 1989 and October 1991, and were written while I worked with my husband in a construction business we owned.

Then we closed the business, I went to work elsewhere full-time, our three sons hit their teens, and our parents' health began to fail. Writing children's stories went by the wayside.

Writing didn't, however. I wrote/edited a weekly newsletter at work for seven years, discovered drama, and wrote vignettes and plays for church programs.

As I neared age 50, I decided it was now or never if I was going to be "a real writer." I quit my job, went back to school, and went back to writing. I sold some of my dramas to CSS Publishing and began writing for a local newspaper. My second round of children's stories began appearing in 2003, exclusively in Pockets®.

Why Pockets®?

Because they take children seriously. They take God seriously. And they take their publication seriously, meaning the stories are well-written, the illustrations and graphics are top-notch, and the magazine is full of thoughtfully planned content.

There is very little that is "cute" in Pockets®. God is not "sweet."

Instead, Pockets® presumes that children face the same questions we all face: Why am I here? How can I get through today without messing up? What's in it for me? Does God really care about me -- even when life doesn't go the way I think it should?

Pockets® presumes children are spiritual creatures, as well, who talk to God and who listen for God to talk to them.

I deliberately targeted Pockets® magazine for children when I started writing children's stories. Over the years, I have written about:
  • a child who has to repeat fourth grade because of a learning disability
  • a girl who has her head "in a bait bucket," as her older brother says, because she's so focused on a Saturday fishing trip she misses the things that happen "this day"
  • a child with a rambunctious dog
  • a boy who realizes that, if Jesus needed a step-father, maybe it's OK for him to have one, too
  • an immigrant girl whose brother died during a war
  • a boy who doesn't know how to pray for his very ill coach
  • a boy who wonders if God watches TV
  • a child with an alcoholic mother
  • a boy falsely accused of stealing something
  • a child who grumbles that God mustn't want us to have any fun because there are so many rules--things like never cut another kid's hair and never throw food in the cafeteria
  • a child in a group foster home who wonders whether God knows he's there
  • a child who thinks "just kidding" is a good enough excuse to cause mischief
  • a child whose best friend steals something from him
Real children, real world, real God.

It's been a privilege to be a real writer.

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