Reviving Dead Stories to Submit to Magazines

For Kidlit Zombie Week this year, I want to share how I’ve been reviving my old “dead” stories. 

When I started writing for children in 2018, I wrote many stories. I also received lots of helpful feedback from critique partners. Some manuscripts I decided were OK for practice but not good enough to pursue, so I set them aside.

In 2019 I began submitting my work to children’s magazines. (Many children’s authors get their start with magazines, and these publishing credits are helpful to include in query letters.) I revisited one of my early dead-and-buried picture book manuscripts. The story centered around a boy’s interest in sailing and using his imagination. The stakes were not high. For these reasons, I decided Laundry Basket Boat would work better for a children’s magazine than for a picture book. In June of 2019, I submitted this story to Ladybug magazine. They responded with a “revise and resubmit” offer in March of 2020.

I revised, based on the editor’s stellar suggestions and with the help of my critique groups. My original title was Laundry Basket Boat. After making the suggested changes on the story, I renamed it Gavin Sets Sail. The story was accepted for publication soon after I resubmitted. I’m delighted to share that this story will be published in the July/August issue of Ladybug magazine–my first published story! 

I’ve since dug up many of my older picture book manuscripts and revived them based on the specifications of children’s magazines. Highlights High Five is a magazine that my children and I love. We look forward to reading it every month and often reread old issues.

Stories submitted to High Five must be 160 words or less and  paced so that they fit on four magazine pages. It’s been a fun challenge to chop up my old manuscripts and tweak them to fit these requirements. One of my stories is about a giraffe who makes several “gaffes” by misunderstanding common idioms. With a little zombie magic, I was able to take this “dead” manuscript and snip it into two snappy, silly magazine stories. One of my writing goals is to be published in High Five, so I’ve submitted many stories to them. Full disclosure: I’ve received many rejections as well. That’s to be expected with magazine submissions, just like any other submissions. My fingers are still crossed that my yes is coming!

https://giphy.com/inkygirl

What about you? Maybe you have stories that started as picture book manuscripts but didn’t go where you wanted them to go or do what you wanted them to do. With a little bit of finagling and finesse, maybe these dead manuscripts can be tweaked and fine-tuned into stories for children’s magazines.

Wondering how a story for a children’s magazine differs from a picture book? Please check out further reading here: 

Picture Book Ideas: Picture Book or Short Story? by Mary Kole

Magazine Article vs. Picture Book by Rob Sanders

If you haven’t yet, consider trying Submittable to submit to Cricket Media and/or Highlights magazines (in the future as they’re closed right now.) 

How’s your Kidlit Zombie Week going? Do you have any zombie manuscripts that could be revived to submit to children’s magazines? Did you attend last night’s #KidlitZombieWeek pitch practice on Zoom? If so, how did it go? Please feel free to comment below and to join the conversation on Twitter today (6/17/21).

Thanks for joining us for Kidlit Zombie Week and thanks for reading!

Mer-zombie art by Kristin Wauson, all GIFs by Debbie Ridpath Ohi via GIPHY

Published by Sarah Meade

Children's Writer

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45 Comments

  1. Reading this reminded me that on one of my stories I’ve gotten feedback from several different critique partners saying it would be better suited for a magazine. Now I can’t remember which story it was! I will have to go back and look and give it a shot. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great post! Thank you so much for sharing, Sarah! I love how you always find a way to let your stories shine – even if it’s differently than you originally intended. And I love how stories can surprise us like that. Can’t wait to read your story in Highlights!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I love High 5. too. Been to a Highlights workshop and we got to see where all that magic happens with their magazines. I’ve been twitter pitching for a few years, but last night’s #KidlitZombieWeek pitch practice on Zoom and Kate’s fab preso taught me some new tricks, especially for NF. Can’t wait for Gavin Sets Sail. Congrats.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. What an excellent blog post, Sarah! You are so resilient in this industry, and you’ve come up with a brilliant way to revive some of your old PB manuscripts. I can’t wait to see “Gavin Sets Sail” in print!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Maryna! I really push myself to brush off the rejections, but, as you know, sometimes they can be very disheartening. Having great writer friends like you helps a lot! Thanks for all your support and encouragement.

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  5. Congratulations Sarah! I recently submitted to High Five, just got my rejection letter this morning and assumed that was it, but I love your positive upbeat attitude. You’ve inspired me to keep submitting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Karen! Yes, I received rejections from them yesterday– a total of six. Ouch. But that’s par for the course, and I turned around and sent those stories off to another magazine today. I’m sorry to hear about your rejection. I hope you keep submitting! Thanks for reading, commenting, and joining us for #KidLitZombieWeek!

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  6. Terrific post Sarah! Thank you for the links to help us re-think our pb mss. Children’s magazines are such fun to read. You’ve given me a new path to explore!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love this post! Yes, it’s a great to give new life to a story that’s not quite right for a PB. I can’t wait to see your Gavin Sets Sail story!! (I also credit all those magazine rejections with helping me develop that thick thick skin we writers need.)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Awesome!! Thank you for sharing those resources and your journey!

    The pitch event last night was awesome. I do have a few stories I need to consider magazine vs. PB for. My current zombie story is def a PB, but I do have some that might be more fitting for a magazine. Thanks for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks, Sarah! I’ve never considered this before. Thanks for the idea and inspiration to look through my zombies for magazine stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for this, Sarah! Now I know just what to do with one of my pb’s that I’ve never submitted anywhere b/c it has always felt more like a short story.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you for yet another nudge to follow through. I submitted one, single, line story to a magazine. Once! I obviously need to get back on that path. First, however, I will look into those articles you linked. #KidLitZombieWeek strikes again!

    Liked by 1 person

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