Thursday, May 28, 2009

Editor - Joelle Dujardin

Post Western Washington SCBWI Spring Conference 2009:

These notes are blurbs of information I picked-up from attending sessions from this editor.

There are a number of good interviews on the web with various editors from Highlights magazine, not to mention all the great information on submissions they put on their website, so I won't go into detail on those subjects. The focus here is on Joelle's preferences and thoughts and anything that I have not heard or read before, or gives an inside scoop on Highlights.

Joelle is Associate Editor at Highlights magazine, one of the best markets to try and place short works. After beginning her publishing career at Henry Holt and Company, she spent several years at Carus Publishing in both the Cricket Books and non-fiction magazines arena, before being moving to Highlights in late 2004. She edits fiction for independent readers, nonfiction for beginning readers, and verse.

At Highlights, they run manuscripts through ALL of the editors for comment, and (as is our entire industry) it is subjective. You may pass the same work before one editor at two different times and get differing opinions each time.

In Joelle's opinion, Highlights' intent is to be "not opposed to change, but not spear-heading it."

Reading the reader's mail part of the magazine will give you a lot of insight into the readers that Highlights serves.

Highlights buys all rights, but it is the Highlights custom (NOT expressed in contracts) to share rights with the author if they re-sell a piece to another market, like foreign rights. The split is generally 50%. Some authors have even made more money on pieces that Highlights re-sold multiple times than on a published book!

Highlights does a lot of non-fiction by subject matter experts, but they also do take works from people who interview the subject matter experts and write a great article. They like to see full back-up- get the experts to read and approve your article before sending it in. Also, it is a good idea to include ideas and material for sidebars or other angles kids can get out of the article. Kids want things that are relevant and usable. Make sure you give information organically, without a lot of exposition.

Highlights tends to avoid personifying animals or using their POV in non-fiction.

With science articles, they like to portray science as a self-correcting process, not just a body of facts. It is okay to show that we do not have all the answers, and that it is a learning process.

Highlights refers to their younger fiction as "Thirteen-point fiction", due to the type size they use for those pieces. Topics should not be too babyish , as they still have to please older readers (up to twelve years old).

In fiction submissions, Highlights likes to see all genres represented. Via the 2008 Highlights Fiction Contest, they discovered that sci-fi is a comfortable fit for Highlights. They are trying to branch-out and go for more variety, beyond "typical Highlights" stuff.

In the magazine, there are some mixed piece pages- even if something does not show a by-line, that does not preclude that type of material from being open to submission.

For fiction, Joelle personally likes it to bring her to another place, and she would rather see too much than too little in terms of variety of submissions. Leaving a story synopsis ending hanging in your cover letter is okay with her (not required or preferred, just okay if that is the way you want to write it), since she generally skims the cover letter and looks directly at the story.

Submissions are by snail-mail, but Joelle usually asks for revisions via e-mail.

Next time: Connie Hsu

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