Submission Guidelines

St. Mary’s Messenger is a new magazine for Catholic kids, especially kids between seven to twelve. Thank you for choosing to share your work with us and our readers. Here you’ll find guidelines for submitting your writing and artwork. We really appreciate that you’re taking a look at this before firing something our way.

The short negative

So, we’re a Catholic magazine. We don’t want every article to be explicitly religious, of course, nor do you have to be a Catholic to share your work. But any piece that’s really inconsistent with a Catholic worldview will find our desk only another sad detour on the long road to publication.

The longer positive

That being said, we’re excited to see your work. We’re looking for:

  • Nonfiction articles
  • Short fiction stories
  • Poems, especially funny poems
  • Puzzles, games, activities
  • Ideas for crafts, projects, activities, recipes
  • Artwork
  • Anything else you can think of that a kid might enjoy

Not every piece needs to be religious. That’s worth repeating. Not every piece needs to be religious. Sure, we’re excited to teach about the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit; about the Jewish maiden whom Jesus made His mother, and then Queen of the universe; about the motley crowd through the centuries whom God has fired into saints; about the supernatural beings that throb through every bedroom, school room, office, and minivan, and are casually designated “guardian angels”. Yes, we hope to cover all this, and more.

But a magazine is not a catechism. The life of a Catholic kid is largely like that of any other kid. Although as parents we do have to deny our kids some things their peers are getting, our main theme isn’t denial, but a wider world. Our kids get to know about Heaven and about God sitting in a golden box down the street, but this is in addition to knowing about dinosaurs, playing the piano, basketball and George Washington. It’s all the same cosmos, and the same Creator.

So, in a culture temporarily transfixed on the Separation of Church and Everything Else, we hope not to give in to that temptation. Let’s help heal the current breach between God and His creation. It’s an ongoing project, but it got a real boost with the Incarnation.

So our tastes are “Catholic”; anything interesting to kids will interest us.

Our allergies

Every editor, like any reader, has particular allergies. To save you time and heartache, here are some of ours:

Spelling errors, grammatical errors, too much flab

This should go without saying. (Not that we claim total innocence of flabby writing ourselves.)

Most children’s stories about saints

Fiction about historical figures is always hard. Fiction for children about historical figures is particularly difficult, as people like Shakespeare are forced to express themselves at a 2nd grade reading level. Fiction for children about historical figures who were also saints seems to be nearly impossible. Apparently there’s something horribly combustible about mixing the current conventions of child-level dialogue and the desire for “realistic” details with the inherent difficulty of imagining the actual personality of a saint.

Similarly, a retelling of a Bible story will have to compete with the simple, beautiful language of most of the Bible itself.

So be forewarned.

Still, one notable exception that comes to mind are the books by Tomie de Paola. Even he sometimes adds a bit of annoying embroidery, but in general, his saint books are marked by a respectful adherence to the known facts, and a simple voice free of pious pedantry. He tells real stories, they just happen to be about people who loved Jesus.

Substituting piety for the craft of writing

As Flannery O’Connor writes in “The Church and the Fiction Writer”:

When people have told me that because I am a Catholic, I cannot be an artist, I have had to reply, ruefully, that because I am a Catholic I cannot afford to be less than an artist.

We agree. Unlike O’Connor, we’re not there yet ourselves, but that’s the goal. And we’re hoping you’ll do better than we do, so we can feature you instead.

Miserable writers

If you’re unhappy, please do not write for children. Plenty of people are waiting in line to tell kids that Catholics say God is a tyrant eager to doom them to hell. Don’t expect us to confirm this slander, even by our tone.

So what do we want?

Whatever you love to write, and to work on till you get it right.

Most likely, dear writer or artist, you have felt all these editorial arrows whiz past you on either side. We need to put all this here for those few who need it, but if all along you’ve cheerfully cherished your idea for an article, an illustration, a story, a puzzle, then we’ll be delighted to see your work.

Further ideas

Looking for more ideas? How about:

  • Fairy tales, adventures, mysteries …
  • Nonfiction biographies of saints, historical figures, or Catholic leaders in today’s world, e.g. teachers, artists, actors, politicians …
  • Personal stories from kids, their families, or teachers, especially about works of mercy, or helping other kids live their faith.
  • Simple, “non-preachy” articles about individuals who exemplify humility, Christ’s love, and other virtues.
  • Articles about fun, interesting things that kids are doing in their homes, churches, communities and schools, e.g., learning to milk a cow, science projects, inventions, traveling, hobbies, interests …
  • Traditions: articles about Catholic traditions in different cultures, rites and countries, e.g., Easter baskets in the Byzantine Church, or Christmas traditions in Poland or India or Madagascar. Or unique ways that we celebrate feast days in our own homes: fun ideas for patron saint days, All Saints, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Mary’s feasts …
  • Interviews or profiles of Catholics who are famous or well known but also live their faith.
  • Crafts, projects, activities, recipes: anything fun and simple and appropriate for ages seven to twelve, especially ideas that reinforce a Church teaching, feast time, or devotion, or cultural holiday. (See seasonal theme list below.)

Schedule/Seasonal Theme List

Response times

We respond to queries within one to two weeks , all other submissions within two to four weeks. Please give us four weeks before contacting us regarding your submission, but then feel free to remind us if you haven’t heard anything.

For the print magazine, we require several months of lead time. If your piece is seasonal, please consult the schedule below before sending. If not, this chart will show the earliest date that your piece may appear, based on when you submit.

Your piece will probably need at least minor revisions, so the second column indicates the latest that the final will need to be ready. If possible, we will give you suggestions; at a minimum, we’ll make changes and then ask for your approval, which we’ll need by that “Revise by date”. If we don’t hear back from you by that revise date, we’ll either edit at will or hold the piece for later.


Theme       Submit by   Revise by  Published
--------------------------------------------

Easter      Nov 1       Dec 1      Mar 
Summer*     Feb 1       Mar 1      Jun 
Fall        May 1       Jun 1      Sep 
Christmas   Aug 1       Sep 1      Dec 

NOTE: Due to our busy schedule this first year, there will be no summer issue in 2009 Our first issue was Easter 2009; our next issue this year will be the Fall issue. Beginning in 2010, we expect a normal quarterly schedule.

Online Articles:

Every month, we post new material to our website. Here are some possible themes, but, as you know from the “further ideas” above, you’re by no means limited to these themes. We’re always looking for “evergreen” pieces, which can appear in any month.


Seasonal Themes                      Submit   Revise   Published
----------------------------------------------------------------

Our Lady, New Year                   Nov 1    Dec 1    Jan 1
Lent, St. Valentine                  Dec 1    Jan 1    Feb 1
Lent, St. Patrick, St. Joseph        Jan 1    Feb 1    Mar 1
Easter, Spring                       Feb 1    Mar 1    Apr 1
Our Lady, First Communion            Mar 1    Apr 1    May 1
Corpus Christi, 
  Sacred & Immaculate Hearts     Apr 1    May 1    Jun 1
Independence Day, Summer             May 1    Jun 1    Jul 1
Assumption                           Jun 1    Jul 1    Aug 1
Birth of Mary, Fall                  Jul 1    Aug 1    Sep 1
St. Francis of Assisi                Aug 1    Sep 1    Oct 1
All Saints, All Souls, Thanksgiving  Sep 1    Oct 1    Nov 1
Advent, Christmas, Winter            Oct 1    Nov 1    Dec 1

Going beyond the above, a nonfiction article on a saint, feast day, or historical figure or event is always a good idea, but please submit according to the above schedule, so that your piece could appear near subject’s feast day, birthday, day of death, or historical date.

Length

Queries are wonderful, for nonfiction. (For fiction, please don’t query your story, just send it.) Queries should be about a page, or 300 words. We aren’t snooty about requiring published clips, but it will help to see some sample of your work, even another article you haven’t placed yet. Remember, we reply to queries much faster than full submissions.

We invite illustrators to email us one or two samples of your work (files under 1MB each), and a link to your portfolio. Then we can keep you on file if we have any ideas. Of course, you can submit artwork for our consideration, if you like.

Articles: Short articles of 300 words or so are easier to place, but a feature article can be up to 900 words.

Stories for the seven to twelve age group should hover around 700 words. The upper limit is probably 900 words If you have a shorter story for younger kids, we’ll be glad to see that too.

Speaking from experience, here’s one approach: take 1200 words as your upper limit, and hack the story down until it’s nearly unrecognizable. Wait a week, then trim it to 700. If the story survives, it’ll be excellent.

Are simultaneous submissions okay?

Sure, as long as you say so.

Do you need to send a cover letter?

No, for now, just your email address, name, and mailing address will do. Please do not send your Social Security Number; we think it’s ridiculous for editors to ask this of every submission, especially over email. Of course, if you want to send a cover letter, please do. But life is short, and so are submissions to this magazine. 🙂

Submission Format

is up to you. If possible, please email your file (see email address below).

We can pry open just about any file format, but if possible, please save your file in Rich Text Format (RTF extension). This file format is not proprietary, and can be read in almost any word processing program.

Actually, our first choice is plain text, using underscores or asterisks to indicate emphasis. You get extra points for plain text.

Please attach photos/artwork as separate files, not embedded in your article.

Artwork for the web must be at least 72dpi, but for the print magazine it must be 300dpi. We prefer the TIFF image format. Naturally, we can only use images that are your own work, public domain, or freely licensed.

Send to:

submissions@stmarysmessenger.com

or include a SASE (self-addressed and stamped envelope) and mail to:

St. Mary's Messenger
Attn: Kris Weipert
310 Birch Street
Green River, WY  82935

If your postage is not sufficient for your piece, you will receive only an acceptance or rejection slip. Please do not ship us originals, especially of artwork! We can always get the original later if we need it.

You may skip the SASE, if you provide your email address so we can contact you. If you don’t include your email address or a SASE, we won’t be able to contact you.

Payment

Payment, yes. Well. With regards to funding, St Mary’s is still in the “literary magazine” stage, which is a fancy way of saying that we currently offer “honorariums”, rather than the going rates. When we find good advertisers consistent with our mission, we hope to offer payment appropriate to the work that it takes to craft good writing and good art.

That means for now, we can’t pay for work that appears online . We know it takes just as long to write a good story that appears online, but we want to offer the site for free, and we don’t yet have either the advertising or the donations to pay for this content other than in satisfaction for you and publicity for your work.

For the print magazine, we can offer:

  • $25 to $100 for an article or story.
  • $200 for full-page black and white art, including “hidden treasures” illustrations.
  • $300 for full-page color art.
  • $50 to $75 for smaller spot art.
  • $10 for a photo that’s your own work

Licensing

Certainly, you keep the copyright to your work. We ask for nonexclusive first serial and/or reprint rights, both in print and online.

We encourage you to consider an alternative license that distributes more rights to the reader, e.g., the Creative Commons License. You might consider this license: Attribution, Non-Commercial, No Derivatives (read more).

This license is just what it sounds like: people can share your work, but only if they attribute you as author, charge no money, and keep your words/artwork intact. You keep your copyright (e.g., to make money by publication), but your work can spread much more freely. Depending on where you are in your creative career, free publicity may be more important than immediate payment.

Finally,

Thank you

for considering a contribution to St. Mary’s Messenger! We look forward to seeing your work.

Kris Weipert, Chief Editor
Bill Powell, Assistant Editor

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