~ Turtles ~

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How A Story Is Written

So You Want To Be A Writer?

So, you want to be a writer? But, how to get started? When I first started writing for Boys' Quest and Hopscotch magazines, I looked at their theme lists. Going down the list, I asked myself, “What do I know about each subject?” Aha! Turtles was on the list! I knew a few things about turtles since I'd had them for pets when I was a child.

I'd recently experienced an alligator turtle encounter. Visiting a friend's farm to check out her new barn, we crossed a small bridge over the pond. I spotted something in the water that looked like a prehistoric creature lounging on the rocks. The water in that area was fed by a natural spring and wasn't as cloudy as the deeper water farther out. I asked, “What in the world is that?”

My friend yelled, “That's an alligator turtle! Keep your eye on the rascal until I can go get a garbage can to catch him. They eat all of the fish and we need to get him out of there and relocate him.” She ran to the barn.

I kept my eye on the culprit. He looked scary, but turtles were harmless enough, right? I'd been swimming with gigantic turtles off the island of Maui in the Hawaiian islands and had a wonderful experience. They didn't mind if I shared their underwater space. They were huge and could have taken a chunk out of me if they had so wished. But the creature in the pond was different. He had a nasty temper. I was soon to find out why he was called “alligator” turtle. When we tried to scoop him into the garbage can, he was a vicious fighter. It took what seemed like forever for us to corral him into the plastic can. He hissed and struck out at everything with his sharp beak, just like an alligator with large jaws. Scary creature from the lagoon indeed, one reason why I would never swim in a pond!

So, when I saw “turtles” on the Boys' Quest theme list, I decided I would do some research on the critters. Was there really a difference between a tortoise, a terrapin, and a turtle? My story then tumbled out in rhyme. Editors will tell you not to write in rhyme unless you're a professional poet. It's harder to make the ideas work and keep to a perfect rhyme. If you feel like writing in rhyme, though, give it a try. You can always go back to prose if the rhyme doesn't work out. It's easier to remember stories if they're written in rhyme, and plenty of stories are still published using this form of storytelling.

Another hint: You also increase your chances of selling your tales if you have good clear pictures to accompany them. Publishers sometimes pay extra for the pictures. Carry a camera with you at all times. You never know when you might see something of interest. The small digital cameras now make it easy to snap shots and you can delete if you don't like what you've taken. Then, when you're bombarded with an idea for a story, go to your photo file and see if you have something on the subject. For this particular story, "Turtles Wearing Girdles," I sent in the manuscript without a picture and the editor still bought it. The publishing company had an illustrator, an artist who draws pictures for written stories, draw pictures of the different turtles around the printed poem. I especially liked the picture of the turtle with the tape measuring for a girdle and also the alligator-looking turtle. Jane Bodnar did a great job illustrating my story.

So, against all odds, I sold my first story without a picture - written in rhyme - competing against hundreds of other writers who'd sent in manuscripts to these magazines. There's always a chance your story is the one story editors are looking for. If you don't write it and send it in, they can't publish it.

Scroll up or down and click the kids button again to see the other issues where I've published stories. The magazines can be ordered through Boys' Quest or Hopscotch magazines if they are still in stock. I have more tall tales to be published in future issues.

And a nice thing, a few of my stories have been bought the second time, what's known in the publishing world as 2nd serial rights. That means I get paid twice for the same story! Now, that's not bad!

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Email to....:vmoss@livingwaterfiction.com