Equipping Writers for Success
The Writing Life
The Writing Life
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by Kathryn Lay
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Thank you for writing the story "Competition." My best friend and I compete about everything. We always fight when we do. We read your story and it reminded us that we've been friends too long to fight over winning.
Notes such as the above from teen readers are one of the many reasons I enjoy writing for the teen religious market.
Short stories for this market draw on feelings, issues, and conflicts between peers and family. They present stories where teens discover ways to handle tough topics such as drinking, stealing, lying, mistreating others, learning to love the unlovable, etc. And yet, the stories must be strong with a spiritual message, without beating the readers over the head.
There are many religious publications for teens and preteens including such slick magazines as Guideposts for Teens, Brio, and Breakaway. The largest market for teen fiction is in the Sunday School take-home papers published weekly. These include Teen Power, Encounter, On the Line, and Insight.
Articles and short stories for those magazines generally run from 800-1500 words, more or less, with around 1200 being the average. Because the take-home papers are weekly, they require a lot of fiction and nonfiction each year. This provides a great opportunity for writers who enjoy writing for teens, respect them, and hope to give them motivating, challenging, and entertaining stories.
Although fiction is popular, there is a growing trend in such publications toward more nonfiction. Profiles of teens helping others is always welcome.
One of the exciting perks about writing for the take-home papers is that many purchase one-time rights. You can immediately resell the same story to another, non-competing teen magazine that purchases one-time or reprint rights. Because of the many who purchase these rights, stories sold for first time rights have opportunities to many more sells.
Non-competing magazines means that you would not sell the same story to two different teen publications published by a Methodist market or two Baptist publications. But the same story might sell to Methodist, Nazarene, Assembly of God, Methodist, and non-denominational take-home papers.
When writing for teen religious magazines, it is imperative to send for guidelines and/or theme lists, especially if it is a denomination you are unfamiliar with their beliefs and taboos. For example, many publications, while welcoming and needing holiday stories, will not purchase stories concerning Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or Halloween.
You do not have to be "super-spiritual" to write for religious teen magazines or preach a sermon. To the contrary, although some publications want strong religious stories, editors are often looking for everyday problems that the main character can solve through spiritual guidance. Finding ideas for stories and articles for these publications is the same as finding ideas for other teen magazines in that teens all encounter the same emotions, fears, struggles, and temptations. There must also be a take-away theme or message that is based on a belief or relationships with God.
Two of the stories I sold were the result of one nonfiction article. The article spoke of how to deal with teens who focused on things 'material.' It also talked about how teens can be competitive in this area. With the idea of materialism and competition in mind, the short stories "Ryans Reeboks" and "Competition" were written and sold, then sold again and again. Both stories sold the first time out. My characters grew and changed on their own, without parental influence and without being preached at, but by their convictions about what they learned in church settings.
Ideas have come from my own past. Fear of the first day in high school. A boyfriend who drowned and the friend whose life was changed as a result. Broken friendships. Dealing with anger. In other words, stories all teens relate to, yet stories that carried a theme or belief in living a meaningful and spiritual life. Writing for the teen religious market is satisfying, builds up credits, and can be financially and emotionally rewarding.
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.
Kathryn Lay has had over 1000 articles, essays, and short stories published in magazines and anthologies such as Woman's Day, Cricket, Guideposts, CHICKEN SOUP, and more. Her first children's novel for ages 8-12, CROWN ME! is out from Holiday House Books. She is also the author of The Organized Writer is a Selling Writer, which can be purchased through her website at http://www.kathrynlay.com.