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  • Writer's pictureSusan Koehler

If You Want to be a Writer....Advice for Young Authors Who Want to be Published

As a teacher of writing, I have the pleasure of working with young authors who have talent, originality, and ambition. However, their fan base generally resides within the walls of our classroom. If you are a young author, and you would like to take your writing to the next level, this post is for you. Read the advice and check out the list of publications and contests. Take a step toward seeing your work in print!

If you want to be a writer, write every day. Successful authors don’t just write when inspiration strikes. They have a schedule. They sit down and do the work every day. Some days, it’s great; some days, it’s not. But every day, they do the work. You might begin with just 15 minutes a day, but if you stick to it, you will quickly see how this discipline pays off. And most likely, that 15 minutes will soon stretch itself into longer and longer increments of time.

If you want to be a writer, submit your work. Search for contests and publications that accept your genre and age group. Read their submission guidelines and follow them carefully. Sometimes submissions have word or page limits. Sometimes they should be submitted via email, or other times hard copies must be submitted via snail mail. Some contests and publishers accept “simultaneous submissions,” meaning you can submit your work to multiple places at the same time, but others do not. Remember, if you are a minor, you MUST search and submit under the guidance and permission of a parent or guardian.

If you want to be a writer, learn to persist. Nearly every famous author you can name has a story of multiple rejections prior to their eventual success.1 Dr. Seuss, J.K. Rowling, Beatrix Potter, Madeleine L’Engle, Agatha Christie, Stephen King.... The list goes on and on. The common quality they share is that they persisted until they found success. If you receive a rejection, examine your work, make adjustments, and find a new place to submit. If you receive feedback along with a rejection, accept it as a gift. This type of feedback will help you refine and improve your work, or it might make you all the more committed to your original style and ideas. Either way, keep an open mind and be grateful someone took the time to provide feedback.

If you want to be a writer, check out this list of publications and contests that accept work from young authors. Read the description and age limits and find a place to begin. Each time you submit your work, you are learning more about the process of becoming an author. If your work is accepted, celebrate! You will be a published author! If your work is rejected, just remember that rejection is part of the process. Your job, if you want to be a writer, is to persist.

Publications that accept work from young authors:

The Blue Pencil (ages 12-18)

The Blue Pencil is an online literary magazine published by The Walnut Hill School for the Arts. Calls for submissions are posted periodically and are open to teenagers all over the world.

Canvas (ages 13-18)

Canvas is a quarterly literary journal created “for teens, by teens.” You can subscribe to read the work of your contemporaries, and you can submit your writing and/or artwork for consideration. Canvas publishes many different genres of writing, including fiction, nonfiction, novel excerpts, poetry, and plays.

Chautauqua (grades 6-12)

Chautauqua is an annual literary journal accepting poetry, short stories, essays, and flash fiction that represent the values of the Chautauqua Institute: “a sense of inquiry into questions of personal, social, political, spiritual, and aesthetic importance—and when, where, and how those values and questions intersect.”

Writers in middle and high school can submit poetry, short stories, essays, and flash fiction.

Cricket Mag (ages 14 and up)

Cricket Magazine has been around for a long time. They offer themed contests where children ages 14 and up can submit stories, poems, essays, and artwork.

You can check out some samples online, or you can subscribe for print issues and comprehensive digital access.

Launch Pad: Where Young Authors Take Off! (ages 6-14)

Launchpad publishes fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and artwork in a digital format. According to their submissions link, the publication is currently on hiatus. However, the site offers easy access to the work of your peers, which is always good to explore.

New Moon Girls (girls ages 8 and up)

New Moon Girls, as the name suggests, is aimed at publishing work by female authors ages 8 and up. Additionally, the site offers a supportive, ad-free, online community for girls. Each issue is themed, so pay attention to upcoming themes before you submit your work.

Polyphony Lit (grades 9-12)

Polyphony Lit is “a student-run, international literary magazine for high school writers and editors.” You can hone your craft through various workshop offerings, submit your work for consideration, and purchase copies of their very compelling publications.

Stone Soup (13 and younger)

Stone Soup is a literary magazine that’s been publishing student compositions for decades. You can subscribe to Stone Soup in digital and/or print format to read the work of your contemporaries and support this worthy publication, and you can submit your own work for consideration.

Teen Ink (ages 13-19)

Teen Ink is a “national teen magazine, book series, and website devoted entirely to teenage writing, art, photos, and forums.” The publication depends entirely on teen authors and illustrators for content. Visit their site to check out the work of your peers, subscribe to their print version, receive writing tips and take online writing classes, or register and submit your work.

Additional links to publications seeking work by young authors can be found at:

Contests that accept submissions from young authors:

The Carl Sandburg Student Poetry Contest is an annual competition for poets in grades 3-12. The contest theme is announced each December, and submissions are due in February. Categories are grades 3-5; grades 6-8; grades 9-12.

The National PTA Reflections Awards are granted each year for all kinds of creative submissions, including literature. Students from PreK-grade 12 are invited to submit work that reflects the annual theme of the contest.

The NCTE Promising Young Writers Program is an annual contest limited to eighth grade writers. Teachers must be involved in the submission process.

River of Words is “a program of The Center for Environmental Literacy and a part of the Kalmanovitz School of Education.” Each year, they sponsor a youth poetry and art contest for writers ages 5-19.

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards is an annual contest open to students in grades 7-12 (minimum age 13). Prizes are awarded at both regional and national levels. Guidelines and deadlines vary based on regions.

Now, get busy writing! Finish your work. Revise it. Share it with a trusted critique partner or group. Revise it again. And again. Submit it. And if you don’t win the contest, or if you receive a rejection, then you know what to do. If you want to be a writer, you must persist!

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