Offering an acquaintance a ride to a writer’s conference changed the direction of Patti Shene’s life, setting off a chain of events that eventually led to her being named Editor of a new children’s publication.
Now, fully entrenched in her “Divine Detour” as Editor of Starsongs magazine, Patti spends much of her time speaking to school groups, encouraging young writers/photographers/artists and helping them navigate the road to publication.
You are the editor of a new magazine for kids. Please tell us about Starsongs. Is it an online or a print magazine?
Starsongs is one of five magazines slated for publication by Written World Communications. It is a general market magazine for youth ages 9-19 and the majority of contributions will come from youth in that same age group. Our goal is to give voice to the future through the writings, photography, and artwork of today’s youth. Starsongs will also feature a column by an adult writer that will provide advice on some aspect of the craft of writing.
Starsongs will be a downloadable magazine with a limited number of print copies available. Our first edition is due to be launched in September 2010. Our website is in the process of revision, but I would advise readers to check there periodically for updates on the progress of the magazine.
How would young people learn more about writing for Starsongs?
Simply email me at starsongs.mag (at) gmail (dot) com. I will be happy to send guidelines to anyone who requests them.
How did you become involved with Written World Communications? What other magazines do they produce? Are they currently seeking submissions?
Last year, I gave the CEO of Written World Communications, Kristine Pratt, a ride to the Colorado Christian Writers Conference. On the way, she told me about her plans to start her own publishing company. She was mentoring with Jeff Gerke of Marcher Lord Press and Terry Burns of Hartline Literary Agency at the time to learn the business. I expressed an interest in the company at that time.
During the September 2009 ACFW conference, Kristine sent out an email to announce the launching of Written World Communications. I checked out the website, but my name wasn’t on it! I had not heard from Kristine in a while and decided she had found someone else. I was disappointed.
I prayed about it and decided to send Kristine an email of congratulations about the launching of her company and offer any assistance. She wrote back and told me she had been meaning to talk to me for quite some time and very much wanted me to be a part of the company. She asked that I take the position of editor to Starsongs since I have worked with youth.
I learned a lesson through that experience. Sometimes, you need to stand up and wave in front of people to let them know you are interested in a project or opportunity.
The other four magazines Written World Communications plans to publish are Untapped, Harpstring, Other Sheep, and Gambatte!. Untapped is a Christian magazine geared to youth ages 12-19. Harpstring’s mission is to glorify God’s kingdom through inspiring stories that resonate. Other Sheep is based on John 10:16, which speaks of “other sheep not of this sheep pen” and addresses those Christians who demonstrate their faith in new and exciting ways. Gambatte! is a magazine for anime/manga fans.
All of theses magazines are currently seeking submissions. Go to www.writtenworldcommunications.com for guidelines. Again, the website is in revision, so if you don’t find what you need, check back in a few days or send an email with questions.
How did you become interested in helping young people develop their writing talents?
I think that interest stems from my work with youth at Colorado Boys Ranch YouthConnect. As an RN formerly employed by that residential childcare facility, I dealt with many young people who had so many deep feelings. Some of them expressed their thoughts, their hurts, and their fears through the written word.
Young people today have a great deal on their plate. They are pulled in every direction through peer pressure, stress to achieve in academics and sports or other extracurricular activities, parental tension during the economic downturn, and values that seem to be constantly changing. Our society, unfortunately, appears to place less and less emphasis on the safety, well-being, and welfare of our young people. They are tossed about in a sea of uncertainty, grasping for a slippery dock that provides little support, and gazing toward a lighthouse whose brilliance shines dimmer and dimmer in the dense fog of apathy.
I believe if young people are encouraged to express their thoughts through writing, then we as adults are able to understand more clearly how they perceive themselves, the world, and their future. Through that understanding, we can guide them in the direction that will provide a firm foundation to build a strong value system that will sustain them through the trials of adulthood.
I understand you also speak at schools. Do you find that a large number of students are interested in writing?
I spoke at a local school in a relatively small town. The students had to sign up for the presentation, so I didn’t expect more than maybe fifty students altogether between the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. More than twice that many attended the sessions, and all the students seemed very interested in the information I had to offer. It is my hope to connect with many more area schools at the beginning of next year so they can put me on their schedule as a speaker for the 2010-2011 school year. I also plan to contact home school organizations to reach home schooled students.
What is the one thing you hope students will learn from hearing you speak?
I wish to convey the message that a person is never too young to begin writing and submitting. When I attended the Colorado Christian Writers Conference this year, Kristine and I encountered a couple of ten-year olds who are well on their way to becoming great writers. They already have a command of the language and are quite articulate in their expression of ideas. I also have a grand nephew who has written letters to public officials, expressing concerns that affect him and his school. He is nine, but his writing skill surpasses that of some high school students.
I would like to mention here that I have a series on my website entitled I Want to Be Published….But I’m Just a Kid! The postings can be found under the tab Kids/Youth Getting Published.
I know you are also a fiction writer. How old were you when you began writing? What kind of writing do you do now?
I can remember starting a novel in one of those black and white composition notebooks when I was in high school. I never completed it, though, and have no idea what happened to it. Since then, I’ve started three novels that all beg to be finished. My biggest problem is that I can not corral that internal editor, so I’ve written those first few chapters a dozen times, at least. Every time I learn some new facet of the craft, I feel like I need to start over again.
Lately, my writing has become somewhat diverse. I write a monthly article for my church newsletter. We recently started a Spiritual Gifts Ministry Team, so I’ve been writing articles for our blog, found at fpcsgmt.blogspot.com. I post on my own blog, Patti’s Porch, at my website. I was contracted by my former employer to write articles for their newsletter. I’ve even been asked to help our county nursing service personnel with grant writing.
I grew up with TV westerns and continue to be a huge fan, especially of the TV western Gunsmoke. I wrote some Gunsmoke fan fiction and always have a Gunsmoke story in mind. Fan fiction is fun because I send the stories to others who love the show as much as I do. All of my three novels have a western theme, probably due to that strong influence in my life.
Since my return from the Colorado Christian Writers Conference, I’ve been working on some short articles and devotionals for magazines. Just need to polish them and work up the nerve to send them off! Occasionally, I still work on those novels, hoping to get them completed for possible publication.
How does your faith play into your writing?
The more I write, the more I want my work to glorify God. I don’t necessarily believe that everything I write needs to specifically mention God or Jesus, but my intent is to convey a message from the standpoint of a Christian worldview.
Has God ever provided an unexpected “detour” in your life that turned out to be positive?
Definitely! I’d say aspiring western novelist to executive editor of a children’s magazine is quite a switch. I’m very excited about Starsongs and have been in contact with some exuberant, inspiring young people It is exciting to receive work from a young person and be able to send back a contract, or to send suggested changes and have that young writer take the time and effort to make the corrections.
A few fun questions…
What was the first story you remember writing as a child?
Hmmm. I probably wrote a short story or two about life on my great uncle’s farm in Connecticut. Can’t recall the plot or characters—or if they even had a plot—but I have fond memories of spending time there during my summer vacations.
Which kind of children’s song best describes you? A riddle song, a lullaby, a counting song, or a musical round?
Probably a counting song. I tend to have some OCD tendencies and I love numbers. Yep, I’m one of those people who count the stairs as I walk up or down!
Tell us about your granddaughter. Is she interested in writing?
Oh, man, now it’s time to brag! Madison will be nine next month and will be in third grade in September. She already reads way above her grade level and comprehends exceptionally well.
She was enrolled in three dance classes during the school year, tap, jazz, and acrobatics. She enjoys the acrobatics the most and is always doing cartwheels and front and back walkovers. Makes me hurt just to watch her bend that way! She is signed up for the swim team this summer and is excited about that.
She enjoy fishing and camping with mom and dad. Inside activities include the time she spends in Webkinz World. She has eight or nine Webkinz by now and loves to decorate their rooms and enter them in contests. She always beats me at the games we play to earn kinzcash.
Yes, she is interested in writing. She loves to play school, and one day, she set up a scenario, where “Miss Patti Shene, editor of Starsongs, will now speak to the class about her magazine.” Of course, she was the only student, and I gave her a summary of our guidelines. That night, she emailed me a short work with the title “Please use this in your magazine.” We need to work on it a bit, but she has potential.
Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to appear on your blog, Kathy. I look forward to hearing from any young writers out there who wish to submit to Starsongs.
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For more information about Starsongs, visit the Written World Communications website at www.writtenworldcommunications.com.
To visit Patti’s personal website logon to www.pattishene.com.