Writing for Children

Fish On! (Or Maybe Not)

This weekend my family I did something we’ve never done before. We went salmon fishing!

Coho Salmon- Photo courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey

Northern Michigan- and specifically the TraverseCity area for us- is known for its yearly salmon run, when these big, beautiful fish start their yearly journey from big lake to rivers and ponds to spawn. We’ve always wanted to do it, so this year we loaded up the car with rods, reels, tackle boxes, licenses, jackets, gloves, hats and headed up to the Pinky of the Mitten.

Well of course it rained all weekend, and it didn’t take long for us to realize we weren’t as well equipped as the many fishermen that dotted the river banks. But hey, we’re all good fisher people in my family, although a little green behind the gills when it comes to salmon fishing. So we found what looked like a friendly spot, threw our lines in the water and waited for a big one to strike!

After about 30 minutes of casting, letting the current take the line, reeling in and casting again, I noticed I was right across the bank from what looked like a real pro. I mean, he had it all—waders, rain jacket, waterproof hat, fancy tackle box, cooler, stringer, and a totally awesome, colorful bobber—and while I watched him, he caught a beautiful salmon. Right there, in practically the same spot where I was casting my line. It wasn’t long before I found myself looking carefully at his line, adjusting my bobber to match his depth, casting in the same direction he did and pulling out my line at almost exactly the same time. I was determined to get my fishing action as close to his perfection as I could. I mean, how often do you have that kind of model standing right across the river from you? After almost an hour, I noticed something—he opened his cooler, took out a container of pink stuff and tossed a few handfuls of it in the water. I knew right then that he was baiting the salmon with fish eggs, a technique I had heard about along the river that day. Even though I was doing all of the same things he was doing, I was missing a key component that seemed to be the ticket to his success.

My writing journey has been kind of like my fishing trip. Based on what I read and learn at conferences, as a writer for children, I’m doing all the right things. I have a regular critique partner, participate in other critique groups, have a pretty big portfolio, have diversified into several different genres, and I’ve had a little bit of success. I’ve worked hard on my online presence and have many Facebook and Twitter followers and blog regularly. I’m submitting all the time and have even had some great conversations with editors and agents and have built some solid relationships. But after nearly 15 years, I still have yet to have a “hold in your hand” book out there.

I don’t write this to whine or discourage you, but sometimes, even when you’re doing everything right, your story just doesn’t play out the way you’d envisioned. But chin up my writer friend, your journey in this business doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. And there are many out there who would have you believe that if you’re not subscribing to their blog, newsletter, writing challenge or program, or other things that cost you lots of money, you can’t and won’t catch that “fish.” And it simply isn’t true. But what you can do is try and figure out what’s missing—that fish bait if you will—load up your writing tackle box and start using it!

I’ve realized that for me right now, I need some editorial-based, educational “fish bait.” So I’m looking at having my novel professionally edited by a well-respected, seasoned veteran in the kid-lit business. I’ve also started Kristen Fulton’s Non-Fiction Archaeology class to jump start my writing knowledge in this area that I’ve dabbled in for years. And if this class goes well, I’ll be taking more online classes in January as time and budget permits.

So, are you fishing with all the right equipment but just can’t catch anything? Take a good look at your tackle box and talk to others who at least look like they know more than you. Chances are the magic “bait” your writing career needs is closer than you think. That’s what I’m doing, and I’m hoping it will help me finally catch “the big one!”


Sensibility- Your writing journey is unique to you. Don’t get discouraged if your time has not yet come.

Sense- Be wary of spending money on writer “gateway” programs that promise leads, connections or special inroads not available through any other program. Nothing beats a well-written story, and the persistence it takes to get that story out there.


What are some things you would like to add to your “writing” tackle box?