Submission Guidelines for Our Little Friend® / Primary Treasure®
History and Focus
Our Little Friend® (OLF) has been published continuously since 1890; Primary Treasure® (PT) since 1957. These are spiritually oriented magazines written for children (see below for age levels). They are given each week to the children who attend Sabbath School (like Sunday School) at a Seventh-day Adventist Church. We help children through the vehicle of true stories
- understand their infinite value to Jesus, their Creator and Redeemer;
- learn how to respond to God;
- show love to their family and friend; and
- serve others in their world
To help you as you write
Stories must be written from a Christian perspective and be consistent with Seventh-day Adventist beliefs and practice. Most must contain an overt spiritual message and yet not be preachy. Normally authors will be asked to add this message; if necessary, we will add it during the editing process. Note: Once accepted, you will not see the story again until it is in print.
Submit your own material
It should go without saying, but let me say it again anyhow, don’t plagiarize. If you wonder about the definition and the serious nature of plagiarism, read the information at http://www.plagiarism.org/plagiarism-101/what-is-plagiarism. I count on my authors to be honest and to reveal their sources when they do research. Please don’t disappoint me.
Write for today’s child
Your stories need to speak to the experience, lifestyle, needs, and vocabulary of today’s child. That might include living in a single-parent home, or a home where both parents work outside the home, going to a day care center or babysitter or being a “latchkey” child. (These circumstances can be part of the setting of a story. They do not need to be the focus of the story in most cases.)
We look for stories that avoid stereotypical roles for men and women. More than half of today’s mothers work outside the home. Stories should reflect that some of the time. A more traditional lifestyle setting is OK too. We also want more stories with Dad as the adult character. We get plenty with Mom.
The right age level
Story plots, vocabulary, and main characters should fit the age level for whom the story is written. OLF is for ages one to five (through kindergarten). PT is for ages seven to nine (grades first through fourth). Children like protagonists a little older than themselves but not younger. We aim for a third-grade reading level. Stories for this age level use simple words, simple and uncomplicated sentences, and minimal description; conversation carries every scene.
All stories submitted to us must be true even though you write with the best story-writing techniques used in fiction. What does this mean? The people you write about really do live (or did live), they faced the problem you say they faced, and they solved the problem the way you say they solved it. Conversation can be altered to carry the story. Names and gender can be changed in your true story. True-to-life stories do not qualify as true. Neither do different kinds of fantasy stories that could include talking animals.
Be positive rather than negative
We want stories about good children setting good examples, being kind, and making right choices. Occasionally, we use stories about children who misbehave and are punished, usually through the natural consequences of their misbehavior. Although we prefer stories that focus on positive role models, a story about a child who misbehaves and is punished should not include so many details about the poor behavior that the reader wishes to copy it because it sounds exciting.
We need short stories (one to two manuscript pages, double-spaced) for OLF. We prefer stories of four to five manuscript pages for PT.
Stories that are humorous, yet teach a spiritual lesson, rate high in this office because they rate high with kids.
For the Seventh-day Adventist author
We are eager to publish stories that explain Adventist lifestyle, beliefs, mission service, and education. We like stories that explain being a Seventh-day Adventist and that help children want to be Adventists throughout their lives. These stories should also reflect how these Adventist beliefs show us how much God loves us.
Seasonal and holiday stories
The holidays we want stories about are Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s, Mother’s, Father’s, and Grandparents Days. Please de-emphasize the commercial aspects of all holidays. We need to receive holiday and seasonal stories approximately eight or nine months early. Please indicate in the subject line the holiday you have written about.
Story topic ideas
- Trusting God
- Trusting the Bible as God’s Word for us
- Historical, Christian heroes
- True adventure stories with a spiritual focus
- Answered prayer stories
- Praying for God’s will, accepting when He answers No or Wait
- How to pray
- Assurance of salvation
- Child’s worth to God, family, friends
- Disagreeing agreeably
- Saying no to drugs (PT)
- Nature stories (see separate section)
- Coping with negative emotions
- Maintaining positive parent/child relationships
- Handling bullies in a Christian way
- Friendship skills (making friends, when friends leave you out, when your friends don’t like each other)
- Handling peer pressure
- How a child can have a vibrant devotional life
- Living in a blended family
- Watching TV intelligently
- Making good choices about toys, other entertainment
- Stopping abuse
- Coping with disappointment
- Perseverance when task is hard
- Parent apologizes to child
- Ways of honoring parents
- Coping with serious illness or other handicap
- Divorce in the family (PT only)
- Practical ways to keep Sabbath
- Home schooling (PT)
- Attending small church schools (PT)
- Being healthy (eating habits, washing hands, getting enough sleep, going to bed on time)
- Resisting temptation
- When religion divides home
- Practical ways a child can witness
- Respecting others’ feelings
- Working mothers
- When parents argue/fight
- Attending a small church
- Relating to being teased
- Being kind to kids left out by other kids
- Basic social skills/manners
- Accepting personal differences
- Getting along with siblings/fighting fair
- How habits/actions change when Jesus’ love is in the heart
- Christian perspective on material things
- Value of memorizing Bible verses
- Any story that helps a child understand Jesus better and rely on Him more
Things we sometimes change
We sometimes change the main character in a story from a girl to boy. We also sometimes change names and activities to give an ethnic or more modern flavor to a story. We choose the ethnicity of the children in the illustrations we use to reflect the rich ethnic variety in the United States and Canada. (Go to www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames to see the most popular names in the United States for 2009, the year in which many of our PT kids were born.) Recently we have been changing Mom to Dad in stories. If it is imperative that these details not change because of the person you’re writing about, please let us know because, once it is accepted, you will not see your story again until it is in print.
Things we always change
Unhealthy snacks are changed to fruit or raw vegetables. Drinks between meals are changed to water or fruit juice and unhealthy foods to something more healthy. Meat dishes are changed to vegetarian dishes and attending church on Sunday to attending on Sabbath (Saturday). “I bet” changed to “I’m sure”; unsupervised children, especially young ones, to children who have supervision nearby; and anything that conflicts with Adventist beliefs and practice. We will reject a story rather than violate the intent of an author’s work.
This makes the editor crazy
Stories that seem to be written for a creative writing class instead of for readers of a children’s magazine. PT is to be a magazine that children can pick up and read by themselves without a lot of struggle. It should be entertaining, challenging, and thought-provoking in content, but not hard to read. It is not the mission of PT to teach reading skills. Its mission is to teach spiritual truth. Don’t let your vocabulary and sentence structure get in the way of truth. Stories for PT should be written with a third grade reading level. This means simple sentences and few words more than three syllables. Conversation should carry every scene.
The same simplicity of writing goes well for stories in OLF.
If you think writing simply won’t challenge your creativity, here’s a story for you from Snopes.com, “In 1957 [Dr.] Seuss produced a classic children’s tale, The Cat in the Hat, using only the words on an average first-grader’s vocabulary list. This work was followed by a series of books employing an ever more limited vocabulary. . . . What prompted this minimalist trend by Dr. Seuss? A dare from his editor, Bennett Cerf, that he write a book using no more than fifty different words. Seuss took Cerf up on his challenge and produced a classic children’s work many of us can still recite from memory.” 1
Don’t bother sending these
- Stories of talking animals or other kinds of fantasy stories.
- Stories about hunting.
- Stories with a Halloween setting (except those that deal with the danger of the occult on a child’s level or highlight community service instead of tricking or treating).
- Rewritten Bible stories.
When children get into a car in a story, include a sentence about buckling their seat belt. Small children should be put into their car seat. When a child gets on his or her bike, include a sentence about putting on a helmet. The same thing goes for looking both ways when crossing a street and for using proper safety equipment for any sport or hobby.
Children love stories about nature. We look for nature stories that acknowledge God as Creator and the Sustainer of all life and glorify Him as such. We also look for stories that are more than an encyclopedic description about an animal, plant, etc. Kids—the editor too!—should be able to say, “I never knew that before” when reading your nature story.
Poetry, games, puzzles, art, photos
We are not in the market for these.
We prefer not to receive queries, except in the case of a continued (multiple part) story.
Payment and rights
We pay between $25 and $50 for an OLF or a PT story depending on the excellence of the manuscript, length, and other editorial considerations. We purchase one-time magazine rights and electronic rights, except for previously published material, and pay upon acceptance. We also reprint stories after four or five years have gone by. We make every effort to reach the authors of these older stories to pay them again at half the first rate so tell us if you move. We prefer that you not submit reprints to us. It works better if you let us choose the reprints—we stay more organized that way!
How should your manuscript look?
Put your name, address, telephone number, and email address on the first page of the manuscript. Title pages are unnecessary. Manuscripts should be double-spaced with no extra space between paragraphs. Paragraphs should begin with an indented line. Be sure to include a self-addressed, stamped envelope that is large enough to hold your manuscript. We need your Social Security number to pay you but will contact you to ask for it if we don’t have it.
Instructions for electronic submissions
We prefer to receive stories electronically. Do try not to share a virus with your attached file. We regularly upgrade our virus protection here at Pacific Press, but it helps if you do too.
Attach a word processor file of your story to your email message. Do not paste your story into the email itself. Microsoft Word is our word processing software and it does open most files, but it helps if the file is saved properly, using a .doc or .rtf extension. Your word processor file becomes our publication file so it is important for you to use the ruler to indent the paragraphs. Do not put two spaces after a period and avoid other odd spacing as well.
Send electronic submissions to the managing editor
When will you hear back?
When I get your electronic submission, I try to evaluate it within four weeks of that time. When I decide to use your story, I will send payment shortly after the decision. However your story may not be used immediately due to seasonal considerations. When it is printed, we will mail three author’s copies to you.