Sunday, April 14, 2013

Interview with a Senior Editor


This month, as a follow up to my March 14th post, "Making the Case for Magazines - Again," Joelle DuJardin, Senior Editor at Highlights, agreed to answer some questions.

1. How long have you been at Highlights?
I've been at Highlights for nearly 9 years, which, now that I think about it, is as long as the lifetime I seemed to spend at my K-8 elementary school. These Highlights years have flown by a lot more quickly - and have fortunately been filled with a lot less angst!

2. What changes have you seen in the magazine world?
In a tough marketplace, with so many exciting products competing for kids' time and attention, I think most kids' magazines are trying to clarify their vision and make their content more dynamic, which can ultimately be a good thing. As always, the best way for a writer to know the market is to read the actual magazines and get a feel for what they're trying to do. At Highlights, we're always trying to keep our brand fresh and engage readers in new ways, so in recent years we've become more open to considering new story formats and ideas as long as our mission isn't compromised.

3. Which genres do you edit at Highlights?
I edit all the fiction in Highlights magazine, which includes rebus stories for beginning readers, 500-word count stories for less-advanced readers, and 750-word stories for more advanced readers. We'll do an occasional story that runs longer. I also acquire all the poetry for the magazine.

4. About how many submissions do you receive every month?
We receive several hundred submissions a month.

5. What is the Highlights submission process?
I'm the first reader on manuscripts sent directly to me. (We also have an outside reader who reviews some of the submissions addressed to Manuscript Coordinator, and she'll pass along certain ones for us to consider further.) If I think a manuscript has promise, I might ask for feedback from two or three other editors before making a decision on it.
Once we purchase a manuscript, it goes into our inventory, where it waits until it fits with the overall balance of an issue. It's true that it can sometimes take a few years before a writer sees his or her story in print - but it's not that we've forgotten the piece. We remember vividly the stories we bought in past years!

6. How long can a writer expect to wait for news about their submission?
 We try to respond to submissions within two months, although it can sometimes take a little longer than that, depending on how busy we are.

7. What are you looking for now?
I'm always looking for funny stories. Historical fiction, holiday stories, and mysteries are amoung our current needs.

Thank you, Joelle, for taking the time to answer my questions!


  1. Joelle -- thank you so much for this interview. it's particularly good to hear about your process with inventory -- and how much sense it makes. You get to buy what you love.

  2. About half of the manuscripts submitted to our writers group for a critique are either storybooks or poems. I often suggest that the writer first write the material as a short story and then decide whether writing the material in verse helps. Often it does not.

    Thanks for sharing your editorial process, especially as far as short stories are concerned. Perhaps you will see some more submissions from our group.

    1. Yes, there have been a couple of stories we've critiqued that could be good candidates for Highlights.

  3. Joelle-- Thanks so much for this wonderful interview! We love Highlights around here! So much fun to read with my 6-year-old! And so much fun to see my Rosh Hashanah Treat poem appear in last September's issue! Definitely worth the wait! Thanks so much for sharing what you are currently looking for! So very helpful!

  4. Joelle- Thanks for sharing all this helpful information on your submission process. I grew up on Highlights and remember reading so many fun stories! I look forward to checking out your latest issue.

  5. Wow, whst an interesting interview! Thanks so much for giving us a peep behind the scenes at Highlights magazine, Gale and Joelle!

  6. As someone who has been published in Highlights quite a few times, I can say it's nice they pay you on acceptance, not on publication, because yes, you can wait a while before your piece appears!

  7. Thanks so much Joelle. It's very helpful to know more about your process. We are grateful to you for taking the time to share this with us.

  8. Several hundred submissions a month!! YIKES!! Thanks, Joelle for sharing your process. I think well done short fiction is insanely difficult to write! I can't imagine having to mine for those gems in a slush pile - and even passing up stories that are well done but that might not be right for Highlights. I continue to be in awe of those who can write short fiction well!! Great interview, Gale!

  9. Joelle and Gale,

    Yes, many thanks for this most interesting interview and to understand Highlights' system.

    Joelle, I will think of you and Highlights every time I go to the dentist's office and many other offices where there is always a current edition and I can see at a glance your
    choices of presentations and topics. You have a well read publication!

    Eileen Cameron