Katie McGunagle is only 14. Yet she’ll soon claim credit that she is published—a goal of aspiring writers twice her age. Creative Kids, the nation’s largest magazine by and for kids, plans to publish McGunagle’s poem “Going Home” this year.
Like many of her poems, “Going Home” paints a slice of her day. The 2-1/2-page free verse narrative puts words to her daily walk home from work. After the dust and sweat of training her neighbor’s horses, she trods towards home to be greeted by Monte, her Australian shepherd. “I’ve been writing poetry forever,” says the Whitefish High School sophomore, “and I’ve sent lots of poems and short stories to lots of magazines.”
A spiral notebook is McGunagle’s constant companion, a place where she jots thoughts during the day. She has played with words since she was in elementary school. “In poetry, you can do anything,” she says. “Nature inspires me and day to day life. A simple thing as a sunrise can turn into ten times better in words.” For composing her longer pieces—short stories and the start of a fiction novel—she trades in her notebook for the computer.
Writing accolades are not new for McGunagle. One of her fifth grade short stories won first place statewide and a national Award of Excellence. But from Creative Kids, she received a fat envelope with an acceptance letter and contract for “Going Home.”
For many aspiring writers, breaking into publication is a big barrier–one requiring marketing savvy. In middle school, she started targeting magazines for her poetry and short stories. “You have to really make sure you know the magazine and the type of story they are looking for,” advises McGunagle. “Then you try to give them something unique in that.” She also notes how she must send in her work according to the magazine’s submission guidelines. She laughs, “I follow them exactly.”
While publishing “Going Home” is the result of labored hours of writing, it’s the first step for McGunagle. After all, she aims to author a book some day.
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