History of KIdsWWwrite
by Ross Tyner, Director of Library Services at Okanagan College
Ross Tyner is the former Web editor of KIdsWWwrite. He wrote this article in 2006.
“Writing is the only thing that, when I do
it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.”
Children and youth between the ages of 5 and 16 who appreciate Ms. Steinem’s sentiment might want to point their web browsers to www.kalwriters.com/kidswwwrite/ and start writing. There they’ll find KIdsWWwrite, an online magazine in which young writers share their poems, stories and book reviews with readers around the world.
Since 2001, KIdsWWwrite has been published ten times per year by the Kalamalka Institute for Working Writers (KIWW), a project of Okanagan College. During its five-year existence, it has published more than 2,300 pieces of writing from children living on all parts of the globe. While the majority of submissions come from North America, countries that have been represented in KIdsWWwrite include China, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Kenya, Scotland, England, Spain, Italy, New Zealand, and Australia.
The idea for KIdsWWwrite began with renowned children’s author Margriet Ruurs, formerly of Armstrong, now living in Oregon. Margriet approached the KIWW and asked if there might be an opportunity to work together to produce an online children’s writing magazine, which she had initially conceived as part of her M.Ed. degree at Simon Fraser University. Everyone involved felt that the combination of writing and the Internet would create an excellent means by which to encourage children to write and, since the College had the human and technological resources to support it, the project went ahead. With the assistance of some students and teachers from Vernon, the first issue was published in May 2001, with Margriet as editor, a role she continues to play today.
KIdsWWwrite is very fortunate to have an author of Margriet’s calibre and reputation as its editor, not to mention its number one booster. Every young author who submits a story or poem receives a personal email message from Margriet, including suggestions for improvements where appropriate. Virtually every piece that is submitted is published, the only exceptions being work that is not the original writing of the person who submitted it and work that fails to respect common standards of courtesy and/or language. When she is not writing, Margriet can often be found touring the schools of the world, giving workshops and readings to children and their teachers. These school visits usually result in a deluge of submissions from the children she has recently spoken to, so it’s not uncommon to see an issue of the magazine include dozens of submissions from a school in Wisconsin, California or Pakistan.
Early issues of KIdsWWwrite were modest in size, with the inaugural issue containing twelve submissions. It wasn’t long, however, before its popularity grew, to the point where Issue #51 (June 2006) featured a record 145 poems, stories and reviews. Readership has increased accordingly, nearly 3,000 page views per day having been recorded last May, the busiest month in its brief history. Much of this success is due to Margriet’s constant promotion, but another major contributor to the publication’s growth was the addition in 2002 of the Sarah’s Stars book review section.
Sarah’s Stars was the brainchild of Karen Packalen, a teacher in the North Okanagan-Shuswap who was looking for a challenge for Sarah, then one of her Grade 5 students. Opportunity arose when Margriet visited Carlin Elementary, the school at which Karen was then teaching and at which Sarah was a student. Margriet mentioned KIdsWWwrite, Karen contacted the magazine, and Sarah’s Stars debuted in Issue #11 (May 2002), which included Sarah’s reviews of The Bad Beginning and Raptor Red. Since then, Sarah has been joined by a team of dozens of student reviewers from the North Okanagan-Shuswap, Vernon, Kelowna and Vancouver. Sarah’s Stars now typically includes between 30 and 45 reviews per issue. And its influence, like its size, continues to grow: Reviews have been used by authors and publishers in print ads, on their websites and, at least once, on a book jacket. Where Karen once had to beg publishers to send her copies of their books she now receives advance copies in quantities she and her students can hardly keep up with.
The creators of KIdsWWwrite would be pleased even if all it did was fulfill its original mission of encouraging children to write. But its influence has gone beyond expectations, as evidenced by the many messages of thanks Margriet has received, like this one from a teacher in California:
"We found your website last year and I'd like to thank you for the wonderful publishing opportunities. My kids are really motivated by your magazine to work on writing pieces and publish work. Without a doubt your site is the best I have found for publishing prose and poetry on the web! Thanks so much for helping me to motivate young authors!"
KIdsWWwrite has been linked to by a number of influential sites, including the International Reading Association, Vancouver Public Library, Scholastic Books, The Department of Canadian Heritage, Library and Archives Canada, the Internet Public Library and the State of Texas Reading Club.
One of KIdsWWwrite’s key values is respect for its authors, including their copyright and privacy. All work that is published in the magazine remains the property of the author, who is free to reuse or republish it as he or she sees fit. Some Sarah’s Stars writers have posted their reviews to online book store websites, and several newspapers in the Okanagan have been carrying selections from the magazine throughout this past summer. As for privacy, KIdsWWwrite collects no information without the knowledge of its contributors, does not use any information gathered for any purposes other than those for which it was collected, and publishes children’s first names only, and no email addresses.
KIdsWWwrite is published at the beginning of each month, with the exception of January and August. Children between the ages of 5 and 16 are encouraged to submit their writing via the online form at www.kalwriters.com/kidswwwrite/submit.html. For more information, please contact Ross Tyner at Okanagan College (firstname.lastname@example.org).