Stone Soup is a print and ebook magazine written and illustrated by young writers and artists. William Rubel and Gerry Mandel began the magazine in 1973 in Santa Cruz, California. It is published six times a year, in January, March, May, July, September, and November. The goal of the magazine is to inspire children by highlighting the best work made by their peers. As well as a magazine, Stone Soup is a nonprofit organization called the Children’s Art Foundation. The Children’s Art Foundation collection has over 1000 high quality art prints from children from over 36 countries across the world. Interview with Stone Soup Editor Gerry Mandel
Conducted by Alanna McBride (Susquehanna University ’17)
What is it like to be a magazine that works with children?
William Rubel and I started Stone Soup when we were 20-year-old college students at UC Santa Cruz. We’re now in our 41st year of publication. We have always worked with children, so it’s just normal for us. We don’t really “work” with kids, except when it comes to soliciting illustrations for Stone Soup. I ask child artists to send me examples of their work. When I make a match between a story and an illustrator, I do work closely with the illustrator. Through experience I have found that most child artists work best with a detailed assignment, including a detailed description of the scenes I want illustrated. I have also found that it’s important to cc the parent on all communications. A supportive family is helpful for getting the assignment done and mailed to us by our deadline.
What do you look for in your submissions?
We look for great writing that we will want to read again and again. We’re not looking writing that is just “good for a 10-year-old.” We want powerful, moving stories that are well written, with a strong beginning, middle, and end, believable characters, realistic dialogue, and a point to make.
How competitive is the submission process?
The submission process is very competitive. We receive about 200 submissions for every issue that we publish.
How do you select the pieces that go into your anthologies?
We currently have 7 anthologies, and we plan to make more. For this first set of anthologies, we chose the years 2005 to 2010. That way the material would be relatively recent, but not so recent that current subscribers would have read it. Within that time period, we chose our favorite stories on each theme: Friendship, Animals, Historical, etc.
I see your website pieces from Stone Soup are sometimes reprinted in other educational texts. How does that work?
Companies that produce textbooks and testing materials are always looking for content. As the major publisher of writing by children, Stone Soup has a lot of content by kids. Publishers and testing companies sometimes contact us for permission to reprint work we have published.
What gave you the idea to start a magazine by children, for children?
A group of UCSC students had the idea in 1972. Our first issue came out in May of 1973. The idea loosely grew out of a Saturday morning program for kids in the community. They came up to UCSC to take writing and art classes taught by UCSC students. We wanted to publish some of the work from the program and realized it would make more sense to publish a national magazine than a local magazine.
How has Stone Soup evolved from when you started?
Of course, I’m prejudiced, but I think it just keeps getting better and better. We have redesigned Stone Soup several times over the years. As we get more and more submissions, we are able to be more selective and publish better and better work. The illustrations have evolved tremendously. In the early days, we illustrated stories from a pool of artwork that was donated to us by the San Francisco Chronicle. Now we commission illustrations that are tailored to each story and created by kids who are creating absolutely stellar artwork.
Where do you see Stone Soup going in the future?
We launched our digital edition last fall and plan to keep improving it. We would like to produce more curriculum materials for teachers and promote Stone Soup more for classroom use. As schools begin buying iPads for all their students, Stone Soup becomes more affordable for them, since it costs less to produce the digital edition than it does to print and mail the print edition. But we have no plans to stop producing the print edition. We still believe in the beauty of print on paper, and the pleasure of holding a book in your hand and turning the pages. Stone Soup has never compromised on paper or printing quality, and we plan to continue our dedication to quality at every level.