My Manuscript Wish List®
Founded in 2004, Calkins Creek publishes entertaining, moving, and informative books on US history. We aim to help children and teens navigate the present by deepening their understanding of the past. Our books are not textbooks, but many are great for reading aloud in classrooms and we look for books with strong curriculum connections.
We pride ourselves on producing books that are beautifully made and a joy to read. And the critics agree! Calkins Creek’s notable books include:
- Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968by Alice Fay Duncan, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, which received five starred reviews and was a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book, a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, a Booklist Editors’ Choice, and a Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Book
- Buzzing with Questions: The Inquisitive Mind of Charles Henry Turner by Janice N. Harrington and Theodore Taylor III, an NSTA/CBC Best STEM Book
- Ambushed!: The Assassination Plot Against President Garfield by Gail Jarrow, winner of the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award and a Kirkus Reviews Best Book
- The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered the Secrets of the Rainforest by Heather Lang, illustrated by Jana Christy, winner of the Green Earth Book Award and the John Burroughs Association Riverby Award, and an NSTA/CBC Best STEM Book.
- Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961 by Larry Dane Brimner, winner of the Robert F. Sibert award
I’m primarily looking for US history-focused nonfiction picture books. I’m also looking to acquire a small number of middle grade and YA historical novels and the occasional long nonfiction or graphic novel project.
I love picture books about historical figures who deserve to be better known—artists, activists, scientists, and trailblazers of all sorts. I like a good picture book picture book biography, but I generally find that they’re most successful when writers to focus on just a few key incidents (or even just one episode!) in the subject’s life. I’m also interested in books about important historical events told from the point of view of an ordinary, but real, person who participated in them.
Picture books I love: Paper Son: The Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant and Artist by Julie Leung; Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks by Suzanne Slade; Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles by Patricia Valdez.
Because history is Calkins Creek’s focus, I generally don’t consider picture books with fictionalized stories or invented dialogue. Submissions must include a bibliography so that I can see what sort of sources the author has used. Encyclopedia entries or websites that give a general overview of an event or someone’s life are a great starting place for research but not sufficient on their own. I look for authors who have conducted interviews with the subject of their manuscript or people who knew them, have read and incorporated quotations from things the subject has written, and/or have used other primary sources like historical newspaper or magazine articles. Calkins Creek authors will seek out experts whom they can work with during the research and writing stages.
At Calkins Creek, we pride ourselves on the literary quality of our picture books—they entertain and educate in equal measure. It’s essential that our books tell their stories in ways that build suspense with every page and include dynamic characters to which readers can feel connected. I love picture books with poetic language, especially surprising and vivid imagery, as well as word play and figurative language.
US history is full of difficult topics, and I welcome books that engage with them, provide context, and put them in terms kids can understand.
Stories of queer and immigrant history are particularly close to my heart, and I’d love to see more of them in my inbox. I hope to continue to see manuscripts that focus on trailblazing women, Black history, and lesser-known stories of famous Americans or important historical events. Scientists, inventors, artists, and activists all make great subjects. I’d love to see more manuscripts in which the main character has a disability but disability isn’t the focus of the story. And if you can manage an exciting picture book that ties in with Agriculture in the Classroom, I’m interested.
I don’t draw a bright line between history and current events, but so far I haven’t read any manuscripts set in the 21stcentury that felt sufficiently historical to me.
MG AND YA NOVELS
I’m looking for novels that seamlessly combine history with exciting, character-driven stories. I like to see novels in which history is not merely a backdrop but an integral part of the plot. I look for historical fiction that’s researched in much the way I described above for picture books.
No topic within US history is out of bounds, but for popular topics like the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, or World War II, I would need to see a truly new take. I’m looking for more manuscripts set in the second half of the twentieth century as well as more stories about immigration to the US. I’d love to see more historical mysteries in my inbox, particularly ones that revolve around a particular historical event or in which digging into some aspect of history helps the protagonist solve the mystery.
I’m primarily looking for realistic historical fiction, but I’ll consider projects that contain time travel or minor fantasy elements (e.g. ghosts). What’s important is that the historical research underpinning the story is solid.
While I like humor as much as the next person, I never want it to feel forced. I’m just as happy (or perhaps happier) to read to a middle grade or YA novel that makes me cry as one that makes me laugh.
Historical fiction I love: Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte, Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park, Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo, The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee.
PLEASE NOTE: I do not accept unagented manuscripts, except when I’m participating in a pitch contest or workshop.
All submissions must be complete manuscripts. I can’t consider proposals.
As mentioned above, all submissions must include a bibliography.