Every year at the Mount Hermon Christian Writer's conference, writers gather at zero-dark-thirty, to take their annual Palm Sunday trek to the cross. It was on this walk, that a group of us began chatting. We spoke of our children, our faith, and the spouses we were missing back home. Only later, on the way back, did I discover one of these men was the editor of Focus on the Family's Clubhouse Jr. magazine.
Though I don't write for the children's market, I could tell he would be an editor who would be a blessing to work with. His heart for children was clear as he spoke of his own kids, and his desire for a children's magazine to make a difference for little ones.
Some people are genuine. Some appointments are divine appointments. My walk up to the cross was a blessed appointment to share a couple minutes with a kind and humble man. You are here today for a purpose. You might think it's just to read another interview. But, maybe it's to see that editors truly can be genuine and God-honoring.
As a mother to four children, it's comforting to know a magazine like Clubhouse Jr., with the ability to touch little ones hearts for Christ, is being guided by a man like him.
Would you please give a warm welcome and a round of applause(comments)for my special Blessed Guest, Jesse Florea.
Welcome to Blessed... it's such an honor to have you here Jesse. So, fill us all in, how did you begin your journey in the world of publishing?
I fell in love with writing and knew I wanted to be a journalist as a sophomore in high school when I took an Introduction to Journalism class. I started writing for the local paper and my school newspaper that year. Before that, I wanted to be a middle school teacher. As editor of Focus on the Family Clubhouse, I can combine my love for writing, with my passion for children and my love for the Lord. I went to Wheaton College in IL and earned B.A. and M.A. Degrees in Communications with an emphasis on journalism.
What do you love about being an editor?
Being able to put together a magazine that’s better than the sum of its parts. God uses Clubhouse to change lives forever. We’ve had children accept Christ, make lifelong relationships through our pen pal program and write in years later to let us know the impact that the magazine had on their faith.
It’s a blessing to be able to work with like-minded authors to put together this magazine. We have an amazing stable of authors! I especially appreciate it when an author will write in and say she noticed the changes we made and that those edits made the story even better.
What don't you love about it?
Rejecting stories. Editors aren’t ogres. We receive nearly 100 stories a month and only purchase 5 or 6. That means we’re dashing a lot of hopes. I trust that God has a plan for all the stories that come our way, and pray for wisdom as we decide what to purchase and how to combine stories in a particular issue.
What has surprised you the most about your job?
How interactive our readers are. Clubhouse is for 8-12 year olds. Because of COPA, we can’t communicate with our readers through e-mail. (Which is good, because children need to be protected.) But we get hundreds of letters every month. The kids let us know what they like, what they don’t and always have good advice for other readers.
When it comes to a new writer, what do you think is most important for them to know when submitting to your magazine/publishing house?
You have to do your research. Know the magazine before you send in a story. Make sure your manuscript has the right tone, voice and word count for the publication. The longest stories we publish are 1,600 word fiction stories and most of those are written on assignment by authors who’ve worked with us for years. The best way to break in is through 1,000 word stories that can be historical fiction, personality, quiz, craft or recipe.
Also, your opening paragraph better be outstanding. We have an editorial staff of two (one full-time person and two part-time). With that staff we put together a 32-page monthly magazine, update a Web site frequently and correspond to fans (mainly parents) through Facebook. We’re all very busy, so if a story doesn’t wow us from the beginning, it’s probably going to be rejected.
Are there any red flags an editor sees that will give a writer an immediate rejection?
Not having the proper Christian slant. We don’t beat kids over the head with the Bible. Sometimes it’s just a character-based lesson. But there has to be take-away value. We also don’t like dragons, witches or magic.
Anything specific your magazine/publishing house is looking for right now? (Types of books, articles, sidebars, etc.)
We always need stories of ordinary kids doing something extraordinary. Could be training assistance dogs. Maybe it’s baking for the homeless shelter. Children are amazing. We love it when kids can motivate other kids to make a difference in the world for Jesus.
Who has made the biggest impact on your life?
My grandmother. She passed away several years ago, but I spent a lot of time with her growing up. She always read to me, bought me books and encouraged me in my writing. She was an old English teacher, so maybe I got a little of my passion for words from her. Amazing lady who I dearly miss.
What do you think about blogging? Do you have your own blog?
Not a huge fan. I read some, but don’t do any of my own. A lot of good has come through blogging. But I think we all tend to be too busy and fill our time with things—sometimes all good things. I liked this quote that I read a few months ago:
“Books enlarge us by giving direct access to experiences not our own. In order for this to work, however, we need a certain type of silence, an ability to filter out the noise. Such a state is increasingly elusive in our over-networked culture, in which every rumor and mundanity is blogged and tweeted. Today, it seems it is not contemplation we seek but an odd sort of distraction masquerading as being in the know.”
Los Angeles Times book reviewer David L. Ulin, August 2009
Do you have a favorite scripture?
Romans 12:2. I sign my books with that verse. Great verse for children and adults. The world is powerful, but we need to continually seeks God’s will.
What would surprise us about you?
My best times are spent with my wife and teenagers outdoors. We climb at least one of Colorado’s 14,000 foot mountains every summer.
What's your favorite flavored potato chip?
Que Pasa organic corn chip. Boring, I know.
Favorite thing to do with your family?
What book is on your nightstand right now?
A Praying Life by Paul Miller
Last food you ate?
Chocolate chip banana bread with toasted coconut that I baked this morning.
When was the last time you played the air guitar?
In the Ansel Adams wilderness with a bunch of teens about 10 years ago. Good times.
Jesse, my hope is that my readers will take a moment today and head over to the Clubhouse Jr. site. I had a blast while I was there. It made me wish I was in grade school again. Where was this magazine when I was eight!? Ok, don't answer that.
Thanks again for taking the time to share a little bit of your world with all of us. It's been a pleasure having you stop by today.