Passion to be published Monthly: When creative writing by neighbor children was rejected by mainstream magazines, Kathy Hudson launched her own -- and prints everything submitted.

March 20, 1997|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Roland Park resident Kathy Hudson remembers how much rejection can sting a young writer or artist, so when some neighborhood children received "no thank you" notes from Highlights and other mainstream magazines, she decided to start her own in-house newsletter for children.

With 200 subscriptions in 25 states, the homemade Hudson Monthly, with a stenciled nameplate, is hardly a mass-media publication. But it does have a distinction few others can claim: It never sends rejection letters.

Hudson puts everything -- postcards from Walt Disney World, holiday family snapshots, essays on such famous figures as Florence Nightingale -- that arrives in her mailbox into the six-page photocopied Monthly, so no aspiring authors get discouraged when they are young.

"A teacher once really squashed me," said Hudson, recalling a youthful attempt at poetry.

Hudson, 47, has made it a mission to bring out the best in children's creativity by publishing their drawings, poems, stories and photos. Aimed at and created by children ages 3 to 12, the Monthly began in 1985 with a starter pool of 12 families.

"My first batch of Hudson Monthly kids are all in college now," Hudson, a writer, said in her living room over coffee one recent morning. A handsome woman with bright blue eyes and a crisp gaze, she lives in the gracious house she grew up in, not far from the Woman's Club of Roland Park.

Said Gary Wilson, a writing teacher at Roland Park Middle School who invited Hudson to participate this week in an annual workshop he organized, "My Word!": "It has to be a labor of love."

"It's roughly produced, with graphics and pictures by kids," Wilson said. "But as the English architect Ruskin said, the best brickwork has tool marks in it. And it reflects her, one of those people who does it because it needs doing."

One girl who had a poem about television published in the Monthly -- "TV is cool/My mom says it makes me a fool" -- vividly remembered the experience of first seeing her name in print when her teacher showed it to her as a surprise.

"Before that, I didn't like it that much," said Kate O'Brien, 11, a sixth-grader at Roland Park Elementary. "But when I saw it in print, I thought a lot better of it."

Another 11-year-old from Baltimore, Sara Small, wrote about Nightingale in the July issue: "She was a brave nurse in the Crimean War and the Civil War. Her family didn't approve because they wanted Florence to be a young lady and get married. Some soldiers called her the lady with the lamp."

A language arts teacher at Bryn Mawr School, Susan Mills, said of her friend Hudson, "Kathy and I and my 6-year-old daughter, Lindsey, and all her [stuffed] bears had tea together with a pink plastic tea set. She enters into the spirit of that. She meets children where they are."

Hudson's rapport with youngsters was on display Tuesday when she led a writing workshop for eight students at Roland Park Middle School. "Sometimes when you're writing, you tap into something you didn't know you had," she said.

Hudson told students that an exercise called "wild minds" was like runners at the Olympics doing a stretch. "This is to loosen up your mind," she said. Then she asked group members to write about their scariest experience.

Afterward, Hudson said, "Those kids were just going to town. The energy is amazing."

Along with publishing the newsletter, which she says runs at a loss because "I'm not very good at sending out renewal notices," Hudson is also working on publishing recently unearthed family Civil War correspondence from ancestors who fought on both sides of the conflict.

But she knows that a writer's life can be one of struggle, which is why she told the workshop, "Don't expect the first thing you write to get published," adding, "anywhere but the Hudson Monthly."

Pub Date: 3/20/97

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