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  • Jennifer Ann Richter

My Road to Timbuktu

Updated: Feb 15


I made it. I finally made it!


Not to imply that my other poems or stories were anything to sneeze at. Nor were the publications they appeared in. But I’d been submitting to Cricket magazine for so, SO long (like, honestly, I’ve lost track of how many pieces I’ve sent to them over the years). Now I’m happy to report that my poem and short article, “The Books of Timbuktu,” appears on its pages!


This journey started at my job, actually. I was writing video description for parts of Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s docuseries Africa’s Great Civilizations, and was captivated by the part about Timbuktu and the Mali Empire. I had no idea that the place had been a center of learning and knew nothing about the books from those days and the efforts now to find and preserve them. I didn’t race home and write the poem, though. Just thought about it. For about two years or so, give or take a few months.


Then at some point, still in the time before Covid, I starting Googling around and hanging out at the library researching Timbuktu, particularly its golden years from around the 1300s to 1500s. I then labored over a poem, and on March 25, 2019, submitted it to Cricket—a respected literary magazine for children. I waited and waited, and was thrilled with an acceptance nearly seven months later. They even took me up on the offer to write an informational sidebar piece to go along with it. As elated as I initially was, I knew it would be a while before it appeared in print, so over time I tempered my joy. Then Covid came, and other stuff—including some pretty devastating rejections of two novels I’d been shopping around—and then the joy returned out of the blue. That was September 1, 2021, when I learned the piece would appear in the February 2022 issue.



And the publication came just at the right time, on the heels of another big blow to my novel-writing career. A YA novel that I’d revised based on feedback from a very interested agent ended up getting rejected by her after all. She said it was a great manuscript and it was hard for her to let it go, but different types of stories were speaking to her at the moment. Fair enough.


But back to the joy. I must say, I love the cover of this issue of Cricket and I love how they laid out my poem and sidebar info! I haven’t read through the other pieces, but from what I’ve seen they look fabulous and I’m thrilled to be alongside them.

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