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Mom, Inc.: Monthly newspaper is for kids, by kids

After a visit to the Everglades in 2009, Patty Gomez of Margate was pleased to see that her daughter, Daniela, then 8, wanted to write about the experience. So she and Daniela went to work, and the child, who was fond of creative writing, wrote her first nonfiction piece about alligators in the Everglades.

“When she was finished, she said ‘OK, now I want to publish it,’ ” Gomez said. The mom called area newspapers to see if any had student pages to publish the writing of children.

When she couldn’t find any, Gomez decided to start her own. Today she runs Circle Gazette, a nonprofit newspaper written for kids by kids. Here is how she did it:

Big idea

Circle Gazette is a monthly print newspaper and website written and illustrated by contributors ages 5 to 18. It contains nonfiction, fiction, poetry and art. The 12- to 16-page tabloid size newspaper is distributed free at libraries, art museums and community venues. A subscription is $40 for 12 issues a year. Online access is free.

Background

Born in Venezuela, Patty Gomez has a bachelor’s degree in material science engineering. She taught at the university level and worked in the biomedical industry. When she became a mom to Daniela, now 13, Emma, 10, and Ellie, 7, she began doing consulting from home.

Her interests moved to education and brain development, and she founded a nonprofit, The Enrichment Circle, to foster literacy through creative projects. The Circle Gazette is one of those projects.

Research

After contacting local newspapers and publications looking for outlets for children’s writing, Gomez began looking online. She found publications for children, such as Ranger Rick and Highlights, but they were all written by adults. She found J.S. Printing, which prints student publications for schools and other venues across the country. Gomez made use of the company’s market research, geared to people who want to create a student newspaper. “But I didn’t want to create something just for one school,” Gomez said. “I wanted to create something for all children, from everywhere.”

Product development

Daniela’s story, Plastic Alligators, was the first collected for The Circle Gazette. Gomez started emailing parents of kids ages 8-12, to see if the kids wanted to contribute a story, poem or piece of art to the publication. The first edition of 200 copies was published with 16 contributors and eight pages in October 2009. Gomez was the sole editor. She distributed free at libraries and at community events, and through paid subscriptions.

The paper began publishing monthly, and each month brought new contributors. Gomez began offering free monthly creative writing workshops for kids 7-11 and for teens at the Coral Springs library. She assembled an all-volunteer staff of four editors, a graphic designer and website designer.

After nine months of print, Gomez added a website, which is updated weekly. She has monthly columnists on topics such as movie reviews, book reviews, green tips, fashion, theater and living healthy. Youth reporters get press credentials from the publication to cover community events and conduct interviews with personalities such as the director of the film The Croods, or the fashion director at Nordstrom.

“I wanted the kids to have these opportunities,” Gomez said.

Gomez started printing with J.S. Printing, but recently switched to Forum Publishing in South Florida. She mails all of the subscription copies herself. About 500 copies are printed monthly. Paid circulation has been as high as 100.

Gomez sells a limited amount of ads, because she wants to retain the majority of the space for the kids’ work. “I want to keep it as wholesome as possible,” she said.

Marketing

The Circle Gazette uses Facebook, Twitter, a monthly newsletter and its website to promote new stories, writing contests and giveaways. It is listed on a media database, so it sometimes gets movie tickets or other promotional items to give away, Gomez said.

Initial capital outlay

Gomez spent about $3,500 in the first year for printing, office supplies and distribution. The nonprofit’s primary source of funding is from Gomez’s family, which has spent $3,500 to $7,000 a year to keep it going. She is not yet profitable.

Challenge

“Trying to figure out whether I spend my time running the paper, or trying to find funding,” Gomez said. She has started applying for grants, and soliciting donations from private and corporate donors.

“This is a project with no agenda, except to get kids interested in writing,” Gomez said. “But I don’t know how I can continue without outside funding.”

Next step

After become more financially stable, Gomez would like to pay her staff and one day have a permanent newsroom where writers can gather monthly to discuss stories. Gomez tried having newsroom meetings at libraries and other venues, but they were hard to find.

Gomez would also like to develop the website so that monthly columnists could blog there, and she could include video reporting.

Typical day

Gomez rises at 6 a.m., and gets the kids off to school by 8:30 a.m. Then she is at her desk until 1:30 p.m., editing, answering emails, working on the newsletter or handling social media.

At 1:30 p.m., Gomez packs snacks, picks up the kids, and heads to after-school activities. Because her husband, Pedro, travels all week for his job with Oracle, Gomez said she juggles business and home life alone during the week.

After dinner and the kids are in bed, Gomez heads back to the computer from 10 p.m. to about midnight.

“I used to go until 3 a.m., but I had to cut back,” she said. “It was too hard.”

Advice

“Go for it,” she said. “It is not easy to continue to push forward, but it’s harder than not going for it all.”

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