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    July 11, 2014: Apply for a Thurber House residency!

    Thurber House has a Children’s Writer-in-Residence program for middle-grade authors each year and  guidelines and application form for the 2015 residency were just released.

    This unique residency has been in existence since 2001, offering  an opportunity for authors to have time to work on their writing in a fully furnished apartment, in the historic boyhood home of author and humorist, James Thurber. Deadline is October 31, 2014. For details, go to READ MORE

    July 10, 2014:

    Spread MG books in unexpected places 7/19
    Drop a copy of your own book or of another middle-grade favorite in a public place on July 19 -- and some lucky reader will stumble upon it.
    Ginger Lee Malacko is spearheading this Middle Grade Bookbomb (use the hashtag #mgbookbomb in social media) -- much in the spirit of Operation Teen Book Drop.  Read more ...

June 16, 2014:
Fizz, Boom, Read: Summer reading 2014

Hundreds of public libraries across the U.S. are celebrating reading this summer with  the theme Fizz, Boom, Read! Find out more about this year's collaborative summer reading program and check out suggested booklists and activities. Read more ...
 

April 30, 2014:
Join the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign and help change the world

The conversation on diversity in children's books has grown beyond book creators and gate keepers to readers and book buyers. What can you do? Take part in the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign May 1 though 3 on Tumblr and Twitter and in whatever creative ways you can help spread the word to take action. Read more ….

April 11, 2014:
Fall 2014 Children's Sneak Peek
A peek at forthcoming middle grade books (as well as picture books and YA books) in a round-up from Publisher's Weekly. First printed in the February 22 issue, but now available online. Time to add to your to-read list. Read more ...

April 9, 2014:
How many Newbery winners have you read?
You could make a traditional list of all the Newbery Medal Award-winning Children's Books you've read, but there's something so satisfying when you check them off and get a final tally on this BuzzFeed quiz. Read more ...

March 28, 2014:
Middle Grade fiction is hot at 2014 Bologna Children's Book Fair

For the second year in a row, publishers are clamoring for middle-grade, reporters Publishers Weekly. "I’ve been coming [to Bologna] for 12 to 15 years, and I’ve never had as many European publishers asking for middle-grade," said Steven Chudney of the Chudney Agency. Read more ...

February 14, 2014:
Cybils Awards announced
Ultra by David Carroll (Scholastic Canada) wins the Cybil for middle grade fiction; Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (Disney Hyperion) wins for Speculative Fiction. Read more.

January 27, 2014: And the Newbery Medal goes to ...
Kate DiCamillo won the Newbery Medal for "Flora & Ulysses"; Rita Williams-Garcia won the Coretta Scott King Author award for "P.S. Be Eleven." Newbery Honor awards to authors Vince Vawter, Amy Timberlake, Kevin Henkes and Holly Black. For all the exciting ALA Youth Media Award News ... READ MORE

November 12, 2013:
Vote in the GoodReads semifinal round

Readers' votes have narrowed the middle-grade semifinals down to 20 titles. Log in to your GoodReads account and vote for your favorite middle-grade (and in other categories, of course). Read more ...

November 9, 2013:
Publishers Weekly Top Children's Books of 2013

Middle-grade and young adult titles selected by the editors of Publishers Weekly as their top picks of the year. Let the season of "top ten books" begin! Read more ...

October 14, 2013:
Middle Shelf: Cool Reads for Kids debuts January 2014

Shelf Media Group, publisher of Shelf Unbound indie book review magazine, will launch a new free digital-only publication for middle-grade readers. The debut issue features interviews with such notable authors as Margaret Peterson Haddix and Chris Grabenstein as well as reviews, excerpts, and more. Middle Shelf will be published bi-monthly beginning in January 2014.
Read more ...

September 19, 2013: Writer-in-Residence program at Thurber House

Dream of time and space to focus on your own writing project? Applications now being accepted (11/1/2013 deadline) for The Thurber House Residency in Children's Literature, a month-long retreat in the furnished third-floor apartment of Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio. Read more ...

September 18, 2013: Vermont College of Fine Arts Scholarship opportunity

Barry Goldblatt Literary launches The Angela Johnson Scholarship, a talent-based grant for writers of color attending the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults program at VCFA. Up to two $5,000 grants will be awarded each year. Read more ....

September 16, 2013:
National Book Awards longlist for youth literature

For the first time, the NBA is presenting lists of 10 books/authors on the longlist in each category. The 2013 young adult literature list includes five middle grade novels and five YA. Read more ...

Sept. 13, 2013: Spring preview
Check out Publishers Weekly roundup of upcoming children's books to be published in spring 2014. Read more...

August 21, 2013:
Want to be a Cybils Award Judge?

Middle grade categories are fiction, speculative fiction, nonfiction. Applications due August 31! Read more ...

August 19, 2013:
S&S and BN reach a deal
Readers will soon be able to find books from Simon & Schuster at Barnes & Noble. The bookstore chain was locked in a disagreement with the publisher over how much it was willing to pay for books. Read more ...

August 6, 2013:
NPR's 100 Must-Reads for Kids
NPR's Backseat Book Club asked listeners to nominate their favorite books for readers ages 9 to 14. More than 2,000 people nominated titles, and a panel of Newbery authors brought the list to 100. Most are middle grade books. Read more ...

 
July 2, 2013:
Penguin & Random House Merger

The new company, Penguin Random House, will control more than 25 percent of the trade book market in the United States. On Monday, the newly formed company began to take shape, only hours after a middle-of-the-night announcement that the long-planned merger had been completed. Read more ...

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  • Interview with Editor Donna Bray

    Uncategorized

    In the spring of 2008, two colleagues brought together years of stellar editing experience to establish their own imprint at HarperCollins.  Alessandra Balzer and Donna Bray have since published dozens of delightful, award-winning books for kids of all ages.  Donna somehow found time to talk about her own reading life, what she loves best in MG, and what B & B has coming up.  (Full, happy disclosure: she’s editor of Tricia Springstubb’s WHAT HAPPENED ON FOX STREET and the forthcoming MO WREN, LOST AND FOUND.)  

     

    What kind of reader were you as a child?

    I read early and often, voraciously and indiscriminately! I wish I could say there had been a great neighborhood bookstore, a well-stocked public library with a friendly librarian, and wonderful school and classroom libraries when I was growing up – alas, quite the opposite. I mostly got books for my birthday and Christmas, and otherwise trolled garage sales for cheap paperbacks or borrowed from friends. We had lots of books in our house, but keeping me in new books was nearly impossible, so I became an inveterate rereader, especially of JANE EYRE and ANNE OF GREEN GABLES. (Great training for a future editor!)

    In addition to these classics and others like LITTLE WOMEN, the Little House books, Nancy Drew, and Grimms’ and Andersen’s fairy tales, I also loved Elizabeth Enright, Ruth Chew, E.L. Konigsburg, Judy Blume, Paula Danziger… Later I devoured “issue books” about teens with dreadful problems, as well as the likes of Sidney Sheldon, Danielle Steel, and V.C. Andrews (trashy and scandalous, but what great summer reading!). Paul Zindel’s THE PIGMAN and THE OUTSIDERS by S.E. HINTON were a revelation at the time.

    What made you choose to be an editor for children, rather than adults? 

    I’m here by chance, really. An acquaintance of mine casually suggested that maybe I’d like working for a publisher, which strangely had never occurred to me before. I’d had jobs all through college (in New York City) in television and classical music publicity, but nothing struck me as a career I’d want to pursue. Anyway, I applied for any entry-level publishing jobs I could pick out of the New York Times classifieds, and eventually had two offers: one in children’s marketing, the other in adult publicity. The former paid $1000 more, so it was no contest – I was going to work in children’s books.

    Once I started that first job at Henry Holt, though, I couldn’t believe how perfect it was for me. I absolutely loved everything about the field. I knew I had to be in editorial though, and moved over to that department within a year.

    B&B publishes such an amazing variety of books.  When it comes to middle grade, what ingredients do you consider essential?

    I’d say humor is important, even in a mostly serious book, and real heart and emotional resonance, even in a primarily funny book. Characters that are real, specific, relatable, memorable. An original, compelling voice. A richly imagined setting you can really live in. I suppose I like to have these qualities in all my fiction! But I guess I don’t have a list that I check off when I’m reading a book. What I’m always looking for is a story that surprises or delights me, moves me, makes me think. I appreciate stories that cross or defy genres (THE TRUE MEANING OF SMEKDAY by Adam Rex, THE INCORRIGIBLE CHILDREN OF ASHTON PLACE by Maryrose Wood), or one that touches on familiar themes but approaches them in a fresh way (WHAT HAPPENED ON FOX STREET by Tricia Springstubb).

    Besides the ages of the characters, what would you say are the definitive differences between middle grade and young adult? 

    Not to dodge the question, but Michael Stearns at Upstart Crow recently did a pretty good job answering that question http://upstartcrowliterary.com/blog/. The level of interiority and outward focus, vocabulary, sentence structure, etc. all matter. But one simple but pretty foolproof question I do ask myself when evaluating a middle-grade manuscript is: would any 8-to-12-year-olds care about this?

    We’re guessing editors are as reluctant as writers to name their own favorite book. But could you mention a few that have given you particular pleasure or satisfaction to work on?

    I named a few, above, and some more, below – I’m so proud of those books. But some others in the middle-grade category include WE ARE THE SHIP: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson – I don’t do a lot of nonfiction, so this book was a real editorial workout for me. I loved the challenge of putting it all together, and I learned so much. The Clementine books were such happy books to work on – Sara Pennypacker and Marla Frazee are so brilliant and thoughtful and care so much, and it shows. Recently I’ve been impressed with the inventive plotting and incredible revision skills of Janice Hardy, author of THE SHIFTER, BLUE FIRE, and the upcoming DARKFALL.

    Do your own children’s tastes influence you? 

    My children, Grace (11) and Liam (9) don’t influence what I publish so much as they educate me, every day, about children’s reading habits and tastes and interests. My daughter’s sudden leap to reading young teen books, and my son’s love of graphic novels and stories of Arctic adventure, are fascinating to me, but I am well aware that my children are not always representative of their age category. I bring home books and ARCs, and it’s great to see what attracts them and what doesn’t. But it’s of course especially gratifying when they love (and reread obsessively, as I once did!) books I’ve edited.

    Any upcoming books you want to tell us about?  

    We have an amazing 2011 list in the middle-grade category! Those that I’m working on now include THE DETENTION CLUB by David Yoo (winter ’11) and the second Incorrigible Children book, THE HIDDEN GALLERY; INVISIBLE INKLING by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Harry Bliss (the launch of a new middle-grade series, publishing summer ‘11), MO WREN, LOST AND FOUND, the sequel to WHAT HAPPENED ON FOX STREET; and WILDWOOD by Colin Meloy and illustrated by Carson Ellis, the first in a major new fantasy series (both fall ’11).

    Some great middle-grade coming from the Balzer + Bray/Walden Pond Press team include HOW LAMAR’S BAD PRANK WON A BUBBA-SIZED TROPHY by Crystal Allen; THE FOURTH STALL by Chris Rylander; THE TROUBLE WITH CHICKENS by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Kevin Cornell (all winter ’11); JUNIPER BERRY by Michael Kozlowsky (summer ’11), and BREADCRUMBS by Anne Ursu (fall ’11).

     Thanks so much, Donna.

    6 Comments

    6 Comments

    1. brian_ohio  •  Nov 24, 2010 @12:55 pm

      So it’s all about the money, huh? ;-) That’s a joke. Seriously.

      Great interview. I’m a big fan of Adam Rex and his books.

      I’m wondering, when you are debating to purchase a manuscript or not, if you take into account whether the audience will be girls, boys or both?

      Thanks, Donna, for the great information.

    2. Laurie Schneider  •  Nov 24, 2010 @6:04 pm

      Thanks, Donna and Tricia for the great interview. Humor and heart; that’s what I love about middle-grade, too. I’m excited to hear that E. Jenkins is going middle-grade. Can’t wait to see that…and the followup to Tricia’s FOX STREET.

    3. Cathe Olson  •  Nov 24, 2010 @9:49 pm

      Great interview . . . I can relate to both ends of your life. As a girl, I also loved Anne of Green Gables and Jane Eyre and went through the VC Andrews/Sheldon faze. Ironically, my kids are the same ages as yours and my older daughter has started into teen reads. I love reading the same books as them and then talking about what we liked and disliked . . . it’s often quite different.

      Love the list of upcoming titles. The Detention Club sounds interesting. I’ll look for it when I do my spring book order for my elementary school library.

    4. Crystal Roget  •  Nov 27, 2010 @1:33 pm

      Really, really enjoyed this interview! My reading habits growing up were practically the same as Donna’s . . . I loved reading the various series under V.C. Andrews, as well as ANYTHING by Sidney Sheldon, Judy Blume, and PAula Danziger. And I’m so happy that my oldest daughter (who’s 11) loves reading almost as much as I did at that age. Her favorites, though, are Wendy Mass, Jeff Kinney, Rachel Renee Russell (Dork Diaries), Jerry Spinelli, and Rebecca Stead (I just convinced her to read When You Reach Me, and she LOVED it!)

      Balzer & Bray’s upcoming list sounds fantastic . . . looking forward to reading Crystal Allen’s debut!

      Thanks, Tricia & Donna!

    5. Donna Bray  •  Nov 29, 2010 @8:36 am

      Brian — that $1000 was a shockingly large percentage of my salary! I’ll leave it to your imagination how little I was making.

      RE: your question about male/female audience — it’s something we certainly note, as part of how to position a title. Don’t know if that answers your question…

    6. Jill Hathaway  •  Nov 29, 2010 @3:41 pm

      Hee hee, “the likes of” V.C. Andrews. Aaaaaaaaaaaah, I still love FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC.