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    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 ...

    March 28, 2013: Big at Bologna

     This year at the Bologna Children's Book Fair, the focus has shifted to middle-grade.  “A lot of foreign publishers are cutting back on YA and are looking for middle-grade,” said agent Laura Langlie, according to Publisher's Weekly.  Lighly illustrated or stand-alone contemporary middle-grade fiction is getting the most attention.  Read more...


    March 10, 2013: Marching to New Titles

    Check out these titles releasing in March...


    March 5, 2013: Catch the BEA Buzz

    Titles for BEA's Editor Buzz panels have been announced.  The middle-grade titles selected are:

    A Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson

    Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

    The Fantastic Family Whipple by Matthew Ward

    Nick and Tesla's High-Voltages Danger Lab by Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

    The Tie Fetch by Amy Herrick

    For more Buzz books in other categories,


    February 20, 2013: Lunching at the MG Roundtable 

    Earlier this month, MG authors Jeanne Birdsall, Rebecca Stead, and N.D. Wilson shared insight about writing for the middle grades at an informal luncheon with librarians held in conjunction with the New York Public Library's Children's Literary Salon "Middle Grade: Surviving the Onslaught."

    Read about their thoughts...


    February 10, 2013: New Books to Love

    Check out these new titles releasing in February...


    January 28, 2013: Ivan Tops List of Winners

    The American Library Association today honored the best of the best from 2012, announcing the winners of the Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz awards, along with a host of other prestigious youth media awards, at their annual winter meeting in Seattle.

    The Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature went to The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Honor books were: Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz; Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin; and Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage.

    The Coretta Scott King Book Award went to Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney.

    The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award,which honors an author for his or her long-standing contributions to children’s literature, was presented to Katherine Paterson.

    The Pura Belpre Author Award, which honors a Latino author, went to Benjamin Alire Saenz for his novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which was also named a Printz Honor book and won the Stonewall Book Award for its portrayal of the GLBT experience.

    For a complete list of winners…


    January 22, 2013: Biography Wins Sydney Taylor

    Louise Borden's His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg, a verse biography of the Swedish humanitarian, has won the Sydney Taylor Award in the middle-grade category. The award is given annually to books of the highest literary merit that highlight the Jewish experience. Aimee Lurie, chair of the awards committee, writes, "Louise Borden's well-researched biography will, without a doubt, inspire children to perform acts of kindness and speak out against oppression."

    For more...


    January 17, 2013: Erdrich Wins Second O'Dell

    Louise Erdrich is recipient of the 2013 Scott O'Dell Award for her historical novel Chickadee, the fourth book in herBirchbark House series. Roger Sutton,Horn Book editor and chair of the awards committee, says of Chickadee,"The book has humor and suspense (and disarmingly simple pencil illustrations by the author), providing a picture of 1860s Anishinabe life that is never didactic or exotic and is briskly detailed with the kind of information young readers enjoy." Erdrich also won the O'Dell Award in 2006 for The Game of Silence, the second book in theBirchbark series. 

    For more...


    January 15, 2013: After the Call

    Past Newbery winners Jack Gantos, Clare Vanderpool, Neil Gaiman, Rebecca Stead, and Laura Amy Schlitz talk about how winning the Newbery changed (or didn't change) their lives in this piece from Publishers Weekly...


    January 2, 2013: On the Big Screen

    One of our Mixed-up Files members may be headed to the movies! Jennifer Nielsen's fantasy adventure novel The False Prince is being adapted for Paramount Pictures by Bryan Cogman, story editor for HBO's Game of Thrones. For more...


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NaNoWriMo – Pep Talks


NaNoWriMo Logo

(Note: This is the fourth of a five-part series about NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program.  Click the following links to read Part 1Part 2Part 3, and Part 5 of the series.)

This week several of our NaNoWriMo authors’ stories continued to flow along easily, word after word. The students are writing as though they are excited to see what is going to happen next. But there were several kids who were a little slumped over in their chairs. Fingers were perched on the keys of their AlphaSmarts, but they weren’t moving. Pencils were tapped and chewed on, but they weren’t being used for writing. And it makes perfect sense that right here, in the middle of it all, most writers, even bestsellers, hit a wall.

I asked several of the older kids what they were feeling. Many admitted they were worried they wouldn’t finish. Finding time to write is really hard, they said. They weren’t sure they liked their stories anymore or they were stuck because they’d hit a boring spot in their story.

As for word count and “finishing,” WigMo and I have made it clear to our students that there is absolutely no shame in not meeting the word count goal the students set at the beginning of the month. NaNoWriMo is all about writing a fast draft, a method that works for many writers. But it isn’t the only way to write a book. Writing slowly and editing as you go is another great method. What’s most important is that our writers continue to work on their novels even after the so-called deadline at the end of November. I was happy to hear that all of our students said they plan to keep writing.

But to get them through the next weeks, they need some big encouragement. The NaNoWriMo website has pep talks for writers and these encouraging words from your favorite authors can be accessed year round. While I was stuck in a writing rut this summer, I went to the NaNo site for help. I found a great pep talk by Neil Gaiman, an award winning author and two of his middle-grade novels include The Graveyard Book and Coraline. A paragraph from his pep talk that I posted on my wall in big letters says:

“You write. That’s the hard bit that nobody sees. You write on the good days and you write on the lousy days. Like a shark, you have to keep moving forward or you die. Writing may or may not be your salvation; it might or might not be your destiny. But that does not matter. What matters right now are the words, one after another. Find the next word. Write it down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.”  (You can find the entire pep talk here: http://www.nanowrimo.org/node/3699304)

After sharing Neal Gaiman’s words of wisdom, I asked the students to take five minutes to write a short pep talk to themselves. With their permission, here are some of the pep talks they wrote:

“A good story needs commitment. You can’t write a big story just because you want to. You need to actually work on it. And I believe that if you are committed to writing, you will succeed in writing.” Sunny, Grade 5

“For me, it really helps to read. I get great ideas. I write and write and write then, if I get stuck, I read. When I get another idea I write it down. That gives me another idea, which leads to another idea. I start to write, then I can’t stop! Later, if I get stuck, I read, I get an idea and so on.” Cassidy, Grade 5

“Write whatever you want. Don’t give up until you get to the finish line. Writing is like a reward, not a punishment. Once you get done with a book, you’ll feel fantastic. It feels fantastic even writing it.”  Aislinn, Grade 5

“Just keep writing. Never give up. Don’t say to yourself, ‘My story isn’t good enough. I give up.’ Your story is always good, whatever you think. When you write you say to yourself, ‘Nearly there, nearly done.’ When you are done you will think, ‘I didn’t give up. I never stopped writing, and I completed my goal. Now I feel much better.’”  Jenna, Grade 5

“I get support from my family. My babysitter read what I have so far of my story aloud to my younger brother and he really liked it.”Isha, Grade 5

So, to all the writers out there, you are not alone. Writing a book is a tough job but you are doing it! I hope other writers will find inspiration in these words of wisdom. We would love to hear your strategy for keeping the words in motion.



  1. Laura Marcella  •  Nov 18, 2010 @3:20 pm

    They’re such wise children! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Karen Schwartz  •  Nov 18, 2010 @4:22 pm

    What wise young writers out there!

  3. Laurie Schneider  •  Nov 18, 2010 @4:24 pm

    Maybe instead of an inner editor I need an inner child! Great pep talks.

  4. Rebecca Ryals Russell  •  Nov 18, 2010 @6:08 pm

    Teaching writing was the best part of my 14 years in the MG classroom. I miss that so much. I don’t miss all of the other stuff, though. I’m enjoying my retirement and writing MG and YA books for those kidlets to read.

  5. Jennifer Duddy Gill  •  Nov 18, 2010 @7:58 pm

    I agree with all of you – the children are wise and an inner child with all that wisdom is exactly what I need too!

    Rebecca, I’m so glad you’re enjoying your retirement. I can see why you’re having so much fun since you’re spending time writing for kids.

  6. WigMo  •  Nov 23, 2010 @5:48 pm

    Here’s one more pep talk from a fifth grader who wishes to be known only as Jello –

    Writing is just like drawing, but there are limits. I doesn’t matter how much you write, but if you write a longer story, it can become a book. A short story can still be famous, too.
    Writing a famous story/book can be a real honor because many people will read it. But even if it doesn’t make it to the wall of fame or something, you will still be proud of yourself. Writing can bring you to new places. Writing can express your feelings, and it’s a ticket to the unreal world in your mind.