• From the Mixed-Up Files... > Interviews > Interview with Patricia Reilly Giff
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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:
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    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.
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    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

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    Sept. 13, 2013: Spring preview
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    August 21, 2013:
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    Middle grade categories are fiction, speculative fiction, nonfiction. Applications due August 31! Read more ...

    August 19, 2013:
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    March 28, 2013: Big at Bologna

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    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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Interview with Patricia Reilly Giff

Interviews, Writing MG Books

I am thrilled to welcome beloved children’s book author Patricia Reilly Giff to the Mixed-Up Files! She is the best-selling author of many children’s books, including the Newbery Honor winning books, PICTURES OF HOLLIS WOODS and LILY’S CROSSING. Her most recent books are the middle-grade, STORYTELLER, and a new series, THE ZIGZAG KIDS.

STORYTELLER summary from IndieBound: While staying with her aunt, Elizabeth finds something remarkable: a drawing. It hangs on the wall, a portrait of her ancestor, Eliza, known as Zee. She looks like Elizabeth.

The girls’ lives intertwine as Elizabeth’s present-day story alternates with Zee’s, which takes place during the American Revolution. Zee is dreamy, and hopeful for the future—until the Revolution tears apart her family and her community in upstate New York. Left on her own, she struggles to survive and to follow her father and brother into battle.

Zee’s story has been waiting to be rediscovered by the right person. As Elizabeth learns about Zee, and walks where Zee once walked and battles raged, the past becomes as vivid and real as the present.

What’s special about middle-grade books?

Middle-grade is particularly special because it’s the beginning of kids reading more complex, more complicated plots. As a writer, I love to explore and unravel a problem for my character.

How has children’s publishing changed since you first began writing? (First published in 1979-FOURTH GRADE CELEBRITY)

When I first began to write, there were fewer books on the market. THE KIDS OF THE POLK STREET SCHOOL was the first series for that age. It started that genre [chapter book]. The market has expanded quite a bit.

A peek into my point of view as a writer: When I began to write, I had a typewriter. I had to submit an original and two copies. I had to buy Wite-Out. You couldn’t cross out more than three times on a page. There were two pages of carbon paper, which smudged. [laughs] The meticulousness of it all.

How have middle-grade books changed since you were first published?

Middle-grade has become more sophisticated. If you compare the world of the ’50s with the 21st century, the world was simpler. Life revolved more around the neighborhood. Compare RAMONA THE PEST to some current day titles. Today’s books are much more adult in a way, now anything goes—alcohol, drug, parent issues—less openly than in young adult, but it’s there. A wonderful book, THE NINTH WARD by Jewell Parker Rhodes, about Hurricane Katrina has a child that sees her dead mother’s ghost. I don’t think you would have seen that in middle-grade before.

How much should authors do for book promotion?

I see some young writers do so much. When I began, I did nothing. Now I do talks, though that is not generated by me. The first, important thing is the review from places like School Library Journal, Kirkus, and Booklist. That’s what sells it to librarians and schools. I think publishers do more than they’re given credit for, in terms of sending out ARCs and trying to get your book sold.

How do you stay in touch with kids today?

All of my grandchildren, ages 6 to 23, live within 8 miles of me. I’m very lucky that way. Also, I speak to kids all over the country. And I get so much mail from kids. They tell me what they like and don’t like in my books.

What advice would you give to an aspiring middle-grade writer?

My husband likes to tell the story about an aspiring writer who came into our bookstore [The Dinosaur’s Paw] saying she wanted to write, but didn’t have the time. He told her: when Pat started writing she had three kids, she worked as a full-time teacher, and I worked long hours away from home, but she did it. If she could find the time, you can.

Write every day, no matter what. You can’t let it go. Even if it’s just 20 minutes a day. That’s what I’ve done for the last 30 years.

Karen B. Schwartz is working on her latest middle-grade novel, JAKE GLICK STANDS ALONE, about a shy seventh-grade boy who discovers that his girl best friend is growing up and leaving him behind.



  1. Akoss  •  Jan 5, 2011 @10:55 am

    This interview went straight to the point, and it “spoke” to me. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  2. Jeni Bell  •  Jan 5, 2011 @10:57 am

    Great advice and perspective from a beloved storyteller. Thank you for this!

  3. Laura Marcella  •  Jan 5, 2011 @11:11 am

    Wonderful interview! After hearing about those typewriter days, I sure am grateful for computers. :)

  4. Tracy Abell  •  Jan 5, 2011 @11:28 am

    I enjoyed this so much, but cringed at the memory of carbon paper and corrective fluid. Ack!

    Twenty minutes per day can really add up.

    (Karen, I love the title and pitch for your new project!)

  5. Laurie Beth Schneider  •  Jan 5, 2011 @12:35 pm

    Patricia writes so beautifully about the sun and shadows in kids lives. I could never pick a favorite, but Nory Ryan’s Song and Pictures of Hollis Woods are in my top-five for sure. So glad the days of carbon paper are gone.

  6. Sheela Chari  •  Jan 5, 2011 @12:53 pm

    I loved hearing about Pat’s take on how middle-grade has changed over the years. I think for many of us who are writing for this age-group, we find ourselves straddling between being the readers that we were (and the memories of what we read in our childhood) and trying to be writers for readers in the now.

    Thanks for the wonderful interview, Karen and Pat!

  7. Karen Schwartz  •  Jan 5, 2011 @2:53 pm

    Thanks all! It was wonderful to talk to Pat. She has such a wealth of experience and is happy to share.

    Tracy-glad you liked my new project!
    Laurie-I totally agree. Love Pictures of Hollis Woods
    Sheela-that is so true about finding that balance between our experience as readers and the next generation of readers

  8. Donna Gephart  •  Jan 6, 2011 @10:39 am

    Fabulous interview. Thanks for the much-needed inspiration!

  9. Katie  •  Jan 6, 2011 @1:36 pm

    The Polk Street School books were some of my favorites when I was in first grade. I always felt that I could see myself in them, and that I knew kids who were just like Emily Arrow and Richard Best. This was a great interview! Thanks so much!

  10. Jennifer Duddy Gill  •  Jan 6, 2011 @5:51 pm

    Patricia Reilly Giff’s books are a big part of my daughters’ childhoods. We love her! Our very favorite is WATER STREET. We read it several years ago and we still talk about it. Such amazing and vivid writing!

    And, Karen, your book description has already hooked me!

  11. Wonderful interview! Thank you so much Patricia and Karen!!! And yeah, I remember those White-Out days and weeks spent retyping manuscripts over and over again. Gosh, I love my computer. ;-)

  12. Tricia Springstubb  •  Jan 7, 2011 @10:20 am

    I have been a fan ever since my reluctant reader daughter connected with the Polk Street School books many years ago. A lovely interview!

  13. Cathe Olson  •  Jan 7, 2011 @9:02 pm

    I just got on the computer to check out this interview before curling up on the couch with my book . . . but as an aspiring middle-grade writer, I will take Patricia’s advice and do my daily writing first. Thanks for the push.