• From the Mixed-Up Files... > Giveaways > The Great Wall of Lucy Wu Interview and Giveaway!!
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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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The Great Wall of Lucy Wu Interview and Giveaway!!

Giveaways, Interviews, New Releases, Promotion

Today we are celebrating the release of The Great Wall of Lucy Wu, the debut novel of Mixed-Up File member Wendy Shang.  Lucy Wu thinks she’s about to have the perfect year, with the imminent departure of her annoying big sister from their shared bedroom and the prospects of an excellent basketball season.  When her father announces that a long-lost aunt from China is coming to visit (and that Lucy needs to go to Chinese school), Lucy thinks her “perfect” year is ruined, but discovers that she can create something better instead.

Susan Carpenter of the Los Angeles Times wrote in her review, “A delightful story about assimilation and family dynamics, “The Great Wall of Lucy Wu” is sure to appeal to young readers struggling with issues of self-identity, whatever their heritage.”

Tell us a little about your title.  What is the “great wall” of Lucy Wu?

The title came from a line in the book – a friend suggested I use it.  When Lucy finds out that she has to share her room with her great-aunt, she decides to divide the room in half.  But the real wall in the book is Lucy’s initial refusal to let herself get close to her great-aunt.

How long did you work on the book?

I worked on the book for almost two years.  I developed several chapters in a writer’s workshop, but then on my own, I fumbled around a bit.  Around that time, I received a Work-in-Progress grant from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and it really motivated me. In addition to giving me a boost of confidence, I realized I had been acting as though I wasn’t planning to finish the book, and I had to change my attitude.  I set a deadline, and really pushed myself to meet it.

Is there any particular aspect to writing that you enjoyed in particular?

Oh yes – more than one.  When I started writing the book, I was a stay-at-home mom with three kids under the age of 6.  It was an intense time, from a motherhood perspective.  Writing gave me an outlet for being my own person again.  And when I joined a critique group, it was like finding my tribe.

Writing The Great Wall of Lucy Wu also gave me a chance to talk to my own parents about our family history and draw out their experiences.  I hope this book encourages readers to find out their own family stories and ask lots of questions.

Can you talk a little about the Chinese proverbs you use in the book?

After college, I lived in Taiwan for several months, and as part of studying Chinese, I learned some Chinese idioms.  As I was writing the book, I thought it might be fun to employ some Chinese idioms in the story.  My favorite one was called the old man lost his horse, which says that events that appear to be good luck or bad luck are often quite the opposite.  For a first-time writer, this device was a great way to help structure the story.  When things started looking too bad (or good) for Lucy, I knew it was time to switch things up!

Now, we understand that you’re a fan of the Bravo show, Inside the Actor’s Studio?

Yee-e-s?  (Begins patting hair, looks around for host James Lipton.)

Would you like to take the Inside the Actor’s Studio famous questionnaire, middle-grade style?

Oh yes!  Bring it on!

What is your favorite word in a middle grade book?

I recently read Plain Kate by Erin Bow, and she is a master of beautiful and unusual words and phrases.  She used the word “dovecote,” which has been stuck in my head ever since.  It’s the long O sounds joined together, plus the idea of a building just for doves and pigeons.  Try it out one day when your brain needs a tickle.  Dovecote, dovecote, dovecote.

What is your least favorite word in a middle grade book?

The word “worthless” just came to mind.  I don’t associate this word with any particular book, but I think it goes against the middle-grade ethos of showing children that their lives and the lives of those around them, in whatever condition, are precious and meaningful.

What turns you on in a middle grade book?

I’m such a sucker for a terrific ending, and conversely, an otherwise great book with a so-so ending is a terrible disappointment.  Al Capone Does My Shirts has one of my favorite endings, I think – it’s so pitch perfect and satisfying.  I wrote the ending to The Great Wall of Lucy Wu when I was maybe 60-70% through the manuscript – it just came to me one day, and I wrote it down before I could forget it.

What turns you off in a middle grade book?

I don’t like it when children are “surprise” adopted at the end of a book or movie.  I have been a Court-Appointed Special Advocate on behalf of children in the foster care system, and that is not how it works.  Children have a voice in the process.

What sound or noise do you love in a middle grade book?

I love it when characters have time to slow down and pay attention to the sounds around them.  I think children are in such a hurry these days (including my own).  There’s a scene where Lucy can hear the sounds of a basketball practice before she can see the practice itself, and I wrote it to show how fully engaged Lucy feels when she is near a basketball court.

What sound or noise do you hate in a middle grade book?

Screeching brakes.  I’m a mom – please, no car accidents!

What is your favorite curse word in a middle grade book?

Of course, swearing is always a little dicey in middle grade books. (See this great Mixed-Up Files entry by Brian Kell on swearing in middle-grade books here.)  Go over the line and you might end up in YA!  I’ll give Lenore Look props for making Shakespearean-style swearing popular in her adorable Alvin Ho books.  Bootless toad-spotted bladder!

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

You wouldn’t know it to look at my house, but I love the *idea* of being a professional organizer.  I think it’s the equipment – I love any kind of bag or box with compartments, slots and pockets.

What profession would you not like to do?

I would not like to be one of those people who denies health insurance coverage to sick people.

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

How about a sequel?

Thanks, Wendy!  And now, for a chance to win an ARC of The Great Wall of Lucy Wu, please leave a comment below by answering your favorite Inside the Actor’s Studio (middle-grade style!) question.  Bonus entries for sharing a link on your blog, Facebook, or Twitter (please mention each link in a new comment).  The lucky winner will be announced on Thursday! If you want to learn more about The Great Wall of Lucy Wu, the blog tour continues to National Book Award winner Kathy Erskine’s blog tomorrow in two parts (here and here), and then the blog of the fabulous Madelyn Rosenberg on Thursday.



  1. A Bookshelf Monstrosity  •  Jan 11, 2011 @7:50 am

    What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

    None! I’m a school librarian and could not imagine ever doing anything else.

    Thanks for the giveaway :)

  2. jama  •  Jan 11, 2011 @8:13 am

    Just wanted to add my heartfelt congratulations to Wendy for writing such a fabulous book! Here’s my Pub Day post: http://jamarattigan.livejournal.com/500546.html.

    (No need to enter me in the giveaway.) :)

  3. Laura Marcella  •  Jan 11, 2011 @8:27 am

    I love organization equipment, too! Anything with drawers and compartments is so fun. :)

    Wendy’s novel sounds really wonderful. I can’t wait to read it!

    What profession would you not like to do?
    I would never ever want to be President or Prime Minister of a country. No matter what you do, many people will always disagree with you and even hate you. Can’t be a fun or happy job.

    MsFishby Reply:

    @Laura Marcella, I once told my dad I thought he should run for president. He laughed and said pretty much the same thing as you just did.

  4. Deb Marshall  •  Jan 11, 2011 @10:19 am

    Loved this interview! Yay for SCBWI grants, I say. Erin Bow’s book is on my to read list, she also recommended checking out the audio, said the reader is fabulous.

    I am going to check that show out, heh heh. Can never have too much reality tv right?

    Cheers and congrats on the book release!!

  5. Caroline Hickey  •  Jan 11, 2011 @10:56 am

    What profession would you not like to do?

    It’s a predictable answer, but a telemarketer. They must feel pretty crummy interrupting everyone’s dinner all the time… (Not to mention calling during toddler nap times and toddler bedtimes!)

    CONGRATS WENDY! I’m so excited to read it!

  6. Cathy Stakey  •  Jan 11, 2011 @12:07 pm

    What turns you on in a middle grade book?

    I absolutely love a middle grade book that has a “voice” that speaks to the intelligence of a middle grader. I teach 5th graders and they have a mind and willingness to take on challenges and the unknown. I love the ‘twist’ in a plot line that the offers the unexpected rather than the predictable.

  7. Karen Schwartz  •  Jan 11, 2011 @12:56 pm

    Congrats Wendy! Can’t wait to read it. Love your interview too!

  8. JenP  •  Jan 11, 2011 @2:23 pm

    What is the most important skill for a writer to have?


  9. Laura England-Biggs  •  Jan 11, 2011 @5:00 pm

    What is your least favorite word in a middle grade book?

    “Ordinary.” I have no particular book in mind, I just never liked the idea of anyone being Ordinary. I was always interested in standing out just a little :) Right, Wendy?

    Rock on, can’t wait to get the book in my hands and read it…

    Wendy S Reply:

    @Laura England-Biggs, Hee hee! Just a little, Laura! Thanks for coming by!

  10. Cindy  •  Jan 11, 2011 @5:28 pm

    What turns you off in a middle grade book?
    (Tried to get my 5th grade, voracious reader daughter to answer this one for me and all I got was an eye roll and a “when it’s boring” answer.)

    Wendy’s book sounds awesome and I would love to win a copy!

  11. Pragmatic Mom  •  Jan 11, 2011 @5:29 pm

    Can’t wait to read this book. Am blogging on it too… soon I hope!

  12. Linda Andersen  •  Jan 11, 2011 @5:45 pm

    What turns you off in a middle grade book?
    When the author has the fifth graders participate in show-and-tell or play dodgeball. That doesn’t happen anymore anywhere I know of.

    By the way, I love that you have placed idioms in your novel. Kids learn from them and most don’t know or understand many of them. The title is great. I look forward to reading this one. Congratulations Wendy.

  13. Laurie Schneider  •  Jan 11, 2011 @7:02 pm

    Best interview questions (and answers) ever. Congratulations to you and Lucy!

  14. Sheela Chari  •  Jan 11, 2011 @7:33 pm

    Congratulations on your debut, Wendy! And wow – 3 kids under the age of 6. Even more reason to admire you. Can’t wait to read your book.

  15. Joanne Prushing Johnson  •  Jan 11, 2011 @9:15 pm

    Fantastic interview Wendy! The book sounds great.

  16. Cathe Olson  •  Jan 11, 2011 @9:34 pm

    Great interview . . . enjoyed the interesting questions and the interesting answers. I’ll take one on:

    What turns you on in a middle grade book?
    What turns me on is a middle-grade book where I’m enjoying really into the voice and the story and reading it for my own enjoyment, and not just thinking: kids would probably like this but it’s not really for me and I’m just trying to get through it so I can tell my students about it.

  17. Llehn  •  Jan 11, 2011 @10:17 pm

    What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

  18. Diana Greenwood  •  Jan 12, 2011 @1:12 am

    Yippee!! Congrats, Wendy, and thanks for a fabulous interview!

  19. Sara Zoe  •  Jan 12, 2011 @6:30 am

    What turns you on in a middle grade book? Writing that is of amazing quality! I love being surprised by the literary nature of some books, and kids respond to the beauty of language too – as long as the characters and plot are also top notch!

    Thanks for the give away!

  20. Kimberley Griffiths Little  •  Jan 12, 2011 @8:09 am

    Congratulations on a wonderful book, Lucy! Loved your interview. I love deep emotion in MG books as well quirky characters.

  21. Tricia Springstubb  •  Jan 12, 2011 @4:56 pm

    I love the voice in this interview! And expect to love the book, too.

  22. Jill  •  Jan 12, 2011 @6:23 pm

    I just featured this book on my blog! So excited about it :)

    What profession would I like to try: I’d love to be a forensic pathologiest!!!! I loved the show Quincy growing up.

    Tweeted: http://twitter.com/justkeepreading/statuses/25346565673590784

  23. Mariska  •  Jan 12, 2011 @11:37 pm

    What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

    - a psychiatrist :)