• OhMG! News


    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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  • From Editor to Agent: a chat with Alyssa Eisner Henkin


    A couple of years ago, after many rejections, I was fortunate enough to land Alyssa Eisner Henkin of Trident Media as my agent! Alyssa worked as an editor for over six years at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers where she edited books such as Laurie Halse Anderson’s THANK YOU, SARAH and THE MOTHER DAUGHTER BOOK CLUB by Heather Frederick.

    Four years ago, Trident made her an offer she couldn’t refuse when they decided to represent children’s authors. Since she’s been a fan of this blog for a while, she was happy to take time out of her busy agenting/editing/parenting schedule to talk with me about the magic of middle grade books and readers.

    Alyssa Eisner Henkin

    What’s so special about middle grade books and readers?

    AH: I came into my reading own during the middle grade years. Fourth grade was particularly memorable with the discovery of BETSY-TACY THE HIGHT SCHOOL YEARS, ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT”S ME, MARGARET, and the canon of Elaine Konigsburg. I remember these books differently than those books read to me at bedtime when I was in second grade because I felt so grown-up and so lucky to devour them on my own. It’s that private entryway into reading, the kind that literally impels a kid to bring a book to the dinner table (as I did with Margaret!), that really kicks in amidst those middle years.

    You’ve been in the publishing industry-first as an editor and now as an agent-for over ten years. How has children’s publishing changed and evolved in that time:

    AH: Children’s books contribute to the bottom -line successes of publishing houses much more so than they did in the era before HARRY POTTER and TWILIGHT. We live in a time when a new WIMPY KID might well out-sell a former president’s autobiography. As a result, editors frequently seek “big” children’s and YA books, be they epic romance trilogies, dystopian thrillers, graphic novels, or books with online dimensions that ensure readers continued interest, not only in the storyline, but in the world of books, which lends itself to merchandising, film, etc.

    How have middle-grade books changed-or have they?

    AH: Today, we’re living in a robust climate for illustrated and graphic middle grade. And while there’s definitely a need for very plot-driven and commercial books for middle grade, it is till a genre with many successful titles that are not instant bestsellers upon publication. Books like THE PENDERWICKS, MOCKINGBIRD, or WHEN YOU REACH ME, to name just a few, become

    When You Reach Me

    popular in large part due to the great buzz and critical acclaim surrounding them, and also perhaps in part because they embody a more timeless feel.

    Ah yes, I have a particular fondness for “timeless” books. What makes a middle grade book timeless? Do you think it’s different than what makes an adult novel timeless, like for instance, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD?

    AH: Sometimes it’s the notable absence of things like texting and cell phone and such. More importantly though, it’s the relatability and sheer appeal of the characters and the drive that fuels their quests. In your forthcoming middle grade novel, A DOG’S WAY HOME, readers are so hungry to know if Tam and Abby will find their way back to each other, the fact that it’s contemporary seems secondary to the riveting quest itself. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD feels timeless in a different way. The story is very much about the South at a certain point in time. That era’s prejudice and disenfranchisement propel the story. However, the masterful voice itself grabs onto new readers discovering it for the first time, and in that way, the appeal is timeless. Also the retrospective quality of Scout’s voice makes it feel much different than many classic children’s books.

    Who are some of your favorite middle grade authors?

    AH: As a child, I adored Lois Lowry, Sydney Taylor, L.M. Montgomery, Frances Hodgson, Elinor Estes, and Noel Streatfeild. I still adore Lois Lowry’s new books! Sadly, the others are dead. Thankfully, I’ve also come to admire and enjoy works by Lauren Tarsish, Jacqueline West, Lauren Myracle, and Michael Buckley, as well as those of my incredible clients: Lisa Greenwald, Jennifer Roy, Julie Berry, Lauren Barnholdt, among many others.

    Your son is about nine months old now. Want to take a look in your crystal ball and predict where books/publishing will be when he’s old enough to read middle grade books?

    AH: I think he might see a rejuvenation of the “choose your own adventure” style books that were semi-popular when I was a kid. He will be likely, though, to see them in a new media form. I expect there will be many more graphic novels and maybe even mobile device novels that feel quite modern. And yet, while formats might be changing, I think the standards for writing quality and kid-appeal are high. So, while there will still be room for books about a variety of topics that kids hear about via word of mouth. And I have a feeling my son will be reading at the dinner table in about eight years, considering he already tried to eat his board books!

    Speaking of dinner, if you could have dinner with any book character, who would it be?

    AH: It would have to be Betsy Ray in the Maud Hart Lovelace books. I’d be happy to eat only the infamous onion sandwiches that Betsy’s father would serve at Sunday Night Lunch! I’d ask her what it was like to be in Europe when The Great War broke out and if she ever thought then she’d marry Joe Willard!

    A lot of agents and editors say they are looking for “high concept” books. Can you explain to us exactly what “high concept” means?

    AH: Good question! High concept books tend to be books that have a unique kind of storytelling device in addition to the straight narrative, like code cracking, and/or are heavily quest or plot-driven. They often involve wish fulfillment or worst-nightmare-come-true scenarios. Whether it’s about the only two kids left searching for water on a seemingly dry planet in the year 2111, or about two kids running away from home to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art over forty years ago, readers that age seem to love the “what if” scenarios that they might never attempt in their own lives. Though, for the record, I did have two friends who tried to get locked in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Sadly, a security guard found them and kicked them out!

    When you’re reading a submission or just for your own pleasure, what grabs you first: voice or plot?

    AH: Voice grabs me first and foremost when I read for pleasure. That’s true to some extent when I read for work too. But I know both editors and kid readers are very ken on the plot-driven-pull-you-in-and-don’t-let-go books that are popular these days. So I’d say plot is a huge factor in my decision in whether or not to represent a book. However, a great voice is certainly of paramount importance. The two are by no means mutually exclusive!

    And speaking of submissions, are you currently seeking to expand your author list? And if so, what kind of submissions are you eager to find?

    AH: I’m always looking for well-written and commercial projects. I enjoy middle grade manuscripts with big swashbuckling plots from mystery to adventure to code cracking to wish fulfillment. I’m a sucker for anything with a classic feel, like THE PENDERWICKS and THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY. On the YA side, I love epic romances of all stripes, be they historical, dystopian, etc. I’m also keen on finding a YA Stieg Larson, and I’d love a snarky contemporary that retails a classic story. I take email queries only. You can email me at ahenkin@tridentmediagroup.com

    Bobbie Pyron’s book (agented by the fabulous Alyssa Eisner Henkin) A DOG’S WAY HOME hits bookstores the end of this month!



    1. Joanne  •  Feb 16, 2011 @9:58 am

      Great post. It’s so good to hear different perspectives about the industry. Thanks to Bobbie and Alyssa for sharing these insights.

    2. brian_ohio  •  Feb 16, 2011 @1:44 pm

      Great Interview. I’ll have to check out some of her favorite authors.

    3. Karen Schwartz  •  Feb 16, 2011 @3:20 pm

      Great interview! I like a lot of the same authors too. Look forward to reading your book, Bobby!

    4. Bobbie Pyron  •  Feb 16, 2011 @6:49 pm

      Thanks all! She is really a delight. We sort of have our own little book club and love to talk about books we’re reading. She’s the one who turned me on to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and The Help. We love talking books!

    5. Laurie Schneider  •  Feb 17, 2011 @12:47 am

      Thanks for the wonderful discussion. I especially enjoyed Alyssa’s take on what makes a story timeless.

    6. Brookefav  •  Feb 17, 2011 @2:45 am

      I love hearing from MG agents. Thanks for the great interview. I loved the definition of high concept.

    7. Mike Jung  •  Feb 17, 2011 @2:34 pm

      Thanks for a great interview! Alyssa seems like a high-quality agent AND person.

    8. Jean Reagan  •  Feb 18, 2011 @9:26 am

      Wonderful interview. I could “feel” the collaborative energy between you two!

      Jean Reagan

    9. shelli  •  Mar 3, 2011 @7:24 am

      alyssa is my agent and I love her.

      congards on book Bobbie :)