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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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  • When Mean Girls… Grow Up?

    Miscellaneous, Uncategorized

    Last week I read a fascinating article in the Washington Post about mean girls — you know, those schoolyard queen bees who delight in belittling, ostracizing and otherwise tormenting their fellow classmates. You can read the full article and discussion here, but the gist of the story is this:  Real Housewives and Hollywood drama notwithstanding, most “mean girls” eventually grow up to be… well, actual (non-mean) grown-ups. Call it a case of developing empathy. Call it a case of being left in the dust when others do, recent studies suggest the end result is the same — bullies eventually outgrow bullying.

    I found this research particularly interesting because as middle-grade writers (and fellow middle school survivors), we all know the playground can be one of the most treacherous places on the planet, heck, maybe even the universe. In fact, if Earth is ever invaded by alien forces, forget the army — just send a cadre of lip-gloss wearing, cellphone-wielding 12-year-olds to point out that a green glow, single giant eyeball and shiny space suits are soooo last year. Embarrass those little green men right back to their home planet.

    All kidding aside, there’s good reason the “mean girl” (or boy) remains a popular character in middle-grade fiction. They’re real. Kids have to deal with them. Think nasty Wendy in Judy Blume’s classic, Blubber. Or Nan Marino’s hurting Tamara in Neil Armstrong is My Uncle. Almost every kid has encountered (or maybe even been) one of these characters at some point. And what better way to open an honest discussion about bullying — and remind kids that yes, this too shall pass — than with a book.

    This got me to thinking… just what would become of our favorite (and not-so-favorite) literary mean girls if they were to leap off the page and actually “grow up”? Would Tammy become a space shuttle pilot? Would Wendy someday gain thirty pounds and apologize to Linda at their 10-year high school reunion? Do mean girls really change?

    Looking back at my own childhood, I have to say, for the most part — yes. I still vividly remember the girl who tormented another middle school classmate for — no joke — wearing a plaid jacket to school. Then, there were the queen bees that got my sixth-grade class (and best friend) to shun me for an entire week (aka, eternity), simply because I failed to send them postcards on a daily basis from my spring vacation in Myrtle Beach. And of course, there was the poor soul whose underpants were flown up the flagpole (really) at summer camp.

    Still, by the time high school rolled around, the plaid-jacket tormentor had faded into obscurity, the sixth-grade queen bees had gone their separate ways and no longer ruled the cafeteria. We outgrew summer camp. In fact, by the time we all graduated and headed into the real world, I don’t really remember any one group going after another anymore. And once our 20-year reunion came around, everyone was pretty much on even footing — jobs, kids, marriages, divorces, deaths and births, sorrows and joys. There was no one in the corner being ridiculed for wearing a plaid dress to the Knight’s of Columbus grand lodge that night. We all danced liked idiots, swapped stories, had a little too much wine and wondered where the time had gone. There wasn’t a bully in sight.

    So, what do you think? What happens when “mean girls” grow up? Do they? If you could predict a future for your favorite literary meanie, what would it be? Go ahead, be creative. And while you’re at it — if you could go back in time and tell your middle-grade self how different things will be just a few years down the road, what would you say? Please, share with me in the comments below!

    And, because we’re really all about the love here on the Mixed-Up Files, don’t forget to hop over to our Love Our Readers Giveaway. Today’s the last day to enter, so don’t wait!

    15 Comments

    9 Comments

    1. Jana Warnell  •  Feb 21, 2011 @9:05 am

      I agree with this! I think middle school is so much worse than high school. By the time high school rolls around most people have their spot and their friends, security. I do think mean girls are the worst in middle school–and I personally have never encountered an out right vicious grown up woman, but I have heard tales…

      Jan Gangsei Reply:

      @Jana Warnell, I have to say… I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a downright vicious grown-up woman, either. At least, not one that’s managed to be successful and have friends. Eventually, I think nasty behavior just alienates people. Most people I’ve known in my adult life have been helpful, kind and generous.

    2. LG  •  Feb 21, 2011 @9:31 am

      Middle school was the most awful three years of my life because of bullying. I guess I wish I could have told myself that bullies bully for a reason – and those reasons are rarely ever the other kids they bully. Those reasons are insecurity, anger, and emulating what they learn (receive) at home. What I dislike in some novels is the one-dimensional portrayal of “mean girls” or “mean boys.” I think an addition to saying “this too shall pass” would be to delve into the bully character a tiny bit more and show the human side – the hurt and reactive side. It would give the reader (who may even be a bully!) some insight and maybe even give cause for empathy.

      Jan Gangsei Reply:

      @LG, I agree 100% about one-dimensional portrayals of “mean” girls and boys. That’s one reason I really liked Nan Marino’s book. Tammy is not always the most sympathetic of characters — but she’s real, and you can see the pain that causes her to lash out at Muscle Man. By the end of the story it’s heartening to see her begin to develop empathy and learn to look beyond her own suffering.

      LG Reply:

      @Jan Gangsei, I’ll definitely check out Nan Marino’s book! Thanks for such a great post & topic!

    3. Brenda Ferber  •  Feb 21, 2011 @12:18 pm

      Sadly, I have come across plenty of grown up mean girls. Where I live, they are the moms of the popular girls, and they have their own cliques and act in their own nasty ways. The good thing is that as an adult, I get to choose whom to involve in my life. So those mean grown ups are sort of distantly entertaining to me at this point!

    4. Wendy Shang  •  Feb 21, 2011 @2:54 pm

      I have to agree with Brenda – we have queen bee syndrome around here. We lucky grown-ups can choose who we associate with, though. Kids in school, not so much!

    5. nan marino  •  Feb 21, 2011 @3:43 pm

      Wow! Thanks so much for including my book in your conversation. You’ve raised some really interesting points about bullying. I love what you said about high school reunions. Time is a great equalizer. Unfortunately there probably are adult “mean girls” out there.
      But kids make bad choices, people grow and change, and not all mean girls turn into mean adults. If I were to predict a future for a “literary meanie”, here’s what I think happens to Tamara. She turns out okay. She’s able to channel that strong sense of justice into a journalism career. She confronts heads of states, crooked politicians and organized crime bosses and becomes famous for her no-holds-barred approach to interviewing. She gives money to charities and rescues stray kittens. Her personal life? Well, that’s another story… :) Thanks again for the book mention. Your post gave me a lot to think about.

      Jan Gangsei Reply:

      @nan marino, Loved Neil Armstrong… and love your vision for Tamara. I can definitely see her chasing down heads of state, crooked politicians and crime bosses. Absolutely perfect! Thanks for popping in to comment :-).

    6. Jan Gangsei  •  Feb 21, 2011 @4:25 pm

      @Brenda, @Wendy, Interesting point about the grown-up queen bees. I guess cliquish behavior doesn’t necessarily go away… although I must say I’ve met people who’ve seemed queen bee-ish on the surface, but actually turned out to be quite lovely once I got to know them. Like you both said, though, the beauty of being an adult is we get to choose who we associate with! And I figure at this point in life, if someone’s capable of only superficial, exclusionary friendships… well, that’s actually kind of sad more than anything.

    7. Ms. Yingling  •  Feb 22, 2011 @6:39 am

      There are mean adult women, too; they just are sneakier and more devious. The upside to mean girls is that 30 years after high school, when they want to “friend” you on Facebook, you can hit “ignore”!

    8. Robin Reul  •  Feb 22, 2011 @12:18 pm

      I remember the mean girl of my youth all too well. It was 8th grade, and I’d transferred to a new school, and she picked on me for absolutely no reason. One day she stole my lunch, and the next day threw it back on my desk with a dead lizard inside. I left the school at the end of the year, glad to be free of her, and started at a new private school. In 10th grade, guess who decided to transfer there? I made the classic teenage mistake of talking about her behind her back to friends and sharing my experience, and such is Murphy’s Law, she found out and cornered me in a bathroom there and threatened me and pinned me to the wall and wrote “Loser” on my forehead, which I spent the next period in the bathroom cryoing and scrubbing off. Mean girls, in short, suck. However, this mean girl grew up, had a kid, got married, and from what I can discern, is now divorced and a single mom. I wish her well, but there is indeed always a lingering wonder what went on in this person’s life that she had to that me so much when I’d done nothing but simply exist. Of course, in the teenage realm, sometimes that alone is simply enough. I can’t imagine her being warm and fuzzy or us bonding today at a reunion and laughing off our past. I have to imagine if the seeds of jealousy or hatred or self loathing were that deep then, they still must exist in some form today. I can only look at who I was then, and despite that I’m not that insecure teenage girl now, it helped shape me into who I am in this moment. I think anyone dealing with a mean girl has to remember that there are things far below the surface in play that you can’t see, and that makes writing those characters so much fun. So that said, anytime I write athat kind of character, I channel her. :)

      Jan Gangsei Reply:

      @Robin Reul, What an incredibly eloquent — and gut-wrenching — comment. Thank you for sharing your story. It really is hard to imagine what makes someone behave that way. Clearly there’s a lot more at play than simply trying to be “cool,” and I agree that whatever jealousy/hatred/self-loathing caused that behavior probably didn’t just go away (without some sort of therapy or intervention). You have such an amazing perspective, though — being able to wish her well and using your experience to dig deep into your characters. I suspect your stories are anything but one-dimensional! Best wishes with your writing :-).

    9. sarah aronson  •  Feb 22, 2011 @3:55 pm

      Interesting post!

      The mean girls I see now have moms who are VERY afraid of their kids being bullied. These girls are encouraged to “move up” in the social pack. And sometimes that means giving up on old friendships.

      The film, IT’S A GIRL’S WORLD, is available to rent. It is the story of a tragic bullying case. Also: the filmmaker interviews a group of nine year olds. You will be shocked. After I witnessed a few kids picking on a student, I showed this film at my religious school. There were some parents that were VERY upset (the parents of the bullies)–but it really woke a lot of kids up.

      Jan Gangsei Reply:

      @sarah aronson, Interesting perspective, Sarah — makes me wonder, what were the mothers of these mean girls like when they were kids? Were they bullies themselves? Or do they just somehow think (in a messed up sort of way) that by encouraging “meanness” in their own children they will protect them from being bullied? Sad, really. Good for you for showing that film — sounds like just the wake-up call that was needed. Hopefully other educators/parents/etc. are as proactive when they witness bullying behavior.