• From the Mixed-Up Files... > Learning Differences > Interview with Diana Greenwood, author of Insight
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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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Interview with Diana Greenwood, author of Insight

Learning Differences


Today, we’re excited to celebrate the launch of Insight, Diana Greenwood’s debut novel from Zondervan. One of our own Mixed-Up Files members, Diana has a signed copy ready to mail to one lucky winner in the U.S. or Canada. All you need to do to enter is leave a comment on this post.

From the jacketflap:

Some secrets won’t let you go. Elvira Witsil lives about as far away from civilization as you can get, in a remote corner of Wisconsin where nothing much ever happens. In a house crowded with her mother, her cantankerous grandmother, and her little sister, Jessie, Elvira feels forgotten and alone. Their house also contains numerous secrets, and Elvira’s family holds their secrets closely. Secrets about the father that Jessie never knew, and that Elvira can’t forget. Secrets about that day five years ago. And the one secret that Elvira can’t quite understand: that Jessie sees things no one else can see. These secrets will lead Elvira and her family on a journey far away from home—on a journey toward redemption and healing—if she can just bring herself to believe.


Welcome, Diana. What led you to create the story and characters in the book? Were you personally drawn to the story?

I’m drawn to characters that suffer yet find the strength and knowledge and faith to rise above their pain. I’m drawn to situations that don’t match or fit into a neat package; characters plunked into unexpected settings or exploring the unexplained against traditional beliefs or delving deeply into hidden emotions. I’m drawn to characters with secrets.

Insight began as a spark of an idea when I heard the first few lines in Elvira’s voice. Writers say this all the time but it’s actually true. I knew right away that she was in a rural setting, a baby was about to be born, and that the bulk of the story would be post WWII.

To show how ideas combine, my mother’s brother, Clifford Rasmussen, was killed in WWII, Royal Canadian Navy, Seaman First Class. His ship was torpedoed and all crew lost at sea. There is a family story I heard growing up that always gave me shivers. One night my grandmother sat up in bed in the middle of the night, awakened by a flash of light and a loud noise. She felt as though she were swaying, woozy. She glanced at her bedside clock and the green illuminated hands showed 2:00 a.m.

This, according to the family story, was the exact day and time her son’s boat was torpedoed. Weeks after my grandmother’s sleepless night, the uncle I never met was declared missing in action. I still have the telegram.

My grandmother’s faith got her through that loss but I always wondered how it felt to lose someone so young and vital, someone missing in action forever. So those first few lines in Elvira’s voice led to the seed of the idea, mixed with that family detail, although much altered, and Insight was born. From there, the characters led the story and I let them do what they needed to do.


Insight is historical fiction with a paranormal twist. What can you tell us about your research process?

I love research and I also very much dislike research. For one thing, I tend to go off on tangents while researching, finding new story ideas in the strangest places, which does not improve one’s daily word count. (Not that I actually do a daily word count.)

I am a collector of vintage non-fiction books and magazines, in which I can get lost, but they are invaluable for advertisements, fashion, popular products, pricing, and other period information as well as language of the day. One of my most well-used research books is Look at America, Houghton Mifflin, 1946, a “look” in big, bold pictures at every region’s industry, landscape, history, landmarks and people. I also spent hours and hours in the reference section of the library checking WWII timelines, rationed items and when rationing was lifted and general details of the time period.

For help with Wisconsin terrain and 1947 Portage city and street details, I used a primary source, a friend who grew up there. Her mom had once worked with the historical society and had saved maps, newspapers, and photos, which brought the town to life for me. Although much is fictionalized in this story, street names and landmarks are real.

In Insight, there is alcoholism and since I did not grow up in a family dealing with the disease I had to interview adult children of alcoholics in order to ensure that the details of a character growing up in an uncertain environment were consistent and truthful, yet also portrayed compassion.

You can never do enough research. Trust me here. When the book was in final review, my editor pointed out that a car brand I’d mentioned in the story had not been introduced until after the story took place. Oops. I thought I’d fact-checked that. Thank goodness my editor caught that mistake and also has a sense of humor.


A truck similar to the preacher’s truck in Insight.


What inspired you to write a novel for the middle grade and young YA audience?

I write for young people because it’s their books I read. Over the years, the most memorable books—those that have stuck with me because of storyline or a strong character or a particular setting I could not forget—have been young adult or middle grade books. To name just a few, I still dream about Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, Tangerine by Edward Bloor, Under the Blood Red Sun by Graham Salisbury, The Giver by Lois Lowry, Fever by Laurie Halse Anderson, and Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. Those main characters (and their creators) are my heroes.

Insight is recommended for ages 10 and up. This audience is sophisticated with high expectations. Characters must ring true and keep the reader emotionally engaged, plot and subplots can be complicated, and subject matter is wide open for this age group. They are fearless readers and they demand the truth. I enjoy that challenge.


What would you like your readers to take away from the story?

First and foremost, reading fiction is entertainment and a good story should stay in your heart because you enjoyed it and if there was something just for you on those pages, then that’s a bonus.

Insight explores the existence of intuition. Since I believe that all talents are gifts from God, I find it interesting and likely that intuition is also a gift. I have always said that this book is a love story that shows the depth, insecurities, misunderstandings, and joy of all kinds of love, including the love of God. Love is not perfection. Love just is.

Elvira loves her dog, Sarah.


What is your favorite part of the book writing process?

I used to say that my favorite part is the very beginning when that new idea tingles and nags and begins to form and the voice of a new friend emerges. I’d settle myself at my desk with the fat lump of a cat on my lap and see who showed up on the page. It’s still delicious, that newness.

But as a more “seasoned” writer, I’d have to say that my favorite part of the process at this point is revising with the right editor. That editorial letter is a lifeline. Your story is basically complete but there is an opportunity to work with an expert, a true admirer of the written word who may suggest a tweak to a subplot that makes your stomach flip with the knowledge that it’s right. In revision, a scene may move from touching to gut-wrenching, a character’s motivation might change from shallow to profound; love might develop where you saw animosity. Anything can happen. I was so grateful to work with the delightful and brilliant Jacque Alberta, Zondervan’s finest. Even if she does call herself “Queen Pickypants.”


What are you working on next?

I’m currently working on two projects; another upper middle grade historical fiction called Three-Penny Poet where the main character in the untamed Chicago of 1933 is forced to confront mental illness in his family, and a futuristic YA that explores faith in a skeptical world. In the future I’d like to switch gears and work on contemporary humor for middle grade, which I expect will appeal to my sarcastic side.

If you haven’t seen the trailer, now’s your chance:  Insight trailer


Diana Greenwood grew up with the Bobbsey Twins, Laura Ingalls, Huck and Tom, the Hardy Boys, Jo, Francie Nolan, and Oliver Twist. She tried to duplicate the adventures of her favorite characters by writing poems, stories, and scripts for summer performances in her backyard. Today, she still has those childhood editions on her bookshelf and spends her days writing stories of young people embarking on life-changing journeys. Diana makes her home in the Napa Valley, where she watches college football, volunteers at her church, and continues to devour books. Visit her website at www.dianagreenwood.com or find her on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/diana.greenwood1

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