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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, read more...

     

    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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School’s Out… Time To Study Writing

Learning Differences

 

Last April Diana Greenwood, posted a great interview of literary agent Jennifer Rofe here at From The Mixed-Up Files. In the course of the interview Diana asked Jen a fairly common question-

What’s the best piece of advice you could give to a beginning writer?

Jen’s response sang to me.

Don’t just read, study. Study how successful authors craft their books. I tell writers that Picasso didn’t become Picasso overnight. He first copied and studied the masters before him in order to learn his craft, and then he found his artistic voice and became the Picasso we know. Aspiring authors should do the same.

Study!

Instinct and the unconscious certainly have their place in writing. Who can truly pinpoint inspiration? But the art of writing, like the art of painting, or music, or even medicine is a practice. A practice built on study.

I can vouch that kids are fascinated to hear that grownups can (and, in fact, must) study to develop a craft. When I visit schools middle grade readers love to hear that I learn as I write each new book the same way they learn as they solve math problems or research history.

It’s other adults who sometimes have a problem with the idea of practicing, honing, and yes, studying writing. How many times have I heard “Writing a kids’ book is easy”? In general, I don’t think the cynics mean to be disrespectful. Perhaps it’s because these adults have forgotten what it means to be a student. Or maybe it’s because in our day-to-day lives we all write- whether it’s an email, or a grocery list, or a business letter. How much harder can it be to write a 150 page novel? Many people, some writers even, don’t completely understand what’s involved in the “study” of writing.

So how do you study writing? Do you have to go back to school? Are there exams and textbooks?  And eek what about grades?

I don’t know Jen Rofe personally, and I certainly can’t vouch for what she’d prescribe, but I’ve invited three accomplished writers who also teach writing to drop in and discuss the study of writing.

Uma Krishnaswami is the author of well over a dozen books for middle grade and younger children. Her latest novel, THE GRAND PLAN TO FIX EVERYTHING is a fun, fantastic story for adventurous middle graders. Uma has taught writing for many years and is now on the faculty of the Vermont College MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults.

Helen Hemphill writes both YA and middle-grade novels. Her lyrical novel Runaround, now out in paperback, explores the difficult relationship between two sisters with humor and heartbreak. Helen has taught writing for many years in her hometown of Nashville.

Sarah Aronson is one of the tribe here at the Mixed-Up Files. Her new middle grade novel Beyond Lucky will hit bookstores later this month. Sarah’s online writing classes at www.Writers.com always sell out – often months ahead of their start date. (So if you’re interested in learning with Sarah sign up early!)

Welcome all! Let’s get right down to business. What does the study of writing mean to you? Is it more than reading books you enjoy? How do you go deeper?

U. K. – I think it’s important to sharpen your instincts while reading. As far as I can tell that comes from reading generously. What do I mean by that? I mean reading widely and deeply, reading books you might not instinctively pick up, and definitely reading books outside your field. So if you write YA it is not enough just to read contemporary YA novels. You need to have a broader vision about what literature is. It means learning to hold conversations with the books you read, whether you agree with them or argue with them. It means making sure that you’re stretching yourself mentally by the act of reading. You need to learn to spot a writer’s intent in a work, and gauge the extent to which it was realized, and how the writer went about realizing it on the page. You need to glean craft from the books you read. A lot of students are afraid of reading work that they imagine may be like their own. They’re afraid of undue influence. When you’re learning the craft you need to seek out the best possible sources of influence, then you need to set them all aside and see what your own writing mind has distilled.

S.A.-  I agree. Read.

Remember: When you look at a meaningful painting, you see more than one layer of paint. When you are willing to fail–when you accept failure as part of the process–you will ultimately succeed.

Studying craft is three fold: it means reading books like a writer–with the purpose of understanding how a writer creates the dream. It means reading my own work with that same critical eye. When a scene is not working, it means asking myself what the purpose of the scene was supposed to be…and going back to the blank page. It means looking at craft books and discussing the tools of writing with other writers. More than anything else, that conversation opens my mind to the possibilities.

The best piece of advice I ever got: Try everything. When I don’t limit myself to the words on the page…when I reimagine scenes, then I create scenes that I am proud of.

H. H.- There is a part of writing that rests squarely on talent, but any artist must learn his or her craft.  For a beginning writer, I think studying craft is being in the conversation.  An artist should know the canon, should understand the context, and be actively engaged in reading and writing.  Learning the tools to create meaning, then to create a particular meaning, and then to manipulate that meaning again, are the journeyman’s trade. It’s all done through a heightened sense of observation, a command of language, and a willingness to take bets on ideas.

Last week I read an excerpt from a book called Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries (Small, 2011). The whole premise of the book is that artists and others take “concrete actions to discover, test, and develop ideas.” Writers must be willing to do that–write to a dead end, kill off a beloved character, create a fictional world, and then ditch the whole manuscript if it isn’t working.  This is why writers’ workshops are ever present in the process.  Workshops give writers forums to develop and test ideas. Studying the craft of writing is an active engagement, which in my mind is why many writers also teach.  It’s lifelong learning.

Thanks Uma, Sarah and Helen!

Does all this study sound easy? Nope, I didn’t think so.

But the practice of writing isn’t drudgery, either. Reading, comparing, experimenting and imagining should be exhilarating. Engaging in a rigorous conversation with the books you read and the words on your own page will carry your writing to new heights.

Maybe best of all a writer who seriously hones her craft won’t just give her readers words on a page. She will create worlds and open minds.

Tami Lewis Brown sometimes believes she’s a perpetual writing student. She holds an MFA from Vermont College but she learned lots of new lessons while writing THE MAP OF ME, a middle-grade novel which will be released this August.

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