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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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Greetings from Nowhere with Barbara O’Connor!

Learning Differences

Barbara O'ConnorLet me start out by stating one mind-boggling fact.

Barbara and I *met* online fourteen years ago on an old AOL board for children’s writers. That AOL message board was the first of its kind when the internet started becoming something more than just email–the same year Google was invented – but we hadn’t yet *heard* the term “google”. BEFORE bloggers or websites for authors. Boy, that sounds like something from ancient history!

Barbara and I have been email pen pals for FOURTEEN years – and we have *never* met in person. That’s right. We’ve spoken on the phone a few times (she was the first person I called – after my hubby – when I got my 3-book deal with Scholastic two years ago!), but our paths have never crossed at the right moment and the right place in space and time. We both keep sayin’ “someday”! Barbara is one of the best Middle-Grade writers out there and a darling and has been one of my most supportive friends in the biz of writing books for kids. So of course I had to showcase her here on From the Mixed-Up Files!

Here’s the officially awesome bio:

Barbara O’Connor is the author of award-winning novels for children, including How to Steal a Dog, The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis, and The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester. Drawing on her South Carolina roots, Barbara’s books are known for their strong Southern settings and quirky characters. In addition to four Parents Choice Awards and five state children’s choice awards, Barbara’s distinctions include School Library Journal Best Books, Kirkus Best Books, Bank Street College Best Books, and ALA Notables. She currently has books on over twenty state children’s book award lists. Barbara is a popular visiting author at schools and a frequent speaker at conferences around the country.

Website: www.barboconnor.com  You can also find her on Facebook and at her blog, Greetings from Nowhere!

Barbara, since we are ALL about Middle-Grade Books , tell us about some of your favorite MG books – as a kid and as an adult.

As a kid, I loved mysteries: Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden. One of my favorites was The Pink Motel by Carol Ryrie Brink. I also enjoyed some of the classics, like A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

* Did you always want to be a writer? How did you fall into it? Why do you write?

I’ve always loved writing. As a kid, I was forever writing poems and stories. As an adult, I’ve had many jobs but became interested in writing for children when I took a course at UCLA while living in California. Then I attended the national SCBWI conference as a total newbie and that was it….I was hooked.

* Tell us a bit about your process? Outline? Wing it?

Oh, how I would love to have an outline! I’m one of those organized folks who takes great pleasure in all things tidy. But, alas, my writing process never works that way. I start with a hazy seed of an idea that is often no more than a title or a first sentence. For instance, The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester started with: “Owen Jester tiptoed across the gleaming linoleum floor and slipped the frog into the soup.” That’s it! That’s all I had.

I grope my way along from there, usually not even knowing the ending. I hate that process, but that’s the way it always is for me.

I think I’m going to be ducking rotten tomatoes when I tell you I don’t do many drafts or major revisions. *she ducks* But that’s because I’m a very tidy writer who can NOT move forward unless everything behind me is as polished as I can get it. I’m often told by well-meaning writers, “Just keep going. You can go back.” But that’s not my way.

Naturally, I do revisions after the manuscript is turned in, but have never had to do major story overhauls. I might tweak an ending or tighten a scene or develop a character or relationship more, but not total significant rewrites.

* What is the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer? As a reader?

As a writer: Tell the story the way that only YOU can tell it. Find your unique writing voice and listen to it at all times.

As a reader: If you forget about the writer while you’re reading, that’s a well-written book.

* You do a LOT of school visits around the country. What is one of your most memorable/funny moments while on the road or speaking.

Oh, kids, kids, kids….I love kids!!! Yes, I have spoken to hundreds (thousands?) over the years. I love it when they want to show me their writing or tell me about the books they have written. I love how they are so much alike, no matter where they live – yet so different and unique, too. I love how honest they are.

I had one moment that is far from funny but definitely memorable. I had gone to a school where the teacher did not want to read Me and Rupert Goody to the class because there is a mention of the mother slapping her misbehaving boys, “leaving her red hand-prints on their cheeks,” (referred to as “child abuse” by the teacher). Three days later, I was at a school brainstorming ways to show anger (versus telling). I asked the students what people DO when they are angry. A third grade boy said, “When I splash water out of the bathtub, my mother slaps me.”

That was a reminder to me that children DO experience the unpleasant things in life. And I believe that authors don’t need to censor those things or ignore them. Perhaps that will help children be more understanding and empathetic. Or maybe a child will find comfort in knowing he is not alone. I write realistic fiction, so I’ve never shied away from addressing realistic issues.

Oops! How did I end up here on my soapbox? Sorry. *steps down*

* Can you give us your personal thoughts about where books are headed in this new century of technology and your thoughts about literacy for MG kids?

Oh, geez…hmmm…I’m afraid I don’t pay as much attention to the business side of things as I should. But obviously e-books are growing in leaps and bounds.

As for literacy for MG kids, I worry that the economy is hitting school librarians. Such a worry. I think librarians are the vital link in literacy.

* Favorite Southern foods:

Anything fried (which is everything in the South), BISCUITS, hushpuppies, boiled peanuts, pimiento cheese sandwiches

* What’s coming up next in the Barbara O’Connor world?

A middle-grade novel with NINE points of view. Phew…that one almost killed me. The title is ON THE ROAD TO MR. MINEO’S. It’s about a one-legged pigeon named Sherman. Tentative pub date is Fall 2012 with Macmillan/FSG/Frances Foster.

Nine points of view! Sounds very difficult – but very intriguing!

Thank you so much for being here, Barbara, and for all of you readers out there in Mixed-Up File Land–if you haven’t read one of Barbara’s fantastic Middle-Grade novels, go get yourself one pronto and settle in for a real treat!

AND as an EXTRA SPECIAL BONUS for joining us today, we’re giving away not one, but TWO of Barbara’s books! A paperback of HOW TO STEAL A DOG and a hardcover of GREETINGS FROM NOWHERE!

Leave a comment and TWO winners will be announced this Thursday, July 14th!

Kimberley Griffiths Little was also a mystery lover as a kid and recently gave up outlining because it reminds her too much of homework. Her middle-grade novels with Scholastic Press are: THE HEALING SPELL which won the Whitney Award for Best Youth Novel of 2010 and is on the Bank Street College Best Book of 2011. CIRCLE OF SECRETS will publish October 1, followed by WHEN THE BUTTERFLIES CAME sometime in Fall/Winter of 2012.   Please visit www.kimberleygriffithslittle.com to download the free guides for teachers and book clubs.


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