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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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  • Teaching Writers of All Ages

    Authors, Inspiration

    We are getting close to (or perhaps, for some of you, have already arrived at) that most wonderful time of the year, as a certain famous and favorite commercial goes. While this blog normally focuses on the reading part of the old 3 “R”s of school, it also seems appropriate to talk about reading’s hand-in-glove partner, writing. Many authors conduct school presentations on writing and of course, teachers and parents are frequently on the lookout for a great writing exercise.

    With that in mind, today’s post features another multi-author blog which focuses on lessons for anyone who teaches writing. The Pencil Tips Writing Workshop blog provides concrete, hands-on lesson plans, and practical ways to approach writing and illustration. Have a child who innocently but clearly plagiarized a work? Pencil Tips provides the words and steps to take in such a situation. Does your student want to illustrate his or her work, but isn’t getting the right expression for the characters? Pencil Tips can tell you the three places on the face that show expression. Think of this multi-author blog as a Hall of Justice for anyone who wants to engage children in writing. Remember the Hall of Justice cartoon from the 1970s? It was a pantheon of superheroes, ready to use their particular superpowers for anyone in distress. In this case though, instead of Superman, Aquaman and Plasticman, Pencil Tips offers the talents of writers who, collectively, have experiences to share as workshop leader, school librarian, parent, teacher, illustrator and author of everything from picture books to YA to non-fiction.

    According to the members of Pencil Tips, the blog was born out of a desire to provide effective posts on the art of writing. “We know everyone–teachers, parents, librarians, writers–has limited time so our goal was to craft practical posts that would offer lessons/tips that could be implemented in the classroom or at home,” said Mary Quattlebaum, a writing teacher with 20 years’ experience and an author whose middle-grade titles include the Jackson Jones series. “It was important to all of us to create a specific focus for our blog…we wanted ours to provide something more specific than musings on the creative process,” added Jacqueline Jules, whose school librarian experiences inspired many of her titles, including the Zapato Power series. “Our mission statement was discussed at length and went through several revisions.”

    Many of the lessons provided by the blog contributors come from the “tried and true” file. Pam Ehrenberg, whose most recent title is Tillmon County Fire, uses her “twenty percent off” exercise in her classes and her own work. However, the fact of belonging to the blog can also be inspiring. “Now that I’m involved in writing this blog, random things that I read or hear about will trigger ideas for writing lessons,” said Laura Krauss Melmed, the author of sixteen picture books including I Love You as Much. Pam Smallcomb, author of middle-grade titles such as The Last Burp of Mac McGerp, has had posts inspired by her experiences as the mother of a reluctant reader. Instructors and students alike may appreciate her suggestion to use video games as writing inspiration.

    Pencil Tips has no age limits in mind when it comes to its posts. For Joan Waites, a neo-natal intensive care nurse-turned-illustrator, her what’s-inside-the-egg writing/illustration exercise has generated wonderful, imaginative work from children as young as the preschool age. Quattlebaum, meanwhile, has found that her five senses lesson will work with everyone from second grade to college and beyond.

    Some lessons provide broader, but still very relevant, lessons in writing. In describing her post on Remember the Reader, Jules offers this insight: “All writers, but especially young ones, do their best when they think about their readers…This provides incentive to change a confusing sentence, add details to make a scene clearer, or vary sentence structure to make a story more interesting.” Melmed, meanwhile, suggested this viewpoint for writing teachers. “Our goal when teaching creative writing should be to help kids access the right brain process, within the parameters of an assignment, without imposing stifling requirements like forced rhyming schemes. Later on, we can help them cast a critical eye on the raw material they have mined.”

    As for school visit “nightmares” that authors have about losing control of their audience, the Pencil Tips offer some hard-won advice. Jules advises having activities that involve movement at the end of a presentation, when kids are at their wiggliest. What about when one child is acting out? “[T]he most effective way I have found to turn things around is to have that child become a ‘helper,’” said Waites. More concerned about literally getting lost? “Mapquest your route in both directions and review carefully the night before,” said Melmed, who describes herself as ‘directionally challenged.’ Ehrenberg likes to keep an extra activity or sub-presentation planned, just in case, but also gently notes, “I don’t think anything that’s actually happened to me could live up to the horrors I’ve imagined.”

    Everybody ready now for a new school year? Sharpen your pencils and share your favorite writing exercise below! (And stop by Pencil Tips for information on how to win a signed copy of Pam Smallcomb’s I’m Not.)

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