• OhMG! News


    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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  • Bigger Than a Bread Box: Interview with Laurel Snyder

    Learning Differences

    I’ve been enjoying Laurel Snyder’s books for quite awhile now, and I can hardly wait to get my hands on copies of each of them as soon they hit the store shelves.  Today I am incredibly delighted that Laurel took time out of her busy home life with her young kids and allowed me to interview her about her newest book, Bigger Than a Bread Box.  And we will be giving away a copy of the book today as well.  Huzzah!

    Here is the description of Bigger Than a Bread Box from her publisher:

    “Twelve-year-old Rebecca is struggling with her parents’ separation, as well as a sudden move from her hometown of Baltimore to her Gran’s house in Georgia.  It is there that she discovers a magic bread box in the attic with the power to grant any wish–so long as it fits in the box.  Is it too good to be true?  While it makes life away from home a little easier, it’s not too long before she realizes it can’t give her what she truly needs–her family back together again.  And you have to be careful what you wish for.  Rebecca is forced to decide not just where, but who she really wants to be.”

    Welcome to From the Mixed-Up Files,  Laurel!  First of all, Bigger Than a Breadbox is about family and separation, loneliness, theft, friendship and major consequence.  What inspired you to write about all of this in one book?

    To begin with, I only meant Bigger than a Bread Box to be about magic and theft.  The initial idea was a book about a kid who found a magical wishing box, that gave her anything she asked for, so long as the thing she wanted could fit inside the box. I was interested in the limits of magic, as I usually am.  But this time I wanted to write a book where the kid figured out that magic could only move things around. It couldn’t create anything. I wondered what a kid would do when faced with that ethical dilemma. I wanted magic to be constrained by the rules of the real world.

    But then,  almost immediately,  the divorce element crept into the book.  Something about the limits of magic must have triggered it. Or maybe it was that Rebecca, the main character, was just the right age to be disappointed in things– to see magic (or family) in a critical way. To attempt to understand the world around her.

    In any case, that thread rose to the surface of the book, and I found myself writing what felt like a memoir, about my parents’ divorce when I was little. It was CRAZY.  I would weep while writing.  Nothing like that had ever happened to me before.  I found myself digging out old photos, calling my parents with questions about those years in our family.  It was really hard. I was revisiting the hardest chapter of my childhood.

    Well, I’ve heard of some people weeping while reading your book, too.  But weeping in a good way.  *Elissa dabs her eyes with a hankie*  I’m sure they are grateful you took the time to write something semi-autobiographical.

    I think it’s a little funny that it didn’t happen sooner, that it took me 4 books to write about myself. I’ve heard it said that everyone’s first novel is autobiographical. Mine wasn’t at all.

    How interesting!  But back to the story…I have to ask.  Why a bread box?

    Well, the short answer is that I like thrift stores.  I like old objects, and have owned several bread boxes over the years.  Some of them are really quite beautiful.  And there’s something mysterious about them.  Darkness within. Old stamped tin or carved wood.

    Also, I liked the idea of a magical device that’s manmade.  Lots are (wardrobes for instance) but usually magical objects in books are ANCIENT, which implies that once-upon-a-time magic was everywhere.  I like the idea that this magic can’t be older than around 1930.   I like to imagine that magic is everywhere now too.

    But the main thing is that I needed this magic to be defined by space, by a space of a specific size. I wanted the wishing to be limited in that way.  And a breadbox seemed an obvious choice for that. Because, after all, it can’t be “bigger than a bread box.”

    Yes, I love the bread box in this story.  I also love the characters, and the settings.  You made the writing seem so effortless.  But was it easy to write?

    In some ways it was. I didn’t have to think very much about creating a fully fleshed out character, and that was new.  And the outline jumped into place pretty quickly.  But trying to balance Rebecca’s view of the world was hard. The book is in first person, and an angry 12 year old first person voice can be INTENSE. I didn’t want to turn her parents into villains, even if she was angry at them.  I wanted her to see them as human beings. I wanted her to learn to see them as human beings as the book moved along.  But I also didn’t want her to become too introspective and thoughtful.  Sometimes, thoughtful child narrators feel phony to me.

    Also, this is a lonely book.  Rebecca is pretty much alone for most of the book.  It was hard to figure out how to let her be lonely, but make the book move along, and still be fun.

    Which is one thing about the book that I adored, by the way.  I liked that her school mates and even her own parents were in the background most of the time.  

    Speaking of parents (and autobiographical fiction), have yours read this book?

    Yes, they have. That was really important to me. I always run things by people if I’ve “borrowed” from their lives.  My mom loved it, which surprised me a little.  My dad said, “It’s a very good book, but I thought you said it was fiction?”  I was petrified while they were reading. I felt like a little girl again, waiting for my parents to get mad at me.  They didn’t, thank goodness.

    And we’re glad they loved it, too.   It wouldn’t have been the same book without the parents’ story. But seagulls and a Bruce Springsteen song also played a prominent role.  Why did you decide to use them in the story?

    Oh, they’re just home to me. They’re mine.  I’ve been landlocked ever since I left Baltimore–in Tennessee first, and then Iowa, now Atlanta. I miss the water so much.  Seagulls are a symbol for me, of home.  An urban, ugly, but watery symbol.  And I guess I feel the same way about Springsteen. He’s a little dirty, and a little lost, but truly an American experience of my youth.

    And that scene in the book where Rebecca recalls dancing to the song with her parents? That’s a memory. Nearly a photograph.  When my dad read the book, he said, “Hungry Heart, Laurel? I thought you said it was fiction…”.

    Well, thank you for sharing those bits of yourself with us, and for stopping by From the Mixed-Up Files!  We’ll let you get back to those adorable kids.

    Readers, please leave a comment below and let us know what you’d wish for if you had a magic bread box.  One commenter will be chosen tomorrow (September 22, 2011) to receive a copy of Laurel’s book, Bigger Than a Bread Box.

    And, also, don’t forget to enter your group of 8-12-year-olds here for a chance to win one of eight full-fledged Skype visits with a middle-grade author.  You have until October 3rd to do so.

    Elissa Cruz is bigger than a breadbox, which is a good thing, since she can’t imagine what it must feel like to be crammed into one of those.  However, her brain is crammed full of all sorts of stories, and those stories are just waiting for the magic word to let them out.  You can read all about them and other things she makes up on her writing blog at elissacruz.blogspot.com. You can also find her behind the scenes of #MGlitchat, a weekly Twitter chat about the craft of writing middle-grade books.

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