• 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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  • Bad Decisions Make for Good Stories

    Learning Differences

    Story ideas are everywhere if you keep your eyes open!  Driving home from the garden store last spring, I wondered if buying tomatoes was a bad idea in Seattle, particularly this year, with May as chilly and drizzly as November, January, and March put together.  Everybody I talked to said I was crazy to spend money on something bound to fail.Bad Decisions Make for Good Stories reader board

    Then the sign on the right caught my eye – and my mind flew to the rich story possibilities hiding inside every dubious decision.

    We don’t love characters because of what goes right for them.  It’s how they respond when everything goes wrong, especially when they create their own disasters. I once heard Wendelin van Draanen (Flipped) offer the perfect description of how she compels readers to root for her characters:  “My characters get themselves up in a tree.  Then I throw rocks at them.”  Middle grade novels are full of characters that climb that tree and struggle to fend off the rocks.  But they get back down, battered perhaps, but in one piece.

    Here are five of my favorite examples:

     The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis  Byron Watson could be the poster-boy for bad decisions. Really, where to start?  Nearly everything that Byron does ends in disaster for him or someone else.  Who can forget what happened when he couldn’t resist his own image in the frozen side mirror on the family car?  The flaming Nazi parachutes?  The accumulation of bad decisions sets Byron and his family on a journey that intersects with national and personal tragedy, and ultimately leads to healing.

    OK for Now by Gary D. Schmidt  Doug Swietek grabbed our attention as a bully in Gary Schmidt’s The Wednesday Wars.  In OK for Now, he’s got his own book, and from the first pages, readers are hiding their eyes thinking, “Ooh, don’t do it!”  But we also quickly see what’s behind the bad decisions he makes.  Doug has a good heart and a strong will to overcome the oppressive forces in his life, and readers everywhere will cheer him on.

    Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos  Some bad decisions are very hard for a character to control.  We can be pretty certain that Joey Pigza would rather not swallow keys, lose control, or have a crazy family – but he does.  We love his strength of spirit, even as we ache for everything that goes wrong for him.

    Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff  And some mistakes are born in desperation.  Hollis Woods has bounced from home to home when she finally lands on an elderly artist’s doorstep, and Hollis and Josie form a strong bond.  When it becomes clear that Josie’s memory is failing, Hollis fears that she’ll be moved yet again.  Her decision to run away with Josie makes us cringe, yet ultimately leads her to resolution and a sense of peace.

    Baseball in April by Gary Soto   Soto weaves bad decisions throughout his series of short stories set in Mexican-American neighborhoods in California.  Each story captures the unique as well as universal dilemmas that confront young people, including the consequences of lying, the pain of envy, and the hard work of growing up.


    Writers of all ages can mine our own (and others’) lives for epic bad decisions to transform into good stories.  Use them as writing prompts or weave them into the fabric of your stories.  Here are a few to get you started, compliments of some decision-makers I know who didn’t hesitate for one second when I offered this invitation:  It was a bad decision to …
    •  hard-boil an egg in the microwave (moral:  you can clean that mess up, but you can’t get rid of that smell!)
    •  take my parents’ car for a test drive in the fifth grade
    •  put my eye to the water jet to see what was inside – and then turned it on.

    As for me — was it a bad decision to plant tomatoes in rainy Seattle this year?  Not if you discover that your unused hot tub room makes a perfect greenhouse.  That’s a story I’ll be telling for a long time!

    Katherine Schlick Noe teaches beginning and experienced teachers at Seattle University. She is webmaster of the Literature Circles Resource Center.  Her debut novel, Something to Hold, will be published by Clarion Books in December 2011.  Visit her at http://katherineschlicknoe.com.

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