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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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  • Interview with A.J. Hartley

    Learning Differences

    Today, I am excited to interview A.J. Hartley regarding his first M.G. novel Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact.  But, as you most likely know, AJ is not new to writing great books!

    (AJ Hartley) has an M.A. and Ph.D. in English literature from Boston University and is currently the Distinguished Professor of Shakespeare in the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. As well as being a novelist and academic, he is a screenwriter, theatre director and dramaturg (and has a book explaining what that is). Other credits include, The Mask of Atreus, On the Fifth Day, What Time Devours, to name a few.  He has more hobbies than is good for anyone, and treats ordinary things like sport and food and beer with a reverence which borders on mania. He is married with a son, and lives in Charlotte.

    Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact is about Eleven-year-old Darwen Arkwright, who has spent his whole life in a tiny town in England. So when he is forced to move to Atlanta, Georgia, to live with his aunt, he knows things will be different – but what he finds there is beyond even his wildest imaginings!

    Darwen discovers an enchanting world through the old mirror hanging in his closet – a world that holds as many dangers as it does wonders. Scrobblers on motorbikes with nets big enough to fit a human boy. Gnashers with no eyes, but monstrous mouths full of teeth. Flittercrakes with bat-like bodies and the faces of men. Along with his new friends Rich and Alexandra, Darwen becomes entangled in an adventure and a mystery that involves the safety of his entire school. They soon realize that the creatures are after something in our world – something that only human children possess.

    Ohhh, sounds great!  Let’s jump in. You normally write for adults. What was the spark that started you on the path to writing Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact??

    A combination of factors, really, probably largest of which was that my son (who is now 9) had reached the age when he was starting to devour middle grade books. I found—as I’m sure many parents do—that not only did I want to write something for him, but that I found myself remembering my own childhood through him, as it were. Suddenly I could recall the way I saw the world then because I could see it all being played out again in him. I also remembered the kind of thrill I got from reading back then and found myself hankering both to give other kids the same experience I had, and to get back to those kinds of stories from the standpoint of what I had becomes since, a writer.

    What was the timeline from conception to publication?

    Once I had committed to the book, the first draft came fairly quickly—less than three months—but I took another couple of months to revise it, another couple for my agent to find the right slot in the publishing calendar to submit it, another couple to sell it. Razorbill bought it and committed to a fall 2011 release which, being about 18 months away, seemed a very long time indeed. All told it was about a two and a half year process.

    Were there any aspects that varied between writing this and writing your previous books? Any surprises along the way?

    It took me a while to relax into the voice and I spent a lot of time agonizing over whether or not I was pitching the narrative at the right reading level. I got advice from several people (including R.L. Stine) that convinced me that to consciously lower the bar would be patronizing to my readers and would significantly reduce the richness of the story. From that point on, with few exceptions, I told the story in the way that felt most natural and stopped worrying about reader demographics and levels of vocabulary.

    As to surprises, I guess it should be obvious, but I found (to my great relief and excitement) that things I’d learned before writing adult fiction about pacing, about writing suspense scenes (for instance) all applied just as well to writing for younger readers.

     Speaking of process, do you outline or dive right in?  Write linearly or skip around?  Does it vary from book to book? 

    I used to be a pantser (writing by the seat of my pants). I told myself it was the best, most organic way to allow the story to evolve. With hindsight I think that some of this was just a desire to get into the writing which is the part I like and not worry so much about planning things out. Pure pantsing, when you really don’t know what is going to happen next, may work for some people, though they have to have some very special talents, not least of which is the ability to edit themselves ruthlessly. I find that very difficult, and it can be months, even years, before I can clearly see what a book really needs and, more to the point, what it really doesn’t. I returned to a book I couldn’t sell a couple of years ago and took out 22,000 words in a single pass. That’s clearly a bad sign, doubly so since almost half of that came from the first hundred pages. The book didn’t know what it was going to be and it took me far too long to get the necessary emotional distance from it to edit it adequately. I’m now a committed plotter. I don’t do extensive breakdowns (the whole outline is usually only about 5 pages) and I don’t follow it slavishly, particularly if I discover things in the writing of the actual book that suggest a shift in tone or direction. Nothing is written in stone, but I think that writers who don’t operate with any kind of outline are ultimately making their job harder.

    What was your favorite thing about writing for this age group?

    I like not having to worry about certain kinds of realism or following a set of genre expectations. So long as the story is coherent and makes sense according to its own logic, I figure my readership will roll with it. That’s very liberating.

    Will you be writing other books for your middle grade audience?

    Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact is the first of at least three books in this series (the next two coming out about a year apart). I’ve also finished the first draft of a ghost story which I think will be closer to YA than middle grade. I love writing for this age group and hope I can do it for many years to come.

    What was your favorite book when you were 12??

    My memory is a little fuzzy as to exactly when I read it, but I think it may well have been The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. I read a lot of P.G. Wodehouse too, but I suspect I was a year or two older than twelve when I discovered him.

    What else do we have to look forward to from A.J. Hartley?

    My novelization of Macbeth (co-written with David Hewson) which was released this summer as an audiobook voiced by Alan Cumming will go into print in the spring (and if you’re a Shakespeare fan you might keep an eye open for my upcoming performance history of Julius Caesar!). As far as fiction is concerned, there will—as I say—be two more Darwen books, and I hope to finish up that ghost story. After that, I have no idea. The very uncertainty of it all is quite thrilling.

    Wow!  We have a lot to look forward to.  You are prolific!  Is there any advice you can give to aspiring writers of varying ages? 

    Read constantly. Write fast and often. Write the kind of book you want to read. When you have a draft, read it aloud to yourself slowly pausing over every phrase, every word to make sure they are exactly right and doing all they can do for the moment. Never get so preoccupied with the market, with large scale ideas, or with plot that you forget that books are finally about characters or that their medium is words.

    AJ, It’s been a pleasure!  Thanks for stopping by!

     

     

    Erin E. Moulton graduated with an MFA in Writing for Children from the Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2007. She is the author of Flutter: The Story of Four Sisters and One Incredible Journey(Philomel 2011), and Tracing Stars, forthcoming from Philomel/Penguin in 2012.  You can visit her online at www.erinemoulton.com or on Facebook as Erin E. Moulton (Author)

     

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