• From the Mixed-Up Files... > Learning Differences > The Making of an Audio Book
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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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The Making of an Audio Book

Learning Differences

I have loved audio books ever since I was a kid, so when I heard my first book Heart of a Shepherd would be brought out in audio I was elated. When the audio book producer from Listening Library, Dan Musselman, called me to ask if I’d read the author note for the audio book of Second Fiddle, I was over the moon, although I had no idea what to expect.

Because I did speech and debate in high school, I did know enough to print out my pages double spaced in 20 point font, so I could read without losing my place. I practiced the whole author note aloud several times and then took out a pencil and marked each place where I should take a breath. Then I went back through and underlined where the emphasis should fall in each sentence. And then, because I know I tend to mumble, I highlighted words where I needed to be attentive to articulation. A dozen more practice runs through the 5 page author note, and I felt ready.
I got in touch with Mary MacDonald Lewis here in Portland who is a very well known voice artist. If you have On Star, that is her calm and reassuring voice telling you what to do. She’s also a director, a dialect coach, and a great teacher. Taking a voice class from her before I did my first book events was one of the best investments I’ve made. Mary Mac has a recording studio in her home, so we got together and she taught me how to use a studio microphone. Mary asked me to speak standing up with my mouth only an inch or so from the screen, which felt very awkward at first. And she insisted the most important thing was to smile, because people can hear it when you’re not smiling. I was sure she was making it up, so we recorded a few sentences, smiling and not, and guess what? I could hear it!

Then we got down to the work of the reading. I read as carefully as I could, but I still needed to stop a dozen times and back up when I misspoke or made a funny mouth sound or shuffled my feet. Also, dropping the page on the floor is a lot louder than you think it is! Maybe the biggest surprise of all was that it took me more than an hour to read 5 pages out loud. I was so relieved that the entire book was someone else’s responsibility.
When I thought about writing this post I know my experience was just a tiny piece of the whole audio book experience, so I was delighted when my voice artist Bri Knickerbocker agreed to be interviewed.

Bri Knickerbocker grew up in Pittsburgh, PA speaking in silly voices and singing, creating and performing plays and writing countless books about black cats. Now she lives in LA, acts on camera, voice acts and writes novels. To learn more, visit her here for writing: http://briknickerbocker.blogspot.com/ and here for voice over: http://brisoundslike.com/ You can follow Bri on twitter @briannanoellek.

How did you get interested in voice acting?

I was originally attracted to voice acting because I love animation and anime; I’m a kid at heart and anytime I get to sound like a 6 year old girl I can’t help but smile and giggle.
I’ve got some anime fans in my house, and those voices do sound so young—even younger than the animation looks. How did you get started?

I booked the first voice over job I ever applied for, which was some goofy animated commercials and it took off from there. Voicing book trailers, video games and audio books– all appeal to my love for dramatic story telling, getting emotionally involved and bringing characters to life through my voice.

Did you take specific training for voice work?

I actually haven’t. As cliché as it may sound, voice acting has always felt natural to me. In that sense, I’m self-taught. But earlier this year I did start taking on camera improvisation and film classes and both of those have only helped me grow and open up emotionally to be a better, fuller voice actress.

Wonderful! I love it when I can squeeze in classes. I took a poetry slam workshop this summer that was a blast! I always come back to the page with fresh ideas when I do something a outside my comfort zone. Can you describe how you got the part for Second Fiddle?

Really funny story, I found an ad on craigslist that stated an audio book company was looking for a voice actress with a British accent. As instructed on the ad, I called the number posted and left a voicemail in a British accent. When Janet Stark (from Random House) called me, I kept up the faux accent, totally unsure if I should let her know I’m not really British. I came in to audition for the project and met Dan Musselman, immediately confessing that I’m just an all American girl from Pittsburgh, PA and he decided to have me audition in my natural voice. I didn’t book that particular project. But a few months later Dan emailed me telling me they’d like me to voice Second Fiddle. It was my first audiobook and a dream come true for me!
That’s so exciting! When Dan called me to ask if I’d read the author note he told me how delighted he was to find just the right book for a promising young voice actor. ☺
What is the process for recording an audio book?

Dan mailed me the hardcopy manuscript straight from LA (I was in Pittsburgh for the holidays at the time) and I read the novel over and over again. First, simply reading and enjoying the story. Second, I put together a journal of all the dialogue and words in foreign languages and dialects, then looked them all up online, except the French, which thankfully I remembered from high school! I flew back to LA and recorded at Random House with Tony Hudz as my director and foreign language consultant/specialist.
I was wondering if you got help with the foreign languages. Dan was kidding me about that.
“Did you really have to put in all those languages?”
“What!? They live in Europe!”
“But Estonian? Really!?”
He was kidding. But it’s true that made it a more challenging than a book in just one language. How long did it take to make the recording? Because I was a total slow poke!

It took two days to complete and one more trip to the studio for just a few pick ups.

What happens if you make a mistake?

When I made a mistake, Tony or I heard it right away. Then, I’d simply restart voicing from the last sentence.

Did you have a favorite part of the process?

My favorite part was reading your story, and emotionally involving myself in it as I voiced it, hopefully bringing it to life and doing it justice! Losing myself in the story to be Jody and travel through her suspenseful adventure was magical and exciting and so rewarding.

Gosh, thanks! You’re a writer yourself. Can you tell us something about your work-in-progress or your favorite genre to write?

I’m currently writing an edgy young adult paranormal romance about ghosts and dark ones (demons) and my most recently finished work is a contemporary young adult novel with magical realism. Writing is related to voice acting for me, because they’re both complex storytelling, with three dimensional characters that I have the power and responsibility to bring to life. I get very involved with the story and characters in both mediums; I don’t want to let any of the characters down! It’s up to me to give them their voices so other people can hear what they have to say.
Do you remember a favorite middle-grade book book you’ve read recently?

I recently read a middle-grade novel called Sea, by Heidi R. Kling and The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall—I recommend both!
Wonderful! Thanks so much for spending a little time here at the mixed up files.
Readers, do you have any questions about audio book making process? Have you read a good audio book lately? Let us know what you think in the comments.

At the end of the day I’ll have a drawing from everyone joining the conversation for an audio book of Second Fiddle and you can hear Bri’s voice work for yourself.

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