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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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  • An Accidental Adventure with C. Alexander London

    Giveaways, Interviews

    I met C. Alexander London purely by accident at my other middle-grade project (on Twitter), #MGlitchat. But it’s no accident that I invited him to the blog today to talk about his Accidental Adventure series and celebrate the books by giving away copies of both. The first book, WE ARE NOT EATEN BY YAKS, came out February 2011, and the second book in the series, WE DINE WITH CANNIBALS, releases this week. Both books follow twin siblings Celia and Oliver Navel as they go on adventures throughout the world, though they aren’t happy about it. They’d rather stay home and watch television instead.

    C. Alexander is also an author of nonfiction for grown-ups (under the not-so-secret pseudonym, Charles). In addition, he is a skeet-shooter, a SCUBA diver, and, most action-packed of all, a fully licensed librarian.

    Welcome, C. Alexander!

    The Navel twins spend most of both books not at home in front of the television, which is where they’d rather be. Are you a TV watcher?

    Oh yes, indeed I am. That’s how I got the idea for the series. They aren’t just some kids I made up. They’re me. Not exactly, of course. I’ve thrown in a good chunk of daydreaming, but I thought Oliver and Celia while I was on a flight between Rangoon in Burma and Mumbai, India. Mass protests had broken out in Rangoon—mostly led by thousands of red-robbed monks—and the military government had sent in hardened government soldiers to end the uprising. I literally walked into the middle of it, in the middle of downtown, beneath a temple that was said to contain a hair of the Buddha. It was also a busy traffic circle, so the scene was chaotic. Within days, the government had sealed off the country, shut down the internet and scrambled all foreign television stations. No CNN. No Cartoon Network.

    And I really missed it.

    Even as things were going insane in the world around me, TV made me feel safer. Even though I was having the adventure of a lifetime, all I wanted was to be curled up on the couch at home watching TV. It was on my flight out of Burma to India that I pulled out my little black notebook (I always carry a little black notebook) and wrote out the idea for Oliver and Celia Navel, who are doomed to have a life of adventure, when all they want is peace and quiet.

    But you are a librarian. You must have chosen books over TV when you were younger. Right?

    I’ve always been a TV watcher. When I was younger, TV and video games were how I got my story fix. I loved stories, but I didn’t like to read. At least, not until a teacher got me to pick up Redwall, by Brian Jacques. It was the first big book I read on my own. I loved it! The action, adventure, and heroism, the richness of his imagination. So I wrote to him. And he wrote me back! I was 11 years old, and I don’t recall what I said to him, but in his response, he wrote: “I hope you will grow up to be a writer, and remember, you need to use your imagination, a writer needs to have a vivid and lively imagination.” That letter played a large role in setting me on a path to become a reader and writer. I hope to live up to the vividness of his imagination and to his generosity of spirit with my own readers.

    Once I started to read more, it got easier for me, and I quickly came to realize that with TV (and video games to a lesser degree) you have roughly the same experience as everyone else consuming that media, but with reading, you get your own private experience that can take you anywhere. You do half the work of building the world of the story in your mind and in that way, it becomes your book. My Redwall Abbey or Hogwarts School (before I saw the movie), looks a little different than anyone else’s in the world. I love that about reading. I like TV to unwind, but I love reading to explore.

    Speaking of exploring, the hero and heroine in your Accidental Adventures series (we won’t call them explorers; they wouldn’t like it) do spend a lot of time in some pretty cool places. How did you bring those settings to life?

    So considerate of you! Indeed, they would HATE being called explorers! I do like traveling a bit more than Oliver and Celia Navel do (although their dislike of travel is also based on me). I’ve traveled a lot and many of their accidental adventures are based on my own, although the settings are a bit different. I’ve been bitten by a lizard of some kind in a jungle, although it was in Thailand, not South America, and I’ve been stuck in a Buddhist monastery near the Himalayan mountain range, but in Burma, not Tibet. While I’ve been to similar places where the adventures take place, I love doing research. I studied Tibetan Buddhism in college, so many of the ideas in the first book, We Are Not Eaten By Yaks, came from that. For We Dine With Cannibals, I did a lot of reading and going through the journals of explorers, and of course, the occasional TV documentary.

    Perhaps because I spent a few years as a journalist before I started writing fiction for the middle grade set, I like testing the limits of my imaginative empathy to write about people and places I’ve never been. I couldn’t do that as a journalist. If it didn’t happen or wasn’t said, I couldn’t write it. But in fiction, just because something is made up, doesn’t make it untrue. Of course, there is a danger of getting things wrong, so I try to be very careful with my research, as I am writing about real places and real cultures in these books, some of which are facing very real challenges to their survival in the 21st century. I like writing about all these places through Oliver and Celia’s eyes, because, unlike them, I am in awe of all the different ways humans have found of being human, from malls in Minnesota to the Buddhist monks at the Jumping Cat Monastery on Inle Lake in Burma.

    And in We Dine With Cannibals, you have poisonous pet lizards, cannibals, and key-poop (readers: you’ll have to read the book to find out what that is!), rapids, death traps and that dreaded game of dodgeball. How do you fit so much adventure into your adventures?

    Well, I have tried to lead an interesting life so far. I was in the Eastern Congo on my 22nd birthday when a volcano erupted, I accidentally wandered into the middle of an attempted revolution in Burma, and I have always been very very bad at dodgeball. I’ve found that unexpected peril keeps things interesting in life and in this kind of story, so when writing, I imagine myself in Oliver and Celia’s shoes and then I ask, what would I really hate to have happen now? Then I do it. I feel bad for the twins, as I’m constantly putting them in mortal danger, but I have faith in them to find their way out of it. They are far more resourceful than I ever was. When whatever it was bit me in Thailand and my foot swelled up all red and puffy, I freaked and complained about it far more than even Oliver would.

    As for Oliver, I noticed in some places that he almost LIKED being an explorer. And Celia isn’t too bad at exploring, either. So give us a hint: in future books are they going to plan an On-Purpose Adventure?

    Well, I don’t want to give too much away, but the twins do come to accept the role they have to play as the greatest explorers in the world. While they aren’t exactly thrilled about it, they do start to enjoy some parts…in different ways. Part of the series is these two twins evolving into different people. While these are certainly plot (and joke) driven stories, the characters do change and grow into their own as their adventures work on them the way adventures do. You can’t trek through a sacred landscape in Tibet or explore the last unexplored regions of the Amazon without being changed by it. And yes, to some degree, there will be an on-purpose adventure. They may come to regret it…

    This has, however, been one of my challenges in writing the series. When it begins, Oliver and Celia are essentially passive characters. They don’t want to go anywhere or do anything. They’re desires are essentially to negate plot. So, coming up with ways to motivate them and to motivate actions was hard. They had to want something.

    I can’t wait for the next installment! Thanks, C. Alexander, for stopping by From the Mixed-Up Files.

    In celebration of the release of WE DINE WITH CANNIBALS, we will send one lucky reader signed copies of both books in the series. To enter, please leave a comment letting C. Alexander know where you’d like to see Celia and Oliver end up on future accidental adventures. We’ll post the winner on Saturday, November 19th. Giveaway open to US/CAN residents only (sorry, international folks).

    Elissa Cruz accidentally wrote a children’s book after trying for years to write for adults. She now writes middle-grade fiction on purpose. You can follow her writing life on her blog, www.elissacruz.blogspot.com, or catch her talking about writing on Twitter during the weekly #MGlitchat, Thursdays 9pm Eastern.

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