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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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  • How to Find Great Ideas

    Inspiration, Writing MG Books

    Have you ever cleared time to start a new book or creative writing project, only to waste every second staring at a blank page? I have a feeling it’s happened to everyone (even famous authors). So here are some tips to overcome Blank Page Syndrome.

    1. Step away from the computer! Take a walk, work in a garden, exercise, go for a ride…whatever relaxes you and allows your mind to wander. I’ve also had many ideas when I’m half asleep or while showering (one of these days I’ll figure out how to jot them down in there).

    2. Try to come up with ideas throughout the year. The more often you do this, the more you train your mind to look for ideas everywhere. Always keep ideas on file, so when you’re ready to write you can sort through your treasures and see if any of them can work, or maybe spark an idea that you can use.

    3. Set a timer for ten minutes or longer and don’t allow any interruptions (yes, that includes checking e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter). Just go, go, go…let the ideas flow. And if one grabs you, brainstorm it in more detail. Don’t stop until the timer goes off, even if what you’re writing feels silly.

    4. Remember times when you were scared, surprised, excited, jealous, nervous, hurt, or sad. Maybe moments like those will spark an idea! If there are memories you’d like to tap into, sit someplace comfortable and close your eyes. Breathe slowly and steadily and imagine you’re outside a building or room where the memory takes place. Watch yourself open a door and walk inside. Try to take in all the sights, sounds, and smells. Afterward, quickly write down or record the details before they fade.

    5. Give yourself permission to jot down awful ideas. No, I don’t want you to waste your time on a manuscript or creative writing project that isn’t solid enough…but you never know what will happen once you start brainstorming an idea. I like to keep a list of great ideas in a main file, and then a random thought file filled with anything I might be able to use like a title, cool phrase, character traits, or maybe even a photo of someone who looks like he or she would make an interesting character. Sometimes, those thoughts are fleeting and remain in that file…but I’m surprised how many of them sprout wings and become fully developed ideas!

    6. If you come up with an idea that might work, but you need a little extra motivation to plunge into it, you can challenge friends to a Word War. Decide on a set amount of time, then write like crazy and compare word counts at the end. It will probably need a lot of editing—but it’s easier to mold something into shape than stare at a blank page.

    7. Check out this great brainstorming post from Mixed-Up author Beverly Patt.

     

    Ideas often take time to simmer. They come from observing and asking ‘what if’ throughout the day. Keep your eyes, ears, and mind open, and you’ll soon discover that ideas are everywhere (especially when you don’t feel pressured to come up with one immediately).

    Here are a few ways I’ve come up with ideas that have sparked my middle-grade novels:

    • I read an article about topics needed for children, and one was coping with the death of a sibling. My brother died when I was twenty-six, and I immediately knew I had to explore this idea in my first middle-grade novel.
    • I’ve mined memories from when I was younger, such as sleep-away camp, issues with bullies, and things that I wanted or feared.
    • I was reading Rebel Angels by flickering candlelight during a hurricane and came up with the idea for my first middle-grade fantasy.
    • The idea for one humorous middle-grade novel came to me when I was shopping with my daughter, and she freaked out when she thought someone might see her in the bra aisle. It’s amazing how that one moment sparked an entire novel…which includes a bra-tastrophe scene that I absolutely love.
    • Animals constantly inspire me, too. I love including quirky ones like feisty ferrets, a scaredy dog, and a ballerina guinea pig.

     

    How do you come up with ideas for your books or creative writing projects?

     

    Mindy Alyse Weiss writes humorous middle-grade novels and is constantly inspired by her eleven and thirteen year-old daughters, adventurous sock and underwear munching puppy, and two stinky but adorable ferrets. Visit her blog to read more about her writing life, conference experiences, and writing tips.

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