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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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  • Everything I Ever Needed to Know About Voice I Learned in… Drama Class

    Giveaways, Inspiration, Miscellaneous

    Recently I attended my first writers conference. Amid all the great information about marketing, the state of publishing and what surprises awaited in the boxed lunch, one elusive topic kept popping up during agent and editor panels.

    What is voice?

    How do you identify a good voice?

    If a voice falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it really make a sound?

    Er, okay — maybe not that last one. But, you know, several hours parked in a folding chair and the mind starts to wander. Plus, there were rumors of cookies in that boxed lunch…

    In any case — pretty much without fail — whenever the question of voice came up, the most common answer was something akin to the Supreme Court’s take on obscenity:

    I know it when I see it.

    Frustrating. But true, right? Like most of you, in addition to writing MG, I read a whole lot of the stuff. In fact, I really started thinking about the power of voice while reading with my ten-year-old son. We’d just finished the Percy Jackson series (one of your great post-Harry Potter reading suggestions… thanks!) and had moved on to The Red Pyramid. To say my son has become an enormous Rick Riordan fan would be something of an understatement. He simply devours those books. Why? Sure, there’s action. And humor. And Gods and kids with awesome powers. But that’s not it. Well, not all of it, at least.

    The secret ingredient: voice.

    My son connects with these stories not because he can move oceans with his mind (although I’m sure he wishes he could) — but because Rick Riordan writes characters that sound just like him. (So much so I occasionally find myself wanting to tell those little demi-gods to just get their socks off the floor, eat their vegetables and for-crying-out-loud-shut-off-their-bedroom-lights-and-take-out-the-trash-already! Sheesh!).

    So yeah, I know good voice when I see it.

    Nailing voice when you write? Much trickier. There are countless books, seminars, websites that do an excellent job teaching voice. But I have to say — the best lesson I ever learned about voice didn’t come from a writing class. It came from a drama one.

    See, back in college I signed up for theater as an elective. Like most teens, I suppose I harbored secret dreams of being discovered by some famous Hollywood scout (because, heaven knows, there are plenty of those roaming the freezing campuses of remote northern colleges in search of the Next Big Thing). Also, I had a horrible crush on a boy who, in the interest of anonymity, will heretofore be known simply as “Algernon Moncrieff,” in honor of the role he played in the class production.

    Well, as it turned out, I was a horrible actress (just ask anyone who’s had the good fortune of playing poker with me), and Algernon, I learned, had a girlfriend. Still, the class wasn’t a total bust. It sure beat the heck out of chemistry. Plus, we did some really fun exercises. Like one particular day when our professor sent us up to the stage with the open-ended instruction to just “act like little kids.”

    Easy, right?

    We all started skipping around, pretending to jump rope, licking imaginary lollipops and smiling coyly. Each of us, I’m quite sure, was convinced we’d nailed it. (And I was positively certain Algernon would be unable to resist my pigtail-twirling impishness.) Then, the professor clapped his hands. We stopped on stage and looked at him expectantly.

    He shook his head, no.

    Outrage filled the theater! Well, okay, maybe not. But needless to say, we were all perplexed. What could we have possibly done wrong? We were acting just like little kids, right? Doing little kid stuff. Plus, we’d all been little kids once. We knew what it was like. How could we mess that up?

    The professor clambered on stage.

    “The problem is,” he said. “You are not acting like four-year-olds. You are acting like a bunch of nineteen-year-olds thinking about acting like four-year-olds.”

    Lots of confused faces. Wasn’t that what we were supposed to be doing?

    “Look,” our professor said. “Have you ever actually observed the way a four-year-old walks across a room? A four-year-old doesn’t stop to consider whether the guy next to him thinks he looks cool. He doesn’t filter his actions through the lens of someone else. If a four-year-old wants to walk like a broken robot, he just does it.”

    And with that, our professor lurched himself across the stage, arms twitching, head jerking — then abruptly stopped when he spotted something interesting on the floor, got down on his knees and picked at it.

    Just like a little kid.

    Total lightbulb moment. And a lesson I’ve always remembered when it comes to writing.

    Namely, to be authentic you have to remove the filter. You have to see the world through your character’s eyes — not through the lens of your own perspective and experiences. You have to be able to step outside of yourself and just observe.

    And successfully doing that? Well, it’s your turn to hop on stage, Mixed-Up community…

    So tell me, what do you do to get into character? How do you remove the filter? And what are some of your favorite examples of great middle-grade voice? Please, share your thoughts in the comments below!

    Jan Gangsei might never have mastered acting, but she’d much rather write interesting characters than pretend to be a robot anyway. She invites you to follow more of her random observations (and share yours!) at twitter.com/jangangsei.

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