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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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  • Discovering your Quirky Character: An Interview and Giveaway with Award-winning Author Donna Gephart

    Learning Differences

     

    Want to know about funny? Ask Donna Gephart, she knows all about it. She’s been writing stories about funny characters for over 20 years. Her first book, As if Being 12 ¾ Isn’t Bad Enough, My Mother is Running for President, even won the Sid Fleischman Award!

    Her latest book, Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen released yesterday and is already getting rave reviews.

         From Indie Bound:  Olivia Bean knows trivia. She watches Jeopardy! every night and usually beats at least one of the contestants. If she were better at geography, she would try out for the show’s kids’ week. Not only could she win bundles of money, she’d get to go to the taping in California, where her dad, who left two years ago and who Olivia misses like crazy, lives with his new family. One day Olivia’s friend-turned-nemesis, Tucker, offers to help her bulk up her geography knowledge. Before Olivia knows it, she’s getting help from all sorts of unexpected sources: her almost-stepdad, superannoying Neil; her genius little brother, Charlie; even her stressed-out mom. Soon she has breezed through the audition rounds and is headed for Hollywood! But will the one person she wants to impress more than anyone else show up to support her?

    Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2012: “This tale will have readers cheering for the resilient, resourceful Olivia.”

     

    I had the pleasure of first meeting Donna in 2009 at the SCBWI Miami conference. I attended her workshop on “How to Create Quirky Characters”. For 90 wonderful minutes, Donna kept us in stitches. We laughed. We cried. We learned. She taught us how to find the quirkiness inside ourselves and put it into our characters.  I still have those fantastic notes and have referred to them many times while writing my own fiction.

    So let’s meet this incredible author and teacher. First of all Donna,

    Why did you decide to make this story for middle grade readers?

    I love writing middle grade fiction.  It such a crazy time of ups and downs, both physically and emotionally for kids that age, so it’s an ideal landscape for dramatic (and funny) fiction.

     

    What was your favorite part about writing this book?

    Reading books of trivia was entertaining.  Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen has more than 100 bits of fun (and sometimes gross) trivia woven through the story.

    It was also fun to learn about the behind-the-scenes workings of the TV quiz show Jeopardy! and write those tense, competitive scenes.

     

    Your books seem to show kids that are longing to be popular, but yet their nerdiness or intelligence keeps them out of the group. Did you feel that way as a kid? Do you have any advice for kids who feel this way?

    Of course I felt that way!  Didn’t every children’s book author feel that way?

    There’s a moment in this book where Olivia’s little “bother” Charlie says, “It’s fun to be smart, Livi.”  And she wants here brother to hang onto that feeling because Olivia’s learned it’s not so much fun to be the smartest one in your class when you’re in middle school.  It can make you the target of unwanted attention.  Olivia always feels like an outcast . . . until, through Jeopardy!, she meets other kids who are smart like her.

    My advice to young people who find great pleasure in things of the mind:  While it may not be popular in middle school to be smart, it provides a lifetime of joy and entertainment.  You will meet fascinating people and never be bored.

     

    Do you have any interesting stories to share about how this book came about or things you encountered while writing it?

    I had sent an advanced reader’s copy of Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen to Ken Jennings — Jeopardy! champ and author of the best-selling Maphead:  Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks.  He’s such a funny, generous guy.  (If you like trivia, check out his Tuesday Trivia and read his blog; it’s highly entertaining.)  I was over-the-moon excited when Ken wrote a lovely blurb that appears on the back cover of Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen.

     

    For those aspiring authors out there, can you give us an idea of your process? How long was it from the first glimmer of a story idea to your book launch day?

    As usual, I had trouble coming up with my next book.  I kept trying new ideas that didn’t work out.  So, when I read about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I knew this was just the motivation I needed.

    The title came to me during a writing/scribbling session at my local library two days before NaNoWriMo began.

    The day before, I figured out that Olivia loved trivia . . . and someone who loved trivia might want to get on Kids’ Week on Jeopardy!

    Then, by some miracle, I wrote Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen in 29 days.  I blogged daily about the experience here.

    My agent, Tina Wexler at International Creative Management, reminds me to mention how long it took me to revise the book – months and months!  Even though I revised quite a bit during the month of writing, the book still needed much revision afterward.  Books are pesky like that!

    I was thrilled to learn that the book sold about three months after I finished it.

    Then, of course, it was two long years until the book launched.

     

    Any piece of advice for writers wishing to create a quirky, funny character?

    Look for the one thing that makes your character unusual and use that as your starting point to create a fully-developed character with complex relationships with friends, family, teachers, etc.  In each of my books, my characters had one thing that made him/her unique:

     

    1. As If Being 12 ¾ Isn’t Bad Enough, My Mother is Running for President – Vanessa Rothrock is a klutzy, awkward spelling bee champ.  (She reads the dictionary for fun and loves playing Scrabble with her mother.)

     

    2.  How to Survive Middle School  – David Greenberg fancies himself the next Jon Stewart as he creates funny YouTube videos, starring his hamster, Hammy and his hilarious 6-1/2 lists.

     

     

     

    3.  Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen –  Olivia is a trivia whiz, like her father, who abandoned the family two years earlier.  She never misses an episode of Jeopardy!

    “Find the quirk through observation, memory or imagination and you will have the foundation for a unique, memorable character.”

     

    And there you have it. How to find your own quirkiness and use it to create a wonderful character. Thanks for stopping by, Donna. It’s been delightful!

    To learn more about Donna and her books, be sure to visit her website.  And don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered to win an autographed copy of Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen!  The winner will be announced on Saturday, March 17th.

     

    * * *

    Jennifer Swanson is a self-professed science geek and knows all about carrying bits of trivia around in her head. At one time, she could recite the entire periodic table from memory. She would have been happy to help Olivia prep for her Jeopardy appearance.

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