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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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  • Chained by Debut Author Lynne Kelly

    Learning Differences

    Welcome Lynne Kelly to the Mixed-Up Files! Her debut novel, CHAINED, released into the wild today! Lynne grew up in Houston, lived in a couple of much colder places, then returned to the Houston area, where she works as a sign language interpreter and writes novels for children and young adults.

     

     

    About CHAINED: After ten-year-old Hastin’s family borrows money to pay for his sister’s hospital bill, he leaves his village in northern India to take a job as an elephant keeper and work off the debt. He thinks it will be an adventure, but he isn’t prepared for the cruel circus owner. The crowds that come to the circus see a lively animal who plays soccer and balances on milk bottles, but Hastin sees Nandita, a sweet elephant and his best friend, who is chained when she’s not performing and hurt with a hook until she learns tricks perfectly. Hastin protects Nandita as best as he can, knowing that the only way they will both survive is if he can find a way for them to escape. (from IndieBound)

    What inspired you to write CHAINED?

    The idea started when I was at a presentation and heard the tale “Don’t Be Like The Elephant,” about how a small rope or chain can hold a full-grown elephant because once they give up trying to break free, they never try again. It’s meant to be an example of learned helplessness or self-limiting behavior, but I got the idea then to write a picture book manuscript about a captive elephant that breaks free and returns home. After taking it to a couple of critique groups, some people noticed that the story needed to be told as a novel, not as a picture book. At the time I couldn’t imagine writing it as a novel, but now I can’t imagine it any other way. So little by little I worked on expanding the story into a novel, with lots of revisions along the way, changing from third person to first person point of view, past tense to present tense, the elephant from a boy to a girl, and more revisions.

    There have been so many versions of the story; it’s unrecognizable from the first picture book draft, although you’ll still see that big elephant held by the same small chain that held her when she was first captured.

    I was surprised by the elephant behavior described in the story. I had no idea an elephant could be mischievous, like filling the bell tied around their neck with mud so it doesn’t ring and they can’t be found. Or that they’d attach to a human so much that they’d follow them around. How did you discover so much about their behavior?

    Elephants are so smart and have such personality, so they were a lot of fun to research! Thank goodness for DVRs and the Internet. I did a lot of reading about elephants, online and in books, and recorded any elephant documentary I could find. Plus I talked to some people who’ve worked with them; the Houston Zoo has had some “Elephant Open House” events, and I went to a few of those to see the elephants close-up and talk to the keepers about how they take care of them.

    The child labor that 10-year-old Hastin is forced into at the circus, with little hope of ever leaving, is tragic. Is there anything being done to protect children like Hastin?

    India has laws forbidding the hiring of children, but in some areas the laws are loosely enforced. There are parts of the country where families live with the kind of poverty most of us can’t even imagine, and many families are desperate enough to send their children to work. New laws have been enacted more recently to expand the restrictions on hiring children, and advocacy groups in India are fighting to protect the country’s children. Until 2010, circuses were exempt from child labor laws, and just last year the Supreme Court in India ordered the government to better enforce the new ban by raiding circuses and rescuing underage employees.

    Nandita the elephant is taught circus tricks and is often subject to harsh punishment with a sharp hook when she fails to perform as expected. Was this based on real life? Are there safeguards for animals like Nandita?

    Like the child labor laws, there have been laws in India to protect elephants, but the laws haven’t always been enforced. There’s a long tradition in India of having trained elephants in circuses. It isn’t easy to train such a large animal, and although there are kinder ways of working with them, some trainers are more violent in their approach. It’s only been since 2009 that elephants have been banned in Indian circuses. Of course things don’t change overnight, so there are people in India working to enforce the laws and move the elephants to new homes in the wild or in sanctuaries. Elephant Aid International is one group that works to improve the lives of captive elephants and “retired” elephants from circuses and zoos in India.

    How did you write so convincingly of India?

    That was probably the biggest challenge in the book–writing about India, without having been there, in a way that would be clear to readers who didn’t know anything about it, yet authentic to those who were familiar with it. Again I did a lot of research by reading and looking at pictures online, but the best research was talking to people who’ve lived there. A reporter in India helped me come up with what Hastin’s house would look like, and I asked questions of several people who’d lived in India. Before my agent search, I had a full manuscript critique from author Uma Krishnaswami, who read it again more recently to vet it for publication.

    I read on your blog that you made your own book trailer. Was that difficult? Any advice to other writers contemplating doing the same?

    It took some time, but it wasn’t difficult; mostly it involved dragging pictures into iMovie. For writers who want to make their own trailer, I think it’s a good idea to take a little time now and then to browse through stock photo sites and save pictures you might want to use later. Then when it’s time to make the trailer, you won’t be so pressed for time and it’ll be easier to put the trailer together. Most sites let you download a free comp photo so you can see if it’s what you really want, or you can take a screen shot of the sample photo. Make the trailer with the comp photos to see how it’s working, and get feedback from friends and your editor and agent before purchasing the final pictures, video clips, and music.

    What’s next for you?

    Something completely different–I’ve been revising my novel Reasons For Leaving, a humorous YA with some mystery to it. Then I’m back to middle-grade for the next novel, about an amateur forensic scientist with cryptozoologist parents.

    And what’s your favorite middle-grade book?

    Oh dear, just one? Umm…let’s see…I’m reading books all the time that become new favorites. But the first middle-grade novel I remember falling in love with was Norton Juster’s THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH.

    To learn more about Lynne, check out her website: http://lynnekellybooks.com. Leave a comment to win a copy of CHAINED!

     

    Karen B. Schwartz writes humorous middle-grade novels and raises humorous middle-grade kids.

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