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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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  • The Competition

    Inspiration, Parents, Teachers

    I’m thinking out loud here.  I’m hoping to start a conversation.   Here goes.

     The high school where my husband teaches recently hosted a group of teachers and students from France.  In talking with the kids, he discovered how surprised they were by the level of competitiveness in American society in general and school in particular.  The drive to beat out others and prove you’re the best perplexed and kind of amused them, my husband said.  They could see it in sports, but when it came to learning and creating? 

    I remembered that conversation when I came across a recent op-ed piece in the New York Times.  We’ve all read (and maybe written!) articles deploring how test-driven schools have become, but this essay was especially moving to me.  Claire Needle Hollander, a middle school English teacher, for years has successfully used novels like “Sounder” and  “The Red Pony” with her marginalized students, students who understand better than she can a book like “Of Mice and Men” with its “terrible logic—the giving way of dreams to fate.” 

    Yet the pressures of test performance have forced her to cut way back on the amount of real literature she can teach.  Rather than helping her kids learn to love reading, to experience the way a story can hack that old frozen sea inside, she’s teaching them how to pick the right multiple-choice answer.  In the frantic effort to raise test scores, she says, “We are teaching them that words do not dazzle but confound.”     

    Which brings me, in a very round-about way, to writing contests for kids, another place where we quantify their efforts.  Of course, there’s a huge difference between standardized tests and contests, which students enter voluntarily.  I recently judged two competitions, both sponsored by libraries, and I’m here to say I was the mega winner.   The work I read will inspire me for months to come—its earnestness, its exuberance, its gravity and playfulness and the sense that everything matters.  Matters a lot.  As a  writer, I felt more than ever the tremendous responsibility I have to deliver my readers the highest quality work I’m capable of.

    But as a judge, my heart got a real work-out.  Rewarding one child inevitably means hurting another.  While I know as well as anyone that the growing-up road is pitted with potholes, I had a terrible time knowing some writers would feel their work wasn’t good enough.  It made me remember when my own daughters took part in Power of the Pen competitions.  I was leery of the whole business, even when their teacher explained, “Kids who are athletic get recognized all the time.  This is a way to celebrate our quiet, creative kids.”

    Well yes.  If you win.  Since I write for adults too, I’ve entered lots of contests sponsored by literary journals.  I’ve won a few, lost far more—but my old skin is tough by now. I even know enough to be pleased by a nice rejection!  Yet I worry about younger, more tender souls who put their hearts on the page.  Is picking one over another really the best way to nourish them?     

    Those writers whose work I read were clearly all readers.  I could see it in their vocabulary, their pacing, their cadences—these were kids busy metabolizing language and story-telling.  You could say that, in this sense, they’re winners already. I consoled myself by hoping that the process of completing their stores had been exhilarating in and of itself.  I eased my guilt by  thinking some of them probably hadn’t know what they were capable of, and now they’d get hooked, and write more and more.  Maybe not winning (I couldn’t bring myself to use that L word) would spur some to work even harder—after all, if it’s instant gratification you’re after, forget being a writer.  Kids are resilient.  And hey, it’s never to young to learn you can’t always win, right? 

    This, I’m sure, is what all the dedicated librarians, teachers and parents who support these kids hope, too.  And then of course, there are the winners, so talented and promising and deserving of recogntion.  It’s impossible to measure the boost that external validation can give to a writer (just ask me!)

    Still, I fret.  With all the competitiveness in our children’s lives—fourth graders prepping for the SATs, eleven years olds specializing in a single sport—do we really need to make art a contest, too?  With the pressure they face in the classroom, are we adding to their sense that everything they do can be quantified and ranked?  

    Please chime in!  Teachers, librarians, parents, kid-lovers—what do you think?  On balance, are contests positive or negative things?  Are there other, possibly better, ways to publicly encourage and recognize kids’ creativity? 

    *******

    Speaking of competitons: Tricia’s middle grade novel “What Happened on Fox Street” was recently named a finalist for two state awards.  Hypocrite that she is, she would love to win! 

    5 Comments

    5 Comments

    1. Karen B. Schwartz  •  May 11, 2012 @11:12 am

      I totally get what you’re saying about the quest to teach to the test. My 4th grader has missed out on weeks of valuable instruction time both to prep for and take NY standardized tests.

      As far as writing contests for kids go, I don’t think that kind of competition hurts. Only the top written pieces will be published in real life. I think that the kids with the drive to write will keep writing. Sometimes all it takes is one person really believing in them. Even if that person is themselves.

    2. Yolanda Ridge  •  May 11, 2012 @12:36 pm

      Interesting discussion! I’ve always thought that writing competitions encourage children to write. But I do agree that there is a downside to our competition driven society. Our kids are constantly being evaluated and compared and it’s happening at a younger and younger age. It doesn’t foster cooperation or creativity. Something to think about, for sure. Thanks for sharing this perspective!

    3. Michelle Schusterman  •  May 12, 2012 @12:46 am

      Really interesting topic, Tricia. As a former teacher, I can’t talk too much about standardized testing without getting red-faced and ranty. Not a fan.

      As far as competition goes, anything can of course be taken too far. But while it’s hard to see kids try so hard and then (in their minds) fail when they don’t win, I feel that with the right teacher/mentor, they still learn a valuable lesson. Competition in school isn’t just for sports – look at band, choir, theater. There are SO many competitions for those activities year-round! In many (most, I hope?) cases, the students grow and learn from those experiences, win or lose. I think it’s got to be the same with writing.

    4. tricia  •  May 12, 2012 @7:51 pm

      Yours are all wise voices and you have cheered me up considerably. I still will think twice, though, before agreeing to be a judge!

    5. Tracy Abell  •  May 15, 2012 @3:47 pm

      I’m late to the discussion, Tricia, but wanted to thank you for getting me thinking about this. I’m very anti-standardized testing and am tired of all the competition in practically every aspect of kids’ lives. However, I never even thought about writing contests as competition. Of course they are. I’d like to think, though, that they can be sparks for kids continuing on a writing path, and not just for the “winners.” A writing contest could very well prove to a child she’s capable of working hard and completing an entry, and fire her up to try write something else.

      I still haven’t “won” a publishing contract but I keep writing books because I love the challenge of writing an even better book.