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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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  • Parents in Books – a Writing Perspective

    Learning Differences

    Maybe Mother’s Day is still in the air, or it might be the two recent Mixed-Up Files posts on parenting tips, and moms in middle grade fiction; or it might be the mother-daughter book club visit I did recently. Whatever it might be, I have been thinking seriously about moms and dads in MG.

    And before I go further, I want to pass out some writer hats. If you aren’t a writer – don’t worry.  Even if you are a parent or educator, or simply a middle grade reader, I have several hats. I’m sure one will fit you.

    Because what I want to talk about pertains to writing, and the decisions we make as writers regarding plot, conflict, and the role of parents in MG fiction.

    Conventional writing wisdom has been telling us for years to cross out parents from books, and to leave the adventuring, detective work, and problem-solving to the kids.  How else might we explain classics like The Secret Garden, or Heidi, or more recent phenomenons like Harry Potter, The Golden Compass, and The Graveyard Book?  I know as a writer, it’s just easier to leave out the parents. Fewer people to deal with, fewer permissions to grant, easier plot twists to render. As a young child, I understood the necessity of eliminating parents. I scarcely knew what divorce was, and yet in many stories I wrote, there were divorced parents, missing parents, or mothers and fathers who met an untimely demise. Why? Because it was so much easier to get to the real story without them there!

    Even so, I’d like to make a case for the parents, and why as a writer, I think they add a dimension to the story that is gaining importance over time. There might be several really good reasons, but I will give you my personal 3. And then I will add one more, which might be a truth that has remained constant, but bears considering.

    3 Reasons for Keeping Parents Present

    1. The rise of parent-child book clubs. I have no hard data, but one can easily observe that the number of parent-child book clubs have grown over recent years. Some of these are run through the schools, some through libraries, and sometimes a group of like-minded people form their own. It’s a great way to spend time with your child and devote time to reading. Along with that, is the opportunity to discuss stories that resonate with both adults and young people. Whether it’s about fitting in at school, or dealing with a job loss, or the death of a family member, there are many stories out there that can be approached and discussed from multiple
      perspectives. And in doing so, there might be a great chance for parents and kids to understand each other better.
    1. Multicultural families and their experiences have changed from generation to generation.  As a child of an immigrant family that came to the United States in the 1970s, I can attest to how much has changed from what we experienced then as first-generation immigrants with what my children and their second-generation and third-generation peers experience today.  In the 1970s, it was about fitting in and being like everyone else.

      Today, what “fitting in” means has changed. Interestingly, the Census Bureau reported for the first time that White births account for less than half the number of total births today, clocking in at 49 percent. So while the face of our nation undergoes changes, it makes sense that the stories for and about our children have changed. And what better way to observe that change than through books that include multi-generations of immigrants in its pages?

    2. The need to accept people in our society who may be seem different, but deserve the same level of respect and dignity, and with equal rights to education, friendship, and acceptance. I think this is an especially important reason. In an interview about her debut novel, Wonder (about a 5th grader with facial deformities that attends school for the first time), RJ Polaccio comments, “I hope that readers will come away with the idea that they are noticed: their actions are noted.” More importantly, Polaccio goes on to say that, “I also hope parents take heed and do more interfering in their kids’ lives…They need to remind their kids to be kind and do right exactly because it’s the hardest thing to do at that age.” What’s wonderful about Polaccio’s novel is that she allows us to see the shortcomings of everyone, from kids to their parents, and to those who mean well but still inflict pain through their ignorance. It’s this quality that makes her novel an excellent way for children and adults alike to discuss how we should treat other people.

    So, does this mean that all MG books need to spotlight parents? Of course not. Often times, parents in novels can interfere with the immediacy of the main character’s personal growth. And sometimes, kids really do have to solve their own problems. On the other hand, parents being fictionally “there” isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The other day I read a post by young adult author, Jennifer Hubbard, on the dynamics of being older and younger, and she notes how “There are so many ways to look at age, and at intergenerational relationships.”

    Which brings me to the 4th reason I value parents being in the books I write. I truly believe that our experiences as adults matter and have relevance in a kid’s world. I also believe that for those of us who are parents as well as writers, writing children’s books is a way for us to explore the successes and setbacks of grown-ups when it comes to decision-making. For my ownself, writing has allowed me to consider my parenting decisions, and how they might hold up under the scrutiny of a young person.

    As writers I think it’s possible to write what we know, even when it comes to writing for kids — and this doesn’t necessarily mean remembering stuff from our distant past. In her parenting post, Mixed-Up Files blogger Elissa Cruz extends a thoughtful invitation: “Parents, I encourage you to pick up a title and read.”

    I’d like to go one step further by saying, Writers – I encourage you to write about parents. Because for all you know, they might be reading.

    ——————————————
    Sheela Chari is the author of Vanished,  a 2012 APALA honor book and a nominee for this year’s Edgar award in the best juvenile mystery category. She lives in New York.

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