• From the Mixed-Up Files... > Inspiration > I’ll catch up as soon as my Flux Capacitor is fixed…
  • OhMG! News


    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 ...

    March 28, 2013: Big at Bologna

     This year at the Bologna Children's Book Fair, the focus has shifted to middle-grade.  “A lot of foreign publishers are cutting back on YA and are looking for middle-grade,” said agent Laura Langlie, according to Publisher's Weekly.  Lighly illustrated or stand-alone contemporary middle-grade fiction is getting the most attention.  Read more...


    March 10, 2013: Marching to New Titles

    Check out these titles releasing in March...


    March 5, 2013: Catch the BEA Buzz

    Titles for BEA's Editor Buzz panels have been announced.  The middle-grade titles selected are:

    A Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson

    Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

    The Fantastic Family Whipple by Matthew Ward

    Nick and Tesla's High-Voltages Danger Lab by Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

    The Tie Fetch by Amy Herrick

    For more Buzz books in other categories,


    February 20, 2013: Lunching at the MG Roundtable 

    Earlier this month, MG authors Jeanne Birdsall, Rebecca Stead, and N.D. Wilson shared insight about writing for the middle grades at an informal luncheon with librarians held in conjunction with the New York Public Library's Children's Literary Salon "Middle Grade: Surviving the Onslaught."

    Read about their thoughts...


    February 10, 2013: New Books to Love

    Check out these new titles releasing in February...


    January 28, 2013: Ivan Tops List of Winners

    The American Library Association today honored the best of the best from 2012, announcing the winners of the Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz awards, along with a host of other prestigious youth media awards, at their annual winter meeting in Seattle.

    The Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature went to The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Honor books were: Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz; Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin; and Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage.

    The Coretta Scott King Book Award went to Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney.

    The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award,which honors an author for his or her long-standing contributions to children’s literature, was presented to Katherine Paterson.

    The Pura Belpre Author Award, which honors a Latino author, went to Benjamin Alire Saenz for his novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which was also named a Printz Honor book and won the Stonewall Book Award for its portrayal of the GLBT experience.

    For a complete list of winners…


    January 22, 2013: Biography Wins Sydney Taylor

    Louise Borden's His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg, a verse biography of the Swedish humanitarian, has won the Sydney Taylor Award in the middle-grade category. The award is given annually to books of the highest literary merit that highlight the Jewish experience. Aimee Lurie, chair of the awards committee, writes, "Louise Borden's well-researched biography will, without a doubt, inspire children to perform acts of kindness and speak out against oppression."

    For more...


    January 17, 2013: Erdrich Wins Second O'Dell

    Louise Erdrich is recipient of the 2013 Scott O'Dell Award for her historical novel Chickadee, the fourth book in herBirchbark House series. Roger Sutton,Horn Book editor and chair of the awards committee, says of Chickadee,"The book has humor and suspense (and disarmingly simple pencil illustrations by the author), providing a picture of 1860s Anishinabe life that is never didactic or exotic and is briskly detailed with the kind of information young readers enjoy." Erdrich also won the O'Dell Award in 2006 for The Game of Silence, the second book in theBirchbark series. 

    For more...


    January 15, 2013: After the Call

    Past Newbery winners Jack Gantos, Clare Vanderpool, Neil Gaiman, Rebecca Stead, and Laura Amy Schlitz talk about how winning the Newbery changed (or didn't change) their lives in this piece from Publishers Weekly...


    January 2, 2013: On the Big Screen

    One of our Mixed-up Files members may be headed to the movies! Jennifer Nielsen's fantasy adventure novel The False Prince is being adapted for Paramount Pictures by Bryan Cogman, story editor for HBO's Game of Thrones. For more...


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I’ll catch up as soon as my Flux Capacitor is fixed…

Inspiration, Miscellaneous, Op-Ed, Writing MG Books

So there I was, walking to the record store to buy a new 45 when this guy from the future parked his Delorean on the street right next to me. I tried to get a picture, but my camera was completely out of film. I ran to the phone to call my mom, but I was out of quarters, too! I sighed. All I knew, as soon as I got home I was writing my best friend at camp. She’d never believe this. I just wished it wouldn’t take four whole days for the letter to reach her!

Okay, if that paragraph made the least bit of sense to you, then you’re probably over the age of 30. Or, really into history. (Ancient history, if you happen to be a middle-grader.) Because let’s face it, when it comes to technology — be it music, computers, cell phones — change happens faster than some guy speeding through time in his souped-up Delorean.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against change. (If not for change, I’d still be sporting a really bad perm and blue eyeshadow and aspiring to be an MTV veejay.) But rapid changes in technology do present an interesting dilemma to the writer — something I got to thinking about while reading a popular MG series recently with my 10-year-old son. In one book, a key plot point centered around the protagonist’s brother working in a film developing lab. No biggie, right? Except about halfway through the book, I came to realize my son had absolutely no freaking clue what a film developing lab was. Our subsequent conversation went something like this:

Son: Hey, what’s film?

Me (incredulous): The stuff you put in cameras.

Son: You put stuff in cameras?

Me: Yeah, to record the pictures.

Son: Oh. So it’s like an SD card? (Pause) I don’t get it. Why do you need a lab then? Don’t those things plug right into the computer?

(Mom’s old head hits the desk.)

Amazing. In the span of less than ten years, one book managed to become completely dated… And actually on the verge of not making any sense. Not because the writer used some obsolete pop reference (I mean, we all know better than to go tossing in a little Right Said Fred, lest we want to peg our book squarely in dark ages of the early nineties). Rather, because the author included a bit of technology that seemed entirely relevant at the time. I cringe thinking how much my main characters actually IM each other in my first book (my proverbial drawer novel, where it will likely live forever). I suppose I could go back and change all those IMs to texts. But no doubt they’ll go the way of the telegram someday, too. Replaced by what, I don’t know. A chip in the head that transmits messages straight to your brain?

And the funny thing is, technology doesn’t just date a novel. It can help drive plot, too. Just imagine if Harry, Hermione and Ron had Google. Or e-mail. No more hours searching for answers in the forbidden stacks of the library. No more post owls. (Okay, so I don’t really want to imagine that so much.) But what if Judy Blume’s Wendy had a computer and a YouTube account? Cyber-bully, anyone? And I’m guessing if Claudia and Jamie tried to run away to the Metropolitan Museum of the Arts today, they’d be found almost instantly thanks to the GPS apps their parents installed on their cell phones.

So what’s a writer to do? (Besides hiding in the corner, clutching their coffee and please-don’t-ever-let-it-become-obsolete iPhone.) It seems to me one of three things:

  • Create a whole new fantasy world, a la Harry Potter, where there is no technology to contend with… witches and wizards don’t need email. Or the internet. Or regular cameras. They have owls! They have spells! They have paintings that move and talk!
  • Head back to the future — or the past. Here, you can either make up your own technology, as in Feed. Or, just go ahead and set the whole story in some very definable point the past, as in When You Reach Me (which, of course, also featured its own futuristic time-travel technology, albeit without the Delorean).
  • Just roll with the times, knowing that inevitably they are a-changing. I mean, so what if in ten years kids don’t text anymore, right? We’ll all be ROTFL anyway. Thanks to the chips in our heads, that is.

So how about you? How do you deal with technology when you write? Avoid? Embrace? Create your own? Please, tell me in the comments below! Or, send a post owl. That would be pretty cool, too.

Jan Gangsei went from typing her first short story on a Brother typewriter to drafting her first novel with her thumbs on her iPhone. She couldn’t imagine ever having to use whiteout again. Also, she’s had that Maroon 5 song Payphone stuck in her head since she started writing this post. If anyone could suggest a new song, she’d appreciate it. Anything but Right Said Fred, that is.

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