• OhMG! News


    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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  • Memorable Author Visits: Tips from Teachers, Librarians, and Writers

    Learning Differences

    In my classroom I make my students write a lot.  Students who are learning to write need role models and who better than the people who fill the pages of the books that line our shelves?  My students want to hear what authors were up to when they were in sixth grade, what tips and tricks they use to write a really good book, even what it looks like when they are writing!  I know that an author visit is successful if I see students using strategies that an author has shared with the class: “Hey, will you read my story out loud to me?  I want to try revising the way Mrs. Schlick Noe does.”                                                                       ~ Jordan Kimmerly, 6th grade teacher

    Books crammed with students' sticky notes in preparation for my visit!

    My visit to Jordan’s classroom was one of the first in a whirlwind of author visits this winter and spring – to schools, libraries, bookstores, after-school and mother-daughter book clubs, as part of the Mixed-Up Files Skype Tour, and even to a museum.  Whew!

    As a long-time literacy educator, I’ve had a lot of experience with professional presentations.  But speaking to young readers and writers as a middle grade author is a whole new (and wonderful) adventure!  To create the most worthwhile author visits that I can, I asked my network of educators and fellow writers for their insights into what makes an author visit especially valuable and memorable.

    I hope you discover new ideas, whether you’re an author preparing for a visit or a teacher planning one for young readers and writers.  This post is organized into four sections: what works for readers, how visits can encourage young writers, how teachers can extend the learning, and additional resources on author visits.

    What Works for Readers?
    As authors, our first opportunity to touch young hearts and minds is when students read our books or hear them read aloud.  Here are some suggestions to reinforce students’ connections with the story, as well as to support their growth as readers:

    • Share the “story behind the story”   I love the background story that you can’t get without meeting the author in person. I want to hear what inspired the author, a tidbit of interesting research.  I also love to hear a gossipy piece – maybe a secret that didn’t come out in the story, because it’s juicy and makes the book more interesting.

    •  Read an excerpt   We love hearing the author read — a chapter, a few paragraphs, even a few sentences.  It brings us into the story if we haven’t yet read it or into the story again, if we have.

    •  Include photos and visuals   When an author shows photos and maps of places and people, it makes the story and the characters and the setting even more real!  Students find themselves re-thinking and re-imagining the novel.

    •  Connect with the reading (and writing) curriculum   I want the author to check in with the teacher/coordinator about what they are trying to work on specifically when it comes to writing/reading so that the author can tweak the personal “real life author” things that they share to hit on those topics.

    In 6th grade most of our reading instruction revolves around evaluating author’s craft and reading beyond the text.  I can tell my students about what I think the theme of a story is and what I believe the author wanted his/her audience to take away from a book until I am blue in the face, but there will always be those students who doubt that I know what I am talking about.  It is pretty difficult for even the most ornery of twelve-year olds to question what the author’s purpose is when it is coming out of the mouth of the author!

    I love when an author is able to give insight into his or her writing on things that my students and I can only infer and hypothesize about. For example, we want to know how the author intended for various characters to be received.  We want to feel the payoff, a sense of being correct, for being critical readers.

    • Save time for questions    We hope an author saves lots of time for questions.  If an author visit is going to be meaningful for students, the students need to be active participants in the encounter.  Often the students have better questions than anything that I would think to ask and the answer a student receives will most likely be the most memorable moment for that kid.

    Encouraging Young Writers
    Like many of us as children, I was an early writer – but I never dreamed I could meet a real author. So it’s no surprise to me that my favorite part about interacting with students has been connecting with them writer-to-writer.  Here are some ways that authors can encourage other writers:

    •  Suggest that students jot down ideas as they listen   Ask students to bring writer’s notebooks or simply a piece of paper so that they can capture ideas they hear that they might want to use in their own writing.  Show photos of your writer’s notebook and talk about how you used it in the process of writing the book you’re discussing.

    •  Talk about how you became a writer   We want to hear the author’s personal stories about becoming a writer, especially anecdotes about the writer as a child.  It’s very inspiring when the author shows bits of writing when she was the same age as my students!

    •  Offer tips and discoveries that will help other writers   When a writer gives the audience their “best revision strategy” – for example, listening to their work being read aloud by someone else — it gives students a concrete and easily adaptable idea to try, regardless of the age level.

    •  Share your own struggles, hard work, and solutions   What you do when you feel stuck or uncertain? Little tricks like that. What surprised you about the story/process?  What did you learn?

    Most middle grade kids find writing pretty frustrating simply because of where they are in their intellectual development, so I try to share the parts of the process I find frustrating.

    When a writer shows students the many drafts saved on their computer, it reminds them that writing is a process that requires time, effort and great attention to detail.

    I think kids want to believe that their story ideas are worthwhile, so I try to do an exercise on generating story ideas. Or illustrate how I took a relatively simple and straightforward idea and elaborated on it until it grew into a whole novel.

    When a writer shows suggestions that her editor gave on her writing, it helps the audience understand how helpful an outside perspective is, and that no matter how competent the writer, there is still more to learn.

    When an author says that writing is a process of discovery, that while you can start with what you know but that what you don’t yet know is even more significant and can be discovered, it makes the process of writing even more exciting and the possibilities greater. It encourages you to begin!

    •  Provide time, if possible, for students to share or talk about their writing   Some of our most valuable sessions have included the author listening to my students’ ideas or their own writing.  When an author says, “That’s a book that needs to be written,” I love how the young writer is empowered, re-energized and re-inspired to write.

    Extending the Experience
    Teachers can greatly increase the impact of an author visit by extending students’ learning experiences:

    •  First of all, make sure you attend   The author visit can have far-reaching staying power when the classroom teachers also take part.  This allows follow-up for deeper, richer learning!

    •  Help students reflect on what they’ve learned as readers and writers   I asked my students to write about something the author mentioned in her presentation that they can take away and use as writers themselves.  We typed up this list to post in our classroom and use during writer’s workshop — and we sent it to her as a thank you note!

    Based on Katherine’s title, Something to Hold, I had students describe things in their own lives that they “hold in their hearts” to help them through difficult times.  This exercise helped students think about issues in the book that they encounter in their own lives, such as friendship, prejudice, and what it means to speak up for other people.

    Resources for Author Visits

    •  Consider Skype as a lower-cost alternative to an in-person visit
    All of us here at the Mixed-Up Files hope you got in on last year’s amazing Skype Author Tour!  Even if you didn’t, consider Skype as a way to bring an author to your school or group.  Many middle grade authors offer lower cost – or even free – online visits.

    Check out Kate Messner’s Authors Who Skype for detailed information for authors who want to Skype, as well as teachers and librarians looking for free or low-cost Skype visits.  In addition, author Mona Kerby and library media specialist Sarah Chauncey maintain the Skype an Author Network, an online database of children’s authors who offer Skype visits.

    •  Mixed-Up Files author visit blog posts
    We’ve offered a great series of posts about author visits here at the Mixed-Up Files.  You might start with Bobbie Pyron’s, Care and Feeding of Your Visiting Author for tips for schools and groups hosting an author.

    And check out these posts by Rosanne Parry: Authors Visiting Schools: Thinking Outside the Box (creative alternatives to a standard, in-person visit), Successful Author Visits: What an Author Can Do to Prepare (valuable details to help authors get ready for a great visit), and Successful Author Visits: What Teachers and Librarians Can Do to Prepare (more helpful tips for people who are planning the visit!).

    Finally, many thanks to the contributors who shared great insights and ideas about what makes an author visit memorable for young readers and writers:  Trish Bailey, Cindy Flegenheimer, Denise Gudwin, Jordan Kimmerly, David Lowe, Debi Mandel, Rosanne Parry, Lori Scobie, and Pam Schwartz!

    Katherine Schlick Noe teaches beginning and experienced teachers at Seattle University. Her debut novel, Something to Hold, was published by Clarion Books in December, 2011.  Now that school’s out, she’s hanging up her traveling shoes and concentrating on her next story!  Visit her at http://katherineschlicknoe.com

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