• From the Mixed-Up Files... > Activities > Summer Writing Prompts for Young Writers (and Readers!)
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    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, read more...

     

    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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Summer Writing Prompts for Young Writers (and Readers!)

Activities, Inspiration, Parents, Teachers, Writing MG Books
courtesy of Anjali Enjeti on Pinterest

 

Last year, a fantastic blog post called How to Be a Writer was making the rounds among my writerly friends. Those of us who are also parents seemed particularly interested, since the essay was as much about being a writer as it was about raising a writer. Under the question “What should you do to help your child pursue her dreams of becoming a writer?”, it included fantastic advice like:

  • First of all, let her be bored. Let her have long afternoons with absolutely nothing to do. Limit her TV-watching time and her internet-playing time and take away her cell phone.
  • Let her be lonely. Let her believe that no one in the world truly understands her.
  • Let her sit outside at night under the stars. Give her a flashlight to write by.

and then of course there was my favorite:

  • Let her fail. Let her write pages and pages of painful poetry and terrible prose. Let her write painfully bad fan fiction. Don’t freak out when she shows you stories about Bella Swan making out with Draco Malfoy. Never take her writing personally or assume it has anything to do with you, even if she only writes stories about dead mothers and orphans.

Fantastic advice, yes?

But I guess the question still remains, how do we teachers, parents, writers and readers concretely encourage our young people to love words and stories? (I mean, beyond the making sure our children feel lonely, misunderstood, in the dark, and are writing extraordinarily improbable romantic fanfic mashups!)

I’ve always believed that encouraging our children to read – read widely, and read a lot — is a sure fire way to raise writers and readers. That, and lots of fun family read-alouds (ideally with lots of fantastic voices!) But, this summer, along with spending long and delicious hours in our local library (before, after, and some days, both before and after going to the local pool) I’m going to try something new. Inspired by writer Anjali Enjeti, and her fantastic pinterest board of summer writing prompts for young people, I’m going to give my children daily summer writing prompts. (Full disclosure, Anjali recently invited me to write an essay as part of another great project in which she’s asking all sorts of writers the question, “When do you write?” She kindly agreed to publish my rant on Virginia Wolf, Star Trek, mothering, writing, intergalactic wormholes, and the time-space continuum. Brave woman, clearly.)

So, just today, we bought some notebooks for the kids – middle grade readers now both. We kept an eye out for line spacing, and ease of writing. Too often in the past, I’ve bought the kids gorgeous hard bound journals which are too hard to open and write all the way into the binding. But it was important to me that the kids feel excited, and recognize that the project was a chance for them to make their mark. A new (even inexpensive, spiral) notebook can be a sign that their mark counts.

I’m going to try to use some of Anjali’s prompts, but keep myself open to letting the kids suggest their own prompts. Although, my 7 year old daughter is already clamoring to try Anjali’s “Try writing a new ending to an old fairy tale.”

In doing some other research for prompts, I found this site of tips for summer or classroom journal writing, including great tips like: “Ask children to write their journal 20 years in the future. The journal entry date will be the same day and month as the the current date, however, the year is twenty years in the future. Kids will have to imagine and write about their future life. A nine-year-old will be writing as if he or she were 29.”

Although I’m not 100% sure what “pattern based writing” is, and if I approve of it (!), this site seemed to have some great prompts, including: “1.  My lazy days cause my parents to… 2. It gets hotter and hotter and hotter and pretty soon everyone is…”

And just to give you plenty of sites to chose from, here’s one more, which suggests prompts such as: 1. “Describe one time when you were brave.” 2. “Imagine you woke up and saw a dinosaur in your backyard. Write a story telling what you see and do.”and 3. “Write a story titled, “My journey on a pirate ship. You and your friends can star in the story.”

I imagine prompts could be readerly as well – Anjali’s suggestion to find a new ending to an old fairy tale could be used with any recently read and beloved book. Middle grade fanfic could involve new adventures with old favorite characters:  Judy Moody! Clementine! Harry Potter! Percy Jackson! Another readerly suggestion might be for a child write herself into a favorite storybook plot or setting – Narnia! Wonderland! Pioneer Times! The possibilities are endless.

The only other ‘rules’ I’ve thought about is to have my kids write every morning, when everyone is fresh. Perhaps 15 minutes after breakfast before the day really gears up. Otherwise, I’d like to keep it as low key and enjoyable as possible. I’ll probably write along with the kids too!

Have you, dear MUF readers, had experience with summer writing prompts? Do you have any favorites you use?

courtesy microsoft clip art

 

Sayantani DasGupta has her summers off from her “day job” teaching graduate school – which means lots of time with her 9 and 7yo kids during the days, many hours at the local library and swimming pool. She tries to squeeze her writing in to the long summer nights – but imagines she might actually write a bit WITH the kids this summer too!

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