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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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  • Muddling through the Murky Middle

    Writing MG Books

    Although this is my first post for the Mixed-Up Files, I decided to write about middles. What better place than a blog devoted to middle grade books to examine the middles of stories, and specifically, how to muddle through them. I admit, this is a challenge for me, and I think (I hope) for other authors, too. It’s like rowing a boat across a really murky lake. I can see both shores clearly. I know my beginning, and I can completely visualize the end, but then there’s that whole lake to get across. That whole muddy lake, with floating tree branches, weird looking fish, deep water, icky brown stuff, and who knows what else lurking beneath the surface? How do I get from here to there without straying off course, or worse, sinking?

    Working on my second middle grade novel, it seemed I was over-thinking everything — from characters to plot to pacing to…okay…the whole point of the story. Actually, I was stuck. In the middle of the lake. Not sure how to paddle ahead. My inner critic was working overtime, and I was getting worn out.

    So I did what most writers need to do at some point. I put the novel aside and gave myself a mental break. During this time, I decided to find out: who navigates middles really well? What do they know that I don’t?

    I took four of my all-time favorite middle grade books: Holes by Louis Sachar; So B. It by Sarah Weeks; Love, Ruby Lavender by Deborah Wiles; and Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan, curled up in my favorite chair, and did a “middle experiment.” I placed my thumb smack dab in the middle of each of these terrific books to attempt to solve this whole middle mystery. And here’s what I discovered.

    In the middle of Holes, Stanley finds out Zero’s real name, plus in the historical part of the story, Sam is shot. Then there are these three amazing sentences. “Since then, not one drop of rain has fallen on Green Lake. You make the decision. Whom did God punish?”

    In the middle of So B. It, Heidi meets Georgia Sweet on her bus ride and muses: “I had begun to think that certain things that seem to happen by accident don’t really happen by accident at all.”

    In the middle of Love, Ruby Lavender, the Town Operetta is announced and the chicks are peeping and ready to hatch. And, in Esperanza Rising‘s middle, Esperanza, adjusting to her new life, takes a bath for the first time without her servant helping her bathe and dress.

    Ta da! All of these “middles,” I realized, have a few elements in common:

    1. The reader finds out something important (no rain fell on Green Lake), or gets a clue to a puzzle in the story (Zero’s real name is Hector Zeroni).

    2. Something happens that will connect to the ending (the chicks are peeping).

    3. The main character has a moment of insight (things don’t happen by accident).

    4. There is a turning point (Esperanza finds out she can do something she never did before).

    I jotted these words down: important, clue, connect, insight, turning point. But then I realized something else. In the middles of these books, the characters are also lost. On their journeys, searching for answers. Not sure how to forge ahead.

    Just like I was, in the middle of my murky lake.

    And I thought, gasp, what if being stuck in the middle is a good thing? Maybe it’s okay to be lost for a while. In fact, maybe I need to be stuck in order to figure out how to get to the end. What if not being sure where to head could prompt me to think outside of the box, or, um, water? Are the tree branches, weird fish, deep water, and icky brown stuff supposed to be there; all part of the grand plan? They’re just rough patches to navigate around, bumps along the way, places I need to row a little harder…each one bringing me closer to the opposite shore. When I pictured them like that, they seemed less like obstacles and more like challenges. After all, what would writing — or anything in life — be without challenges?

    Now I have a different way of thinking about middles. I’ve decided it’s the perfect place to stop, let go of the oars, rest, look around, and listen to the stillness. And have faith that at some point, the right path will come floating my way, like a lily pad that was there all along.

    Michele Weber Hurwitz is the author of Calli Be Gold (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House 2011). She’s happy to report that after floating around for a while, she recently completed draft #1 of book #2. Yay! Visit her at www.micheleweberhurwitz.com.

     

    19 Comments

    19 Comments

    1. Jen Gennari  •  Jul 16, 2012 @8:13 am

      So on target! I really love the lake analogy, too. I think the hardest part is keeping the suspense up in the middle without throwing the character a lifeline too soon.

    2. Michele Weber Hurwitz  •  Jul 16, 2012 @12:50 pm

      Jen, couldn’t agree more! Thanks!

    3. Angelina C. Hansen  •  Jul 16, 2012 @2:41 pm

      Excellent discussion and thanks for the book recs. ^_^

    4. Michelle Schusterman  •  Jul 16, 2012 @6:18 pm

      Great post, Michele! I go through the exact same thing – but you’re right, getting stuck in the middle doesn’t have to be tragic. Maybe it’s good for us to be as confused and lost as the characters for a little bit. :)

    5. Michele Weber Hurwitz  •  Jul 16, 2012 @7:16 pm

      Hahaha – absolutely!

    6. Marilee Haynes  •  Jul 16, 2012 @7:32 pm

      Wow! If this is your first post, I can’t wait for your second:) Seriously, you’ve given me so much to think about as well as a jolt of hope to keep pushing through to the end of my own middle muddle. Thank you for that!

      I’m going to try that same experiment with some of my own all-time favorites.

    7. Eating as a Path to Yoga  •  Jul 16, 2012 @7:44 pm

      It’s fun to read the story-writing process of others. Thanks for sharing your insights! I love how you pulled out key concepts, too. Blessings!

    8. Michele Weber Hurwitz  •  Jul 16, 2012 @8:03 pm

      Thank you everyone, for your great comments :)

    9. PragmaticMom  •  Jul 16, 2012 @8:17 pm

      So helpful! Love your post about middles though I am not yet in the middle of writing an MG book though I hope to be soon!

    10. Lisa Rogers  •  Jul 16, 2012 @8:55 pm

      Thanks, Michele, for your insights and inspiration! I’ve been taking a break and avoiding the middle–by actually paddling or just floating in the middle of my pond during this hot summer. So my plan is to enjoy the middle (of my book!) and keep your tips in mind while I’m there.

    11. Michele Weber Hurwitz  •  Jul 16, 2012 @10:17 pm

      An idea might just come floating your way in the pond :) !

    12. Kimberley Griffiths Little  •  Jul 17, 2012 @10:07 am

      GREAT post, Michele, and beautifully written! So happy you’re with us here at MUF!

    13. Karen B. Schwartz  •  Jul 17, 2012 @11:54 am

      Love the lake metaphor. Fantastic post, Michelle!

    14. Michele Weber Hurwitz  •  Jul 17, 2012 @3:11 pm

      Thank you so much!

    15. Pam Beres  •  Jul 17, 2012 @9:11 pm

      Excellent post! This is just where I am–muddling through the middle. Great insights. I especially love the idea of my being lost and confused in the middle mirroring how my mc is feeling at that point, too–lost confused. Can’t wait for your next post!

    16. Kenda  •  Jul 18, 2012 @10:42 am

      Love how you analyzed books you like, and your helpful insights. Thanks!

    17. Greg Pattridge  •  Jul 19, 2012 @12:55 pm

      Congratulations Michele on getting through the middle and onto a first draft of your second story. I liked your suggestion of getting away from the story for awhile. It has certainly helped me to go out and exercise my own middle before coming back to reduce the too large one I had in my story. Sometimes the lake needs to be smaller.

    18. Dianna Winget  •  Jul 20, 2012 @8:13 am

      Your post makes me feel so much better! Now I know I’m not alone. I’m currently in the middle of my third book and floundering a bit, but now I know it will all eventually work out.

    19. Sheila Brodhead  •  Aug 16, 2012 @8:30 pm

      very helpful and inspiring information! great article– thanks