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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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  • The Three Biggest Mistakes Authors Make on School Tours

    Authors, Teachers

    As a teacher, I spend 180 days a year with tweens and teens. I’ve observed students in many teaching scenarios, including while other adults (guest authors or newbie teachers) tried instructing or entertaining them. The sessions that tend to bore the kids and stress out the presenter fall prey to three mistakes—all of which come from not understanding the audience.

    Teaching or presenting to tweens and teens can be an intimidating task. After all, kids can be honest—i.e., brutal—about whether they like your book, subject matter, or you, and/or are often noticeably uninterested in what adults try to share with them. As a veteran teacher, I mentor new teachers and student teachers who have some of the same fears authors bring along when entering the classroom or auditorium. The advice in the post is the same advice new teachers get. Even when an author may have some background experience working with large groups of kids, it’s important to note that no author’s presentation—just like no curriculum lesson—will ever go off perfectly or exactly the same each time; this is because each group of students is different. So in order to ensure that luck is on your side more often than not, you can prepare each presentation based on the needs of the audience rather than the topic.

    There are three things to keep in mind any time you’re teaching or presenting to kids or teens—three big mistakes not to make:

    Mistake 1: Thinking It’s About You/Your Book

    But wait, didn’t the librarian or that teacher invite you to come to the school because their students love your book or they’re going to love your book? And don’t you have this great activity that will help    students learn the craft of writing or what makes compelling characters? This all may be true, but you need to remember that with tweens and teens, the entire world revolves around them—not you. (Unless you’re J.K. Rowling; but even then only some kids are persistently orbiting the Potter Universe.) There are likely to be students in attendance who are reluctant readers, who haven’t heard of you, or aren’t thrilled about your genre. So you have to do the heavy lifting: you need to figure out a way to make what you’re presenting seem connected to them and their world, to make it relevant for them. For example, when I teach junior high students about the elements of fiction each fall, I start with movies, not novels or short stories. Why? Because I know all of my students watched one if not one hundred movies over the summer. Movies are what the majority of them know and are passionate about when it comes to their experiences with “story.” When discussing fiction genres, we talk about music genres. When discussing conflict, we talk about sports and teams. Help the kids see that what they care about is actually connected to what you’re trying to explore with them, thus making it relevant. Figuring out how the content of your presentation relates to something teens already    care about will get them involved—which does wonders for author anxiety and your success in school tours.

    Mistake 2:    Failure to Ask Questions

    One of the best ways to get kids and teens involved and to help them make connections with your content is to ask them questions. There might be some trial-and-error on your part as you experiment with the right questions to ask, but teaching and presenting are just like writing: it takes practice to do them well, and that includes learning from previous attempts. Use both closed and opened-ended questions (yes/no answers and opinion-based answers, respectively). For example, recently I went to hear two of my author friends present at a library. In part of the program, they talked about books they were forced to read in school. One of them asked the simple question, “Anyone here ever been force to read a book they didn’t like?” Then he paused as many hands from the audience flew up, tightening the kids’ connection with the presenters. Later, as the duo started discussing heroes, they asked the group of tweens and teens “what makes a hero” and then took three to five minutes and let the audience do the teaching. From my seat in the back, I could see how engaged and attentive the kids were. Most of them had never read either of these authors’ books, but because the authors brought the kids into the presentation, their audience was hooked.

    Mistake 3: Forgetting to Mix It Up

    Remember that kids have limited attention spans. Each of us can focus on a task or subject for only a limited amount of time before our minds wander and we become distracted. I’ve even heard that companies like 3M and Google dedicate something like 15% of the employee workday to free time—knowing that employee concentration suffers otherwise. For tweens and teens, the magic number is also fifteen—ten to fifteen minutes, that is. Every ten to fifteen minutes you want to switch topics, move to a new activity, or change your instructional approach from lecture to discussion or from discussion to something hands-on, etc. Whatever you’re doing, figure out a way to break up your gig into ten-to-fifteen-minute segments.

    Now it’s time to practice what I preach. You’re blog reading attention span is almost up. I hope these ideas help. Let me know what’s worked for you in reaching your audience. As a teacher and writer, I love to teach and I love to learn—everyone can improve their craft.

    Bruce Eschler teaches junior high school students most of the year, writes speculative fiction for kids as much he can, and is hoping he’ll soon be done with his pesky doctoral program. He has occasionally been spotted at www.bruceeschler.com.

    20 Comments

    10 Comments

    1. Joanne Johnson  •  Aug 8, 2012 @7:36 am

      This is a great and practical post. I love the way you use what the kids care about to motivate them. Thanks for sharing your expertise!

      bruce eschler Reply:

      @Joanne Johnson, Thanks for the comment.

    2. Deanna Klingel  •  Aug 8, 2012 @2:25 pm

      I love making middle school visits. Your lesson is helpful, thank you.

      bruce eschler Reply:

      @Deanna Klingel, Middle school students are wonderful. They need authors like yourself who are excited to visit with them. I’m pleased you can use my ideas.

    3. Michelle Schusterman  •  Aug 8, 2012 @7:34 pm

      Great advice!

      bruce eschler Reply:

      @Michelle Schusterman, Thanks.

    4. PragmaticMom  •  Aug 8, 2012 @7:47 pm

      I co-chair the Creative Arts and Sciences at my elementary school and I book a lot of the author/illustrators. Good points!

      Also:
      1) Request that the kids be familiar with one of your books. Even a few chapters!
      2) Make it interactive! Q and A is good, but do something together!
      3) Multi-media is good; slide show, not so much!

      bruce eschler Reply:

      @PragmaticMom, Excellent points and thanks for participating in the discussion.

    5. Jen  •  Aug 8, 2012 @10:33 pm

      Thanks for this. I’ve done all of one school visit, and it was…okay. I’d like to do more, but am uncertain in that environment. I used to be an ace at summer camp, but the confined space and sedentary nature of classrooms and auditoriums is something different.

      You talk about changing things up every 10 or 15 minutes. How does that work in an auditorium situation when there are gobs of students present? How does interactivity work with gobs of kids? Small-group visits are hard to come by: Most schools seem to want an author to address the entire student body in the course of a day.

      bruce eschler Reply:

      @Jen, Great questions. Changing things up can come in a variety of ways that don’t have to be strictly activities, which you’re right are easier to manage in smaller groups. When presenting in the dreaded assembly format consider first breaking the content into chunks or subtopics. Many of us, kids in particular, can’t endure hearing about the same concept or idea for a long time. It’s like when my wife tells me to stop droning on, we don’t need forever to get the point. Second, consider all the ways you can deliver information and how you can vary the delivery approaches (lecture, discussion, audience participation, open-ended questions, closed questions, etc.) for each sub topic. In many ways it is analogous to how we pace our novels. We vary the action, the down time or reflective moments, plot reveals, etc. Like your readers, your student audience prefers pacing that is balanced and flows during a presentation.
      In regards to large group interactivity there are a couple options but let me preface with one comment. Some teachers like authors can be afraid of students being too quiet or off task because they see either behaviors as a sign they’re not engaged. This is will probably happen to all authors at one time or another and trust me it happens to all teachers, myself included. The key is to try to move beyond your fear and definitely don’t take it personal and become frustrated with the students. Remember they’re kids and there are going to be those days when you feel you’re going no where. But back to being interactive in a large group. Asking students closed questions that allow them to provide a raised hand or vocal agreement is perfect for large groups. It allows them to stay seated but still participate in a way that connects them not only with the topic but also their peers. Also, if your content enables you to do so, soliciting a volunteer from the audience to come up and perform or role play some part of the presentation works wonders. Many students love hamming it up in front friends.
      I hope these ideas help. Thanks again for the questions.

    6. Elissa Cruz  •  Aug 9, 2012 @11:09 am

      Personally, I think these are good things to keep in mind when speaking in front of adults, too! Great article, Bruce!

      bruce eschler Reply:

      @Elissa Cruz, I totally agree. Adults and kids aren’t really that different from each other in lots of areas, right:)

    7. Jen  •  Aug 9, 2012 @12:20 pm

      Thank you, Bruce. I re-worked my presentation last night employing these tips, and honest to dog, I think I can do a better job getting and keeping kids engaged. I have the advantage of a wildly interesting subject, but that alone is not enough. I can do my part better.

      I look forward to trying it someday.

      bruce eschler Reply:

      @Jen, I’m glad I could be of help. Good luck!

    8. Linda Johns  •  Aug 9, 2012 @10:39 pm

      Really great post — and I’ll be sharing it widely! Asking questions of the kids is an awesome idea. I almost always ask kids what they think I should be reading. I tell them a little bit about what I like to read and a couple of titles I think they’ll recognize. I take notes about their suggestions and ask follow up questions (Do you think I should start at the beginning of that series?). If doing a powerpoint, pictures of puppies help … Or, even better, have the ppt images have little to do with what you’re saying Sort of a Stephen Colbert approach to presenting.

      Bruce, what about an author who says she/he doesn’t do assemblies? I am much more comfortable with a class or two at a time, but often it seems schools request a multi class/multi age assembly.

      bruce eschler Reply:

      @Linda Johns, Great question and this is where I would defer to the business/writing-professional side of my personality. As an author I feel it’s essential that you do what is best for you, your comfort level, your career goals, etc. Just like we all write the particular genres and to the particular age-group audiences that we prefer, an author needs to market, interact with their readers, and give back to the community in the ways they feel most comfortable. I liken it unto the discussion of author’s charging or not-charging fees for visits. I understand why many authors charge schools and libraries and I also understand why others don’t and respect an individual’s ability to make the decision that best fittest their personal and professional needs.

    9. Cathe Olson  •  Aug 9, 2012 @10:48 pm

      As an elementary school librarian who has arranged multiple author visits, I second those points . . . especially interacting with the kids and getting them involved in the presentation.

      bruce eschler Reply:

      @Cathe Olson, Thank you for participation in the discussion.

    10. Sheila Welch  •  Aug 10, 2012 @12:19 pm

      Hi!

      I’ve done hundreds of presentations to small and large groups of all ages. Your points are excellent! I am not doing programs anymore due to age and health issues, so here are a few specific tips I’ve used.

      I used the term “quiet hands” for the kids to answer yes/no questions such as “How many of you will admit you’re a bad speller?” Too much calling out or verbal answers can get carried away.

      Sharing your own faults/foibles does help the kids identify with you. I often told them how dreadful I am at spelling. I usually told older kids that I was the kind of kid who sat in the back or the middle –never up front.

      Asking for a volunteer to help you really engages the kids or even just asking a couple of their names and then using those names in an example or anecdote works well to keep everyone focused. If the kids’ names are hard to pronounce, just point to them when you need the name, and they’ll yell it for you.

      Have handouts! A bookmark, coloring sheet, sketch of a character, etc. all work well with various ages of kids.

      One tip to teachers — act interested in the author yourself. Please don’t correct papers or check e-mail while the author is presenting.

      Good luck, everyone!

      bruce eschler Reply:

      @Sheila Welch, Thank you so much for your contributions. These are excellent additions to the discussion. I’m so glad especially that you brought up the sharing of “faults/foibles.” I think this is so helpful when working with tweens and teens. Especially when these topics related to the students experiences. Each year I explain to my students how I failed 8th grade, English included. You wouldn’t believe how it humanizes me to many of my students, especially those that are also struggling in school. Now this doesn’t mean when presenting to kids you don’t have bear all, but if you can find an age-appropriate struggle or issue that they can also identify with then include it into your presentation.