• From the Mixed-Up Files... > Authors > Second Chances
  • 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...


  • Subscribe!

    Get email updates:

    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

Second Chances

Authors, Inspiration, Teachers, Writing MG Books

I’m writing this as the Olympics end and the athletes go home victorious or defeated, no in-between.  Much as I complain about how hard writing is, I’m thinking lordie lordie, at least nobody watches me do it. No audience cheers or groans as I walk the beam or leap hurdles or execute somersalts from insanely high platforms, all while wearing little more than my own thin skin.  No cameras record and replay ad infinitum my failure to achieve sufficient altitude or my clumsy flip turns.

Of course, writers stumble, fall and land on their own butts all the time, but we get to do it in private, no witnesses.  Happily, the desk doesn’t record how many times we knocked our heads against it, and the keyboard has no comment on how compulsively we dust it while trying to come up with the ending to a scene. Only the coffee mug witnesses the grinding of the teeth, the biting of the nails.

Even better. Writers get to revise.  For us, there’s always more than one chance. Even after something is published, even when we’re reading it in public, we’re apt to slip in one more little edit. No tenth of a point deduction!

I recently read “Splendors and Glooms” by stellar MG author Laura Amy Schlitz. This new novel has a complicated plot told from multiple points of view. A writer could envy how easy Schlitz makes it look—the book features a master pupeteer, and that’s what she seems, pulling all those strings, never getting them tangled. But here is what she has to say about the actual writing and revising:

“This book took me six and a half years to write, and I almost never knew what I was doing…I’d kill off a character in chapter 11, write nine more chapters, and realize I needed the dead man alive again. So I’d throw out the nine chapters—not one of which had been easy to write—and go back to the beginning…It’s hard to keep going back to work that makes you feel profoundly stupid. I kept hoping the book would get easier, but it never did…People who wanted to help me would ask me questions about the plot, and I would glare at them and shriek, ‘I don’t know! I don’t know! It doesn’t make sense!’”

Yikes. I’ve been there (though I tend to shriek behind closed doors).  Getting lost, getting stuck—it’s a maddening, disheartening state.  Yet we’ve always got that second, third, fourth chance to work through it. Revising, as any author will swear, is where the real writing happens.

Lots of writing blogs and books offer revision tips. One I’ve found particularly helpful not just on revising but many aspects of writing and publishing is Scholastic editor Cheryl Klein’s “Second Sight”.  Her chapter Twenty Five Revision Techniques offers tried and true advice like taking time off from the project so you can see it with fresh eyes and compressing the story to one sentence, but also some original and fun exercises to help you judge the success of character, plot and pacing. I especially appreciate the encouragement of Tip # 25: Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  We may fudge the take-off or wobble on the landing, but we can work on that. In the end, the main goal is to take our work as far as we can.

Kate Messner is a teacher and a writer who maintains a terrific website, www.katemessner.com I love this quote from her: “I’m an okay writer but I’m a really good reviser.” Kate’s book “Real Revision: Authors’ Strategies to Share with Student Writers” is aimed at teachers taking kids through the writing cycle, but with insights from thirty-five writers including Jane Yolen and Kathi Appelt, it’s a treasure trove for anyone who writes or wants to.

Paul Theroux said, “Fiction gives us a second chance that life denies us.” I think he was talking about reading, but the words apply as well or even more to writing. Got some of your own revision strategies, or a book or site to share?

Tricia is the author of the award winning middle grade novel “What Happened on Fox Street” and its sequel “Mo Wren, Lost and Found”.  She’s currently deep into revising her new middle grade novel, “Pinch”, but you can find her at www.triciaspringstubb.com    



  1. Dianna Winget  •  Aug 22, 2012 @9:00 am

    Great post, Tricia!
    I decided years ago that I love revising far more than writing a first draft. Sometimes, getting that first draft down on paper, or screen, is like pulling teeth. It can be agoninzingly slow and seem that there’s no end in sight. But revision . . . well, that’s a whole different ball game. I love forming and shaping, cutting and adding, and watching my story grow stronger and stronger. The temptation to continue endlessly tweaking is so strong that it can be really tough to make myself stop and send the manuscript off to my agent. As far as books on the subject, one of my favorites is “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers,” by Renni Browne and Dave king.

  2. Ali B  •  Aug 22, 2012 @11:34 am

    I am currently taking some time off from my project. No writing. No editing. Phew! I never realized I needed a break. It’s nice to know this is tried and true advice for writers. Gearing back up soon – I miss my characters.

  3. tricia  •  Aug 22, 2012 @1:12 pm

    I think it was Stephen King who said, “I can revise a bad draft, but not a blank sheet of paper.” Thanks for the book suggestion, Diane, and happy fallow period, Ali!

  4. PDPChristy  •  Aug 22, 2012 @2:17 pm

    Revision is key. When I was publishing my collection of short stories, I spent almost half a year on revision and editing alone. Great advice for writers of all levels and ages. As part of a digital publishing team who has worked on manuscripts with authors I think this advice is great and I will be sure to pass it on.

  5. tricia  •  Aug 22, 2012 @5:27 pm

    Re-vision: ideally, the more you look at a thing, the more you see!

  6. Linda Andersen  •  Aug 22, 2012 @6:23 pm


    Your comparison of writers to Olympians made me laugh! I’d give you a Perfect 10 for this post. I don’t even want to be seen in a bathing suit by my own family, much less millions of viewers.

    I don’t have a revision source to recommend although many crowd my shelves. Presently, I am reading Mermaid by Carolyn Turgeon to get some idea of what makes a novel worthy of movie rights. I’ve only read a few chapters so far, but answers are forming. Maybe well-written books should be our best resources.

  7. tricia  •  Aug 23, 2012 @7:27 am

    I’m always learning from other writers–consciously and by osmosis (by the way–love the hat!)

  8. Kimberley Griffiths Little  •  Aug 24, 2012 @8:54 am

    I loved this post, Tricia! It’s funny, too. And boy, you are right – we do not have the whole world watching.Thank goodness!!! That’s a great metaphor with the Olympics. I love drafting much more than revising, but I know it’s the revising that brings out the best in the story. I can re-envision and re-plot and tweak every single line ad naseum if needed!

  9. tricia  •  Aug 24, 2012 @1:31 pm

    Oh drafting is torture for me! I’m always wanting to go back and fiddle with what I have rather than forge forward. Another writer I know describes it as wading through the known waters, every day going out a little farther. Hoping, hoping, hoping you’ll be able to swim when you can no longer touch.

  10. Katherine Schlick Noe  •  Aug 25, 2012 @12:56 pm

    Tricia, a million thanks for this post and that quote from Laura Amy Schlitz! She perfectly describes the scary frustration of wandering around lost in the story until it starts to reveal itself. I’m deep into a first draft of my next book, and here’s something that is working for me. I set a goal of writing 1000 new words a day. I specifically tell myself that they don’t have to be good words — they can be hideous — they just have to add up to 1000 before I can quit. If I get stuck staring at a blank page, I make myself start typing and just go where my fingers take me. This is concrete, doable, and now I’ve got about 25000 words that are starting to turn into a novel. I love hearing others’ strategies — thank you!

  11. Janet Smart  •  Aug 25, 2012 @3:09 pm

    I love revising and editing my manuscripts. I am a skinny writer, – one that writes sparse and add calories during revision. I love sparking more life into my work.