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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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  • 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    

    11 Comments

    11 Comments

    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.
      Thanks
      christy[at]premierdigitalpublishing[dot]com

    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

      Tricia,

      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.