• From the Mixed-Up Files... > Miscellaneous > Star Struck at SCBWI-LA
  • 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

Star Struck at SCBWI-LA

Miscellaneous, Writing MG Books

Lin Oliver (co-founder of SCBWI and master of ceremonies extraordinaire) opened the 2012 SCBWI conference in LA with a tribute to the Olympics.  After lighting a torch (match) there was a parade of athletes (faculty members) up to the podium (stage.)  Then each faculty took to the microphone with a single word of inspiration .  There were lots of great word choices, of course, but none that spoke to they way I felt the entire weekend.

 Star Struck.

It wasn’t just the big name publishers, although there were lots of those.  The first keynote was delivered by Arthur Levine (VP at Scholastic and publisher of his own imprint) who talked about what makes a book timeless:

  1. They have deep insight into the human condition and connect with the reader on a personal level
  2. They contain humor that is routed in essential truths and ironies
  3. They use anticipation rather than suspense

Neal Porter (editorial director of his own imprint at Roaring Book Press) and Laura Goodwin (VP and publisher of Henry Holt Books for Young Readers) joined the editor’s panel in discussing the writer/editor relationship and the difference between critic and editor.  Essentially, editing is something that has to be done, by you and by others, in order to make your book really great.  This sometimes means putting aside your inner critic and letting go of the ego associated with your work.

Star Struck.

It wasn’t just the highly coveted agents, although there were lots of those.  In the agent’s panel, they talked about doing your homework, taking your time, polishing your craft, researching COMP books, being aware of sales tracking/book scan numbers, establishing a body of work so agents can see your career path, and determining the best way to spend your time.

The Agents Panel with Lin Oliver (moderator), Jill Corcoran (The Herman Agency),  Deborah Warren (East West Literary), Linda Pratt (Wermick & Pratt), and Josh Adams (Adams Literary)


Star Struck.

It wasn’t just the magnificently talented illustrators, although there were lots of those.  Tony DiTerlizzi (The Spiderwick Chronicles) gave the funniest keynote of the conference with a description of his favorite fictional characters from childhood: Dorothy, Wendy, and Alice who all travel to faraway places and have amazing adventures but really just want to go home.  Bryan Collier (Dave the Potter) gave the most moving keynote but I can’t tell you about it because my notes were ruined by tears.  Jon Klassen (I Want My Hat Back) charmed the audience when he spoke about his first book idea which came to him so magically that he’s spent days wandering around his house wearing the same clothes trying to re-create the experience ever since.

Star Struck.

It wasn’t just the best-selling, award winning authors, although there were plenty of those as well.  There was Patty MacLachlan (Sarah, Plain and Tall) who talked about her own childhood experiences and those of her grandchildren to make the point that “the child endures in all things.”  There was Dan Gutman (My Weird School) who encouraged the audience to “use your strength and don’t write for everyone.”  There was Karen Cushman (The Midwife’s Apprentice) who advised us to “connect the passion and the prose.”  There was Clare Vanderpool (Moon Over Manifest) who told us to embrace the chaos and pay attention.  There was Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) who shocked the audience sharing her experience at an abandoned Soviet prison where she volunteered to be starved, beaten, and sleep deprived to bring emotional truth to her family’s story of being Lithuanian refugees during the Stalin regime.  And there was Gary Schmidt (The Wednesday Wars) who gave the final keynote and lead an amazing intensive on “Your Narrator, Your Point of View, and You.”


Kari-lynn Winters (also picture with me above), Debbie Oh, and Eliza Seanson-Wheeler at the Hippie Hop which featured a flash mob, lots of great costumes, yummy mexican food and dancing at the hotel poolside.



Star Struck.

It wasn’t the TV and movie producers there to talk to agents about buying the screen rights to books or the professional baseball players I met in the lobby or even the actors attending because they too want to write for kids… although there were some of those (this was LA, after all.)

It was the sum of all those things.  But more than anything it was being surrounded by so many people who are passionate about producing great books for kids.  The conference made me want to be a better writer and the faculty members gave me the tools I needed to do so.  And above all, inspiration.

Yolanda Ridge is the author of two middle grade novels, Trouble in the Trees (Orca Book Publishers, 2011) and Road Block (Orca Book Publishers, 2012), and recipient of the Martha Weston Grant which allowed her to attend her first international SCBWI conference.  Photos courtesy of Debbie Ridpath Ohi, illustrator of I’M BORED



  1. sheelachari  •  Sep 11, 2012 @8:42 am

    I think it’s very important to connect both online and offline in real time with people. It sounds like you had a fabulous experience, Yolanda!

    Congratulations on wining the Martha Weston Grant – see, you are a star, too!

    Yolanda Ridge Reply:

    Thanks Sheela!

  2. Karen B. Schwartz  •  Sep 11, 2012 @12:30 pm

    Sounds like a fantastic time. Thanks for sharing!

    Yolanda Ridge Reply:

    Thanks for helping me get the post up, Karen!

  3. Ali B  •  Sep 11, 2012 @2:23 pm

    It sounds like you enjoyed the conference as much as I did.

    Yolanda Ridge Reply:

    Hopefully our paths will cross next time!

  4. Kari-Lynn Winters  •  Sep 11, 2012 @2:25 pm

    A great weekend. Can’t wait for next year.

    Yolanda Ridge Reply:

    It was great connecting with you, Kari-Lynn! Hope to see you again soon!

  5. Clare Di Liscia Baird  •  Sep 11, 2012 @4:04 pm

    Yolanda, it was fantastic meeting you! Hope to see you in New York!

    Yolanda Ridge Reply:

    Great to meet you too! Saving all my pennies for another conference but don’t think I’ll make it to NY. Stay in touch!

  6. Linda Andersen  •  Sep 11, 2012 @8:08 pm

    Congratulations on receiving the Martha Weston Grant which enabled you to attend the SCBWI Conference in LA.

    Yolanda Ridge Reply:

    Thanks Linda!