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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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  • Tragedy Averted or How I Almost Talked Myself Out of Another Manuscript

    Inspiration, Op-Ed, Writing MG Books

    Years ago I came up with an awesome high-concept novel. I’d only written one other book at that point, a low-concept book begun in secret and pretty much written as a challenge to myself. I wrote early in the morning before my kids were awake, marveling at how the words added up. Writing a novel was like living an alternate existence free of poopy diapers and tantrums, and I loved it. When the manuscript was “done” I made a few attempts to get it published before recognizing it as a learning project.

    The second book was a whole other matter.

    By then I was a member of a weekly critique group for adult fiction. The focus was on publication.  My critique partners loved my new premise and when our annual conference approached, encouraged me to get an appointment with a visiting editor or agent. I’d only written about five chapters but with input I polished opening pages, wrote a synopsis, and practiced my pitch in front of the group. I talked about my project. A lot.

    And then a strange thing happened: I had no desire to write that very cool, high-concept book with its unique setting.  In talking about my project I’d talked myself out of a manuscript.

    Since then I’ve warned other writers about the perils of talking too much. I cautioned my sons’ elementary school classmates to keep story ideas to themselves until they’d written at least a first draft. I brought in an inflated balloon and as I told the story of Tracy’s Abandoned Project, let out a bit of air. Throughout the whole sordid tale of me blah-blahing to my writing partners, I slowly released more air and by the time I reached the part about losing my love for the story, the balloon was flat. And lifeless.

    Shouldn’t someone who goes around bossing other people on the issue of keeping their mouths shut know better?

    Despite my No-Talking-Before-Completed-Draft policy, I fudged a bit on my latest project and shared a one-line description with my new agent (and felt validated when he liked the premise). I still successfully finished the draft. But when talking to a critique partner about whether I should rewrite the book in third-person I remember hesitating before answering his questions; it felt risky. But hey, I had a first draft. So I talked.

    And not only did I talk to him but also to my spouse. I’m blessed with a partner who fully supports my literary efforts and never, ever complains about me not bringing in an income. However, because he never finished reading the one manuscript I asked him to read (in his defense, my learning project), I’ve armored my heart by only speaking about my projects in generalities.

    But suddenly I was talking to him in great detail and it was wonderful to finally be one of those writers with an involved spouse. It felt especially good because my agent had just read the first fifty pages and synopsis of the second draft and basically said he liked my premise but not the execution. A couple weeks later he dropped me.

    I needed to start all over. Again. But I wisely recognized I was still too fragile to work on that particular project so set it aside and revised another manuscript. When that was finished and sent off, I felt ready to return to my difficult project.

    I began talking about the story again, trying to sort out some character issues. I brain-stormed with my spouse and felt I was getting closer to truly knowing the kids at the heart of my story. And yet, I couldn’t gain any traction; I was unable to move beyond character sketches to drafting and despaired the story would ever get written.

    Then one day not too long ago I experienced what felt like a balloon-inspired epiphany: Stop talking and write the story.

    Hello, I needed to get back to the guilty pleasure of stealing away to scribble down scenes, sharing in the lives of people no one else has met. I needed to return to writing for me.  Me and no one else.  And that’s where I am right now.  I’ve got this story inside I want to tell, and if I keep quiet from here on out we’ll make it.  However, I need to trust my instincts no matter how many drafts I’ve written.

    But just in case I ever falter in my resolve, I can check in with one of my favorite writers:

    “It makes me so uncomfortable for them. If they’re talking about a plot idea, I feel the idea is probably going to evaporate. I want to almost physically reach over and cover their mouths and say, “You’ll lose it if you’re not careful.”   ~ Anne Tyler

    (By the way, you can buy a signed copy of this quote on ebay for only $399).

    * * * * *

    These days Tracy Abell is talking less and writing more, although she reserves the right to talk to herself when she’s feeling stuck.

    19 Comments

    9 Comments

    1. Amie Borst  •  Sep 14, 2012 @6:44 am

      oh – i feel your pain! i’ve talked myself out of two manuscripts. lesson learned. thanks for the advice!

      Tracy Abell Reply:

      @Amie Borst, I’m sorry you also had to learn this lesson the hard way. It’s weird how that energy can just slip away if we’re not careful, but weirder still that some other writers don’t seem to have this issue.

    2. Karen B. Schwartz  •  Sep 14, 2012 @8:56 am

      I totally agree, Tracy. That’s exactly what happens, just deflates the balloon. Especially if you start getting input from others and it clouds your thinking. That’s why at conferences when another writer asks me what I’m working on (unless it’s finished), I say something vague and then explain it’s too early to talk about it yet. Other writers really get that.
      p.s. Love the pictures in this post! Especially the smiley face deflated balloon. :p

      Tracy Abell Reply:

      @Karen B. Schwartz, YES! That whole clouded thinking thing is another issue. I’ve gotten confused by some input and that ends up setting me back even farther. It makes me feel I should take a vow of complete and absolute silence while writing my books. My family might love that!

      I have my conference coming up next week and I’m going to adopt your approach. Vague response and mysterious smile.

      I’m glad you like the pictures because I had great fun adding them.

    3. Sheela Chari  •  Sep 14, 2012 @9:36 am

      I so get this, Tracy! I *hate* talking about a project before I’ve finished it. I remember that I even hesitated to talk about Vanished until perhaps the ARCs were out. Some of it is just me. But I also think there is a time when it is too soon to talk, even sometimes to show. We need to give ourselves time to really build and trust in our world before sharing it with others.

      Sometimes I come up with a “fake” description of what I’m working on. Something that only vaguely has to do with what the book is about — kind of like Karen. I find that works for me. Heck, we all need to keep our balloons inflated! :)

      Tracy Abell Reply:

      @Sheela Chari, Wow, you didn’t talk about VANISHED until the ARCs were out? That’s hard core! But I admire you and am going to try hard to emulate that kind of thinking about building and trusting in my world before sharing it. Thank you for that insight, Sheela.

      Here’s to all our balloons remaining inflated!

    4. Laurie Beth Schneider  •  Sep 14, 2012 @6:01 pm

      I feel the same way, Tracy. I love to talk about my reading, and don’t mind talking about the writing process, but I don’t like to hash over a manuscript until it’s finished, which makes it hard to be part of a critique group.

      Tracy Abell Reply:

      @Laurie Beth Schneider, The comments here have gotten me thinking more about my process and I realize that while I felt one draft put me in safe territory, I’ve never had stuff critiqued that soon or even done much talking about my projects. This project was an anomaly and I’ve learned I need to go back to my comfort zone: keeping my mouth shut.

      I’m with you on liking to talk about the process, though.

    5. Linda Andersen  •  Sep 14, 2012 @6:13 pm

      Tracy,

      Now you’ve got me rethinking the first draft of my novel, that remains mostly in my head. I’ve shared the first chapter and haven’t written beyond it. Perhaps finishing the first draft on my own and then sharing is a far better plan. Thanks! Probably lots of people quit that wouldn’t have, if they had heard and tried this advice. Terrific advice!

      Tracy Abell Reply:

      @Linda Andersen, Yes, try that approach! I think it’s incredibly difficult to share early chapters before the story has been written out (in at least rough form). Then you start getting input from people who don’t have the same vision and it’s easy getting confused and overwhelmed to the point you can’t write.

      I encourage you to finish that draft in silence, Linda! :)

    6. Michelle Schusterman  •  Sep 14, 2012 @6:14 pm

      That’s a fantastic analogy with the balloon, Tracy. I can definitely empathize with this post!

      Tracy Abell Reply:

      @Michelle Schusterman, Thanks much for sharing in this writer’s journey. Let’s keep our balloons inflated with good story energy!

    7. Michele Weber Hurwitz  •  Sep 14, 2012 @8:59 pm

      I also loved this post, Tracy. We all go through these moments. Plus everyone seems to worry so much more about publishing (high concept, duh) than just letting the story come.

      Tracy Abell Reply:

      @Michele Weber Hurwitz, You’re so right about that high-concept angle and from my very unscientific polling, it seems to contribute to more blabbing. I have a friend who started to tell me his high-concept idea and I begged him to stop (explaining my concern) but he kept going. That was a year ago and I don’t think he’s written the manuscript yet.

    8. Kimberley Griffiths Little  •  Sep 15, 2012 @12:03 am

      Great post, Tracy. I thoroughly enjoyed it and empathize. The first few manuscript I ever wrote I didn’t breathe a word for fear of it all disappearing! I talk a little bit now, but in generalities, not details. :-)

      Tracy Abell Reply:

      @Kimberley Griffiths Little, Yes, this: “I didn’t breathe a word for fear of it all disappearing!” That’s exactly the feeling I had with my first manuscript and most every one that followed. I’m back to that attitude now.

      Speaking in generalities can be fine for many writers, I think. At this point, though, I’m afraid to do even that.

      Kimberley Little Reply:

      @Tracy Abell, And yet, I have to add: The last few novel manuscripts I’ve written I *have* done some brainstorming with my crit partner. She and I have been reading for each other for at least 10 years (Carolee Dean, YA novels with S&S) and she is a huge talk-it-out-brainstormer gal. I was horrified the first time she told me this. But after helping her brainstorm ideas of her own I slowly ventured out and now I do a bit of it, too, actually. Especially if I have holes in plot or character that I’m trying to fill. Brainstorming can now even get me excited to work. So it’s been really interesting to see how my work habits (or idea and novel building) has changed with time. Of course, this is over a very long period of time and about 20 novel manuscripts! Most of which are in a drawer as practice novels. :-)

    9. Portia Pennington  •  Sep 15, 2012 @10:25 am

      One question…how the heck did you ever find the Tyler quote on Ebay?!?

      Tracy Abell Reply:

      @Portia Pennington, Finding that ebay item was a total accident. The quote was in a book but when I did an online search to find its origin I stumbled upon that literary bargain!