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    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, read more...

     

    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...

     

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Dreams & Beans

Authors, Writing MG Books

The dream I chase is known as BeAnAD [bean-add]. And no, I’m not counting beans. BeAnAD stands for “Being an Author Dude,” and this pursuit has consumed way too many hours of my life to keep track of.

Reading.

Writing.

More reading.

More writing.

A quick break for writer’s cramp.

Then still more writing. And reading.

City of Ember As the years zip by like a Crisco-coated monkey on a Slip-and-Slide,   I perpetually catch myself “reading like a writer.” I’ll stop to admire an   original simile such as this one from Jeanne Duprau’s The City of Ember:

She pressed a finger against the side of Granny’s throat to feel for her pulse, as the doctor had shown her. It was fluttery, like a moth that has hurt itself and is flapping in crooked circles.

 

Or I’ll pluck that tidbit of setting that effectively paints the mood of a scene such as this excerpt from Gary D. Schmidt’s The Wednesday Wars:

I walked home under gray clouds whose undersides had been shredded. They hung in tatters, and a cold mist leaked out of them.

And lately, I’ve given myself some official homework as I study the craft of other writers. I’ve been reading through a variety of children’s books, recording three things for each chapter:

1)      The word-for-word START of the chapter.

2)      A few sentence SUMMARY of the chapter.

3)      The word-for-word END of the chapter.

The Wednesday Wars

For example, I’m currently going through this start-summary-end process with Ivy and Bean, a chapter book by Annie Barrows. My notes look like this:

 Ivy and Bean Chapter One: No Thanks

START: “Before Bean met Ivy, she didn’t like her.”

SUMMARY: Bean’s mom encourages Bean to go play with Ivy, the new girl across the street. Bean doesn’t want to because she’s convinced Ivy is boring.

END: “So for weeks and weeks, Bean didn’t play with Ivy. But one day something happened that changed her mind.”

Chapter Two: Bean Hatches a Plan

START: “It all began because Bean was playing a trick on her older sister.”

. . .

This start-summary-end look at each chapter helps me create a basic outline for the flow of a story and consider how my own writing might be improved. How does the start of a chapter draw me in and make me want to read on? What sort of conflict and/or action (either major or minor) moves the chapter forward? How does the author use the chapter ending to propel me into the next?

So . . . are you looking for a way to give your writing a boost? Read a children’s book with a pad of paper and a pencil in hand, recording a start-summary-end outline as you go. When you’re done, study it. Consider it. Then create a chapter-by-chapter, start-summary-end outline for your own manuscript, looking for opportunities to strengthen your creation.

My BeAnAD dream may not be worth a hill of beans at this point. But hopefully, that will change one day. And when it does, I may have to stop and thank Ivy and Bean for their help along the way.

9 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Joyce Magnin  •  Apr 10, 2013 @6:15 am

    What a great idea! Thank you. I’m needing to write an early chapter book and I think I will use this exercise to help. Very smart!

    T. P. Jagger Reply:

    I’m glad you like the idea, Joyce. Best of luck as you work on your chapter book! :)

    -T. P.

  2. Jill  •  Apr 10, 2013 @10:50 am

    My goodness, thank you so much for sharing your new process. What great advice! Do you have a “special” notebook to track these things?
    I am kinda, sorta (really) unorganized and tend to write everything in one book (lists, personal journalling, ideas, freewriting) but that’s not very effective. I’d like to have a separate organization system I think for “quotes” , “chapter summaries” (as per your insighgt above), “journalling”, “personal “to dos”, “story ideas”….but then I’d have a STACK of notebooks ….and probably be confused :)
    I need a professional life organizer :)

    Anyway, got completely off track, so thanks for the fantastic post. Loved loved loved The Wednsday Wars by the way. Haven’t read the other two…loooks like I need to get back to your very true statement to read and write , read and write again.

    T. P. Jagger Reply:

    Jill,
    Like you, my writer’s notebook tends to be quite a hodgepodge of miscellaneous story ideas, free writing, and so on. However, for my first start-summary-end outline, I just grabbed an empty notebook and went at it. Then (because I DO tend to be organized) I ended up writing my next start-summary-end outline on my computer, which made it easy to tuck into a “Start-Summary-End” file.

    BONUS NOTE: Since you loved The Wednesday Wars, I also recommend Gary D. Schmidt’s companion novel, Okay for Now–it has become one of my all-time favorites, being the only book I can ever remember that has made me laugh out loud AND want to cry, all on the same page.

    -T. P.

    Jill Reply:

    @T. P. Jagger, Oh I agree. I read “Okay for now” first and LOVED it.

  3. Jen Swanson  •  Apr 10, 2013 @10:54 am

    Excellent suggestions, T.P. ! Now, I only have to find the time to do them… Great post!

  4. Brenda  •  Apr 10, 2013 @12:09 pm

    I love your suggestion. I tried something similiar recently, but ended up taking way to many notes on plot and characters then I anticipated. I did however think the process helped when going to writing the review. I’m gonna stick to your idea instead though.

  5. Lori Mozdzierz  •  Apr 11, 2013 @5:06 am

    Excellent idea! Penelope Crumb, her I come.

  6. Claire M. Caterer  •  Apr 11, 2013 @6:56 am

    What a great idea! I love seeing a capsulized chapter, with its strong beginning and strong ending emphasized. I’m definitely going to try this!