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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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  • 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!