• From the Mixed-Up Files... > Authors > Interview with Lisa Rojany Buccieri – Writing Children’s Books for Dummies
  • 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...


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Interview with Lisa Rojany Buccieri – Writing Children’s Books for Dummies

Authors, Interviews, Writing MG Books

Today at the Mixed-Up Files, we are talking about craft! Specifically the hows and whys of writing for children.

With us is Lisa Rojany Buccieri, co-writer of Writing Children’s Books for Dummies, the second edition which came out this past year. During our interview, Lisa shared with us why her book is a must-have for writers starting out and establishing themselves in the children’s market today. 

9781118356463 cover.indd

Welcome, Lisa! So tell us, what led you to writing the first edition of Writing Children’s Books for Dummies?

Peter Economy, a veteran Dummies book writer, was looking for a lead writer for this title and found me online through my business, Editorial Services of Los Angeles. We really connected—it was one of those immediate professional love fests—and we started working together about a month later.

What was one thing that surprised you or that you learned as a process of writing this book?

This is Writing Children’s Books for Dummies Second Edition, and it is 80% new material. What surprised me the most was that although the first edition was a thorough and absolutely useful book for beginners, over the years I had further honed my editorial skills and was able to encapsulate even more material into specific, easily digestible bits that have helped writers of both children’s and adult books improve their writing.

How is your book different from some of the other books out there on children’s writing?

Our book gives writers of different levels the whole kit and caboodle. Everything from generating story ideas and the specifics of creating every part of a good book through to the submissions process, self-publishing, e-book and digital publishing, and then marketing, including social media and traditional marketing, such as interviews like these. We even have information on the most important parts of the contract first-time writers should keep an eye out for.

Your book is chock full of information for the children’s writer, from picture book to the young adult novel. What do you think is in here that might be especially relevant for middle grade writers?

A good story is a good story. Middle-grade writers need to master the components of good storytelling and voice, humor and character development, plot and vocabulary level as much as—if not more than—writers in every other format. Middle-grade readers are persnickety, but if you catch them, they will make sure to collect every single one of your books and read them all.

I love the way you encourage writers to use “bibles” (character bibles, setting bibles, etc.). Can you explain this concept to our readers and how you think it helps writers in crafting their children’s novels?

As with any kind of building, you have to first create a solid foundation. Your main character has to be memorable; so I encourage my writers to develop and really flesh out their characters using a character bible. Knowing your characters inside and out means you can see them in your mind’s eye and allow your readers to do so as well. 

If the environment will play a large part in a book (fantasy world? magical world?) I encourage the same bible building approach for environments and places. If you can create a place (realistic or otherwise) that is evocative enough to allow readers to imagine themselves there, then you have created a successful place in which to develop your characters and your story.

I also strongly urge writers to create an action outline. An action outline consists of three questions you need to ask for each chapter: 1) How does this chapter develop my main character through his or her actions / reactions? 2) How does this chapter push forward or develop the story actionwise? 3) How does this chapter contribute conflict or drama to keep the pace moving? I even use this approach when breaking down a picture book to make sure every word counts. It really keeps the writing spare and purposive.

What’s the biggest obstacle standing in the way of finishing a project?

Whenever a writer gets stuck on any part of the writing or revising process that impasse creates an opportunity for the process to come to a halt. It can be overwhelming if you do not have tools for each part of the process. And that is what we provide in Writing Children’s Books for Dummies Second Edition: breaking down the process into easily digestible parts and then providing the tools to help take control of each one of those parts.

Lisa signing at LAT Book Fest (1)

Lisa Rojany Buccieri

Characters, dialogue, setting—all three need to be fleshed out bit by bit. That is why bibles are so helpful, because you can amass in one place all the details—that go into creating a well-developed character, a bit of relevant and purposeful dialogue, a bit of the setting that tells us where and when we are—and then mete them out little by little throughout the story.

One great place to develop setting is at the beginning of each new chapter.

A good rule of thumb: Data dumps of background information or setting description of more than one paragraph, maximum two at a time are not allowed.

How might this book be used by a new teacher leading a course in writing for children? What are some common mistakes you think a new teacher should try to avoid?

New teachers of writing need to follow steps that students can understand, one by one, so that they learn to build a story, show a story, not just tell a story. It’s a process that gets honed and added to over time, but never perfected. That’s why writing is as exciting as helping a child grow from an infant to an adult—you can never master the process completely, the surprises are always illuminating, and the possibilities are simply wonderful.

Any parting advice or words of encouragement for writers out there?

Keep writing. Turn off the editor when the creative juices are flowing and just let it come. You can always go back to hone and tighten. If you are going the traditional route of submitting to traditional publishing houses, make sure you have a manuscript in the wings so that you always have some new work to add to someone’s inbox—and new hope for getting yourself published.

And if you are self-publishing, make sure to get al the feedback and help you need, right through to the type and page design, so that when you make your first impression—and you only get one!—it’s a fabulous impression.

Regardless, take every opportunity to participate in writing classes and workshops, conferences and retreats—you never know which one will end up changing your writing life for the better.

 Lisa Rojany Buccieri has published over 100 books, including several award-winning and bestselling titles. She has been Editorial/Publishing Director for Golden Books, Price Stern Sloan/Penguin Group USA, Intervisual Books, Gateway Learning Corp (Hooked on Phonics), and other established publishing houses. As well as spearheading four publishing startups, Lisa has simultaneously run her own successful business, Editorial Services of L.A. since 1990.Lisa loves working with new and published writers of fiction and general nonfiction for all ages, helping them make their work the best it can be. She lives with her family in Los Angeles. She may be contacted at www.EditorialServicesofLA.com.


 Sheela Chari is the author of Vanished (Disney Hyperion), which was selected as a 2012 Children’s Literature Book by the Asian Pacific-American Librarian Association (APALA). 




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