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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:
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    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.
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    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:
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    August 6, 2013:
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    July 2, 2013:
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    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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Filling the Well in the Era of Facebook

Inspiration

This weekend I visited the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan. We were taking a relative to see the museum, but I was also hoping for something else from the visit. I was hoping to fill the well.

Anyone familiar with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way will recognize this idea of replenishing your creativity, and how a trip to the museum, or watching a play, or reading a book, or even taking a vacation –can open your mind to new artistic experiences.

As a writer, it’s especially important for me to take breaks because I always discover something important on every trip I make – a new setting for a new story, an interesting plot twist – all by stepping outside my door. But maybe I don’t take enough breaks, because I discovered something this time at the MoMA I hadn’t prepared for: smart phones. Smart phones and tablets, and other Internet-ready devices.

In front of one of the most famous paintings at the museum, there were crowds of people doing the same thing as the man next to me. In taking a picture of Van Gogh’s “A Starry, Starry Night,” I also took a digital picture of him capturing the same image.

starrynight_FBed

This was because, well, I had brought my iPhone, too. It was my chance to record what I might see for only a few fleeting minutes otherwise. And anyone with young children will know just how much time you have to view a painting with a small hand tugging at you to keep moving.

Also, on Facebook, I often vicariously enjoy the pictures of artwork my friends share from their museum trips, and I planned to do the same. When I came upon “The Three Musicians” by Pablo Picasso, I took a picture immediately. Not only did it remind me of elementary school where a poster of the same painting hung in my art teacher’s classroom, but there were people on Facebook who had gone to the same school might remember the poster, too.

So then – what’s the harm? How does a smart phone or a tablet differ from an old-fashioned camera used by the well-intended tourist recording an encounter with a famous painting?

No harm, of course. If anything, smart phones are a way to bring the world to the rest of the world. In an instant, I can be transported to Rome, Tokyo, or the crookedest street in San Francisco – not with Googled images, but with custom ones that include friends and family, that make everything at once familiar and intimate.

But I can’t help wonder what this does for our artistic selves. The very act of visiting a museum is an exercise in slowing down, and to observe hopefully without expectation or purpose, but with a mindfulness that requires us to shut out the rest of the world. With the click of my phone, am I filling the well, or merely transferring a “Kodak moment” to someone else?

I do think there is a danger in allowing our phones to substitute a live encounter with a recorded one. For me, it puts off the hard work of having to engage with what I’m seeing in the moment. Instead of experiencing something right then, I’m opting for a cropped version of it later, seen through the viewfinder of my iPhone. Without my phone, I might have written about what I’d seen instead, or simply have remembered it, like the telephone numbers of my friends I had committed to memory back in those days before we could program.

With the inception of the camera, this is always an inherent problem – of the camera interfering in a live experience. But it was still a measured, private endeavor. The act of taking a photograph, developing it, and placing it in a photo album to see it again and again allowed you to interpret more slowly. The slowness was important – for me, it was part of how the experience became crystallized in my mind.

With the smart phone, the very speed of transmission has all but short-circuited my brain from the entire experience. The Musicians isn’t just a private memory of sixth grade anymore – of being twelve and clambering into the art room with the rest of my class, our voices echoing loudly as we settled in at one of the long tables, listening to our teacher with her myriad rules that would help us to create art in spite of ourselves.

But perhaps this is the new way of creating – of parceling ideas over the Internet and inviting a response from others. Maybe we fill the well with the voices of others in short 40-character responses. So many people “liked” The Three Musicians on my Facebook page. And that made me happy to connect my museum visit, with my memory of sixth grade art, and my family and friends all at the same time. But it also turned me into a casual observer, and a sense of mindfulness was gone. Because when you use social media, you invite others to join you, but you also bring your home with you. And to really experience something new, you have to leave home.

In the outside sculpture garden, my family and I took a break to rest our feet and enjoy the balmy outside air, surrounded by metal sculptures balanced precariously next to quietly gurgling fountains. It was serene and calming. Around me, a hundred people found it so, each of them looking intently into their phones. It seemed today’s weary tourist doesn’t need an outside garden so much as a wifi connection. The next time I visit a museum, I will make a deliberate effort to turn off my phone. I will try to see the world for what it is – real and fleeting, like water in a well, that can be contained but that can also run dry – which makes it all the more precious.

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Sheela Chari is the author of Vanished. She is currently at work on her second novel.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Kimberley Griffiths Little  •  Jul 9, 2013 @4:36 pm

    A lovely post, Sheela, thank you for this much needed reminder. Phones and Ipads often drive me crazy. When I’m out at our local bio park or aquarium or museums I just want to feel the sun, smell the air, and enjoy the moment.

  2. sheelachari  •  Jul 10, 2013 @12:42 am

    Thanks, Kimberley! I wonder what Van Gogh would have done if he’d had an iPhone! :)