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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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  • Writing Well vs. Writing Correctly

    Inspiration, Learning Differences, Parents, Teachers

    A while back we got this excellent question in comments and I thought I’d tackle it today. To preface my remarks, I have a degree in education and have worked at both ends of the spectrum with gifted and with learning disabled students. I’ve tackled every grade from kindergarten through college at least once but most of my experience is in public schools with 4th to 6th grade students.  And here’s the comment.
    I enjoyed reading your post, and was glad to hear of advantages of going through the revision process and learning from feedback. I think your question of identifying the strengths and weaknesses of students is a valid one. In fact, it is one I am struggling with this year. I teach English language learners who are motivated to learn, but get discouraged when issues with spelling and grammar get in the way. How do you suggest I handle this while encouraging them to keep writing?
    When I was a child I hated to write. In part, I was just a highly active and curious kid who hated to sit still, and write about an adventure when I could be out there on my bike actually having one. But I also hated writing because I am a poor speller–not learning disabled, just poor at spelling. And because EVERY paper I ever got back in school was covered in spelling corrections sometimes with surprisingly bullying remarks from teachers about the stupidity of my errors.
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    I simply assumed because I was a poor speller that I was a bad writer. It wasn’t until I was a junior in high school and had an English teacher, Mr. Skibinski, who was actually committed to the content of his student’s writing and not just the form, that I had any inkling that writing could be satisfying way to communicate ideas. Mr. Skibinski was the first teacher to ever give me a grade for content separate from conventions. Even more importantly, he spent more ink showing where my writing was working than where it wasn’t. I gained years worth of growth as a writer in the few months I spent in his class. And based both on that experience and the many things I’ve learned from being professionally edited over the years I’ve come up with a bunch of suggestions that I think may help your students hang in there long enough to become good writers.
     1. Let’s just admit up front, English is hard. It’s a large and rapidly growing language and because it tends to retain foreign spellings of words, it is not phonetically regular.
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    2. Nobody gets all the conventional spellings and punctuation right in a first draft. Nobody. Some write more cleanly than others, but even the best writer makes mistakes. In my opinion an error free first draft is an unrealistic expectation for any student at any level. Yes, eventually a final draft should be correct but that takes time and more than one set of eyes on the project.

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    3. It’s worth remembering too that conventions of spelling, punctuation, grammar and usage are not objectively correct. They are how they are because we’ve agreed on a common interpretation. But conventions of language are changing all the time, so at best we are looking to hit a moving and somewhat subjective target.
    4. In the world of publishing, copy editing is different from developmental editing. My editor never dogs me about spelling or punctuation. I try to catch as much as I can on my own but he is only concerned with the shape of the story and not the correctness of it. When we are all done getting the content as perfect as we can make it, we send it to somebody else. In the case of Random House they send it to 3 copy editors. I have a little ode to my copy editors for Second Fiddle over here http://rosanneparry.com/the-death-of-copyediting/#comments
    Obviously this isn’t practical in the classroom but I think it’s worth helping your students think of development and copyediting as separate tasks. Perhaps you could make the distinction with color. Green to show where writing needs to grow. (developmental editing) Purple to show where it can be made more correct. (copy editing)
    5. Proficiency comes from volume of writing. Spelling Punctuation and Grammar are the enemy of productivity because your student gets so wrapped up in finding the right answer that they lose the flow of the idea. Better your students write 3 messy paragraphs that communicate what they intended to say than 3 perfect sentences that don’t mean anything. Keeping that in mind it might be worthwhile to encourage students to differentiate between private writing and public writing Private writing need only be readable by the writer. Public writing should be polished. The more private writing your students do the more polished their public writing will become.
    Again this might not be practical, but what if your students had a daily journal in which the feedback was only positive? It could be a very powerful experience for them. Or what if you just committed to highlighting 3 strengths in every assignment you grade. Please don’t underestimate the power of this. My editor is at his most effective when he shows me my strongest plot elements and my clearest iteration of the character’s voice. This gives me something to build on and grow toward, which tends to lead to stronger and more confident writing on my part.
    6. Spelling is arbitrary and it changes. Show your student’s how to use a dictionary efficiently. And

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     discourage them from relying on spell checking software. Consider the following sentence. If the t is missing in a key word I have not spelled anything wrong and yet the sentence is very, very very incorrect!

     

    I chased the rabbit out of my garden with a big stick and a lot of yelling.
    7. Many writers have a hard time seeing mistakes, but what is not visible may be audible. Give your students time and space to read their work out loud. I read every word of every draft aloud before I send it to my editor. It makes a huge difference in the quality of the prose. (This will be less true for students who are writing in their second language but it’s still a worth while practice for English language learners because it trains the ear in the new language.)
    8. Be honest about your own mistakes. Encourage students to look for errors when you write on the board. Make a few on purpose so that they learn by your example how to handle that failure graciously. this will also help them gain an eye for proofreading.
    It took me a very long time to think of myself as a writer because I mistook correct writing for good writing. I think with some sensitivity and some practical changes to how we manage writing assignments, we can have even struggling students thinking of themselves as proficient writers. Even better we can move them in the direction of being stronger writers more quickly.
    So thanks for your excellent question, and please chime in readers. What have you done to help your students manage their discouragement with spelling, punctuation and grammar?
    6 Comments

    6 Comments

    1. Sue Heavenrich  •  Aug 19, 2013 @10:00 am

      thanks for posting this – too often we are left thinking we’re poor writers when, really, we’re just lousy at punctuation. Or we start sentences with “and, or, but”. And our participles dangle, sometimes dangerously, clinging by their fingernails.

    2. Greg Pattridge  •  Aug 19, 2013 @11:03 am

      I used to have other kids who were not struggling with grammar or spelling team up with those who were. Often times a great story would surface from this writing partnership and one that was free of most errors. I always stressed this was the way it worked in the real world with a writer and editor.

    3. Brenda  •  Aug 19, 2013 @11:41 am

      Love the suggestion of two grades for writing (content and conventions), also the color coding of green/purple would defiantly highlight what areas to improve. Great post.

    4. Toby Langen  •  Aug 19, 2013 @11:49 am

      The reading group I emailed you about when you posted your comments about cross-cultural writing have now all read Written in Stone and would like to communicate with you. They are interested in creating a Native voice for their writing that they can defend as just as correct as received standard English. I will be sharing this current post with them.

    5. Rosanne Parry  •  Aug 19, 2013 @1:00 pm

      Greg, What a great idea to pair a writing team with different strengths. Another thing I’ve observed over the years of teaching is that the most correct writer is often less daring in what they’ll try in a narrative so pairing them with a freer spirit can be a huge boost to their depth and range as a writer.

      Toby I’d be more than happy to communicate with your students. Skype might be a great choice here or email. You can contact me through my website quite easily and we can set something up. Thanks for encouraging them to read Written in Stone! I’ve got a Pinterest page up with images from the book. They might enjoy a look.
      http://pinterest.com/rosanneparry/written-in-stone/

    6. Pragmaticmom  •  Aug 19, 2013 @5:50 pm

      Great post and relevant to kids and adults!!