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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:
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    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:
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    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:
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    October 14, 2013:
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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:
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    Sept. 13, 2013: Spring preview
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    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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Laurie Friedman Interview and Giveaway

Giveaways, Interviews, Writing MG Series

PHOTO BY-- RAUL RUBIERA Laurie FriedmanI’m thrilled to welcome Laurie Friedman back to the Mixed-Up Files blog. Laurie is the author of over 30 award-winning books for children, including the popular Mallory McDonald chapter book series for 7-10 year olds. Published by Lerner Books, the twenty-first book in the series, Three’s Company, Mallory will be out this January. Laurie has a new journal format series for older readers entitled The Mostly Miserable Life of April Sinclair. The second book in the series, Too Good to be True, will be released in January as well. Laurie has also written many rhyming picture books. She lives in Miami with her family. You can find Laurie B. Friedman on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. You can also visit Mallory’s Facebook page or Laurie’s website.

 

In your last Mixed-Up Files interview, you talked about how you came up with the idea for your Mallory series and how it helped kids take the leap into middle grade novels. How did you come up with the idea for your new The Mostly Miserable Life of April Sinclair series, and how many books will be in the series?

When I was thirteen, my parents didn’t like my attitude, so they nixed my plans to go to summer camp with my friends, bought an RV and forced me to go on a family vacation with my little sisters for two-weeks of “re-bonding.” The best thing about the trip was that it gave me lots of material to write about! It’s all there in Can You Say Catastrophe?, which is the first book in The Mostly Miserable Life of April Sinclair series.

So far, there will be four books in the April series and hopefully more. The first book takes place as April is finishing seventh grade and extends into the summer between seventh and eighth grades. The next three books in the series cover her year as an eighth-grader.

 

Was it hard to begin a new series after writing Mallory’s story for so long?

It was a lot of fun!  I have always been a series reader. As a young girl, I would curl up in my favorite chair (still in my office today) and wile away the hours with stacks of Nancy Drew and Ramona books by my side. As my own kids grew, we read through Harry Potter, Twilight, Lemony Snicket and The Hunger Games together, and I loved every minute of it. So as an author, writing series books has felt very comfortable to me.

I just finished writing the 23rd book in the Mallory series and there are going to be more. I’ve been writing Mallory books since my daughter was in second-grade and now she is graduating from college! Mallory has been such a big part of my life and I love writing about her, but the challenge of creating a new character and series has been amazing. The April books are longer than the Mallory books so I have learned a lot about how to structure a novel. They are written in journal format which is one of my favorite ways to write.  Also, April is older, and she and Mallory are very different. When I write, I compartmentalize my Mallory time and my April time.  It’s literally like wearing two different hats!

 

Wow, it’s amazing that you’ve already written twenty-three books in the Mallory series. What are some of your favorite Mallory moments?

That’s such a hard question to answer! I really have loved writing about Mallory from the moment she moved to Fern Falls and left behind everything she knew and loved, including her best friend, Mary Ann. I think the moments I love best are the ones when Mallory knows she’s made a mistake and feels terribly about it.  She’s got a big heart and when she does wrong, she always wants to find a way to make good. Some of the most fun moments to write about are when Mallory does things that I want to do (and haven’t!) like being on a reality TV show (Mallory and Mary Ann Take New York) and going on a wedding cruise (Mallory on Board).  I’d have to say that my favorite book to write was Campfire Mallory.  When I was growing up, I seriously loved going to summer camp.  Writing about it was the next best thing!

 

What types of adventures will April face in her series?

Poor April.  She has a knack for finding trouble or is it that trouble has a knack for finding her? The answer to that depends on who you ask. April definitely has her opinion.  In the first book, April comes to terms with the idea that her family, though far from perfect, is hers and they’re always there for her. In the second book, April is torn between two boys. Her boyfriend, Billy, is the perfect guy. Sweet, cute, thoughtful, and fun.  But then there’s her mysterious, new next door neighbor, Matt. Everything in her life seems so clear, until he shows up. The second, third and fourth books in the series explore her feelings about both boys and how her decisions affect her relationship with her best friend, Brynn.

 

How are Mallory and April alike? How are they different?

One of the most notable differences between the two of them are their ages. In the first eight books in the Mallory series, Mallory was in third grade, and then moves on to fourth.  The April series starts when April is in seventh grade and continues as she finishes middle school.

The experiences of a 3rd/4th grader and a 7th/8th grader are obviously very different and I work hard to make sure the situations that both Mallory and April find themselves in are reflective of what girls at these very different stages of development are experiencing. As a growing girl, I was a meticulous journal keeper. My mother saved the stacks of notebooks I filled with the daily goings on of my young life. Referring back to what I did or felt at a particular age helps me write characters that feel true to their ages. I also spend a lot of time visiting classrooms and talking to students about the plots and characters I’m creating. Their reaction to what I’m doing is the best gauge I know to keep my writing real and fresh, and to ensure that my characters will resonate and feel distinctive for my audiences.

As for the individual personalities of Mallory and April, they are just so very different. (You will have to read both series to find out how!)  There is a point where Mallory and April intersect and that is that they both have flaws, hopefully loveable ones. Perfect people who always make the right decisions don’t exist in life (and if they do, no one likes them anyway) and shouldn’t in books either.

 

Can you share some tips for writing a series?

Whenever I start a new book in a series, the first thing I do is a rough story outline. Once that’s done, I do the math. For a person who thinks more creatively than analytically, that’s always a challenge, but there’s a structural component of successful series that cannot be ignored. One of the reasons readers return to series they love is because they know what kind of reading experience to expect when they pick up the latest installment. As a series writer, I think it’s critical to think through issues like word count, chapter length, and plot structure on the front end. Once my “blueprint” is in place, the art of the creative process, creating voice, characters and situations that ring true for each age group, can begin.

 

Thank you for visiting the Mixed-Up Files again, Laurie. I loved learning more about Mallory and April!

Want a chance to win a signed copy of one of Laurie Friedman’s books? Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below, and one lucky winner will receive a choice of Three’s Company, Mallory (which means the winner can read it before it’s even out in stores) or Can You Say Catastrophe? The winner will be announced on Saturday, December 7. Good luck!

*You must live in the United States or Canada to enter the giveaway.

 

Here’s some info about each of the books to help the winner decide which to choose:

Threes Company Mallory

Three’s Company, Mallory

Some simple math: One + One + One = One too many! From the day we were born, Mary Ann and I have been best friends. We’ve always been a two-some. But now, there’s a new girl in town, and what used to be just us two has turned into three. If you ask me, things just don’t add up!

 

 

Can You Say Catastrophe?

Can you Say Catastrophe

April Sinclair just wants what any normal thirteen-year-old would want: to disown her parents and obnoxious little sisters; to escape to summer camp ASAP with her two best friends, Billy and Brynn; and to make a good impression on Matt Parker, the hot new boy next door.

Unfortunately, Matt witnesses April’s utter humiliation at her birthday party. Then Billy kisses her. Just as April is trying to figure things out, her parents cancel her camp plans in lieu of a family RV trip. A summer of babysitting her sisters and re-bonding with her family isn’t how she imagined life as a teenager. And it certainly won’t help her straighten out her feelings about Billy or Matt. Is there any silver lining to a road trip in The Clunker with her family of misfits?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Laurie Friedman will stop by the Mixed-Up Files blog again later, so leave a reply if you have a comment to share or a question to ask her.

 

Mindy Alyse Weiss writes humorous middle-grade novels with heart and quirky picture books. She’s constantly inspired by her thirteen and fifteen year-old daughters, an adventurous Bullmasador adopted from The Humane Society, and an adorable Beagle/Pointer mix who was rescued from the Everglades. Visit Mindy’s blog or Twitter to read more about her writing life, conference experiences, and writing tips.

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Kelly KC  •  Dec 4, 2013 @12:37 pm

    I choose CAN YOU SAY CATASTROPHE? I’ve lived the storyline of THREE’S COMPANY, MALLORY (still friends with both a million years later), but have never spent time in an RV. Plus, I’m a world-famous, award-winning, best-selling MG author, even if only in my own mind.

    :)

  2. Karen Reagler  •  Dec 4, 2013 @1:34 pm

    I think Ms. Friedman’s books are wonderful. My three daughters have all of her books (although my oldest daughter insists that they stay in her room). I have read some of them as well and can’t wait for them to come out as audio books. Is there any plan for them to be released as audio books?
    K

  3. Laurie Friedman  •  Dec 4, 2013 @4:14 pm

    I’m so glad your daughters like the books! I hope they’ll keep reading. Unfortunately there are no plans to release them as audio books but they are all available as ebooks. If your daughters have a reading device, they might enjoy them in that format. Please thank them from me for being fans!

  4. Jodi Moore  •  Dec 4, 2013 @4:49 pm

    Thanks for the inspiration and writing tips! I look forward to checking out both series! :)

  5. Lynnette  •  Dec 4, 2013 @7:10 pm

    I have some of the Mallory books in my K-5 library, but I had no idea there are so many! I’ll have to get ordering. I’d love the newest one.

  6. Laurie Friedman  •  Dec 4, 2013 @7:16 pm

    So glad you like the writing tips! I hope your students enjoy the books!

  7. Kim Peterson  •  Dec 5, 2013 @11:17 am

    Two series I want to read. :-) Thanks for the tips about writing series books.

  8. Jaimie M. Engle  •  Dec 5, 2013 @11:40 am

    Thanks for a great interview! I look forward to reading the book…

  9. Jill Siegel  •  Dec 5, 2013 @5:11 pm

    Thanks! I enjoyed the interview, Mindy and Laurie!! Laurie, you have such an articulate way of explaining your works and your writing process! Mallory is an adorable character. :)

  10. Jill Siegel  •  Dec 5, 2013 @5:13 pm

    and I look forward to the April Sinclair series as well…

  11. Jayne  •  Dec 5, 2013 @8:04 pm

    Laurie led a workshop at SCBWI Florida a few years back and it was a ton of fun. My girls have read many of the Mallory books!

  12. Will Orser  •  Dec 6, 2013 @9:50 am

    Nice interview. Good luck with the new series!

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