• From the Mixed-Up Files... > Authors > Interview with Kurtis Scaletta–and a giveaway!
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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:
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    March 28, 2014:
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    February 14, 2014:
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    January 27, 2014: And the Newbery Medal goes to ...
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    November 12, 2013:
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    October 14, 2013:
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    September 19, 2013: Writer-in-Residence program at Thurber House

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    September 18, 2013: Vermont College of Fine Arts Scholarship opportunity

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    Sept. 13, 2013: Spring preview
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    August 21, 2013:
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    March 28, 2013: Big at Bologna

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    March 10, 2013: Marching to New Titles

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    March 5, 2013: Catch the BEA Buzz

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    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

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    February 20, 2013: Lunching at the MG Roundtable 

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    February 10, 2013: New Books to Love

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    January 28, 2013: Ivan Tops List of Winners

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    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

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    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 Kurtis Scaletta–and a giveaway!

Authors, Giveaways, Interviews

Kurtis Scaletta, one of the founders of From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors, is the author of the middle-grade novels Mudville, Mamba Point, The Tanglewood Terror and, most recently, The Winter of the Robots. The Minneapolis Star Tribune called his latest book a “ripping yarn with a big heart and a lot of wit and invention,” and Kirkus Reviews called it “a deft mix of middle school drama and edgy techno thrills.” He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and three-year-old son and a bunch of cats.

 

kurtis09-s

Welcome back to the blog, Kurtis. How does it feel to be a guest at your own party? 

Ha, thanks. I miss being a part of this blog.

Can you tell us a little about how From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors began?

Several middle-grade authors came together from the Verla Kay boards after a discussion about how middle-grade books just didn’t have the web presence of young adult books. We wanted to champion middle grade with a heavy focus on recommendations to teachers and parents. We’re still struggling to get visibility, for people to even know that middle grade is a thing, a unique and important genre of children’s book.

What’s your favorite thing about middle-grade fiction (as a reader or a writer)?

It was my favorite age as a reader, a real golden age, and writing middle grade allows me to keep delving back into that moment when I began to truly love literature and the idea of writing.

The Winter of the Robots  is such a fun read. How long did it take from first spark of an idea to finished book in your hands?

Thanks! This book took me quite a bit longer than my other books. It took about two years from starting it to putting the final dots and dashes on the I’s and T’s. A lot of that had to do with being a dad.

 

WinteroftheRobots

You do a great job of balancing the level of scientific detail so that it’s engaging and enlightening, without being overwhelming to the point of taking away from the human story. I especially enjoyed the concept of autonomous vs. remote controlled robots. What kind of research did you do? How did you decide how much detail to include?

I spent a lot of time reading up on kids robot competitions, watching videos of their battles, and so forth. I had two readers in the manuscript phase, one who built robots as a kid and one who coaches robot leagues.

How plausible are the robots in the book?

If anything the robots kids are really building are more complicated and imaginative. Of course the big robot requires a bit of suspended disbelief, but there’s nothing there that isn’t possible. It was really important to me that it’s clear to readers how the kids build the robots, where they get the parts and the machines and the mechanical expertise.

Your Minnesota winter setting makes me want to put on a sweater. Can you design a robot to shovel my sidewalk for me?

As soon as I finish ours! And the robots that was dishes, scoop cat boxes, change diapers – for that matter, the robot that potty trains reluctant little boys. Sadly, that’ll take a while since the only robot I’ve made doesn’t do anything but take a few steps and fall apart.

If there was one single thing that you wanted readers to get from The Winter of the Robots, what would it be?

You know, I want kids to finish this book and think, “I could do this.” If I find a kid read this book and is tinkering in the garage I’ll consider the book a success.

What other books do you recommend to readers who enjoyed The Winter of the Robots?

There are great books about realistic kids learning and exploring the worlds around them, like The Higher Power of Lucky and Every Soul a Star and The Reinvention of Edison Thomas.  I really like books that infuse realistic science into a book.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to write middle-grade fiction?

Write up, not down, as Mr. White said. You can have big ideas in books for middle-grade readers, moral ambiguity and complex language, hard-hitting topics and challenging questions. Don’t hold back. The kids can handle it.

Kurtis is giving away a signed copy of The Winter of the Robots. Enter here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Jacqueline Houtman is a big fan of science in novels (and in real life). 

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Louise Galveston  •  Dec 16, 2013 @5:24 am

    I especially appreciate your last comment, Kurtis. I know my kids will love this book! Great interview!

  2. madelyn  •  Dec 16, 2013 @5:35 am

    Always looking for good sci fi/fantasy. Love the cover!

  3. moy  •  Dec 16, 2013 @9:02 am

    This looks really exciting.

  4. Debbie Manber Kupfer  •  Dec 16, 2013 @9:46 am

    Yay! Robots!

  5. Sandy  •  Dec 16, 2013 @10:54 am

    Fun to read about the book, and also about the origins of one of my favorite blogs. Congratulations on the great reviews, too.

  6. Jenn  •  Dec 16, 2013 @11:09 am

    Ooo, adding to list of reading. I am interested in seeing how you combine the scientific with the narrative.

  7. Randi  •  Dec 16, 2013 @12:09 pm

    Sounds like a great book — looking forward to reading it!

  8. Michael Gettel-Gilmartin  •  Dec 16, 2013 @6:30 pm

    Kurtis is a great writer–and one of the funniest Tweeters around.

    I’m going to do my best to win this one (tweet etc.)!

  9. Akoss  •  Dec 16, 2013 @6:44 pm

    I’d love to win this copy but I’m stalking it at my library just in case.

  10. Bruce Luck  •  Dec 16, 2013 @6:46 pm

    There is a dearth of information for middle grade writers on the web. Thanks to you and the other MUF people for the site.

  11. Kim Livingston  •  Dec 16, 2013 @9:00 pm

    Looks like a great read! Hope we win. :0)

  12. PramgaticMom  •  Dec 17, 2013 @4:58 pm

    I loved his last book, Mudville!!!! I’d love to win!

  13. Sherry Smothermon-Short  •  Dec 17, 2013 @5:20 pm

    My son is a 5th grader, and I’m always looking for new books & authors for him.

  14. Heidi Grange  •  Dec 17, 2013 @5:27 pm

    A new robot book is definitely a welcome addition.

  15. Merry  •  Dec 17, 2013 @8:20 pm

    This sounds like a good book that my sons would enjoy reading

  16. Rosanne Parry  •  Dec 17, 2013 @8:57 pm

    Write Up! Great advice Kurtis. I saw this book on the end cap at Powells. It’s just the sort of thing I loved when I was a kid.

  17. Maria Selke (@mselke01)  •  Dec 18, 2013 @5:01 am

    How can you go wrong with robots? My students love robotics, and I know they’d love to read this book! (and so would I)

  18. Jessica  •  Dec 18, 2013 @6:12 am

    Sounds like a great book!