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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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  • Five Writing Truths We Can Learn from Christmas Carols

    Writing MG Books

     

     2103 Christmas-Snow I have a confession to make: I love Christmas music. In fact, I like it so much that my wife had to institute a family rule—no Christmas music until after Thanksgiving. I eventually got her to compromise, convincing her that Christmas music was allowed before Thanksgiving, as long as it had snowed first. This year, pre-Thanksgiving, I had the stereo pumping “Jingle Bells” as soon as Virginia had its first snowfall.My wife accused me of cheating because we live in the state of Washington.

    I say that she never specified the location of the snow.

    Anyway, with Christmas now only one week away, I began to wonder what writing wisdom might be gleaned from the music of the season. From the traditional “Away in a Manger” to Elvis’s “Blue Christmas,” here are five Christmas songs and the writing truths they reveal:

    1)      “Away in a Manger”: I don’t care if you are reading this while at work in a busy office. Don’t be shy. Go ahead and belt out the opening lines of this Christmas classic. What do you have? Within the first four measures, you already know about the no-crib issue.

    If you want to pull in the reader, start with a problem that needs overcome.

    2103 Christmas-Rudolph

    2)      “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”: There’s more to be learned from Rudolph than the proper hyphenation of phrasal adjectives*. In fact, the writing truth embedded in the song is as illuminating as Rudolph’s nose:

    A single unique trait is often enough to create a memorable character.

    3)      “Blue Christmas”: Elvis had snow. He’d finished decorating the Christmas tree. But none of that could pull him from the doldrums of a blue Christmas. He was missing his “Dear.”

    Have your protagonist struggle with the loss of something or someone he cares about.

    4)      “Christmas Don’t Be Late” as sung by Alvin and the Chipmunks: The squeaky voices of Alvin, Simon, and Theodore get really annoying, really fast. My tolerance of their singing definitely doesn’t extend to listening to the whole song. So . . . when you write, I don’t care if your character is a singing chipmunk or a granny who grew up deep in the mountains of Kentucky.

    Don’t overdo dialectical speech in yer dialogue. It’ll get distractin’.

    5)      “The Christmas Song” (a.k.a., “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”): Written on a hot summer day in 1944, “The Christmas Song” went from a few lines penciled in a notebook to a finished song in about 40 minutes. No, you probably won’t crank out a timeless masterpiece in under an hour. But . . .

    You never know when the muse might strike.

    Sometimes you just need to sit down, start writing, and see what happens.

    Now, before you give your muse an opportunity to inspire, take a moment. Pick a Christmas carol. Pause and ponder. Then share with us some holiday-based writing wisdom of your own.

     2103 Christmas-Gift *Note: If you have no idea what a phrasal adjectives is, you may not know why you should never write about a “ten year old boy.” Thus, in the spirit of the season, I offer this ever-so-useful link as my grammatical gift to you: Grammarist: Phrasal adjectives.

     

    8 Comments

    8 Comments

    1. Linda Andersen  •  Dec 18, 2013 @4:44 am

      T.P.,
      Loved this post. The magic of 3s is seen in this one: We Wish You a Merry Christmas!

      Linda Andersen

    2. Wendy S  •  Dec 18, 2013 @5:57 am

      Great post, TJ! Here’s another lesson from Christmas songs: Get your setting right! I recently found out that White Christmas has a prelude that goes: The sun is shining/ The grass is green/The orange and palm trees sway/There’s never been such a day in Beverly Hills, L.A. No one every sings it, though, I’m thinking because it’s such a jarring image with Christmas.

    3. tricia  •  Dec 18, 2013 @8:18 am

      More for “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”: there’s always room for a little nostalgia, even in children’s books–even a seven-year-old can grow wistful for when he was “little”.

    4. Michele Weber Hurwitz  •  Dec 18, 2013 @9:29 am

      Great post as usual, TP! My fave is “Frosty the Snowman.” Talk about magical realism!

    5. T. P. Jagger  •  Dec 18, 2013 @10:31 am

      Hey, everyone! For some reason, my computer won’t let me post replies directly under others’ comments, but thanks to you folks who have shared your own bits of carol-based writing wisdom. I certainly never knew that “White Christmas” had swaying palm trees! :)

    6. Brenda  •  Dec 18, 2013 @12:12 pm

      O.K., I can’t resist…Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer. A reminder to add some humor.

    7. T. P. Jagger  •  Dec 18, 2013 @12:34 pm

      I love the “Grandma Got Ran Over by a Reindeer” example. Thanks for sharing, Brenda!

    8. Bruce  •  Dec 22, 2013 @3:20 pm

      One more: throw in a plot twist as does the last line of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”