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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 for boys: an interview with Rich Wallace

    Book Lists

    Rich_and_Lenore

    Good morning readers and writers! I’m here today with Rich Wallace. Rich is the author of many award-winning books for boys, ranging from his debut YA novel, Wrestling Sturbridge, to his popular sports series, “The Winning Season” and “Kickers.” He spent many years as an editor at Highlights for Children magazine and still pens the enormously popular comic strip “The Timbertoes” for that publication. Booklist calls him a “master of edgy sports fiction.” He is also an amazing teacher. Next month, he will be offering an amazing opportunity to work with him, Chris Crutcher, and Lenore Look. (That’s Rich and Lenore in the picture!)

    Sarah: Hi Rich! Welcome to the Mixed Up Files! I have always been a big fan of your books. They always offer great voice and action, too. I also know you are offering a retreat at the Highlights Foundation for Writing for Boys. What an opportunity! But is writing for boys really something you can craft intentionally?

    I’ll make my confession: After Head Case and Beyond Lucky, I was interviewed a few times about how to write for boys, and although I tried to sound earnest, the truth is: I don’t know if “writing for boys” is completely possible . . . for me. I wrote about “the lives of boys.”  I didn’t worry about who read the books. 

    Rich: Exactly. I remember Jerry Spinelli saying that the key in writing books that will appeal to kids is not to write for kids, but to write about them. So this workshop is targeted to people who are writing about boys—of any age. But we’ll share a lot of great ideas and practices that will be pertinent to anyone writing for kids or teenagers (of either gender). The lineup of workshop leaders has written much for boys (though not exclusively) but there’s no great line in the sand that makes a book for one gender or the other. All of my books feature male protagonists, but I hear from a lot of girls who like my books. Still, it’s pretty clear that certain genres are targeted heavily toward boys or girls.

    Sarah: Tell us about the retreat. What do you hope the writers will gain? 

    RW: I hope they’ll find ways to probe deeper into the psyche of their characters by drawing on their own experiences and emotions. I know Chris Crutcher quite well but have never taught with him, so I expect to learn a lot myself. Lenore Look and I have done a couple of workshops together, and I immediately adopted some of her strategies after hearing her teach. These workshops are very organic – we spend nearly every waking moment together over the three days, sharing meals and chatting late into the evening and even doing yoga at 6 a.m. if anyone’s interested. There are a lot of prepared presentations and some manuscript sharing, but there’s a great deal of informal time that can be just as illuminating or more so.

    Chris_Crutcher

    (That’s Chris!)

    Sarah: Boys are all different. We don’t pigeonhole girl readers the way we do with boys–and of course, pigeonholing is a dangerous thing. I sometimes feel like “writing for boys” is the PC way of saying: writing fast paced books with a lot of action–and here’s the thing: I like those kinds of books. (I came to reading very late in life.) I guess what I’m saying: books “for boys” are for girls, too. And lots of “girl books” appeal to boys.

    RW: Of course. A more descriptive title for this workshop might be “Creating Male Characters in Fiction for Children and Teens,” but “Writing for Boys” is punchier. It’s all about perspective. We write from a male perspective, and there are many things to consider when doing that.

    Sarah: That sounds great! Were you always a reader? Tell us about the books you enjoyed as a boy. 

     RW: I was fortunate that my mother was a huge advocate of the public library (and, at 86, still is). So from way before kindergarten we were making frequent trips to the library for the Curious George books, Caps for Sale, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Make Way for Ducklings, etc. I became a serious non-reader around about third grade, when I started getting out in the neighborhood more independently and discovered stickball and street hockey. Even in college (as an English major!) I faked my way through a lot of classes. After I graduated, I went back and actually read many of the books I’d acquired, and have read ever more voraciously since.

    Sarah: How do you start writing your books? Are you a plunger? Do you plot? Do you have specific boys in mind when you sit down to write? 

    RW: It depends on the project. I’ve written several series that target somewhat narrow age groups, so I have those well planned before I start. With a stand-alone novel, I usually begin with a character in a situation (and a strong sense of place) and begin writing a scene to see where it leads. Outlining/plotting starts vaguely, but I look for anchors and plot development as the story develops, and I do outline a fair amount to help me get from one point to another. One great thing about the Highlights Foundation workshops is that there is a small “instructor-to-student” ratio, so we’re all together in a relatively informal environment and the sessions become more discussions than lectures. I’ll make sure that Lenore and Chris and I each talk about our writing process. No writer’s approach fits neatly with any other’s, but I’ve gained a lot over the years by hearing how others do it.

    wicked cruel cover jpegSarah: What is the difference between “books for boys” and “books for girls?” What do boys write to you after reading your books?

    RW: The majority of the letters I receive are prompted by my sports series books – The Winning Season and Kickers, which are written for middle-grade kids. Both boys and girls like to tell me about their own experiences in sports, particularly as it parallels something that happened to one of my characters. I think the more obvious delineations between books occur after a kid begins to come of age. But it’s all a spectrum, and no books could be said to appeal only to one gender. Start with the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. Safe to say that they were originally published to appeal to the two different genders, and I’d guess that the readership did reflect that.

    Sarah: What do you think is the greatest challenge for writers today–especially if they want to write for this market? 

    RW: There is so much daunting competition. But the great books do get published, so write one of those. A good friend who has attended a number of my workshops over the years sold her first novel last month. She’d been submitting novels for a couple of decades, and is in fact a really great writer. Matching yourself with the right editor at the right time with the right book . . . it’s difficult. Artistic efforts always are.

    Sarah: Who are your favorite authors?

    RW: I’ll be working with two of them at this retreat in Lenore and Chris. For fun, I also read a lot of John Updike, J.D. Salinger, E.B. White . . . (in other words, people who were writing mostly for the New Yorker before I was born!) Among writers who are still with us, a few would be Sherman Alexie, Annie Proulx, and lots of nonfiction science/nature material. I read way more nonfiction than fiction; probably 25 to 1. (I just wrote my first book of nonfiction, collaborating with my wife, novelist Sandra Neil Wallace. It’s a biography of perhaps the greatest female athlete of all time: Babe Conquers the World: The Legendary Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias. It’ll be out in March.) Sandra will drop in on the workshop, too, and talk about her two novels that have male leads.

    Thanks, Rich, for sharing your thoughts on The Mixed-Up Files blog!

    If you are a writer and want to write realistic boy characters, go here and register for this amazing event! If you are a reader and like books with great action and conflict, check out Rich’s books! You won’t be able to put them down!

    Sarah Aronson is a writer who loves sports. She and Nancy Werlin will also be offering a whole novel class for the Highlights Foundation in September 2014.

     

     

    2 Comments

    2 Comments

    1. Louise Galveston  •  Jan 13, 2014 @11:43 am

      I’ve had the privilege of meeting Rich at several Highlights Foundation events and he is wonderfully personable and his teaching is practical and memorable. If you can swing it, I really recommend going to this workshop (wish I could!)

      Thanks for the great interview!

    2. Ms. Yingling  •  Jan 13, 2014 @3:55 pm

      What a. great interview, and lots of good points about writing books that interest all students. Have just added this workshop to my bucket list- always loved the Timbertoes!