• From the Mixed-Up Files... > Articles by: Amie Borst
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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:
    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 ...

    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,


    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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Interview and Giveaway with Anne Blankman!

Authors, Giveaways, Interviews, Librarians


In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her “uncle” Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf’s, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.

Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler.

And Gretchen follows his every command.

Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can’t stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can’t help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she’s been taught to believe about Jews.

As Gretchen investigates the very people she’s always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?

From debut author Anne Blankman comes this harrowing and evocative story about an ordinary girl faced with the extraordinary decision to give up everything she’s ever believed . . . and to trust her own heart instead.


Let me start by saying Prisoner of Night and Fog is technically a young adult novel (full disclosure and all that) but I thought it would be a great addition to our historical fiction here at The Mixed-Up Files, especially for our upper Middle-Grade readers.

Amie: I mentioned above that your book is technically YA, but how do you feel it will relate to the MG reader?

Anne: As a librarian, I’m a big believer in matching children with books…and holding off when they’re not quite ready for a particular title. PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG is geared for those 12 and older, so I don’t consider it too mature for the upper MG crowd, let’s say seventh and eighth graders. My story does deal with weighty issues, such as anti-Semitism and violence, though, so I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting it in a ten- or eleven-year-old’s hands. What MG readers will probably like the best is my book’s mystery…and some female readers may like the romance the most of all. :)
Amie:  That’s a good point. My 10 year old read a book recently that was a YA for 12 and up and she adored it! I think it comes down to the individual child, their reading preferences, abilities, and maturity level.  What was the most interesting thing you learned when writing this book?
Anne: Oooh, it’s hard to pick just one! The strangest detail I discovered is actually about Hitler’s mustache. The reason he sported such a bizarre, tiny mustache is because he thought it made his nostrils look smaller. Apparently he was very self-conscious about them!
Amie:  Ha! A Napoleon complex of nostrils! Do you have a favorite MG book from childhood?
Anne:  This is almost a cruel question! I can only pick ONE favorite book?Hmm, the first one that leaps to mind is THE RUBY IN THE SMOKE by Philip Pullman. Gorgeous writing, a thrilling plot, a Victorian London setting, and a gutsy heroine–really, what more could you ask for?
Amie: *Adds book to to-read list* We like to have a little fun here At MUF…so….Bed bugs or head lice? Farts or burps? Chocolate or vanilla?

Anne:  I love these questions. Bed bugs for sure! Just the thought of little things crawling over my head wants me shudder. Ack! Definitely burps–it’s a compliment to someone’s cooking, right? And vanilla every time! Yum. Now you’ve made me hungry.

Thanks so much for having me “visit”, Amie!

Amie: Glad to have you, Anne!


Anne Blankman grew up in a small town in upstate New York. She studied history and English at Union College and earned a master’s degree in library science from the University at Albany. She has worked for several years as a librarian. Currently Anne lives with her college sweetheart husband, Mike, and young daughter, Kirsten, in southeastern Virginia, where the hot summers haven’t killed her yet. PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG is her first novel.

So, what do you say, Mixed-Up Members? Want to win a copy of Prisoner of Night and Fog? Well, you know what to do!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Amie Borst writes twisted fairy tales. Cinderskella and Little Dead Riding Hood are the first two books in the Scarily Ever Laughter series. Find her on facebook and her blog.


Interview and Giveaway with Marissa Burt!

Book Lists
Story's End

Enter the magical land of Story in this sequel to Storybound, perfect for fans of Inkheart, The School for Good and Evil, and classic fantasy tales like Ella Enchanted and The Neverending Story. Kids who love fairy tales, dragons, magic, and more will be enchanted by Una Fairchild’s unforgettable adventure in Story’s End.

Story is a land of dashing Heroes, dastardly Villains, and epic quests—and once upon a time, a noble King. But the King vanished so long ago that even the memory of him is lost. Now a cruel Enemy plots to rewrite Story’s future, and an ordinary girl named Una Fairchild may be the only one who can stop him. As Una and her friends Peter and Indy race to defeat the Enemy, their quest will take them deep into the secrets of Story’s past . . . and Una’s own mysterious ties to this fairy-tale kingdom and its long-forgotten King.

Put your hands together folks and welcome the wonderful, the majestic, Marissa Burt!
Amie: I’m sure most of audience knows (and has read) your first book, Storybound. So tell us, what was different about writing your second published book than your first?
Marissa:  STORYBOUND was the first book I wrote, so I definitely had the luxury of working at my own pace. Between the time that the duology sold and when my draft of STORY’S END was due, I had a baby.  I wrote the second book while wrangling three boys under the age of four.  Needless to say, that period of time is all a blur.  Because of family responsibilities, I kept putting off my writing so I drafted STORY’S END evenings and weekends in the two months before my deadline and vowed to never do that again.
Content-wise, the book was challenging.  While I usually have a loose outline, I end up changing a lot of things during the writing process, which means a lot of big revisions at the end.  Happily, I have an outstanding editor who worked with me to make STORY’S END a cohesive sequel.  With your first book, you’re hoping someone will buy it, read it, and like it, but it was a nice change to have eager readers counting down to release day, just as I was.
Amie:  Having finished writing a sequel myself, I can attest that making sure everything is cohesive is the tricky part! Who is your favorite middle-grade book character and why?
Marissa: It will always be Anne Shirley for me.  I love her so, and I am such a fan of all of LM Montgomery’s work that I re-read most of them annually.  Runner-ups would have to go to Harriet the Spy, Karana from ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS, and Solo from SOLO’S JOURNEY.
Amie: Ohhh! Good choice! What’s next on the docket for you?
Marissa:  I am working on revisions for my next book A SLIVER OF STARDUST, due out in fall 2015. It tells the story of eleven-year-old Wren Matthews who has always known she was weird.  Super-smart, happily solitary, and obsessed with astronomy, the only place Wren has ever fit in is at the regional homeschool conference.  But when a mysterious visitor appears and invites Wren and her long-time science-rival Simon Barker to join the ancient guild of magicians known as the Fiddlers, things get a whole lot weirder.  As apprentice Fiddlers, Wren and Simon have a lot to learn, but their ordinary stardust lessons are soon overshadowed by tainted legends of Mother Goose, battling alchemists, and dreams of the dangerous otherworld, the Land of Nod.
Amie: What an enticing premise! Can’t wait for it’s release!  Last question - candy canes or licorice?
Marissa:  Neither, I’m afraid.  I’m weirdly not a big candy person, though I do love the smell of peppermint.  So, if forced under duress to choose, I would take a candy cane.  :)

About the author: Marissa Burt was forever getting notes sent home from teachers about reading novels during class.  She grew up in Oregon, and drifted eastward through Colorado, Illinois, Tennessee, and South Carolina before coming back to the Pacific Northwest.  She now lives in the Seattle area with her husband and three sons.  You can visit Marissa online at:

Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, WebsiteProject Middle-Grade Mayhem Blog

Want to win a copy of BOTH Storybound AND Story’s End? Then just fill out the rafflecopter form below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Amie Borst writes twisted fairy tales. Cinderskella is her first book and Little Dead Riding Hood releases October 2014! Visit her at her blog and facebook.


I Would Write 500 Words

Inspiration, Writing MG Books, Writing MG Series

And I would write 500 more. Just to be the author that writes 1,000 words and falls down on the floor.


Let’s face it. Writing is HARD. Especially now when authors have major distractions like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other various forms of social networking.  Not only are these things a major time suck, but they open us up for comparisons. It’s hard to avoid these detrimental comparisons when we’re inundated with words and images that remind us we’re not good enough.

writing comparision

And because writing isn’t the only place where I feel like a failure, you’ll need to double click the above image in order to read the microscopic words I’ve so cleverly crafted.

There’s the other part of the inferiority I feel on a daily basis: I’m not agented.  My published books are co-authored by my 13 year old daughter (which I love, but I worry that others may think it’s weird, or think I’m not a “real writer”).  I’m with a small press so there haven’t been reviews. Without reviews its been extremely hard to get my book into schools, let alone the hands of readers. Some days I wonder why I do it. Why do I bother?

Those emotions brought me down so far that I stopped writing.  Last year between my final edits for Cinderskella and my first draft of Little Dead Riding Hood, I wrote nothing. From submitting LDRH to my publisher until January of this year I wrote nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Big fat zero. For NINE MONTHS. I could have - quite literally - given birth during that time. To a book or a baby, choice is yours.  But I didn’t.

Instead, I worried.  Fretted over sales. I wallowed. I compared myself to others. I sulked in self pity.

While I was away from writing, I just sank deeper and deeper. Staying away from writing wasn’t helping me. In fact, it was making things worse.  And seeing updates from other authors definitely contributed to my feelings of failure. Why couldn’t I accomplish what they were? Why wasn’t I making the time for something I enjoyed so much?

Then, sometime during the holiday season, author J. Scott Savage posted a challenge on his Facebook page.  (Yes, in this instance, FB helped!)  He challenged authors to write 500 words a day in the new year.

A little spark lit within me. I could do this! Large goals are always better when broken down into bite sized pieces.  It’s true with anything – education, weight loss, and yes, even writing books. We need to meet little goals in order to achieve the larger one. So instead of thinking about writing a 60,000 word book and being overwhelmed by that concept, I would focus on the little goal of 500 words each day. I even did the calculations. I could write one book in four months. Three books a year.

So, unbeknownst to Scott, I set the goal to write 500 words a day.  I was going to excuse myself on weekends (which would mean my final goal would take a little longer, but I was okay with that).  Five days a week, I was going to sit down and write. All I needed was a half hour.

This is how my first week went:

Day 1 – *stares at blank word doc* Type something. Anything. *types two words* Think! THINK! *types five more* *stares at clock* It’s only been 10 seconds? Good grief! FOCUS! *45 minutes later, 501 painful words are typed*

Day 2 – *stares at previous 501 painful words, sits on hands to prevent from deleting them* Okay. This time DON’T THINK. That’s where you went wrong yesterday. You were thinking TOO hard.  Just type. *30 minutes go by, 621 words are typed*

Day 3 – *refuses to stare at screen* Don’t read what you wrote. You know it’s garbage. It doesn’t matter. Just write. *30 quick minutes later, 1,250 words are typed*

Day 4 – *remembers scene, eagerly gets to work* *60 minutes later, 2,500 words are typed*

Day 5 – * opens document, fingers itching to start* *90 minutes later, 3,200 words are typed*

It speaks for itself, really. I found that once I forced myself to sit down and write, the words flowed. Sure, there were tough days, (and there still are) but I’m writing again! I’m excited about my stories! I’ve set an easy goal and I’m able to reach it each day.

This goal has taught me a lot about myself, too.

1 – I don’t have to write every day.  (This recent post from Nathan Bransford helped confirm that.) Yup. It’s okay not to write on weekends. Or when I’m sick. Or if my day is super busy. Just as long as I get back in the saddle as soon as I can, it’s okay to take a day off.

2 – Every part of writing – whether it be storyboarding, plotting, or  creating characters - matters. Even though word count isn’t increasing or progressing, that’s okay. The story is! I allow myself to take credit for every step of the journey.

3 – My accomplishments are my own and I don’t need to compare myself to others.

I love what I’ve learned about writing, about myself, during this process.  I’m going to keep on keeping on with my 500 words a day because I see progress. I’ve felt my inner growth. And that’s what matters most.

What about you? What kinds of goals have you set? What helps you as a writer? I’d love to hear your comments and ideas!

Amie Borst is a PAL member of SCBWI. She writes twisted fairy tales with her 13 year old daughter, Bethanie. She’s writes 500 words a day, even if they’re terrible. Find her at her blog, facebook, twitter, and pinterest. Add her books on goodreads!

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