• OhMG! News


    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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Cupcake Cousins Winner


Congratulations, Kristen Kittscher! You are the winner of a signed hardcover copy of Cupcake Cousins by Kate Hannigan! We will be in touch soon. Thank you to all who commented!

Kate H 2

1 Comment

The Power of Group Author Events

Authors, Promotion

In April, my second middle grade novel, The Summer I Saved the World…in 65 Days, came out. A few months before my “book birthday,” I had a moment of panic. Actually, several moments of panic. I was going to have to leave my writerly cave at some point, wasn’t I? I was going to have to put on actual clothing and go out into the world. I was going to have to PROMOTE. The word that strikes fear in many writers I know. Some authors say they LOVE promotion but I question their sanity.

All joking aside (sort of), many authors aren’t very comfortable switching from writing mode to publicity mode. We’re much more comfortable in our made-up worlds where our characters can do anything we want them to do. And of course we can do this while wearing pajamas, so all the better.

pajamasBut as I’m sure you know, both online and in-person promotion are pretty much a necessity in today’s author world. And so is the worry that comes along with it. The basic nightmare of sitting at an autograph table, Sharpie in hand, waiting for people to show up. (Besides your relatives.)

Amie Borst’s post yesterday outlined numerous opportunities available for authors to promote their work, and I’d like to expand on one of those ideas — bookstore visits.

At an Illinois SCBWI writer’s conference last fall, I started chatting with author Kate Hannigan, who had a middle grade book, Cupcake Cousins, coming out about the same time as my novel. We discovered that we shared the same publicity worries, and after we were done with our little therapy session, Kate came up with the brilliant idea of joining forces with other middle grade authors and doing group bookstore events this spring.

Out of our discussion that November day, Middle Grade in the Midwest was born. Energizer Bunny that she is, Kate put together a group of middle grade authors including Amy Timberlake, Wendy McClure, Crystal Chan, Emily Ecton, Liesl Shurtliff and me — all of us live in the Chicago area — and we began approaching Indie bookstores. Not only were they thrilled to host us, we learned that there truly is strength in numbers.

After our first event at Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville, Illinois last week, we agreed that group author events are not only a great idea for pulling in attendees, they’re also way more fun! During our panel discussion, we were able to interact and bounce questions off each other, and this gave our talk more depth and insight. There weren’t any awkward silences because one of us always had something to share.The event was productive, energizing, and inspiring — both for the attendees and the authors.

And, I remembered what I always take away after I spend time with middle grade authors — they’re pretty much the nicest people on the planet. Many of the writing crises that I think happen only to me were echoed among our group. It’s always comforting to hear that other authors write terrible first drafts, think they’re never going to write another book, and question every single plot turn.

Anderson's 2

From left: Liesl Shurtliff, Kate Hannigan, Crystal Chan, Anderson’s Jenny Gerard, Michele Weber Hurwitz, Anderson’s Anne Swanson, Emily Ecton, and Wendy McClure.

So here are some of our tips for lining up group author events:

1. Contact the bookstores at least 3-4 months in advance with a succinct email. Create and attach an online “flier” with author bios and book covers. We began contacting bookstores in January for our May events.

2. Brainstorm with the bookstore the best time and day to pull in the intended audience, and be flexible with scheduling. We had so many email threads going back and forth, Kate actually created an Excel document to keep track of everyone’s schedules. It’s a good idea to have a point person who’s the master scheduler and all-around organizer.

3. Plan to meet for lunch or dinner! Sharing a meal before the event breaks the ice if some of the authors haven’t met.

4. Provide the bookstore with author website links, author and book cover photos, and contact information. Help them out as much as possible!

5. Promote the event on your own social media, and tag the other authors as well.

Later this month, we’re visiting the Book Cellar in Chicago, The Book Stall in Winnetka, Illinois, the Lake Forest Bookstore in Illinois, and doing a panel discussion at Chicago’s Printer’s Row event as well. Thank you to all of these fabulous Indie bookstores that have graciously agreed to host our Middle Grade in the Midwest group.


Michele Weber Hurwitz is the author of The Summer I Saved the World…in 65 Days and Calli Be Gold, both from Wendy Lamb Books/Random House. Visit her at micheleweberhurwitz.com and on Twitter @MicheleWHurwitz.



Cupcake Cousins by Kate Hannigan

Authors, Interviews

I’m pleased to welcome author Kate Hannigan to the Mixed-Up Files today. Her debut middle grade book, Cupcake Cousins, was published yesterday from Disney-Hyperion! Books 2 and 3 are scheduled to release in 2015 and 2016.

Q: What inspired you to write Cupcake Cousins? Do you have a fondness for cupcakes…or cousins?

A: The short answer is my kids and their cousins, and the beauty of Michigan, are what inspired this story. Cupcake Cousins is set during a week-long summer vacation for an entire extended family — grandparents, kids and cousins, aunts and uncles, all together under one roof. And that’s just where I got the idea for the story. My fondest memories are of my wonderful cousins and big Irish Catholic family gathering at my grandparents’ old house in Philadelphia. My three kids adore their cousins and they can’t wait for the vacations we spend together each summer, when everybody piles into a rented house on the coast of Lake Michigan.

100_2663Cupcake Cousins is a celebration of those summer moments when kids are outdoors running around all day, eating meals in the fresh air, unplugged from the daily grind. I love the specialness of the cousin relationship — they’re as close as siblings but without the petty quarrels. As for baked goods, yes! I’m a sucker for any kind of pastry! My own daughter and her cousin spent a lot of time baking when they were almost 10-year olds, like the two main characters in the story, Willow and Delia. I wanted to write a book where kids could engage in their interests and discover what they’re good at.

Q: How long did it take you to write the manuscript? How did you react when you found out it would be published?

A: I worked on the manuscript for about a year before finding an agent. And when I showed it to her, I was so grateful that she liked what she saw. We tinkered with it a bit before going out to publishers. The thing about shopping a manuscript is, it’s a whole lot like falling in love — you need just one. And thank goodness, one editor did fall in love! My editor has been a huge supporter of this story from day 1. She’s asked for two more books, so Cupcake Cousins will be a three-book series, with book 2 coming spring 2015 and book 3 in winter 2016. As for my reaction, I am completely superstitious so when we were going back and forth with the contract, I was worried that they might not take the manuscript after all. But as my editor and I were on the phone one day, a hummingbird fluttered to my window. Well, that was the sign I needed! I feature hummingbirds in Cupcake Cousins, so after I saw my own, and then the deal finally went down, I felt a cosmic sense that everything was all right in the universe!

Kate H 2Q: You live in Chicago, but the story is set in Saugatuck, Michigan. Tell us why you chose that as the setting.

A: Western and Northern Michigan are crazy beautiful destinations! For our family, we spend every summer picking fruit and riding our bikes all over the state! It’s a quick drive from Chicago for us, and easy for our cousins from Detroit to meet us. So it was natural for the cousins in the book to do the same. I also love the Midwest and want to celebrate this part of the world as best I can. I wanted to write a timeless sort of book that had none of the trappings of the digital world. Nothing that would date it, but everything that would make it endure. The idea of kids chasing fireflies and picking blueberries, those are the rites of summertime.

Q: I understand that dogs are a big part of your life — your real dog that serves as your “writing companion,” and the fictional dog in Cupcake Cousins. Did you know from the start that this story had to include a dog?

Kate H 1A: Yes, absolutely. What is life without a big, drooly dog at your side? Really? I cannot write a book where the dog dies! I can barely stand to read them! When I was reading Island of the Blue Dolphins to my youngest, I had to pass the book over to my husband to finish the part where her dog dies. So, spoiler alert: Bernice the Bernese mountain dog in Cupcake Cousins does not die!

My own dog is a quirky Australian shepherd named Bella. She is an amazing writing companion. She likes to stay close to me, so she often plops down under my desk and lies on my toes as I type. When it’s time to pick up my kids from school, she paces around the room and stares up at me, as if saying, “Seriously, why aren’t you getting the keys?”

Q: What was your favorite book as a child, and how did it influence your writing?

A: I was not a voracious reader as a child. I liked running around outside, playing from morning to night. And when I did read, I re-read the same stories again and again. Then I would act out the story in my backyard. When I think about my favorite books for children, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Anne of Green Gables, The Penderwicks, I will say that the characters’ resourcefulness is what appeals to me. I like how they use their wits to get themselves out of a jam, and I tried to do that with Willow and Delia in Cupcake Cousins. And, the emphasis on family appeals to me in those stories.

Q: Are you a good cook? Tell us about the malted milk ball cake pictured on your Twitter page.

Kate H 4

A: I’ve been lucky enough to live in two amazing restaurant cities: San Francisco and Chicago. So I definitely enjoy following the foodie scene and getting to good restaurants. But I do cook pretty much all of our meals. “Good” is a relative thing; I’m more like an “enthusiastic” cook! Evolving. In my early days, I was pretty dangerous — there were stove fires, that sort of thing! So I identify with the main characters in Cupcake Cousins, who have their share of kitchen disasters. Somewhere along the way, with the help of Food Network and Pinterest, I got the hang of it. I found the recipe for the malted milk ball cake on Pinterest. Cupcake Cousins features fun recipes that I’ve made with my kids over the years.

Q: Your second middle grade novel, a historical fiction book titled, The Detective’s Assistant, will be published next year. Tell us how and why you switched gears from a contemporary story to a historical one. What inspired this particular book?

A: When I stumbled on a juicy historical nugget, I knew I wanted to write about it. So when Cupcake Cousins was in the long process of back and forth editing, I got to work on this new idea. Writers are always advised to have a next project to focus on, and I think that’s fantastic advice. I was able to throw myself into writing and researching The Detective’s Assistant during the downtime with Cupcake Cousins. And thankfully, it sold to Little, Brown. There is a Lincoln angle to the story, so it will publish in April 2015, at the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination.

Q: I’m always curious how writers balance their time. Do you have any secrets to share?

A: I treat my writing time like I’m clocking in and out of the office. I drop my kids at school, then get down to it until school lets out, five days a week. I don’t have any secrets, but I do think it’s important to take yourself seriously. If you want to accomplish things as a writer, you have to treat writing as your job and commit to it fully. I love being able to get up each day and do the writing and researching. Not everyone feels that way about their job, so I am deeply grateful for what I’ve got. But working and writing at home can be challenging. I’ve had to put a fence around what I call my sacred writing time.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I’m hustling to get books 2 and 3 done for the Cupcake Cousins series, and The Detective’s Assistant is still in production. I have a third project I’m hoping to complete. It’s another historical middle grade, about the Easter Rising in Ireland.

Q: And now for the lightning round! Where would we find you on a Sunday afternoon? What’s your favorite ice cream flavor? Were you ever a flower girl?

A: Sunday afternoons, I would likely be hanging out with my family, cooking, at the gym, or walking Bella. As for ice cream, I’m pretty particular. Haagen-Dazs Ducle de Leche and nothing less. Once you taste it, there’s no going back! I also love Sherman’s Dairy Bar in South Haven, Michigan. I was never a flower girl but I was a bridesmaid in six weddings before I was the bride! My daughter was a flower girl just a few years before I wrote the book, and I’m sure the joy of that experience was still in my mind.

Thanks, Kate, for stopping in today! Visit Kate’s website here, and her terrific blog, where she somehow finds the time to post interviews with numerous authors. We’re giving away ONE AUTOGRAPHED COPY of Kate’s delightful, charming book, so if you’d like to enter the giveaway, please post a comment below!

Michele Weber Hurwitz is the author of two middle grade novels for Wendy Lamb Books. Visit her at micheleweberhurwitz.com.

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