Author Archives: Mindy Alyse Weiss

Make Reading Fun

Summer is full of fun in the sun, dips in a pool, and hopefully reading some great middle-grade novels, too. Here are some ways to help inspire reading this summer.

Middle Grade Books and Ruby

Read books together. No matter how old a child or teen gets, it’s nice to share great books with relatives. Why not find a comfy spot and take turns reading to each other?

Read to a pet or a young child. My older daughter used to love reading books to her sister, and I lost track of how many times I found her snuggling with our dog while reading a book to her. Books with fun dialogue or younger siblings are great choices for this. As a child, I absolutely adored Judy Blume’s books (I even wrote my first fan letter to her). My girls are three years apart, and when my older daughter was six, I read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing to her. I was pleasantly surprised when my younger daughter sat with us, laughing and intently listening to all of Peter and Fudge’s adventures.

Find a fun location to read. You can encourage reading at a beach, pool, or park. You can grab a seat and read almost anywhere! I think it would be fun to sit where you can watch gorillas in a zoo and read The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.

Create a contest to inspire the kids or teens in your life to read. You can have them put their name, the book title, and their favorite part of the book on a circle and see who creates the longest bookworm by the end of the summer. To celebrate, you can go someplace fun or have a treat like pizza or ice cream, and maybe give the winner a gift card to buy a new book or two. You could even create a themed party where you make fun treats like the ones in their favorite book/s.

Join a book club, or start one of your own. Hanging out with friends and talking about great books is an awesome way to encourage kids to read. Here are some Mixed-Up Files posts about book clubs that might help you:

*Starting a Parent/Child Book Club

*One Mom Plus Two Sets of Twins Leads to Three Great Book Clubs

*Middle-grade Book Club Guide

To make a book club even more fun, you can check to see if any of the authors on this list are still available for a free 15 – 20 minute Skype visit after all the kids in the book club read at least one of his or her books!

If you’re looking for great new middle-grade novels to read this summer, check out our monthly new release posts. You can also browse through all the unique book lists on our site and search for categories like humorous, mystery, action & adventure, animal, fantasy & paranormal, etc.

I’d love to know how you make reading fun, and what middle-grade books are on your must-read list.

Mindy Alyse Weiss writes humorous middle grade novels with heart and quirky picture books. She’s constantly inspired by her two daughters, an adventurous Bullmasador adopted from The Humane Society, and an adorable Beagle/Pointer mix who was rescued from the Everglades. Visit Mindy’s TwitterFacebook, or blog to read more about her writing life, conference experiences, and writing tips.

Movies Inspired by Middle Grade Novels

I kept seeing commercials for Home and thought it looked cute, but didn’t really think about seeing it in the theater…until I read that it was adapted from The True Meaning of Smekday, by Adam Rex. I LOVE that book! Now, I can’t wait to see the movie.

This made me think about other middle grade novels that inspired movies. I think it’s fun to read a book then see how the movie compares to it. I often enjoy books way more than the movies and feel like people are missing some important things that didn’t transfer into the film version. But there are times when I like the movie better, or love both the book and the movie about the same amount.

Check out these middle grade novels that were turned into movies:

THE TRUE MEANING OF SMEKDAY

Smekday coverWhen twelve-year-old Gratuity (“Tip”) Tucci is assigned to write five pages on “The True Meaning of Smekday” for the National Time Capsule contest, she’s not sure where to begin. When her mom started telling everyone about the messages aliens were sending through a mole on the back of her neck? Maybe on Christmas Eve, when huge, bizarre spaceships descended on the Earth and the aliens-called Boov-abducted her mother? Or when the Boov declared Earth a colony, renamed it “Smekland” (in honor of glorious Captain Smek), and forced all Americans to relocate to Florida via rocketpod?

In any case, Gratuity’s story is much, much bigger than the assignment. It involves her unlikely friendship with a renegade Boov mechanic named J.Lo.; a futile journey south to find Gratuity’s mother at the Happy Mouse Kingdom; a cross-country road trip in a hovercar called Slushious; and an outrageous plan to save the Earth from yet another alien invasion.

JEREMY FINK AND THE MEANING OF LIFE

Jeremy Fink coverIn one month Jeremy Fink will turn thirteen. But does he have what it takes to be a teenager? He collects mutant candy, he won’t venture more than four blocks from his apartment if he can help it, and he definitely doesn’t like surprises. On the other hand, his best friend, Lizzy, isn’t afraid of anything, even if that might get her into trouble now and then.

Jeremy’s summer takes an unexpected turn when a mysterious wooden box arrives in the mail. According to the writing on the box, it holds the meaning of life! Jeremy is supposed to open it on his thirteenth birthday. The problem is, the keys are missing, and the box is made so that only the keys will open it without destroying what’s inside. Jeremy and Lizzy set off to find the keys, but when one of their efforts goes very wrong, Jeremy starts to lose hope that he’ll ever be able to open the box. But he soon discovers that when you’re meeting people named Oswald Oswald and using a private limo to deliver unusual objects to strangers all over the city, there might be other ways of finding out the meaning of life.

MATILDA

Matilda coverMatilda is a genius. Unfortunately, her family treats her like a dolt. Her crooked car-salesman father and loud, bingo-obsessed mother think Matilda’s only talent is as a scapegoat for everything that goes wrong in their miserable lives. But it’s not long before the sweet and sensitive child decides to fight back. Faced with practical jokes of sheer brilliance, her parents don’t stand a chance.

Matilda applies her untapped mental powers to rid the school of the evil, child-hating headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, and restore her nice teacher, Miss Honey, to financial security.

THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET

Invention of Hugo Cabret coverOrphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the station, Hugo’s undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo’s dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.

MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS

Mr. Popper's Penguins coverThe unexpected delivery of a large crate containing an Antarctic penguin changes the life and fortunes of Mr. Popper, a house painter obsessed by dreams of the Polar regions.

 

We had a great post about this back in 2010. Click on this link to check out a whole bunch of other movies that were inspired by middle grade novels.

What is your favorite movie based on a middle grade novel? Do you have any favorite novels that you’re hoping will be turned into a movie?

Mindy Alyse Weiss writes humorous middle grade novels with heart and quirky picture books. She’s constantly inspired by her two daughters, an adventurous Bullmasador adopted from The Humane Society, and an adorable Beagle/Pointer mix who was rescued from the Everglades. Visit Mindy’s TwitterFacebook, or blog to read more about her writing life, conference experiences, and writing tips.

Gail Nall Interview and Giveaway

Gail Nall head shotI’m thrilled to welcome Gail Nall to the Mixed-Up Files! Gail lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her family and more cats than necessary. She once drove a Zamboni, has camped in the snow in June, and almost got trampled in Paris. Gail’s middle grade debut, BREAKING THE ICE (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster), is available now. She is also the co-author of the upcoming YOU’RE INVITED with Jen Malone (Aladdin/S&S, May 19, 2015), and the author of the upcoming YA novel, EXIT STAGE LEFT (HarperTeen Impulse, Summer 2015). She’s represented by literary agent Julia A. Weber.

Thank you for joining us at the Mixed-Up Files, Gail. Breaking the Ice really helped me experience what life would be like as a competitive ice skater. How did you learn so much about ice skating?

I lived it! :) I started skating at age three, and while I was never really competitive the way Kaitlin is, I took lessons and went to local competitions for years and years. I pretty much lived at the rink as a preteen and young teenager. I still skate, and even teach kids in the beginner classes once a week. My three-year-old just got her first pair of skates, so I think I’ll be at the rink for many years to come!

Since you’re spending so much time in the rink, I have a feeling we’ll see more ice skating stories from you in the future. :)  Do you remember the moment when you were first inspired to write Breaking the Ice? How long did it take from idea to publication?

I grew up figure skating, and I really wanted to write a book set in that world. One day, while watching a skater receive horrible scores at a competition, I wondered what would happen if she showed how she really felt. So that’s how the idea for BREAKING THE ICE was born! I think I started writing it in January 2011 . . . so almost exactly four years from idea to publication. It was the third manuscript I’d written.

I love Kaitlin’s spunk! Is she (or any other character) based on a real person, and what helped you create such a believable, multi-dimensional character?

Kaitlin is completely made up. Although I think, as authors, we all put at least a little of ourselves into our characters, so there are a few small parts of Kaitlin that are definitely me. But mostly, I had to think my way through how a girl who’s very reserved would act after she finally breaks through that wall she’s built around herself. Would she try to backpedal? Definitely. But would she also find herself jumping into situations she might not have tried before? Probably. And then how would all of that affect her skating?

Can you share a writing exercise with our readers?

My favorite writing trick is one that helps with preparation and (ideally) keeps you from wasting time once you’ve jumped into your writing session. It’s pretty simple too – you take ten minutes and simply freewrite your way through your next scene or chapter. Basically, you ask yourself what you want to happen next and write it down. No dialogue (unless you think of something crazy clever that you don’t want to forget), no thinking about structure or using interesting language or following writing rules. It’s more like this: Kaitlin gets of the ice. She’s really nervous about getting her scores. Her coach thinks she did well. Then the scores go up and – oops! – not so good. Kaitlin’s stunned. Then she gets mad. And then… Then, when you sit down to write, you’ve got something of an outline. This works especially well for pantsers and semi-pantsers (like me!). 

Ooh, I love this idea! I’ve jotted down notes like that before spending a timed hour of fast-paced writing with friends (we call it a word war). I never thought to do it before each writing session, and can’t wait to try it. Thanks for sharing that great exercise! 

What are some of your favorite middle grade books?

My all-time favorite is the Little House series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I must’ve read each of those a hundred times growing up. Anne of Green Gables is another classic favorite. The All-Of-A-Kind-Family books by Sydney Taylor made me want to be a Jewish kid in New York at the turn-of-the-century. And then, of course, I adored contemporary series such as The Baby-sitters Club and Sleepover Friends.

I’ve been lucky enough to read some amazing ARCs of upcoming 2015 middle grade books. A few of the many I love include The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart (heart-breaking and beautiful), Dr. Critchlore’s School for Minions by Sheila Grau (funny with great world-building), My Near-Death Adventures (99% True!) by Alison DeCamp (a humorous historical – hilarious!), and Monstrous by MarcyKate Connolly (exciting and such a fascinating concept). Lots of great MG coming out this year!

Wow, what a fantastic list. I especially can’t wait to dive into the 2015 books. It’s always great to know which books to keep an eye out for! I’d love to know more about your upcoming books, and what it’s like to work with a co-author.

Up first, in May, is You’re Invited, which I co-wrote with Jen Malone. There will be a sequel in February 2016, which we’re working on now. The books are about four girls who live in a North Carolina beach town and start a party planning business. The parties never turn out exactly the way the girls plan, but they rely on each other to get through and make each one a success. We’ve had so much fun writing together! We were friends and critique partners before we started this project, so we knew we had similar writing styles. It’s great to have someone else pushing you to write better and better, and it doesn’t hurt to know that someone is waiting on you to finish that chapter already! We’ve just meshed so well on this, and I hope that’s evident in the books.

Later this summer, my debut young adult novel, EXIT STAGE LEFT, will be out through HarperTeen Impulse. I’m really excited about this one, because it’s a book I’ve been working on for a long time, and it has a really special place in my heart. It’s about a teenage girl whose entire life and future is theater, but when she loses a pivotal role to her best friend, she decides to reinvent herself. It’s light and funny, and I hope readers love it as much as I do!

Congrats on your debut novel, Gail. And thank you so much for visiting the Mixed-Up Files. I loved learning more about you, Breaking the Ice, and your upcoming novels. 

You can find out more about Gail on her website, Twitter, or on Facebook. Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below, and one lucky winner will receive a signed copy of Breaking the Ice. The winner will be announced on Thursday, January 29. Good luck!

*You must live in the United States or Canada to enter the giveaway.

Gail Nall - Breaking The Ice

Kaitlin has always dreamed of being a champion figure skater, and she’s given up a lot to pursue her passion. But after she has a totally uncharacteristic tantrum at a major competition, she’s dropped by her coach and her prestigious skating club. When no other club will have her, she’s forced to join the ridiculed and run-down Fallton Club, jokingly referred to as the “Fall Down Club.” At first Kaitlin thinks this is a complete disaster, but after meeting some of the other skaters—including a boy who happens to have the most perfect hair she’s ever seen—she realizes it might not actually be so bad.

Yet learning a whole new program right before regionals is a huge challenge, and when she realizes that all the other area skaters target Fallton for pranks, she begins to wonder if joining the Fall Down Club has any upsides.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Mindy Alyse Weiss writes humorous middle grade novels with heart and quirky picture books. She’s constantly inspired by her two daughters, an adventurous Bullmasador adopted from The Humane Society, and an adorable Beagle/Pointer mix who was rescued from the Everglades. Visit Mindy’s TwitterFacebook, or blog to read more about her writing life, conference experiences, and writing tips.