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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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  • Reaching a Middle Grade Audience

    Promotion

    z Middle Grade Book PileThe internet constantly buzzes with news of book launches, making it hard to keep track of all of them. So how can you show the world that your book has arrived? I’ve heard so many authors say that it’s easier to reach readers of young adult novels online, but middle grade authors often need to reach out to the gatekeepers—people like teachers, media specialists, and parents who help put great books into the hands of readers around the ages of eight through twelve.

    Here are some tips that might help you figure out what to do (and what to avoid).

    * Spreading the word on established blogs can really help! If you’re doing a launch blitz, try not to have similar-sounding interviews flooding the internet. Do your best to give something unique and interesting each time. Dig deeper than just facts about your book, show how it’s connected to your heart and your life. Don’t just think about yourself and your book when replying…try to share something that will appeal to potential readers as well.

    * Holding a giveaway is a wonderful way to reach potential readers, and I’ve seen how much word about a book can spread when people shout out about a giveaway. Plus, I always feel better about sharing a link for a giveaway on places like Twitter and Facebook instead of just announcing that a friend has a great new book out—then I’m helping both the author and the people who read my post.

    * Keep your website up to date. Let people know the story behind your stories. Give them a glimpse of yourself, and let them know about any upcoming appearances and how they can get a signed copy or bookplate. I’ve seen some authors work with an Indie bookstore, where people can order a copy that they’ll sign before it’s shipped out. Try to include fun activities on your website, and link to sites your audience and/or the gatekeepers will enjoy. One of my main characters loves cupcakes, so I plan to create a Pinterest board full of great cupcake recipes on it. Laurie Friedman, author of the Mallory and April Sinclair series, has done a wonderful job setting up her Pinterest boards.  She created a board for each series, plus boards that are just for teachers, classroom reading spaces, young authors corner, etc.

    * Try to speak at conferences, bookstores, libraries, and schools. Many authors offer short Skype visits for free, and I think that’s a wonderful opportunity to help out a school or other organization while also spreading the word about your book.

    * Visuals can be a huge asset to an author’s website and can draw more people to it when shared online. Create an amazing book trailer, and post other videos that could interest readers.

    * Include teacher’s/reading group guides on your website and bookmarks. I posted helpful tips for creating guides a couple months ago. Click here to read that post. Speaking of bookmarks, it’s great to have handouts like that with more info about your book/s, your website, and links to teacher’s guides or other book related activities.

    * Team up with other authors and form a group blog that provides a constant stream of helpful information, or consider starting a marketing group. I’ve seen writers with similar types of books team up for book tours, and it seems like they attract more attention than most authors can on their own.

    * Make it easy for people to contact you for potential interviews or author visits. Some websites make me feel like I’m navigating through a maze filled with dead ends while trying to contact an author I’d like to interview for our site.

    * I absolutely love SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), and think it is a huge asset. I’m the SCBWI FL Newsletter Editor, and am always surprised when people don’t let me know about their great news. I love shouting it out to our members! If you aren’t involved in your local group, definitely check it out. In addition to local events, they probably have some kind of newsletter, too. Even though the info goes to other authors and illustrators, most of them are avid readers and some may have children who would enjoy your books. Plus, quite a few teachers and media specialists are writers, too! And the amount of support and friendship you can find with people who ‘get it’ is priceless.

    Z Middle Grade Books and Ruby* My teen girls laughed when they caught me doing a photo shoot…of middle grade novels. I told them it was for my Mixed-Up Files post, but they didn’t see the point of photographing a pile of books by themselves, and helped me pose one of our dogs into the shot. It made me realize how much I love seeing pictures of children and animals reading books—so you can share photos or video clips of that online, too!

     

    Here are some promotional red flags

    * BUY MY BOOK!!!! Seeing blatant self-promotion always makes me shudder. When someone is obviously on a social network site for the purpose of selling a book, it often has the opposite effect. Don’t send a promotional link to your book thinly veiled as a thank you for following or friending you on a site. And don’t blitz people with a link to buy your book or news about it multiple times an hour on places like Twitter or Facebook. You want people to smile when they see your cover…not cringe.

    * The same is true of forums. Don’t be a drive-by poster who only hops onto a forum to promote a book, then disappear until it’s time to promote the next book. Interact with other forum participants—share some of your knowledge to help them, ask questions, shout out congratulations and send some support to those going through a rough time. If you want people to be happy to celebrate your good news, you need to be there for them, too.

    * When sharing news about your book, don’t make it sound like a formal press release. You’ve worked hard to get your book published! Share your genuine thoughts and enthusiasm throughout your publication journey. Even better, reach out and help others. If you learned some tricks while creating a book trailer, share them. And if you win an award or get an amazing review, don’t just post a general statement and link all over the internet—let us experience the moment with you. Shannon Hitchcock did a fantastic job when she blogged about how she discovered that her middle grade novel, The Ballad of Jessie Pearl, won the 2014 SCBWI Crystal Kite Award. What she wrote was personal, and it made me laugh, smile, and cheer for her.

    I’d love to know what you believe works and what to avoid while trying to reach potential readers for middle grade novels.

    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.

    20 Comments

    Winners of Flying the Dragon and a Critique

    Giveaways

    A huge thank you again to Natalie Dias Lorenzi for sharing a wealth of information about teacher’s guides. I’m definitely going to use her amazing suggestions! If you missed her interview, you can check it out here. You’ll also find links to tons of teacher’s guides for middle grade novels.

    The winner of a signed paperback of Flying the Dragon by Natalie Dias Lorenzi is…

    Flying the Dragon

    Mia Wenjen

    And the winner of a critique from Natalie Dias Lorenzi of up to ten pages of an MG/YA or one picture book is…

    Joanna Marple

    Congratulations to both of you! We’ll be in touch soon, to let you know how to receive your prize.

    2 Comments

    Everything You Need to Know About Teacher’s Guides-Plus Book & Critique Giveaways!

    Giveaways, Interviews, Librarians, Teachers, Writing MG Books

    Natalie LorenziI’m thrilled to welcome Natalie Dias Lorenzi back to the Mixed-Up Files. Natalie’s first novel for children, Flying the Dragon, was published in 2012 and has been honored on best-of-the-year lists from the International Reading Association, the Cooperative Children’s Books Center, the Bank Street College of Education, and the New York Public Library. Her next novel, Someplace Like Home, will be published in 2016. It’s a companion novel to Flying the Dragon and follows the journey of 10-year-old Ravi as he leaves Pakistan with his mother and sister to live in the United States, not knowing if his father will ever be able to join them. Ravi adapts to a new country and a new school and meets his friend Hiroshi, one of the protagonists from Flying the Dragon. While Hiroshi’s story had kite-making and kite-fighting woven through it, Ravi’s will be filled with the love of his favorite sport back home, cricket, and the one that replaces it in the U.S.: baseball. Natalie has taught elementary school and English for Speakers of Other Languages in Virginia, and in international schools in Italy and Japan. She is currently a librarian at an elementary school in Fairfax, Virginia.

    You can visit Natalie Dias Lorenzi’s website, follow her on Twitter, find out more about both books here, and read her book review blog that shows ways to use books in the classroom.

     

    Thanks again for joining us, Natalie. I’d love to know why you think it’s important to have teacher’s guides.

    Having a teacher’s guide increases the chances of getting your book into classrooms and into the hands of kids and teachers. With state testing, teachers have loads of paperwork, documentation, data collection and reflection….all of which put a squeeze on their time. Teachers are busy people! But it’s not just teachers who will use your guide—homeschooling parents, book club facilitators, and public librarians use them, too.

    As a teacher myself, I use discussion questions and activities that authors and publishers provide on their websites, and it makes my job a lot easier. Especially with novels and longer works of fiction, if I have to choose between two equally-appealing books, I go with the one that has a guide every time.

     

    How detailed should they be?

    As detailed as you’d like them to be. Some discussion guides come in the form of bookmarks with a few discussion questions, some are more like a pamphlet, and others can be 50 pages long. It really depends on how much time you have, which leads me to the answer to your next question…

     

    How did you create the teacher’s guide for your middle grade novel, Flying the Dragon?

    The mistake I made with the guide for my own book is that I waited too long to put something up on my website for teachers. I’d envisioned a detailed, activity-packed, standards-based resource that I simply didn’t have time to put together. What I should have done was to start small—a bookmark, or pamphlet-style guide at first, and then added a more detailed guide later on. As it was, it took me over a year to post a completed guide for Flying the Dragon on my site! In the meantime, I gathered links that I thought would be helpful for teachers and created this Pinterest page. It’s a quick and easy way to provide resources for your book–background knowledge, other activities, etc.–while you’re working on your own guide.

     

    Wow, I took a peek at your Pinterest page, and I love the videos and the 20 Easy Bento Lunch Boxes article. You put together such interesting sites and guides. Can you share some tips for creating amazing teacher’s guides?

    1. Know the curriculum standards for your audience. Keep in mind that while Common Core has swept the country (except for these states), current testing is based on state standards, not Common Core. No matter which standards you use, find the commonalities and stick with those. For example, every grade studies plot and characterization on some level, so find out how deep this standard goes with your target age group, and go from there.

    2. While you want to keep standards in mind while writing activities, don’t feel like you have to list every single Common Core standard addressed for each activity. I’ve seen guides with pages and pages of standards. While I appreciate the time and effort that went into compiling such lists, I can tell you that, as a teacher, I don’t even look at those. Teachers know the standards they’re required to teach. When I preview an activity, I automatically know which standards it addresses, and I decide from there if I’m going to use the activity or not.

    3. Create a user-friendly layout. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just easy to follow. Have a table of contents for longer guides.

    4. Do some research—find guides that you like online and bookmark them. Note the different formats, content, and delivery and then decide what you’re most comfortable with.

     

    What are the biggest pitfalls to avoid when creating a teacher’s guide?

    I know I’ve mentioned lay-out already, but I’ll say again here. If your guide is just a long list of questions, it’s fine to have it written in list format. But if you’ve got chapter-by-chapter guides, or if you have distinct sections like pre-reading questions/predictions, a vocabulary section, etc. then make it easy for a teacher to quickly scan your guide to find what she needs. Have clear labels for each section, leave white space and have a table of contents for longer guides.

     

    Can writers create good teacher guides on their own if they don’t have a teaching background?

    Yes, they can. I’d have an educator or two look it over and provide feedback if you can. When creating questions, familiarize yourself with Bloom’s Taxonomy, and let Howard Garner’s Theory of Intelligences guide your activities.

     

    Thank you for sharing those links! Do you have any tips for using teacher’s guides?

    Every teacher knows what his or her students need. The best way to utilize a guide is to dip in and try out questions or activities that fit the academic, social, and behavioral needs of your students.

     

    That’s great advice. How well do teacher’s guides work for book clubs?

    I think guides may work even better for book club facilitators than they do for teachers. Oftentimes, book club leaders aren’t teachers—they’re parent volunteers, or even students themselves at the high school level. Having access to questions and activities makes it easier for them to get a discussion started with readers.

     

    Do you keep a future teacher’s guide or Common Core in mind when writing or revising a middle grade novel?

    Never. I write with readers in mind, not standards. If your book has a science or social studies tie-in, then it may seem like it will fit best with curriculum, but language arts standards apply to any book. Don’t worry about standards as you write; write the best book you can, and teachers will figure out how to use it!

     

    What’s the best way to let people know you have a teacher’s guide for your book?

    Provide a link to the guide on your website and make that link easy to find. Let your publisher know about your guide and ask that they post it, as well. Send the link to anyone requesting information about author visits. If you have bookmarks or postcards printed, include the fact that there’s a link to a teacher’s guide on your website and make these available at all your author appearances, school visits, and teacher/librarian conferences.

     

    Where can teachers find guides to their favorite books? If there isn’t a guide available, is there some way they can request one? 

    The first place I’d check is the author’s website, followed by the publisher’s site. If you don’t have any luck there, places like Teachers Pay Teachers often have activities up either for free or for a reasonable price. If you can’t find a guide for a book, by all means email the author and/or publisher! They may have something in the works. If not, hearing from you is good incentive to get started on a guide for educators.

    Tracie Vaughn Zimmer is another author/educator/guide creator, and some of her guides can be found here.

     

    Thank you for visiting the Mixed-Up Files again, Natalie. You shared a wealth of knowledge about teacher’s guides, and I’m sure it will be a huge help to writers, teachers, librarians, and many others.

    * If anyone has questions for Natalie, ask in a blog comment and she’ll stop by to answer them!

    If you’re searching for teacher’s guides for great middle-grade novels, here’s a list of links to check out:

    Flying the Dragon by Natalie Dias Lorenzi

    The Map of Me by Tami Lewis Brown

    Ellie McDoodle: New Kid in School written and illustrated by Ruth McNally Barshaw

    Ellie McDoodle: Friends Fur-Ever written and illustrated by Ruth McNally Barshaw

    Fiona Finkelstein, Big-Time Ballerina! by Shawn Stout

    Penelope Crumb by Shawn Stout

    Fudge series by Judy Blume

    Mallory series by Laurie Friedman

    Chet Gecko series by Bruce Hale

    The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

    The Ballad of Jessie Pearl by Shannon Hitchcock

    This Journal Belongs to Ratchet by Nancy J. Cavanaugh

    Beyond Lucky by Sarah Aronson

    Trouble in the Trees by Yolanda Ridge

    Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood

    My Very UnFairy Tale Life by Anna Staniszewski

    The End of the Line by Angela Cerrito

    The Multiplying Menace by Amanda Marrone

    The Trouble with Half a Moon by Danette Vigilante

    Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson

    How to Survive Middle School by Donna Gephart

    Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen by Donna Gephart

    A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk by Jan L. Coates

    The Flame in the Mist by Kit Grindstaff

    The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas (you can find magical translations using the runic translation chart here.)

    When Audrey Met Alice by Rebecca Behrens (Woman’s History Month Lesson Plan)

    Soar, Elinor! by Tami Lewis Brown (Woman’s History Month Activity Kit included in the link)

     

    In addition to the lists of great teacher’s guides for picture books through young adult novels listed on Natalie Dias Lorenzi’s site, you can also find more at these websites:

    * Debbie Gonzales has links to guides for middle grade novels and chapter books. To find guides for other genres, click on Sample Educational Guides toward the top of her website.

    * Tracie Vaughn Zimmer

    *As Natalie said before, don’t forget to check out the websites of your favorite authors and publishers. You should be able to find great teacher’s guides and activities there…and if you don’t it can’t hurt to request them!

     

    Thanks again for all your amazing responses, Natalie—and for offering TWO generous giveaways!

    * Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below, and you’ll have a chance to win a signed paperback copy of Natalie’s novel, Flying the Dragon.

    Flying the DragonAmerican-born Skye is a good student and a star soccer player who never really gives any thought to the fact that her father is Japanese. Her cousin, Hiroshi, lives in Japan, and never really gives a thought to his uncle’s family living in the United States. Skye and Hiroshi’s lives are thrown together when Hiroshi’s family, with his grandfather (who is also his best friend), suddenly moves to the U.S. Now Skye doesn’t know who she is anymore: at school she’s suddenly too Japanese, but at home she’s not Japanese enough. Hiroshi has a hard time adjusting to life in a new culture, and resents Skye’s intrusions on his time with Grandfather. Through all of this is woven Hiroshi’s expertise and Skye’s growing interest in kite making and competitive rokkaku kite flying.

     

    * Natalie is also giving away a 10 page critique! It can be up to the first ten pages of an MG/YA or one picture book. Let us know in a comment if you’d like to be entered for the critique giveaway.

    The lucky winners will be announced on Thursday, April 24. Good luck!

    *You must live in the United States or Canada to enter the Flying the Dragon paperback giveaway, but anyone can enter for a chance to win the critique.

    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.

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